~~~ Moon Dancer ~~~
Written By: Donald Lewis
Author's Note –
Since the names of Twilight's parents aren't specifically mentioned during "The Cutie Mark Chronicles" I went with the names listed on the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Wiki. In the event their names are mentioned in future episodes I will edit the story accordingly. That being said, enjoy.
"No, no, no, no, no, NO!"
Books clattered to the floor as volume after volume ricocheted off the walls and furniture. Many of the large bookshelves stood bare, and the few that remained were quickly losing their contents. Through the window a glint of light began to break over the horizon, shooting a sliver of golden light into the study. As the beam worked its way across the room it came to rest on a very frustrated unicorn pony. The glinting dawn came across her striped mane and flashed in her sky blue eyes. The inherent beauty of the sunrise was lost on her furrowed brow. With an irritated grunt she brought her head down to rest on the pile of books on the table before her.
Star Sparkle let a long sigh escape her as she stared out the window. Another long night of fruitless research had passed. She rubbed her eyes with one hoof as fatigue began to sink in. She never felt tired during the night. The quiet of the empty library always energized her, but with the dawn came the full weight of her exhaustion. It seemed like the nights were getting shorter, but the tired pony knew she was really just pushing herself harder than usual.
Her eyes drifted across the scattered books. For two weeks she had searched every dusty volume for the last ingredient she needed. Many of the spell's reagents she had already managed to come by. Bitterroot grew wildly and abundantly in Whitetail Woods. Glitter Stones were more difficult, requiring several nights of digging in the Froggy Bottom Bog. Even the Storm Cloud Extract was easily enough obtained with a little help from her pegasus friend Medley. Yet still one crucial element eluded her; a small flower. It was said to have the most beautiful bloom in all of Equestria. Legend claimed the tiny silver blossom called Moon Dancer overflowed with magical energy, but only bloomed at twilight during the night of a full moon.
Even after weeks of research in every one of Canterlot's libraries Star Sparkle had not been able to find where wild Moon Dancer grew. The tired unicorn let her eyes drift over the ruined room as the sun continued to rise. She had come so far only to run headlong into another dead end. A low whine slipped through her lips.
"Maybe it is just a legend," Star Sparkle whispered to the empty room. She closed her eyes tightly. A single tear rolled down her cheek and fell quietly onto the pile of books beneath her chin. Another night had passed, alone.
With a tiny sniffle she forced her eyes open, "Well, I guess I should get this mess cleaned up before I go."
Then, something caught her eye. The golden sunlight had crept steadily up the far wall of shelves until a single glint reflected from the tallest shelf. Star Sparkle flinched slightly as her eyes adjusted to the light. She cocked her head to the side, but could only barely make out the corner of a small gilded book. Even completely worn out, with a thousand reference books waiting to be cleaned up, curiosity got the better of her. Her horn glowed with a soft light that matched her white coat, and using all her remaining concentration she brought a long ladder to rest on the bookcase.
Star Sparkle climbed to the top shelf and blew a layer of dust off the tiny booklet. A hard red cover with golden lettering shielded the handful of carefully bound pages. In simple script the title read A Journey Through The Everfree Forest.
"Everfree Forest?" she flipped the cover open with the end of her muzzle, "This looks like a journal. I can't believe someone actually explored that dangerous place."
Her horn released another glow of white light as she magically flipped through the pages. There were only thirty pages in the journal, but it was the last page that made Star Sparkle stop with a jolt. A beautiful flower was painstakingly etched into the last page with magnificent silver ink. Below it a short paragraph read:
I had spent the better part of the day exploring the foothills near the Moon Castle Ruins when I realized twilight was upon me. I was overcome with the urge to run back to the trail before nightfall when a beam of silver caught my eye. At first I thought I had seen an old coin, or perhaps a discarded horseshoe, when suddenly the foothills came to life. A wave of moonlight bathed small blossoms until silver washed over the hills as far as my eye could see. I stood in awe as I realized these were the flowers of legend, Moon Dancers! Though it only lasted an instant, the mark this moment left on me is indelible. To say the least, the fields of silver flowers made the twilight sparkle.
