Twilight and the others came into the castle, only to find a veritable battle going on. She had passed the tests thanks to the girls, but she was worried about her sister, who had gone in before them over an hour ago.
She walked in only to find Hermione shooting some complex battle spells, and her sister split into two...both with wings that looked like they could fail at any moment.
At one point Nightmare sent Dusk crashing into a wall, where an audible crack was heard from her back hoof. Hermione held off the alicorn while Dawn cast a lesser-used battlefield healing spell that would keep going until the wound was healed.
The reason why it was a lesser used one was because the spell didn't have enough power to heal open wounds, only minor ones.
In this case a fractured leg.
Within minutes Dusk rose, though she made a point to avoid that hoof as she delivered a devastating kick to the alicorn. Nightmare hissed at her.
Nightmare Moon saw Twilight and the others, and sent specters of darkness their way. It was bad enough that these two unicorns had attacked without hesitation!
"Oh no you don't!" shouted Hermione.
"Expecto Patronum!" shouted Dusk and Dawn, crossing horns.
A silvery mist appeared from where the horns met, creating a solid shape...that of another alicorn who bore a strong resemblance to Nightmare Moon. Seeing the spectral pony, Nightmare Moon looked at it in shock.
It was a silvery version of her true self...Princess Luna!
Twilight and the others removed the Elements of Harmony, which were waiting for the spark to make it's presence known.
Twilight winced when her sister and Hermione were sent flying into the girls.
"Moonlight! Hermione!" cried Twilight.
Moonlight had been able to reverse her doppelganger spell before she had crashed. It was pretty clear she had been hurt and badly. The wings had vanished the moment she lost consciousness.
Seeing the other girls prepare to fight Nightmare for hurting their friend, Twilight felt a spark. It was nice actually having friends. Friends she could trust to have her back...
The Elements began to glow and circle each of the girls, except for Hermione.
Twilight awakened to her Element, Magic. Moonlight, who had gone through a concussion before, woke up to find her Element, which was Balance, already in place.
For some reason only the twins had crowns...though Moonlight had a normal black and white tai chi circle instead of her actual cutie mark like everyone else.
The rainbow hit Nightmare Moon, dispelling her insanity by force.
Moonlight properly passed out before Princess Luna could realize what happened. The drain on her magic was simply too much for her to stay awake, not to mention the hit she took to the head.
"Ow..." said Moonlight, waking up to the sun glaring in her eyes.
"Finally awake are we?" said a far too familiar voice.
"Oh great..." said Moonlight, recognizing the infirmary inside the personal guard's quarters. It was inside the palace itself, and was impossible to escape through magic or wings.
After the third time she made a quick getaway from the Canterlot Hospital, they started treating her here instead. It was a source of great amusement to see her escape attempts for the guards, though they would never admit that to Shining Armor.
It took exactly fifteen minutes before she tried to escape. Really it was a habit at this point.
"And where do you think you're going?" asked an amused Celestia. Moonlight was currently trying to reach the ventilation system with a rather odd balancing act. With no magic and a broken front leg in a cast she was restricted to her more unusual methods.
"Away from the hospital wing!" she said cheerfully.
Celestia chuckled openly as she used minor levitation to restore the room and put Moonlight back on the bed.
"You know that because of you we now have a betting ring with the guards on how you plan to make your next escape?" she said.
Which was true. Shining had been shocked about finding out...before he started laying bets himself. So long as their mother didn't find out exactly how often Moonlight came for a healing spell, he wouldn't say anything.
"So...how long was I out?"
"Two days. You have severe magical exhaustion, a broken front leg, and from what I understand strain on your horn."
"Which means I'll be stuck here for a month," she said miserably.
"Or I could give you another option. With the return of my younger sister, Luna has found herself having trouble understanding the way things are now. Some of the guard ponies are even a little afraid of her."
"So...you want me to talk to her?" said Moonlight. It beat being mothered by Twilight Velvet once she finally learned she was awake.
"She has expressed an interest in this wizard's magic you have."
"Let's see, being bored out of my mind for two weeks or talking with a recently-made-sane princess about magic...decisions, decisions..." said Moonlight dryly.
