Epilogue: In Which the Sun Sets

The sun rose slowly in the eastern sky. Its light was full of warmth and happiness, washing over the Equestrian Valley like a golden wave. It washed down through the mountain villages, over the great plains and fields, finally falling on the beautiful city of Canterlot. Its alabaster buildings shone magnificently, and somewhere deep within the palace an ancient pony smiled the sort of smile only somepony who has worked their craft for millennia can manage. Elsewhere within the palace, a young stallion stirred.

Blueblood sat up slowly in his bed. He blinked blearily, and yawned. He leaned back to stretch, but found himself falling backwards into the soft mattress again. He sighed, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He was having trouble adjusting to sleeping in such a large and soft bed. The silken sheets felt bizarre against his fur, and he sank deep into the mattress when he slept. He yawned again, rolling out of the oversized bed.

He trotted across the room, trying not to make too much noise on the marble floors. He made his way to a large vanity desk across the room and sat down in front of it, looking at the various pieces of ostentatious jewelry and clothing laid out. Chief among them was a large, golden crown. It had been crafted by the finest jeweler in Canterlot, summoned specifically to have it made. It was trimmed with silver, and in the very centre there lay an enormous garnet. Blueblood sighed when he looked at it. He had insisted that the stone be red, one of the few things he had managed to win the jeweler over on. The tiny mare had been remarkably stubborn about her design. At the very least Blueblood had convinced her not to craft the garnet into a false horn.

He set the crown aside, glancing at the other objects on the desk. There were several small hair decorations, which he passed over. Various suit necks and collars lay out, and there were more in the wardrobe by his bed. He passed these over as well, running his hoof across a beautiful red cloth. He shook his head, and picked up a brush. He ran it through his hair a few times, keeping it in a vague semblance of place, and stood up. He trotted to his door, pulling it open slowly. On the other side there stood a very surprised-looking maid, her hoof raised to knock.

"Ah, Your Highness!" the maid, a little blue unicorn, said. "I, ah, came to help you get ready this morning."

"Oh," Blueblood said. "I'm sorry. I didn't really need any help." The maid blinked at him.

"You are, ah, already ready, sire?" she asked. Blueblood blinked, and looked down at himself. True, his appearance was not as lavish as it had been in the past, but he was still presentable.

"Yes," he said. "I thought that this would be alright for today. Is something the matter?" The unicorn waved her hooves apologetically.

"No sire!" she said, "I'm very sorry!"

"That's alright," Blueblood said. "Have you had breakfast yet? You should take a break." the maid blinked at him.

"That's all right," she said. "I'm... sure I can find something else to do..." She took a step back, and Blueblood nodded.

"Alright," he said. "Have a nice day."

"You too?" she said, confused. Blueblood smiled at her, and trotted away.

He walked quietly through the hallways, smiling and nodding good morning to any ponies he passed. It had been nearly a month now since his return to Canterlot, and many of the servants were still growing accustomed to the prince's new behaviour. They gave him strange glances, and whispered to each other about what had happened. He found that he didn't mind the rumours. He had found two young stallions discussing him once, and he was surprised to discover just how strange many of them were. Most of the kingdom believed that he kidnapped by bandits, for ransom. Some rumours even said that he had been captured by a dragon, who had eaten his horn. He had surprised a old maid by laughing when he'd heard that particular rumour.

He entered the kitchens quietly, dodging between scurrying chefs. They were preparing the day's meals, of course, readying breakfast for the servants and nobleponies alike. Blueblood slunk up to a stove, sidling alongside a heavy-set beige pegasus.

"Mornin' Highness!" the pegasus said. Blueblood smiled.

"Good morning, Peanut. I don't suppose you have time to join me for breakfast?" The pegasus laughed heartily, and shook his head.

"No can do, Highness," he said. "We have to keep working to feed all those big ponies like you up there." He grinned, giving Blueblood a good-natured nudge. "Why, you alone could keep one of us busy all day, in your prime." Blueblood chuckled.

"Well, I'll lessen the load for you," he said. He poured a small sack of grain into a pot of water and cream, preparing a pot of porridge for himself. Peanut tossed a small hooffull of spices into the pot, winking at Blueblood. The unicorn thanked him, and had his breakfast silently among the chefs.

