Twilight Velvet looked at her daughter in surprise.
"You want to what now?" she asked.
"There's a young colt at the Canterlot Orphanage who has a knack for potions. I seem to be the only one who's noticed that ability, or even that he's half-zebra. Everyone else has sent him back. And with Luna's offer to become her apprentice and part-time assistant, I worry he'll fall back to the wayside if I don't do something."
"Moonlight honey, I know you're worried about this colt, but most girls your age can't handle raising a foal," said her mother gently.
"I've all but raised myself until recently. How is raising a foal any different?" she countered.
Twilight winced. It was always a sore fact in the family that until a year ago, Moonlight had been in a less than pleasant situation. One that had required her to teach herself the pony way without losing her kindness or moral compass. She listened to them within reason, but times like these she was reminded painfully that while Moonlight was her daughter, she had a mind of her own. One that was far more fiercely independent than her twin.
"What's his name?" asked Twilight Velvet finally.
"Storm Dancer. Think of it this way, at least you'll have practice at spoiling the grandfoals for when Shining finally gets off his rump and marries Cadence," said Moonlight with an impish light in her eyes.
Twilight Velvet giggled with Moonlight. Twilight hadn't noticed the fact her older brother had a huge crush on Princess Cadence, but Moonlight had caught it almost immediately. She teased Shining about it for hours, but hadn't mentioned it to Twilight.
In the words of Moonlight, not every pony was worthy of marrying someone as special as Cadence.
"Well, perhaps if I met the foal in question..." said Twilight. Moonlight beamed at her.
A few days later Twilight Velvet was introduced to Storm Dancer...and immediately fell in love with the colt. He was just precious!
The next day Moonlight signed off on the adopted papers, and Storm moved into his own room in the house.
Luna awoke around three and once she had eaten breakfast she found an eager Moonlight waiting patiently for her.
"Glad to have finally found a use for your skills, I take it?" she said amused.
Luna had said that if Moonlight really impressed her with her magic and training, she might consider letting the filly join her Night Guard. Most of those picked for that station were little more than the ones that the Royal and Pegasus guard didn't want. She hoped throwing someone as dedicated as Moonlight would attract fresh applicants.
Luna found it amusing that instead of using telekinesis to write the notes, Moonlight had shifted to human form instead.
She spent a few hours teaching the girl through a shared mental link to kill the boredom of having to deal with nobles.
Celestia found that quite amusing to be honest.
Twilight was sipping some tea as she waited to see if Moonlight would write her. Instead of using the flame spell Spike had long since mastered, she preferred to use her owl. Hearing the tap, tap, tap of Hedwig's beak, Spike opened the window.
She had a letter and a box. It had a little ribbon on it, and Spike's name.
Opening it revealed some nice gems for the dragon to munch on.
Twilight unrolled the letter and had taken another drink of her hot tea when her eyes bulged in shock. She spewed tea all over poor Spike as she reread the opening line.
"What was that for?" complained Spike.
Twilight began to read out loud the letter, and he found out why she had been startled enough to soak him with tea.
Hard to believe it's only been a few months since we split up! I have great news... You are now officially an aunt! Mom's over the moon about having a grandfoal to spoil rotten, since it's great practice for when Shining gets off his rump and finally courts the mare he's had his eyes on for years.
His name is Storm Dancer, and he's about the same age as the Cutie Mark Crusaders. He's a real wiz at cooking.
Another good thing to happen recently is that I've been accepted as Princess Luna's personal apprentice/assistant. She teaches me her magic while I help her out with the Night Court. All I can say is thank Magic for Dicta-quills! Otherwise my human hands would have fallen off from all the pomp and ceremony these noble ponies seem to love so much.
Princess Luna said she might send me to Ponyville soon to see if I can't help recruit some new ponies for the Town Guard and the Night Guard...apparently the number of ponies interested in those spots are a bit low for her tastes and she wants to change that.
Hope to see you soon, love Moonlight."
"What's up?" yawned Hermione. She shared the job of town librarian and was often up late at night repairing books on the side.
"I'm an aunt now," said Twilight in shock.
"A pony's gestation period is much longer than a month...so did she adopt a foal?" asked Hermione. Twilight nodded, still in disbelief.
"Maybe now she'll calm down with a foal to look after and her luck won't be so horrid," said Hermione.
"You don't seem so surprised," noted Spike.
