I don't own My Little Pony. Nor do I own the song from Gerry and the Pacemakers from which I stole the title.
It was a perfect spring day in Ponyville. Warm and temperate thanks to the dedication of Princess Celestia and the weather pegasi. Under the gentle sunlight the citizens of Ponyville contentedly went about their daily lives. Well, most of them at least.
Despite the fine day, Twilight Sparkle was feeling a bit troubled, though she couldn't pinpoint the exact reason why. Actually, she could, but she much preferred not to think too deeply about the problem. It was just too … problematic.
It wasn't that life had been hectic as of late, far from it in fact. For the past few months life in Ponyville had been decidedly quite. While Twilight, with the help of her friends, had learned many valuable lessons about the magic of friendship, they hadn't been on any grand, death defying adventures lately. Just quiet, normal, everyday adventures which might not have seemed important to Equestria at large, but would never be forgotten by six ponies who lived in Ponyville.
Even the previous winter had been mild and relatively uneventful. The latest winter wrap up had been smooth and efficient under Twilight's administration. In fact Twilight had been so proud of how well she had handled that year's winter wrap up that she had written a rather voluminous letter to Princess Celestia detailing her intricate plans and dedicated oversight. That had been the start of Twilight's slight discontent. The reply she had received from the princess had been polite and full of support, but Twilight had felt like it had lacked a certain element which was the hallmark of a letter from Princess Celestia.
Twilight wasn't sure what that element was exactly, since she hadn't ever noticed it until it was absent, but as the weeks and months progressed, Twilight couldn't help but feel that it never reentered Celestia's replies to her reports on friendship. The princess' letters had for the most part become brief, only a few sentences long. They always praised and encouraged Twilight, but their brevity wasn't like the teacher Twilight knew so well.
So, on this perfect spring day, while her friends were occupied with personal projects they had assured her they didn't need her help with, and while Spike was minding the library, Twilight set out for Canterlot. She had a vague feeling that something had changed between her and Celestia, and she wanted to surprise her mentor, to catch her in a candid situation so she could easily find out what the matter was. So Twilight hadn't written to the princess asking for a chariot, but instead had decided to rely on her own hooves.
The road to Canterlot by hoof was long, and the warm spring sun became quite hot as Twilight walked its dusty length. But, thanks to her research, she knew the benefit of pacing herself, and had packed plenty of water and energy efficient snacks in her saddle bags. She only broke a light sweat on the way to Canterlot, but due to her sedate pace, it was late afternoon, almost evening when she arrived at the terrestrial entrance to the grand city.
It had been quite some time since her last visit to her home town, but it didn't appear as if too much had changed. As she made her way deeper into her formerly familiar haunts, Twilight experienced several brief bouts of nostalgia, but she fought back the memories. She was on a mission to find Princess Celestia, and she had a good idea of where she was. It was the time of day that Princess Celestia normally reserved for lessons at her school for gifted unicorns, so Twilight bent her steps toward that well known institution.
She passed by lecture halls and classrooms, most deserted, but all filled with remembrances of her time in school, learning how to control the enormous gift that she possessed. It was in one of the smaller, more personal classrooms intended for practical magical applications that Twilight found Princess Celestia. As she had expected, Princess Celestia was teaching a lesson in magic, but unlike the small class Twilight had imagined, she found Celestia sequestered with a single student.
It was a young, pale red unicorn with a scarlet and slightly curly mane. She seemed barely older than a filly, although she did have a cutie mark, a comet with an arched tail. She and Princess Celestia were in the midst of an early exercise in magical control. The young unicorn was levitating six identical appearing metal balls, each with a different density and thus weight. It had taken Twilight nearly a week to keep the heaviest of the balls off the ground while keeping the lighter ones from bouncing off the ceiling.
The little unicorn was staring at the metal spheres with rapt attention, a droplet of sweat slowly tracing its way down her cheek. All six spheres were levitating at about her eye level, and were all almost perfectly still. There were a few wobbles, but still it was an impressive feat for a pony so young.
"That's wonderful, Bay Breeze, you've improved a great deal," Celestia said encouragingly.
The six metal spheres slowly lowered to the recessed divots in the floor made for them. No longer concentrating on them, the young mare looked up to her mentor and joyfully replied, "Oh thank you Princess Celestia! It's all thanks to your wonderful teaching."
"Don't discredit your own hard work and dedication, Bay Breeze," admonished Princess Celestia. She looked down with a softly bemused smile at the small unicorn. It was a smile, a look, that Twilight Sparkle had seen hundreds of times, and had been cherished by her each time. It was a look of pride and gentle affection, of love. A look a mother might bestow upon her child after an accomplishment that was exceptionally important to their offspring. It had never failed to kindle a loving warmth in Twilight.
But Princess Celestia shouldn't be showing that look to anypony else. It was a look that had always been private between them, an act of communication that was special to her and Princess Celestia. It was supposed to be a reward for Celestia's favorite and most special student, her, Twilight Sparkle. To see Princess Celestia bestowing it upon somepony else …
Twilight's analytical mind couldn't help but begin to put the pieces into place. The feeling and length of Princess Celestia's letters had become lacking, she hadn't personally visited Twilight in months at least. Now in addition to these signs of neglect, Twilight had found Princess Celestia personally tutoring a new student and bestowing upon her the praise that should belong solely to Celestia's most faithful student. The conclusion was as obvious as it was unpleasant. She had been replaced.
Somehow Twilight had done something to displease or disappoint Princess Celestia, and was no longer her star pupil, but simply a part of the common herd. She was no longer the pony Celestia doted upon, but merely one of her thousands of admirers. Twilight could feel a sharp crack shoot through her heart, and she gave out an involuntary gasp at the intense and novel pain.
The sound that had escaped her attracted the princess' attention and she turned to the open doorway where Twilight was lurking.
"Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student, what a surprise. What brings you to Canterlot today? I'm afraid that I must have missed your informing me of your trip in your letters. I've been rather busy as of late so I've not been reading them as diligently as I should."
Though her world was crumbling down around her, Twilight answered Princess Celestia's warm greeting with a passable smile.
"Hello, Princess Celestia. No, I didn't mention that I was coming to Canterlot today. It was something of a spur of the moment thing actually. I was just passing through when I saw you, so I stopped for a moment, but I don't want to bother you, so I'll be going now."
Twilight began backing out the classroom's door, but was interrupted by Princess Celestia.
"Oh you weren't bothering us at all Twilight. Please come in and meet a new student of the school, Bay Breeze."
Her withdrawal thwarted by the princess, Twilight's smile became wooden and she hesitantly entered deeper into the room and turned her attention to the red unicorn. "Hello, Bay Breeze, I'm Twilight Sparkle. It's a pleasure to meet you." It was nice to know that the long hours spend studying etiquette hadn't been wasted, and in times of stress her manners wouldn't abandon her.
Bay Breeze was staring up at Twilight with wide and unguardedly sparkling eyes. "Wow! You're Twilight Sparkle, the most famous graduate of Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns ever. I can't believe I'm meeting you!" She quickly closed the gap between them and enthusiastically began shaking Twilight's hoof.
With her pumping hoof shaking her entire body, Twilight confusedly admitted, "Oh, I wasn't aware that anypony knew who I was."
