Luna's Throne

by River Babble

Chapter 1: The Question

“Why don’t you have a throne, Princess Luna?”

The Princess of the Moon stared down at the small blue filly standing at her hooves. Several voices whispered urgently to each other, and the schoolteacher in charge rushed forward to set a magenta hoof on the child’s shoulder. “Ghost Giggle, now is not the time!” the mare hissed, eyes darting towards Luna. “I’m so sorry, Princess, she’s always asking questions—”

Princess Luna waved her hoof, gently silencing the fretting teacher. This was not the first time she had been approached by a student during one of these novel “field trips” taken by Equestrian schools for foals. The Royal Palace and Gardens were a popular destination for the educational outings, and Celestia encouraged their subjects to feel welcome at the palace via such arrangements. (Although the guard coverage had been greatly extended around the Garden's statuary, because, well, why tempt fate.) In truth, these field trips were among Luna's favorite policies that had been enacted in her absence. The younger ponies were often less nervous around her than the adults who attended her Night Court, and it was a nice way to get outside and interact with her subjects.

Granted, this filly's question was a bit… unexpected. Luna studied the small, smoky-blue unicorn, with her bluish-white mane and wide, innocent eyes. The little one bit her lip, dropping her gaze. “Sorry… was that a bad thing to ask?”

“No, no, it is… alright,” Luna said carefully. "How did thy… ah, your teacher name you, child?”

The filly tilted her head and frowned. "Huh? She didn't name me, my parents did. Um, but my name's Ghost Giggle.” She perked up again, clearly unfazed by the fact that she was speaking with one of the rulers of Equestria. “This is my first time to Canterlot! It’s really cool to meet you, Princess Luna.”

Luna smiled. “It is nice to meet you, as well. Now, where does this interest in the Royal Throne spring from?”

Ghost Giggle furrowed her brow. “Well, because when we went in the throne room, to see the, um, Day Court? I noticed there’s only one throne, where Princess Celestia sits. And you came in and sat next to her, but like, on the floor, sort of? You were still up on the big platform thingie—”

“The dais?”

“Yeah, the day-us, but you didn’t have a throne, and…” Ghost Giggle pawed the ground, her nose scrunched up in deep thought. “Everypony says you’re both the Princesses, and Princess Celestia is your big sister, and you both do all the big important stuff Princesses do, right?” When the filly looked up again, Luna blinked at the strong shine of concern in those young eyes. “So I just wondered: how come you don’t have a throne, too? Don’t you deserve one?”

There was silence for a moment while Luna absorbed this burst of information. The teacher still fidgeted, but her ears were tilted forward. In fact, many of the ponies, from the fillies and colts to her own guards, seemed to be listening with great anticipation for Luna's response.

Since the defeat of Nightmare Moon and Luna's return to her homeland, few had dared to question the Princesses’ decision to not install a new throne for their returned Princess of the Moon. There was certainly room; the large dais could easily accommodate several thrones, and Celestia took great pains to convince their subjects of her sister’s equal royal power. But though there was much speculation – if Luna's information was accurate – few understood why she had not retaken that official symbol of her position.

Perhaps now, Luna could find out once and for all if her excuses held water.

“‘Deserve’ is an ambiguous word. But I have an answer that will satisfy you, I think.” Luna took an inward, calming breath and tilted her head up, horn pointing towards the sky. “You see, Ghost Giggle, I am only newly returned to Equestria. My time away was most lengthy. Lest you be unaware of my story due to your youth, I would mention that before my return two summers past, I had spent one thousand years in the moon.”

Ghost Giggle chewed her lip. “That's a really long time, right?”

Some of the guards chuckled. Luna cleared her throat to hide a smile. “Yes, a very, very long time. Do you understand anything about government, young pony?”

“Umm…” The blue filly drew a hoof through the dirt, nose scrunched again. “It’s the ponies who, um… tell everypony what to do, right?”

