Despite the late hour, with the sun setting in the distance, Canterlot was abuzz with activity. The city's liveliness, however, was not due to some grand celebration. It was instead the after effect of terror and panic. Ponies were fleeing their homes, soldiers working to clear the capitol city.
On the highest balcony of the highest tower, Celestia looked out over the city and watched as the ponies fled. The order had gone out a few hours before, that Canterlot had to be evacuated, but it was happening too slowly. Half the city still had ponies in it, and they were running out of time.
It was a danger that seemed to come out of nowhere, at least to the common pony. Why a High Dragon was coming to attack Equestria was beyond them. Celestia, however, knew better. Two dragons had been disturbed in Equestria. The first, the red dragon that had tried to sleep in the high mountains; the other, the green dragon that had at one time been living in the Everfree Forest. Both were disturbed and in a way humiliated by ponies, specifically Twilight and her friends.
And now was the time of retribution. While it was Celestia and Luna's duty to tend to the sun and moon, they were not the only immortals in the world. They were the immortals of sky, but the dragon race's king and immortal was frightfully powerful. The dragon that currently raced to teach the ponies a lesson was none other than Kronos, High Dragon of Time.
It was his duty to tend the gentle fabric of time, to make sure it progressed on its steadfast march at a constant pace. He was the metronome to which time marched forward, and while he could not change the past or future he could affect how quickly or slowly time moved. It made him a dangerous opponent, for in one moment he could shift time so he moved faster than all others. He could strike before a pony could even know something had happened.
"Sister," Luna said, flapping up to the balcony and landing. "Reports are coming in from the boarder scouts. Kronos crossed the western boarder a half hour ago."
"Then he will be here with the sunset... I wonder if he planned it that way," Celestia wondered, wings unfurling. "Where is Twilight?"
"She and her friends are on the outer wall of Canterlot. If you cannot stop Kronos they will use the Elements of Harmony to try and knock him back, if only to give the ponies of Canterlot more time to evacuate. But... Sister, you don't have to fight alone."
"No; Luna, you are far too weak. The Elements of Harmony returned you to an age before your powers were properly awakened. The best thing you can do is stay safe... in case the worst happens."
"Don't talk like that!" Luna snapped, stomping a hoof. "You're going to be all right. You're going to defeat that dragon and come back and then everypony in Equstria will want to start a new national holiday for you."
"We can only hope, Sister," Celestia replied, eyes returning to the horizon. Her body tensed, wings stretching out. The last bits of the sun were disappearing beyond the horizon, beckoned down by the sun princess. And, in that fading shadow, Celestia saw the great figure of a flapping dragon, flying directly at the castle.
"Luna, keep everypony safe," Celestia said, wings beating a moment. "Promise me you will."
"I will," Luna replied, turning her eyes away as Celestia took off from the balcony, a sonic boom ripping through the air as the sun princess soared to face the high dragon Kronos. Luna watched as Celestia got smaller, her sister getting farther and farther away. Then she saw it, Kronos releasing a deathly fire as the pair began to fight. Celestia flew around, barely an insect in comparison to the high dragon. She bucked at his body parts, beams of pure magic shooting from her horn... but the dragon had chosen a perfect time to attack.
Celestia's strength came from the sun. It was a symbiotic relationship. She guided the sun through the sky and it gave her power. Now, as the sun slipped down below the horizon, so did Celestia's strength. She would have to defeat Kronos quickly, or risk being overwhelmed.
The ponies continued to stream out of the city as the last traces of the sun disappeared. Luna turned to the eastern horizon, starting to sense the moon rising. Even as she fought Celestia was working her magic on the sky. The full moon began to rise, filling the world with its light.
In the cool night air the dragon's fire burned with a brightness that made it visible all across Equestria. Luna could even feel the heat, though she wasn't sure if it was really heat from the fire or just her imagination. Still, the flames looked so intense, like they could burn up the sky itself.
It was a game of waiting, one Luna was quickly losing. She couldn't just stand there, she couldn't just let Celestia fight that monster alone. No, she had to help... but what help could she be. She didn't have her full power. Stronger than a normal unicorn but nothing compared to High Dragon Kronos.
Luna tensed, seeing Celestia's silhouette dart around the fire. Again, it might have been her imagination, but she was sure she heard Celestia scream in pain. This fear was only confirmed as she saw Celestia falter, if only for a moment, before resuming the fight.