Bay Breeze finally let go of Twilight's hoof so she could throw both her hooves in the air as she exclaimed, "Of course you're famous. Everyone in school knows who you are, the pony who was Princess Celestia's private student, the pony who single hoofedly defeated Nightmare Moon and saved all of Equestria, the only pony to have ever defeated an ursa major. You're like the most famous unicorn ever."
"Well, it was only an ursa minor, and I had help with Nightmare Moon …" demurred Twilight, but she was quickly cut off by a quill and piece of paper surrounded by a pale red glow, nearly smacking her in the nose.
"Can I have your autograph?"
Twilight looked past the blank page to Bay Breeze whose face was full of hope and admiration. How could anypony hope to say no to such an expression?"
"Sure." Twilight took a hold of the quill with her own magic. With deft strokes and precise calligraphy, she signed her name. "There you go."
Bay Breeze floated the paper over to herself and upon seeing Twilight's still drying signature, somehow seemed to become even more excited. "Oh my gosh, I can't wait to show this to the other students. My sisters are going to be soooo jealous!"
Princess Celestia interjected, "And your mother will be so worried if you don't get home soon."
Bay Breeze spun around and stared up at the wall clock in shock. "Oh no, is it already that late? I have to get going." She frantically began using her magic to stuff various papers from a nearby desk into a set of saddlebags that she loaded onto her back.
"It was so wonderful to meet you, Miss. Sparkle." She turned to Princess Celestia. "And thank you so much, Princess Celestia, for helping me with my lesson." Bay Breeze gushed as she quickly cantered from the room.
"It was nice meeting you too," Twilight called out after her.
"You're welcome, and be safe on your way home."
The regal alicorn chuckled lightly at Bay Breeze's antics and turned her attention to Twilight.
"Does she remind you of anypony? She's almost as powerful as you, Twilight, but lacks your dedication for studying. I'm afraid to say that she requires a bit closer attention than you did."
Twilight sighed and closely examined the ground.
"So, my faithful student, did you wish to speak to me about something? I'm afraid my schedule for the rest of the day is rather tight, but I can always make time for you."
Alone with Princess Celestia, undistracted by a fawning admirer, Twilight reluctantly turned her eyes to her mentor, and felt horrible. Unworthy feelings and suspicions filled her mind, but somehow she just couldn't reveal them. Not to Celestia. She couldn't just blurt out her suspicion that she had been replaced in Princess Celestia's heart. She couldn't reveal the hurt and jealousy she felt to the princess who had for so long meant the world to her.
So with an awkward smile, Twilight replied, "Oh, I know that you're busy Princess Celestia. I wouldn't want to take up your time. I just came back to Canterlot to catch up with my friends."
Celestia gave Twilight an odd look and Twilight realized her mistake. "I mean books. The library, yes, I came to visit my friends the books at the library. Of course I meant the books because I don't have any friends in Canterlot, that's why you sent me to Ponyville." She ended her nervous rant with an equally nervous laugh.
Celestia continued to regard her with an uncertain expression. "Yes. Well, while you don't have friends in Canterlot at the moment, perhaps now is the opportunity to make some. I sometimes fear that you spend too much time reading when you should be outside living." She smiled brightly. "Although I wouldn't want to dissuade you from your studies. Having a scholarly mind is something to be admired, but remember all things in moderation. How about we get together tomorrow morning and you can tell me all about what you've learned in the past few months."
Twilight smiled sadly up at Princess Celestia. "That sounds wonderful."
"Wonderful. It's a date then," Celestia called over her shoulder as she swept out of the room.
Twilight's face hurt from smiling so unnaturally but she was afraid of what might replace it if she stopped.
Twilight was nothing if not a realist, at least in her own mind. She knew that all over Equestria today was just like any other day for thousands of ponies. The fact that it just might be the worst day of her life wasn't and shouldn't be a concern to anypony other than herself. Twilight never enjoyed making a scene; she never liked being the center of attention, unless it came from Princess Celestia. Now that she was no longer Celestia's favorite, that just meant that she shouldn't make a scene in front of anypony.
She would just lock her feelings inside her and fix them somehow. So what if Princess Celestia had a new student? So what if that new student required more time and attention than Twilight? So what if she was here in Canterlot while Twilight had been exiled to Ponyville. Wait, had the princess been tired of Twilight for that long? Had she sent her away from Canterlot simply because she had grown bored with Twilight?
Twilight could feel tears welling up thanks to her traitorous thoughts and the pain they brought. She suddenly couldn't stand to be in that tiny classroom for a moment longer. She wanted to be someplace safe, where she felt at home. She chuckled in appreciation of the irony as a few errant tears slipped down her cheeks. Her horn glowed and she teleported to the one place she felt like she truly belonged, the library.
She reappeared in front of its massive doors. The librarians enforced a strict no teleportation rule inside the library proper. They were very particular with keeping track of which ponies were using the facilities.
Apparently they had become even stricter in their enforcement of their rules since Twilight had left. There were two guard ponies flanking the door, neither of which batted an eye at her appearance from thin air. Twilight was a bit discombobulated by the presence of the two guards for a moment, but gathered herself together upon recognizing the sturdy features of one of the guards.
"Good evening Quicksilver, is it alright if I go in the library?" Twilight hoped it wasn't obvious just how emotionally fragile she was.
"Of course, Miss Sparkle, you can go right in."
His companion gave Quicksilver a questioning glance, but remained silent under Quicksilver's stern stare. Twilight didn't notice this exchange as she pushed open the library's door and entered, silently closing it after her.
In the distance the librarian on duty, a grey earth pony with a rubberstamp in her mouth and thick glasses on her nose, looked up at Twilight's entrance. But she seemed to easily dismiss the purple unicorn and bent back to the stacks of books piled in front of her. There didn't seem to be any other ponies in the large reading area, but Twilight wanted to be sure of her peace for the breakdown she could feel coming on.
She turned to the shelves which stretched from the floor to the ceiling, crammed tightly with thick tomes. Further in, where the shelves became older and had been built at different times, they became maze-like in their complexity. Twilight had spent enough time as both a user of the library and as an assistant librarian that she knew where all the dark areas where. The places which few ponies went, save the couples who sought them out for their privacy.
Twilight made her way to what she considered the most secret of the secret spots, the place she had never seen anypony go. The shelves holding the tax documentation for years 480 through 690. From the sheer volume of documents, it was obvious that tax laws had been much more complex then it was now. The dust on the shelves and scrolls attested to how infrequently anypony delved so deeply into this section of the stacks. Assured of her privacy, and insulated from the world by thousands upon thousands of sound absorbing books and scrolls, Twilight sat down on the threadbare carpeting and finally let her heart break.
It hurt. Oh Celestia it hurt. Twilight's tears freely fell, leaving splotches in the previously undisturbed dust on the aisle's floor. Why did it hurt so much? Twilight knew that she wasn't the only unicorn whom Celestia had taught. There were many who could claim the princess as one of their teachers, but they had been mere students while Twilight had been … more.
She had been the one that the princess doted on. The one who would race to the princess' side after every lesson learned, after every accomplishment, in order to be praised by Celestia. Celestia's smiles, Celestia's love had been hers alone, until now. Had she done something wrong, had she somehow annoyed Celestia? Was she no longer good enough for the princess' undivided attention and affection? Was she so easily replaced?
