The sky was bright orange. The sun had been setting for the past few minutes now and it's fading light was creating a spectacular scene. A grassy hill, in the middle of a beautiful flower-filled field. Atop the hill, a single oak tree, probably a hundred years old.
But it was next to the tree where the truly important sight was. It was a stone. Old and worn, with etchings on one side. As the sun's light began to dim, a figure approached the stone. An alicorn, with dark blue fur and a mane that contained the very night sky.
She approached the stone and gently sat down. Her gaze never left the etchings, which had been partly obscured by moss and ivy. Carefully, making sure not to damage thje stone, she used her hoof to brush the plants away, revealing the markings more clearly. As she looked upon them, her expression, which until then had been fairly stoic, eventually began to morph into one of pain. Her eyes shut tightly as they began to well up.
But she would not she a tear. Not here. Not in front of him.
Opening her eyes again, she began to read the inscriptions on the stone. Every word made her heart sink further and further. But she refused to let this defeat her. She had been through too much to allow mere words to pain her like this. The words, once read, repeated themselves over and over in her mind.
Here lies Captain Shade. Valiant warrior and leader of the night-guard. Trusted soldier and loyal aide to Princess Luna.
"Loyal aide..." Luna mumbled.
Gently, she placed one hoof on top of the stone.
"Yes he was. And so much more."
Her quiet moment was interrupted by a familiar sound. It was the flapping of wings. Luna had heard that sound so many times in her life that she did not need to turn to know who it was. She remained where she was, waiting as the sound of hoof-steps approached from behind.
"Luna." A voice said.
The moon princess sighed.
"Celestia. How goes your duties?"
The princess of the sun walked to Luna's side and sat down next to her.
"Well enough sister. The sun sets as it always has. You will be needed to raise the moon shortly."
Luna nodded. There was no hostility here between them. The bitter feelings that had been there once were long gone. Still, she would have preferred to be left alone this evening. But she knew full well that she was needed.
"I will see to it." She said bluntly.
Celestia could tell from the tone of her voice that she wished to be left alone right now, so she got up and began walking away. But before she got very far, she stopped as the voice of Luna was soon heard.
"Wait. Tell me....what happened....after I left."
Celestia closed her eyes, a pained expression on her face. Neither of them wished to think back to that time. Those dark days when Luna was under the thrall of twisted and corrupted thoughts. Those days when Celestia had to do the one action she'd regretted her entire life. But still, her sister had asked a question, and she had no intention of simply remaining silent.
"Do you mean what happened.....to him?"
Luna silently cursed under her breath. Even after all these many centuries, Celestia could read her like a book. It was true. Her thoughts were dwelling on that stallion she once knew. All those many lost years ago. Her most loyal soldier. Her friend.
Luna turned around. She had not expected anyone to come out here to this balcony tonight, so she was rather taken aback that she seemed to have a visitor. It was the north tower balcony of the Canterlot palace. The sky was dark with the night she had brought, the only light coming from the moon she ruled.
There, at the entrance to the balcony, was her most trusted lieutenant. Shade, the captain of the night guard. He was a bat-pegasi, as most of her guard were. He stood taller than the rest, his face bearing his usual stern expression.
"Shade! We had not expected thee to be here this night." She commented.
"Indeed your majesty. But my troops informed me that you were not at the festivities below. Your sister and all the nobles are gathered for the gala, but you were nowhere to be found. I decided to see if you were safe."
Luna gave a small smile. He always though of her first. She appreciated it very much. But her thoughts were saddened as she began to explain the reason she was up here.
"Do forgive me Captain. But our sister's celebration is not a place we feel we would be suited for."
Her captain tilted his head in confusion. Luna had wanted not to have to explain this to anypony, but she knew well that Shade would not leave her side without an explanation.
"We feel our presence would not be appreciated at the Gala. Few have spoken with us, given our role as guardian of the night. As such, it was decided that we shall spend our evening here, enjoying the night."