She couldn't just sit and watch, at least from this distance. Her eyes were playing tricks at her at this distance, and the moon princess had to know her sister was safe. Flying out, Luna stayed high in the sky, her dark body allowing her to hide amongst the inky darkness. The air grew warmer the closer she got to the fight, the gentle chill in the air shifting to a gentle warmth, like the warmth you would feel in the beginning of a beautiful summer day.
Finding a cloud, Luna landed several hundred feet above the fight, hiding as she peered out below. It was a better view, and thanks to the light of the moon Luna was able to make out the details of the two combatants. Still... that wasn't necessarily a good thing.
Kronos was smiling, no visible harm on his body but Celestia... Celestia was hurt. Not badly hurt, but she had taken a few hits. Her usually pristine body was charred in places like she had been caught by the dragon's fire. Her wing tips were black, and the pastel flowing colors of her mane were faded and weak. Celestia was wearing herself out and Kronos hadn't even broken a sweat.
"You ponies have enjoyed this peace for far too long. It is better for you to know your place, under the claws of the dragons," Kronos called before spewing a huge cone of flame. Celestia banked hard, managing to slip around the inferno though her wings got just a bit more singed. She spun around in the air, horn glowing before a beam of light shot out, the white energy striking the dragon's scales, but seeming to have no effect.
"You shall not harm a single pony as long as I stand, Kronos. You will have to go through me to get to them."
"That is my intention," Kronos replied, claw striking out to try and slap Celestia right out of the air. The sun princess banked to miss again, but then was caught as Kronos spun in the air and brought his dragon tail around. Snapping like a whip, the tail struck Celestia, the sun princess plummeting towards the ground.
"CELESTIA!" Luna cried, the moon princess's eyes spilling tears as she watched her sister. She was going to hit. Most ponies thought they were truly immortal, but... but hit a stone hard enough and it will eventually crumble. Injure a princess enough and she would die. A fall like that, it would break so many bones, even if it didn't kill Celestia she'd be in no state to flight.
"Come on, wake up!" Luna pleaded, a smile spreading on her face as she saw Celestia shift. The sun princess twisted in the air, wings unfurling. She managed to slow herself enough to make the fall survivable. Celestia left a small crater in the ground, but she landed on all four hooves, keeping her alive and her bones mostly intact, minus a few cracks.
Still, Kronos was not about to let the battle, which was now going in his favor, sway back to a stalemate. His body glowed a moment, red scales shining like fires before he shoot down to the ground. To the onlooker it would had appeared that Kronos had turned into lightning or something, the way he raced towards the ground with such blinding speed. The truth, however, was that Kronos was manipulating time, the rest of the world moving at a slower temporal pace while he soared on unaffected.
He reached Celestia in a blink, claw drawing up before he backhanded the sun princess. Celestia went flying into a nearby cliff face, a cry of pain escaping her throat as she struck the wall before crumpling to a heap on the ground.
"NO!" Luna cried, jumping up from her cloud and flying as fast as she could. Kronos was drawing closer, ready to finish the fight when Luna swoop in between him and Celestia, tears streaming from her eyes while she glared at the dragon with murderous intent.
"LEAVE HER ALONE!"
Kronos smiled, a laugh lingering on his lips. "Oh, and is this the best Equestria has to offer? A fallen princess who is hardly even at a tenth of her sister's power?"
Luna just stood her ground, lowering her horn. She honestly had no clue what she was going to do, but at the moment instinct was taking over. She was not going to let that dragon near Celestia.
"So many flies, so little time to squish them all," Kronos said, drawing back a hand. Before Luna could properly react she was batted away, her small body bouncing several times on the hard ground before hitting a nearby tree.
Ribs were cracked, maybe even broken, and Luna could feel the ooze of blood moving down the back of her neck. She tried to open her eyes, but had to close them quickly as the world was swimming. A few more moments and she forced herself to look again. Kronos was looming over Celestia, the sun princess trying to get back to her hooves.
Kronos, however, didn't give her a chance as he back handed her again, finding some sick pleasure batting them around like rag dolls. This time, when Celestia crashed into the cliff wall, it did far more damage. The snapping of bone was clearly audible in the night.
Celestia's leg was broken.
Still, the sun princess struggled to her hooves, horn glowing as she stood on her three good legs. "Equestria will not surrender to you... I will not surrender."
"Then you will perish, and in your death your subjects will learn their place."
