The Growing Years

This story is a sequel to A Different Perspective
Both the House of Path and Herd Path enjoy strong growth in the years following their establishment. Like all such things though, they both have their highlights and lowlights. These are vignettes in the lives of the children of Twilight, Path, Free, & Roseclaw, from foals to young adults.
This is a series of stand-alone stories of events that occur after the events of A Different Perspective, which I strongly recommend that you read first.
My collaborator, AlaskaIsCold, has written some of these and I mostly just edited them.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/296939/the-growing-years

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5. Nightmare Nights

If Path had not been close to the balcony doors, he might not have heard the distinctive sound of someone arriving by teleportation. The regular House Path Friday dinner was due to start soon, and most of the staff and warrior-scholars had already gathered and were chatting loudly enough to drown out most incidental noises. Path could see Twilight on the other side of the room, so he knew that it had not been her that he had heard, and curiosity pushed him to investigate. He moved aside the drapes covering the doors and opened one. He almost bumped into the pony that stood there with her hoof raised to push the latch.

“Princess Luna? We weren’t expecting you today. To what do we owe this visit?”

Luna gave him a slightly embarrassed smile. “Thy pardon, Lord Path, but I took it upon myself to drop in on thee on a whim. I regret not forewarning thee.”

Path stepped out onto the balcony. He suspected that the Moon Princess had other motivations than a mere whim. “Y’know, as a member of the House of Path, you have the right to join us at any time that you desire without having to ask? What’s more, after all the time that we’ve known you, and you have participated in our activities, we would like to call you our dear friend and have you visit us more often anyway.”

Luna grimaced. “'Tis not so easy, Long Path. As a princess of Equestria, I have my station to keep, and my duties to perform. My time is not my own.”

“And yet here you are in Griffonia on a whim? C’mon, Luna, what’s really bothering you?”

Luna looked embarrassed. “I… I miss you.”

Path’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “You miss us? You have a castle full of guards and servants, a city of your subjects at your doorstep, and endless opportunities to do just about anything you wish to do, and yet you come here for dinner and a chat?”

“'Tis not the repast that draws me here. 'Tis what happens afterwards that lingers in my memory and makes me long for more.”

Path nodded in understanding. “You mean the quiet family time that we have each night. You miss having a family, don’t you? Is Celestia aware of this?”

“My sister knows, and she tries hard to make its absence bearable, for which I love her. But she is a princess too, and her time is limited, not to mention that we are seldom awake at the same time. I do not fault her for that, but I feel the need for more. My times spent with thy family have helped fill that void and yet I do not wish to foist myself upon you…”

“Whoa! Stop right there!” Path commanded. “First of all, you have never foisted yourself upon us. We’ve always enjoyed your company. Second of all, I for one would like to have you visit more often. It seems that we and you have always gotten along together exceptionally well, especially once we started the Village Ponies gig. You were so into it that it made my heart glad to see you enjoying yourself so much, and it’s been that way every time since. Luna, if you’re looking for a surrogate family, I most sincerely offer ours, or even if you just want friends to hang out with, that’s okay too. Look around you – this is Griffonia, not Equestria. Feel free to leave your crown back there and just be Luna the mare if you want.”

Luna was surprised at Path’s speech, and she looked thoughtful for a long moment. Then her horn glowed and her tiara lifted from her head and floated in front of her face. “It is strange – I seldom take off this symbol of my status, and yet I still wear it when I all I wish is to be anything but a princess for a while. Perhaps thou art right – if Luna the mare is to find happiness, Luna the princess must stay back in Equestria.” With a pop, the tiara disappeared.

Path smiled. “I think I heard the dinner bell. Care to join us, Luna?”

“My pleasure, Path.”

