~ Interlude V ~ A Filly’s Nightmare ~Monochromatic
Princess Luna hated birthdays.
Not hers, though; she had long ago stopped knowing or caring how old she was. No, she hated the birthdays of foals, for they served as reminders of her inevitable fate: being forgotten.
She took a deep breath and observed the scenery before her. A lush forest went on for miles and miles, and right in the middle of it gleamed a massive, crystal-clear lake. It was a memory from her foalhood, when she and Celestia once traveled far beyond Equestria and found the secret haven. A day spent in bliss, filled with laughter and joy, before duties and responsibilities took it all away from them.
Long ago, she would have given much to be able to go back to those times, but now a single thing had changed those tides and washed away her desire for olden years.
Princess Luna stood up and moved toward the edge of the lake, looking down at the reflection staring up at her. Beyond it, she could see the bottom of the lake with its rocks, fish, and treasure chests. But despite a quick search, she could not find the treasure she was interested in.
Where is she?
For a moment, worry crept into her heart, but it was quickly dispelled. They were in a dream, and physical damage could befall nopony in the realms of imagination—emotional, perhaps, but never physical.
Finally, she saw her, the twelve-year-old filly enjoying herself at the bottom of the lake, eagerly swimming toward the treasure chest alongside an overgrown alligator. Pinkie Pie opened up the treasure chest, reached inside, and took something out before looking up toward Luna and waving.
“Did you find the treasure?” Luna asked when Pinkie rose up to the surface.
The filly nodded, unable to speak due to the water in her mouth, making her look like a chipmunk of sorts. Pinkie lifted her hoof above water, presenting Luna with a beautiful silver necklace which the princess gratefully accepted. She admired it for a moment, and when she turned back to Pinkie, intent on praising the find, the filly expelled the water by spitting it directly at Luna.
“Got you!” she yelled, giggling with delight, and then dived back into the water before Luna could react.
With a spark of magic, Pinkie’s attempts to flee were halted. Luna levitated her out of the water and into the air, where Pinkie kept swimming upside down.
“That’s cheating!” Pinkie protested, swimming as fast as she could yet moving not an inch.
“I am allowed to cheat,” Luna replied, smiling mischievously when Pinkie stopped to cross her legs and stick her tongue out at the princess.
“Really old ponies like you are always allowed to cheat. S’not fair.”
Luna gently placed Pinkie on the floor, and another spark of her horn changed the scenery. The lake and forest disappeared, as did the sky and clouds, replaced instead with an endless valley under a starlit night.
“In olden days, to insult me in such a way would result in a most severe punishment,” Luna remarked. “A century in the dungeons would be a fitting sentence for you.”
Pinkie giggled. “You always say that,” she pointed out. “You know what? I’m gonna be a super big pony tomorrow! I’ll be thirteen, and Mommy says that makes me an adult! I’m gonna eat the BIGGEST cake to celebrate!”
Luna frowned. “When my thirteenth birth celebration arrived, I had to prove myself by finding the lost relics in the arid eastern deserts.”
Pinkie gasped. “Did you really?”
“No.” Luna’s smile quickly returned. “Sister asked the servants to bake me many pastries, and then I spent a week in bed with a most unforgiving stomach ache. Plus the reminder to never eat a hundred pastries in less than a day.”
Luna trotted off into the valley with Pinkie following behind. She made her way to the middle of the valley and then sat down on her hindlegs, sparks of magic shooting out of her horn and rearranging the stars into dozens of various patterns.
“Do a kitty!” Pinkie suggested, sitting right next to the princess while looking up at the sky.
“They will talk to you tomorrow,” Luna said, watching as the kitten in the stars yawned and stretched itself. They always do, and then take them away from me.
“Who’s gonna talk to me?” Pinkie asked. “Oh! You mean Elder Moonshine? She stopped by our house yesterday and said tomorrow’s gonna be a special day! I’m going to start helping with Seeking Night!”
Luna did not reply. She knew enough of Seeking Night thanks to dreams of foals and Pinkie herself. A celebration—or mockery, more like it—meant to treat the imprisonment of her and the others as a little game for foals. At least foals truly believed they were helping the princesses, truly believed their little actions would set them free.
But when they turned thirteen, they were invited to help with the festivities, and one could not believe in a mockery if one knew it was such.
