Aunthood Issues

by Rambling Writer

Chapter 1: AuntieOutOfBoundsException

There were looks and there were Looks. The former was normal; the latter wasn’t inherently bad, but it almost never led to anything good, either. Today, Celestia had a Look, something that had happened a grand total of once since Luna had come back from the moon. To make matters worse, it was one of those Definitely Not Good ones.

She’d been staring at Luna throughout their whole morning meal (Celestia’s breakfast, Luna’s dinner). She ate her food, cleaned her face, arranged her silverware, did all the things you normally do during a meal, but she remained stock-still the entire time. Just staring at Luna. Only moving when she needed to. Luna wasn’t sure she was even blinking.

The worst part about it was deciding whether or not to break the silence. Luna wasn’t sure what Celestia was staring at her for, but the moment she asked what was up, she would acknowledge that she’d done something wrong and she’d go down a few rungs on the advantage ladder. On the other hoof, if she just waited for Celestia to break the silence, there was no telling how long it could go on for; Celestia might be quite content to let her stew in silence for who-knew-how-long. And as Luna knew from experience, that could be quite long.

Eventually, Luna decided to go for the latter. So they sat and ate in silence until the servants started giving them strange looks. Finally, Celestia cleared her throat. “Congratulations on the baby.”

She was very lucky Luna was drinking water rather than hot tea at the moment.

As Celestia wiped the water off her face, Luna sputtered, “W-what? I n-never-” But she already knew where this was headed.

“Don’t be so modest,” said Celestia lightly, dropping the soaked napkin on the tray of a servant whose eyes had just doubled in size. “I never even noticed you were expecting. Never dreamed of it.”

Subtle. “Tia, I-”

“Although I would’ve preferred to have the news come from my sister beforehoof rather than having my… niece popping up from nowhere, greeting me with a, ‘Hi, Aunt Celly!’, and leaving again.” Celestia took a bite of waffles and went back to the Look.

Luna swallowed. “Sister, I can explain.

“You will. Tonight.” It wasn’t a suggestion or even a command. It was a simple statement of fact.

At a loss for words, Luna went back to eating. But the food was bitter now, the Look was hitting her skull like a tunnel-boring machine, and the servant was still staring at her with those massive eyes.

Mentally, she kept punching herself. Why hadn’t she done anything about this sooner? She’d always known the truth would come out eventually, but she kept saying she’d do it tomorrow, and then tomorrow came, but then tomorrow wasn’t tomorrow, it was today, and a different day was tomorrow. Of course, today was yesterday’s tomorrow, so it was tomorrow, and it’d been tomorrow for an awful long time, and she still hadn’t done anything.

Eventually, Luna couldn’t take it any more. She laid down her spoon and stood up. “Forgive me,” she mumbled, “but I’m feeling tired.” She walked out of the room with her head low and the Look drilling into her all the way.

Finally, just as she reached the door, the servant broke out of her daze. “You had a baby?

The new Tantabus (I should get another name for it, Luna thought) came when she called almost immediately. Luna assumed it’d look different somehow — bigger, different color, a new body design, something after freely spending several months in dreams — but it still looked exactly the same as when she created it: a smallish alicorn that was less a pony and more a pony-shaped hole in space leading to the midnight sky.

“Yes, Mom?” it asked. She’d seen it plenty of times before, but it was always eager to visit her again.

Luna blinked and cleared her throat. “Have… have you spent any nights in the dreams of… my sister?”

The Tantabus nodded vigorously. “Oh, yeah. Just last night, I-” Its words screeched to a stop; it took a step back and lowered its ears. “…I talked to her,” it muttered, and hung its head. “I shouldn’t’ve done that, right?”

“I would prefer not,” said Luna. “But you’re your own person now, and I cannot control you.”

