|The Gratitude of Night
Author: HeatWave PM
Twilight Sparkle understands that she alone knew of the prophecy of the return of Nightmare Moon and she is determined to do her part to prevent history from repeating itself, but can one little pony possibly make a lasting difference?Rated: Fiction K - English - Friendship/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 3 - Words: 12,368 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 05-01-11 - Published: 04-27-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6943189
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Yes, I did it. I wrote a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fic. I don't know why... the desire just hit me. Like so many others, I have fallen in love with this show. Ironically, it'll be the one finished story I have to my name. It was meant to be a simple one-shot, but it kinda got away from me, so I split it into three parts: Prologue, Story, Epilogue. Lemme know what you think, as reviews and comments are always appreciated. I would especially like your take on how I portray some of the characters. I try to stay as on target as I can when I can, but some of them have so little source to go off of, so it's nice to see your reactions. Thanks a bunch, and hope you enjoy!
Softly she walked, often trotting, occasionally prancing, but always with a confidence of knowledge, an aura of power, and a hint of mischievousness. Though still relatively new to the quiet— some might even say backwater— village, she had quickly and distinctly made her mark. Her name was often whispered through the town's gossip chains. She was, after all, the chosen student of Princess Celestia, and she had proven her worth time and time again to the small town of Ponyville; not to mention been instrumental of the fall of the Nightmare Moon. Everypony gave her a measure of respect, even if she was often outside of her element so far from her majestic home in Canterlot. It was a small price of patience for the ponies of Ponyville to pay for the services she had rendered in trade, and anypony who saw her pass by would give her more than a passing glance.
Of course, that would assume there was anypony about to see her, but there was not; certainly not at this hour. All the sane ponies would have long since retired for the night, but Twilight Sparkle strode through the darkened streets as if without a care in the world, musing to herself as she passed building after building. The crisp, autumn air flicked at her mane and slid silently through the town with a whisper, as if not to disturb the peaceful venue. Occasionally she would see a dim light through the window of a night owl, perhaps working on some time consuming project, or better yet, buried within a good book. She passed by several familiar shops as she walked whimsically through the town, not really caring where she was going. The Sugarcube Corner had long since gone dark, as most of the baking for the day took place early morning to ensure fresh products, but a light in the Carousel Boutique told her that Rarity was once again working the night away. Twilight briefly considered stopping in to say hello, but quickly dismissed the idea. The poor pony had enough to worry about without unnecessary interruptions, even if she could use a break every once in a while.
With a knowing shake of her mane, Twilight moved off, making her way to the outer edges of town, towards the familiar fields of Sweet Apple Acres. She did not fear the night, so long as she stayed clear of the Everfree Forest.
The Everfree Forest. That thought sent a shudder through her spine. It was blind luck that Fluttershy had found her after her encounter with the Cockatrice, let alone freed her from the grips of lifeless stone she had been entrapped in, and Twilight had no intention of testing that luck a second time. And then there was the Ursa Minor she had encountered… No, the Farm would be a much safer venue to accomplish her purpose tonight.
As Twilight approached the outskirts she turned her attention to the night sky. With fewer lamps and lit rooms around her she could see the wonderment held therein much more clearly. The stars gleamed down at the young Pony, their brilliance only surpassed by the moon itself, which shown down on the land, bathing the small town in a soft white glow as if it were Ponyville's own personal spotlight. Another gust of wind blew past; cool, but not cold. It was a refreshing breeze that seemed to whisper of the benefits that the daytime air could not provide, and Twilight stopped to listen, to immerse herself into its message as if it was the most fascinating of books. The wind sped by and dissipated, and with it, the experience. Twilight slowly drew in a deep breath, not having realized she had been holding it as the gust passed. She continued on.
It wasn't much further before she reached the farm. Surveying the land, Twilight picked out a field that didn't appear to be in any immediate use. Long grass spread over the ground like an elaborate carpet, separated from the wild by a small wooden fence that was easily bypassed. Out in the center of the field, Twilight lay on the ground and just sat there, taking in the beauty and splendor that was the night. She listened to the rustling grass and heard the calls of creatures who were more suited to life in the shadows rather than the brilliant rays of the sun. She watched the gleaming twinkling stars, pointing out in her mind the constellations that she knew by heart. She was no stranger to the night sky, having dedicated many hours to the study of the celestial bodies; but as her focus turned to the gleaming face of the full moon she realized that wasn't entirely true, for there was one body that had gone through a recent change.