There were a few foals, every now and then, who struggled with the idea that she was not “real.” They’d let her into their dreams maybe two or three weeks following their birthday, but eventually the doors would close, and each time, Luna felt her dream of escape dying a little more.
“Are you going to throw me a huge birthday party, Princess Luna?” Pinkie asked, ears perking up.
“Of course,” Luna replied. “I will spend the entire day preparing it, but…” She turned to Pinkie Pie and lowered herself. “Thou must Pinkie-promise thou wilt attend.”
“Of course I will, silly!” Pinkie exclaimed with a giggle. “Why wouldn’t I?”
It had been a full week since Luna last saw Pinkie Pie.
A full week in which the princess had entered every door, dispelled every nightmare, and found dozens of foals, but not a single one with the name Pinkie Pie. When foals slept and nighttime left, the Princess of the Moon would usually awaken as well, to glare at her prison and the barrier that trapped her, if only to hope something would be different.
But that week, the princess did not awaken.
She stayed in her dream world of fantasies and illusions, clinging to the hope that a door with a pink filly behind it would appear in the distance.
She took a deep breath, and looked around at her usual valley. Her home away from home, her haven in her nocturnal prison. She looked up to the stars, replicas of the real ones she so longed to see, and though she felt inclined to move them about she could not bring herself to do so.
Maybe Pinkie had simply not gone to bed yet. She’d taken so many sugary treats during her celebration that the rush had kept her away from slumber’s hooves. For a week. Surely.
Or maybe, a voice inside her whispered, she’s forgotten you just like everypony else.
Luna turned around and a smile forced its way onto her lips at the sight of a familiar unicorn, her face stuck in a book. This was the image Luna treasured: the booksmart unicorn not yet damaged by three alicorns who should have known better.
“Twilight Sparkle,” Luna said, looking back to the stars, “it’s been a long time since we have seen you last.”
“According to the facts,” Twilight continued, a chart appearing next to her, “Pinkie Pie has remembered your every dream with one hundred percent accuracy, which statistically speaking means that being told you don’t exist should do virtually nothing to change the existing variables.” The chart disappeared and Twilight giggled gleefully. “She probably got a really intense sugar rush.”
“And if she didn’t?” Luna asked.
“She did,” Twilight insisted. “I’m sure of it.”
Luna laughed, still staring at the stars. “You used to have such confidence,” she remarked. “Where did it go?”
“You took it away from me,” a different yet familiar voice said.
Luna looked down and her heart fell at the sight. Twilight Sparkle was there, yes, yet not the unicorn Luna knew, but the bitter alicorn her sister, Cadance, and she herself had created. Princess Twilight Sparkle stood next to Luna, taller than before despite the literal chains weighing her wings down. She looked toward the distance, her eyes plagued with the fear, guilt, and misery Luna had grown used to.
Luna stepped back. “Have we not gone through this enough?”
Without her permission, the dreamscape changed. The beautiful valley turned into one of Canterlot Castle’s familiar chambers, and inside were visions of her past. Twilight Sparkle, the princess, rushing into the room, tears in her eyes, and following behind was a Luna from long ago.
“Twilight Sparkle!” the other Luna yelled, fury tainting her words. “We will not tolerate thy attitude! Thou wert ascended because thou earned it!”
“No!” Twilight yelled, turning back and slamming her hoof against the floor. “Stop lying! This is a lie!” She extended her wings and pointed to them. “All of this! All of it!”
“Thou darest question my sister’s choices?!”
“No,” Twilight hissed. “I would never question Princess Celestia’s choices. I know why she did this! Not because I deserved it, but because it’s my fau—”
“Enough!” the other Luna roared, now stamping her own hoof against the floor. “I grow weary, Twilight Sparkle, of those three words that now plague your vocabulary!”
“But it’s true! I’m a joke! A farce!” Twilight protested, and tears flowed freely down her face. She fell down to her hindquarters, burying her face in her hooves and whimpering helplessly. “Please, Princess Luna… I don’t want this nightmare… Please…”
“Enough!” Luna yelled, her horn dispelling the memory—or nightmare; she could no longer tell. She turned to her vision of Twilight and stamped her hoof against the floor. “What do we gain by this?!”