Star Sparkle blinked several times in disbelief before reading the passage again, and then a third time. It was true. She had finally found the answer to her problem, the location of the last reagent for her spell. Shivers of excitement shook her whole body as she leapt excitedly into the air.
She was so elated that it took her a moment to realize she had just jumped off the top of a ladder. Her cry of joy turned into a shriek as she fell headlong into a mountain of books. A cloud of dust and loose papers flew into the air with a crash. Star Sparkle kicked free of the pile of books and dashed to the table. In one motion she threw her saddlebag on her back and clambered back up the ladder. Taking the journal gently into her mouth she tucked it safely away in her bag. Sliding down the ladder she turned and bolted through the library door and down the street.
She paid the ponies she passed no mind as her second wind filled her sails. Star Sparkle galloped with all her might towards the gates of Canterlot. She skidded to a stop before the city's magnificent arched exit and fished a small bag of golden bits from her saddlebag. She tossed the purse lightly to a waiting charioteer and settled in for the flight to Ponyville. From there it would be a short gallop to The Everfree Forest, and at long last every piece of the spell would be gathered. As the golden chariot took flight her mind overflowed with excitement and anticipation. The warm sun and cool breeze invigorated her, and Star Sparkle couldn't keep from cheering as her long anticipated goal finally loomed within grasp.
Even with the midday sun on her shoulders Star Sparkle felt a chill run up her spine. The Everfree Forest stood before her and was as dark as the night beneath its thick canopy. She swallowed hard and felt her stomach turn as the breeze whistled through the sharply bent branches before her. Her mane whipped around her head with the rush of wind and it felt as though the woods were trying to push her away. She took a half step back. The urge to run back to Ponyville was nearly overwhelming, but the Moon Dancer fields waited ahead.
"Come on Star, you can do this!" The bravery in her voice steeled her momentarily. She slowly trotted forward, and as the dark branches consumed the sky above she whispered to herself, "I hope…"
The trail quickly became almost impossible to discern in the thick undergrowth. With every step new sounds emerged from the depths of the hollows, twisted and perverse sounds that could not naturally occur anywhere else in Equestria. More than once she caught herself whimpering when nearby bushes rustled. There were moments when she was sure she had lost the path, and all the while doubts assailed her. Constantly, in the back of her mind, she questioned if the dangers were worth the risk.
The light above never truly broke through to the forest floor making it all but impossible to tell how much time had passed. Minutes felt like hours. Star Sparkle turned her head to the canopy, squinting at the thick leaves.
"Ohhh, I can't even tell where the sun is!" She stamped a hoof on the ground, causing small pebbles to jump, "The full moon is tonight, if I don't find my way soon, I'll miss my chance! Ugggh!" Grinding her teeth she reared back, and with all her weight brought her fore hooves down hard on the ground. The nearby pebbles flew into the underbrush, most scattering into the dirt, but one resounded with a soft thud. Immediately the bush to her left began to growl, and two red eyes formed slits through the leaves.
Star Sparkle gasped and slowly stepped back. The bush rustled violently. With a rush the red eyes leaped forward to reveal…
"A…chicken?" She blinked, confusion playing across her face at the small feathered head glaring from the leaves, "What are you doing all the way out her little…"
She took a step forward. Rather, she tried to take a step forward. Her hind legs remained firmly in place. With a jolt, Star Sparkle felt her legs grow cold. Her entire hindquarter from the flank down seized up. She turned her head slowly, afraid of what she might see, and then let out a shriek that pierced the air like a siren. Her legs had turned to stone.
She pulled desperately forward with her hooves, tossing her mane and twisting her hips, but her legs remained firmly in place. Terror began to seize her, followed quickly by panic. She clawed desperately into the soft earth but still her hind legs refused to move. Her breathing became ragged and uncontrolled. The icy fingers of stone crept up her flank and began to consume her cutie mark. A loud squawk brought her eyes back to the bush. She felt her pupils shrink as she cowered before the slender reptilian body that slithered from the underbrush. Small green wings flapped furiously as the beast reared its entire body from the forest floor. A memory flickered through her mind from her studies, a flash of incite. This was a cockatrice.
