Prologue
Lunar Tower, Royal Castle, Canterlot, Equestria
April 3, 2183 CE

"As she read on, her surroundings gradually faded, and soon there lay about her only the mists of dream; the purple, star-strown mists beyond Time, where only gods and dreamers walk." - H.P. Lovecraft

Over the millennia, Princess Luna had held more than her fair share of names. Her mother may have named her Luna Selene, but it was rare that she was actually ever called by it. Far too often, she was greeted with Princess, Highness, Your Majesty. It had been worse in the centuries before true civilization had grasped its hold into Equestria. She had been the Goddess of the Night, the Watcher of the Dead, Fury of the Moon, Lady of the Night, and many others that she had long forgotten.

There were only a few titles that she had ever enjoyed. The first was Sister, and it was one that she had born with pride for all of her life. Celestia had been with her through the badlands, through the formation of the world. They had watched as all of their little ponies evolved, had nurtured them, cared for them, and guided them when life became too difficult.

The second title was Mother. It still was bittersweet nearly one-thousand years later and she tried not to dwell on what could have been. Her brief hour spent as Nightmare Moon had done more to ruin her life than the age before. One simple hour, not even a breath compared to the breadth of time she had walked the earth, but it still caused her pain.

The third title, and arguably her favorite was the Watcher of Dreams. It was her favorite talent, and it allowed her directly influence the lives of her subjects in ways that she never could as merely their Princess.

Sitting before her windows, Luna looked out over the lands of Equestria. She could barely see the edge of the western ocean so far away on the horizon. It had been a long time since she had enjoyed the warm beaches of Equestria. Maybe she could take a brief vacation. It would be good to spend some time in the gentle waves, with no other duties aside from raising and lowering the moon.

Shaking such thoughts from her mind, Luna turned her mind to more important tasks.

Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and slipped through reality into the world of dreams.

It had taken her nearly twenty-thousand years from the moment that she had been born to even realize that she had possessed such an ability. A lot of that time was thanks to the fact that there had yet to be ponies who dreamed at the time, and it had only been after they had begun to advance as a species that she had even become aware of her domain, the realm of dreams and fantasy.

It was not a physical place in any sense of the word. She had tried to explain to her sister before, but she had found that she lacked the words to even begin. The best she was able to come up with was that dreams existed in the in-between, in the cracks between reality and eternity. It was nothing like that, but at the same time, it described it perfectly. The world of dreams only made sense when one was dreaming after all.

Luna emerged into the world of dreams, remembering for the trillionth time the thousands of senses that came alive whenever she returned. It was like trying to remember how to sing the color yellow. It was unlike any mortal plane, and it was her domain, the largest part of her role as Princess.

Looking out upon the world, Luna saw (if it could actually be called sight) the familiar massive amorphous ocean spread out before her, filled with a trillion twinkling stars shining in the deep. It was a breathtaking vision, and she stepped out upon the waters, her hoofsteps not making a single ripple on the gentle waves.

When she had first fallen between the cracks, Luna had been frightened by the ocean. It was dark and black, and the waves crashed so dangerously all around her. She had been so young then, naive, pure. Years and years and years passed, and the ocean became a silent companion, but it wasn't until the stars began to appear that she truly understood just what she was experiencing each night. The stars were the minds of every Equestrian, past, present, and future. As they aged and died, their stars sunk to depths, but they were never truly gone. Luna had spoken with many friends long after they had passed.

Luna walked across the surface of the ocean, her body only a manifestation of her vast consciousness. As she moved, she gazed through the surface of the ocean, searching for any sign of a darkened star.

A darkened star was the mind of a dreamer in a nightmare. She had learned that the hard way.

They stood out, a cancer that only she could heal in the ocean. It was easy to find her first of the night. Luna descended into the sea and reached out a hoof to touch it. The ocean was not water, and it didn't so much as wet her coat. With a million years of familiarity, she expanded herself into the dreamers mind.

Stepping into another's dream was a simple manner, but it had taken her centuries to learn how. The much harder process had been learning how to interpret dreams themselves.

Stepping into the dream, Luna frowned when she found herself standing in a Batarian slave camp. She had seen the reports from the Alliance, the secret photos. It was instantly recognizable. The source of the dream was not immediately apparent, and she wondered just which of the survivors it was. The dream itself had become increasingly, worryingly familiar after the rescue of the Equestrian slaves.

Like the other camps that she had seen, the facility was old, and it had not been maintained at all since its completion. Stone and brick were crumbling away and paint peeled from the walls. It was a thoroughly disgusting place, even viler from its true purpose.

Walking through the facility, Luna ignored the blurry shapes of armored Batarians going about their business. They had not been there, and they likely never had been, but the dreamer assumed that they should be, so they were. Nightmares could truly be self-defeating, tearing at the innermost fears and terrors that plagued a pony. She took everything in with careful eyes, not wanting to miss a single detail that would end up helping her purpose.

"Ha! You like it, don't you?"

Luna paused, hearing the voice clear as day in a dream world that was incredibly muted and grey. She knew instantly that she was hearing the most vibrant part of a memory that the dreamer remembered, and her stomach dropped at what it implied.

Closing her eyes, Luna spread out her mind and when she opened her eyes again, she was in a completely different place. It was simply a capability of being a dream-walker.

She took a moment to reorient herself in her new place. In the few seconds that it took for Luna to see what was happening before her, she shattered the dream, revulsion flowing through her.

"ENOUGH!" Luna shouted, her voice shaking the dream to its very foundation.

