Canterlot Castle: Luna's Chambers
The Sun was at its zenith. All of Equestria drank in the life-giving warmth of Celestia's custom made summer heat. From on high, the land seemed a riot of colors, with the towns and cities of ponies gleaming like gems. And the crown jewel was Canterlot. The bustle of everyday life was a palpable force, as real and alive as the magic of the unicorn elites. Barkers hawked their wares and services at the market. Socialites gossiped and networked in the parks and at trendy cafes. Crews of construction ponies hammered nails, sawed wood, and moved tons of stone for whatever was being built, repaired, or demolished. The ponies of Canterlot lived, and in turn, so did their city. And above the city in the Castle, Luna could feel that force pressed against the windows, even if her drapes were pulled and tied closed. The Night Princess usually slept the day away, preferring her cool and quiet Night to the hot, loud Day.
Only a tiny bit of that warm light made its way into her tower bedroom, a single narrow ray of sunshine that had found its way under the thick curtains. It gave the deep shadows in the room an odd, under lit cast. Being far above the Castle, which was itself, farther up the slopes of the mountain, the roar of city barely reached Luna's ears. Still, even that was far too much for the Princess at this time of Day. Not that she was regularly up at noon. She would never admit it out loud, but Luna would much rather be snoring like a dragon on its hoard than clamping her eyes closed, folding her ears back, and begging for sleep to return. It was a few hours yet before she would normally wake and take her breakfast with her sister.
Tia is probably out and about right now, seeing to the running of her kingdom. Er...OUR kingdom. Luna silently reminded herself. She was a Princess of Equestria too, after all. She returned to that position some months earlier after the Elements of Harmony freed her from the grips of Nightmare Moon.
Celestia was very generous to accept her back, a trait the young alicorn was grateful to see still in her sister, even after the thousand years of forced separation. She was still forgiving and, now she'd become even more motherly. Their ages were not so far apart before the Nightmare seized her, something that Luna was having a little trouble dealing with. Physically, at least, she was still the same as she was before her imprisonment in the Moon. Meanwhile, Celestia had matured, becoming the great ruler the pony folk needed.
And she's become annoyingly taller and more graceful than ever before. And what is with all the new colors in her mane? I liked it better when it was all pink. If only everypony knew what she was like before she became the great protector and mentor. Protector is a role I understand with her. But I never would have pegged Tia as the teacher type.
That thought brought unbidden images of the unicorn, Twilight Sparkle, to Luna's mind. She was Celestia's 'faithful student', the one her sister doted on. The unicorn that had replaced her as Celestia's new little sister, if Luna was being honest with herself. Twilight Sparkle was also the current Element of Magic, as well as a scholar, adventurer, and even a friend. The previous fall, on Nightmare Night, Luna had encountered Twilight in Ponyville. The experience had been all together pleasant, thanks to the Element's timely aid. Since then, Luna thought of her as a friend.
At least I can't be replaced any longer. Luna though glumly. I'm Tia's REAL sister. And talented though the mare is, I'm still a Goddess too. A Goddess who has cottonmouth and what feels like pretty horrific bedhead too.
Luna tried to growl, but it sounded more like a croak mixed with a cough. She turned over and pulled her thin blanket over her head with a tiny flex of magic. She smacked her lips and coughed again, trying to clear her throat. The darkness soothed her, even though it still reminded her somewhat of her long and fitful sleep as part of the moon. Popular recounting of that 'myth' had her spending that time actually on the Moon's surface. It amused Luna from time to time to note what details were now lost to history about herself. The truth of it was far from the modern version of the story. She had slept, magically fused with the Moon itself. Celestia was kind in that respect, letting Luna dream away her imprisonment. Not that it mattered to the evil that was Nightmare Moon, but the alicorn that was Luna appreciated it.
She opened her eyes and sighed softly into her pillow. In a few more hours she would have to get up and then hold Court. Maddeningly boring Night Court. But at least it was quiet. It let her catch up on her reading, though that was almost as boring. She could watch the stars twinkle and shine whenever she pleased though. She could even eat doughnuts while on the Throne since there were hardly any interruptions. So there were perks. And even the occasional interesting petitioners. Sometimes she took off and just closed the doors, but that usually upset Celestia.
