By Fluttershy Oakley
“Don’t fret Lu, they love you too. They need your night as much as my day, they sleep through it only as they have to, please do not begrudge them that. Look there! A few early stargazers are celebrating you as we speak. I understand how you might feel unwanted, but it’s not so. With time you’ll come to see it as it is, but until then I’ll do what I can to ease your suffering. Just let me help.” Luna looks up into Celestia’s eyes and sees no dishonesty there, but could not shake the feelings of insecurity and worthlessness that had plagued her for so long. Slightly ashamed that she still feels jealousy she turns away, incapable of looking into her sister’s gaze any longer.
“I know. I’m sorry, I just can’t help but feel this… paleness. It doesn’t matter what you say, I know you’re right, I’m just not sure how much longer I can take this! Night after day after night and always the same, I just feel so… unnecessary. I’m sure it’s just going to take time like you say Cil, I hope you can just bear with me until then, please, I do need your help.” Celestia smiles warmly, comes to Luna’s side and extends her wing over her flank like she used to do when Luna was very small. Celestia wasn’t much bigger than Luna herself back then, but she had always felt an obligation to shield her little sister from harm. It just broke her heart to see Luna in so much pain and it comforts her when Luna reciprocates as she always had done; she closed her eyes, put her head under her big sister’s and wrapped her foreleg around Celestia’s from behind so they were entwined.
“I love you” they say simultaneously, causing a small smile from each of their lips. They stood there a few moments longer before Celestia said in caring tones: “You have to go soon,” it was true; dusk was ending and Luna would have to go briefly, “I’ll be here until you come back Lu. And try not to worry so, things will get better, I promise.” Luna’s face seems brave, but to spend a few moments longer looking at that face unveils the barely concealed truth; her turmoil is ripping her tender heart. A small tear breaks free from under her eyelid as she hugs her sister tightly before untwining her leg and walking away to the horizon.
Her job complete, Luna walks back from the horizon toward where her sister said she would be, and as she goes she notices the quiet. Barely a sound to be heard, which is hardly surprising given the animals’ desire for day also. Luna looks at the houses with their doors shut, almost all with lights extinguished, and sees no house thriving with life. Parties have wound down and ended and all the ponies have gone to sleep. Looking to the rooftop where there had before been the ponies with telescopes now she sees only the remnants of life; it seems that these few subjects too had gone to bed.
Suddenly the pain is unendurable as Luna considers her irrelevance, her lack of purpose, her sister… She knows she cannot see Celestia in this state, she had always tried to hide just how hurt she truly was from her sister as Luna had known for a long time just how much pain it caused her. Instead of returning to the meadow in which she had been before, she decides to run up a glen that cut into the side of a hill. Upon emerging on the other side, she finds herself by a beautiful lake. All is calm save for a slight breeze that ruffles the grass.
Luna looks long at her reflection in the still waters. She sees grace and beauty. She sees elegance and mystery. She sees the reflection of the moon; she scours its craggy nooks and ethereal skin for some trace of imperfection but sees none. What her sister says is true, she does create a glorious tapestry each and every night. A small smile again begins to tug at her mouth as she remembers all the little talks she and her sister had when they were but foals. They used to talk all day and all night about what they would be, and what they could do. A small frown begins to tug at her mouth as she remembers how even then, so long ago, she had wished that once, just once she could be the one the ponies looked to for comfort. But she couldn’t ever be, the darkness that she brought often caused anxiety as the noises that seem so usual during the day inspire fear at night. And since that one little wish her heart had begun to grow less and less sure of itself. She saw more and more beauty in the daytime and saw her artistry as meaningless. Some bore it well, but nopony seemed to truly adore her night, most merely endured it by sleeping.
Luna sighs and walks away from the reflection to find her sister. She has regained some of her composure and thinks she can conceal her feelings well enough now that she might spare her dear Celestia that particular breed of pain that can only come from love.