Her mind raced, fueled by fear and the need to survive. She remembered. The gaze of a cockatrice causes petrifaction. Immediately Star Sparkle closed her eyes as tightly as she could and twisted her neck, burying her muzzle into her mane. She could feel the cold creep of stone slow as she averted her gaze. The cockatrice shrieked louder than ever before. She felt sharp claws dig into her shoulder. A yelp escaped her throat as the monster tried to force her to open her eyes. She kicked wildly forward using her hooves as weapons, trying desperately to drive back the cockatrice. Her right hoof connected with a scaled belly and she felt the beast slither back for a moment with a screech of pain.
The cockatrice lunged forward, digging claws deep into her side and tearing gashes with its razor sharp beak. She dare not open her eyes even though the pain was excruciating. Her wounds shot like electricity through her body, her nerves screamed. She found herself unable to resist as the cockatrice dragged her torso and fore hooves to the ground. Her back arched in the air as the beast pinned her front while her rear stood petrified. She felt the claws digging ever deeper into her flesh as the world began to spin. With the last of her strength Star Sparkle summoned her voice and let out a scream as loud as her voice could muster. She formed no words, only a desperate cry that echoed into the woods.
Light began to dance before her tightly closed eyes. She was certain she was about to pass out, but the light grew brighter. Waves of blue light danced around her. She felt the monster's claws release her side and heard the cockatrice cry shrilly. She felt its body slither away from her and heard the bushes rustle loudly as the beast vanished into the depths of the forest. After a moment everything went quiet, but the glow persisted. Still terrified Star Sparkle kept her eyes tightly clenched, her muzzle tucked under her fore hooves. She shivered from pain and fear, and the tiniest of whimpers escaped her. Then, she heard a gentle voice.
"Its going to be alright, I've got you."
The warmth of his voice made her shivers and fears vanish. As tentatively as she could manage, pulling her head up, she ventured a squinted glance up. A male unicorn was standing over her, his blue coat shining from the light of his horn. His calm golden eyes looked down at her with a gentle smile. The warm magical energy he emanated made her forget for a moment the danger she had just been in. He bent his head down near hers and the unmistakable scent of morning dew filled her nostrils.
"I need you to stay still for a minute."
Her voice escaped her, but Star Sparkle managed to give him a timid nod. He took a step around her and brought his horn to rest on her wounds. She immediately flinched away from his touch with a gasp. He gently brought his horn against her shoulder again and whispered to her.
"Shhh, it will be okay, I promise. Just stay still."
She whimpered shyly, but managed to muster enough of her voice to whisper back, "Okay."
He closed his eyes. A calming glow of energy swirled around his horn and through his mane. She felt her wounds tingle from his magic and gasped as her body shivered. It felt as though a warm blanket were wrapping her inside and out cozily into a snug bed. As the glow subsided she could feel the pain in her side disappear. She brought her head up and around to watch as he moved his horn around to her hindquarters. She felt him touch her flank with the same magical energy. With a rush of heat her legs broke free from their icy encasement causing her to collapse.
She stretched her hind legs with a sigh of relief. His warm muzzle nudged her neck and he helped her to her hooves. Star Sparkle tossed her mane and tail, taking it in turn to stretch each of her legs. The young male took a few steps back and tilted his head thoughtfully.
"Does everything feel alright? I've never actually had to use those spells before."
"Oh, I feel great now," she said bringing her eyes up to meet the blue unicorn's considerate gaze. A flush of red crossed her cheeks and she darted her eyes away. She looked down and fiddled with a stick beneath her hoof, "Thank you for saving me. I thought that cockatrice was going to make a statue out of me."
"I'm just glad I heard you in time," His tail flicked idly from side to side as he spoke, and his voice carried a note of genuine concern "It can be pretty dangerous out here, especially if you're all alone."
"I know, but," she brought her blue eyes up only to find herself glancing away again, "I need to find something, something important, and I can't find it anywhere else."
He furrowed his brow slightly, "Even so, you shouldn't be out her all alone."
Star Sparkle looked up shyly, "Well… I don't really have many friends, and I'm not from around her, so, there's not really anypony I could have asked…"
The male unicorn looked taken aback, and lowered his head, letting his mane cover part of his face, "I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"Oh, its okay," she brought up her head, "I'm just glad you found me." She watched as he raised his head, a look of relief on his face. A smile grew across her face as she got her first real look at her savior. His blue coat shined even without the light of his magic, and his wavy darker mane complimented his slender, muscular build. She felt a tug at her heart, warmth as though the heat of his magic was still flowing through her. That warmth filled her smile as she gazed at the male pony before her.
