"I'm so sorry! I never meant it to go so far. I never meant to hurt anypony! I'm so sorry, Twilight, please, just don't hate me like everypony else."
Twilight stepped aside to allow Luna inside, closing the door behind them as her mind tried to grapple with the situation and think of something to say. She had been thrown off a little by opening the door to find the young princess standing in the hall on the other side, and even more by her profuse apologies. Twilight hadn't seen or heard from Luna since that day in the ruins when Nightmare Moon was driven from her. Princess Celestia occasionally mentioned Luna in passing but it almost seemed like she had vanished out of sight and mind after the events of that night. Twilight had never given it much thought prior to now. From Celestia she understood that Luna had always been a little introverted and preferred her own company, or the company of books as the case may be, much like Twilight herself before Ponyville.
And now she was standing there, head bowed in shame. It took Twilight a moment to connect the events of the day. "Why would I—" she broke off but didn't get to continue as Luna broke out in tears.
"I swear, I didn't mean to! I just wanted to teach her a lesson, I never meant to hurt her. Those things she said … it's like that all the time, Twilight. Everypony hates and fears me. I can't show myself in public without ponies staring and whispering. You don't know how it is, how it is … to have no friends in the whole world!"
Twilight felt her stance harden. She was angry. She couldn't easily put aside the fact that Luna would have killed Trixie had she not been there to step in. "And you thought killing an innocent pony, however obnoxious she may otherwise be, in front of a crowd was a good way to make friends?" A part of Twilight felt that her words had come out a little harshly but another part didn't care.
Luna shrank a little in Twilight's shadow. "No! I just … wanted to make her see how much her lies hurt. But there's this side of me … a part of me enjoyed it, a part of me enjoyed … watching her die." Luna looked away, she couldn't bear to look Twilight in the eyes. "I try so hard to fight it but when I'm so alone … when I see how everypony hates me, it tries to take over. I don't want it to take over, Twilight. I don't want to be like that. I don't want to be feared!"
A long silence followed. Luna looked terrible. "I hoped we could be friends. I don't want you to hate me. Please, forgive me, Twilight. For everything. I can't hold back the Nightmare alone. I need your help, Twilight. I beg you to help me."
Twilight looked at Luna, it felt like forever. Her muscles relaxed a little and her face softened. The pain and loneliness was evident in Luna's eyes. You could almost see those thousand years of crushing solitude in her eyes. Twilight sat down next to Luna and placed a hoof around her shoulders. "Why didn't you come to me before?"
Luna looked at her, the expression on her face hard to decipher. "I sent you a letter, but you never replied. I thought you didn't want to see me. I thought … you hated me too."
It was Twilight's turn to be baffled. She couldn't recall any letter, not from Luna. "I never got any letter from you, Luna."
The princess wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at the owl sitting in the window. "But … the owl. I sent him to you with the letter. I thought … I hoped we could write to each other, like my sister and you. I thought you'd like the owl, he's been my only real friend since I came back." Owlowiscious made a little affirmative "Hoo" at Luna's words and she returned a sad little smile. "You, indeed."
Twilight felt her heart sink. Had she really missed a letter from Luna? She thought back to the night she had met Owlowiscious. The owl had brought her the scroll she lost, had it lost its own letter in the wind and found her scroll instead, thinking it was the letter? "Oh Luna, I'm so sorry. I didn't know the owl was from you. He must have lost your letter in the storm. Had I only known I would have been happy to write you back."
Luna looked at her. "You mean you didn't hate me?"
Twilight smiled and gently hugged the princess. "I never hated you, Luna. And I don't think as many ponies do as you think. They just don't know you."
Twilight sat back down on her bed. It was late when Luna had left, taking Owlowiscious with her on a night flight. But despite her eyelids feeling like lead Twilight found herself inexplicably reaching for the little book under her pillow. She sat for a time, staring at the word on the cover while thinking of Luna. It was hard to get the princess and her pain out of her mind, but finally with a sigh she opened the book. The first hoof-written note was followed by a few articles from local newspapers, many generations old but all from the same period. Each seemed to concern the same controversial character, a local business mare and philanthropist by the name of Mrs. Midnight Spindle. The header of an early article drew Twilight's attention.
Fillystata Funds Fillies
On Monday, local celebrity and colorful character, Mrs. Spindle made a rare appearance to help celebrate the opening of the new schoolhouse and playground, the latest project funded by the local business mare for the betterment of Dappleshore and its growing community. The fillies in the school yard may whisper in childish fear about Fillystata the wicked witch, as she has come to be known to them, but they have much to thank the elusive yet generous Mrs. Spindle for. "Our young fillies need the best care we can offer them. I am pleased that my fortune can help them grow and prosper, and through them also our fair town," she was heard speaking at the opening ceremony to much applause.