"I'll have Shining leave you near her room later," said Celestia with a grin.
Luna looked up from her book. Celestia wanted her to get used to being out and about again since her banishment, so she had lent her several law books. Until she regained her full size, she preferred to stay out of the limelight for a while.
"COME IN," said Luna, using the Royal Canterlot Voice.
"Ow! I already have a broken leg, I don't need ruptured eardrums to go along with it!" came the pony on the other side of the door.
Luna raised an eyebrow. That was an unusual reaction. It had been a week since she had returned to sanity, and according to Celestia one of the fillies who had brought her back had finally woken up from the magical drain.
The door opened, revealing the one who had fought Nightmare Moon and survived. She was balancing on her back hooves with ease, and the front hoof that wasn't in a cast had opened the door. She carefully landed on that hoof and came in.
"You must be Moonlight Sparkle. My sister speaks of you highly!"
"For future reference Princess, the Royal Canterlot Voice has not been in use for centuries now. And most ponies don't appreciate becoming temporarily deaf," said Moonlight.
"Is this better?" asked Luna.
"A little lower," suggested Moonlight.
"How about now?"
"So...Celestia said you were interested in wizard magic."
"I find the abilities that your godfather and uncle have fascinating," said Luna.
"I would show you something I'm particularly good at, but I'm currently banned from any and all magic use for the next week. Even then I can't remove this stupid cast for a month."
"Why are thou not in the infirmary then?" asked Luna confused.
"Ask one of the guards what the current pool is. Apparently I'm a constant source of amusement to them," she replied instantly. She had certainly laughed when she heard about it.
Luna blinked, then poked her head outside and asked the guard. He seemed highly amused as he told her what she meant by the pool.
"You constantly make ridiculous escapes? Whilst injured?" she asked surprised.
"Why not? I hate being stuck in a hospital...it's boring! So...what do you know of pranks?"
Luna looked at her...before a fanged grin appeared.
Celestia looked up from her paperwork to find...a guardpony with pink dust all over him?
"Oh dear...I forgot about that bad habit of Luna's..." she said.
Princess Luna was an unrepentant prankster. After a thousand years, it was easy to forget some of the antics she used to get up to when she was sick and tired of the paperwork and dealing with nobles.
"Where have they hit?" she asked the guardpony.
"I think the better question your highness needs to ask is where haven't they hit," he answered.
Celestia looked outside...it was pure chaos.
"I am so not filling the repair requests for that..." she said flatly.
Luna fell back onto her bed with a laugh. This was the most fun she had in years, literally.
"I can't believe you got Sirius to chase his own tail for ten minutes straight!" she said.
Luna had placed a spell on Moonlight's personal wheelchair (she broke her legs more often than Shining liked) so she could follow her around. So far they had hit the entire palace with pranks.
Remus had taken one look at the wizard-turned-pony chasing his tail, and had laughed for a good minute at the sight.
Then Luna had hit him with a spell that gave him a wolf muzzle for five minutes. Sirius had gotten a kick out of that one.
The two talked about their pranks in between giggles before Celestia showed up.
"I am not filing the forms to clean that mess up!" she said flatly.
"Oh come off it Tia, you know it was funny!"
"I take it this was Moonlight's idea?" said Celestia, her mouth quirking upwards.
Moonlight didn't even try for innocent.
With the ban on magic finally lifted, Moonlight was able to push her own crutch around without actually putting pressure on her broken leg.
It helped that she was very, very used to balancing on two hooves and tended to wear actual clothes.
Since she was banned from the Archives until her injuries were healed and her magic fully restored, she went exploring around Canterlot. During the evenings she usually spent chatting with Princess Luna or helping the alicorn princess with her paperwork using her human form.
So here she was wandering around with a charm on the crutch to move in place of her bad leg. It was actually a simple one and used the same muscles that her leg would, without hurting it. It was a spell she came up with after the fourth time she had broken a hoof, and it was now a standard healing spell practiced by unicorns. Several of the guard actually thanked her for creating a spell made of wizard and unicorn magic than any pony could use.