When he was done he ventured once again into the palace, this time making his way to the garden. He spent most of his day there, walking among the flowers and watching the animals play. Around mid-afternoon a young soldier came galloping up to him, panting heavily. He was an earth pony, his coat a pale orange. Morning Light, he was called. He was not much older than Blueblood himself, but had already begun to move up in the ranks of the guards. He was a talented fighter, Blueblood had been told when the stallion was assigned as his new bodyguard, and extremely vigilant. Blueblood had also happened to notice that he was very prone to worry.

"There you are, Your Highness!" the guard said. Blueblood had been watching a small pigeon hopping across the ground. The bird was brave enough that the guard's approach had not scared it away, and Blueblood smiled up at the earth pony.

"Hello, Light," he said. Morning Light caught his breath, and pawed the earth.

"I've been looking for you all day, Your Highness," he said.

"I'm sorry," Blueblood said. "I thought you must have had the day off. You weren't outside this morning..." Light blinked shyly.

"I... had taken a break," he said. "I thought I could get breakfast before you woke up. I didn't know where you had gone after that. I tried the auditorium, the gallery, the servants' wings -"

"I was just out here," Blueblood interrupted before Light could continue to list off the places he had been. "I'm sorry, Light. I hadn't meant to worry you." Light sighed.

"No," he said, "I'm sorry I wasn't there when you woke up. But I wish you wouldn't go off on your own. Something could happen to you." Blueblood smiled wryly.

"I appreciate your concern," he said. "But I doubt I'll run into much worse here than I've been through before." He smiled up at Light. "I was just watching the birds," he said. "Would you care to join me?"

Such was life for Blueblood now. The days came and went without incident or event. He often wondered just what he had found to do in the days before he went to Aloa. He found himself more and more wandering Canterlot Palace's vast hallways, desperately searching for something he could do. He offered to help the servants, but he was invariably turned down. Some days he sat on open court with his aunt, but many ponies were far too preoccupied with their farms and homes to concern themselves with the princess. It was harvest season now, after all. The last of the crops were being brought in, and prepared for the inevitable onset of winter.

He wondered how Brook was managing his little farm. Surely he would have more than enough food to last him through the winter, now. He and Blueblood had exchanged a few letters, but it wasn't the same as being there with him. He wished that he could see the old pony again. He tried to invite him to come to the palace, but Brook wouldn't budge. Blueblood's mother had refrained from commenting on the old pony. Her response to his letter had been one of strange silence.

So Blueblood wandered the halls. Some days he would sit in the library and read. Some days he would go into the gardens, as he had today. Some days he would even venture into the city, striking up conversation with the citizens. He had found a wonderful doughnut shop where the students of Canterlot University liked to eat, and he had taken a shining to it.

Now, though, the evening was fast approaching. Blueblood wandered the halls of Canterlot Palace alone, Light having been dismissed for a break. Blueblood found himself moving higher and higher through the palace, eventually finding his way to his aunt's great tower. He climbed the staircase up the tower, peeking his head inside. It was completely empty. He thought for a moment of turning back, but he noticed that the door to the balcony was open as well. He closed the door behind him gently, and trotted out onto the balcony.

The view was magnificent. All of Canterlot stretched before him. All of Equestria, in fact. He could even see over the tips of the mountains to the west. He strained his eyes, thinking that perhaps if he looked hard enough he could see Aloa again. All that was there were the mountaintops, though. He shook his head, and sighed.

He heard the door creak open softly, and looked back. Luna had entered the room.

"Auntie Luna," Blueblood said as the little goddess came to join him on the balcony.

"Blueblood," she said quietly. Blueblood smiled faintly.

"It seems a bit early to raise the moon, doesn't it?" he asked. To his surprise, Luna smiled.

"I suppose it is," she said. "I like to come up here early sometimes. The view is wonderful, isn't it?" Blueblood nodded.

"Yes..." he said, "it is." He looked out over the view, savouring the cool autumn breeze on his face. Both ponies were silent for a long time. Eventually Blueblood stirred awkwardly, leaning against the banister.

"So," he said. "Auntie Celestia tells me that you were gone for a long time."

"Yes," she said. "I took a small trip. I hear that I was gone almost as long as you were." Blueblood smiled contemplatively.

"About six months," he said. "That's some trip." He peered over at her. "Where did you go?"

"I went out of the country," she said. "The world is so much different now from the world I knew. I like to explore it. To visit other countries, and their ponies."

"Really?" Blueblood said. "I thought you didn't like other ponies?"

"I don't like being worshipped," Luna replied wryly. She smirked and said, "But it is the work of a moment to apply a simple disguise. Most ponies can't tell the difference between a pegasus and an alicorn without her horn." Blueblood laughed.