With a blast of magic, Luna disintegrated the memory, washing away the naked Batarian and destroying the facility surrounding them. With a consciousness honed by thousands of millennia's of use, Luna shifted the dream, and they were instantly in an indescribable place of calm and comfort.

Kneeling down next to white mare that she had rescued from herself, Luna gently nuzzled the mare.

"Rest. Heal. You are safe here." Luna kept her voice calm and quiet, not wanting to further cause the mare any pain. She placed a hoof on the mare's cutie mark, a musical note that she couldn't recall the name of.

The mare was too out of it to thank Luna, but that didn't hurt Luna's feeling. The mare settled down, going to sleep as Luna stepped out and disappeared from the dream.

Luna reemerged back into the world of dreams, standing on top of the ocean. She took a moment to gather herself back together. The nightmares that she dealt with for so long had been benign and even kind compared to what had come after the awakening.

Slowly, Luna noticed that something was different. Luna could feel it with every fiber of her being, that the dream world was wrong.

Turning, Luna found a looming dark presence behind her and it was spreading through the ocean like fire over an oil spill, infecting each and every dreaming star, uniting Equestria in a shared dream.

Biting back the curse that she desperately wanted to shout, Luna felt worry and terror overwhelm her. She did not do well with the unknown, but she didn't have a choice. Luna submerged herself into the darkness, and instantly she was swept up into the shared dream.

The dream was a wild beast, writhing and roiling in a scary approximation of life. It was a product of Equestria's magic, a warning for all of them to see, Ponies, Griffins, Zebras, all of them alike. A storm was coming, and the very magic of the planet was manifesting itself, trying to warn them all of its imminent arrival.

The dream itself wasn't a concrete thing. It shifted and spun, and flashes of images were all that Luna could see. She could feel the weight of a billion minds surrounding her, all experiencing the same thing.

A storm twisted and churned over the horizon, shrouding the entirety of Equestria from beyond, malevolent and evil.

She watched as Celestia was struck down, powerless to stop the darkness, falling atop her own body.

Equestria was torn apart, continents shattering as a war embroiled the entire planet.

Unicorns, Pegasus, and Earth Ponies attacked each other, fighting themselves.

Dark beings from beyond, ancient horrors from beyond that were coming to consume Equestria, skulking forth from the darkness.

Luna felt her heart shatter at the last image, a young Alicorn shrouded in shadows, standing against the coming dark.

Pulling back out of the dream, Luna took a shuddering breath, horrified. That wasn't right. That wasn't how it was supposed be! The prophecy had ended. Damn it, Luna had seen to that...

"Oh Faust..." Luna muttered. Igniting her horn, she shattered the dream and woke everypony up.

###

Luna emerged from the dream realm, feeling the warmth of her body as her soul settled back into place. Looking around, she saw that all of her guard had collapsed, groggily trying to get back onto their hooves. They had no idea what had happened, but Luna knew in that moment that they were all drawn asleep into the dream. Everypony was.

Setting her jaw, Luna knew what she had to do. Without Aurora they might all be doomed, but maybe there was another chance.

Gathering her magic around herself, Luna teleported, burstsing into Celestia's room.

"Tia!" Luna shouted, feeling like she was a foal again.

She found Celestia sitting at her desk. She turned to look at Luna, deep bags under her eyes. "Luna... Was..."

Ducking her head, Celestia struggled to breath. "Was that what I thought it was?"

Stepping forward, Luna opened the door to Celestia's balcony with her magic. She turned back to her mother, her face grim. "I believe so."

"Oh, Luna..." Celestia whispered.

Shaking her head, Luna turned away from Celestia. She was thinking of her daughter, of Princess Aurora, of that horrible night so long ago.

"The prophecy..." It always came back to the stupid prophecy. Celestia shuddered, hating the power that magic held over all of them.

"The Elements may be the only things that can save us." Luna ignored the sadness inside of her. She ignored the pain of a lost daughter.

"Then let us depart." Celestia stood. "The sooner we have him, the safer I think we shall all feel."

"After you, sister," Luna murmured, her voice small.

Luna followed after Celestia as she stepped out onto the balcony. Flexing their wings, they jumped into the air, letting their wings do the rest. They sped towards the Evergree Forest.

The trip took almost no time, or maybe it took all the time in the world. Luna wasn't really paying attention, her mind elsewhere. Celestia landed in front of their old castle, Luna following after her a moment later. The Castle was full of old memories, many of them painful, and nearly every single one jumped to the front of the younger alicorn's mind.

Luna ducked her head, glancing away in shame at the destruction that she caused. She had forgotten just how terrible it had been.

Comfortingly, Celestia put a wing over Luna's back. "Come, Luna. Let's get this over with."

Luna nodded her head. Slowly, they stepped inside their old castle for the first time in nearly a thousand years. The ceiling had long ago disintegrated, a victim to the ravages of time. Surprisingly, a vast majority of the tapestries were still in a wonderful condition.

Luna and Celestia entered the throne room together. They walked forward to where they had hidden the Elements of Harmony.

Igniting their magic, the pedestal holding them rose from beneath the floor.

Seeing it for the first time in so long, Luna and Celestia went pale, hope leaving them.

"Tia..." Luna shook her head. It couldn't be real.

"I see it, Luna..." Celestia dropped back onto her haunches, disbelieving.

Luna took a step forward, putting a hoof out, hoping that her eyes were deceiving her.

They weren't.

"The Elements... They're gone."