Exile (Part One)
Luna was unhappy. No, more than that, she was desolate. After a millennium of being trapped in the moon as a psychotic traitor, she returned to Equestria appearing as little more than a filly. Everypony hated her for betraying Princess Celestia, feared her for her former dark powers. Nothing was as she remembered-
“Luna, it’s me.”
“Oh.” Luna recognized the voice of her sister. “Come in, then.”
Celestia opened the door of Luna’s tower abode slowly, stepping gracefully in. The warmth of her radiant mane, befitting a true princess, filled the room. She stared at Luna, seeing her on the brink of tears for the umpteenth time in a week. “You can’t stay in your room forever, Lulu; I miss you being around the castle. How many more socks do I have to get you before you come out?”
Luna felt a faint smile creep onto her face at her sister’s weak attempt at humor. “Four?”
“I thought you’d say that!” Celestia twisted around and grabbed a set of socks she had hidden just behind the doorframe, presenting them to her sister. They were soft and silky, just the right shade of blue to compliment Luna’s dark coat. The younger sister gently took them, slipping them on one by one and reveling in their cool texture. After the last sock was securely on her hoof, she looked up and gave the Sun Princess a wide smile.
“Okay, I’m ready,” the stocking-adorned mare quietly conceded.
The two made their way down the winding staircase of the tower and walked out into the courtyard. The few ponies wandering around on regular business scarcely showed any notice of them except to briefly bow their heads in homage at close approach. Luna still found it strange that the traditional royal rules of the castle had been relaxed so much since she has been absent. A thousand years ago it would have been scandalous to walk around with socks on. Eventually they arrived at the vacant throne room, where the elder sister stopped their progress.
“Look, Luna, it’s your old throne.”
The Princess of the Night could hardly believe her eyes! There, at the right-hand side of Celestia’s golden throne, was a beautiful ebony seat the likes of which she had never thought she’d see again. “You kept it? H- How-”
“It was stored away in the royal archives, after... After the...”
Luna saw the pain in her sister’s expression as she struggled to speak. “I know.” No, she really didn’t know, didn’t remember much of what happened after Nightmare Moon took her over. But Tia needed the encouragement. “I just thought that you had gotten rid of it.” Better.
Luna trotted over to the throne and slowly, ecstatically, she lowered herself onto it. It wasn’t doing badly after a thousand years of neglect. Stroking the smooth arm of the throne with her front sock, it almost felt as if she had never left. She looked at Celestia and smiled brightly at her generous sister, who was happy to see this heartwarming sight. Maybe things would get better after all.
On a stormy night, Luna walked among fragrant trees. Radiant lightning bugs shone among them, making their way through the branches and vines to take cover from the rain. She remembered this place, a memory from when she was just a filly, when she had expected the world to cater to her every whim… But something was wrong.
She was late for something, for somepony. What could it be? Whatever it was, she knew she had to get there before it was too late, something important depended on it! Cantering off through the foliage, she searched the forest for any sign of habitation, for anypony at all. The darkened and dripping trees revealed nothing, after what seemed like forever. She was about to give up when she spied a small twinkling light in the distance, different from the shining insects’ glow. A faint voice could be heard over the roar of the storm, frantic and worried: “Luna… Celestia… Luna. Celestia!”
The dark-coated filly galloped towards the source of the light, beating her wings as hard as she could but not lifting an inch; she was too young to fly. The voice began to fade, the emotional speaker drawing farther and farther away.
“Luna. Luna. Luna…”
She was going as fast as she can, but it wasn’t fast enough. They were leaving, they were getting away! Her lungs were close to bursting when she crashed into a clearing, the rain-drenched ground knocking out what’s left of her wind. In the middle of a clearing was a lit hut, with bright candles gleaming through the open windows, but clearly without anypony inside. Luna looked up at the dark sky and saw the faint outline of two alicorns flying high above, away from her reach.
She tried to speak, to yell to the retreating ponies she knew she needed so badly, but she couldn’t draw enough breath. They abandoned her here, without company, without love. It was just too much to bear… As two barely visible pairs of wings melted into the clouds, the forsaken young filly finally managed to cry out. “HERE! I’M DOWN HERE! DON’T LEAVE ME!”