# # #

Destined Path lay asleep between Luna’s forelegs. The infant alicorn had tired himself out playing with the much older alicorn mare, and he had fallen asleep right there. Luna was careful not to disturb him while she chatted with the adults. Lucida was yawning prodigiously while insisting that she was not tired. Her younger brother, Flix, a hippogriff like his sister but with red feathers and chestnut fur instead, had succumbed a short time ago. Only Pif was still quite active, although that was pretty typical for a Friday night. The earth pony changeling always got hyped up on all the emotional energy she took in, and it took a while for her to work it off. Just like her mother, she had assumed her sire’s base form shortly after leaving nymph stage, and was a pretty normal filly otherwise, except for her remarkable eyes. She had solid blue eyes with black slitted pupils, pointing unmistakably to her heritage, and Luna wondered if they would be the cause for concern in the child’s future, or a mere curiosity.

 

 

“I had better put Destined to bed,” Twilight said, her horn’s glow gently enveloping the blue-coated colt and levitating him without disturbing his slumber.

“Sounds like a plan,” Path replied. “Let’s get these chicks to bed too.”

“But, D-a-d!” Lucida whined.

“Don’t ‘but Dad’ me, young lady! You need your sleep just as much as your brother.”

“Mind your father,” Roseclaw said as she placed Flix upon Path’s back. “Now climb up and we’ll tuck you in.”

Lucida reluctantly climbed onto her mother’s back, and the four headed off to the bedrooms.

“And then there was one!” Free pronounced, eyeing his progeny with determination.

The mischievous ponyling squealed and took off at a gallop. While she was very young, she had the huge advantage of being educated greatly as a nymph connected to the hive-mind, and she understood exactly what was happening. She was not going to be put to bed!

A chase ensued between mother and child. Free frequently took mare form when spending time in intimate family moments with the children, and eight hooves thundered around the room for several minutes as the small child ducked and weaved through places her parent could not. Eventually she was cornered though, and Free embraced her and gave her a long kiss on the cheek. Pif’s eyelids drooped, and she ceased struggling. Free winked at Luna. “Path wishes he could do that.”

“What didst thou do?” Luna asked curiously.

“I used my changeling queen ability to draw the excess emotional energy out of her. Now that she’s no longer overcharged, she’ll sleep normally.”

“Very convenient,” Luna admitted.

“I’ll be back soon.”

Luna was left to herself for the moment, and she contemplated the time that had just passed. She had greatly enjoyed playing ‘Auntie Lulu’ to the children. True, they could be a hoof-full occasionally, but their childish innocence and sheer sense of fun more than made up for that. It was also part of the whole family experience that she craved, and she was feeling quite content. Aside from excusing herself for a brief few minutes to raise the moon on schedule, she had pushed aside all her cares and concerns for the evening, and just let herself go with the flow.

Luna considered the children. When she first heard that Path had gotten all three of his herd-mates pregnant, she had been more than a little surprised, especially when it came to Twilight. That paled to the shock that everyone experienced when Twilight’s foal had been born. Wagers had been made on whether it would be an earth pony or a unicorn, but very few had even considered that it would be an alicorn despite her brother, Shining Armor and Cadance’s daughter, Flurry Heart. To Luna’s knowledge, there had never been a male alicorn, and she wondered if it might portend great things for his future. Small wonder that Twilight Sparkle and Long Path had named him Destined.

Luna got up and stretched her limbs; the alicorn colt had been so cute curled up between her legs, but it had left her a little cramped. She headed to the balcony to take in the night air while she awaited the return of the adults. She took in deep breaths of the cool night air, while admiring the scenery under the glow of her moon. It was a picturesque sight that she was beginning to like more and more, mostly for the association with the Path herd though. Her night vision was superb, of course, and she could appreciate details that few besides the thestrals could match. It did not escape her attention therefore when she spotted an unusual sight a few balconies away.

A small dragon labored to carry an object to the balcony, wings flapping furiously to cope with the uncooperative load. Luna realized that it was a pony, and for a moment she was concerned about what was happening. Dragons of any kind, no matter what size, were reason to be concerned. Then she overheard them talking.