As lost in her thoughts as she was, wallowing in whatever it was that ponies wallowed in, Twilight failed to notice the approach of another pony.
"E-excuse me," a hesitant and quiet voice broke the silence. "Are you alright?"
Startled from her misery, Twilight jerked to her hooves, hastily rubbing at her eyes to ineffectually hide her tears. Ashamed that anypony had found her in such a pitiful condition, Twilight opened her eyes to find Princess Luna standing a few feet away.
"Princess Luna!" Twilight was shocked that not only somepony had found her, but it was the coregent of all Equestria. So shocked that for several long seconds Twilight's mind failed her.
Belatedly though she sunk into the low bow owed to royalty, and from her kneeling position, she attempted to explain, "I'm so sorry, Your Majesty, I thought that I was alone and I was just …"
Luna interrupted her in a slightly embarrassed tone. "Oh, please rise, Twilight Sparkle. In a situation such as this there is no need for formality."
Twilight straightened up, but only briefly met Luna's eyes. "I'm honored that you remember me, Your Majesty."
"Of course I remember you. You're the pony who saved me from Nightmare Moon after all. As well as my sister's most faithful and talked of student. But I thought you were in Ponyville. How did you come to be here of all places, and in such a distressing state?"
Twilight winced at Luna's allusion to her relationship with Princess Celestia, and stared down at that ground as she attempted to reply, "Well, I was … I …" How could she possibly explain what she was doing there bawling her eyes out like some heartbroken filly? She had never read of a similar situation. She had never picked up a book which described what she was feeling, much less why she was feeling it. How could she describe the feelings she had never known were possible, much less had known were harbored within her?
Twilight began to tear up again, this time in frustration over her inability to articulate what she was feeling. Her watery eyes fearfully looked up at Luna and found only calm, patient acceptance. It reminded Twilight of Celestia's all encompassing forgiveness, and she hung her head.
"I'm sorry, but you probably wouldn't want to know, Your Majesty. The reason I'm upset would just seem petty and stupid to you I'm sure."
Luna stepped closer determinedly and answered, "Of course I want to know what's wrong, Twilight. You're special, both to my sister as well as myself, and whatever the reason, if it has brought you to such a state, it can't be nothing."
Luna's tone grew remorseful. "I know all too well what it feels like to hide your feelings because you don't want to burden others with them. But that isn't healthy, keeping all your pain locked away. You simply can't repress what you're feeling without it changing you. So please, let me help. Tell me what's wrong, why you were crying so piteously." Her imploring and comforting tone grew somewhat fearful. "Unless … have I overstepped myself? Should I summon my sister? I'm sorry, I should have realized that you'd be more comfortable opening yourself to her."
She took a step back, prepared to leave and find Celestia, but Twilight stopped her with a desperate, "No!" Twilight softened her voice and continued, "No, thank you, Your Majesty. Princess Celestia is about the last pony I can talk to right now."
Luna awkwardly scanned the nearby shelves in order to not meet Twilight's eyes as she replied, "Oh. Well, is there somepony else I could summon for you to talk to?"
Twilight sighed. Princess Luna seemed to genuinely care about Twilight being upset, and she appeared crestfallen that Twilight was unwilling to accept her help. This was why she hadn't made friends until forced to by Princess Celestia; dealing with other ponies was so difficult. She was starting to feel bad for making Princess Luna feel bad about her feeling bad. It was enough to drive a pony crazy.
Twilight sat back down on the dusty carpet. "Actually, Your Majesty, now that I think about it, you're probably the best pony for me to talk about this. That is, if you don't mind hearing about my meager problems."
Luna settled down close to Twilight and smiled at her reassuringly, seeming to be happy at being of use to somepony. "I'd love to hear about them."
"Well, it's about Princess Celestia … and me, I guess."
Twilight paused, but Luna didn't seem to want to interrupt her, so she went on, haltingly at first, but soon her words poured out.
"A few months ago, I began to notice that Princess Celestia's letters to me had started to change. They didn't have the same … attention, the same affection that they used to. It was as if Princess Celestia hadn't written them with the same feeling she once had.
"I wasn't sure how to bring something like that up in a letter, so I decided to come to Canterlot unannounced and see if I could find out what was responsible for the change in Princess Celestia's writing. And I found out her name was Bay Breeze."
Luna seemed a bit confused.
"Princess Celestia has a new student named Bay Breeze," Twilight earnestly explained.
"My sister has many students…"
"But not like this! I saw them today. Together. And Bay Breeze was doing magic, practically begging for attention, and Princes Celestia, she … she was looking at her! With that look!" Despite Twilight's emphatic gestures with her hooves to illustrate her point, Luna still looked confused. "She was looking at her the way she's supposed to look at me. With pride and, and wisdom and love."
The whine that had unknowingly entered Twilight's voice blossomed into a full sob as she admitted, "And I'm jealous. I'm jealous of a silly little filly who never hurt anypony. I'm jealous because she took my place in Celestia's heart, and it hurts, and I'm a horrible pony for feeling this way. I know I shouldn't be jealous, but I am. I can't help it. I've always wanted Celestia to look at me, only me, and she has, but now she's not."
Twilight finished her tear thickened tirade by hanging her head and letting her sorrow once again wet the carpet. She waited for Luna's judgment. She knew she was being mean spirited and petty. That was why she hadn't told Princess Celestia anything. That was why she had taken refuge in the library where nopony would disturb her. But now that Luna had seen just how ugly she was on the inside, Twilight knew that the alicorn would waste no time in washing her hooves of her.
"So you're upset because you've always been my sister's star pupil until now, and you feel that she's appointed a new star pupil, thus turning her attention away from you."
"Yes," Twilight sniffed out, still refusing to meet Luna's eyes.
"And you feel resentment towards her new pupil at the loss of my sister's favor, but recognize that this animosity is unwarranted, so you're further upset by this. However, though you feel the unjustness of your resentment, you can't help but continue to feel it. Is that correct?"
In a small and miserable voice, Twilight replied, "Yes."
Luna sighed deeply and Twilight tightened her shoulders in perpetration for the inevitable verbal lashing. But instead, Luna shifted closer to Twilight until they were next to one another and Luna gently said, "Long ago, before I was … before I became Nightmare Moon, Equestria was a much different place than it is now. Back then there were no schools, none for magic, none for flight, not even ones for basic education. In fact there were few books or scrolls to learn from. The way ponies learned anything was by having an older, more experienced pony teach them individually." Twilight turned her still damp face toward Luna, who had a faraway look in her eyes. "The ponies who were experts on things were known as masters, and their students were known as apprentices."
"So I was Princess Celestia's apprentice?"
Luna smiled down at Twilight, who suddenly realized that she was heavily leaning against the princess for support as the alicorn's soothing voice lulled her out of her tears.
"Yes, you were. Now, the relationship between a master and apprentice is a deep and personal one. It usually lasted for years and years while the master taught, guided, and trained her apprentice. But eventually there would come a time when the master had taught her apprentice all she could."
"So then the apprentices became masters?"
"Well, no. They became what were known as journeymares. You see, there is something that all wise ponies have which can't be taught or learned of secondhoof, and that is experience. Having a great deal of knowledge is important, but having experiences where you use that knowledge is just as important. But such things can only happen to ponies who've left the shelter of their masters, or their books, and who've begun to face life's challenges with their own understanding as their guides."