"I'm Star Sparkle," she said shyly, "What's your name?"
"My name is Night Light," he said with a broad grin, allowing a flash of blue light to travel over his body.
She felt a giggle escape her lips, "That's a cute trick Night Light."
"You think I'm Cute?" his grin seemed to double in size at the compliment.
Star Sparkle flushed red and looked away, "Well, um…" her voice seemed to disappear again, but she managed to mumble incoherently. She was spared from her embarrassment when a series of shrieks echoed from the nearby undergrowth.
Both ponies turned and stared into the brush, "We shouldn't stay here," he whispered sidelong, "Stay close, I'll take you back to the trail."
Moving deliberately and swiftly the pair moved away from the shrieking. Star Sparkle followed close behind the slightly taller blue pony. He easily moved aside branches to make a path for her to follow, holding the longer branches while she passed. Before long the two found themselves standing on the overgrown forest path, the distant shrieking no longer audible.
"This way the path will take us back to Ponyville. If we hurry we can be back before it gets dark," Night Light began to walk down the path and went several strides before stopping. He turned his head over his shoulder and saw Star Sparkle behind him, unmoving, looking at him with a meek expression.
"I'm sorry, but I can't leave yet," she looked over her shoulder down the path, "I've come so far, I have to at least try." Her eyes came back around to meet his. A mix of sadness and bravado filled her voice. Night Light turned around and met the white pony, blinking several times before he spoke.
"You know how dangerous it is out here, and it only gets worse at night." He closed the distance between them as she again averted her gaze. Even though she was looking away, she could feel the concern in his eyes as he stared at her. "What could be so important that it can't wait until morning?"
She turned her head, letting her mane partly cover her eyes as she met his gaze, "I need something for a spell I've been working on for a very long time. It's the last reagent I need, and I can only get it tonight, when the full moon comes out." She turned away, showing her back to the blue unicorn. "I'm sorry, but I can't go back with you."
The sadness in her voice came through despite her best efforts, and she knew her knees were shaking as she took a step away down the path. Tears began to well in her eyes. Her voice choked. She tried to take another step forward, unable to look back, when she heard him trot up beside her.
"Well," he sighed, "If you need it before moonrise, we should start moving." He continued past her and headed deeper into the forest. Star Sparkle looked up through her teary eyes slightly agape.
"Where are you going?"
"You said you needed to find your last reagent before the moon comes out, right?" He turned to look over his shoulder at her, "And I can't very well let you go alone."
His smile caught her completely off guard. Again the warmth she had felt from his magic swelled in her heart. "You really mean it?"
Still grinning he trotted back and joined the female unicorn, "I can't just leave you out her after dark without a nightlight, now can I?"
His corny smile made her laugh. She brought up one of her hooves and wiped her teary eyes. Then she nuzzled her neck into his mane and whispered just loud enough for him to hear, "Thank you Night Light."
The winding trail led the pair deep into the heart of the forest. All the way Night Light stayed a half stride ahead, moving ahead of her whenever the underbrush rustled unnaturally. Dusk was steadily approaching when the two stopped to rest alongside a winding river.
Star Sparkle let the cold water pour down her throat as she drank from the river. With a splash she tossed her head back. A loud, content sigh escaped her before lying down on a bed of clover. Night Light wiped his muzzle with his fore hoof and sat down next to where she lay. Her purple-white striped mane glistened with droplets of water that matched the blue in her eyes. She looked up blinking at him with a gentle smile, "Tell me about your self Night Light. What brought a pony like you out into The Everfree Forest?" He looked out over the water with a contemplative smile,
"Well, I've lived in Fillydelphia my whole life. I don't mind living in the city, but at night the city lights get so bright. Sometimes you can barely tell its night at all. When I was just a little foal my parents took me out of the city for the first time, into Whitetail Wood. It was so different from the city. Fireflies, starlight, moonlight, it all has a beauty to it I had never seen in city lights. It was that night, playing with my parents under the moon, when this appeared."