“It’s not like that! You’re still my mom, and I’m still letting you down! I’m sorry, it’s just-” The Tantabus groaned. “I figured you’d want to talk to her first about me, so when I went into her dreams other nights, I didn’t let her notice me, but it’s been months, and I thought by now-”

Luna reached out and lifted up the Tantabus’s head to look it in the eye. “If I’d done things properly, you’d be right. I should’ve told her about you, but I didn’t. And now…” She sucked in a deep breath through her nose. “Well, we shall see.”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” whispered the Tantabus. “Am I in trouble?”

Luna pulled the Tantabus into a hug. “No, don’t worry, not in the slightest. This is my fault more than it is yours. I have been putting this off too long.”

The Tantabus squeezed back. “Thank you.”

As they broke the hug, Luna said, “But hear me. I am going to speak with my sister tonight-”

“-and you want me to come with?” the Tantabus asked nervously.

“Yes. She needs to meet you.”

The Tantabus swallowed. “Okay. I, I can do that.”

Luna and the Tantabus were standing outside Celestia’s dream door. They’d been there a while. Luna took another deep breath and, once again, asked, “Are you ready now?”


“You have been saying that for near on a quarter of an hour. What will it take to get you ready?”

“I don’t know,” the Tantabus mumbled. It rubbed one of its legs and looked away. “It’s, I don’t know. I still feel like I screwed up, and…” It turned its gaze back to Luna. “Mom, I’ve never screwed up before in my life. I don’t like the feeling of doing something wrong. Does it always feel this bad?”

Luna smiled and lightly tousled its mane. “Don’t worry. You shall get used to it. Do not think of it as a mark against you; think of it as a chance to improve yourself. Now that you know what you did wrong, you can correct yourself.”

“Do you have any other sisters you’ve known for millennia who assist you in ruling Equestria?” the Tantabus asked as it rubbed its hair down. “‘Cause if you don’t, I don’t think I’ll be making this particular mistake again, one way or another.”

“…True. But you may be able to apply the lessons you learn here elsewhere. This is the first time you’re directly interacting with someone who has no experience with your predecessor.” Then Luna realized her assumption. “It is, right? If it isn’t, that’s acceptable; I am merely curious.”

“My first time as me, anyway. I’ve talked with ponies while playing the role of someone in a dream, but not as…” The Tantabus gestured up and down itself. “…this.”

“Then if you want to talk to them as you for whatever reason, pay attention to what happens here. You might learn something.” Luna paused. “Are you ready now?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then get ready.” Luna pushed open the door.

They were at the Grand Galloping Gala, the clothes even more ostentatious than usual. The hall seemed a bit larger than it usually was, and there definitely weren’t usually this many decorations, ponies, or types of food. Celestia was standing at the front of a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long line, greeting each and every pony that arrived. She was smiling, but Luna recognized it as her low-on-patience, incredibly stressed, “I’m probably going to snap and paint the halls red with the blood of every single one of you all in the next ten seconds” smile. She tended to get those at the Gala, real or otherwise.

Luna slightly adjusted the collar on the dress she was suddenly wearing and turned to the Tantabus, who looked riveted to the floor. It was staring at Celestia and looked like it’d enjoy nothing more than escaping on a rocket ship, or getting jailed and hauled away, or simply getting kicked out of the dream entirely, or anything else that took it away from here.

She nudged it. It didn’t move. “Go on,” she said. “Introduce yourself.”

It snapped its gaze to Luna. To Celestia. To Luna again. “How?” it asked. “What do I do? Introducing myself is the whole reason we’re doing this and I feel terrible and going and doing it will make me feel more terrible and-”

Luna lightly stuck a hoof in its mouth. “You’re overreacting. We are here simply because my sister was made aware of you in a less-than-optimal fashion. The introduction itself has not a thing to do with it.”

“Okay, fine, but… what do I do?”

Ah, the joys of motherhood and your child constantly pestering you about what was right. “Imagine you have never talked to her before and simply be yourself.”