Twilight cut her eyes away and sullenly asked, "But what if the apprentice doesn't want to be sent away? What if she doesn't want to be forgotten about and instead wants to stay with her teacher?"
Luna kindly smiled down at Twilight. "Just because an apprentice or a student leaves her teacher doesn't mean that they love each other any less. Or that their relationship is over. A student always has something to learn from her teacher, and will always turn to them for guidance when they encounter a challenge outside their understanding.
"I'm sure that Celestia cares just as much for you now as she ever did. But she's giving you the space you need to grow, to learn, to be your own pony."
Twilight sighed heavily. She understood what Luna was saying, and on an intellectual level accepted it. But it still hurt that her place had been taken by another pony. "Thank you for putting things in a new light Princess Luna, but I still feel badly for being replaced so easily."
Luna unfurled one of her wings and used it to lightly hug Twilight closer to her. Startled at the contact, Twilight looked up and found Luna's reassuring eyes.
"You weren't replaced, Twilight, nopony could ever replace you. You're special, Twilight Sparkle, and don't ever forget that. But my sister has lived a very long time and has a very big heart. You weren't her first student, and you won't be her last. However, just because she's had students before you, and will have others after you, doesn't mean that she loves you any less. Celestia's love is limitless, and she cares deeply for each of us. Even if we might not deserve it."
She turned her head away in remorse and her saddened visage caused Twilight's heart to go out to her. Twilight mentally berated herself over her insensitivity. Here she was lamenting over not being the most important pony in Celestia's life to the very pony who deserved that position above all others.
"I'm sorry, Princess Luna, for bothering you with my problems. But you did really help me, and I'm feeling a bit better." She loudly sniffed. "Really. Thank you for listening to me, and I'm sorry that I was being so selfish."
Luna smiled at Twilight wanly. "We're all entitled to be a little selfish sometimes, Twilight. Just remember, no matter how bleak things are, or how unloved you might feel, you're not alone. Your friends will always care for you, as will Celestia and I." Luna blushed slightly as she looked down at the floor. "And I hope that you'll think of me as a friend as well."
She seemed to finally realize just how close she and Twilight had become, and with a some embarrassment, put a little distance between them. "That is, if you'd like somepony like me for a friend."
Twilight was a bit startled by Luna's abrupt withdrawal, but quickly answered, "I'd love to have you as a friend, Your Majesty."
Luna seemed relieved. "Thank you. I'd like to be your friend too." Her expression changed to one of concern. "Are you certain that you're feeling better?"
"Yes, although I think it might take me a while to get used to Princess Celestia having a new student," Twilight admitted. She gave Luna a smile, one which lacked her usual brightness, but a genuine one nonetheless.
Luna smiled back at her, but her expression faltered when she looked past Twilight to see the long splash of light being cast by a distant window. "It's nearly sunset, I must be going."
However she seemed hesitant to leave, and after a moment of silence, her attention settled on Twilight's saddlebags. "It's getting late, where are you planning on staying tonight?"
Actually Twilight had been so focused on seeing Princess Celestia that she hadn't really considered the fact that she wouldn't be able to return to Ponyville the same day. But she quickly thought on her hooves.
"Well, there are several fine inns in Canterlot. I'm sure that I'll be able to get a room at one of them."
Princess Luna appeared upset. "That won't do at all. We have many spare bedrooms at the palace. I insist that you stay there, as my guest."
"I wouldn't want to impose …"
Luna swiftly cut Twilight off. "I wouldn't be any imposition at all. We're friends aren't we? So as a friend, please let me give you a place to stay for the night."
"Well, alright. If you insist."
"Excellent. As I said, it's almost sunset, so let's go now and if you'd like, you can watch me raise the moon."
Twilight raised her eyes in surprise and felt a thrill of excitement run through her. Despite being the student of Princess Celestia for so long, she had never seen her raising the sun outside of Summer Sun Celebrations. "That would be wonderful."
She gathered her bags as Luna waited for her, then followed the princess out of the depths of the library. They passed the still busy librarian, who gave them only the briefest of disinterested glances before dismissing them.
Upon exiting the library, Luna turned to the guards on either side of the doorway and announced, "I'm finished here. Could we please return to the palace, to the royal chambers?"
Quicksilver replied in his gruff but kind voice, "Of course, Your Majesty." The two guards began walking away, with Luna and Twilight following after.
"I didn't know you had personal guards, Princess Luna. Princess Celestia usually only takes guards with her during ceremonies or functions outside of Canterlot," commented Twilight.
"Yes, my sister assigned me my own personal guard to go with me everywhere in order to keep me safe. From my understanding there's never been an attack on Celestia, so I'm not sure what exactly they're supposed to be guarding me from, but I guess it's just Celestia's way of making sure that I'm safe. They are very useful though. Canterlot is a very complex place, and I'd be completely lost without them guiding me."
The group quickly made the short trip from the library to the palace, passing only a few other ponies en route, who all bowed low as Luna and her escort passed. Twilight noticed that the displays of respect seemed to make Luna feel a bit uncomfortable, at least more uncomfortable than Princess Celestia seemed to feel when ponies bowed to her.
Thanks to the rapid pace set by Quicksilver and his memorization of all the twists and turns of the palace, they easily navigated the labyrinthine halls and arrived at a massive double door. Its thick, ancient appearing wood had both the sun and moon carved deeply into its surface. Their deep recesses darkened by age. Luna's horn glowed brightly and the doors silently opened, revealing an enormous room which glowed brightly from the dying rays of the sun pouring in from windows which stretched from floor to ceiling.
"We'll wait for you here in case you need any further assistance, Princess," Quicksilver informed her. He and the other guard had halted near the doorway, apparently reluctant to enter the royal chambers.
Luna smiled at the substantial stallion and sincerely said, "Thank you." She walked through the door, and after she had given the guards her own nod of thanks, Twilight followed after her. She was a bit nervous though, while Twilight had often been in the palace on one errand or another, she hadn't ever been in the royal chambers before.
She didn't notice the door closing behind her, as awestruck with the beauty of the room they had stepped into. The floor was of a creamy marble, polished to perfection, rosy in hue at the moment from the red sunlight flooding the room. The wall opposite the door they entered was merely a series of tall arches which were open to the outside, their columns were of a slightly darker marble, and had ornate flourishes carved into their bases and capitals. The other walls were covered with tapestries depicting the sun and moon, as well as the symbol of Princess Celestia's rule of Equestria. Two large hallways faced each other across the impressive room and obviously led deeper into the royal chambers.
As Twilight took in the impressive surroundings, they were approached by a tan unicorn mare with a pocket watch cutie mark. She was levitating a clipboard in front of her and seemed relieved to see Luna.
"Princess Luna, I'm glad that you've returned. Based upon the seasonal time table, moonrise should be occurring in t-minus six minutes. Following moonrise there are several matters of state that Princess Celestia has deferred to you, which require your personal attention," the tan unicorn informed them in a clipped, no-nonsense tone.
"Thank you, Gimlet Lime. I'll see to raising the moon immediately. In the meantime, could you have one of the spare bedrooms prepared for my friend Twilight Sparkle?"
