Clair de Lune

by SPark

Chapter 2: A Nightmare and a Dream

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Luna soared through the night sky, while a full moon shone down from above with brilliant white light. Yet the stars were not washed out at all by this display; they too shone in their full glory. For this was the dream realm, and Luna flew on wings made of magic and will rather than feather and bone. Below the unreal sky other lights twinkled, here one alone, there a great, crowded cluster. Each light was a dreamer. The colors revealed how they dreamed. Most were soothing blue, gentle purple or warm yellow, but a few shone uneasy orange, sickly green, or nightmare red.

She chose one of those that glowed red and swooped down out of the sky towards it. She passed easily through the translucent walls of a house, into a bedroom, where a translucent mare with glowing strands of red twisted all around her lay in an equally translucent bed. With practiced ease Luna reached out and touched a strand, stepping into the mare's nightmare.

She had known many nightmares over the years. Most were fairly predictable. Pursuing monsters was a common theme for adults and foals alike. Only adult ponies tended to dream of their teeth falling out, however, and that was generally more an orange dream, though for some it was the red of a true nightmare. Then there were falling dreams, especially common among pegasi, for whom having their wings fail them was a deeply seated fear. And of course those dreams in which one has to return to school, or when one is publicly caught in some compromising activity, or fails at some vital task. All these she had seen in countless variations. But none of those dreams were quite like what she saw when she stepped into this one.

There were no monsters. There were no other ponies, either. There was only a single pony, sitting and wailing in despair at an empty sky. "No!" screamed the pony again and again. "No! No! Please no!" Yet the dreamscape was nearly empty, a blurry, featureless field with a nondescript sky above, all of it tinted nightmare red. There was nothing for him to be afraid of. And that too was strange. Ponies did not always appear as themselves in their dreams, but most did. This pony, however, seemed to be a male version of the mare she'd seen sleeping.

Slowly, trying to feel her way through the layers that lay beneath this dream, Luna approached the pony. He spun around at her approach, then cringed away from her, tears in his eyes. "No. I don't want anypony to see me like this. Please, no."

"Fear not," said Luna, trying to speak gently. "'Tis but a dream. Whatever you fear, little one, 'tis not real."

"Not real." The pony blinked at her, then slumped with relief. "Oh sweet Celestia, thank you. It's not real. I haven't turned back into him. Thank you." Suddenly a mare was sitting there, rather than a colt.

Luna felt a flicker of old pain mixed with amusement at the way this pony invoked her sister while thanking her. But that was her own fault for forcing Celestia to banish her. In her day ponies had still sworn by both princesses, even if they'd never truly appreciated her night. Yet in this day ponies stayed up after dark far more frequently, and had even invented the science of astronomy to study her stars. She would rather her night be loved than her name be known, truth be told.

She put those thoughts aside and ventured a question. "If 'tis not unseemly to ask, might I inquire about the nature of your nightmare? I must confess I have never before encountered one like it."

"I was just dreaming that I'd been turned back somehow, and that this time I would be stuck this way forever."

Luna blinked at the mare. "...back?"

"I used to be a colt," said the mare with a shrug. The world around them began to waver, so Luna knew that the dream was about to end. She stepped out of it, back into the larger dream world, where she could see the dream-shadow of a real mare who still slept soundly in her bed. Faint golden lines forming around her indicated the beginning of a new dream, but Luna didn't step into it. Instead she set out towards the palace and her own sleeping body, with a mind that spun with questions.

A single phrase had the potential to make her world waver and shift like a dream about to end. If it meant what it seemed to mean, the consequences were stunning. She needed to begin researching it immediately.

Dawn found her at the library doors, once again considering if it would be worth the trouble to arrange for the Canterlot University library, at least, to be open all night. Once again she decided against trying and simply waited until the library opened, less than an hour after sunrise.

Luna considered asking the librarian for help, but she wasn't sure what to even ask for. In the end she paged through the card catalog, looking for anything that seemed relevant. It was the long way to do it, but if her suspicions were correct there would have to be some sort of book on the subject somewhere in the library.

She only had to go as far as "G" for "gender studies", which seemed most likely to contain that which she desired. A shelf in the psychology section proved to hold books on herd behavior, marriage, pony sexual practices, and gender.

She pulled a book on the latter subject out and carried it floating behind her to a small table nearby. She squared it up carefully on the table and opened it to the first page. It was time to begin to learn if the world really was about to become something new and strange.

Some hours later her rumbling stomach dragged her from the pages. There was still more to know, but what she'd read so far was enough to leave her feeling as though her head was spinning. The planet had shifted beneath her feet. Birds might perhaps swim, and fish perhaps fly, even those not hatched to such a fate.

