“Princess Celestia, can you tell me a story?”
I looked down at my young apprentice as she lay in bed, eyes still shining with eagerness and willingness to learn. I felt myself blink once, but couldn’t help but to smile. It had been so long since I had last taken an apprentice, I had almost forgotten what this youthful vigor felt like.
“Hmm. I don’t know, young one, what would you like to hear as a bedtime story?”
“Something from a long time ago! I love history.” She smiled brightly.
“Very well then. Would you like to hear the legend of Nightmare Moon?”
“Nightmare Moon? That sounds a little scary, actually.”
“Not at all, actually it has a rather happy ending.” If felt my throat catch a bit as I told the small lie. “For the most part. Shall I begin?”
“Of course!” I watched the little filly snuggle in comfortably in her new bed, looking up at me with wide, curious eyes that I hadn’t seen in aeons.
“Very well. Legend has it that, thousands of years ago, there existed two very powerful sisters. Together they ruled over Equestria, and harmony reigned over the land.”
“Yes,” my young pupil inquired. “But that doesn’t sound too different from what we have today-”
“I’m not finished yet.” I chuckled to her. “As I was saying, these royal pony sisters ruled over Equestria in harmony, and the land was prosperous. However, as time went on, the younger sister began to resent and grow jealous of her older sister, since the ponies of Equestria frolicked under the elder sister’s rule while shunning and turning away from the younger. Eventually, the younger sister had had enough, and she used her unicorn magic to prevent the sun from being raised in the morning. Her jealousy had corrupted her and turned her into a monster, and she began to call herself Nightmare Moon.”
“That sounds awful!” my apprentice piped up. “What happened to Equestria, then?”
“Well, the older sister knew what had to be done. In what seemed to be Equestria’s final hours, she utilized the most powerful weapon known to ponykind, the Elements of Harmony, and banished the younger sister to the moon, never to be seen or heard from again.”
“Woooow.” My young student was in absolute awe. I was quite pleased with myself, in spite of how lightly I had treated true events. It was my first time telling the Nightmare Moon story directly to an apprentice after sealing her away, but my performance was evidently satisfactory. “The Elements of Harmony sound really powerful, Princess.”
“Oh, there’s no doubt that they were.” I answered. “The Elements contain power enough to defeat not only Nightmare Moon, but many other threats to Equestria as well. They can only be wielded by specific ponies, though; those that most represent each specific element.” A small chuckle escaped my lips. “With the raw magical power you displayed at your entrance exam, you may very well be powerful enough to be an element-bearer, even.”
“Really?! Do you really mean it, Princess Celestia?”
“I think it would be perfectly possible, yes.”
“Wow!” the young filly was completely ecstatic. Her eyes shone even brighter than before. It was truly endearing. “Well, there’s no way I’m going to be able to sleep now, I’m too excited!” she stated.
I sighed, smiling. “All right then, how about another story? I can tell you about some of my old apprentices from years past.”
“Really? Like who?”
“Well, for a while, even such luminaries as Star Swirl the Bearded found themselves under my tutelage before seeking their own fortunes elsewhere.”
The filly gasped. “You knew Star Swirl the Bearded? I read all about him, he was such a great magician!”
“Indeed I did. He was a wonderful pupil, as I’m sure you’ll be.”
Suddenly I noticed the young filly’s eyelids beginning to droop. It was getting rather late, after all. “Wow…” she mumbled as she quietly drifted off to sleep. “The teacher of Star Swirl the Bearded…”
I smiled. Such youthful exuberance was just what I needed after all these years. Though in hindsight, the stories I told might not have been the most appropriate. Not for the young one, of course, but for me. All of this talk of Nightmare Moon caused memories to return to me, reflections of grief that I had long thought forgotten about. I remember my foolishness, my inability to control the Elements on my own. I remember the fear in my heart when I first saw Luna’s monstrous new form. I remember the crushing loneliness I felt when the Elements struck out and Luna no longer stood before me.
But more than anything, I remember Twilight Sparkle, and how terribly I miss her.
And I remember how terrible of a burden immortality is to bear.
Norse Pony’s comments: The “weight of immortality” take on Celestia always resonates with me. I liked this a lot, and the reveal at the end was not a surprise but was potent nonetheless.