"Right away, Your Majesty." Gimlet Lime procured a quill from somewhere and noisily checked something off on her clipboard. She then smartly trotted away, disappearing into one of the impressively large corridors.
Luna sighed as Gimlet Lime left.
Twilight asked with concern, "Is something the matter Princess Luna?"
"Oh nothing, I hope. I just worry about that pony sometimes. She's my chief assistant, and I'm afraid that she takes her job much too seriously at times. I hope that she takes the time to enjoy life every once in a while. But enough of that." Luna turned to Twilight. "Would you like to see something pretty?"
Twilight smiled as she answered, "I'd love to."
"Then follow me."
Luna glided silently across the highly polished floor, and Twilight wondered how she was able to move with such grace. Twilight's own hooves noisily clopped on the same floor, filling the room with an embarrassingly loud echo. But Luna didn't seem to notice what Twilight thought was an unbearably loud sound as she led her through one of the large arches and onto a small balcony without walls. It was capped by a high ceiling which stretched out past the end of the balcony, jutting far out into the air high above Canterlot.
The view was breathtaking, but Twilight wasn't able to appreciate it for very long. "This way," Luna called out to her. Twilight looked over to find the princess at the foot of a staircase carved into the stone wall next to the arches they had just passed through. It spiraled into the rock, and quickly disappeared from view.
She dutifully followed Luna up its narrow and somewhat worn steps which led them eventually to a large platform. It wasn't so much another balcony as it was a pony made plateau. It was so high up, that it was unbounded by any other part of the castle, save a single large tower close by which stretched even further into the sky.
Aside from that, the only other obstacle to their view was the sheer mountain face close by which climbed even higher than the tower. They seemed so far above the ground below that Twilight was reminded of her brief visit to Cloudsdale. The slightly rough textured platform she stood upon seemed to hang in the air by magic, and as Luna led her to the railed edge, all of Equestria spread out before them.
"This is one of my favorite spots," Luna quietly admitted to Twilight.
Twilight was honored that Luna had decided to share such a lovely place with her. "The view is quite breathtaking." And it truly was. Straight down, Canterlot appeared almost to be a map, every street and alley was revealed to them. In the far distance Twilight could see the green fringe which was the Everfree Forest, and could almost believe that she saw her own home. Meadows and rivers covered the rolling hills surrounding Canterlot, and in another direction, the rays of the setting sun were reflecting off the glass of the tall buildings of Manehatten.
"Yes, I often come here to think about just how much Equestria has changed since I…" Luna awkwardly paused, but quickly collected herself. "But I brought you here to show you something even more special. Please watch."
Luna's eyes implored Twilight for a moment before she firmly shut them in concentration. Twilight, moved by the feeling in Luna's voice and expression, did watch her, not even paying the least attention to the spectacular palette of colors which exploded across the sky behind her as the sun sank below the horizon.
The sky behind Luna darkened from blue to indigo, then finally black. A few pinpricks of light, no longer hidden by the sun's brightness, burned into life. They seemed to Twilight as if they clustered closely around Luna's form. In the silent suddenness following the sun's disappearance, the moon burst above the edge of the world. It was full and bright, seemingly larger than Twilight had ever seen it before, and it perfectly haloed Luna. As it rose it leeched away the world's color and flung it into the heavens to sparkle amongst a billion gleaming jewels.
Under the star's cold light, against the backdrop of the moon, Luna appeared to Twilight to be much larger and darker than she had been under the sun. She was briefly reminded of Nightmare Moon, but that unkind comparison was quickly discarded when Luna's thrown back head lowered and turned to regard Twilight. Nightmare Moon's eyes could have never shone so brightly, so guilelessly as did Luna's.
"Do you see it?" Luna anxiously asked. "Do you think it's pretty?"
Twilight Sparkle found herself awed and silenced by the celestial splendor Luna had summoned. Eventually though she did manage to gasp out, "Oh yes. Your night sky is beautiful." Her response caused Luna to smile kindly.
"Thank you. But actually I was speaking of Equestria."
Twilight was reluctant to tear her gaze away from the wonders of the night sky and the midnight hued alicorn who had created them, but at Luna's bidding, she turned to look downward. The land which had been spread out before them mere minutes ago, the forests, meadows, hills, and cities all had sunk beneath an ocean of darkness. But from the depths of this sea of shadows, mimicking the stars above, were constellations of light.
Close at hoof were the bright lights from the windows and street lamps of Canterlot, dispelling a bit of Luna's night and artificially lengthening Celestia's day. In the distance Twilight could see the cluster of tiny lights demarking Ponyville's buildings. Slightly separated from the main cluster of lights was a small trio which must belong to Sweet Apple Acres. Further out, away from the band of darkness which was the Everfree Forest, there were tiny dots of lights in ones and twos signaling farmhouses and other lonely pony buildings. Far in the distance there was a bright glow which could only belong to Manehatten, while Twilight could only catch a much dimmer glow from the corner of her eye which signaled where Fillydelphia was.
"It's quite pretty, isn't it?" Luna asked. Her voice sounded uncertain, but hopeful that Twilight would agree with her.
She had no reason to fear Twilight's reaction. "Yes. Yes, it's quite beautiful. I never imagined- that is, I've seen the lights of Canterlot from a distance, but I've never been up high enough to see so much of Equestria at once. There's so many lights, so many ponies. I never knew."
Relief flooded Luna's voice, and her posture relaxed slightly as she replied, "I hoped that you would like it. I always thought that while Equestria was wonderful during the day, it was just as pretty at night, but in a different way. I remember gazing down at it, and watching these lights slowly spread." Luna's voice lowered, almost to a whisper, as if she were speaking mostly to herself. "There were so few at first, they seemed so fragile against the black void. It seemed like it would be so easy for them to disappear, like you could blink your eyes and they would be gone.
"But slowly, at first oh so slowly, they began to spread. More and more lights shone through the darkness, they shot out in all directions, running free in some places, clumping together in others. One or two dots of light became dozens. They transformed from tiny islands into vast webs stretching out and connecting to one another. I often wondered what kind of world could make lights such as these, what kind of world I'd be returning to."
Twilight was quiet as Luna's heartfelt musings lapsed into silence. She could vividly imagine what Equestria must have looked like from the moon, and was overwhelmed with the haunting sadness and loneliness which seemed to shadow Luna's words.
"So you were awake while you were on the moon?" Twilight cautiously asked.
Luna sighed softly before replying, "Sometimes. Not often, I think. Most of the time that I was Nightmare Moon I've forgotten. What I do remember blurs together into one long moment. But I do remember the lights. I thought they were as beautiful as my stars. I also remember the silence, and the cold." Twilight could feel Luna involuntarily shiver. "I'll never forget the cold."
Moved by the pain in Luna's voice, Twilight instinctively pressed against the other mare to share some of her warmth with her. Luna started a bit at the contact, but didn't shy away. She turned her head and smiled warmly at Twilight, who smiled reassuringly back at her. Together they turned their attention to the landscape of the night. The moon had cleared the horizon, and in the darkness, the separation between the ground and the sky had nearly disappeared, leaving only a field of stars beginning at their hooves and spreading in all directions as far as the eye could see.
