It was dark in the land of Equestria. Night had fallen gently. The stars twinkled softly, the moon gleamed brightly, and the princesses looked upon their sleeping kingdom with happiness.
"You did a beautiful job, my dear Luna," the regal Princess Celestia commented quietly, as if her voice would wake the land. "I see all the stars in the sky. The effort you put into it shows."
The smaller Alicorn smiled up at her sister.
"It was time to see them all reunite with the night once more," Luna answered. "Tonight, the night is cloaked in the brilliant light of our peace."
Celestia closed her eyes and tilted her head down. It had been years since an enemy had set hoof in Equestria, threatening the lives of their subjects with the simple act of stealing a Princess's crown. The Princess Twilight Sparkle had solved it all on her own, bringing back the Element of Magic, and not another attempt had been made to harm the land. The fourth princess slumbered in her room, peacefully resting as the day had ended. Immortality was a tiring occupation, if one was not used to its ways, and it had gently taken it's toll on the younger mare.
The younger princess gazed out at her night, marveling in its beauty. Her magic lit up her horn, and it moved the moon further across the sky, bringing the night closer to ending.
Noticing the weariness settling upon her sister's face, Luna spoke up.
"You should rest, Sister. We have a long day ahead of us."
The next day, the Spring Sunrise would bring the winter to an end, and bestow spring upon the land of Equestria. It was a time of celebration, with greetings and royal duties to fulfill.
"Thank you for your concern, Luna," Celestia said, her eyes fluttering open, "but I want to spend time with my sister. It seems that we never get to share these moments together anymore."
Luna smiled again. Celestia was the kindest mare she could ever imagine having for a sister. There was a reason she had been in power for so many years. The majestic Alicorn was the most just and fair ruler Luna could imagine. She felt she hardly compared to her sister, but was proud to be her co-ruler.
They trotted, side by side, into the throne room. Ignoring the huge golden chair at the end of the hallway, they settled onto the red carpet leading up to it. During the day, it was occupied by Celestia; by night, Luna rested on it's gilded surface. For this night, however, the two chose to stay closer on the floor.
"How are you, Luna?" Celestia asked. It was a question often passed by the white princess to the blue, to show that she still cared for her sister's wellbeing.
Luna nodded slowly. "We feel drained, these nights. Our movements are sluggish, and our thoughts are meddled. It is a strange feeling."
"You are working too hard, Sister," Celestia said quietly, stroking Luna's mane out of her face. The ethereal strands fluttered as if in a breeze, rejoining their main body and portraying the sky she had worked so hard to paint.
"It is nothing," Luna replied quickly, shaking her head, but Celestia saw the dark circles under her eyes. These days had been hard on the younger princess, as she breathed cold air across the night and froze the places that had been warmed by the added heat of the day. It was an added task to her normal job, but it was to be that way if the winter was to be continued.
"It is the last night, Luna," Celestia said quietly. She wrapped her huge white wing around her sister's side and teleported them to her room, where the fire was warm and soothing for the younger one. Luna snuggled closer to her side and closed her eyes.
"How about this:" Celestia murmured in her ear. "I'll take care of the rest of tonight . . . if you help me bring up the sun tomorrow."
" 'Tia," Luna protested, but she was so tired that the name came out heavy and quiet. "You'll have no sleep for two full days. Are you certain?"
The older princess nodded with certainty.
"I lasted a thousand years with little sleep to renew me," she answered. "I'm sure an extra day couldn't hurt. Sleep, my Luna. May troubles be far from your mind."
Indeed, the night princess's eyes slid shut as her sister spoke, and Celestia gently laid the younger alicorn upon her own bed, as she had done when the two were younger. She gently closed the heavy wooden doors and walked to the balcony, her magic glowing and moving the moon further across the sky, stirring the stars and bringing a breeze through the air.
Back inside, Luna stirred in her sleep. She had always had a strange intuition when it came to threats in Equestria. It was how they had prepared for Discord when he had come the first time, and how Celestia had found out of the strange happenings in Ponyville when he had returned. During the week of the wedding of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and the now-Prince Shining Armor, she had been restless, which was why she had been so anxious to keep watch. The wedding had gone off with a hitch, Celestia had said, and she had reluctantly believed her.
Her feeling had returned, though, but it was a soft feeling. It was not enough to wake the slumbering princess, but it stirred her unconsciousness.
A floorboard creaked quietly as somepony stealthily crossed the room. She watched the slumbering princess for a moment. So peaceful. So beautiful. So weak.
A cold laugh rang around the room, slowly morphing into the laughter of the night princess.
Luna's eyes fluttered open gently. She stared at the ceiling for a moment, trying to figure out what was wrong, when she realized that she was lying in her sister's bed. Chuckling slightly, she got to her hooves, her mane naturally untangling itself and fanning out as she looked outside at the night.
Frowning, she stared at the position of the moon. Celestia had told Luna she was going to take over while she slumbered, and Luna knew she had been sleeping for hours, yet the moon had not moved in it's celestial path across the sky. She quickly adjusted it, moving it with her magic and hoping the sleeping ponies of Equestria would not notice.
Feeling slightly uneasy, she silently moved through the hallways, searching for her sister or the younger Twilight Sparkle. Hearing voices in the throne room, she listened quietly at the door. Not being able to pick out the murmurs, her long and magical horn lit up with a small burst of light and teleported her behind the great throne.