Luna tensed, trying to get to her hooves. She had to help Celestia. They may both be doomed to die at the hands of this dragon, but if she was going to die she was going to do it at her sister's side. Still, her body could not handle the pain in her ribs, the moon princess collapsing onto the ground.
And in her pain, in the panic, time seemed to slow for Luna. The world fell back, only the ground she was lying on and the tree nearby remaining visible as everything else was consumed in darkness. A dark magic was enveloping her as she heard the sound of hooves, somepony walking up slowly behind her.
"My, you two are in quite the predicament."
Luna looked back, seeing the form and hearing the familiar voice of Nightmare Moon. The dragon-eyed witch was smiling and that made Luna's blood boil.
"What do you want?"
"To help. After all, if you die so do I."
"I don't need your help."
"Of course you do. You don't have any of your old power; it will take years for you to grow back into your full strength. You need me, unless you'd rather see Celestia die."
"If I let you in Celestia may live but you'd imprison her in the sun. You'd make night last forever."
"Is that not a small price to pay for a sister's life? After all, letting me in will also save the lives of all those ponies in Canterlot. So much to be gained, and all you have to do is let me in."
"No... Luna, don't!"
The moon princess looked up, the darkness surrounding her being pierced by a point of light. That light grew, eventually showing Celestia in the distance. She was lying on her side, obviously in pain, probably ignoring some monologue rant the High Dragon of Time was giving on how ponies were so insignificant. Kronos was known to be a wind bag.
"Don't worry about me. Just run away, go back to the castle," Celestia ordered, grunting through pain as she used her failing magic to connect herself to Luna. "One of us has to survive, otherwise there will be nopony to tend the sky. That is our duty, our royal heritage. We must keep the sun and the moon moving."
"Th... the moon!" Luna said, looking up. As if answering her beckoned call, the moon appeared in the inky blackness, which was undoubtedly a mental world set up between the ponies. Celestia drew power from the sun, but Luna could draw power from the moon. The moon and sun's power were infinite... she could get the power to save Celestia.
The moon princess struggled to her feet, horn starting to glow. Trails of light began to form between her and the moon, each ebbing and pulsing as the moon's strength flowed into Luna.
"Oh please, like that's going to do anything," Nightmare Moon taunted with a small laugh. "You cannot hope to draw in enough power to defeat that dragon."
"I don't need to defeat him," Luna replied with a wince turning her head. "Just you." At that a beam of light shot from Luna's horn, striking Nightmare Moon in the chest and sending the witch pony sliding back.
"You insolent child! Even I am out of your league."
"You are a nightmare that does not know her place, that clings to my mind like a choking vine. You hold my old power as a true moon princess, and I'm going to take it back."
Nightmare Moon's mane flourished, swirling threateningly. "Then come, let us see if you can separate me from your power."
Luna gritted her teeth, the tendrils of light from the moon still feeding her power. She took flight, looping once before charging at Nightmare Moon. Her hooves began to glow in tune with her horn. Nightmare Moon saw the attack coming, drawing up a wing to block it. At that last moment Luna spun and bucked, the power in her hooves exploding as she struck Nightmare Moon's wing. The pair were thrown apart by the force, Luna's hooves singed slightly while Nightmare Moon was far worse off.
"No!" the pony witch whispered, seeing her left wing had been all but obliterated. "NO! I shall not fall to such a foal!" At that Nightmare Moon's horn glowed, beams of energy shooting out that took the shape of daggers. Luna dodged some, but others cut and scratched across the princess's body, leaving thin trails of blood. The deepest one cut across Luna's leg, causing her to falter and drop to her front knee.
"With the moon on your side you may have the power to stand against me," Nightmare Moon admitted. "But I've got time on my side. Celestia will be dead before you've defeated me. You cannot save her and defeat me at the same time. While night may not be eternal, we will at the very least be the only true queen of Equestria."
"Give me back my magic!"
"Do you even deserve this power? After all the ponies you hurt do you really think you can just take it back? You hurt thousands, you terrified millions, and together we imprisoned Celestia in the sun for a few brief hours. How can you call yourself a princess when every pony that looks at you only sees me, Nightmare Moon!"
"I have made mistakes," Luna replied, horn glowing even brighter. "But... everypony makes mistakes. And Celestia, she's forgiven me... even if I don't deserve it. That was why I've never tried to confront you. I was content to live out the rest of eternity like this, just to keep you from returning and as punishment for my crimes.