Behind them, the quiet cough of somepony clearing their throat split the silence. Twilight leapt away from Luna in surprise and quickly turned around, hardly noticing Luna's near mirror actions. In the pale night's light the colors of Celestia's mane were muted, but still regal. She stood near the top of the stairs they had climbed earlier. The darkness made it difficult to tell her expression, but Twilight's brain catalogued it was bemusement. The rest of her was occupied with freaking out.
"Sister." Luna's greeting was calmer than Twilights, although it was still tinged with surprise and perhaps embarrassment.
Celestia gently apologized, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you two. I was just coming up to have a breath of fresh air and enjoy the scenery."
Her calm voice seemed to panic Luna. "Oh no, I'm late aren't I. And Gimlet Lime said that I had so many things to see to tonight. I hope that she's not too upset."
"Please calm yourself Luna. One of the prerogatives of being a ruler is that you can attend to things at your convenience." Celestia turned her attention to Twilight Sparkle. "I see that you're putting the lessons you've learned about friendship into practice."
Twilight smiled nervously, the pain from earlier tempering her joy at seeing her mentor. "Yes, Princess Luna and I met in the library and got to talking. When she found out I hadn't settled on where to stay tonight, she graciously invited me to stay in the palace. She was also kind enough to share with me this wonderful sight."
Celestia regarded the night sky and commented, "It is wonderful isn't it." She looked back towards Luna and in a contemplative tone said, "I never could make it quite as beautiful as you." She seemed to recollect herself. "Speaking of wonderful sights, Luna, why don't you show Twilight Sparkle your room? I'm certain that there is much there she would find fascinating."
"My room? But I don't think she'd be interested in anything in there."
Even in the weak moonlight Princess Celestia's cocked eyebrow was easy to see. "Not even your Made Lx2000?"
Twilight's ears perked up and she almost put a crick in her neck from turning toward Luna so quickly. "You have a Made Lx2000? Those have a practical visual power of nearly one thousand. Only the telescopes at the royal pony observatory are more powerful. You really have one?"
Luna's nonplused reply was, "Um, yes. Would you like to see it?"
"Oh yes, yes, yes. Um, please."
Princess Celestia chuckled at Twilight's enthusiasm. "Well then, I'll let you two have your fun." She moved out of the way and Twilight practically raced behind Luna down the stairs. They passed through the impressive, albeit sterile entry room, and entered the hallway whose entrance was opposite the one Gimlet Lime had taken earlier. The impressive architecture and ornately carved marble continued past several large and solid appearing doors.
The duo came to the end of the hallway and on either side of them were massive double doors which easily dwarfed those they had just passed. The ones to their left were inscribed with a large sun whose rays exploded across both doors and onto the nearby walls. Amongst the rays were stylized clouds, upon which tiny pegasi frolicked. Lower down the doors were rolling hills on top of which were several small unicorns and earth ponies as seemingly happy as the pegasi.
The doors opposite weren't as ostentatious, but were no less beautifully detailed. A large crescent moon was carved into the doors and rested upon a field of stars which spilled down the door and across the floor where they had been inlaid into the marble. There weren't any clouds or ponies, but Twilight thought the door was still quite pretty.
"It's in here," Luna quietly said. She sounded nervous for some reason. With a glow of her horn, the moon themed doors cracked open partially and she slipped through the narrow opening she had made. Twilight followed closely after, having to struggle a little bit when her saddlebags proved wider than the opening. After having pushed the door slightly further open to get through, Twilight paused just inside the door, unexpectedly awed.
The room was a large oval, with a high domed ceiling which threatened to disappear into the shadows left by the few heavily shaded lights spread about the room. The walls were dark blue, while the ceiling was colored dark indigo. Bright crystalline flecks set into the ceiling reflected the light of the lamps, giving the impression that the stars had been brought inside.
Several large windows interrupted the gently curving wall, but they were all covered with heavy midnight blue drapes, which didn't allow even a hint of light through. Between the windows were several large bookcases whose books were meticulously arranged. There were also several pieces of highly ornate furniture, including a vanity Twilight could swear she had seen featured in an old master's painting.
"Wow, your room is very impressive, Luna."
"Thank you. Please ignore the mess; I don't normally have guests, so I haven't cleaned up today."
Twilight ran her eyes once more across the room, searching for the mess Luna had alluded to, but wasn't able to see anything out of place. Aside from perhaps a few casually stacked books on a nightstand next to a very large and modern appearing bed.
"Well, the telescope is over here," called out Luna as she walked deeper into the room. Twilight was a bit nervous about invading Luna's private sanctum, but she obediently moved deeper into the room as well. Behind her the massive door sealed itself.
The floor of the room was covered with a thick and luxuriously soft blue carpet which seemed to massage Twilight's hooves as she crossed the room. A pony could get used to such luxury. But any thoughts about her comfort quickly left her head as Twilight joined Luna at a small raised platform of hardwood that occupied the relatively narrow corner of the room. On the platform was the largest, most elaborate telescope Twilight had ever seen in person.
It was pointed toward the large window which dominated the pseudo alcove they were in. A window which appeared immense despite the thick drapes covering it. Luna stepped forward and grasped a velvet rope with her teeth and pulled it away to reveal a window which curved with the wall and descended all the way from the ceiling to the floor. Moonlight flooded in through its crystal clear glass, brightening the room, but keeping intact the peaceful tranquility which seemed to stem from the soothing décor.
"There we are. We should have a wonderful view of Aponius this time of year." Luna's horn glowed and the protective coverings guarding the lenses of the telescope from dust floated to a nearby desk where they were picturesquely stacked. "Please go ahead, Twilight, you should have an excellent view."
Her eagerness overpowering her decorum, Twilight eagerly accepted Luna's offer. "Thank you, Luna." She stepped close to the telescope and pressed against the eyepiece. The stars making up Aponius suddenly were closer than Twilight had ever been able to see them before. However, they were much less crisp then she had expected. Instinctively she used her magic to minutely adjust the controls of the telescope, bringing Aponius into sharp relief.
She gave out an involuntary gasp and whispered, "It's beautiful." With the stars so close, Twilight could easily see what had appeared from a distance to be a mere red tinge was in fact a brilliant shining ruby. The other stars were yellow, green, and of course white. No longer were they specks in the sky, but jewels ready to be plucked from the black velvet of the night.
"I've never seen them so close." After several long minutes Twilight reluctantly remembered her manners and stepped away from the telescope. She looked at it appreciatively. "It is a wonderful piece of machinery."
Luna appeared a bit embarrassed as she replied, "Yes, that's what they tell me. To be honest though it's the only telescope I've ever had. They hadn't been invented before I became Nightmare Moon. When I returned, my sister provided me with all the latest things she thought that I would enjoy. The bed for instance, it's supposed to be the newest and greatest bed in all Equestria, but I think it's a bit uncomfortable compared to the cushions we used to sleep upon a thousand years ago."
"It does look very comfortable," Twilight commented, turning her attention to the bed in question. It was quite large, large enough to probably fit her and all her friends from Ponyville at the same time. It was nearly chest height from the floor, and the dark violet blanket draped over it looked thick and inviting.
"Perhaps it is, but I'm afraid that I don't have anything to compare it to since it's the only bed I've ever slept in." An idea seemed to occur to Luna and she eagerly proposed, "You've slept in other beds I'm sure. Would you mind trying mine and giving me your opinion?"
Twilight was a bit hesitant. "Um, are you sure you want a strange pony in your bed, Princess Luna?"