“Stop squirming or else I might drop you!” the dragon hissed urgently in what seemed to Luna to be a female voice.

“Look at me though – I’m flying!” the pony replied, flailing his legs like he was trying to flap wings.

Luna recognized the voice of Blue Streak, and the colt was very evidently not in distress. Drunk as a skunk perhaps, but not in any real danger, except perhaps of being dropped if he kept up his attempts to fly. Just then, Twilight returned and walked out onto the balcony to join Luna.

“What are you up to, Luna?” Twilight asked curiously.

“Tell me, Twilight, is it common for your son to be flown to his room by dragon?”

“What?” Twilight looked in the direction Luna was facing. “That’s Streak’s marefriend, Cinder. What in Equestria are they up to?”

“Perhaps his state of inebriation has something to do with it?”

“He’s drunk?! He’s still a teenager and too young to be getting drunk!” Twilight stormed away, heading to Streak’s room. She passed Path along the way, and said, “Follow me. We have a little discipline problem to deal with.”

Path blinked in surprise, but dutifully followed.

They arrived at Streak’s room and entered without knocking. They found Cinder placing Streak on his bed, and the golden dragoness turned and grinned sheepishly at having been caught.

“Hello, Lady Twilight, Lord Path.”

“Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!” Streak said with a giggle.

Twilight frowned. “Care to explain, Cinder? Blue Streak has only just turned old enough to be allowed alcohol, but he's only supposed to have one or two drinks, if any. It’s quite obvious that he’s very drunk though.”

Cinder looked very embarrassed. “It’s my fault. Blue complained that his hyper-metabolism burned off the alcohol faster than it could affect him, so I challenged him to drink a bottle of Eyrish Whiskey and prove it.”

Path face-hoofed. Worst thing that you could do to a teenage colt was something like that. He sighed. “How big a bottle?”

“Um… a Griffonian quart…”

Both Path and Twilight boggled at that.

“And he’s still conscious?” Twilight asked.

Cinder shrugged. “Well, he did prove his point – he was perfectly sober until nearly three quarters of the way through the bottle. Then it suddenly hit him and… well… he’s been like this since.”

Path said, “Sounds to me that there’s a limit to how much his fast metabolism can cope with, and he found it tonight. He should be okay if the rest of what Cinder said is true. He’ll probably get the traditional hangover and regret ever touching the stuff. Right now though, he’s in no state to lecture.”

Twilight scowled. “The same can’t be said for you though, young lady! I am very disappointed in you, Cinder. When you started dating our son, I thought you would be a moderating influence on his recklessness. Instead you do this!”

“I’m really sorry, Lady Twilight. It won’t happen again.”

Path said, “You better go to your room, Cinder. We’ll talk about this more later.”

“Yes, sir. Good night.” Cinder hastened to depart through the window through which she had arrived.

“Are you just going to just let Streak get away with this?” Twilight demanded of Path, indicating their giggling foster son.

“I seem to recall both of us getting pretty blotto soon after we arrived in Griffonia the first time. Drinking to excess happens to us all sooner or later, especially in Griffonia.”

“He’s still too young to do that though!”

“Yes, he is, but it will serve as a valuable lesson, and we’ve learned a little bit more about him at the same time. We can scold him in the morning, but our son is growing up, and we have to balance our concerns against reality.”

Twilight slumped in defeat. “I suppose you’re right. None of the books that I’ve read about raising colts has really prepared me for the real thing.”

Path put an arm around Twilight’s shoulders and gently guided her out of the room. “Believe me, I understand completely, and I was a teenage colt once!”

They left Blue Streak to sleep off his binge, and went to rejoin with Luna, Roseclaw and Free.

Free had shifted back to his preferred griffon form, and he looked curiously at Twilight and Path as they entered the family room. “Luna tells me that she saw Cinder carrying Streak to his room.”

Path replied, “Short version – our son got drunk and Cinder was trying to sneak him into his room. We’ll deal with it in the morning when he’s sobered up.”

