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Conversation with a Lunar Prisoner

by Steady_Gaze

You’d never suspect what a little gaffe by an overworked clerk can do. It might, through a chain of events, cause the disappearance of old scrolls that were slated to be disposed of anyway. That was the reason I was here, as I tried to focus as I crept quietly through the narrow stone stairwell. My friends and I are guerillas who wanted to fight for an old, almost forgotten, but better Equestria (or maybe to steal enough extra rations; it’s hard to tell some days). And this is what we needed—the fruit of the forbidden knowledge of how to best do so. (And maybe they’d finally stop giving me guff for spending all my free time going through old scrolls.) The knowledge would come from some aged pony… a guru venerable enough to have known the sun’s light with her own eyes, and its warmth with her own coat.

A strange quiet scraping sound filled the air as I approached the doorway I was searching for. I raised a hoof to open the window into the cell. An old unicorn mare with a graying mane and a faded white coat turned and locked eyes with me. The moonlight lit the cell from a tiny window, strangely beautifully on its own, but revealing a dizzying array of intricate etchings over every surface. My mouth hung agape, a bit stunned at (but also ignoring) the detail of the carvings, but also not knowing how to begin with… her.

“You aren’t—” she started—

“I’m not… one of them” I said, interrupting and finishing her thought. A gleam of recognition lit up her eyes… not the recognition of a friend, since we’d never met, but a recognition of a certain hope. It was accompanied by a weary smile.

“Honestly, I knew as soon as you started staring awkwardly. The guards don’t stop to chitchat or admire my work very often…” I felt a note of relief upon realizing that she’d be doing most of the talking. Her smile went from weary to wry. “Such a strange instruction on your message… that I should eat it?”

“No precaution is too great… your cell might be searched.” I replied. A search that would take barely a couple minutes (assuming the likely subversive content of the drawings was ignored), as there was only a mattress atop a stone frame and a chamber pot.

“I understand… I suppose it went down well enough. You’re not here to… break me out, are you?”

“Too risky. Not this time, at least. Stealing a guard uniform and blending in was risky enough.”

“Phooey. There’s nothing out there for me anyway…” she said, resigned. “I’m ready, though. Ask away..”

“How long has it been? Since… since anypony has seen the sun?”

“Perhaps two generations… enough for me to have aged quite nicely.” Was that a wink, from an old mare?? Agh! “Not that I’ve been counting the years. Owing to the… Starving Time and all…”

“So how did this happen… we’ve had our sources, but you’ve been there since it started…”

“Hmm… well, it was actually a very particular day. The town of Ponyville had been given the honor of hosting the Summer Sun Celebration. It was a yearly event to commemorate the sun and her avatar…” She instinctively leaned close before uttering the forbidden name. “Princess Celestia. I was there, being responsible for the decorations, and all. She proclaimed her Lunar Kingdom had come according to a prophecy nopony had heard of before, and that Princess Celestia had been banished forever. After the mayor told her the new capitol was in Canterlot, she rushed off in a cloud of smoke. Everypony was shaken up and didn’t quite believe it, but then… the sun never rose again… and news came from Canterlot that Nightmare Moon was queen…”

The prisoner continued. “Nightmare Moon tried to set up a new administration to rule her kingdom, and it worked for a time. I managed to find employment in her castle as a maintainer of the palace tapestries. That’s why I’m here actually, royal disfavor and all…some ponies can’t seem to appreciate good style, even if you hoof-deliver it to them. Either it was for that or for… knowing things. They never did say.”

“No, it was for knowing things.”

”Oh hay…” It was apparent from her expression that she was greatly disappointed to be a kind of real martyr rather than a fashion martyr. Some ponies! “Nevertheless, ponies hadn’t appreciated the loss of their beloved sun, with perhaps the greatest motivator being their stomachs. The loss of the sun had meant the loss of the sun’s fruits. Oh, what I would give for one of Applejack’s apples now, instead of one of those mangy ‘fruits’ that batponies eat…. Nightmare Moon’s frustration only grew more apparent to us we who worked in the castle, as the promotion of her beautiful night through heavy-hoofed means only inspired greater fear, greater disgust, greater hatred.”

“What happened then?” I said, absorbed in her tale.

“She simply allowed the rebelling regions to starve and fall into ruin. With the populations of the earth ponies, pegai, and unicorns greatly reduced, the batponies, one of Epona’s forgotten children, were finally ascendant. They naturally adore the night, much as the other races once adored the sun, and no longer need to hide in caves during the day. Oh, and as for reconciling with her lost sister, she must have lacked either the means, or the desire. Or both.”

“How do we stop her?”

The prisoner smiled. “Something incredibly strange happened when I was still working at Nightmare Moon’s castle. A never-seen alicorn and a baby dragon arrived and both claimed to know me. They claimed to be from a timeline where Princess Celestia still reigned and Nightmare Moon demanded to be taken to the source of their magic.”

“Wait… a different… timeline?”

“A timeline? Time travel? Oh, nopony has time for science fiction these days.”

“Actually, I’m perhaps the only pony I’d know who’d know what alternate timelines are… I’m more shocked that they might be real.”

”Real or not, I did meet this pony and dragon. Nightmare Moon told everypony afterwards that she had destroyed them and their strange magic, but I wiled some information out of one of the guards afterwards… it seems they escaped. This alicorn claimed to have used some ‘Elements of Harmony’ to defeat Nightmare Moon. I believe that is what you are looking for.”

My eyes lit up… “Elements of Harmony? What are they?”

Her face fell. “I… don’t know… and the alicorn never explained what they were, and asking Nightmare Moon is out of the question. I’m sorry…”

“Still, in all my research I’ve never heard of a way to out-and-out defeat the Nightmare… you’ve helped more than you know. I’d like to ask you more questions, but I must be on my way soon…”

“Actually…” she levitated something out the narrow bars. It was a tiny slab, just small enough to fit diagonally through the viewing slot in the door. “I’ve always wished for my artistry to be known all over Equestria before… I’ve been forced to switch mediums. Should your cause succeed, you wouldn’t mind giving this slab a place of honor in a museum, or somesuch? Make sure the artist is labeled as… Rarity.” Her hopeful expression turned to a wistful one as she mentioned her own name.

I chuckled… such a strange concern… but the mind does wander when a pony has three square meals a day. I studied it a moment before accepting it. It was an intricate carving of just the events she’d described.

“Alright. And I promise you I’ll do everything in my power to find out what these ‘Elements of Harmony’ are. And once I know, my friends and I will fight whatever foe awaits us to get them.”

“Ah, I remember the vigor of youth… of feeling like you can take on the world with your friends… maybe you’re further along than you know…”

With that, I bid her goodbye. It seems my journey is not over yet.