“You aren’t needed,” Twilight said, and the chains around her wings broke and fell to the floor. Her horn flashed once, twice, thrice and again the scenery changed.
Luna gritted her teeth, turning around to find herself in the castle’s entrance. Again, another Twilight and another Luna appeared, trotting toward a carriage upon which Twilight brusquely threw her saddlebag.
“The war is over, Twilight Sparkle,” memory Luna said. “We vanquished Discord! We are at peace! There is no need to lea—”
“This isn’t victory, Princess Luna,” Twilight said, turning to the older alicorn. “And we can’t wait until the worst happens.”
“But it is not up to thee to mend!” memory Luna protested. “Thou were not the one who took the decision! We should be the ones to seek—”
“Princess Twilight! Are you ready?”
The two princesses turned around and found an armored stallion trotting toward them. He bowed before the two of them before awaiting their instructions.
Twilight’s expression immediately shifted, from angered to kind. “Captain Cobbler! I am, yes! All of our things are in place. Where’s your family?”
“They are already on their way to Ponyville, Princess,” he informed. “We only wait for yourself and your young ward.”
Twilight nodded. “Thank you.” She glanced at Luna. “Captain, could you get Spike? He must be in the kitchens.”
“Of course!” Captain Cobbler said, rushing off.
Once he was gone, memory Luna spoke up.
“If thou truly wish to leave, then let us help—”
“No!” Twilight roared, slamming her hoof against the floor. “No! I don’t want your help! You already helped me once, and look how that turned out!”
Memory Luna replied in kind. “Don’t be a fool! There is nothing wrong with seeking he—”
“I said I don’t want it, Princess Luna!” Twilight shot back. “I can do this on my ow—”
“NO, YOU CAN’T!” memory Luna thundered, enough that the entire room shook and Twilight recoiled. She slammed her hoof against the floor, enraged. “This—!” She pointed an accusing hoof at Twilight. “This foolish stubbornness and undying confidence of thine is what caused all of this!”
A moment of silence followed her statement as Twilight took a step back, her eyes growing wide. The other Luna reacted the same way, with immediate grief and regret.
“Wait! No, I apologize, Twilight Sparkle. I was upset and did not mean what I—”
“Yes, you did!” Twilight yelled, and her voice cracked, then softened. “Yes, you did,” she repeated, resentment leaking out with every syllable. She lifted her hoof and wiped her eyes before turning around and jumping into the cart, offering Luna her back. “I don’t need you, Princess Luna. I don’t want your help.”
Luna, the real one, couldn’t take any more, again dispelling the memory, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. And yet, despite her efforts, the first Twilight remained, still standing next to her, as unforgiving as Luna’s own conscience—because that’s what she was, wasn’t she?
“Why did you do that to me, Princess Luna?” Twilight asked, still looking toward the distance. “Why didn’t you find another way?”
And Luna replied, forgetting it was a dream. “We did what we did to help you, Twilight Sparkle! We did what we thought was best! We never thought it would turn out that way, we never thought we’d…” She drifted off, the words stuck in her throat. “We made a mistake.”
And again, the last memory made its way forward, and Luna knew what it was before it came. It was always that memory that haunted every nightmare, every dream, every moment of the alicorn’s life. The scenery changed again to a large room where her younger self sat, face buried in her hooves. Unintelligible screams could be heard outside, part of a riot she could never forget.
There was a guard by the door, who always asked the same condemning question.
“Princess Luna? Is it true?” he asked, taking off his helmet. “Did Discord really ask for… for Princess Twilight’s drag—”
Cadance ran into the room, out of breath and desperate.
Memory Luna immediately rose. “What is it, Cadance?”
“Please… Twilight… She’s not reacting… I don’t know what to do…”
The dream moved and shifted, following the memories of Luna and Cadance out into the hallways and corridors, ending in an empty conference room. Twilight was there, at the end of the room, slumped against the wall repeating the same thing over and over, as if stuck in a trance.
“It was my fault.”
Funny how even then, thousands of years later, Twilight’s voice saying those words was still so firmly implanted in her psyche.
“Twilight,” memory Luna said, carefully making her way toward the young alicorn. “Twilight, thou must rise from this.”
Twilight did no such thing, barely even acknowledging the other ponies in the room.
