Escape from Castle Midnight
Prologue: The True Tale of the Mare in the Moon
Everypony in Equestria knows the tale of the Mare in the Moon; how the two heavenly sisters, Princess Celestia of the Sun and Princess Luna of the Moon, controlled the night and day of Equestria until the day Princess Luna transformed into the wicked Nightmare Moon and refused to allow her sister to bring back the day, forcing Celestia to imprison her within the moon.
Yet there is another side to this tale…a side that no pony, not even Celestia, knows about…a moment in the life of Princess Luna 1000 years ago that would change her destiny forever and, one day, that of all Equestria…
It was a particularly serene Night. Luna had made sure of it: the clouds had all been brushed aside that evening, allowing the full moon and all its star companions to bathe the land in their unique and effervescent glow without obstruction. Surveying the results from the clouds above, the winged unicorn felt quite proud of her work, admiring the subtle beauty below that only her Night could create.
As always, however, she was the only one to do so.
Everypony else in the lands below were asleep, or soon would be, leaving Luna alone with the Night she had worked so hard to make. The Princess tried not to think about it, but it grew harder and harder not to with each passing cycle, always the same: her Night would go ignored by the sleeping ponies below, while those same ponies were always awake to enjoy her sister Celestia's Day. This night in particular, that jealous train of thought proved hard for Luna to ignore, for she had put in extra effort for this Night in the hopes that somepony, anypony, would finally see and appreciate her efforts.
Alas, nopony had.
"Only a few hours now…" Luna whispered bitterly to herself. "Only a few hours 'til all my hard work goes to waste again and Sis gets to soak up all the praise."
She dragged her hooves along the cloud she stood on, stretching and retracting her wings in a futile effort to work off the frustration that had been building up inside her for so long. She knew in her heart of hearts it was simply a petulant anger, that Celestia was only doing her duty and meant no harm by it, but that did little to ease the emotion. "If only…" Luna scowled, no real idea as to what she was trying to say but feeling the overpowering need to say something, "If only…!"
"If only the Night did not have to end…"
Luna gasped in shock, reflexively lifting off the cloud a little with her wings. Whipping her head around, the blue-maned mare tried to figure out where that voice had come from, assuming she had even heard it; the sound had been strong, but swift and uneven, like a passing breeze peaking and fading. As far as the Princess could see, there was no place it had come from…no one who could have said anything…yet she knew for certain she had heard something…!
"W-w-who said that…?" she asked, trying to remember that a Princess of Equestria was strong and did not show fear.
At first, there was no answer, but then it came again, swift and sharp like before.
"If the Night lasted forever, all the ponies would have no choice but to appreciate all the work put into it…"
This time, Luna got a better chance to focus on what the voice sounded like. Deep…arresting…and yet not without sympathy. It almost reminded the Princess of her mother, Queen Eternia…strong, compelling, empathetic. Mother…Luna was reminded how deeply she missed her presence, her voice…how the stars that had once dotted her mane but now rested in the sky were the only reminder she and Celestia had to remember her by. Was this voice…? Could it be…? No. Luna dared not to dream that far, knowing how much it might hurt to have it shattered. Desperate to leave that train of thought behind, she spoke up again. "Whoever you are," she replied at last, seeing little alternative but to make this a dialogue; perhaps it would draw whoever (or whatever) it was talking to her out of hiding? "you should know I can't let the Night last forever. Celestia and I have a sacred duty to uphold the balance between Day and Night…"
"A duty that Celestia alone benefits from, while you are forced to languish in shadow."
Luna kneaded the cloud gently with her hoof, trying not to let it show how much she recognized that sentiment within herself. Even as she did, however, she tried to remind herself how little she still knew about this being she was speaking with, and that putting her full trust in such a mystery was unwise indeed. Yet as she prepared to ask the many questions buzzing in her mind, the voice interjected again.
"I know you resent her. I know your anger. It is that anger that brought me to you, Princess…that anger which deserves to be satisfied."
The clouds began to rustle, the wind that seemed to carry this mysterious voice now acting forcibly upon the area around Luna. The Princess could sense the presence behind this voice now, something implacable, commanding…yet alluring as well, kindred in a way that was slowly beginning to silence her caution.
"Do not be cowed by 'duty', Princess. Do not fear your sister. You are her equal…no, you are her BETTER. She has had centuries to be seen and loved; now it is your turn. Take what is rightfully yours. Use the power that is your birthright and make this the Night that never ends. Only then can we truly be free…"
It sounded so right, Luna could not help but admit to herself. To finally take control…to be recognized for her beauty and power by everypony as Celestia was…why shouldn't she have that chance? What made Celestia any worthier than her? Doubt still lingered in her heart, but it was weaker and frailer now than it had ever been in the past. "I…I could…" she whispered, hesitant but excited. "I could do that…I have the power…"
She waited for an answer from the voice, but none came. The winds had calmed, the clouds had stilled, and after waiting a few moments, Luna realized whatever force had been speaking to her was, at last, gone and silent. Assuming anything had even been there at all. She may have held power over the moon, but the Princess could sleep and dream like any other pony; perhaps, she reasoned, she had simply dreamed this odd encounter without realizing it. Perhaps it was merely her own voice, finally brave enough to speak out against Celestia after so long. "I have the power…" she repeated firmly to herself, looking now to the moon that was hers to control.
Gazing into its pearly-white form, Luna could feel the tug of a new future pull at her heart…but just as the clouds had begun to gently move back across the moon, signaling the approach of dawn and obscuring the purity of its light, so too did slivers of caution hold within her mind. Closing her eyes, the Princess followed her duty, focusing her unicorn magic toward the moon. Horn aglow with shimmering blue light, she gently guided the great sphere to its resting place, making room for the shimmering sun that would soon take its place. "Goodnight, Equestria…" she whispered to the slumbering ponies below as she always did when she brought Night to its close.
Seeing the first rays of the sun peeking out from the horizon, she took flight off of the clouds toward the royal city of Canterlot, trying to act as if nothing had changed. Yet she knew, deep down inside, that everything had changed. That voice, whether it was her own subconscious or some strange spiritual visitor, had planted an idea within the young Princess that she had never seriously entertained before, yet now could not fully pull her thoughts away from. A Night that never ended…a chance to become the great and beloved hero of the ponies she had so long wished to be…the time of Luna, at long last.
And in a place far away, in a shadow deeper and darker than any other in Equestria, a voice laughed at the first step toward its ultimate triumph.