They couldn’t hear her; she was too late. Luna knew this, but continued to yell anyway, painfully shrieking at the top of her lungs while tears mixed with the rain dripping off her face. “PLEASE! TAKE ME! I DON’T WAN’T TO BE ALONE! NO! COME BACK! COME-“
“-BACK! PLEASE! I DON’T WANT TO BE ALONE! I WANT TO GO-
Luna opened her eyes to find Celestia, her dear Tia, standing over her bed with a concerned look. A small group of castle servants and guards were gathered around, alarmed at their princess’ fit of hysteria. The sun was shining brightly through her window, in sharp contrast to the frightened mood in the room.
“Oh, thank goodness you’ve woken up! Are you alright, Luna? What’s the matter?”
“I… What? Where am I? What happened?”
“It’s okay, Lulu. I’m here. You’re safe. We’re in the castle. You scared everypony half to death with your screaming but they couldn’t wake you; they had to come get me in the middle of a council session. Why are you so upset? Did you have a bad dream?”
“I’m… I just…” Luna looked around at the wide-eyed castle staff, feeling embarrassed.
Celestia picked up on her sister’s reluctance and turned to the assembled ponies. “Excuse me, but could we please have some privacy for the moment? I would like to speak with the Princess alone.”
As the others hurriedly left, the sisters faced each other again. “What happened, Luna?”
“There was… I was in the forest, a long time ago, and I was a filly. It was raining, and our… Our parents, they were there, but I couldn’t get to them in time, they flew away! It was just… Just…”
The emotion overwhelmed her, and Luna began to weep, unable to continue. Celestia gently hugged her, feeling bad for her sister’s traumatic reliving of the past. Together the sisters mourned for their long-gone parents, trying to move on from that sad, early memory of being left with only each other, forever.
That day and night Princess Luna spent hours staring at the sky, for what reason nopony could say, but seemed not to find anything and retired to her tower soon after dawn.
During the Grand Galloping Gala, the first one Luna had ever heard of since it was introduced after her banishment, the Princess of the Night still hid in her tower, unable to face her subjects even after all this time. The castle staff she could deal with, they had become used to interacting with her, but the citizens of Equestria at large were still unable to accept that Luna wasn’t Nightmare Moon anymore. Her excursions into Canterlot were brief and anonymous, undertaken only to escape her tower without a mob of servants trying to please her.
On her last trip, she had even gone through the trouble of taking the form of an inconspicuous-looking unicorn and yet she had still been recognized by her “peculiar manner of speech”. Oration lessons were not her favorite activity, especially now that the language had changed so much. In any case, the reaction to her disguise was not pleasant: a near-riot was involved. Since then Luna vowed to remain within the castle for the foreseeable future to keep out of the public eye, much to Celestia’s dismay.
Now here she was, wishing she could go down to the Gala and consort with everypony yet paralyzed with the fear of being shunned by them. Instead she read. Whenever she spent time in her tower she liked to read her collection of old books, her stories, studies, and comedy, volumes from a forgotten time. A time before she had become reduced to just a legend, an old ponies’ tale. A time before her banishment. A time before her curse...
One particular book held a special significance to her. It was old and tattered, barely legible due to its extreme age, but there were none like it in the world. Not anymore. This was the only surviving copy of Olde Tæyles, the ancient nursery classic. The book wasn’t even written in Equine, but one of the predecessor dialects called Hippotic that featured a much more extensive alphabet and was therefore somewhat challenging to pronounce for the unfamiliar speaker. It had been the first book she ever read on her own, after Celestia taught her how. Contrary to popular belief, the royals had not invented writing, nor had they been literate until about fifteen centuries ago. So long ago it was difficult to remember.
Laying the tome on her pillow carefully, she began to read. How funny that the rhyme and verse didn’t fit at all anymore...
The Colt with Many Friends
Once there was a young pony, naught but a colt, who was very popular with his peers.
He had many friends who would all celebrate him and laugh with him.