She returns to the meadow and sure enough Celestia is knelt there looking straight up, captivated by the swirling mass of stars overhead. Upon noticing Luna she stands up and rushes over to her. “Oh Lu, there you are! Thank goodness, I was wondering where you got to and… well, you’re here now. I had a wonderful idea, we should just fly, all night. What do you say?” Her eyes are shining with anticipation and, much though she feels definitively not in the mood for such pursuits, Luna agrees.
High up in the air they look down on Equestria and soar effortlessly around in concentric circles over the whole of their domain. As they do this Luna begins to feel a little better, from so high her tranquil night causes contentment to stroke at her core with its placid lakes gleaming the soft moonlight gently. Her sister has been flying right beside her the whole time, not rigidly but certainly supportively. This slightly annoys Luna as she knows just how fast Celestia can go; it was not uncommon for her to fly so fast as to cause an amazing explosion of light and sound. She did this less and less frequently now and Luna was suspicious that it was for her benefit; Luna had never managed to fly that fast. Strangely enough this was not one of the things she idealised and hungered for, she much preferred her gift. For though Celestia’s flying was exceptionally breathtaking, Luna had great subtlety. Her wings barely need move if she wished, and just by tilting a few feathers she could with her lithe frame put her sister to shame. She very rarely performed, and certainly never in front of anypony, Celestia included, acrobatic feats but when she did they were undoubtedly the most refined and noble manoeuvres that Equestria had (or ever would) experience. As in all things, Luna valued the art in subtlety above almost all else.
“You do know that if they got enough sleep and awoke they would be humbled by this majesty right?” Celestia enquires, an intriguing look is upon her face.
A small, slightly sad smile erupts from Luna’s lips. “I know Cil, I know”. Still, the saddened smile persists as Luna looks around at her dusky clouds, their barely perceptible wisps curling like fragments of a haunting melody. The ghostly hazed circlets that surround the moon interfere with the clouds to form a tangible illusion within which one could gaze for eternity, finding only more and more layers of fragile, tender rolling banks of breathtaking cloud formations. They spread in all directions until the eye could distinguish no further separation, and their quilt like texture softly blankets and warms the stars. The dark blues and deep black crescendo together to form the most idyllic scene Equestria would ever witness.
“You’ve really outdone yourself tonight. This is…perfect. I don’t know how you craft such astonishing things, I know I never could. Everypony should witness this,” Luna’s eyes threaten to spill more tears, but just before she decided to fly away Celestia’s words reach her ears, “why don’t you keep the moon up a while longer than normal?”
Luna stops in mid-air effortlessly and immediately, Celestia shoots past briefly before slowing and arcing round. Luna doesn’t understand, they’d never even talked about doing anything this radical before. It went against everything their parents had told them when it transpired that they would be the ponies responsible for the solunic cycle, the cycle of sun to moon to sun again.
“We won’t do it for long, just a few hours until everypony wakes up and can experience… this!” She is so close that Celestia’s wings are slightly brushing Luna’s when they stroke down. Luna’s almost still form contemplates the idea and then great joy rushes through her. This was all that she ever wanted! How this idea had never come to her before she would never know, but even now the joy of anticipation was almost more than anything she had experienced before; when those ponies come out from their houses fully rested and marvel at all the fine details they had ignored for so long, Luna felt sure that she would be fulfilled. “So what do you say Lulu?”
“Oh Cilly, it’s wonderful, thank you!! Thank you so much!” Now tears are erupting from her eyes as she swings in close to rub necks with her sister. “You really are the most amazing sister anypony could ask for!”
“I feel quite the same way Lulu.” For the first time in so long Celestia is entirely happy; Luna would get the recognition she deserved and with this recognition she was sure to be uplifted. And this memory, high above the textured clouds in the perfect night with each so happy and all the world at their hooves, the twinkling stars showing their appreciation and their shared tears of joy falling endlessly to the ground below, would serve to become the most valued, visited and celebrated for both of them. Not since their foalhood had they experienced such undiluted happiness, such lack of worry, but now they were old enough to enjoy it and understand it all the more.