“Twilight, please,” Cadance pleaded, similarly approaching the young mare. “Please, we’ve been over this.”
And as Luna watched the sorry scene, so too did she remember. She remembered the helplessness, the anger that boiled inside her at seeing her beloved friend in such a state, at seeing what everything had come down to.
“It was my fault,” Twilight repeated, and oh, what Luna would have given to change her past self’s reaction.
“TWILIGHT SPARKLE!” memory Luna roared. “THOU WILT STOP SAYING THAT AT ONCE!”
“Please, Aunt Luna!” Cadance yelled back. “This isn’t the way!”
“What other way is there?! Look at her! Look at what she’s—”
Silence filled the room as the memories, and Luna herself, turned toward the newcomer. Luna felt tears sting at her eyes, though she could not tell whether it was because she felt bitter toward her sister or because she missed her dearly.
Celestia, ever regal and graceful even in the darkest of times, stood under the frame of the door, garnering the attention of the room as effortlessly as she raised the sun.
Memory Luna and Cadance turned around to find Twilight Sparkle, tears bordering her eyes, fixed on the elder alicorn.
“Princess Celestia…” she repeated again, and in a second she stood up and rushed toward the alicorn, missing the hurt expression that haunted the younger Luna.
Celestia went to Twilight’s side, embracing the weeping alicorn.
“Cadance,” Celestia said, looking up to her niece, “Go outside with your husband and see to the ponies. The last thing we need is a riot.”
“Yes, Aunt Celestia,” Cadance said, throwing Twilight one last worried glance before rushing out of the room.
“Luna,” Celestia said next. “Go to the dragons and negotiate for more time.”
“But Sister!” Luna protested. “I cannot leave Twilight Sparkle in this state!”
“Luna,” Celestia repeated again, her voice less kind. “Please tend to the dragons. If there isn’t a princess with them, they may take it as an offense and make a choice for us! Please, we cannot go to war with the dragons!”
“But Twilight needs me! Thou goest!”
“No! No, please, stay!” Twilight yelped between sobs, clutching onto Celestia. “I don’t know what to do! I didn’t want this, please, I’m sorry, I can’t fix it!”
Luna stepped forward. “But Twilight…”
“Luna, you are not needed here! I will see to Twilight!” Celestia barked, and the two Lunas stepped back. “Go to the dragons! NOW! PLEASE!”
Immediately did the memory stop, but it wasn’t Luna who did so. She turned around to find Twilight looking right at her.
“Cadance helped me,” she said. “Celestia helped me. You did nothing. You don’t deserve to be remembered.”
“Um… excuse me? Miss?”
Twilight disappeared, and Luna was overcome with dread upon recognizing that voice. She gulped and forced herself to turn around, coming face to face with Pinkie Pie, looking up at her with a curious expression.
“Who are you?”
Luna stepped back, tears flowing down her cheeks, struggling to remind herself that it was just a dream, it was just a dream, it was just a nightmare.
And then, in the distance, a black flashing door appeared, the pathway to the nightmare of one of Hollow Shades’ foals. Without hesitation, she rushed away from Pinkie Pie and headed toward it, eager to escape her own terrible dreams.
Once she crossed the doorway and shut it behind her, Luna fell to her hindlegs, breathing heavily.
“I don’t need your help, Princess Luna.”
“You are not needed here!”
“Who are you?”
Luna forced herself to stand up, doing her best to dispel the voices in her head. She looked around, finding herself at the outskirts of Hollow Shades, the night sky overtop. She made her way toward the town, trying to find the source of the nightmare.
A voice in the distance. No… several voices, all viciously screaming the same thing over and over. Luna rushed to them, her own grievances forgotten, and arrived at the main plaza where her statue stood. Ponies of all ages circled the statue, and as Luna made her way through them, she saw who they were screaming at—and it filled her with rage.
There was Pinkie Pie, backed up against the statue, tears flowing from her eyes.
“No! I-I’m not lying!” Pinkie begged, shaking her head. “Princess Luna is real! I promise!”
“Liar!” a foal yelled. “Princess Luna doesn’t exist! Stop making things up!”
“But I’m not! I’m not, please, I’m not!”
“Hah!” a mare said, scoffing. “No wonder you come from Tall Tale! Liar!”
“Liar! Liar! Liar!”
