As she stood on the marble balcony, gazing out on the setting sun, her thoughts began to wonder. Princess Celestia, guardian of the day and co-ruler of Equestria, had been sensing the rising darkness for some time now. It had been small at first, not worth thinking about. But as time went on, it began to grow in her mind and began to trouble her to no end. She knew that sooner or later she would have to address it. But how to do so?
She raised her head and looked out on the brilliantly orange sun touching the horizon before her. She sighed and closed her eyes. Her horn began to glow it's usual yellow as the glowing orb moved further down. A few minutes passed and soon enough, there was darkness across the land. Celestia opened her eyes and looked up at the sky. Darkness but no moon. No stars. She hated seeing the sky like this. Her sister always made it so beautiful. But before she could work the night sky, it always looked so lifeless to her, so dead. A sentiment Luna herself shared.
And speaking of whom, Celestia heard the familiar sound of hoof-steps approaching behind her. Turning she gave a smile as her younger sister approached, her beautiful night-mane flowing in the gently breeze. The sisters said nothing to each other, merely giving each other a brief smile and nod. Luna took her place next to Celestia and closed her eyes as she always did. Her horn glowed a gentle blue and within minutes, the pale light of the moon rose beyond the horizon and illuminated the land. A few moments later and the sky around it was filled with bright dots of light, the stars.
Now this was more like it, Celestia thought. Luna always created the most beautiful night skies. When she was placed in charge of both day and night, she had tried hard to emulate her craft, but it had never seemed quite as magnificent as this. It pleased her greatly to see the night sky back in the proper hooves again. Luna opened her eyes and looked up towards her elder sister. It did not take her long to note the look of worry she bore upon her face.
"You sense it too, do you not sister?" She asked quietly.
Celestia said nothing, merely nodding.
"He is returning." Luna continued.
Celestia nodded again. Him. The bringer of chaos. The spirit of Disharmony. Discord.
It had been over a year since she and the malicious spirit had their brief encounter in the hall of the elements of harmony, and even then his mocking words towards her still rung in her mind. In his brief day of freedom, Discord had inflicted chaos across all of Equestria, sowing strife amongst it's populace and terror among those he did not corrupt. It had not reached the depth to which he had sunk during his first reign a thousand years ago, but given enough time she was certain it would have done.
"Have you told her?" Luna asked.
Celestia looked down at her sister. Luna did not clarify, but one look at her face gave Celestia all the information she needed. The moon princess was clearly referring to Celestia's beloved student, Twilight Sparkle. When Discord was freed last time, it was her and her friends that had been dispatched to deal with him. It was not a decision Celestia wanted to take, but she had no choice. only the elements of harmony could defeat him,, and since she and Luna no longer had the connection to the elements as they once did, the task had to be theirs alone.
But it was a decision she'd always felt bad about. Discord had come close to ruining the friendship she'd developed with those other five mares. He'd twisted them, corrupted their most precious personality traits until they were nothing more than mockeries of their true selves. Celestia hated him for having done that. And more than that, she hated herself for having put Twilight and her friends in that position. The day had been won of course and Discord had been imprisoned once more, but even then she felt no better at sending her subjects to deal with a threat she felt was hers to face.
"If, as we fear, he frees himself once more, I must be the one to face him." Celestia said.
Luna looked up at her, startled at what she'd just heard.
"Sister! You cannot! You know as well as I that only the elements can imprison him. Our magic, as great as it may be, was never meant for dealing with a creature such as Discord."
Celestia turned to face her, her face filled with anger and regret.
"I know that! But I can't let Twilight face this again! Not again. Not after what happened last time. Her life and those of her friends was almost ruined and it was because I sent her out there to do my duty for me! I told myself I had no choice, but I still could have faced him myself, I could have..."
But Luna finished her sentence.
Celestia was made silent by that statement. It was true. As powerful as she was, in a straight up fight, she would have been beaten. She turned away, clearly distressed over what to do. Luna approached and placed her wing around her elder sister,. much like how Celestia would do with her in her times of need.