She placed the book on a reshelving cart and wandered out of the library, towards a possible breakfast at the palace, her head spinning. Her mind bounced from thought to thought, an unruly tumble, seemingly at random. She thought of a mare she had known twelve centuries ago. She remembered a moment a century before that, donning armor, preparing for battle, with Celestia helping her adjust the straps correctly. A stallion she'd rather liked who had courted her with flowers and flowery poetry a few years later in time flashed through her mind. It was followed by a memory from much further back, a fight over some formal occasion, and her anger at once again letting herself be talked into wearing some frippery in the fashion of the time. Little moments, dozens of them crowded around her. Moments that had made her who she was. Moments that had defined her. Moments that might perhaps re-define her, if she chose.

Only a few hours ago she had known who she was. She was Luna, the all too awkward princess of the night. She was such because there was nothing else she could be. But now, who was she? Who was she really?

Celestia was seated in the whimsically named Extraneous Parlor when Luna arrived. It was one of Celestia's favorites, a lovely room with broad windows that had a perfect view of some of the nicest of the palace gardens, so it was the place where she most often had breakfast.

Luna sat beside her at the table. Celestia had the remains of a generous repast scattered in front of her and was now simply sipping a cup of tea. "Good morning, sister. Up early, I see."

"Yes," said Luna absently. An efficient serving pony appeared at her elbow and asked if she wanted to have her usual. She gave him a distracted nod and began to toy with the place setting in front of her.

"Did you get much sleep?"

Luna frowned just a little, still rather wishing that Celestia wouldn't be so formal with her. She knew, of course, that in this modern day "you" was the familiar term, and "thou" was never properly used at all save in historical reenactments. But it was hard to shake the feeling that all the ponies around her were being coldly formal towards her every time they spoke. Including her sister.

"Nay, I have not yet slept," she replied.

"Did anything happen last night?"

Luna looked up at Celestia. She was serene, as she always was, and her smiling expression bore the perfect amount of faint concern. Luna decided that she was not remotely ready to discuss the shift in her world with her sister. Too many of her feelings for her sister were tangled up in all that had now perhaps changed. "Naught save a few dreams," said Luna.

"I see." Celestia smiled and took another small sip of tea, managing as always to not slurp when she did, not even a little bit. Luna wished she knew how Celestia did that. Or did she? Her thoughts wouldn't stop bouncing. Even such a tiny thing as a sip of tea, now seen in a new light. "Well, should you ever need to talk about anything, sister, you know that I am here for you."

"I know," said Luna, and went back to toying with her place setting. A moment later her breakfast was set in front of her. A high-piled plate of fried, shredded potatoes, half-drowned in gravy, and topped with melted cheese. A dish she had only recently become familiar with, but which was already a great favorite. On a plate to the side were several decadent pastries, and severed along with it was a large glass of milk and a mug of hot chocolate. She dug into this bounty eagerly.

Celestia shook her head faintly at the food piled in front of Luna. They were both larger than most ponies, and indeed Celestia ate an even greater volume of food than the amount which Luna was currently inhaling. Celestia's meals, however, were always dainty morsels, each one some careful, exquisite balance of flavors. There were a lot of them—the palace employed multiple master chefs who all worked solely to supply this quantity of food to the princess—yet still each individual dish was only a few bites. Celestia loved food, and the endless variety of palate-teasing morsels in her meals was one of her few true indulgences.

Luna, meanwhile, felt that food was what made you not hungry, and tended to like dishes that were hearty to the point of being nearly disgusting to more refined ponies. Hence her current breakfast favorite being the greasy mess in front of her, which was colloquially known as "hash".

When she finished, she slugged down the last of the hot chocolate and rose, just as Celestia was setting down her now-empty teacup.

"It was good to see you this morning, Luna," said Celestia.

Luna rose, nodding but still only half-hearing Celestia. "Likewise," she said as she ambled out of the room. She wasn't certain where she was headed, all she knew was that she needed to think, and perhaps to talk to somepony about this revelation. But who? Not Celestia. Not yet. Twilight? Luna considered that for a moment, then thought through the consequences and threw it out instantly. Eventually she would need to speak to Twilight, but not yet. Who then?

She wandered up to her room, climbing the long flight of stairs to the tower without really seeing the steps. With the same inward-turned abstraction she ambled through her rooms and out onto her balcony. The mid-morning sun was warm on her dark coat as she stood and gazed off into the distance. Eventually her eye fell on Ponyville, standing practically within the shadow of Canterlot mountain. She couldn't talk to Twilight, but there were five other ponies living in that town that she counted as friends. Perhaps one of them could help her.