“…If you say so.” The Tantabus took a few deep breaths, then, with a voice emanated from the very stones, it bellowed, “HI, AUNT CELLY!

Of course. “…That works, I suppose.” Luna sighed and resisted the urge to rub her forehead.

Celestia turned to the noise, and her smile shifted to the far more genuine “oh thank the heavens” one. She promptly shoved the stallion she was currently greeting aside into a punch bowl and marched over to Luna and the Tantabus. When she arrived, she paid the Tantabus no mind and held up a hoof to keep Luna quiet. “Hold on a moment. Luna, I’m sorry for how I treated you this morning. It was early, I was still tired, and I wasn’t thinking clearly yet. I was unfair to you, and I apologize.”

For a moment, Luna didn’t say anything. This was already going better than expected. She’d expected Celestia to still be furious and had skipped her breakfast to avoid facing her again. And then… this. This might not be so bad after all. “Apology accepted, Tia.”

“So…” Celestia turned to the Tantabus. “What do we have here?”

The Tantabus blinked, half-grinned, and looked down at its hooves. Luna counted herself lucky that it was still visible. “This is the Tantabus. I created it to help me spread good dreams among ponies several months back.”

Celestia raised an eyebrow. “Interesting name, considering its purpose.”

“It was a placeholder that stuck,” Luna said quickly. Besides, that was technically true.

Thankfully, Celestia let the matter drop. “And you trust it to do its job?”

“Yes. It has been performing its duties flawlessly since its creation.”

“Are you su-”

Luna coughed. “You are aware that it is right there and you can ask it questions about itself?”

“You don’t need to,” the Tantabus said quickly, still staring at the ground. “It’s, I, I already, like, um, screwed this up last time, since, um, Mom hadn’t told you about me, and, and, and I don’t want to, um, want to make it any worse, and Mom, um, she knows as much about me as I do, so it’s, it’s not a bad idea for, for her to answer questions about me, and, um, I’llshutupnow.” It grimaced and shrank a little.

Celestia gave Luna a Look. “Are you sure that giving it a mind of its own was the best idea?”

“Normally, it is… more confident than this.”

“Hmm. Perhaps. But if it decides not to listen to you-”

The Tantabus’s gaze snapped up to Celestia and it bristled. “I’d never! Well, never not… Never not not…” Its voice started trailing off.

“I assure you,” Luna said, “intelligence was never my intent. I tried to make it self-sufficient, with minimal reliance on myself, and…” She shrugged helplessly. “Things happened. I do not know what.”

“No, never would… Never would not…” the Tantabus muttered. “Never not would…”

“And while this may change, at the moment, it has never shown any desire to disobey me. Given the circumstances behind its creation, I’m not entirely sure it’s able to do so.”

“Would not never…” The Tantabus cleared its throat and stood up straight. “I’d never not- I’ll always listen to Mom.”

“Then can you speak with my sister without sounding like a sputtering motor?” Luna asked.

The Tantabus twitched, looked at Luna, looked at Celestia, and turned away. “It’s, I’m not so good at the whole, um, talking thing,” it whispered. “I, I manipulate dreams, not, um, hold conversations. At least, um, not now.”

“Then manipulate dreams,” said Celestia. She swept a hoof over the Gala. “Luna trusts you, so show me what you can do.”

Some of the apprehension drained from the Tantabus’s face, and its ears stood up as it glanced at Luna. When she nodded, the Tantabus immediately broke out into an ear-to-ear grin, and Luna could’ve sworn it grew two inches. “Aunt Celly, prepare to be blown away.” It sidled over to a unicorn stallion who vaguely resembled Fancy Pants if you stripped out all his positive qualities and replaced them with conceit, earwax, a desire to brownnose, belly button lint, arrogance, and that gunk that builds up in a hoof’s collateral grooves between the sole and the frog.

It tapped him on the shoulder. “Yo.”