Withdrawing from each other they begin to fly again through the clouds, banking and spiralling in their mirth. Luna can barely suppress her satisfaction and so decides to show the world her jubilance. She begins to sing. Celestia had never before heard such exquisite tones and though she enjoyed joining in with others she remains resolutely silent whilst those fair and previously unheard melodies float down over all of Equestria. The soft and dulcet lyrics speak of transcendence and truth, of delight and sweet hope. Celestia wept more now. As the final note sinks into the clouds she says: ”why is it only now that I have heard your voice used in such a stunning way little sister?”
“Sister, I sing for you.” Luna says shyly. It is not like her to speak so plainly. It is not like her to speak dishonestly that is to say, but as each passing year brought her no salvation she had learnt to greatly fear rejection. With the promise of what the continuing night would bring she has lost those fears almost in their entirety allowing her to become transformed more into the amazing and breathtaking siren of song and elegance that she should have always been. Her mane shines more brightly speaking of the hidden and gorgeous twilight within, her eyes too follow suit. Again, it is now that the best example of beauty that would ever be seen in Equestria takes place; within her eyes the teal sparkles with zeal and without limitation and anyone seeing such a sight, from suppressed despair to unbridled delight, would surely agree. “I will never forget this night Cilly, I only wish that I could give you a gift as grand.” Her brow crinkles slightly as she says this knowing that she would never for as long as she lived be capable of repaying her sister, although of course this would not be for lack of trying.
“You already are.” Celestia clearly has never had issues with clouding her emotion from others, she unashamedly displays her sentiment and doesn’t understand yet how anypony could be any different. She looks at her sister fondly and with admiration, feeling proud to have brought about such a dramatic change with what to her was nothing, a paltry gesture at best. Such is the nature of her modesty she doubted just how much this small token of appreciation would heal her sibling’s fragile soul.
They had swooped over almost all of Equestria by the time the Earth-ponies begin to wake (naturally with such jobs as tending to crops led to their usually being the first to do so). Also naturally, with the lack of sunrise these ponies take a much longer time than usual to truly waken, their minds confused by how rested they are despite the dark.
“Not long now Lu, can you hold on a little longer?” Celestia teases; Luna is giddy in her demeanour, her smiles uncontrollable and flicking her luscious mane out of her eyes so that she might better see the ground below. She scouts the ground fervently for the tell-tale signs of movement. Yes, to look on her nopony would believe for a moment that she was anything other than ecstatic. But such is delusion. For within her she feels a tiny niggling doubt, barely even a thought worth considering really so insignificant next to her monumental feelings of elation but still noticeable, much as a small crack within a wall is noticeable but to look upon it as note-worthy is foolhardy. But years of yearning are not so easily silenced, years of constant unhappiness cannot be ignored without genuine absolution. She forgives these thoughts even as they assail her, but her magnanimity cannot block them out.
Why haven’t they come out yet? Something is wrong.
She tries to quash these insecurities, she rationalises and refigures and deduces and revaluates and justifies and vindicates and absolves what is occurring.
They think that the day is still yet to come, so they don’t come out. But when they understand that the night is lasting longer they will understand. As soon as they are entirely refreshed surely they will come outside and play. At the very least they’ll convene to talk about what is happening.
It is already a few hours past that mark that farmers usually come outside. I wonder why that could be?
Oh, of course, because they’re so afraid of night, because they hate it. Come on! Who are you trying to convince here? They’re just having a lie in because they don’t know what time it is. I just can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when they come out and dance in the moonlight!
Her doubts have now stilled, although it is an uneasy stillness, similar to the way a cat calms itself before springing for the kill.
“What say you we go land down there?” Celestia’s words break Luna’s uneasy tension, which whilst it should be said again is not so great as to cause discomfort, only large enough to exist, and she is almost startled by hearing them, “By the Willow on that hill, we’ll have a great view of that little village and there‘s plenty of bushes we can hide in.”
