Zecora sat down next to Luna in my Equestria dreamscape.
“Do you truly believe that phantom’s words?” link
Said the zebra.
Luna averted her eyes and stared into the fire. “I feel very adrift and strangely alone in this land I once called my home. I returned from what seemed like brief instant to find everypony with the exception of my sister are dead and buried in the dust of history. Even my sister has grown and matured into an individual I find foreign in many ways. One can simply not erase a thousand years of separation in a mere two years no matter how hard one tries.”
Luna stared at Zecora. “The last thing I remember was my sister bathed in the light of the Elements of Harmony with a look of utter devastation in her eyes. Then in what seemed like a blink of an eye I was liberated by Twilight and her newfound friends, I was back in world filled strange ponies, vast, wondrous cities and baffling machines.”
The princess shook her head. “Parades have been held in my honor. Ponies have cheered my name, but the truth is that for most ponies my legacy had been reduced to nothing more than a macabre holiday and ghoulish tales told around campfires on summer nights. Every pony has been very attentive to my “special” situation, but still there are whispers even the halls of the palace about my “reliability”. “
Luna shrugged her wings in resignation. “That was not unexpected but it still very wearisome. Even amongst the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony, Twilight is the only one that feels truly at ease in my presence.”
Zecora listened as the Princess’s story unfolded. She said nothing and let the words flow from the Princess. Without asking she refilled the Luna’s teacup. Luna took long sip of the warm liquid and closed her jade green eyes. The only sounds in the cottage were the crackle of the fire and the slowly bubbling of the cauldron.
“Then late last summer an unknown chapter from the darkest day of my life sprung into existence. A foul horror that had silently dwelled here since the day of my banishment suddenly arose. A horror created out of desperation by two of my subjects to contain the madness I had become. The abomination they released had decided to lurk in the shadows of our kingdom until last year when Paynes Gray succeeded bringing the pony now called to Skybrush to Equestria.”
“After the abduction of Applebloom and the other ponies by that horror it contacted me in my palace quarters link
and attempted to drive wedge between my sister and I. Of course I’d rather perish than betray my sister again and together we united struck down that vile villain, but once again I heard of rumors, innuendos and spoken in hush voices in the palace halls and streets of Canterlot. Some ponies wondered whether I was truly reformed. Others even questioned whether the Lord of Shadows was actually a minion of Nightmare Moon! Was I once again plotting and conspiring to usurp my sister and become the sole ruler of Equestria? ”
The princess rubbed her front hoofs together causing her blued steel war boots to hiss and squeak.
“Both Celestia and I thought we had finally put that chapter of our lives behind us and we could move on.” Luna tail began swishing as aggravation grew in her voice.
“Then this last fall while my sister and were up north dealing with the dragons, Applebloom was corrupted, tortured and turned into a vessel for the only survivor from that abominable realm Paynes Gray had created! My sister and I knew the little filly was in grave danger, but we could not endanger thousands of subjects for the sake of one little filly. No matter how much our hearts yearned to do so! All we could do was stand on the sidelines and watch as Twilight, you and the Apple family wrestled with that monster!”
The frustration in Luna’s began to grow and her wings flapped in short, quick, beats.
“I tried dream walking through Little Bloom’s dream fabric while I was up North but found myself blocked by strange fog that did not allow me to peer into her sleep. In desperation I sent instructions to Twilight asking if she could attempt to perform spell herself. I was hoping that maybe if she was in direct contact with the little filly she might have better success in the enterprise than I. Fortunately Twilight was never able to put those plans into action. With hindsight that is probably for the best since results might have been disastrous if she had actually attempted the spell!” link
“In the end Celestia and I were forced to put Twilight and the Apple family in a perilous situation which almost took the life of two of the Bearers of the Elements of Harmony.”
Luna slammed her right front hoof on the wooden floor.
“But I do not wish to stand on the sidelines and let others correct the mistakes I made! No longer will our subjects be forced to act in proxy for their rulers! I will now fulfill my obligations and show to everypony that I Luna, Co-Ruler of Equestria truly love and care about even smallest subjects in this domain! ”
Luna rose to her hoofs and stared down at Zecora. Her indigo blue wings opened to their full span. The stars in her mane and tail flared in brilliance. Her jade green eyes glowed in the darkness. Like a creature from legend and myth Luna presence filled the room. Her voice rose in volume and intensity.
“I, Luna will once and for all put an end to the last remnants of the Kingdom of Shadows! As the Princess of the Night I swear I will purge the last whispers of that vile nightmare from our fair kingdom! I will liberate Applebloom from the fate that perverse monster has crafted for her! I will give her a chance to have a future she is worthy of! “
As to emphasis her point Luna raised her right front hoof and slammed it on wooden floor of Zecora tree cottage. The tree shook as if from an earthquake. With head raised the princess stared down at zebra mare.
“So it shall be!” Said Luna.
Zecora smiled and stared up at Luna. “Noble and just are these goals oh Luna, Princess of the Night! However are those the only reasons you strive to rescue Applebloom? Is the desire for justice the only thing that drives you to help this little farm filly? Are their other motivations lurking deeper within you?”