The stallion turned to it, raised an eyebrow, and said in an accent that was probably the poshiest posh that’d ever been poshily poshed, “Yo to you, as well.”

“You like cake?”

The stallion rubbed some imaginary dust from his jacket. “I suppose. Not in any great capacity, they are quite fattening-” (The air around Celestia suddenly dropped a couple dozen degrees in temperature and she folded her ears back.) “-but I guess I do en-”

He said no more, for the Tantabus dropped a ten-layer cake on his head.

The stallion blinked a few times at the Tantabus, frosting dripping down his muzzle. When he managed to get his thoughts together enough for a reaction, he just said, “I say.”

“Say whaaaaaat?”

The stallion’s eyes narrowed and his horn began glowing through all the cake. “I say.” The cake flew off his head towards the Tantabus, but it was gone. The cake soared through the air and smacked into a mare with a hairdo that probably doubled her height.

She whirled on the stallion, eyes glittering with anger. “I say!” She quickly hefted a pie at him; he hastily deflected it onto another stallion. “I say!” One thing led to another, and soon the air was thick with flying pastries, salads, snacks, drinks, furniture, “I say!”s, and the occasional pony.

Luna blinked and glanced at Celestia. Her eyes had gone wide and her jaw had dropped. “It… has much to learn, still,” muttered Luna. “It enj-”

Not taking her eyes from the spectacle before her, Celestia lightly laid a hoof on Luna’s lips as her expression shifted to a serene, detached smile more closely associated with the use of illegal substances and/or magics. “Shh, shh. Please. Let me watch this.”

Well, when in Roam. Besides, if Celestia was enjoying it, then it was unlikely the Tantabus had anything to worry about. Luna settled back and watched.

A cake came sailing towards her, and before she could react, it hit her right in the face. Luna wiped the frosting from her eyes and was confronted with another scene entirely: the crowded chaos of the Gala had been replaced with the quiet calm of a winter valley. Specifically, Alabaster Vale. An unofficial vacation spot for herself and Celestia in the Crystal Mountains, Alabaster Vale was one of those secret places that was just so beautiful she wanted to tell everypony about, but she couldn’t, because that would ruin the secret and its beauty.

Alabaster Vale wasn’t a large valley, less than a mile wide, but the mountains looming high on either side kept it from being easily visible from the outside, or even from the air. Trees were scattered lightly around the valley and thickened on the mountain slopes. The layer of snow on everything was that transient one immediately following the first heavy snowfall: after snow had accumulated on the ground and branches, but before anything could disturb it. The sun was shining brightly, but the reflections from the snow didn’t blind them. The air itself was the crisp cool of mid-autumn, not the frigidity that it ought to be with this much snow.

Luna and Celestia were standing on the shores of a frozen lake, while the Tantabus skated around on the ice. It waved to them. “Hey! Thought you might like something calmer after that!”

Luna pawed lightly at the snow. “This is new,” she murmured to Celestia. “Normally, it enjoys going… over the top, to say the least. You saw the Gala.”

“I’m not complaining,” Celestia said. “Either way. It’s been too long since we were here.”


Silence fell except for the light gusts of the wind. Luna watched the Tantabus skate. It wasn’t doing any tricks that were too surreal, but every now and then, it’d make a jump that was in the air a bit too long, come out of a turn a bit too fast. It was quiet, but it was clear that it was enjoying itself immensely. A far cry from the hyperactive Tantabus of a few months ago.

When Luna looked at Celestia, she was wearing her Thinking Face. The one she had on when thinking about laws, or deciding what exactly to call the most inane noble of the day, or pondering how to word her next speech, or deliberating what kind of dessert she wanted. Good news? Maybe. Maybe not. Luna held her breath.

Finally, Celestia spoke up. “Why are you calling it an ‘it’?”

“Pardon?” But Luna already knew what questions of gender meant, and her heart soared.