What she saw was inconceivable. She clapped a hoof over her mouth to keep from screaming when she saw the great sun princess on the floor, her horn smoking and her body unmoving, save for her mouth. Towering above her, laughing evilly... was herself.
"Luna..." Celestia breathed, her breath rattling. "Luna.... why? I thought I was good enough... this time. I thought I was a good enough sister. Why are you doing this?"
The other Luna laughed with obvious triumph and glee. "Oh, Tia, how wrong you were about me. There is nothing you can do about my wretched soul. I was always the superior sister, and you know it. You were never loved, you foolish, naïve foal."
The real Luna, speechless and paralyzed, looked down on her sister... and saw the single crystalline tear, rolling over her white fur, landing with a drop on the floor.
Both Alicorns looked up in surprise at the princess of the night, who had spoken quietly and tentatively. Luna stepped forward, out of the shadows, staring in horror at the carbon copy before her.
A spark of understanding reached Celestia's eyes, and she muttered something incomprehensible. Smiling slightly, she closed her eyes.
The spells were unleashed exactly a second apart. An evil green light burst from the imposter's horn, aimed at the fallen princess, right before the blue light from Luna's horn hit the clone between the eyes. Celestia jerked from the bolt, moving once, then twice, before lying still.
In a shriek of defiance, Luna charged herself, the impostor, who was still reeling from the darkness that had been shot at her face. With a clang, their horns met in midair like the swords of dueling knights, each fighting for the upper hoof as their weapons scraped against each other. With a loud crack, Luna herself was catapulted through the air, falling through the window and careening to the ground, oh so far away.
An evil laugh sounded from within the chambers, cold and multiplied.
With a snap, Luna's wings flew open, catching the alicorn in her descent and bringing her back to alertness. The rejuvenating beams of the moon beat down across her skin, sending electric jolts up her spine. With concentration and fury in her eyes, she shot up the castle wall like a bolt from a crossbow, diving into the window and crashing into the mare standing there.
The impostor had changed her appearance, revealing her true skin. The chitin of her exoskeleton gleamed in the moonlight as she fluttered her tattered bug wings and brought herself upright. Holes dotted her body, and her horn was gnarled and twisted, as if no magic could truly find its path through the organ.
Luna had never seen Queen Chrysalis before, having slept through the wedding and only reappeared at the reception. The creature did not frighten her, however, like she had most ponies. All the night princess felt was hatred and anger. Reeling, she smashed the changeling into the ceiling and pinned her under the fallen chandelier. Chrysalis tried to dodge her attempts, but the moon had bolstered Luna's powers, and nothing could have stopped her then.
As the changeling queen did not stir, Luna ran to her sister's side, nuzzling her cheek and wondering why in the name of Equestria Twilight Sparkle had not awoken. Feeling her sister's shallow breath, she held her gently.
" 'Tia, 'tis I, your sister..."
Heaving a shallow breath, Celestia willed her eyes to open, looking into the sweet face of her younger sister.
"Luna... I'm so sorry..."
Shaking her head, Luna held her sister closer.
"For what? What crime have you committed, dear 'Tia? There is no harm you have done. You're safe."
Celestia shuddered, her burnt horn setting her nerves on fire.
"No, Luna... I believed I had let you down."
A hoarse laugh, short and rough, burst from Luna's muzzle, much like a cough.
"Do not think ill of yourself. You are not to blame. The danger has passed. There is nothing of which to be afraid."
Celestia sighed, shuddering and feeling the end. Her injuries had been too hard on her, especially the last spell, paralyzing and electrocuting her nerves. Over a thousand years of life... And death by the hooves of an enemy once believed dead.
"Luna... You must defeat the Queen, or Equestria is doomed. Warn Twilight Sparkle and her friends. Make sure they are safe."
Paying no heed to her words, Luna stroked the stray hair out of Celestia's eyes, allowing her to see clearly.
"You'll be fine, 'Tia. There's nothing we can't fix. You will help me defeat her. All will be well."
Choking on her words, she allowed a single tear to fall into Celestia's fur, gently being heated and absorbed by her skin.
"I love you," Celestia whispered, willing her eyes to flutter shut as her last act.
"No...no...no!" Luna cried, starting out as a whisper and elevating to a shriek. It was cruel, never aging, but always being prone to death at the hoof of another. Crying, she held her sister close, burying her face in the mane that had stopped moving. "You can't die. Not now. Equestria needs you. Twilight needs you. I need you, 'Tia!"
A single moan sounded from under the chandelier. The changling queen stirred slightly, drifting back to consciousness.
The choking noise she could not comprehend cut off, filling the hall with eerie silence. She tried to move, but realized she was being crushed by a large metal object and could not move.
She didn't see the spark; didn't hear the crack of magic. All she could think of was how to get out, find the last princesses, and kill them all, but her thoughts halted as fragmented light scattered across the room.
Looking up, her eyes widened as she stared at the light pouring from the alicorn's eyes, warping her skin and changing her mane. A blue metal helmet settled over the princess's head, twisting around her eyes and letting the terrifying, dark void of magic float around her neck and flank. The pitch black of her fur glowed in the moonlight, showing Chrysalis the exact hue of the dark magic aura surrounding the pony's horn.
Cowering, realizing how weak and vulnerable she was, she waited for what she knew was coming. As the pony slowly slunk forward, her horn sparking and her face twisted, Chrysalis knew she was doomed. With one last feeble movement, she flickered to the image of Celestia, and felt her magic revert her to normal as she glared at the dominant alicorn. She faced her fate and braced herself for what was to come.
For Luna's revenge.