Luna stared befuddled at zebra alchemist. “What other motivations could I have? How could my actions be construed in any other way? What conspiracy do you accuse me of? Speak!”
Zecora sighed. “Princess Luna I do not accuse you of any deliberate sinister plot. I am only concerned that you yourself may not fully grasp why you feel so compelled to help little Applebloom.”
The zebra shook her head making her heavy brass earrings rattle.
“Do you push yourself strictly in the name of justice and duty, or do you unknowingly seek to obtain a relationship similar to what Celestia has with Twilight. Do you harbor any jealously for the bond that has grown between your sister and her pupil in your absence?”
“NO!” Exclaimed Luna. “I hold no ill will toward either my sister or Twilight!”
The Zebra nodded her head. “Very well then ask yourself this, are you unwittingly making Applebloom a focus for all your faults and failures. Whether those flaws are real or imagined? Will there come a point when you will truly be able to say that you’ve paid your penance and you’ll move on or will you continue to discover new phantom flaws in yourself the same way a thirsty zebra chases the mirage of an oasis across the desert? At some point you must admit to yourself that the past is just that, the past. Endless reflections on what could’ve been will only blind you to what the future can be. “
The Princess slowly sat down next to Zecora, for several seconds she stared quietly at embers glowing in the hearth, then soft voice she spoke.
“Thank you for those words of wisdom. I will try to remember them when doubt clouds my mind.”
Zecora closed her eyes and then asked the last questions she had for the princess that night.
“And what of the demon Nightmare Moon. You speak of never wanting to betraying your sister or subjects again, but do you harbor any remorse or misgivings of its passing? Do you find yourself longing for any of its company still?”
Luna stiffened at the question. “Is not my desire to do what is right for Equestria and its subjects answer enough?”
The zebra sighed. “One may still rationally understand what they have to do, and yet still find themselves torn by their desires. A pony may realize that there will be unfortunate consequences from their actions, and yet they may allow outsides forces or cravings from within coerce them into acting in an unwise fashion.”
Zecora took a sip of her tea and then continued. “What I wish to hear from you Princess Luna, Co-Ruler of Equestria is whether any of those forces or cravings still linger within you?”
“Nightmare Moon nearly destroyed everything my sister and I had created!” Exclaimed Luna. “I have committed myself to the protection of this realm from all who would threaten it! Including that demon!”
Zecora closed her eyes. “Noble words you speak princess, but you still avoid answering my question. Do you hold any fond memories from when you were under that demon’s sway? Does that demon’s words still whisper to you when you’re alone? Am I correct in guessing that you still do? That’s is what I want to know.”
Luna leapt to her hoofs again her eyes glowed with rage and her mane and tail erupted like blue flames from a Bunsen burner.
“Fiend!” The walls of the cottage shook as Luna roared in the Royal Canterlot voice. “How dare you make such a brash accusation at me?”
Zecora leapt to her own hoofs and stared the princess in the eyes.
“I make no accusations Princess Luna!” Yelled the zebra. “I have asked you a question that for the well being of all in this world needs answering by you! Do you still have any regrets about not being Nightmare Moon?”
“I should have thee cast into the palace dungeon for such slanderous words!” Thundered Luna.
“Throw me in the dungeon if you so wish princess, but do it after you have shown the courage to answer my question! DO YOU FIND YOURSELF STILL LONGING TO BE NIGHTMARE MOON IN ANY WAY? WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER PRINCESS?” Roared Zecora.
Silence filled the cottage as two mares glared at each other in the firelight. Zecora trembled slightly with fear but did not waver she as stared into the eyes of the princess. Then slowly Luna lowered her head. In a small, rather timid voice the princess spoke.
“Yes.” Said Luna. “Yes, I do miss it sometimes. Nightmare Moon had such unshakeable confidence in itself. When I was in league with her it felt there was no problem, hurdle or challenge I couldn’t defeat. But even then there was a part of me knew that she achieved her victories by callously endangering all around her, and yet her euphoria was terribly exhilarating, addictive and irresistible to me. And there are times when I can still hear her whispers in the dead of the night.”
Luna raised her head and stared into Zecora’s sapphire blue eyes. “But I would rather perish by throwing myself into my sister’s sun then once again ally with that phantom.”
Zecora closed her eyes and nodded her head. “Thank you princess for answering my question, and forgive my disrespectful behavior. I realize it was not a pleasant but understand I had to know the answer. The path you are following in your cleansing of Applebloom holds many dangers. The enemy was not unaware of the events in Equestrian history. I fear that lurking within the mind of that sweet little filly are deadly traps designed to ensnare any rescuers who might come to her aid. The enemy may have known of your abilities and planned accordingly. Beware of the unspoken thoughts that appear in your mind. Be wary of phantoms that gnaw on your will and self-confidence, and most important do not be afraid to discuss it with those who are close to you. You are the Princess of the Moon and Night but you need not be alone in the dark.”
Then Zecora yawned. “Now Princess Luna I must get some sleep. I have many a thing I must do tomorrow. I am glad I was of assistance, and thank you for answering questions.”
Zecora stepped forward nuzzled Luna neck then looked her again in the eyes.
“Peace and strength be with you.” She said.
“Thank you.” Said Luna.
To be continued.