Suddenly she found herself in front of what appeared to be an orphanage. One of the colts had just kicked an old ball in her direction...but he didn't have his hopes up that she would kick it back.
She grinned, and used her crutch to send it flying back at him.
Seeing the colt smile, she went to play with the younger ponies for a while. They were careful to avoid her bad leg.
"Oh, hello! I didn't know the little ones had found a new playmate. Whatever happened to your leg?"
"Long story. Should be fine in a few weeks though."
"That's always good to hear. Everyone, it's time for lunch!"
"Aww..." came the disappointed reply.
"I can always come back after lunch if you want," said Moonlight to the little ones. They all perked up.
"Or you can join us for lunch," said the matron. It was rare for one of the more well off ponies to visit the children and even play with them, and she had never met one who disregarded an injury such as a broken leg to do so.
Moonlight looked at the cut apple slices. They were far too even to be normal. It almost looked like...but that wasn't likely.
"So who did the cooking? I have to say this is the best salad I've ever had!" she asked.
"That would probably be Storm Dancer. He's always mixing something up," said the matron tiredly.
"You don't sound too happy about that," noted Moonlight.
"He spends all his time playing with the cooking tools. The food has gotten better but he won't socialize with the others...and he refuses to stay with any families willing to adopt him! I'm sorry if I ranted, but it's so frustrating..." said the matron, who's name turned out to be Mercy's Blessing.
"Maybe I can talk to him. I have a knack for cooking myself," said Moonlight.
"I suppose it couldn't hurt..." said Mercy.
Moonlight's first impression of the mystery cook was...that the colt was an aspiring potion master. She recognized a potions kit when she saw one, even if it was missing actual ingredients.
The second was that the kid either had a thing for stripes...or he was half zebra. And from what she knew of Zebras, this would fit into her potions master theory quite well.
Which prompted this...
"You know you would get better results if you minced those roots instead of diced."
Storm Dancer looked up in surprise.
"How did you know what I was doing?"
"I recognized the basics of what you are trying to do. The roots you're using look and have the same density as certain ingredients without you actually wasting the valuable components. Working in the kitchen also fits into this theory, as it would allow you to practice your prep work and how to control heat while brewing a potion."
Storm Dancer's eyes were wide.
"You know what this is?" he asked with hope. Everyone just assumed he was a natural cook, and wondered why he hadn't gotten a cutie mark in cooking just yet.
It was clear that the striped pegasus colt needed a teacher, and wanted someone to debate potions with. He reminded her of a nicer Severus Snape, oddly enough.
Moonlight smiled at him.
Mercy was unsure how to react upon the news that Moonlight would be teaching Storm how to cook, but considering the colt was acting more social after talking to her she took it as a good thing.
So she let the little one visit Moonlight and the guard pony Sirius.
He came back happier than she had ever seen him before.
"FINALLY!" cheered Moonlight, doing the Snoopy dance on two hooves to the amusement of Luna and Celestia.
Why was she dancing you ask?
The cast had been removed. She was finally cleared to go back to her normal routine, though she was banned from fighting for a while. Her leg had just healed, she didn't want to be in a cast again!
Luna couldn't help the snort as she watched the odd dance.
"What is that anyway?"
"Snoopy dance. Saw a video of it once and it was so amusing that I eventually managed to dance it myself. Should have seen Sirius' expression the first time I did it in this form."
He had thought he was being pranked by the twins until she had explained it to him...then they made everyone think they were hallucinating while she did it during an Order meeting. Funniest thing she had seen in years!
"So what's this I heard about you taking an apprentice?" asked Celestia.
"Storm Dancer is a pegasus-zebra mix who has a real knack for potions, but the matron at the orphanage didn't know much about his zebra heritage. I agreed to show him how to brew potions and somehow he's become my apprentice," said Moonlight.
"Actually I was going to ask you if you wanted to become my apprentice much like your sister is Tia's," said Luna.
Moonlight considered that offer. On one hand, she did enjoy working with Luna on combining magics. On the other, she might have less time to spend with Storm Dancer, who clearly wanted someone who understood his love of cooking. Then an idea came to her...a way to keep doing both.
"I think... I may have a solution."