Even after all these months it was still strange to her. She had grown up listening to the stories of the mare in the moon. She could still remember, as a little filly, the first time she had been able to make out the distinct shape therein. She didn't realize at the time that those stories had been all too real, and that she would be the one to face that mare when she returned to Equestria, but it mattered little now. The moon was new and different, true, but it seemed to glow all the more brighter for it, as if happy that it was no longer marred by the dark visage of the Nightmare.
As Twilight laid there, thinking to herself and admiring the dark majesty around her, she slowly became aware of a sound that seemed to disturb the stillness of the night air. As her consciousness brought the sound to the forefront of her thoughts she focused her ears, hoping to catch it again with more clarity. She was not long disappointed.
It seemed a ways off, and sounded like it was coming from the Apple Orchards. Twilight wasn't aware of any particular creature living within the orchard that would make such a peculiar sound. She was trying to convince herself there was a logical explanation for it when she heard it a second time.
With no better ideas she slowly got back to her feet and made her way towards the trees. As she approached she would hear the sound, repeating itself with irregular intervals. She moved cautiously at first, hoping to stay hidden lest the source turn out to be less than friendly, but as she drew near to the origin she realized that there was no need to fear. It's strange how the night can turn what should have been an instantly recognizable and innocuous sound into something much more sinister.
With the help of the moon's glow, Twilight approached the source more boldly, finally making out a familiar outline, even from within the muted cover of the many apple trees. The outline reared itself on its front legs and gave the nearest tree a mighty kick.
Shortly thereafter, a small shower of Apples began to fall from the tree, hitting the soft ground without so much as a bounce.
Twilight watched as the shadow began to gather the fallen apples, depositing them in a nearby bucket for easier transportation back to the barn. It didn't seem to be aware of her presence just yet, and so she waited for a moment longer before closing the remaining distance between them.
With a start, the orange pony whirled at the newcomer, relaxing only when the glow of the silver moon allowed her brain to match the voice she had heard with a face she was well familiar with.
"Twilight!" Applejack breathed with obvious relief, "What in tarnation you doin' out here, girl. You done scared me half to death!"
Twilight gave her friend the most apologetic look she could muster. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. I just heard something out here and thought I would investigate. I'd hate for somepony to be stealing your apples and I not doing anything about it."
Applejack chuckled, her drawl easily making its way into even that simple gesture. "Girl, the last time somepony tried to steal an apple from the Apple Family Farm they were taught a lesson that no pony in Ponyville will soon forget," she said with a hint of pride in her voice. "You don't cheat a pony out of her work and sweat without consequences, let me tell you."
"I don't doubt it," Twilight said with a nod, not caring for any further details. "So, what brings you out here Apple-Bucking so late?"
Applejack shrugged, as if it was nothing new for her. "Just feelin' restless I suppose. It strikes my fancy on occasion if I can't get to get to sleep or I'm feelin' a little stressed. I come on out here an' buck me a few apples. Helps clear my head."
"Still," she continued with a wry look at her friend, "Considering whose property this is, I believe I'm entitled to an answer to that very question."
Twilight nodded again, "Right, right, of course." With a nod back to the field she had come from, Twilight indicated for Applejack to follow her. "Come on, I'll show you."
"So you're tellin' me that you're just out here watchin' a buncha stars?" Applejack asked, bemusement spread over her face clear as day in the moon's light. The two ponies lay on their backs in the tall grass, gazing at the moon and stars overhead in their imperceptible migration across the sky.
"Well, yes," Twilight said hesitantly. "I mean, kinda. I have to refresh my memory every once in a while you know. You can't see it during the day, but the stars are always changing."
"Ah, let 'em change," Applejack said with indifference. "Ain't nothin' we can do about 'em. It's best to save your energy for more practical things, if ya ask me."
"The stars can be very important!" Twilight said, jumping to her study's defense with a touch of indignation in her voice. "Many ponies use them for guidance and navigation, not to mention you can tell what time of year it is by which stars you can see in the sky. That was important before calendars were common." She ended her comment with a note of self righteousness, confident in the value of such things.