"But Celestia forgives me... Equestria forgives me... they know I made a mistake and are willing to give me a second chance. And now, this is my chance to make it up to them. To prove I deserve that second chance.
"And, after today... I may just be able to forgive myself for letting you take over."
• • •
"Sure don't look like that fight is goin' too well," Applejack said, standing with the others on the outer wall of Canterlot. Each of the six ponies had their Element of Harmony necklace, except for Twilight who wore the sixth element tiara.
"It will be fine... I mean, we saw Luna fly out. Her and Celestia together, how can they lose?"
"I do hope you're right, dear, for Equestria's sake."
"OOOO! My necklace is glowing!" Pinkie said, drawing every pony's attention. The Elements of Harmony were in fact glowing, and suddenly from each a beam of light shot straight out into the sky. Those six colors of red, pink, blue, green, orange, and purple were joined by a seventh in the distance, a beam of pale white, that matched perfectly the moon's gentle face.
• • •
"I've played with my prey long enough," Kronos said, fire flaring from his nostrils. "Time to cremate the late Princess Celestia of Equestria." With that the High Dragon arched his head forward, a pillar of fire starting to erupt from his mouth. In the same moment a bright flash of gray light blinked at the edge of the dragon's vision, followed by a blur of something bolting right into the path of his fire.
• • •
Celestia kept her eyes tight shut, fearing the coming flames. She had seen the fire coming, it was within moments of consuming her when she closed her eyes. She could feel the heat, and was waiting for the scalding pain. But... it never came. Instead, all she felt was the warmth... and then she heard a voice calling her name.
"Celestia... CELESTIA... oh, if after all that you're dead I am going to be so mad!"
"Lu... Luna!" the sun princess said, struggling to raise her head. Standing in front of her, black body and star speckled mane was a creature that looked to be Nightmare Moon. The witch pony was currently using her magic and wings to split the fire, sending it cascading around the two princesses but leaving them otherwise unharmed.
"Luna... no, you didn't..."
"I didn't," Nightmare Moon replied in a softer voice, looking back. It was then Celestia was met not with dragon-shaped eyes, filled with jealousy and hate. They were still dragon-shaped, but the color was a familiar, gentle turquoise and the orbs looked upon her with love, worry, and concern.
"Luna... you beat Nightmare Moon?!"
"I had a little help," she replied, motioning to her necklace. There, shining like a star, was a gray gemstone in the shape of a crescent moon.
Celestia was able to sense the magic, and her eyes lit up in amazement. "A... a new Element of Harmony. A new virtue has not been added to that ancient power... ever. How did it happen?"
"Is that really what you want to worry about right now?"
Celestia laughed a little, struggling to her hooves, forcing herself up despite the pain of her broken leg. "No, I guess we do have more pressing matters."
"Can you still fly?"
"Then go back to the castle. I'll fight off Kronos."
"Celestia, you're no good with that broken leg."
"Every bone in my body may be broken, but on my last breath I would say the same. Luna, you stood beside me when I needed you the most, and now it's time I did the same.
"Ponies call me brave because of all the foes I've faced, but never have I met an enemy that could actually threaten me... until tonight. Now, I face down one that can actually take my life, yet I will stand. For even if I die today, it will be with the knowledge I was able to show the same bravery as my sister, to stand in the face of danger for the ponies of Equestria... to stand beside my sister... if only for one last moment."
• • •
"Now what in tarnation was that?!" Applejack asked, poking at her Element of Honesty necklace.
"I don't know," Twilight replied, eyes narrowing a moment as the gemstones began to glow again. "But here it comes again."
For the second time the elements of harmony shot their lights out into the sky, and as before a pillar of gray light shot up in the distance, from the place where Luna and Celestia were fighting the dragon Kronos. But now another light came into existence, a bright yellow that matched the sun on a perfect summer day.
The eight lights began to bend towards each other, mixing and interweaving until a long, arched rainbow formed in the sky between Canterlot and the battle below. Twilight and her friends could only watch in awe as the eight colors danced and mixed in the sky.
• • •
Kronos was thrown back by a sudden explosion of force, his dragon fire being thrown back in his face as a rainbow, of all things, crashed down in front of him like a falling star. The dragon quickly got back to his claws, smoke trailing from his mouth as he watched the point where the rainbow hit the ground.