“A simple explanation, but accurate to a greater or lesser extent." This would be another challenge, then: to boil the meaning of such a multi-faceted construct as government down to a form that a child could understand. “Long ago, before my fall from grace, I ruled equally with my sister, and we dictated much of what was law and custom in our fair land of Equestria.” Memories of ages past swept over her suddenly, and Luna closed her eyes for a moment against the surge of longing and regret. The unity of her ponies as they cleared away the destruction of Discord’s reign… The smiling faces of her subjects…

The bitter tang of jealousy as her night went unrecognized…

Luna blinked away those thoughts; that all lay in the past. Here and now was more important. “But you see, young one, even a country ruled by the same government for centuries will change and shift with the times. Much is different than when I was last a diarch of this land, and so I have much to relearn – commerce, social norms, trade, currency, international affairs, even new terminology for old things once familiar! It is a great deal for anypony, even an alicorn princess, to take in. The court proceedings alone are a headache to follow, you can’t even imagine…”

A glance at the glazed stares of Ghost Giggle and her classmates made Luna realize with a blush that she had rambled too long. She bent down to be face-to-face with Ghost Giggle. “When I returned to the side of light, I found I had much to study before I would feel suitable to retake my position. Such studies take time, but I am willing to do what I must.” One of her wings wrapped around the filly's shoulder, and she pointed a silver-shod hoof up to the sun overhead. “And besides, my dear sister has done a wonderful job leading you all for a thousand years! Surely my taking a little more time will not change matters greatly.”

Ghost Giggle mulled this over for a while; but then she nodded, her smile bright with self-satisfaction. Tension eased from Luna's shoulders as the Moon Princess straightened, her flowing mane of night and stars swirling with the motion. In truth, she had not explained even the half of her studies these past two years. There had been many a day, when she was not guiding the moon or patrolling the dreams of ponies, that Luna spent all her time poring through books and speaking with advisers in her continual toil to understand her transformed homeland. So much had changed, so much was difficult or downright confusing: math and science, magic and court functions, visits to Equestrian universities, libraries, state houses, and museums. While she did not possess the same magical genius as Celestia, her own favored interests were more than amply challenged. And it had given her something to focus on besides her own self-limited duties… and the other trial she had been forcing herself to endure.

The other trial. The deadly Tantabus. She was still foolish, even after all of this time; even in her victory of forgiving herself and banishing the living nightmare, Luna had seen yet again how woefully unprepared she was to rule. She was too immature, too hasty, and too ruled by her emotions. Surely only learning could correct her inner flaws and make her a leader these ponies were worthy of. “That is why I do not possess a throne, my young subject. I will not until I feel I am ready to rule you justly once again.” Luna held her breath, and looked down at the filly.

Ghost Giggle beamed back at Luna, and in that childlike enthusiasm, the Moon Princess felt her wings relax. Even her guards were nodding ever-so-slightly at the explanation. Surely, this was the proof she needed that her decision was wise.

“That’s great! I was worried it was because you still felt bad about being Nightmare Moon,” the filly giggled.

Luna froze as the sense of sudden exposure hit her like lightning. “Wh-what do you mean?” she stammered.

Ghost Giggle continued right along with a beaming smile while the teacher waved her hooves desperately (and futilely) for the filly's attention. “Well, see, I know that sometimes, if you feel bad about something, it makes you not want to do things because you think you don’t deserve them anymore? My sister did that one time; she was co-leader of the Marigold Club, but then she told another club member’s special secret to somepony, and it got to all of her friends and the colt her friend liked. So she wouldn’t come back to the club because she felt so bad, even though her friend and the rest of the club forgave her. Took her a long time to believe them and get over it.” The blue filly grinned up at Luna. “I kinda thought that’s how you might feel, from being Nightmare Moon and stuff. But I know that can’t be the reason anymore!”

Luna blinked again, finding it oddly difficult to track the filly's thought patterns. She leaned her head back to better examine the small unicorn, brows drawn together. “And why is that, young one?”

Ghost Giggle laughed as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “’Cause you forgave yourself and beat the big smoke pony in our dreams!”

What? Suddenly all of Luna’s attention became focused on the ponies of this particular field trip. Her cheeks heated as realization set in. Of course, the teacher was the pony Cheerilee – and there were Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle at the back, all of whom heaved loud sighs of relief at her finally noticing their tired hooves waving. These were residents of Ponyville! Details of that night six months past, when she had drawn together the dreams of the town's entire populace to battle the Tantabus, came rushing back. “You witnessed that?” Luna lowered her head a fraction, ears dipping below her crown. “My subjects, please accept my apologies for any pain the Tantabus put you through—”

“Are you kiddin’?” Apple Bloom called. “That was the funnest thing ever! I got to give maself super strength an’ throw big houses at that sparkly cloud critter!”