Gah...why does it feel like the Sun is getting closer? That's impossible. Damnable thing! I need...! Luna startled and blinked. It DID feel like the Sun was getting closer. It felt like it was marching steadily across the void of space straight towards her bedroom.
There was a quiet knock at Luna's bedroom door. It was a small sound, almost lost between the door and Luna's large four poster. The ambient light in the room didn't change, but her magical senses could feel the awesome might of her sister on the other side of the simple wooden barricade. It felt almost like gazing at the Sun up close without thousands of millions of pony strides worth of distance or an atmosphere for protection. She was almost heavy and overwhelming in her raw strength. But Celestia was like a focusing lens, collecting and controlling that fury with exacting precision. And just as suddenly as her power appeared, it vanished. A second knock told her that Celestia hadn't vanished along with it.
Either sister could keep their power in check and hidden if they wanted, walking through the world as mortal ponies. They could hide it even from each other. It let them play some pretty awe inspiring games of hide and seek as foals. Other ponies, even non-unicorns, could feel it when they made their power apparent. It usually caused them to drop whatever they were doing and bow in fawning worship. Celestia told her that was frowned upon these days. Outwardly, their appearance didn't change. Surviving historical texts claimed the Princesses' eyes would begin to glow and "all living creatures, upon sight, would supplicant themselves, such is the power of our living Goddesses." Luna knew from personal experience that that particular quote was a load of hogwash. The display was for her benefit. It let her know that Celestia was there and alone far better than a blaring fanfare of trumpets. And she knew Luna was awake when she should have been getting her rest.
How does she even know? Luna thought as she let her own power swell and loom like the full Moon on an autumn night. It was an instinctive response to her sister and she withdrew it a moment later.
Luna grumbled and tossed the thin midnight blue blanket back, rolling over to face the door and let her magic unlatch it. She squinted as Celestia, regal and bright as that which she controlled, walked carefully into her room. Her white coat almost glowed in the gloom of Luna's room, backlit against the hall. Celestia tapped the door gently closed behind her with one hoof and smiled warmly at Luna.
"Good afternoon, dearest sister. I felt you wake. I came to check on you." She looked at Luna, tilting her head with a loving and caring expression on her pale face. Celestia's tone was warm enough, but she sounded almost wary. As if she was momentarily unsure how to interact with her sister. Her mane hung lightly over one eye in a perfect curve and twist, looking artfully natural.
Luna's own mane was a tangled mass of midnight blue hair. With the Sun up, it remained as any other pony's, but once the Night came it would shift into a shimmering star field. She blew a strand out of her eyes, with a sigh.
"Tia, I'm fine." Luna frowned as her voice cracked. "Just a dream, that's all. Shouldn't you be off ruling or something? I'm sure there's a law that needs passing, or a noble that needs coddling."
"Actually, no. Not at the moment. I finished lunch early and have time to myself before the next meeting." Celestia glanced around the room. She hadn't been in it much since Luna had moved back in.
The room was very well furnished, with several armories and vanities, as well as comfortable seating and a small table and desk. There was a great deal of floor space still left open, even counting the bed. Pieces of the furniture were mixed styles, some old, some new, all in dark blues or purples with obsidian and ivory accents. And all hoofpicked by Luna shortly after her return. Candles and even a few posters depicting the Wonderbolts and some rather fetching stallions lined the walls, while a prodigious stuffed animal collection covered a few of the vanities. To Celestia her sister was still, in many ways, a filly. But there were also signs of her becoming a grown mare.
"I really did want to check on you. This makes the fourth time this month you've woken up fitfully in the middle of the day. It's mildly concerning. If it's related to your...imprisonment...I need to know."
Celestia was being motherly again. She meant well and sounded more like the sister Luna remembered than a Princess. But still, Luna felt irritated by it. Celestia's guilt was a burden at times. Sometimes it seemed she was walking on glass around her and holding back. Luna may have returned to the Court as a Princess, but Celestia was still the Ruler.
