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What could possibly be imperfect about this?
A velvety, indigo sky stretched from horizon to horizon, bejeweled with white, shining stars of cold heat? The gaudy colors of broad daylight softened by quiet grays and gentle blues? Darkness and tranquility all around, so delicately woven across reality? In my eyes, it is beautiful and impeccable.
But why does nobody agree with me? Do they not see what I see?
I sigh, taking off from the tower balcony into the still air. Relishing the feel of my wings on the wind, I climb higher and higher so that I might touch the stars I had placed in the sky. Their pinpricks of light are like tiny hopes in an infinite dark, a metaphor surely anypony could appreciate. Especially those who had lived through Discord’s reign of chaos--what am I saying? Those folk are dead and gone. Only me and my sister remember that ancient time of terror. Just like only I am awake. Doomed to forever wander a moonlit earth at daylight’s end, with none to appreciate my work. Nothing has changed since my reign of terror as Night Mare Moon. Nothing, that is, except for me. My tantrum did not awaken anypony to the silence of night. All it did was let me blow off some steam...
I shudder, despite the mild temperature at my cruising altitude. I do not know why I refer to that event so casually. What I had almost done is unthinkable. Now I understand that there must be a balance between sun and moon, and that if it means I must withhold my frustration, so be it. It is unfair for me to take out my bitterness upon the subjects that I so often beg to love me.
Is it? After all, when it all comes down, it is their fault that I became that terrible mare of darkness. If they had only accepted me, loved me as they do my sister--
“Stop it,” I growl, squinting my eyes shut. I subconsciously begin to fly faster, as if I can run away from the darkness inside of me. But I try to quell it, keep it hidden, let the darkness fester inside of me rather than emerge vengefully. It churns in my gut, swirling like a stormcloud, like my mane and tail did that night where I had tried to imprison my sister forever.
“You did this, not them!” I tell it. “Thinking like that will not help! Don’t hurt them! You’re the monster, not....me.”
I land without noticing I have, touching down somewhere in the Everfree forest. The irony of my conversation with myself has me in a trance, in which I stay for an uncountable amount of time. But when I do come to consciousness, I am in for a shock. The gnarled shapes of the trees, innocent in daylight’s truth, seem to be contorted painfully in the stark shadows. The horrible faces of my nightmares loom out at me--though it is truly one face, and one Night Mare. I am looking in a cursed mirror, unable to turn my gaze from those draconic eyes, full of bitterness and wrathful hatred. Somewhere inside me I know that they are not truly there, but that doesn’t mean they can’t frighten me. No wonder Equestria fears and shuns my night. It is as terrible as it is beautiful.
“I-I did this,” I stammer, as pitifully as a filly hiding under the bed from my alter ego. Breathing rapidly and shallowly, I look down, shaking at the revelation. Night Mare Moon is more than just the cruel aftereffect of being overshadowed. Night is as much of a multiplicity as I am--soft and beautiful under light, but a dark terror when that light is not present. But I don’t want to be this way. I want to be kind and gentle all the time. I just want everypony to forget who I was and see who I am now!
I actually don’t realize I’m saying this out loud.
But somepony does.
“I see you now.”
I look up with a sharp intake of breath, as I thought that I was alone. At first I don’t see anypony--just a pair of luminescent yellow eyes. But realizing that I can’t see him, he steps out farther into the moonlight. It’s a pegasus, with a pelt and mane so dark a color he was virtually invisible. He folds his wings back nervously, bowing before me. I roll my eyes at the gesture--although inside I find it a shameful reminder of the fear I receive in adoration’s stead.
“Rise, pegasus,” I command. He does so with a fluid grace one finds more often in regal unicorns rather than brash pegasi. I am intrigued.
“What brings you to the Everfree Forest at such an hour?” I ask. “Do you not loathe and fear the night?” As everypony else does?
“Well, what would I do that for, your highness?” he queries, smiling tentatively...yet honestly. “I think...I think it’s beautiful.”
“What?” I gasp incredulously. Beautiful--after what I had just discovered about how scary my deceptive night is? “I mean...in what fashion?”
“It just is!” he went on, his eyes going up to the stars and stepping farther out to bask in the moonlight. In its light, his pelt is now revealed to be a very dark cerulean...just like the sky on a moonless night. His mane and tail truly are black, but they catch the starlight with an iridescent shimmer. He spreads his wings to embrace my moon’s full glory, sheer, quiet joy shining through his eyes like searchlights. “Would you look at that? A rich blue sky, speckled with diamonds? The outspoken neons of daylight replaced by soothing tones of silver and indigo? Quiet dark all around, undisturbed by the noise of the waking hours? What could possibly be imperfect about all this...this majesty?”
