Shield and Shadow

Part 2: Renaissance

Chapter 1: The long sleep

Madness, betrayal, guilt. You, it was all you. Do you think that I could do anything alone? I am an incorporeal being, no way to manipulate other than through doubt and fear. You, my vessel, are the cause, the reason for all that has and will transpire. Every evil you see, is yours.

Quiet.

Twilight Sparkle sat in her library home, reading through one for her many scientific journals. The moon was high in the sky, the stars twinkled softly. Cool air breezed in through an open window. A chill was sent down Twilight's back, and she pulled a nearby blanket over herself to shield from the cold. She perked her ears and heard the familiar sounds of her faithful assistant's scaly feet as he ran up the stairs.

"Twilight! Twilight!" Spike called as he ran.

"What is it, Spike?" Twilight asked, fearing some terrible happening.

"A message from Princess Celestia! It just came!" the baby dragon said, holding out a scroll.

Twilight levitated the scroll towards her. "Thank you, Spike. It must be her response to my latest friendship report. Are you done with your chores?"

"Almost. Just putting –" Spike let out a gargantuan yawn "-putting the last books away."

Twilight smiled at her assistant, "Go to bed, Spike. I'll be up late, and you need your rest."

There was no response, and Twilight looked back to see that Spike had collapsed, snoring loudly. She smile to herself, and floated the small creature to his basket, wrapping him in a blanket.

She walked back to her books and settled on the floor. She floated the scroll over and unfurled it. The elegant writing was a clear sign of the author of the letter.

My dearest Twilight,

I was so pleased to read of your lesson in friendship. It is truly a wise choice to listen to the opinions of your friends before you make a choice that affects them all. I am glad to see that you are progressing well in your studies, and that you have not lost that fire of friendship.

Regarding your studies, Princess Luna wished me to pass on the news of an approaching meteor shower. She has informed me that if any should land in Equestria, the likely location is to be in the Everfree forest. If you would like, investigate the area and send me any reports you compile. The shower should occur is the next few days, so do keep an eye on the night sky.

Your teacher

Princess Celestia

Twilight brimmed with excitement; she did so love meteor showers. She stood and quickly trotted down the stairs and into the main room in the library. She conjured her calendar and marked down the next few days, then moved on to her ever-growing to-do list. "Invite friends to see meteor shower". She smiled to herself as she rechecked his notes. Feeling proud of her organizing skills, she walked back up the stairs to continue her nighty studies.

"I really must thank Princess Luna for telling me about this. Strange, my calculations didn't tell me it was coming. It must be extra special. Though I wish I had a more accurate timeframe."

Twilight shrugged. She knew that one way of another, she would see the grand event. She just wanted to be able to plan to have her friends join her. She did so love those five.

Princess Luna looked out over Equestria from her balcony. Immediately below lay the capital city of Canterlot. High-living ponies moved about below, snouts upturned, visible even from Luna's great height. Luna disliked those ponies, the fine snobbery, selfish behavior, single-minded acquisition of status and wealth. She yearned for a time when the members of the nobility were few, when ponies led pleasant, simpler lives.

Luna looked out into the distance. The tiny village of Ponyville could be seen in all of its glory, its simple glory. The ponies there were exactly the kind that Luna so loved. They cherished those precious moments in life, enjoyed what they had, toiled endlessly if they wanted more. It was a town where everypony knew everypony, and though they may not all be friends, they coexisted together.

And there were the six – the first friends Luna had made since her return – Twilight Sparkle, who coached her; Fluttershy, who taught her speech; Applejack, who showed her the meaning of fun; the troublemaker Pinkie Pie, who became instrumental in endearment to the town; and though they met later, Rainbow Dash and Rarity who taught style, grace, and appeal.

Luna so enjoyed her friends, and enjoyed reading the friendship reports that Twilight Sparkle sent to the castle. They had been perhaps the most important part of Luna's reintroduction into modern Equestria. Without the aid of her friends, she surely would have regressed into her darker state, perhaps even allowing the Nightmare to take over her again.

Luna shivered at the memory of her time as Nightmare Moon. She found herself looking up towards the sky. Her sky. The stars were bright against the black. Luna followed down a line of stars until she reached a lone star. Far from any other. The lightest green tint to the light it emitted.

"Mist…" A single tear fell to the floor.

A door opened behind Luna, and she turned to face the entrant. Her sister, Celestia, stood before her.

"Thinking of him again, Luna?" Celestia asked gently.

"There are two stars in my night that are his. It is difficult to forget. Though I lived those thousand years, tormented by that creature, it still seems that I can expect Mist to walk through that door once again."

"Luna, I fear that it is not healthy to dwell on it. Please, let go."

"Remind me of what happened to him."

"He disappeared. He walked from Everfree and was never seen again. Stricken by grief, he left his life behind. I know not what happened after."

"How did his star appear in the night sky?"

"As I have told you, I placed it there when he disappeared, as a remembrance. For you."

Luna nodded her head. "Yes, sister, so you have said."

Celestia drew closer, "What is the matter, Luna?"

"Nothing." Luna turned to face Celestia, "I know that you have sent word to her already, but would you please inform Twilight Sparkle that I shall be staying in Ponyville from tomorrow, and I wish to investigate the meteor shower myself."

"Of course, sister. I will send a letter to Spike in the morning."

Luna turned away again, looking back over Equestria and into the night. She spoke quietly, to herself, "Mist, wherever you are, I will learn the truth of what happened to you. Celestia will no longer protect me from that day."

Celestia walked from Luna's quarters, leaving her younger sister. She walked slowly down the brightly lit halls of Canterlot Castle. Alabaster walls and gold trim, such a grand space. The ancient Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters was far a duller, grey stone. Yet it carried with it character. The walls had texture, feeling. That castle had served as only a temporary home for Luna and Celestia, yet so much had happened there, more than the centuries spent in Canterlot.

The sun Princess wove through the passageways gracefully, and found her thoughts drawn to her faithful student and the fateful days one thousand years ago. If only Luna had such knowledge then. If only I had such knowledge then. We may have been spared such horror. Or perhaps not – Mist had a strong circle of friends and still he succumbed to the Nightmare.

Celestia wished for a pony to speak to about those events, yet there was nopony to listen, none that would understand, none that could grasp Celestia's feelings. For one thousand years had she been alone. She had lost her sister, and was forced to assume rule as a singular leader. Even the greatest of leaders need hoof through their duties.

She continued to walk, finally reaching her personal quarters. She entered, summoning a well of ink and a quill, finding a scroll waiting ready for her. She paused, staring at the page, her mind lost in the annals of her past. She pulled herself from her reverie, remembering the task she had before her. Quill dipped in ink, she lowered it to the scroll.

My dearest Twilight…

Far above Equestria, within the blackest reaches of space, a great power stirred. The star to which it had been bound pulsated with energy, angry flames lashing out in all directions.

Time to wake up, my little pony. For soon, we shall return to the world below, and your purpose be fulfilled. It is time to make the final arrangements. The spell weakens, the binds loose, the mortar in the wall brittle. It is time for your long sleep to end, and for my agent to rise. Awake, Spring Mist.

The star flared, the one trapped within stirring. The silhouette of a pony formed in the black, as the dark magic of the Nightmare began its work.

Mist, awaken.