“Oh, it does look just lovely there. I’ll race you!” They laugh as they speed toward the ground, Celestia holding back only to sprint at colossal speed and arrive at the same time as her slightly sister. They settle under the tree’s blossoming branches, a few of the blooms have already nestled on the ground before them and there is a sweet smell in the air. Celestia shuffles over and snuggles up to her sister and in turn Luna almost seems to burrow into the fine sparkling rainbow mane. Breathing deeply but breathless with anticipation at the same time she keeps an eye on the doors.
What about the clocks?
What do you want now?
Surely somepony would have looked at a clock by now? So why haven’t they come out? Could it be they don’t want to? I can’t believe you let yourself get your hopes up! It’s not because they’re tired they only come out at day, your nights are pathetic! Seriously what were you expecting, a parade? Some kind of celebration? Face it, in all these years you don’t think that one pony has thought “I wonder what night is like”? They all do! They just don’t like it, the sooner you come to terms with that the better off you’ll be. Just wake up, it doesn’t matter what you do, they will always hate what you do, sun-killer! Bringer of darkness! Everything you are, everything you do is just… bad, worthless, worse than worthless it’s a waste!
It’s always the same tune with you isn’t it? For so long you have been harbouring this grudge that now you realise it’s petty and invalid you’re desperate! That’s what you are, desperate not to be proven wrong. To think I’ve spent all these decades defending you from my sister, I have half a mind to tell her all about you. You know what that would mean? No more talking, she could crush you in an instant so I’d shut it if I were you. Stay your ranting or else I will be sure to deal with you once and for all.
Of course, run to big sis Cilly, let her make everything all better. Is there anything you can do without her? “Oh Cilly I’m sad, hug me. Cilly hold me, I had a bad dream again. Cil, I’m special aren’t I? Tell me I’m special and magical. Please, I need you so much Cil!” What was it you said earlier? Hah! “I just feel so unnecessary. Please, I do need your help, bear with me, I’m pale sister, so pale. Wah, pity me, love me.” I wish you would tell her about me so I could fade away, far better than listen to your petulant self-indulgence any more. You’re pathetic, have I told you that before? Pathetic little Luna with her despicable night. Wishing all the time that you were just your big sister. Little Luna with her little problems, Luna’s so sad because nopony cares about her. Boo-hoo for her precious tears.”
Sometimes I think it’s kind of sad just how repetitive you can be. Honestly, you’re not just wrong, you’re also boring. And what’s wrong with talking to my sister? What, it’s better to be a stoic fortress of solitude? Never deigning anypony permission to board my grand battlements of arrogant self-reliance or cross my moat of surly, indignant deceptions of well being. Well you know what? I’ve had just about enough of you now shush! I mean it! I’m not going to talk to you anymore. Goodbye.
Okay. We’ll see. I just want to…. Oh wait…. Showtime.
Suddenly, flare! A lantern has come on in one of the houses and the shadow of a pony stretches over the curtains.
“You ready?” Luna’s expectations are so grand that she hasn’t noticed much of her mind’s parlay, indeed the tempest has gone unnoticed, save for that slight…. niggling. Another light comes on in a different house, and from both houses now ponies can be seen peering out of the windows at the high moon. Then they both vanish from sight. More lights flare on from within, then burst out into the street as one of the doors open. An Earth-pony of medium stature comes outside and looks straight up briefly, then looks around before trotting over to her neighbours house. Even before she reaches it that door too opens. They start conversing, but Luna is too far away to hear the words, instead she just hears the slight tones. Luna stands up and walks a little closer to the couple but stays out of sight; her shyness is still almost all encompassing as for many years she has actually been in complete seclusion from all save her sister. Upon reaching a bushel behind which she crouches there is a burst of laughter. Luna’s ears prick up in delight. In just that moment the world becomes a shroud of florid colours and scintillating smells as the laughter tickles and caresses her ears. The whole world in that moment crystallises into a paradisiacal experience that seemed to split all the wonderment of being into a myriad of separate parts so that each could be marvelled at in turn as the laughter lovingly curls up into her brain. At that moment the entire world culminates into an untainted, utopian dreamscape made of glory and nectarous, saccharine rapture as the laughter tickles her ears. It tickles. In that peculiar way that it can do, the laughter tickles with the tone of anxiety.