I realize that I’m leaking tears, and discreetly wipe them away with a deft flick of my wing. Never before has anypony truly appreciated me. Such honesty I have never beheld in that same statement.
“I only wish I could fly up and touch those stars,” he sighs, his wings drooping. I tilt my head in curiosity; he is staring at them forlornly for a reason I cannot discern.
“You...can’t fly?” I assume, shocked myself at the notion. His wings are not paralyzed--what could possibly be the reason for this? “Would you care to explain this to us?”
“They found out when I was just a colt,” he begins, sitting back on the silvery grass. “They test newborn pegasi for a condition known as Cloudfall Syndrome. I couldn’t walk on clouds--as the name implies, I simply fell through, same as an earth pony. I had to live on the ground. I never learned to fly, I just couldn’t. My wings wouldn’t carry me. As one could imagine, I wasn’t exactly popular for this. They called me Starless...I guess the name stuck.”
I find myself sitting next to him, putting a reassuring wing around him. What good are wings that don’t fly?
“But it’s okay, I guess,” he continues, shrugging. “I’ve gotten used to it by now. So...what do you think causes it? Nopony knows, it’s just a random thing that happens once in a lifetime. Alicorns are wise, aren’t they? What do you think?”
I pause. I have an inkling, but it may or may not be accurate--well, believable by a modern pony. “We believe that the problem lies within. The ability to fly and walk on clouds is granted to Pegasi because of the pieces of cloud in their blood. If you cannot do these things, then we must assume that you have none in yours.”
“We have clouds inside us?” he gasps. “I thought that was just an old pony’s tale.”
“So was the tale of Night Mare Moon,” I point out. I am surprisingly calm, possibly because I brought it up in the first place, but Starless tenses up. I cannot blame him.
“So that’s my problem, huh?” he sighs. “No way to get clouds back into my veins, is there?”
“Do not speak so soon, fair Starless,” I purr, backing away from him. I have another idea--but this time I am more sure of it. “Not by modern medicine, perhaps. But if the old explanations are true, then so should be the old remedies.”
“What are you doing?” he asks, getting up and flapping his dead wings once. Now a few strides away from him, I bow my head so that my horn is facing him.
“Hold still,” I chide, bracing myself for the magic I am about to conduct. “We are granting you your flight.”
Strands of starlight streak down from the heavens and gather in a ball about my horntip, and the wind begins to build in a small cyclone around us. At first I struggle to remember the old words of the ancient spell, but as if by magic, they come to me unbidden.
“Quae ego praecipio vobis
Virtus impertiri nubes!”
A bright flash of light dims the stars themselves, and I close my eyes against the brilliance. When it fades to a bearable level, I open my eyes. Starless is panting and steaming--literally. But there is something visibly different about him.
“Starless...,” I breathe. “Behold thyself.”
Opening his eyes cautiously, he looks back at his wings. He gasps in astonishment; they are covered with shining white pinpricks of light. Looking around himself, he discovers the stars are all over him, gracefully complementing his crescent moon cutie mark. He gives a little yelp of joy, levitating into the air with the aid of his newly operational wings. When he realizes they are flapping, he gazes at them for a long time, awe and shock written all over his face. I am more concerned with the stars. Such arcane powers have not been used for many a moon. I did not think they would have such beautiful side effects as the stars in his fur. They even seemed to shine and twinkle with every move he made, however subtle.
“Thank you, Princess!” he shrieks, tackle-hugging me. I exhale a little from the impact, but I return the embrace, smiling sheepishly. He lets me go, hovering in midair with a smile so brilliant it could’ve been mistaken for one of his pelt stars.
“But I don’t think Starless would be a fitting name for me anymore,” he says. “I guess the ponies back at school would have to come up with a new nickname. But honestly, I don’t know what to make of myself anymore.”
“Then we dub thee Starry Night,” I proclaim royally, striding forward and placing my horntip on his shoulder. “Gifted by the Moon to soar forevermore, no longer earthbound, but free as the wind itself.”
Stepping back, I see that his own eyes are brimming with tears of joy. Revving his wings, he bolts straight up into the sky, his camouflage soon making him indiscernible from the rest of the night.
“Fly, fair Night,” I whisper, now openly weeping. “May thy friendship be a beacon to us during our times of doubt. May Night Mare Moon remain a filly’s nightmare, never to be realized as a true threat again!”
As I say the words, I know that this pegasus’ appearance to me is a true blessing upon me. I no longer have to fear myself. There is a starry night always there to light my path.