“You’ve been calling it an ‘it’,” Celestia said. “It’s effectively your child, and you’ve been calling it an ‘it’. Do y-”

“Tia, hear me,” Luna said solidly. “Ever since it came to be, I have never thought of it as anything less than a person. But it is not a pony, it is a sapient, self-aware amalgamation of various forms of magic. I am not sure biological concepts like ‘male’ and ‘female’ can apply to it, and calling it either a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ would be inaccurate.”

“That is true,” muttered Celestia. She watched the Tantabus skate by on the lake. “What do you think its thoughts are?”

“I… I have not asked it.”

“Then let’s.” Celestia cleared her throat. “Excuse me. Tantabus?”

The Tantabus angled its course to take it closer to them. “Yeah?”

“I hope this isn’t too personal a question, but… are you a stallion or a mare?”

“Epicene!” said the Tantabus brightly.

Celestia cocked her head. “Sorry?”

The Tantabus sighed and performed a quintuple axel. “Epicene. It’s a term that means lacking distinction between male and female. You learn amazing things in the dreams of linguists! Did you know that some languages have a special verb formation to show that the speaker is surprised? It’s called mirativity!”

“So… genderless.”

“If you wanna be boring, sure. Epicene sounds way cooler.”

“You take no offense to being addressed as an ‘it’?”

“Nope. I’m still a person, aren’t I? See, this is a problem with Equestrian: a lot of the nouns are gendered, and this includes the personal pronouns. There’s just no way to talk about an unspecified somepony without making an assumption, while in, say, Zebran, almost all nouns and pronouns are gender-neutral by default and they even use the same pronoun for ‘he’ and ‘she’ so you can easily talk about someone without knowing if they’re a stallion or a mare and then you get into gendered languages like Reinish where inanimate objects have gender so…”

As the Tantabus babbled on about gender, Celestia turned back to Luna. “Is it just me, or does the personhood of constructs get quite complicated quite quickly?”

“Even more than you think. It makes no distinction between knowledge getting magically implanted in its mind and learning.”

“Hmm,” murmured Celestia. Then she went rigid and whirled on Luna with wide eyes. “Luna,” she asked quietly, “what if somepony else got to it and put ideas inside of it th-”

“I am the only one who knows how to do so,” said Luna. “And even if someone did undermine it, I could overpower it. I made sure to not give it more influence than myself within my own realm.”

Celestia relaxed. “Of course you would think of that. By now, I should know better than to question you in dreams.”

Luna subtly grinned. “You should.”

The Tantabus was still talking. “I suppose,” it said, almost to itself, “that if you have to call me by a certain gender, you might as well go with female. But really, I don’t care. It’s not like it changes who I am.”

“So, in your opinion,” asked Celestia, “who are you?”

The Tantabus jumped off the ice and slid to a stop in front of Luna and Celestia, spraying snow everywhere except on the two of them. When it spoke, its voice had gained a slight reverberation. “I,” it intoned, “am a watchmare of the night, a keeper of the mind. I am a guardian of the subconscious, they who keep at bay the wolves of despair, of fear, of doubt. I ensure restfulness and rejuvenation in times of weariness. I weave from the whole cloth worlds that satisfy your innermost desires and your flightiest whims. I… am the Tantabus.” It grinned, and the reverb vanished. “I started writing speeches a while back for most every situation I could think of. Good speeches are always cool. Still working on that one a bit.”

“You seem awfully happy for being locked into a single role,” said Celestia. Luna recognized the tone; less a call to arms, more a subtle prompt for a response. A question without being a question.

But the Tantabus rolled its eyes. “Aunt Celly, puh-lease don’t start this, I already went over it with Mom. I know my point in life and I’m living it up. I might’ve been made to do one thing, but I’m fine doing it. End of story, and if you try to continue it, I’m not listening.” It dropped onto its haunches, closed its eyes, stuck its nose in the air away from Celestia, crossed its forelegs, and flicked its ears.