Luna smiled reassuringly at Twilight. "You're not some strange pony, Twilight. You're my friend. Besides, if you think the bed is uncomfortable, then I'm sure that I'd be able to convince Celestia to have it replaced with something like my old cushion."
"Well, if it's that important to you, I guess I can try it." Twilight was having a hard time denying Luna anything when her eyes shone in just that imploring way.
"Oh, thank you!"
They both approached the large bed and Twilight's back suddenly felt cooler. She turned her head to find that Luna had taken her saddlebags and was levitating them to the floor near the nearby nightstand. Twilight turned back around to find that Luna had also turned back the sheets on the bed with her magic. Obviously she was a very talented and capable magician.
"Uh, thank you, Princess Luna."
"Think nothing of it. Now then, just lie down and tell me what you think."
Twilight felt horribly awkward as she climbed into the bed and settled down, resting her head on one of the satiny soft pillows just below the headboard. Unfortunately for Luna it was beyond a doubt the most comfortable bed Twilight had even been in. It felt as if she were floating on air. In fact it made her own bed back in the library feel like a cloth covered board.
Thinking about her library quickly led to thoughts of just how far the normally sedate Twilight had traveled that day. Suddenly she felt the full weight of her physically and emotionally draining day descend upon her. Twilight let out a great yawn, which was cut short when she felt the bed's blanket being folded over her.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I must be more tired than I thought," Twilight said sheepishly to Luna who had moved closer to the bedside. "But this is the most comfortable bed I've ever experienced. I'd better get up before I fall asleep for real."
Luna's expression was full of caring concern as she replied, "You do look exhausted, Twilight. Why don't you just rest there for a little while."
"Oh no, I couldn't. I'd hate to impose any further upon your kindness." Twilight began to struggle to get out of bed, but couldn't seem to gather the energy to move the thick and comfortably warm blanket.
"It's no trouble at all. After all, I don't use the bed during the night. Why don't you rest here? At least until your room is ready."
Twilight didn't want to be a bad guest, but her will to resist Luna's kind offer was quickly fading away with her ability to stay awake. "Well, if you're sure I'm not being a burden."
Luna smiled softly. "I insist."
Twilight settled back down, relaxing into the overstuffed pillow which smelled of soap, sunshine, and something else. Something faint but pleasant. She tried to keep her eyes open and watch as Luna moved about the room, diming the lights, but all too soon the rigors of the day overwhelmed her and Twilight fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
A hot, bright beam of sunlight struck Twilight squarely in the face. She let out a soft whine as her sleep addled mind was threatened with consciousness. She never had been a morning pony, and ever since she had moved to Ponyville and had been allowed to keep her own hours, Twilight had come to enjoy not rising with the sun.
She knew she should wake herself up and set a good example for Spike, but the bed was so comfortable and warm that five more minutes couldn't hurt anypony. Twilight squirmed a bit, trying to hide from the insistent sun, but found her movements strangely restricted. Her quickly awakening senses informed her that there was a strange weight over her shoulder and quarters, and a very warm but soft object pressed against her back. It was about this time that Twilight realized the lulling sound she had unconsciously been aware of for some time, was the rhythmic breathing of somepony. A breathing which was gently rustling her mane and now that she was paying attention to it, causing her ear to flick every so often as the warm air passed across its sensitive skin.
Twilight's eyes shot open and she was confused for several seconds by finding herself in a much more elegant and somber place than her bedroom. Her sleep dulled brain finally began to recall the events of the previous day, the journey to Canterlot, Celestia's new student, her little scene in the library, and Luna's kindness.
To better explain her current situation, Twilight mentally did what she did best, make a list. It was morning; she was still in Luna's bedroom, more specifically in Luna's bed. None of which explained why there was somepony else in the bed with her, and why they were, for a lack of a better term, snuggling Twilight.
Slowly and carefully, apprehensive of what she might find, Twilight turned over in the other pony's embrace and found herself nose to nose with Princess Luna.
Twilight felt that she was doing a decent job at not unnecessarily freaking out over the invasion of her personal space by the coregent of Equestria. Her analytical mind informed her that the princess wasn't wearing her crown, and her hair was in slight disarray, much more than Twilight had ever seen it before. Not that she had seen Luna all that many times, especially not enough times to warrant the position they were in. But Twilight had to admit that with the slight bed-head and with the morning's soft light filling the room, Princess Luna seemed like any normal unicorn pony and not the somewhat intimidating alicorn she normally was.
The tangent that Twilight's thoughts had escaped upon was quickly ended when Luna unconsciously squeezed her a bit tighter. This brought Twilight's attention back to the fact that as cute as Luna appeared, there was still the question of why she was holding Twilight so closely. Of course it made sense that Luna would use her own bed. It even made sense that she was too kind to wake Twilight up and kick her out before lying down to sleep herself. However Twilight was a bit confused with why Luna had decided to be so close to her. The bed was quite large. In fact it looked like there was plenty of room on the other side of Luna. Enough to comfortably fit a pony frame as large as Princess Celestia's in fact, and leave room to spare.
Twilight squirmed a little as she attempted to escape the compromising position before Princess Luna woke up, but her movements must have only roused her more quickly. Luna squeezed Twilight a bit tighter and dreamily muttered something about … twinkle dots? She blinked open her eyes, her face mere inches from Twilight's.
Twilight's awkward and nervous smile was answered by Luna's dazed but genuine one. "Good morning," she greeted Twilight.
"Um, good morning, Princess Luna."
Twilight's strained salutation seemed to fully wake Luna. Her eyes widened and she quickly looked down to where her hooves were tightly grasping the purple unicorn. She gasped and quickly untangled herself, too quickly. Her frantic movements accidentally pushed Twilight away, right off the edge of the bed. Thankfully the trip to the very thick carpet was short.
Luna's head popped over the side of the bed and looked down at Twilight with anxious concern. "Are you alright?"
Twilight was more surprised than hurt. She shook her head to clear it, and then looked up to Luna. "Yes, I think so."
"I'm so sorry; it's just that I normally sleep alone, so I was a bit surprised when I woke up."
"You and me both," Twilight muttered to herself as she climbed to her hooves. In a louder voice she said, "Yes, well, that raises the question why were we sleeping together?"
Luna looked away sheepishly. "Well, last night was rather long and dull, so I decided to take a quick nap when Celestia woke up. When I went to sleep though I assure you I was on the other side of the bed. I must have unconsciously moved over to your side though. Celestia always teased me that I was a bit of a cuddler when we used to sleep together."
"If you were tired, why didn't you just wake me up? It is your bed after all."
Luna looked up at Twilight with innocent eyes. "The bed is so large; I thought we could share it. Besides, you looked so cute, I mean peaceful when you're asleep that I didn't have the heart to wake you up."
Twilight blushed lightly at Luna's praise and was glad that the princess turned her attention to the still open window through which the rising sun's light was pouring.
"If we hurry, we should be able to make it in time to have breakfast with Celestia." Luna's horn glowed and a nearby chest of drawers was surrounded by a glow of the same hue. One of the drawers opened and a heavy silver brush levitated out and over to Luna. As she began to brush her mane, Twilight stretched and walked over to where her bags had been set. She placed them on her back and adjusted them so they sat comfortably upon her.