"I'm FINE, Tia. Sheesh." Luna folded her ears back and continued to squint at her sister. "Like you've not had a bad dream or two? It isn't important, and it's not related to anything. If it becomes related, I'll tell you."
The blue alicorn smoothed back her hair with her hoof and levitated her tiara over and on her head. It sat somewhat crookedly, which got a funny look out of her sister. "I don't want you to worry about me. Or mother me so much. I'm like, older than dirt. I'm happy for your concern, really, I am. But would you kindly back off? You are not mom."
Celestia looked momentarily hurt by the phrasing, but she sighed and lowered her eyebrows, looking decidedly annoyed.
"True, I'm not mom. But she's not here any longer. I am." Celestia's tone turned more challenging. "I'm also bigger and older than you. So suffer my concern, dear sister. It assuages my conscious. And lets me be nosy."
Celestia's tone took on a playful tilt, which only set Luna more on edge. Luna knew her sister well enough to know it was intentional. Celestia loved to micromanage and be informed. Which was a polite way of saying she liked being a know it all gossip pony. It made her a better politician. Her nosiness was a trait that set the two alicorns at odds when they were younger. Luna was at heart, a private pony.
"So...what ARE you dreaming of that wakes you?" Celestia smirked slyly and turned to gaze over Luna's desk and bedside table. Her eyes lit on Luna's diary, but she made a pointed move to look elsewhere before looking back at her younger sister.
"Nothing. I dunno. I don't remember my own dreams well. Not like I remember everypony else's." Luna tried to keep the lying tone, unsuccessfully from her voice. Celestia would know. She always knew when Luna lied, which led Luna to be vague as often as possible with her sister.
"Hmmm..." Celestia chewed her lip, thinking for a moment. "Do you still do that? See other ponies' dreams, I mean? You know you aren't supposed to use that power Lulu. It can influence the dreamer too much. I'd rather not endanger your reputation so soon after your return."
"I know." Luna swallowed and sighed, forcing herself up. If she was going to be awake, then she was going to get something to drink.
Her bed side table held a couple of goblets and a magically cooled pitcher of water. Servants came by every morning and refilled it for her with snowmelt water from the peak above them. The Princess floated a filled cup to herself, glancing at Celestia to see if she wanted any. Her sister watched her but gently shook her head. After gulping it down, Luna turned to her sibling.
"And you know it's a useless power." Luna set down her goblet, her dark navy colored aura fading from it. She looked down at her unshod hooves and lifted one to idly examine it. "I can only interact with the dreams of those who dream of me first. And my control of the dreamscape doesn't matter. The dreamer is normally unaware of it."
Luna dropped her hoof and rolled her head back in exasperation. "I can TRY to influence them, but unless they remember their dreams when they wake, AND listen to a character in them, then it's all just cheap entertainment. Just a silly dream starring yours truly."
Now it was Celestia that sighed and rolled her eyes. This was an old argument of theirs. It led to the fight where Celestia first met the evil that infected Luna all those years ago. She knew, now, that Luna was right. But still, she had a country to protect. The thought of this little piece of info getting out among the public could put a panic on their hooves and ruin any trust the ponies might develop for Luna.
"I understand Lulu. But please, for me?" Celestia batted her eyelashes and pouted with a quivering lower lip. Getting Luna to smile or laugh would always win her the argument.
Luna smirked at Celestia's childish display and sighed tiredly. She hung her head, horn pointed at the floor for a moment before looking up and yawning exaggeratedly. She suddenly felt sleepy again and longed for her bed and darkness.
"Thank you, Lulu. I'm sorry for disturbing you. Get some sleep. You have Court tonight. I'll see you at dinner." Celestia smiled sisterly at the smaller alicorn.
Luna nodded, yawning again and heading for her pile of pillows, blankets, and stuffed parasprites. Celestia watched her flop down and pull the blanket up to her chin. Luna was out like a light in just a few seconds. Celestia removed the young mare's tiara and set it aside before giving her a gentle kiss on the cheek. She checked the drapes to make sure the light would stay out and then let herself out, her magic closing and latching the door behind her.