Celestia glanced at Luna, who shrugged. “As you said, personhood of constructs gets quite complicated quite fast.”

Celestia nodded and turned back to the Tantabus. “But you still identify as the Tantabus.”

The Tantabus cracked an eye open to look at Celestia. “Sure. And?”

“That’s what you are, not who you are. Have you given any thought to a name?”

“Technically,” the Tantabus said. It stood up and shook the snow off its rump. “Decided I didn’t really want one.”

Luna was a bit surprised; it was a minor issue, in the grand scheme of things, but names were important. They were what other ponies knew you by. “You truly do not want a name?”

“Nope. Don’t need one. There’s only one of me, after all.” The Tantabus smirked. “You’re an alicorn, you’re a princess. I’m the Tantabus.”


Luna and the Tantabus both looked at Celestia, who shrugged. “Dreamcatcher. I thought it fit. It comes-”

The Tantabus’s eyes lit up (literally) and it began talking very quickly. “-from one buffalo tribe’s legend of Asibicobshe, who takes care of all the people of the land and their dreams — that was before they knew more of you, Mom — and when they spread too far apart for her to take care of them easily, they started weaving webs out of spider sinew to- Wait, no, no, the webs were made from willow and nettle and feathers. Where did I get spider sinew from? How…” It frowned and stared very intently at the ground, going completely silent.

“Is something wrong?” Luna asked.

“No, just…” The Tantabus looked up. “‘Spider Sinew’ would make a great name for a rock band.” It shook its head and its voice sped up again. “Anyway, the buffalo wove the webs to help Asibicobshe and to catch bad dreams, which would evaporate come daytime, while good dreams would slide down the feathers into the sleeper.”

“As apt a name as any,” mused Luna. “What do you think?”

The Tantabus made a face. “Do I have to? There’re already Dreamcatchers out there. I don’t want to have to share my name.”

“It’s just a name,” said Celestia. “What’s wrong with sharing a name?”

“I just don’t wanna. It’s, I don’t know.” The Tantabus rubbed the back of its neck and looked away. “Don’t wanna.”

Luna and Celestia exchanged looks. Luna shrugged. “Children, right? Still, though,” she said to the Tantabus, “you should consider it. Names confer individuality in a way that a title cannot.”

Before the Tantabus could respond, however, Celestia twitched in a way Luna recognized as the full-body twitch she twitched when she got a silly idea, and a smile briefly flashed across her face. When she spoke to the Tantabus, though, her voice was level. “I, on the other hoof, will let it drop if you can indulge my… ‘flightiest whims’, as you put it.”

The Tantabus smirked. “That’s it? Pfft. Easy.” It slooooowly lifted up a red velvet cake topped with strawberries. It looked positively scrumptious; the frosting had tiny patterns drawn in it, the strawberries were the brightest, richest, reddest red you could imagine, and the cake itself was just big enough to make you feel guilty about eating the whole thing, but just small enough that you could easily eat the whole thing and still want more.

Celestia blinked and stiffened slightly. She tried to maintain her composure, but she still licked her lips.

The Tantabus gently set the cake on the ground and carefully slid it towards Celestia. “And there’s more where that came from,” it said. It tapped its chin. “For you on a larger scale? I’m thinking cake monsters that can only be defeated by eating them. Not today, though.”

Celestia looked at the cake, then at Luna, and shrugged. “Okay,” she admitted. “That one’s not bad.” She began digging into the cake.

Luna laughed softly. Then the Tantabus’s last sentence hit her. “Wait. ‘Not today’?”

“Well, no,” said the Tantabus. “It’s, I mean, look at this place.” It swept a hoof over the valley. “It’s not exactly the most wonderful thing ever, but it’s hardly bad. It’s quite nice, actually. Serene. But cake monsters…” It waved its hooves around. “They don’t fit in here. So, really, if I brought them in here, it’d make this dream worse.”

