The night was beautiful, just as it had always been. A sea of gleaming, shimmering stars shining against the night sky, and each one a spark – fuel for the memories that burned like fire in her mind, consuming everything she was and stealing her every stray thought. Fuel for the fires that would never fade, never die – they flickered and blazed, waxed and waned like the moon itself, but they burned ever on. Just as they always had, and just as they always would.
The night was beautiful, just as it had always been. The same as it had always been. Static. Unmoving. Unchanging. A thousand times a thousand perfect, gleaming stars, frozen in time for all eternity. Just as they had always been. Just as they were meant to be.
The night had always been unchanging, unyielding – a stark contrast to the swirling, ever changing days, as wild and unpredictable as anything the world had to offer. One day could bring gentle, beautifully swirling clouds, or a sky lit aflame by the gentle warmth of the sun, while the next bought stifling heat and the next cold, frightening grey.
Scholars had said that if the day was full of life, passion, love, the night was dark and empty. Hollow, and uncaring. And they were right. Because the day was alive. Every day she stood tall and guided her people alone as best she could was proof of that – the day was alive, and it was guided by her whims as surely as the sun itself. The day was alive, and the night was dead. An empty husk, stripped of the spark that had made it what it was.
Sometimes, Celestia wondered what her ponies would say if she told them. If she spoke of how once, the stars had danced. How every night had been different, changing, shifting and fading – how each had been crafted with a burning passion and love she could never have hoped to match, the work of a master with an infinite tapestry. Would they believe it? It seemed unlikely. It had been a thousand years since the stars had danced, swaying and shifting, stepping into line to the tune of a song only Luna had been able to hear. A thousand years since the last time she had seen some trace of the sister she loved so dearly.
A thousand years since the last time she had sealed her away.
As she stood on the balcony, staring up at the mare in the moon – that foul, dark thing that had once been her sister, she remembered. Remembered how the seal had broken, again and again. How she had found herself once more faced with a power she could barely comprehend, barely bring herself to face. How she had tried, a dozen times, to call out to her sister and free her from what had enslaved her. How she had failed.
She remembered the hatred, burning in those eyes – the anger, and fury and shame. She remembered raising her head, preparing to make the killing blow and release her sister from the prison that had been forced upon her once and for all, and faltering.
Not once, but a dozen times. A dozen battles fought and won, a dozen chances to end the curse that she had struggled for so long to break. A dozen failures that still ate away at her, reminding her every day and every night that she was weak.
Twelve thousand years, since she had held her sister close and told her that she loved her.
It had to end. For her, and for Luna. For whatever was left of Luna. It had to end, and she wasn’t strong enough. She had never been strong enough, but now – with the elements of harmony forever lost to her, claimed by their rightful bearers – she doubted that she even had the strength to fight.
But perhaps…perhaps she didn’t need to be strong, this time. Perhaps this time – the last time, whichever way things went – she didn’t need to fight. All she had to do was set the field, and ensure that all the pieces were in play. All she had to do was send six of her loyal, faithful subjects – six ponies with no idea of the power they had or the dangers they faced – against a power they couldn’t possibly imagine.
All she had to do was risk six ponies, to save the world. All she had to do was risk Twilight Sparkle, to save the world.
And she wasn’t strong enough. She couldn’t do it.
But, as she felt the gentle night breeze on her face and remembered those burning, accusing, terrified eyes, she knew she had no choice.
She would send the Elements of Harmony to the field, and they would fight. They would die, or they would kill Nightmare Moon. And then it would be over. Whatever happened, Luna would be free. Whatever happened, Celestia would die a little more.
And if she were to fall, die beneath the hooves of the sister she had betrayed a dozen times…that was alright. Perhaps then, she could dance among the stars with Luna one last time.
Norse Pony’s comments: Ooh, good stuff. Good and dark. I love the idea that Nightmare Moon wasn’t a new thing, but a force that reasserted itself in Luna time and time again. Celestia’s resignation is palpable here, and that sells the despair of the story. This line struck me in particular: “Sometimes, Celestia wondered what her ponies would say if she told them. If she spoke of how once, the stars had danced.” That’s marvelously potent and evocative. Great stuff.