“In the middle of his hangover, of course,” Free said with a grin.

“Naturally,” Path replied with a matching smile.

“It’s things like these that show me how much time has passed since we first met,” Luna said. “To me, it seems like just yesterday that you adopted the colt, and now he’s growing into a stallion.”

Roseclaw replied, “I think the perception changes if you spend every day with your family, especially when you need to tend to children. Your occasional visits capture highlights only.”

“Tis true. I think that I might be missing some important moments.”

Path said, “As I said earlier today, you are more than welcome to visit more often. Come again tomorrow if you like. It’s Saturday and we try to do family things together.”

“Nay, I cannot. Tomorrow night is Nightmare Night, and I need take care of matters early and prepare for it.”

Twilight looked surprised and a little annoyed. “That’s right! I had forgotten all about Nightmare Night. I’ve missed it for the past couple of years because I’ve been over here each time.”

“What is this Nightmare Night?” Roseclaw asked.

It was Path’s turn to be surprised. “I’ve never mentioned it before? It’s an annual festival with a spooky theme where ponies dress up in costumes and play special games, and foals go door to door begging for candy.”

“And you just give them candy for no reason?”

Path grinned. “Oh no, it’s important that they have lots of candy so that they can offer a portion of it to Nightmare Moon when she comes to the village. Otherwise how else would they turn her away each year?”

Roseclaw blinked in non-comprehension. “I know little of the legend of Nightmare Moon, but wasn’t she defeated and… well…” Roseclaw looked at Luna.

“Yes, Roseclaw, Nightmare Moon was defeated and I was freed from the curse of envy and bitterness that created her. The lesson was learned, and my sister forgave me, as I forgave her for the neglect that led to my curse. Eventually I even forgave myself. The legend lives on though, and each year I visit Ponyville, the first town to accept me back into their hearts, and I reprise the role of Nightmare Moon for the purposes of entertainment only.”

Twilight added, “Ponyville has become quite famous for its Nightmare Night pageant, and it attracts a growing number of visitors each year. It’s great for tourism, and I think it’s safe to say that Luna enjoys her interactions with the foals.”

Luna smiled fondly in remembrance. “Aye. That is why I will not forsake the event.”

“What does this pageant entail?” Roseclaw asked.

Twilight explained, “Basically it starts with a retelling of the story of Nightmare Moon and how she tried to take over Equestria, was banished to the moon for a thousand years, escaped and banished Celestia to the sun, and then tried to make night eternal. Then I and my friends found the Elements of Harmony and defeated Nightmare Moon, returning Luna to her sister. There were scary trials that we tell the foals to thrill them before Nightmare Moon makes her appearance to demand her tribute, and the foals give her some of their candy. If they give her enough, she is satisfied and leaves them alone for another year. It’s all done in a spooky manner that we try to keep at a manageable level for young foals.”

Roseclaw scoffed. “You would not get much candy from griffon chicks. They would not scare so easily as pony foals.”

Luna lifted a skeptical eyebrow. “Wouldst thou think it impossible to scare griffon chicks if we chose?”

“In a pageant? Probably.”

Luna looked at Twilight. “I sense a challenge. How quickly could you arrange a similar pageant here?”

Twilight was startled. “Well, I know everything that needs to be done from having arranged so many before Amethyst Star took it over. Hmm… I think the House theater group would be able to throw something together pretty quickly. They’ll complain about the short notice, but I know that they’ve been eager to try something new. I’ll need to spread the word as soon as possible to attract as many children as we can.” A quill and sheaf of papers floated over to her and she started madly writing down notes, totally oblivious to everyone else in the room.

Free chuckled. “Princess Twilight has left the room! Luna, I think you can safely say that you have yourself a pageant to attend and a challenge to meet. Would you like a bit of changeling help to spice it up a bit?”

He and Luna exchanged a conspiratorial glance and they both laughed.