One day, the colt was having a party in the company of his friends,
Who were talking to him and amongst themselves, saying, “Surely, is he not the most likable pony in the whole town? Look at how many come to his parties!”
As the party was almost finished, a bear came upon the unfortunate colt.
Escaping through the town, the colt managed to evade the bear but it remained close behind.
He ran to the baker’s house, one of his friends, and asked to borrow a heavy rolling pin with which he could defend himself.
The baker said “No, I’m sorry, but we are preparing for a big feast later and all the pins are being used. I’m sure one of your other friends can help you.”
So the colt went to his friend the barber whom he was sure could disguise him to hide from the hungry bear.
The barber said “I am too busy with other customers now. Maybe later.”
In turn he requested the assistance of more friends, a farmer and a woodspony, who both recommended the other’s help.
“Or maybe try the weather pony,” they said.
The colt found his friend who managed the weather and sought for him to create a diversion using rain so he could escape the bear.
His friend replied “Are you sure nopony else can aid you? The librarian is dependable.”
At long last the colt came to the library and pleaded for help, recounting how all of his other friends had failed him,
“This sounds like a scary bear; maybe I should just stay inside,” came the answer.
At this time the bear was very close to catching the poor colt, who in desperation ran out of town and was never seen again.
His comrades all made a toast to his memory.
And so the moral of this story is, “He that has many friends, has no friends.”
After Luna finished reading the rest of the book, she decided to go visit Celestia, as the Gala was now over. Moving through the wreckage of the main ballroom, she found Celestia putting broken and fallen giant statues back into place alone. The white mare seemed crestfallen, somewhat unsatisfied with how the event turned out.
“Some party, eh sister?”
“Oh, it’s you. Help me out with this statue, will you?” The sisters jointly moved the stone pony onto its pedestal, reassembling the pieces one by one. Luna silently debated whether or not she should ask Celestia what happened, but her sister told her anyway.
“I invited the Six, the bearers of the Elements of Harmony, to the Gala. I thought they would liven things up. They did.”
“Ah. So they did this?”
“Well, yes, but it wasn’t intentional. They all had different ideas of what they wanted to do; you know how young mares are. In any case, I don’t think the guests will be very happy.”
“I would think so.”
“They’ll find some way to make me culpable! And, really, it is my fault, I know all the shenanigans those mares get themselves into.”
“It’s not your fault. It would have been horrible anyway. Who cares what ponies think?”
“I do, Lulu! I have to keep everypony happy, even if it’s not possible! Sometimes the stress, it just gets so hard... I have to run administration, I have to throw parties for those stuck-up aristocrats, I have to solve everypony’s problems personally! Do you know how long it took to clean every last Parasprite from Fillydelphia? A week! I just can’t do it!” She began to sob.
Luna felt her sister’s pain. Even old Tia, her big sister, had hard times. Being an alicorn wasn’t easy. And Celestia had spent a millennium ruling by herself; it would be enough to drive any regular pony insane. Maybe it was Luna’s turn to be supportive. “Look, Tia, I understand. But you can’t be so hard on yourself. If I have to, I will march right up to those worthless bourgeoisie and tell them just where they can shove their precious Gala from now on. But nopony is going to blame you.”
Celestia looked up at her. “Really?”
“Really.” Luna hugged the Sun Princess tightly. “Nopony hurts my big sister.”
They spent a minute embracing and then got back to work cleaning up the ballroom. The two alicorns shared a family bond perhaps stronger than anypony else in history; their centuries of hardship and experience reinforced the natural connection they share. They were alike yet different, two sides of the same coin. One could not remain without the other, and now they were complete after a thousand years. The celestial duo.
A few weeks after the fateful Nightmare Night where the citizens of Ponyville had learned to accept her, Luna was feeling happier than she had been in a long time. The public was now accustomed to her presence at royal functions. She could walk around Canterlot without fearing for her reputation. Celestia was relieved that her sister was no longer trying to order ponies around arbitrarily and instead simply talked with them. Things were never better, until the disappearance.