Just as quickly the world freezes into a mocking rictus of perfection, still the same world only now a cruel joke. Luna’s breath is shallow and fast, she can no longer hear as her ears pound with blood. A few despondent, dead tears craft their way down her face and splash pitifully against the coarse and uncaring stones near her feet.
Celestia on seeing her sister’s perishing features rushes over. Her countenance in turn declines into one of panic and despair.
“What is it? Oh Lulu, please! W-whatever is the matter?” Her words are slightly stuttered as Luna’s moribund face is truly an atrocity, and compared to its previous position it is even more horrifying. In craggy, broken and bleak tones Luna remarks:
“They. Are afraid.” At this she turns her vacant eyes on her sister and again with her lustrous and lyrical voice, now afflicted with dire and harrowed inflections, comments: “They are afraid”.
“Oh Luna, oh Lu you don’t know that. Let me go talk to them and I’ll explain and you’ll see…” Celestia’s voice tails off into a dazzling smile, but its radiance cannot mask the concern firmly lodged within her purple eyes. Also there… regret. She trots urgently but not hurriedly over to the two ponies.
You couldn’t really have thought anything different now could you? You trusted to hope and see where that got you! Was it worth it Lu? Little Lu? Helloooo Lulu? Geez, after getting all sanguine this is really going to mess you up isn’t it? Hello? Are you listening to me? Do you…
Luna stares at the floor, vacuous save for a single point deep within her that poured forth torrents of loneliness and anguish, and another that stands resolutely before the deluge. The dejection begins to drown her and she is happy to let it; her spirit is almost entirely depleted.
…barely hearing any of this are you? Well, I suppose there’s nothing to be done until you snap out of this. Hey, HEY! Focus. I’m not going to be responsible for what happens! Listen, LISTEN TO ME!!!…
Luna stares at the floor, her eyes slowly focusing on the pool of tears before her. It seems strange to her the way that they have mixed with the dirt. It almost looks like in her sadness she has created a congregation of small and blissfully unaware creatures. The way that the individual tears seem to gather and coalesce was rather particular. In her state she thinks of how, had she been less sad, had she shed but one tear it would be lonely. It caused her distress to think of a single tear with no kin to bear its company. In a single tear surrounded by so many happier things could there not be any worse fate? She absent-mindedly stirs the small patch of ground until all of the tears are saturated with earth. A little of the mud grasps her hoof. For some unknown reason, upon seeing this Luna slowly snaps out of her reverie.
No. You listen. You listen. Celestia will… Cilly is going to… Cil….
Yes, I’m sure. You know what, I think I’ll even let this one play out. Let’s see what your precious sister has to say. “Oh Lu! They don’t just adore your night, they praise their existence for seeing it, they are complete now!” or some such comforting lie is all you can hope to expect. Well, look who I’m talking to, you know all about shattered expectations. Maybe she’ll tell you the truth “Lulu listen, I want you to really listen. They… Oh golly how do I do this…”
Celestia approaches slowly. It’s such a shame that she has never seen any reason for dishonesty until now, for her inexperience causes her to not consider her face carefully enough; inscribed upon it are good tidings and comfort, but merely skin deep ones as the structure underneath is one of fear. That face speaks volumes to Luna of fear at breaking bad news, of not knowing how to tell her that all she wished for was withering and dying without much optimism for its recovery.
Luna turns away not able to sustain any longer any semblance of form that she wished her sister to see, she believes the death of her hope has left her nothing to offer. Again she looks at her creation on the jagged and scabrous rock; the mud is still there, unchanged, unweathered. It might stay there for some great time still, she thinks.