"I know what you mean," he said. "What were you doing for six months, though?" Luna shrugged.

"A lot of things, really," she said. "I visited a few friends of mine. I had a favour I wanted to ask of one of them. He's an old pony, very nice." she shook her head. "He and I used to talk until dawn. Then I looked after somepony else for a while." Blueblood peered at her, smiling.

"Sounds like you had a bit of a better time than me," he said. Luna smiled, and tilted her head.

"I suppose," she said. "But you had an adventure. There's so little adventure to be had, when you're as old as I am." Blueblood nodded.

"I guess it's all back to normal now, though," he said. "No more war... I'm home again... Iron's trial is almost over. They just have to decide whether to put him in prison, or an asylum."

"And the ambassador?" Luna asked. Blueblood shrugged.

"They haven't found him yet," he said. "There's a dock worker who thinks he either went to the eastern islands, or Ashantimare." They fell into silence again, watching the sun begin to sink along the mountains. Suddenly, Blueblood spoke.

"Auntie?" he asked. Luna peered at him. He was leaning on the banister, wringing his hooves. "What's eternity like?" Luna blinked at him. "I mean," he said, looking up into the sky, "What's it like to live forever? So much changed for me, so fast. None of this feels the same anymore. It's all so strange. Alien, almost." He sighed, and rubbed his eyes. "I'm afraid," he admitted. "Could it happen again? Will it always keep changing like this? In another six months will I look back on myself and wonder who I was?" Luna stared at him silently for a moment.

"Perhaps," she said. "But then, perhaps not. When I was a little filly, millennia ago, these mountains were wild and dangerous. A great forest creeps over the home that I knew a thousand years ago. Countries that I do not know have risen, and countries that I knew once no longer exist." She shook her head. "Things change," she said. "It can be frightening... but you learn to accept the change. You can never fight against it. It simply happens."

"How can you stand it?" Blueblood asked. "Knowing you could wake up one day and be somepony completely different?" Luna smiled sweetly at him.

"I am true to myself," she said. "I found something that I loved more than anything. I always work towards that, and I never let it slip away from me. No matter how much I change, I always have that. I will always be Luna, if I am nothing else." She looked out at the sky, and Blueblood followed her gaze. The sun brushed along the tips of the mountains in the west, turning them to gold in the twilight. "There's nopony pulling the strings," Luna said. "Things just happen. It isn't personal... so it's up to us to make it personal." She smiled faintly, and Blueblood found himself smiling as well.

"Thank you, Auntie," he said. Luna smiled.

"You're welcome," she said. A sly smile crept across her lips, almost imperceptible in faint light. "You know," she said, "I've been talking to big sister. After how poorly negotiations with Aloa went, she's thinking of sending an Ambassador."

"Really?" Blueblood asked. Luna nodded.

"Oh yes... she's trying to convince me to go, but I'm not certain that I'm really cut out for it. Politics isn't really my world anymore... and besides, I don't know anything about Aloan culture. I think it should be somepony who's spent time in Aloa before." She smirked at Blueblood, who began to smile. "Do you think you know anypony like that?" she asked.

"I might," he said. "Thank you, Auntie." Luna smiled.

"You're welcome," she replied. She flapped her wings, lifting off the high balcony. Blueblood watched her fly into the night, and left the tower. He trotted silently through the emptying halls of Canterlot palace, returning to his room. Light was waiting for him at the door, and Blueblood bid him a good night. Before the white stallion went to his bed, however, he stopped by his desk. There was a small package on it, wrapped in a soft old cloth. He opened it, smiling gently as the sun set.

Inside was an old book of poetry, and two small nails.

Author's note: So that's that. It's been a hell of a ride, for me. I just wanted to throw out a few 'thank you's here, now that it's all done.

Firstly, A huge thank you to both Vimbert and Vanner of the Ponychan /Fic/ board, my reviewers. You both helped this story along enormously, keeping me on the right track and helping me polish it up. I know that, without you, this story would never have been half of what it is now.

Thanks to everyone on the TVTropes Pony Fanfiction thread for being a test audience, and for offering advice and critique when I asked.

An especially huge thanks to BillyColt for sticking around and giving me someone to talk at when I needed to work through a block or a stubborn idea, and for inspiring me on with music and your own story.

Finally, and most importantly, thank you. You, reading this now. All of you. Everyone who commented, or even just read the story. I've never done anything of this magnitude before, and you guys were a huge source of drive and inspiration for me. Thank you all, and I hope that you enjoyed it.