Chapter 13.5 Out of the Ashes
The Everfree Forest
-Three Days Ago-
High above the clouds, a fortress of ground and forest flew aloft in the sky. A forest made of rough vines and vicious creatures, torn from it’s rightful place among Equestria.
An entire forest floated atop the sea of swirling grey clouds that stretched on as far as the eye could see. Vines hung off the sides and roots grew out of the sides of the underside of the forest, which was shaped like an upside-down mountain.
The sky around the flying forest was a swirl of colors and purple lights. Stars littered the sky, arranged with an almost painstaking detail. In one end of the sky shone a full moon, bursting with a blue light that swirled among the other colors.
On the other end a sun hung desperately at the edge of the horizon, clinging to what life it had left and refusing to burn out. Swirls of yellow and deep red clashed with the full moon’s light, creating large wisps of purple and light blue.
The dying sun coated the forest in an eternal sunset, as if to taunt it’s sole occupant. The land that had been marred by darkness had become a home to the source of it’s corruption.
In the center of the wild forest stood a tall castle, erected over the ruins of it’s former self. It was a round dome-shaped structure with a wing on each side. The castle’s wings were curved around the dome, like a crescent moon caressing a sphere. A high tower protruded out of the center of the elaborate dome, and at the top was the forest’s creator.
Nightmare Moon opened a large dark blue door that opened to the room of her throne. A black carpet with blue trimmings spread into the empty throne room, still awaiting the day that a chorus of ponies would walk upon it’s surface.
For such a proud castle, it had yet to hold any royal proceedings or events. Very few ponies have ever been allowed into it. It’s lonely halls stood only as a monument to it’s creator: Nightmare Moon.
Nightmare Moon’s hoofsteps echoed through the hollow hall as she stepped up to her black throne. Her light blue helmet floated off of her head and placed itself onto a pedestal next to a second helmet that sported a large crack running from the eye to the top.
A spark of anger passed through Nightmare Moon as she felt the helmet’s presence, just as it did every time she passed it. That crack only served to push her desire for revenge even further.
Other pieces of her armor glowed blue and then floated off of Nightmare Moon’s body as she ascended the steps to her throne. The black alicorn sat down on a blue cushion and turned the throne around to face an open balcony overlooking the sky.
She gazed up at the full moon, and reveled in it’s form. It had been five years since anypony besides herself had seen the moon, or the sun. The sun had not given up it’s place easily, it had taken almost a month to cause it to be pushed back to the corner of the sky.
One pony had brought the sun’s light to their town, and it had cost them their life. The rest of the town soon followed suit, and all perished. All except for one, who had suffered a far worse fate.
Yes, victory had been difficult to seize for the alicorn. Canterlot was not the only city turned to ash in her drive to bring Equestria under her reigns. Towns and cities soon bent to her however, be it through brute force or other means.
And yet, the alicorn refused to allow anyone else above the clouds. It was her domain, ruled over with anger and spite for those below. It was a prison to contain her hateful vengence towards Equestria and her very sister.
As Nightmare Moon sat in her quiet throne looking up at the moon, she looked over her shoulder at the dying sun.
“You know what you must do to lower it.” A voice spoke in her head. To any other pony, the voice would send chills down their spine, but for Luna it was a familiar one.
“Luminaria, you know why we do what we do.” Nightmare Moon said out loud.
“Yes, but the time has come. Your sister shall become a threat unless definitive action is taken. She must be ended.”
“She resides in Ponyville within the barrier, she is not a concern.”
“She will not stay forever. Her time must come to an end.”
“Her time will come, make no mistake. With her weakened power and my strengthened magic she is can be dealt with on my terms, not hers.”
“Luna.” The voice grew slightly angry. “I did not give you this power to resolve your petty vengeance.”
“That was what we aimed to do, was it not? She must suffer as we suffered, and I will make every inch her heart and body writhe in agony as we did. I will make her suffer as she watches the world crumble around her, then she can die.”
“And what of the Elements of Dissonance? Our search has brought us nothing.”
Nightmare Moon looked back at the moon. “They have faded out of the world for centuries, they are relics of the past. Celestia will have nothing to make her remember them, I have removed all mention of them from the archives and killed all those in the bloodlines that carry the knowledge of them.”
“Even if you cut off the weed’s head, it’s roots still grow. A way will surface in time. We must focus on finding this root and tear it up.”
“You worry over nothing. I value your council and your gifts, but I know this kingdom better then you ever could.”
“Be very careful Luna, it would be foolish to underestimate your sister.”
“I know, and I will go to her soon. But for now the zebra stands watch over Ponyville, and she will deal with any trouble that should arise.”
Some time of silence went by, with neither Luna nor the voice inside her mind speaking.
“If that is all, I will leave you to your thoughts. But know this, there is a threat seeking Celestia out, and it will find her in time. She likely will not be alone the next time you see her.”
Luna waited for Luminaria to say something else, but she was alone once more in her throne room.
“I hope she is not.” She said under her breath. “So that I she may watch as I burn them away and leave her to mourn the ashes.”
The moon shone down on Nightmare Moon as she let her anger brew inside her. Despite having an entire kingdom to run, she preferred to be right here in her castle. She had councils set up in each city that would do her bidding and run the city in her place, leaving other matters free.