Luna was taking a rare stroll in the castle gardens, enjoying the autumn coolness. She almost never got a break from her royal duties, and was determined to make the most of her time by getting out of the stiflingly archaic building and into nature. She spread her wings, feeling the nice air whisper through the plumage. Pausing with her eyes closed for a second, it seemed as if she could hear the sound of the plants settling down in preparation for winter. It was so peaceful...
“Princess! Princess Luna! Ah, there you are, we’ve been looking everywhere for you! Everypony thought you were in your room!”
Luna started. Turning around awkwardly and folding her wings, she found one of the guards, Pike, standing in the hedge entryway behind her. She hadn’t heard him. Luna’s dark face lightened a little from a sudden rush of blood. She hadn’t done anything wrong, but it was still embarrassing to be caught outside by herself unexpectedly. “Uh, hello Pike. What is it?”
“Oh, Princess! They told all the guards to split up and look, so I thought to myself, well, if I was a princess and I was taking a break, where would I go? I checked the mare’s room, but there was nopony there, so I checked the stallion’s room, nopony there either, and-”
It amazed her how he could just keep talking on and on without answering her question. Usually ponies showed more respect to the royals. She gave him an exasperated look to tell him to get to the point, but he continued to talk, oblivious to her annoyance. “-en, and here you are! I’m just happy you’re still here, I mean, I don’t know what we would do if-“
“If what, Pike?”
“Well, I don’t know if I, I mean, you-“
“Come on, what’s all the fuss about?”
“It’s not good, I mean, you might get upset-“
Luna was getting impatient. Pike was never one to give a straight answer. Her face contorted into a mean grimace, and a steely edge crept into her voice. “Tell me what is so important that thou had to come get me instead of Celestia!”
“She- I just- *Gasp* Celestia is gone!”
Luna barged into the royal council chamber. All of the high-ranking ponies of government, already assembled, stopped their discussions and started to greet her. She was not in the mood. “This is no time for formalities! Where is she?! Where is Celestia?!” Luna cast wild looks around the meeting table.
“Please, calm down Princess. We’re trying to handle the situation. The last time anypony in Canterlot had seen her, the Sun Princess took one of her impromptu trips across Equestria, flying off to Fillydelphia for some kind of local celebration, several hours ago,” reported the Captain of the Royal Guard.
“Nopony has spoken with her?!”
“No, not since yesterday. The Princess was in a rush this morning.”
Nopony in Canterlot reported seeing the Princess; the public was still in the dark about the situation, and many wondered at the unusual flurry of activity around the castle. Swift dragonfire messages between the cities confirmed that she hadn’t arrived on schedule in Fillydelphia, and several frantic hours of scouring the castle grounds and nearby mountainside yielded no leads.
“She can’t just have vanished! You would really give up on your ruler that easily?!” Luna was shouting at the Captain as she paced angrily around the throne room.
He kept a stern face. Commendable. “No ma’am. We will continue to look.” He turned briefly to give an order to his lieutenants. “Gather the militia!”
The search party leaders combed the city and reported back in one by one.
Residential district: No sign.
Flight docks: Nopony.
Sewers (this one took a while): Void of life.
Market: Scattered; empty.
Guard towers: No.
Castle (again): No.
“No. No. No! NO!”
It was futile searching for Celestia; she had vanished without a trace.
When the time came for the sun to set after a rather long day, Luna was reluctant to assume the responsibility, hoping against hope that somehow Celestia would swoop in and relieve everypony’s panic. But as the moments ticked by and the blistering sun stood still on the horizon, nopony was coming. She stood at the top of the castle, all eyes on her. Surely they couldn’t still think that everything was alright...
The Princess cried tears of deep sorrow, but there was nothing to be done. She lowered the sun, shrouding the land in darkness and abandoning all pretense that she would ever see her beloved sister again.
End of Part One
Part Two: Coming soon!
My Little Pony and related characters and items are trademarked by Hasbro.
The author does not claim ownership of them.
The Colt with Many Friends is adapted from The Hare with Many Friends by Aesop, in the public domain. A version can be found here: www.umass.edu/aesop/fable.php?…