Night Light tossed his head and gestured at the pair of crescent moons that formed his cutie mark.
"Since then I've loved exploring new places, especially at night. I even keep journals from my more interesting trips. That's actually the reason I'm here tonight. A long time ago I found something amazing while exploring near the Moon Castle Ruins. I'm hoping I can find it again tonight."
Star Sparkle blinked as her eyes grew wider, "Wait a minute, did you say you keep journals of where you explore?"
The blue pony looked away with a guilty blush, "Kind of a weird hobby isn't it?"
"What color was it?" the white filly asked excitedly.
The blue colt blinked, surprised, "It was red, with gold lettering," the male unicorn tilted his head, "Why do you ask?"
The white filly turned her neck around and rummaged her muzzle into her saddlebag. After fishing around, and with a beaming grin, she pulled out the journal she had found in Canterlot. Night Light's jaw dropped in disbelief.
"Where in Equestria did you find that?!" he asked excitedly as she placed the book between them.
"I found it in a library in Canterlot. It was covered in dust up on a tall shelf," Star Sparkle continued to smile triumphantly as the blue unicorn eagerly flipped through the old pages. When the last page opened, revealing the engraved Moon Dancer relief, they both looked on beaming.
"That's it, that's what I've come here to find!" Night Light jumped up excitedly.
"Actually," Star Sparkle got up to her hooves and joined the blue unicorn looking down at his journal, "It's why I came here too. The last thing I need to complete my spell is a Moon Dancer blossom." She turned and looked up at the taller unicorn, "In fact it was your journal that showed me where I could find it."
"Whoa," Night Light said, "so it's almost like…"
"…Like we were supposed to find it, together." She finished the sentence for him. Their eyes met in a deep, almost enchanted gaze. Neither pony noticed their muzzles drifting slowly closer until their noses touched. Both jumped at the cold touch and turned away, flushing red. After a moment their sidelong glances met again.
Star Sparkle brushed the mane out of her eyes, still red cheeked, "We should probably keep going if we're going to find the Moon Dancer before twilight."
Night Light nodded and bent down to scoop up his journal. He gently tucked it back into her saddlebag and took his place by her side.
"Shall we?" he offered, extending a hoof forward with a courteous bow.
She giggled, "Yes, we shall."
By the time the unicorns reached the fields around the Moon Castle Ruins nightfall was nearly upon them. The restless forest seemed to be coming alive as night approached, but Star Sparkle wasn't afraid anymore. She even managed to keep from jumping when the bushes rustled around them. Despite the very real dangers that lurked in the shadows she truly felt safe with Night Light by her side.
A clearing broke ahead at the crest of a hill, and before them spread as far as the eye could see were thousands of tiny green plants reaching to the darkening sky. The canopy broke over the foothills allowing the sun to shine unopposed over the fields. For a long moment the pair stood side by side, looking over the hillside as the last rays of golden light slipped behind the horizon. Several moments passed before the sun dropped out of view, and for an instant, even the air seemed to freeze in surreal silence.
A glint of silver broke through the grass. Immediately another shoot followed, and then another, until in an instant the hillside was swept by silver light. The moon hung full and glorious in the air, silver beams gliding down as the Moon Dancers shot beams of their own silver light upward. The whole world was bathed in a beauty that seemed to make time stop.
Star Sparkle brought her head to rest on the blue colt's shoulder, "Oh Night Light, it's so beautiful."
With a grin he brought his head down and plucked a silver blossom from between their hooves. He turned to the filly beside him and tucked the gorgeous bloom behind her left ear, "You're beautiful."
She looked up into his eyes and felt her nose brush against his. This time though, she didn't pull away. She brought her muzzle up slightly and met his lips with her own. The air tingled around them both. Night Light's horn began to glow as they kissed, washing both unicorns in soft blue light while the world danced in beams of silver around them.
Time crawled to a stop for the two ponies. A world all their own froze, and flashed arrays of dazzling light through the night sky. Then, slowly at first but with growing speed, the silver petals began to close. The light faded back into the clouds above, and the moon rose higher into the sky. The world slipped past the twilight moment and the flow of time resumed.