Matters such as her millennium old rivalry, and keeping the dragons in line. She had appointed a number of dragons to keep the ponies in line by fear, and she in turn rewarded them handsomely.
Most adhered to the contract but some grew restless, feeling their pride to be insulted by working for a lowly pony. They would have to be dealt with soon.
As Nightmare Moon sat thinking about the dragons the sound of feathers ruffling made her ear twitch. Birds often would fly up to the tower from the forest, looking for a place to nest. Most of the time Nightmare Moon clipped their wings and flung them from the tower, but other times they left when they saw her.
This one didn’t leave though. In fact, Nightmare Moon could hear it hopping closer. She turned around to grab the bird with her magic but when she saw it she froze.
A phoenix stood just ten feet from Nightmare Moon. It opened it’s mouth and cawed happily.
“Kyaaw!” She loudly cried.
“Philomena?” Nightmare Moon said, surprised. “Y-you found me.”
“Kyaaaaw!” Philomena cawed and excitedly flew up to the throne, landing on the armrest.
“How did you find me?” She asked the bird. Philomena responded by flapping her wings and rubbing her head against Nightmare Moon’s face. Nightmare Moon closed her eyes and smiled for the first time in a long time.
“You still recognize me...” She reasoned, rubbing Philomena’s chin with her hoof. Philomena responded by spreading her wings and flying in circles around the throne, cawing happily.
“I thought that when Canterlot fell, you were gone as well. I suppose fire cannot hurt you, huh Philomena?” Nightmare Moon said.
“Kyaaw!” She answered.
Philomena flew all around the large throne room. She glowed slightly in her happiness, lighting up the stone walls as she passed them. Her gliding soon slowed however, as she passed by the two helmets kept stored on stone busts of Nightmare Moon.
She flew over to one and looked at it, confused. They seemed to give off something foul that only she could see. Philomena looked back at Nightmare Moon, asking with her eyes for an explanation.
“That’s who I am now, Philomena. It’s what Celestia made me become.” Nightmare moon said.
Philomena looked back at the helmet with a crack in it and her enthusiasm drained. “Kyawaa...” She cooed sadly.
“Don’t be sad little Philomena. This is your home now, here with me. I will keep you safe and make sure you have everything you want.” Nightmare Moon offered, growing excited. “This is wonderful, I can hardly belive you came back to me.”
Whatever excitement Philomena had was slowly draining as she looked between her master and their new armor.
“Come.” Nightmare Moon stood up. “I will build a wonderful cage for you, a better one then Celestia ever made for you. You will be safe and happy again.”
With that she started walking towards the exit of the throne room, the doors opening from her magic.
“Kayaaaaw....” Philomena cawed soflty.
She slowly opened her wings and followed Luna into the castle.
Somewhere in Equestria
-The Present Day-
Wind swept through the plains. Hills stretched in all directions. A trail of hoofprints in the grass lead to the top of a hill, and at the end of them was a single pony laying motionless in the ocean.
A small two-wheeled cart rolled by, pulled by a navy blue earth pony who’s head hung low. In the back sat was a small, light pink, unicorn filly sleeping next to a bag of supplies. The stallion pulling the cart noticed the pony laying in the grass and stopped the cart next to her.
He unhitched himself and walked over to the pony while the filly slowly opened her ruby colored eyes and brushed an unkempt golden hair out of her face. Like most fillies, she lacked a cutie mark, but unlike most fillies she also lacked a tail.
The older earth pony looked down at the pony laying in the dirt, eyeing her with disgust. His eyelids hung low like they always did, too tired to stay up. He reached his hoof over the pony’s body and touched the golden necklace hanging around her neck.
“Mommy?” The filly said, seeing the pony on the ground.
“It’s not mommy.” The earth pony said with disdain. “We talked about this Garnet, mommy isn’t here. She’s gone.” He almost spat out the last the last two words.
“Daddy look, it’s mommy!” The filly fumbled out of the cart and ran towards the pony lying on the ground. “It’s mommy! It’s her!”
“Get back in the cart.” The earth pony shoved a hoof in front of her, stopping her in her tracks. “That’s not mommy. You made her leave, remember?”
“B-but it’s mommy! S-she’s a unicorn and she looks just like her!” Garnet stammered.
“I said get back in the cart!” The earth pony shouted.
His shout made Garnet reel back in fear. Her eyes welled up and she fell to the ground. As if on cue the pony on the ground coughed and her purple head nudged against the ground.
The earth pony watched carefully. Garnet squirmed on the ground, trying to get closer but her father held her back.
The pony slowly lifted up their head, her eyes barely opening. She had an empty saddlebag on her back and her body had patches of burns.
“Mommy!” Garnet shouted. “What happened mommy? Did you get attacked by dragons too?”
“Garnet, leave her alone.” The father nudged her. She complied and stood still for the most part.
The unicorn looked up at the earth pony and blinked, trying to regain her senses.
“Are you alright?” The earth pony asked her. She either couldn’t answer, or chose not to.
The earth pony lowered his head so he was eye level with her. “What’s your name?” He asked.
A gust of wind swept through the unicorn’s purple hair. She looked at him through a haze. The light breeze swept through her hair again, as if pressuring her to continue.
She took a breath to fill her aching lungs again.
“My name is Twilight Sparkle.”
-End of Act II-
Twilight's story is just beginning, her journey continues in her own upcoming standalone story: Searching For Dawn.