From there two figures began to emerge, and as they stepped free of the cascading light the rainbow itself faded, disappearing into the night. There, standing shoulder to shoulder, was Princess Celestia and Princess Luna. Every injury was healed, their bodies perfectly pristine as if they had just been to the spa.
Their usual royal necklaces had been replaced: for Luna, a silver necklace held a gray, crescent moon-shaped jewel right in the center of her chest; for Celestia, the necklace was golden and carried a gemstone depicting the sun.
"What sorcery is this!?" Kronos snapped, anger billowing.
"It is a magic far more powerful than any of us, High Dragon," Celestia replied, "for on this night two new elements of Harmony have been born. My sister, Luna, carrying the Element of Forgiveness."
"While my sister Celestia," Luna continued, "carries the Element of Bravery."
"And with their power, you shall find we are much more difficult opponents."
"The Elements of Harmony are mere trinkets compared to the power of time! You shall know my wrath!" Kronos screamed, his body glowing. Still, seizing control of time takes time, and both Luna and Celestia were not about to let their opponent make use of his power.
Celestia took flight while Luna charged in on hooves, her star-sparkled mane stretching out. The mystical mane grabbed hold of the dragon's feet, the princess charging beneath him and a final tug pulling the dragon's claws right out from under him.
Celestia went next, horn glowing as she imbued her hooves with magic. As Kronos fell, Celestia positioned herself, smiling as she turned and bucked. Her hooves connected with the dragon's jaw, sending him flying in the other direction and crashing into the ground with a heavy thud, chipping a number of teeth in the process.
"It will take much more to defeat me," Kronos said, opening his eyes only to find the two princesses standing on his snout, their unicorn horns pointed at him. His eyes narrowed in anger, but as he meet the steely gazes of the princesses Kronos felt his stomach sink. If he made a move they would attack; it was like they were holding a sword to his throat.
This battle was over.
• • •
Several hours later, as the moon began to reach the far horizon, Luna stood on the highest balcony of the tallest tower. The last of the ponies who fled the capitol were back in their homes, and the city was at peace. The moon princess stood with her wings open and mane fluttering as she took in the night. A smile graced her face, and the stars above seemed to be twinkling for her, applauding their queen.
Her and Celestia's return to Canterlot had been an interesting one. Twilight and her friends had almost attacked Luna on sight if Celestia hadn't stepped in the way. It took some convincing, but they all seemed to honestly believe that Luna only looked like Nightmare Moon. That, on the inside, she was still the same Luna.
And in time Luna would revert to her true form, a body more regal and much more similar to Celestia's. But... this body wasn't so bad. The dragon-shaped eyes were even kind of cool, something no other pony had. Maybe she'd keep them, as a final memento of the now properly destroyed Nightmare Moon.
Luna's attention was drawn from the sky by the sounds of hooves behind her. "It has been a long night," Celestia offered as she stepped onto the balcony, moving up beside Luna. "I'm almost tempted to close the castle today, if only to sleep."
"Is my sister actually thinking about playing hookey? The world must be ending."
"After everything that's happened, I do believe I've earned some rest."
"Well, if you do play hookey you'd better not leave me behind," Luna replied as she folded her wings. "I think I deserve a day off just as much as you do."
Celestia laughed a little, moving over beside her sister and touching her neck to hers, a very regal and proper way for the princesses to basically hug. "I have missed you Sister."
"I know you have, and I'm sorry it took me so long to find myself again. I promise, it will never happen again."
"I know," Celestia replied, "but even if it does I will always help you find your way back."
"I know..." Luna whispered back, a smile on her face as a tear formed in her eye.
"Though," Celestia began as she broke off the embrace with her sister, a playful glint in her eyes, "if you EVER even think about putting me through all that again I will buck some sense into you."
Luna's smile turned devilish, her voice ringing with a playful taunt. "Oh yeah? You think you can take the great and powerful Nightmare Moon?"
"I seem to recall beating you a thousand years ago."
"You had the Elements of Harmony back then. Besides, you're so slow you couldn't even catch me, let alone fight me."
"No offense, Sister, but I can fly circles around you."
"Oh yeah? ...Prove it." With that Luna bolted up, wings flapping as she took flight. Celestia grinned, her own wings spreading as she raced after her sister. Soon the air above Canterlot filled with giggles and laughter as the pair of sisters played, honestly played with each other for the first time in a millennium.
And that morning the sunrise would be just a little late, the pair losing track of time as they looped and soared in the sky.