She checked her appearance in the nearby vanity's mirror and surprisingly found that her mane was only slightly disheveled. She noticed a fine toothed comb on the vanity, and magically ran it through her mane a few times until she appeared her normal self.
Luna left the bed and dropped the brush onto the vanity next to where Twilight had laid the comb. She then retrieved her crown and other royal accoutrements and soon appeared the picture of pony perfection.
"Are you ready to go?" she asked Twilight.
In answer, Twilight's stomach rumbled loudly, and she sheepishly said, "Yes."
They left Luna's room and passed through the hallways of the palace in companionable silence. Soon they arrived at what appeared to Twilight to be a rather normal room compared to the ostentatiousness of the rest of the palace. The only nod to luxury seemed to be the intricately mosaiced floor depicting the myth of Europony. Princess Celestia was seated at a long, low table which was covered with a wide assortment of fresh fruit and breakfast themed baked goods.
"Luna, Twilight Sparkle, good morning."
"Good morning sister," Luna easily replied.
"Yes, good morning Princess Celestia." Twilight's greeting was a bit more guarded than usual. She initially had felt a burst of pleasure at seeing her mentor, but it was quickly damped by the remembrance of their changing relationship.
"Please join me," Celestia invited them.
Luna quickly took a seat at the table, but Twilight was a bit hesitant as she approached the cushions spread out next to Celestia. There was a silence, which Twilight felt was awkward, while Celestia bent down to sample a plate of beautifully arranged sliced strawberries. Twilight thought herself too anxious to eat anything, but her reticence was quickly overcome by the dull pain in her stomach.
She was on the cusp of choosing between the crepes and the cold cereal when Princess Celestia asked, "So, Twilight, did you have an enjoyable evening last night?"
Twilight blushed a bit as she admitted, "Yes I did. Although I'm afraid that I didn't spend as much time as I would have liked with Princess Luna's telescope. I was a bit tired from my trip yesterday so I went to bed early."
"Oh, that's a shame. But perhaps you'll be able to better examine the night sky tonight."
"Well, actually I need to return to Ponyville today. I don't want to leave Spike alone for too long. He is more responsible these days, but he's still a baby dragon."
Princess Luna eagerly interjected, "Are you sure you can't stay until tonight, Twilight? I'd really like to spend more time with you."
Twilight leaned forward a bit to better see the princess of the night and apologized, "I'm sorry Princess Luna, I'd like to spend more time with you as well, but I hadn't planned on staying very long in Canterlot when I began this trip."
Luna appeared crestfallen, but perked up a bit when Princess Celestia suggested, "Perhaps you can return and visit Canterlot another time then. Or perhaps Luna could take some time off and visit you and your friends in Ponyville."
"I'd love to have Princess Luna come and meet my other friends," enthusiastically replied Twilight.
Luna's expression of delight at Celestia's suggestion mirrored Twilights, but was quickly replaced with one of disappointment. "But Celestia, what of my duties? I'd love to spend more time with Twilight, but I'm just so busy."
Princess Celestia kindly but firmly dismissed Luna's concerns. "It doesn't really matter where you are in Equestria when you raise the moon, and I'd be more than happy to see to your administrative tasks. I have after all been ruling Equestria by myself for quite some time.
"And I think it's a great idea for you to spend time outside of Canterlot, to experience more of modern Equestria. It would give you the chance to make new friends." Celestia looked toward her sister with concern. "Honestly I was becoming worried that you were spending too much time focused on studying the history of Equestria. I've never seen you with anypony aside from your guards and attendants."
She turned toward Twilight with a small smile. "Which reminds me of a certain other pony who was perhaps a bit too studious for her own good. Maybe you could share a few of the lessons you've learned about friendship with my sister, Twilight."
Twilight bowed her head demurely. "It would be an honor to help Princess Luna in anyway."
Celestia beamed. "Then it's settled. I'll begin rearranging the royal schedule today and see when it would be possible for Luna to come and visit you."
Both Luna and Twilight smiled at one another, Luna's full of hope, Twilight's full of excitement. The joyful excitement that Twilight felt about Luna's upcoming visit and the thoughts of the wonderful time they would have with the rest of her friends swept away nearly all the discomfort Twilight had been feeling toward Celestia. After all, Luna was right. It was obvious that Princess Celestia still cared for her; she just had other matters which sometimes demanded her attention besides Twilight. Simply because she was distracted didn't mean that she loved Twilight any less.
The rest of the breakfast passed quickly for Twilight. With the dark cloud of her feelings toward Celestia lifted, she eagerly made plans with Luna on how they would spend their time in Ponyville. She assured her new friend that she would love all the ponies Twilight had come to care for, and that there was plenty for them to see and do around her new home.
For perhaps the first time ever, Twilight barely noticed when Princess Celestia excused herself and left to attend to her royal duties. The purple unicorn's entire attention was focused on Luna, which was why she easily picked up on the fact that despite her power nap, the monarch was showing signs of being weary.
Reluctantly they made their goodbyes and Luna left to return to her bed alone, while Twilight accepted her kind offer of a chariot ride back to Ponyville. Before the sun had even reached its midmorning height, Twilight found herself back in front of her library's door.
She thanked the pegasi who had transported her, and entered her home. Twilight had to admit, even though she had only been gone for a single day, it was nice to be back. She took off her saddlebags and hung them on a peg near the doorway, then called out, "Spike? I'm home."
There was a crash from her bedroom, and a few moments later, Spike's scaly form sleepily appeared at the top of the stairs.
"Twilight? You're back already? I didn't think you'd get home so soon."
Twilight smiled good naturedly up at the small dragon who had obviously just woken up. "Apparently." She used her magic to safely levitate him down the stairs, gently setting him down on a throw rug near where she stood.
"So, anything exciting happen while I was gone?"
"Nah, not really," Spike replied, wiping the sleep from his eyes and appearing a bit more alert. "Pinkie Pike came by and invited us to the anniversary of her semi-annual anniversary party for parties she's having tomorrow. Oh, and Rainbow Dash was practicing a new trick, something about a reverse aileron roll. Anyway, she crashed through one of the windows and knocked over a bookcase. I think I was able to put all the books back where they belonged, but if you can't find something, check that big bookcase next to the kitchen. I put all the leftover ones there."
"My, it sounds like you had a busy day."
"Yeah, nothing I couldn't handle," replied Spike with feigned nonchalance.
Twilight began walking toward the kitchen. "Well, since you have things so well in hoof, I mean claw, then you won't mind taking down a letter."
Spike deflated a bit and complained, "But Twilight, you just got back from Canterlot. Couldn't you have just told Princess Celestia whatever it is you want to write about?"
"Please Spike," Twilight asked while turning around and giving him her best Rarity impression.
"Okay, okay." Spike procured a nearby scroll and quill and looked up at Twilight expectantly.
Twilight assumed her dictating pose and clearly stated, "Dear Princess Celestia." She paused for a moment in thought. "Wait, Spike, start over."
"Aw, but Twilight, I didn't smudge the ink or anything."
"I know, but still, I'd like to start over. Please."
Spike grumbled a bit under his breath, but picked up another blank scroll.
Twilight smiled in appreciation at him, then turned her eyes upwards in thought. "Dear Princess Luna …"
De profundis clamo ad te Celestia