“Sweet Celestia, what have we done?” Path sighed.

# # #

Despite the very late start, Twilight managed to pull off a miracle of organization, and a decent fair was being erected. The House’s students had not only informed their families, but they had been urged to pass the word around as much as possible. Many of them sacrificed their day off in exchange for later favors, but others were caught up in the excitement of the impromptu event.

Roseclaw looked worriedly at the sky though. “The weather looks like it could ruin the pageant. The open-air stage is rather vulnerable. Maybe we should move it inside to the Great Hall?”

Path smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry about the weather. Twilight has called in help from Equestria. Celestia herself has teleported a team of weather pegasi for us. They’ve been working all day not only to ensure that the conditions stay pleasant, but that they also have material to work with for the actual pageant tonight.”

“I’m not used to having our weather manipulated like this.”

“I know, but you must admit that it has its uses.”

“Yes, it would be a shame that all this effort went to waste because of rain or excessive wind. It’s a pity that we couldn’t start the pageant sooner though. It will be very close to the children’s bed time.”

“Can’t be helped. Luna still has to put in her appearance in Ponyville, and stick around for a bit for other reasons. They’re moving up their pageant a bit earlier on the schedule to allow her to leave earlier to come here, so it’s not as bad as it could be.”

“She really wants this to work, doesn’t she?”

Path nodded. “Luna is still gaining acceptance among some ponies, and I think she also wants to impress us.”

“Us?” Roseclaw said in surprise. “Why would an alicorn princess want to impress us?”

“An alicorn princess doesn’t, but a slightly lonely mare does. I was talking to Luna last night, and I think that more than anything else, she desires a family. Aside from her sister, she has none. She has outlived all other relationships, and now she longs for new ones. We’ve been her surrogate family for a while – why do you think she’s found so many excuses to come to Griffonia?”

“I see – you have a point. Perhaps we should find more excuses for her to visit?”

“I think it might be better if we make it plain that she doesn’t need an excuse, but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to ease her into that. While she’s a very self-confident ruler, she’s quite the opposite when it comes to personal relationships. Maybe she had some bad experiences when she was younger? She certainly didn’t have a chance to do anything about it for ten centuries, unlike Celestia.”

Just then, Twilight trotted out to meet them.

“Have you seen Streak? I didn’t get the chance to scold him this morning because I was so busy getting work under way.”

Path replied, “I set him to work straight after breakfast.”

“You gave him a lecture, I hope?”

“Nope. Just gave him my most disappointed look while he tried to eat, and then ordered him to help building the stage.”

“Why the stage? That hardly seems the best use of his abilities.”

“Plenty of hammering and other loud noises,” Path explained.

Twilight thought about that for a moment before she winced. “That’s cruel and entirely appropriate punishment. I don’t think he’ll want to get another hangover for a very long time. That is if he doesn’t try to shirk the work.”

“I have Warfist keeping an eye on him. He has ways of encouraging people to do things, you know?”

Twilight did know. Warfist was infamous for dealing out various forms of encouragement that were very effective in making people highly desire not repeating their mistakes. “That will do for now. I might temper my scolding later, depending on how much encouragement he needs. Whatever else happens, he’s grounded for two weeks, agreed?”

Both Path and Roseclaw nodded in agreement.

“I have to get back to work, and I bet you do too. Lots to do yet!” Twilight trotted off to her next task.

“She hasn’t slowed down since she got up this morning,” Roseclaw remarked. “She’s going to be exhausted by the end of the day.”

Path smiled. “Twilight’s in her element. Far from being exhausted, I reckon she’ll be energized by a successful event. And speaking of which, as she so subtly hinted, we’d better get on with doing our part.”