She pulled her muzzle away from her companion for a moment, and let her forehead rest on his. Their horns crossed while Night Light's glow wrapped them both in warm magic. He gazed longingly into her eyes, the silver flower in her hair enhancing her beauty more than his words could adequately say. For a long while they stood like that, close together, letting the magic light flow around them.
After several moments had passed the blue unicorn nuzzled the white filly's neck. He whispered in her ear as she nuzzled back, just loud enough for her to hear his gentle voice say, "I love you."
She closed her eyes as she felt a tear of joy roll down her cheek.
"I love you too."
It was already close to dawn when the two ponies found their way out of The Ever Free Forest. They had spent the night watching the stars and moon together, napping in the clearing that belonged only to them. The moon waned in the sky as it neared the horizon, and golden light threatened to burst into the sky at any moment.
"You know, you never told me what spell you were working on."
Star Sparkle turned to the taller unicorn with a bashful smile, eyeing the silver blossom in her hair, "You know what? I don't think I need it anymore."
Night Light blinked in disbelief, "Even after everything you went through to get the blossom?"
She nodded with a contented smile, "Yes, I'm sure." She trotted ahead of her companion and turned to face him. The horizon gleamed behind her where the sun would soon rise.
"I thought if I used the right spell, I wouldn't have to be alone at night anymore. I was hoping my spell could fill the loneliness in my heart. But I was wrong. This whole time I thought I could fix my problems with magic, but in the end, something magical happened to me instead." She walked closer to the grinning blue unicorn,
"When I met you, I could feel your light glow in my heart. Right then I knew, deep inside, that I wouldn't ever be lonely again, because now I have you."
A flash of gold cut across the countryside, splashing brilliant rays off of Star Sparkle's white coat. The sunlight wrapped around the filly in such a radiant display that Night Light couldn't keep from staring agape. Her smile beamed brighter than the sun as she closed the distance between them.
"You're the one I've been looking for my whole life. I'm so glad I found you Night Light. It's not enough to say I love you. You complete me."
She brought her muzzle to his before he could speak and embraced him with her fore hooves. She melted into him as the sun melted the night into the brightest of dawns.
Epilogue – One Year Later
Night Light paced nervously outside the medical stable. His pacing had worn a groove in the grass outside the building that perfectly fit each step of his hooves. The sun had nearly set on the longest day of his life, hours dragging by like eternities, minutes like eons. He continued his circular path with unparalleled precision. Had he been a smoking pony he surely would have worn a pipe down to its nub.
So many thoughts ran through his mind as he circled that he did not notice Nurse Sweetheart come out to get him. She had to tap him on the shoulder to get his attention. The blue unicorn jumped, startled. With a warm smile the nurse giggled at him.
"You can go in and see them now, and don't worry, they're both just fine."
With a mighty kick he reared onto his hind legs and whinnied a cheer before galloping at full speed into the medical stable. He dashed as quickly as his hooves would carry him around to his wife's stall. Skidding to a halt Night Light stopped next to the soft hay Star Sparkle rested on. She looked up at her husband with the sweetest smile he had ever seen. A little ball of purple fur was curled up between her legs.
Taking gentle steps the colt crept up next to his new family. Star Sparkle craned her neck up and nuzzled her husband. Before either could speak a tiny yawn peeped up from below. The blue and white ponies let their gaze rest upon the tiny purple pony with big violet eyes. The little foal blinked repeatedly, trying to adjust her eyes to her new surroundings. Star Sparkle let out a soft giggle.
"She looks just like you," Night Light remarked with quiet awe.
"You mean she looks just like us," the tired white filly gently corrected him. With a tender nudge Star Sparkle coaxed her foal to curl against her. Another tiny yawn escaped the ball of purple fur as she fell asleep, snuggled against her mother's side.
Night Light gently lowered himself beside his wife. Through the window the last of the sun's brilliant rays began to slip beyond the horizon.
"We need to think of a name," Star Sparkle whispered. As she spoke the sun disappeared from view completely and a brilliant full moon rose to take its place. Silver light bathed the room with gentle rays. The two unicorns smiled at each other, letting their foreheads touch and horns cross. Both knew the perfect name for their bundle of joy. Her father reached down and nuzzled his little girl.
"Welcome to Equestria, Twilight Sparkle."
~~~ The End ~~~