"Well… if'n you say so." Applejack conceded, absentmindedly grinding a stalk of the tall grass that she had picked between her teeth. "Still don't see why it's such a big deal, but I'll admit that I've always held a bit o' respect for th' night sky."
"Well," Twilight started, suddenly feeling self conscious, "that's kinda the other reason I'm out here so late."
Applejack glanced at her friend, noticing the slight emotional shift. "And why's that, Sugarcube?" she asked.
Twilight kept her gaze star-ward. "You remember when we fought Nightmare Moon, right?" she asked intently.
Applejack chuckled to herself. "That's not somethin' a pony easily forgets, girl. I might have a respect for th' night, but that don't mean I'm about to let it become a permanent thing."
"Not quite what I was getting at." Twilight said with a little apprehension. She paused for a moment, considering her next words. Applejack sat in silence, content to give her friend time to collect her thoughts. Finally, Twilight began again, this time with a different angle. "What do you know of the legend of the Nightmare Moon?" she asked.
"Not much," Applejack said frankly. "Just what you told us back during that whole escapade. Some pony got banished to the moon, managed to escape, an' we needed them elements of harmony to stop her." Applejack paused for a moment, wondering if she should mention the last bit they had discovered, then shrugged to herself and went ahead with it, "…an' that pony turned out to be Princess Celestia's sister."
"All true," Twilight said with a nod, "but I never did tell you why Princess Luna got banned to the moon, did I?"
Applejack gave her head a soft shake, "No, but we weren't really worried about details at the time."
"I admit we were pretty rushed," Twilight agreed, "but it's kind of important to know. You see, we all know that Princess Celestia controls when the sun rises and sets, right?"
"Well, of course," Applejack said, her own tone taking on a note of amused indignation. "Every pony in Equestria knows that."
Twilight continued quickly, embarrassed at the thought that she might have insulted her friend's intelligence. "Well, a thousand years ago, Princess Celesia wasn't the only pony who controlled the sky, but did so together with her younger sister."
"The one that ended up in th' moon." Applejack interjected.
"Right," Twilight confirmed. "Anyway, Celestia controlled the sun, like she does today, but her younger sister, Princess Luna, controlled the moon and the night."
"I suppose I could 'ave guessed as much," Applejack sighed, "but that still don't explain how she ended up locked away up there."
"I'm getting to that," Twilight said, a hint of exasperation creeping into her voice, wishing her friend would give her long enough to finish a thought before interrupting. "You see, the legend says that after a long time of the sisters ruling together in harmony, Princess Luna became jealous of her sister because she felt the ponies didn't appreciate her night as much as they did Princess Celestia's day, so she became the Nightmare Moon and tried to make it eternally night as a result."
"Well that's just stupid." Applejack said, raising her voice and shifting onto her side to face Twilight.
"Applejack!" Twilight said, horrified that she would speak of a royal with such a tone. "Don't say it like that!"
"Well it is!" Applejack insisted. "We wouldn't be able to survive very long if it was night all th' time. We couldn't even grow any food! She had t've understood that at least!"
"Well… I… I- I don't know!" Twilight admitted in exasperation. "That's just what the prophecy said! Besides, you were there when she escaped; you saw what she did!"
"Well… yeah, yeah I did," Applejack said, rolling onto her back once more, "but it still don't make sense to me."
"Regardless," Twilight continued, desperately wanting to move the conversation forward, "the prophecy said the reason that she became the Nightmare Moon was because she felt underappreciated, sooo…" Twilight paused again, feeling sheepish.
"Aaaah, I get it," Applejack said coyly, finally making the connection, "so you come out here every once in a while to 'show your appreciation' for th' night. To placate 'er."
"I wouldn't call it 'placating'," Twilight said hastily, "But essentially, yes, I just want to do my part to show my appreciation. None of us know how hard they have to work, not even I know what it takes to rule the sky."
Applejack looked a little shocked at this. "But you've been studyin' with Celestia for years! She never showed you?"
Twilight shook her head, "No, my studies never had anything to do with that; most of the time she was just teaching me how to control my magic. I mean," Twilight paused again, trying to sort her memories, "I've seen her raise the sun several times, but I've never been able to figure out how she does it."
"Huh, go figure," Applejack said simply, as if it all suddenly made sense.
They didn't talk much after that. Twilight had run out of things to say and Applejack seemed lost in her own thoughts, so they just sat together, and gained a new appreciation for the night.