# # #

The impromptu fair drew in more attendees than expected, allaying their fears that it would be a complete flop. It seemed that the griffon community was intrigued by the theme of the event, and because House Path was running it, it also was an excuse for mingling with the popular Griffonian House, with the possibility of adding to their status. The biggest hurdle though was keeping their interest for long enough to stay for the pageant, and professional party planner, Cheese Sandwich, had been tempted over to Griffonia by the challenge of entertaining a largely griffon contingent. The children, mostly young griffs but some foals too, had various games and challenges where they could win candy or jerky treats, which kept them both interested and amused. Many of the events were designed for parents to share with their children, but Twilight had made sure to provide some items of adult interest also, mostly relating to the history of Nightmare Night and its growth into popular Equestrian culture. The Herd Path members were relieved though when Luna teleported in and they were able to start the play.

Announcements were made that the play was about to begin, and attendees were ushered to the outdoor stage which was lit only with torches in sconces mounted on the stage walls, giving it an appropriate ambiance. The children were given places closer to the stage, while the adults sat at the back. When it seemed that everyone who might be coming had settled, Path signaled the weather pegasi to begin. Soon, a thick ground fog started creeping in from behind the stage, rolling over it and spilling into the audience. All illumination except for the stage torches was extinguished, and even the moon was obscured by thick clouds. Behind the walls of the stage, the House orchestra started quietly playing eerie music, setting the mood for the scene. They let the tension rise among the audience until with a sudden shriek of the strings and a flash of lightning (triggered by a waiting pegasus), Free appeared out of the mist which blew aside in a gust of wind (provided telekinetically by Twilight).

Free had enhanced his griffon form to look more sinister, and he laughed maniacally before announcing, “Welcome foolish mortals to the first celebration of Nightmare Night in Griffonia. May you live long enough to tell the tale! I have heard that some of you do not know why we celebrate this night. Some of you might have heard that it signifies the defeat of Nightmare Moon who would have made the night last forever. I’m here to tell you that you have been deceived! Nightmare Moon lives, and each year she comes demanding tribute from those who would play in her beautiful night. Yes, you are gathered here in this beautiful gloomy evening to give the Nightmare her due, or suffer the consequences!” He laughed madly once more.

This departure from the more staid retelling of the Nightmare Moon story was a calculated risk. After putting some ideas past some of the House griffons, especially those more interested in the Arts, they had elected to go for a more scary and confronting performance for the griffon audience. The Griffonian ponies tended to have a bias that way also due to their upbringing, and so they had hastily written a script to suit. Fortunately, Free was a born ham, and his deliberately over-the-top performance was selling it. The audience was hooked.

Free turned his back to the audience and raised his talons to the partially obscured full moon which was rising above the walls of the stage. “Come, Princess of the Night! Come, Dancer in Dreams and Bringer of Nightmares! Come claim your due, and punish the unbelievers!”

The weather pegasi awaiting their cue pushed aside the obscuring clouds, while others started bucking lightning out of the heavy storm clouds that they had parked to the side. Then something else shadowed the moon – a form that quickly grew in size until it became recognizable in shape as an alicorn. The midnight blue form plunged to the stage and arrived in a crash of thunder and lightning. Nightmare Moon held open her huge wings threateningly as she cackled in terrible glee. Luna had refined her performance of her former alter ego over the years, and she had been told not to hold anything back for this particular audience.

“Well, well, if it isn’t another lot of sun-lovers who have not learned that the night is not theirs to play in without my permission. I see that I might have to teach you all a harsh lesson… unless you mollify me with your tribute!” She leaned over the edge of the stage to grin menacingly at the children closest to the stage. “And if I don’t get what I demand, perhaps I will take some of these delightfully plump little chicks.” Her sinister smile widened to show off her fangs to them.

Most of the young ones squealed in fright, but one of the older children jumped forward defiantly and said, “I’m not afraid of you, Nightmare Moon!”

The possibility of one or more of the griffon youngsters defying Nightmare Moon had not only been considered, but it had even been counted on, and Luna was ready for it. She threw back her head and laughed again. “How delicious! I will make thee my first meal if thou dost wish. But first, see what happens to those who would defy me.” She reared up and a burst of purple light exploded from her horn. “Come, my undead slave. Show these fools their fate if they defy me!”