"You'll think of something sister. You always do." She said assuring manner.
Despite the circumstances, Celestia afforded herself a brief chuckle. Even after all this, her little sister still respected and looked up to her. It was a moment that brought her joy, however brief it may have been in comparison to the fear she felt at Discord's return. But as comforting as this moment was, she knew she had to come up with a plan, and soon. Discord's last encounter with the ponies would have given him all the experience he needed to know how to deal with them again. He wouldn't chance hiding the elements this time. It was certain he'd try and destroy them. And if she or Luna took to the field, he'd most certainly defeat them. No matter what option she thought of, there was nothing Celestia could think that seemed like a sure-fire way out of this.
And then a new thought came to her. One that, when compared to the others, seemed like a visitor from a foreign land. A notion that perhaps, just perhaps, confronting him was not the way to go. It was a thought that almost made her ashamed to think it. There was no way it could work. Not with him. Not after everything that had happened between them. And yet, when considering the unlikelihood of the other plans succeeding, she was at this point given to consider any option.
"Perhaps......perhaps we could.......reach out to him." She said.
Luna pulled her wing away and stepped back. The sun princess looked down at her younger sibling, and saw the look of shock on her face. It was a look she had not see for millennia, and not a pleasant thought considering she'd caused it.
"Reach out?" Luna asked. "As in........forgiveness?"
Celestia exhaled deeply, and nodded. Luna stared at her elder sister in sheer disbelief, as though she had no heard correctly. Surely her sister was in jest? Perhaps the weight of her worries had made her take leave of her senses? Surely she did not seriously believe that a plan such as that had any real worth against a foe such as Discord?
"Sister.....you cannot be serious!" She said.
"Dear Luna, I have never been more serous of anything in my life. We must do what we can to.....forgive him for his crimes."
Luna's mouth was almost on the floor at this point. But soon her look of shock turned to one of anger.
"Why? After everything he has done. To Equestria. To the ponies under our charge. To us! How can you even consider wanting to bring him back into the fold?!"
Celestia could not deny that her plan was a long shot. A year ago such a plan would have sounded ridiculous to her as well. But this was something she'd been considering for some time.
"Sister. Remember. Discord was......our friend once."
Some of the anger left Luna's face as Celestia said that. Instead it was replaced with a look of sadness, of regret. Celestia knew what she was thinking. Memories of before the moon imprisonment. Before the era of chaos. When she, Luna and Discord were close friends. Happier times. Simpler times. Before his fall. Those memories frequently brought nothing but pain to the two sisters, not only that their once good friend had become so twisted, but that they themselves had to be the ones to stop him.
"Sister, he may have been a friend once. But after everything he's done, how can possibly expect him to become one again?"
Celestia closed her eyes, she knew her next words would sting, but she had no choice.
"Because, I believe that everypony should have a chance to atone for their actions."
Luna fell silent at that. Memories of her own dark past swelled up. It was a topic that neither of them ever wished to discuss with one another, and under normal circumstances she'd resent Celestia for bringing it up. But, as much as she hated to say it, she was right. She too had been given a chance to atone once. And if she was unwilling to offer that same chance to another, what would that say about her?
She looked up at her sister again, who's face bore a look of determination upon it. Luna's face became similar, and she silently nodded at her elder. The two looked out over the horizon at the rising moon Luna had created.
"Very well sister. I do not like it, but I understand your reasons. For your sake I will accept your decision."
Celestia let out a sigh of relief. A part of her honestly thought Luna would not accept this decision. Seeing her accepting of it brought much comfort to her heart, even though it wasn't enough to quell the fears she felt that maybe, this plan might not work. But she stored those fear away for now as her little sister spoke once more.
"So Celestia. How shall we do this?" She asked.
The sun princess considered this question. An idea popped into her head. She didn't want to have to put her in that position again., but if she was to progress in her training, she knew it was needed. Knowing this, she gave Luna her answer.
"I think I have just the ponies who can help us in this".