Knowing her voice was hardly up for any kind of discussion, Luna sprints and jumps into the air, snapping her wings out to try and catch the winds from a storm that only she could feel.
“Lulu! LULU!!! Wait, just give them time to adjust, LULU!!! PLEASE!!!” Blind with tears, Luna separates herself as quickly as she can from the grieving screams of her beloved sister. The wind rippling across her smears those delicate droplets, those fine gossamer weavings of regret for nights that could be no more, those desperate, unhappy passengers who have left the harbour for seas unending, into long streaks that trail along the length of her coat. And there left behind are the traces imprinted onto her fine and comely coat, traces of salt that cling tentatively to her immaculate hairs with earnest deliberation.
Some unfathomable time later Luna finds herself capable of rational thought again and takes stock of her surroundings. With a start, she realises she is at the lake into whose murky depths she had previously peered searching for some answer to a question she had been asking for so long it didn’t even seem intelligible anymore. Without hesitation she trudges to the water’s edge, again looking deep into the ersatz mirror. She sees her moon, her lovely, lambent moon. She stretches out to stroke its reflection and feels nothing as she sees its form twisted and distorted. She doesn’t feel much of anything, which is to be expected. To allow herself to feel would be… to allow that…
It had to happen some day. I’ve been waiting for so long. You remember the day, you remember the very moment don’t you? Wishing that you could be there to comfort the ponies? Foolish. Although very Foalish as well, we shouldn’t expect too much of Foals, for them to be perfect. But how could you ever be the ponies’ comfort when you hide and enshroud all in shadow? It’s not your fault. None of it is your fault, they’re just so used to daylight you see. I’m wondering… Well, your sister, as always, said it best “Just give them time to adjust.” You know, there might just be something in that. Say, the moon were to, instead of falling down to the horizon to allow your sister, your big, brilliant sister, to be cherished, just stop…
Luna’s head raises to stare into the middle distance, focusing on nothing in particular. Her eyes are becoming wide with alarm.
NO, no more talk from you! Can’t you see it now? A beautiful moonscape forever more! Well, at least until those subjects, I mean, your subjects, fully appreciate what you’ve done for them, what you do for them each and every night!
Luna’s vision begins to darken. She feels intense fear as a cloud of impenetrable blackness seems to be gathering from all around her. It snatches at her when she’s not looking and no matter how hard she tries she can’t see all around at once. Almost the entire landscape is covered with these foul, gliding tendrils; all Luna can see is the moon, the stars, the edge of the lake and blackness. With her fading vision so too does her soul seem to wilt, although this description is not be entirely fair. It is more as though all the compartments that composed Luna were being separated from one another and as time progresses these divisions become larger and the sections are out of reach of one another. Luna can hardly control anything anymore, she can barely even feel her own being as the sick tendrils plunge into her essence and mercilessly detach her from her personality, her memories, her dreams and body. With the remaining control she has left she tries to plunge herself into the water but only manages to reach the water’s edge. Her reflection stares up at her, hope abandoned, idle and strangely relieved eyes survey her with seemingly almost no recognition. The lips in the reflection part and quiver before croaking in hoarse tones:
“Cil, I…” This is as far as Luna gets before she loses all control of her entire body, now her eyes just stare endlessly into the lake’s surface.
Whether seconds or years are passing, what is left of Luna can’t tell, but what she can tell is that something is happening. Entombed in her body, screaming with no voice, and nopony to hear, she is forced to gaze at her reflection wherein change is occurring. Her slender and unassuming form is extending to become more powerfully built. The eyes grow out of their devoid state into a bitter, cold one.
And so ends Luna, one of Equestria’s greatest progeny and the most gifted artisan to ever live, who would need to wait more than a thousand years to be released of her terrible affliction. And even afterwards she was never complete, ever fragmented into Luna the singer and dancer and Luna the captive. Forever more will part of her remain encased in shadow.