“And I got GIANT wings!” Scootaloo threw in. Other fillies and colts began shouting over each other.

“It was so cool fighting with the Elements of Harmony!”

“Snips and me turned ourselves into Ursa Minors!”

“Well, MY dad became a super-rich superhero who beat up that disgusting smoke monster with the power of bits!”

“My mom was a giant!”

“Can you come back and do that again for my birthday sleepover, Princess?”

The chatter quickly rose in volume, but surprisingly, it was not Ms. Cheerilee who settled the students. Ghost Giggle was bouncing up and down like a jackhammer, glaring at her classmates. “Guuuuys, pipe down a minute, I need to finish what I was saying!” The buzz quieted (not without an exchange of stuck-out tongues), and Ghost Giggle turned back to Princess Luna with an air of triumph. “See? You don't have to feel guilty about that, and everypony knows you decided to stop feeling guilty about the Nightmare Moon thingie. It's like my mom always says: Everypony makes mistakes! What matters is how you use the mistakes to do better next time.” The filly gave her head one sharp nod. “So yeah, I thought that was why you didn’t have a throne – like, you felt too guilty to have it. But since you're not feeling bad anymore and you still don't have a throne, the other stuff you said must've been the real reason all along!” Then, to the exasperation of Ms. Cheerilee and the bafflement of several guards, the precocious filly hugged the Moon Princess's leg. “Don’t worry, Princess! I think you're super smart, and you'll be all caught up and have your own chair next to Princess Celestia in no time!”

Luna took special care to keep her mouth from gaping at this little bundle of sheer optimism standing before her. She really believes I am equal to my sister. “Thank you, Ghost Giggle. I will try to not let you down,” she said with a small laugh. And yet Luna knew, as the words left her mouth, that she meant them.

“You won’t!” Ghost Giggle sang. “Thanks for answering my question, Princess!” Then the little filly skipped back to rejoin her class, wiggling in between a pink pony with purple hair and a vanilla filly with red curls.

Ms. Cheerilee gave Princess Luna a tentative smile. “Thank you for indulging her, Princess. If, um, it’s alright with you, we really ought to get back to our tour so I can get these kids home on time…”

“Of course.” Luna gathered herself back into a proper royal posture, and nodded regally to the small gathering of ponies. She felt oddly light. “In fact, it was a most enjoyable conversation. You are all most welcome here at the palace, and I hope you will enjoy the rest of your visit.”

“Please come visit our dreams again soon, Princess Luna!” somepony called, and several echoed the idea with cheers. Apparently her interventions in the dreams of the young ponies of Equestria were more appreciated than she had realized.

The small crowd of students moved away with their teacher and designated guards, chattering to each other about their own experiences in the shared dream. She watched them go, mulling over the conversation. A flick of her wing signaled to the well-trained palace guards that she wished to be alone, and they moved into a wider perimeter, leaving the Princess of the Moon to her thoughts. Luna stared distantly at one of the trimmed hedges, her mane floating to obscure her face from outside eyes.

Was her guilt still holding her back? The filly's statement had brought the issue flying to the forefront, and now Luna could not help but examine it more closely. Before, her studies were an excuse to hide the real reason for her submissive position: her conviction that she would never be a fit ruler. But now she had accepted the forgiveness of her subjects. The guilt was not gone forever, for such guilt could not be so easily laid aside; but it no longer drove her life as it once had. So, then, there really was only one reason why she did not take back her old throne.

Was she still not ready? Did she have the knowledge yet to be sure she would not make another great mistake?

“She was very spot-on, wasn’t she?” a warm, laughing voice said from behind, startling Luna out of her meditation.

Luna turned, giving the speaker a wry smile. “Do you still participate in your most ungracious habit of eavesdropping, Tia?”

Princess Celestia stepped around the corner of one of the hedges, a knowing smile on her face as her pastel-hued mane flowed around her. She came to stand next to her sister, looking across the garden at a patch of beautifully arranged flowers in the shape of the sun and moon. “Maybe, but that one was an accident, I promise. I just happened to pass by and didn’t want to interrupt.” The smile curved higher up her cheeks. “It’s amazing the wisdom that comes from the mouths of children, isn’t it?”