Celestia looked up briefly from the cake. “Can they overrun the Gala sometime? What I wouldn’t give for…” Her voice dissolved into angry mumbles about the Gala.

The Tantabus looked at Celestia for a moment, then cringed. “Oh, wow. You do not like that. I knew you weren’t having the greatest time when we came, but I didn’t know it was that bad. Yeah, I think that’s gonna get destroyed a lot in your dreams.”

Luna laughed softly. “Are you, of all people, learning subtlety?” she asked. “I did not think such a thing was possible.”

“Come on, Mom,” said the Tantabus indignantly, “I can learn. I can do quiet if I need to.”

“The first thing you did in the dreamscape was put a fancy Prench mustache on Sombra.” (Celestia suddenly started coughing and looked up, her mouth slightly open.)

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“I never said it was. It is simply unexpected that the same person that did that is also capable of…” Luna gestured around them. “…this. I thought you liked camp.”

“I do, don’t get me wrong, but it’s…” The Tantabus scratched its head. “You need to have quiet moments every once in a while. Change the tone a bit. Like, I like villainous mustaches. I like villains villainously twirling villainous mustaches. But if all he does is twirl a mustache, then he can’t do anything villainous, and we’re just left with a smarmy stallion who takes excessive pride in the remarkable pliability of his bounteous facial hair. So you need to have him do something bad, even if it’s just stealing forty cakes. If you don’t change it up at all, over-the-top becomes the new normal and you need to go further to go over-the-top.”

“That is… remarkably deep, for you,” said Luna. She couldn’t keep a hint of pride from creeping into her voice.

The Tantabus shrugged. “I’ve been thinking a lot during the day. What else am I gonna do? Not like there’s a lot of ponies dreaming then. And you take care of most of them. I get a lot of free time. Not that I’m complaining,” it added quickly, “just, you know, stating the facts. And, um, not that this hasn’t been fun, but how close are we to being done here? I wanna go find an up-and-coming musician and inspire them with an awesome band name.”

“I’ve seen enough,” said Celestia. She leaned in a little closer to the Tantabus, looking at it intently. “You certainly are an interesting person.”

“You may go,” Luna said with a smile. “I shall watch for the effects of your inspiration.”

“Schnazziness. Thank you,” the Tantabus said, saluting. “And, Aunt Celly, we need to get together and just plain talk sometime.” And it was gone, leaving Luna and Celestia standing alone in the wind and snow.

After several moments, Celestia said, “If nothing else, it’s certainly your daughter.”

“Tia…” But Luna was smiling a little.

“It’s a much, much younger you. Tell me it’s not.”

“I know.”

“So what’s motherhood like?”

Luna nibbled on her lips for a couple seconds. “…Complicated.”

“That’s cheating.”

“I never knew a child was on the way, it was never an infant, I never needed to teach it a thing, I do not need to do anything to take care of it, I do not see it that often, and yet, I cannot bear the thought of anything happening to it. I am not sure what other way there is to put it.”


More silence. It was contemplative, not awkward.

“I never should have doubted you, Luna,” Celestia said, “but, in the future… could you please let me know when you create dream-patrolling entities?”

“Tia, that shall be the first thing I do. Now, I must attend to the Night Court.” The dream dissolved and Luna was back in her room.

She breathed a sigh of relief. That went well. That went incredibly well. She’d been prepared for almost anything, but it still had gone better than she’d hoped. Celestia had accepted the Tantabus, and not even grudgingly; there’d be no bad blood between them. Still, no time to dwell on it. She had a country to run.

Luna straightened her mane, pushed open the door, and immediately regretted it.

There was a swarm of reporters jammed in the hallway outside, each trying to yell over each other. One of them broke through the crush and shoved a microphone in Luna’s face. “Princess! What’s the baby’s name? Who’s the father?”

Welp. This was going to take some explaining.

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