Indeed, Mrs. Spindle is on everypony's lips these days. Between a reputation for being aloof and eccentric, and certain insidious rumors surrounding her unusual longevity and the rare and increasingly brief sightings of her husband, Mrs. Spindle has undeniably done more for the prosperity of Dappleshore in recent years than anypony else can claim, and many are willing, indeed quite happy, to let rumors be rumors and to vouch for her decency. "Elderly mares are so often the subject of silly rumors and ponytales. Mrs. Spindle is a fine and most upstanding citizen of our fair town, and we are ever thankful to her that she has done so much for our community and asked so little in return," the mayor spoke.
On the next page an official-looking letter bearing the seal of Canterlot's Royal Pony Court confirmed the official name change of one Nightwind, daughter of Midnight Spindle, to Daisy Sparkle. An unusually cheery name, Twilight thought to herself. On the opposite page another official letter from a much later date denied a similar request from one Manna Sparkle to change her last name to Spindle. From the crumbled look of the second letter Twilight imagined the message from the Court had not pleased Manna, but why had they denied her the old family name?
Twilight flipped the page and paused, running her hoof over a page adorned with a rough family tree. Near the bottom, the name Midnight Spindle had been supplemented with Fillystata in parentheses. Her lone daughter's name had likewise been altered with "born Nightwind" added under the name Daisy Sparkle. Twilight read it twice, before her eyes continued up through the tree where the name of one of Daisy's grandchildren, Manna Sparkle, had been scratched and replaced with Midnight Sparkle. She in turn had a daughter, and as Twilight's eyes paused there she recognized it to be that of her own grandmother. Twilight sat for a while, staring at the family tree in silence, before forcing herself to turn the page with a shaking hoof.
The old picture of a large mansion on the outskirts of the town, surrounded by marshy fields, almost leaped out at her from another newspaper cut-out. Twilight glanced over the brief notice beneath the image, reading the report.
On Saturday evening at least three presumed robbers broke into the mansion at 110 Pedigree Lane, Dappleshore, home of local business mare Mrs. Spindle and her husband. The robbers woke up the residents and fled before they could be apprehended or identified. Nothing was reported stolen, but the elderly couple described the incident as "disturbing."
Twilight's eyes remained on the ancient picture of the house until she succumbed to sleep.
Twilight spent the next day at the fair with her friends, barely aware of what went on around her. After managing to escape the watchful eyes of her friends, she spent a time in the shade of a large tree on the outskirts of the fair, absorbed once again by the book. There were more accounts of strange events surrounding Mrs. Spindle and the house at 110 Pedigree Lane, more family records confirming among other things Manna's name change to Midnight after her initial failure, and a strangely brief obituary announcing Mrs. Spindle's unfortunate passing at the unusually respectable age of 65, but little more than this. The recordings in the book seemed to end abruptly with Fillystata's obituary. Had Midnight Sparkle abandoned the research of her ancestor, or had she perhaps hit a dead end? Disappointed, yet still undeterred in her pursuit, Twilight resolved to continue the digging where the book left off.
She needed to know. There was no way she could turn back now.
As the evening came, Twilight greeted her friends goodnight and walked back towards town. But instead of heading back to the hotel room, she took a turn down one of the old lanes. She had to see for herself. Was it still there? Pedigree Lane had no doubt grown more crowded since those early days, but as it winded its way towards the edge of town the houses grew sparser. As Twilight trotted along with determined steps she almost felt like walking back through time, and as she stopped and looked up at the mansion she felt for a moment like she was now looking at the old photograph again.
The place had sustained a great deal of wear and tear over the generations since the photograph was taken. It was obviously long since abandoned, yet there it was, 110 Pedigree Lane, home of Fillystata. Windows had been broken and barred, the roof was full of holes, the garden was a jungle, and in all ways the place looked miserable. It was a wonder, Twilight thought, that nopony had done anything to repair it, or tear it down. It was a sorry sight indeed, once the home of one of Dappleshore's finest residents, now left to ruin. What had happened?
Twilight approached the overgrown lot. Something drew her to it and as she looked at the broken windows she thought she spotted a shadow moving behind the wooden bars of one. Startled, but unable to resist the pull of mystery, Twilight moved closer, forging a path through the grass and weeds of so many ages. A faint orange light sprung up in the window, causing Twilight to pause and shiver. Was it just the cold of the night, or something more? Admonishing herself for her childish fear, Twilight continued up to the window and peeked through the bars, narrowing her eyes at the light while her heart raced in anticipation.
In the light of a small kindling fire in the old fireplace, a blue unicorn was trying to drive out the cold from her bones. Draped in her cape and lying on a bed made of leaves and old newspapers, she seemed almost as poor as the house within which she had sought shelter from the night. But it was not this that drew Twilight's immediate and total attention. Mounted above the fireplace was the portrait of an elderly mare, and through ages of neglect and grime it seemed still to Twilight as if she was staring now upon a near perfect picture of herself!