While Luna had held the attention of the audience, Free had slipped offstage and shape-changed in preparation for his next role. With a loud groan, he stumbled onto the stage, almost blindly staggering to Nightmare Moon’s side. The audience started muttering in dismay as they beheld the sickly green griffon with flesh melting off its bones, feathers molting, one eye a black pit while the other glowed a sinister red. One wing dragged on the floor, while the other was a mere bloody stump. Free moaned, “What is your wish, Mistress?”

 

 

Luna was almost shaken out of her role by the sight also. She’d had a preview of the zombie form, but it was another thing entirely when the scene was set, the mood was right, and Free was performing to the hilt. Nevertheless, she continued on. “Tell me, slave, what dost thou desire most?”

Free leered at the nearby children. “Brains! I must eat brains!”

The squeals were even louder this time, and even the defiant ones were daunted this time.

Again Nightmare Moon laughed. “Such is the fate of those who defy me. Even the dead obey my commands, and they hunger! Perhaps if you give him some of your candy and jerky, he might be satisfied.” She smirked evilly at the audience. “Or maybe not. Do you dare to find out?”

Twilight suddenly burst onto the stage. “Stop right there, Nightmare Moon! I won’t let you harm these children!”

The Nightmare cackled contemptuously. “Dost thou think that thou can stop me, puny princess? Thou dost not have the Elements of Harmony to banish me this time!”

“I won’t let that stop me from fighting you to my last breath!”

“Oh, that is so wonderfully naïve of thee to think that thou hast the slightest chance of defeating me. I think I will do something special with thee.”

“You don’t scare me! Release your victim from his curse and leave!”

“I think not!”

Nightmare Moon fired off a blast of energy at Twilight, who countered with a blast of her own. Although they seemed matched for a moment, gradually Nightmare Moon overcame Twilight, and with a cry of despair, the young alicorn was enveloped by dark magic. Well, actually just a shadow spell. Twilight and Luna had been exchanging harmless bolts of light until then, and the shadow spell enabled Twilight a moment to cast an illusion spell on herself. She burst out of the shadow with bat wings spread, her mane a crazed mess, her coat turned a blood red in color, and fangs protruding from her mouth. She giggled crazily as she gazed at the audience with glowing green eyes.

Nightmare Moon laughed. “There! Much better! What should we do with these children now, my servant?”

Twilight hissed and bared her fangs. “Drink their blood! Please, mistress, I thirst!”

“Patience my pretty vampire. Thou shalt slake thy thirst if I do not get my tribute soon.” Nightmare Moon eyed the audience. “Who will be first? Who will risk my wrath and attempt to appease me with gifts of candy and jerky? Perhaps if you quell my hunger, I shall spare you all.”

Some of the braver children started to move towards the stage, but then a piercing cry came from above. Roseclaw plunged from the sky, clad in full battle armor, carrying a great sword. She hurtled to the stage and landed with a crash in front of the startled Nightmare. Roseclaw brandished the sword in her enemy’s face.

“Not so fast, villain! These children are under the protection of the noble Griffonian House of Path. Not one feather nor patch of fur will be harmed!”

Nightmare Moon stared at her incredulously. “One griffon warrior against me? What dost thou think that thou can do when thy mighty alicorn princess failed so utterly?”

“You are not all-powerful, Nightmare Moon. I know your weakness! While you embody the night, your sister embodies the day, and the light will always banish the dark. This sword is called Sol Invictus, the sword of the sun, and by my will and its power, I will defeat you!”

The sword began to glow brighter and brighter, and waves of heat could also be felt coming from it. Nightmare Moon screamed in pain and staggered back from it, as did vampire Twilight and zombie Free.

“No! How didst thou get that?” Nightmare Moon cried.