Luna turned away and looked once more upon the night sky she had created. It was, truth be told, a beautiful sight to behold, with stars and comets spread all over. Luna had always been proud of the work she did. And even though her elder sister had always tried to convince her otherwise, she knew the ponies of Equestria did not look upon the night with the same love she did.
Her attention was drawn back to the captain, whose hoof-steps could be heard without her turning to look at him.
"Princess. Surely you do not wish to be alone all night? I'm sure your sister would wish to spend time with you."
Luna shook her head.
"We fear not. Our dear sister is frequently too busy at these social events, greeting the nobles and the elite. She barely has enough time to enjoy the festivities herself, let alone spend time with us."
She did not blame her sister for any of this. Celestia had always been kind and understanding to her. But her responsibilities, not only as a princess but as the elder sibling, often meant the two had little time to spend with each other. As the days and nights passed on, Luna could not help but feel that the two were drifting apart.
As she dwelt on this, she noticed something appear in front of her. It was an armour-clad hoof. Shade's hoof. Turning, she saw him give a smile, a rare sight given the captain's usual demeanour.
"I believe it is customary on such events for the nobles to engage in a dance of some sort. And since you yourself are of noble blood, it would not be proper to let you go without at least one dance."
Luna was rather surprised by this. Nopony had ever asked her to dance before. Thinking back, she didn't think she'd ever danced at all. Plus, this was Shade we were talking about. For a captain to ask his princess to dance was most improper. But right now, Luna didn't care. She was simply happy to have been asked.
Placing her hoof in his, she smiled back at him.
"Captain Shade, it would be our pleasure."
"You were close, weren't you?" Celestia asked.
Luna did not speak, merely nodding her head in response. She could not deny that. She and Shade had indeed been close. Perhaps closer than most ponies would have wanted them to be. Luna had known for many years that Shade had an affection for her. And over time, she too had started to feel warmth towards him, the kind that only those with love in their hearts could feel.
And here she stood. One thousand years later. Looking upon his grave.
There was a time when she would have had a chance to be happy with him. For the two of them to have been together. And now that chance was gone. Like everything else, the darkness that had taken her had ruined whatever happiness she had. Even a thousand years after she was taken, that evil had managed to destroy something close to her.
"Tell me sister." Luna said.
Celestia turned to face her.
"Was he....alright? After my....change?"
The sun princess sighed.
"Like all the other bat-pegasi, Shade retreated from public Equestrian life. He had no princess to guard anymore, to he and the others resigned their posts. He and I never saw each other again after that. I only ever heard his name again after that when his people informed me of his death. It was then that I arranged his funeral here on this hill."
Luna finally turned to face her elder sister, her face filled with surprise.
"You were the one who had him buried here?"
"I figured it's what you would have wanted for him."
Luna could not say that was untrue. Looking around at the beautiful scenery, she had to admit that she would want Shade put in a place like this. Still, she couldn't stop thinking about this. It wasn't just Shade. Everypony she knew from back then was gone now. Her guards, the servant ponies who cooked her meals, the ponies in the streets who bowed to her as she walked by, her closest friends. All of them, gone.
"I missed so much." She said quietly.
Celestia, seeing her sister in this state, walked up to her and placed one of her wings around her. Luna felt her sister's warmth and was able to relax somewhat.
"I can't promise that this will ever get easy for you sister." Celestia said.
Luna looked up at Celestia as she spoke.
"I cannot promise this pain will ever go away. I can't promise you'll ever come to terms with those you've lost. I can't even promise that things will ever be like they were. But what I can promise, is that I will be here for you, through whatever difficulty you have."
Luna smiled upon hearing this. She heard the sincerity in Celestia's words. Whatever she might have lost, however much might have changed in the past thousand years, one thing would never change. The two sisters' love for one another.
She looked back towards her captain's gravestone and the two began to walk away, Luna preparing to raise the moon and bring the night. A night that would be just as beautiful as that special night a thousand years ago, when she had been asked to dance.