“One must suppose so,” Luna said, huffing her smokey bangs out of her face. Her mouth straightened into a solemn line, and she glanced sidelong at her sister. “I know what you are going to say. But I do not believe I am yet ready. I am still too inexperienced, and I will surely make more mistakes – mistakes a ruler cannot afford to make.”

Celestia settled her white wing over her younger sister’s dark back. “A fair concern, considering the responsibilities we have. But as your little friend said: Everypony makes mistakes.” Her smile was warm and loving – that, at least, had not changed over all these centuries. “Even I make plenty of mistakes, Luna. But ‘what matters is how you use the mistakes to do better next time.’ You've done so much good, and I've seen you grow a great deal since you came home.”

Luna nodded, more in acknowledgement of the compliment than acceptance of it. But Celestia and Ghost Giggle's words continued to resonate with her, blending and growing into a sense of peace Luna had not felt in a long time. “Perhaps there are certain decisions I must reevaluate in the coming days,” she said slowly, studying the flowers.

The white wing on her back hugged her tighter. “I agree.”

Luna extended her wing, as well, and the two sisters stood quietly for a while, looking out over the beautiful Canterlot gardens and enjoying each other’s company.


One Month Later

“Come on, Princess Luna!” Pinkie Pie had the Princess by the hoof, practically dragging her down the hallway. Luna followed hesitantly, mystified; there was something odd about Princess Twilight and her friends coming all this way just to lead her on a mysterious trip through her own castle. “This is going to be super great, I’m so excited, and then we can start the party—”

“Pinkie!” several exasperated voices shouted. Pinkie made a small “Eep!" and covered her mouth with both hooves.

“What is the meaning of this?” Luna insisted; she was aiming for the imperiousness of the Royal Voice, but it came out just sounding confused. “Princess Twilight Sparkle, this is most unbecoming!”

The purple alicorn gave an embarrassed laugh as she headed the group of ponies (and one dragon) herding Luna. “I’m sorry, Princess Luna, but I’m not allowed to say. Princess Celestia just told us to make sure you arrived right on time!”

As they traveled further, Luna began to notice odd formations in the servants and guards. Many were rushing about, as if preparing for some great event – but no such event had been scheduled to her knowledge. Her suspicions suggested one of her older sister’s famous grand-scale pranks, but she was in a pleasant mood this afternoon. Perhaps such a joke would be entertaining. And she could always get back at Celestia by teasing her the next time she set a hoof near a slice of cake.

Guards lined the hallway leading to the main throne room, where the princesses held Day and Night Court and the most important audiences. But now, the great doors were closed. Princess Twilight made a few hoof gestures to her friends, who quickly spread out, forming an even v-line that flanked the Moon Princess. The guards took their stations. Princess Luna stood silent, waiting.

“Announcin’ Her Royal Highness, Princess Luna!” Applejack shouted in a decent estimation of a herald’s call. Then she ruined it by adding, “Now get them doors open quick-like!” Rainbow Dash and Rarity giggled to each other with very poorly suppressed excitement as the doors slowly swung inward, revealing the grand hall and throne room of the castle of Equestria. Celestia stood before the dais at the far end of the hall, with Cadence and Shining Armor; but aside from these friends and the guard ponies, nopony else was present. This appeared to be an affair strictly for the Royals and their closest friends. Perhaps because Celestia wished to be sure that Luna would accept what she was seeing before it was announced to the rest of the kingdom.

Upon the dais, behind the Princess of the Sun, there stood not one throne… but two.

Celestia's face shone like the Sun she moved across the sky. When Luna's slow pace brought her at last to the foot of the dais, Celestia turned so that they faced the dais together. “What do you think, Luna? Is it close enough?”

Luna stared, mute. The thrones had been positioned much like their old thrones in their old castle, which Luna had thought far beyond restoration. But these were newer, Luna’s designed to compliment the golden throne that Celestia had been occupying for centuries. The Moon Throne bore the sigil of the moon in the same style as Celestia's sun, and suspended above each were beautiful tapestries displaying the celestial bodies that were the signs of their office. Tapestries much like those from a throne room long gone.