Roseclaw replied, “The warriors of Griffonia have allied with those of Equestria to fight you and all your minions, whenever and wherever you should show yourself. Now begone, before I send you to the grave!”

Nightmare Moon screamed in rage and snarled, “Thou hast not won yet! I shall return again and get what is due to me. Be ever vigilant because Nightmare Night is mine!”

Cease your threats and leave!” Roseclaw shouted, blasting the Nightmare with a beam from the sword.

Nightmare Moon howled and fled, while Twilight and Free disappeared in a puff of smoke. Roseclaw sheathed the prop sword which had been enchanted to make a convincing light show, and turned to the audience.

“Fear not, children. Nightmare Moon will not return this night. Be brave and bold, and you will be able to defy her again when she returns next Nightmare Night. Farewell!”

She took off from the stage and disappeared into the night. Fog rolled over the stage once more and then parted to reveal Long Path.

“It seems that we have much to be thankful for tonight. Nightmare Night has come to an end, and we have all survived. Thank you for coming, and I hope you dare to come again next year.”

The audience burst into applause. Lots of the griffon children surprised Path by coming up to him and begging to meet Nightmare Moon, vindicating his griffon advisors who had recommended a scarier play than was done for Equestrian foals.

“Sorry, kids, but the Nightmare has been banished. Maybe next year? She never got her candy after all. Maybe if you let her know that you want to give her some of your jerky, she’ll even let you live.”

By this time, Twilight, Free, and Luna joined him on stage, restored to their normal selves, and Roseclaw returned without the armor. Several of the adults who had enjoyed the show came up to express their pleasure to the actors. Luna was smiling a lot, pleased with the reaction to her performance. Free was grinning widely, enjoying all the positive emotion that flooded the stage. Twilight was mostly just relieved that she hadn’t blown her lines, but she enjoyed the congratulations also.

Streak raced over to them and said, “That was awesome! Can I play a part next year?”

Path looked at Luna. “Is there going to be another next year?” he asked pointedly.

Luna grinned back. “Verily, there must, for now that I am doing two Nightmare Night pageants, the fun has truly been doubled!”

# # #

The children were all put to bed, even Streak who complained bitterly about getting punished enough already. The family finally got to relax with Luna once more in the living room, with hot chocolate provided by the attentive staff. They quietly sipped their drinks by the glow of the fireplace, not needing to talk for the moment, but enjoying their time of togetherness. Eventually Free broke their reverie.

“So, Luna, do you think you might drop by more often? We sure had fun today!”

Luna smiled softly and nodded. “If you all would not mind, I enjoy these times that we spend together.”

“Much like a family?” Path hinted.

Luna blushed a little. “Yes.”

Path looked at Free and their eyes met. Nodding in unspoken understanding, they both stood up and moved over to where Luna lay on the rug. They laid next to her, one on each side, and snuggled up to her as they beckoned their mates to join them. As they quietly expressed their affection for the night alicorn, Free projected some of the love energy that he had acquired that night to her. Luna’s eyes moistened with the depth of the emotions she was feeling, and she whispered, “Thank you.”

After a long while, Free said, “Y’know, there’s a family thing that you might like to try, if you feel up to the challenge?”

“Oh? And what would that be, Free?” Luna asked curiously.

“How would you like to foalsit for a night?” he asked with a mischievous grin.

Luna couldn’t help but have suspicions, especially as it was Free Agent doing the asking, but she asked herself, ‘Their children are wonderful, so how hard can it be?’ She smiled confidently. “I’d be delighted!”

The snorts and chuckles that statement received were just a little disconcerting though.

# # # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

EDIT: 27 March 2016: After the events of the Season 6 premiere and the birth of Princess Flurry Heart, I slightly altered a couple of sentences in this chapter to reflect that addition. It did not otherwise affect my story.

I hope you liked this take on Nightmare Night griffon-style.

Art by Kat Miller a.k.a. Foxenawolf.

   
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