“No!” Pinkie shouted before Luna could intervene, running away from the crowd and into the nearby forest.
“Pinkie Pie!” Luna shouted to no avail, running after the filly deeper into the forest.
“Princess Luna! Where are you?! Please, Princess Luna!” Pinkie desperately called, running away from the village and Luna. “I need you! Princess Luna!”
Before Luna’s eyes, Pinkie tripped and fell to the ground with a painful yelp before curling up into a ball and starting to cry.
It was a familiar sight. Luna had long remembered Pinkie’s first nightmare in Hollow Shades; she remembered a little filly curled up into a ball in the middle of a forest, crying for help, and she remembered humming a lullaby of olde as she approached the young one.
And so, just like before, Luna hummed quietly as she approached, watching as the little filly stopped crying to look around at her with big, terrified eyes.
“Princess Luna!” Pinkie called out, getting up and falling down in her rush.
Before she could get up, Luna levitated her with her own magic and brought the filly to her, enveloping her in a warm hug.
“There, there, Little One,” she soothed, her own tears falling onto Pinkie. “I am here.”
“They said you weren’t re-real! A-and I couldn’t find you anymore!” Pinkie blubbered, holding onto the alicorn with all her might. “I was so scared I’d never se-see you again!”
“That is a nightmare that will never come to pass, Pinkie Pie,” Luna continued, still holding her tight.
Pinkie hiccuped, looking up and reaching out to touch Luna’s muzzle with her forehooves. “It’s you? The real really real you?”
Luna leaned down, nuzzling Pinkie Pie, relief overflowing her.
“Yes, Little One,” she whispered. “So long as you believe in me, it will always be the real me.”
Speaking of art paintings the two I see here are wonderful. I like the dynamic aspect. The capture of a feeling. The style is one I really like. The line style plus the shading together work nice to me.
Discord really found the vulnerable parts of Luna and Twilight and exploited it. Twilight’s prison feels like she is attacking herself. And Luna’s feels like she is wondering in the dark from island to island of affection. When the pony gets old enough then the island disappears and she has to depend on another. It also makes me wonder about the billions of people who have lived and died. And how the vast majority are completely forgotten today. Maybe we can be remembered as part of a group if we can’t as individuals. No one will probably remember me in 100 years. But maybe I can be indirectly remembered by working to make the world better. If future generations are living a better life – and I did my little part to help in the step in that direction – then a part of me lives on. I think I would be proud of that at the end of it all.
This is a emotional chapter. Great job on painting that emotion through Luna. Really felt the raw aspect of it. The torment she has. And then the sanctuary she gets from helping other’s dreams. Then Pinkie returning in the end was the contrast that made the chapter very impactful.
Would it be cool to make art based on your stories? They fill my heart with feelings. Supposed to be blood in there I think but I’m no doctor.
pinkie and luna’s dynamic remains ever important to me like it’s just the right balance of luna being serious when pinkie needs it and pinkie lightening luna up when she needs it. they’re actually like….perfect foils. complementary pieces. i love it soooo much.
also just the way luna loses people over and over and over for thousands of years…nobody remembering her, nobody believing she’s real, on top of the struggles and trauma from always being second-best to celestia, always being the forgotten sister, always being shunted to the side. she didn’t become nightmare moon, but she has all the struggles that led up to it, and now she’s had another thousand years of suffering to make it WORSE like holy shit discord may not have planned for this to happen but he sure did pick the worst punishment ever for luna. it makes me so sad to think about it and god i hope luna gets freed sooner rather than later because i am so deeply upset every time i think too long about her.
now i will just lie here being really sad about how deeply luna cares for twilight and how it didn’t end up doing anything in the end because luna struggles to know how to handle emotional or volatile situations, maybe because she’s never been taught, maybe because she’s never been given a chance
maybe because i am going to project onto her with my whole chest for a minuteand so she fumbles a situation and blames herself for it forever and how she’s just been living with all this guilt and no closure for SO LONG like twilight’s not the only one suffering here and i’m SO SAD OVER PRINCESS LUNA TONIGHT BOYS.
I know you went back and changed references to “thirteen” to “ten” for TEK, but it’s still “thirteen” in this interlude in TEL. Thought you should know.
Oh snap! Thank you for pointing it out! I’ll do the edit asap.