She launched herself from the balcony and set out for Ponyville, her broad wings beating steadily. As she flew, she considered which of her Ponyville friends she should speak with. Pinkie Pie could keep a secret until the end of time, and as the pink party pony knew every single person, pony or otherwise, in all of Ponyville. She might well be personally acquainted with some of the ponies whose existence Luna had suddenly become aware of. Yet Luna didn't know if the happy-go-lucky Pinkie would understand her sudden uncertainty. Applejack too could be trusted to keep a secret, but such a straightforward pony might also find it difficult to understand.

Perhaps Fluttershy? But although Luna found the shy mare entirely charming, she couldn't picture herself pouring out her concerns to Fluttershy. She had done Luna several favors, but they were not as personally close as Luna was to some of the others.

Rainbow Dash also was a friend, but not one Luna counted as a truly close friend.

Which left Rarity. She and Luna had bonded almost instantly. They were nearly as close as Luna was with Twilight. They shared a passion for art, and Rarity was the only other pony Luna knew who truly understood how deeply Luna had been wounded by the way ponies had failed to appreciate her night. Even Celestia knew it was so without having the true empathy that came only from shared experience. But Rarity too had had her work scorned at times. She knew well the pain that came when you laid out your very best and it was greeted with little more than indifference.

Luna also thought that as cosmopolitan as Rarity was, she would hopefully not be shocked at the topic Luna wished to discuss.

So when she arrived at Ponyville she landed directly in front of Rarity's boutique. The shop was open, and the door chimed cheerfully as Luna stepped inside.

"Welcome to... oh! Princess! How delightful to see you here, my dear. Come in!" Rarity positively flew to greet her, and Luna smiled at the unicorn's enthusiasm. "Don't tell me you have finally given in and decided to buy a gown?"

Luna had to laugh at that. "Nay. I do not think I shall budge on that point. Rather I came to speak with thee." Luna halted and corrected herself. "With you." Rarity was her friend, and it sounded so strange to speak formally with her, but Luna knew she would never get used to the modern usage if she didn't try to use it herself. "I have a matter to discuss with you, if you have the time to spare for't."

"Of course! Come in, we'll have tea. I may have to go check on a customer should any turn up, but I can always spare the time for you, Luna dear."

Luna smiled. "Thank you." She followed Rarity into her kitchen and sat at the table while Rarity made a pot of tea. Luna was not a tea connoisseur like her sister, but she didn't mind the occasional cup. Rarity favored a Trottingham Breakfast, which was at least a relatively robust tea and not the insipid stuff that Celestia usually drank.

Having poured two delicate cups from the matching teapot, Rarity seated herself across the small table from Luna and took a sip. "So, what brings you here to Ponyville?"

Luna took a sip. The cup wobbled just the tiniest bit as she lifted it in her magic. She felt suddenly afraid, as well as uncertain. How to start? And what if Rarity wasn't cosmopolitan enough after all? She took a second sip to give her a moment more, then finally said, "I require advice."

"And you thought of me? I am flattered, darling." Rarity smiled delightedly.

"I hope that thou—that you shall still consider it flattery when all is said," said Luna, her voice a little softer now. She took another sip of tea, and took a calming breath as well. Her heart was beating fast.

"I promise that whatever it is, I won't mind," said Rarity, with sudden sincerity, sensing that Luna was nervous.

"Are you familiar with, well... ponies who were once stallions and are now mares?" asked Luna.

Rarity blinked at her in silence for a moment, then said, "Well yes darling. I know one or two. The fashion industry tends to rather attract colt cuddlers and other such atypical ponies, you know."

Luna nodded. "And hast... Have you also encountered any mares who became stallions?"

"Not that I know of. Though of course one can't generally tell unless the pony in question lets one know. The spells that make such changes are quite good these days. So I might have met any number of them and never known."

"And it is true that any pony may have this change made, if they so desire?"

"As far as I know, yes. But why are you asking this, Luna dear? Have you met some dashing suitor, who was not a stallion from birth?"

Luna shook her head. Her teacup rattled against the saucer as she set it down. Her nervousness had reached an intolerable peak. But if she were to get Rarity's advice, she would have to put words to the uncertainty that had shaken her world. "No. 'Tis not that. But I..." She swallowed. "I think mayhap that I myself wish to become one."

Author's Notes:

Welcome to my latest story! It's all written, so I'll be releasing a new chapter monthly until it's finished. There are eight total, so six more to come. I hope you all enjoy going on this little journey with Luna and I. Comments are very welcome, so do please let me know what you think of it so far! Questions are also welcome, though some will no doubt be answered by the story itself as it progresses.

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