Such a reminder of the past could easily have brought feelings of sadness and guilt… but Luna found herself recalling only pleasant memories. A particular thought came to mind, and she stifled a chuckle. Celestia raised an eyebrow.

“Is there a secret passage to the kitchen behind this one, too?” Luna asked, and a titter burst from her lips before she could get it under control. Celestia’s grin told its own story, and she whispered the words, “And a slide, too!” That sent both sisters into dire straits. The nearby guards quite professionally pretended not to notice the snorting laughter.

When the chuckles had died down, Luna glanced behind them warily; but Twilight Sparkle and her friends still stood at a respectful distance. The Moon Princess turned an uncertain gaze on her taller sister. “I do not know, Tia. I still fear I am not yet ready…”

Celestia placed a golden-shod hoof upon her shoulder, her smile warm and reassuring. “If you decide not to accept, I will have the throne removed for now, and only our little ponies here will know about this. But you are ready. You are a wise and caring leader, just as I always knew you to be.” The hoof moved to touch gently on Luna’s chest, right over the moon insignia on her regalia. “I believe in you, Luna. It’s time.”

With a turn that set her rainbow mane and tail swirling, Celestia walked gracefully up to her Sun Throne and sat. Luna felt the weight of her sister’s, her niece’s, her closest friends’ eyes on her as she studied the throne that sat before her. And a small filly's words rang in her ears.

Yes. Though she was far from a perfect ruler… this was her duty. It was time to stop making excuses.

As Luna, Princess of the Moon and Diarch of Equestria, ascended the dais to sit upon her throne, cheers rolled through the hall. Moments later, there came the thunderous sound of many hooves out in the corridor, and the guards only had to unlatch the doors for them to be pushed open by a wave of excited ponies flowing through. Luna blinked in shock as not only Canterlot royalty and officials came in, but many of her friends – Cranky Doodle and his wife, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, even Ghost Giggle. And they were all cheering. For her. The noise rocked the room until it seemed as though the stained glass itself was pounding – which it soon was, actually, when the musicians started playing on a particularly loud amplifier.

Luna shot Celestia a pointed look.

“What?” Celestia looked the very picture of innocence. But Luna knew that sly glint in her sister’s eyes. “A little furniture rearrangement, and I would have simply told them the banquet was for your birthday. Which it still is, you know!” She made a most un-Princess-ly cackle at the stunned look on Luna’s face. “You always manage to forget the date!” Celestia added in a warm voice lowered for Luna alone, “But I knew you’d make the right choice.”

Fresh excitement rippled through the hall as word of a royal birthday was passed from ear to ear, not to mention when the cooking staff began wheeling in a gigantic cake. Luna blushed, and a laugh burst out of her throat before she could catch it. She had not felt this happy in ages.

She was finally, fully, truly back where she was meant to be.

Thank you, great King, for another chance.

Author's Notes:

EDIT: This thing just got a pretty intricate overall! After getting some serious feedback from my submission of this to EQ, and after letting it sit for a while, I finally got the motivation to give this thing a serious revamp. Hopefully it does a better job of telling an interesting story, as well as fostering my fan theories.

This is largely based on a question raised by the MLP theme song, where Luna is always shown sitting next to Celestia in the throne room, without a throne of her own. I've never been a fan of the fan theory that Celestia is some kind of a tyrant suppressing her sister's authority; it doesn't mesh with how they're portrayed in the show at all. My long-standing theory has been that it was Luna who decided to not retake her throne as an equal to Celestia, if only because can you imagine trying to get up to speed on how to run an entire country?

Of course, that might not explain her being without a throne for two years. So when Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep? came out, I felt like we'd been given the final piece of the puzzle. If Luna felt so bad that she tormented herself for TWO YEARS because she wanted to be sure she wouldn't forgive herself, it makes sense that she would also feel unworthy of taking back her throne. I could see her flat-out telling Celestia no, in fact - because I totally see Celestia as wanting to have her sister by her side again.

Anyhoo, this is the fic that came out of that theory. ^^ I hope you enjoyed! If you have questions, let me know. And if you're wondering about that mention of a 'King', that's in reference to something else I was working on that's on hold. I'll keep you posted if that develops, however.

(And for heaven's sake, if someone leaves a comment just to criticize my oversimplification of how government works, I will ignore it, I tell you, because SERIOUSLY WHY)


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