"Moonlight has the strangest luck. Did she mention anything about the little one she took in?"
"Only that he's a wiz at cooking and that his name is Storm Dancer," said Spike.
"She must have stumbled on a budding potions master then. With how rarely ponies use potions, I'm not surprised she snatched him up once she recognized his talent."
Twilight was still in shock about being an aunt...she had only split up from her twin for a few months...a few months! It took her ten minutes for her brain to reboot back to it's normal setting.
In the Everfree Forest...
Zecora, a Zebra from another continent, looked at the faded picture frame on her mantle and sighed.
It had been three years since her sister and brother-in-law, a pegasus on vacation from Manehatten named Cloud Runner, had been killed by Diamond Dogs on a raid. The tiny foal, a baby pegasus pony who had inherited the zebra stripes of his mother, stared back at her hauntingly from the frame.
His eyes were so much like her sister's...poor little Storm Dancer had gone missing as far as she knew, and no one would even tell her if the colt had survived the incident.
Zecora stirred her potions idly...her nephew had inherited her love of the art according to Zena. He was fascinated by the potion making process at an early age, and Zena had said that he had grasped the basics rather fast for his age. She had high hopes that her son would have a cauldron for his cutie mark.
And he had gone missing during the attack. She had looked for months, rarely returning to her home in the Everfree Forest, trying to find him, or at least news of a pegasus colt with zebra stripes.
She had given up after a year.
Finishing her brew, she looked at the other picture...that of a unicorn filly who had visited her briefly during her stay in Ponyville who asked if she had any requests for the town library. Zecora had been startled that the filly had even come into the forest to ask her, let alone actually get a new copy of the potions book on her mantle. Hers was outdated, and she honestly hadn't expected this Moonlight Sparkle to actually get the latest copy.
After that she decided to see if the girl knew anything about potions...and to her delight she did. Moonlight seemed happy to write to her about the art, or to send her ingredients she couldn't get in the forest readily in exchange for news.
Zecora was startled from her musing when she heard the tap, tap, tap of an owl. Looking outside she found Hedwig, Moonlight's pet.
Opening the window, the owl dropped the letter on the table. Zecora handed her a treat she had made especially for the bird.
She opened the scroll and read the missive...and her heart nearly stopped in shock.
Moonlight was telling Zecora about her newly adopted son, a pegasus colt named Storm Dancer who had a real knack for cooking.
Normally Zecora would enjoy chatting about potions and cooking with Moonlight, but something about this letter refused to let her go.
A pegasus colt with the same name as her nephew, and who knew how to cook? Was it possible Moonlight had stumbled upon her missing nephew by accident?
She wrote with a shaky quill asking for details about the colt, nearly spilling the ink.
Hedwig took her reply off, sensing the gravity of the situation without words.
Zecora sat down. She could only hope her penpal had done the impossible, and that her last remaining link to her sister was safe in her care.
Moonlight looked at the letter from Zecora. That was rather fast, and her penmanship was sloppier than normal.
Reading the missive, she blinked. The idea that Zecora was Storm Dancer's aunt wasn't as preposterous as one might think. She had looked up his family history to make sure he wouldn't be prone to anything dangerous and found that his parents were killed in a Diamond Dog raid. There was a side note about an aunt, but other than that it didn't mention her as a possible caretaker for him.
She also remembered Zecora had mentioned traveling for over a year, though she declined to say why. Looking back on it, the timing fit in with the attack. Two weeks after it, Zecora had vanished from the Everfree Forest for an entire year before she came back.
It was likely that Zecora had gone looking for her newly orphaned nephew to take him in.
Moonlight headed down to the office of the orphan placement, and left disgusted with their attitude. The ponies who worked there were so jaded about their job that they hadn't followed through on their duty!
Zecora had been on file as a potential guardian for Storm, but her residence had kept them from investigating. Apparently they didn't think her a fit guardian just because of where she lived!
It was definitely time to reunite Storm with his aunt. If only so she could train him in the ways of his heritage.
Twilight was waiting at the train station for the train from Canterlot. Moonlight was coming with her new nephew Storm Dancer.
She could have taken the sky wagon, since she was Luna's assistant and this was technically official business, but she knew that Moonlight would rather fly using her broom rather than ride a sky wagon.
She wasn't afraid of heights, far from it actually, but there was something about flying under your own power that was addicting.
"Canterlot to Ponyville! Canterlot to Ponyville!" called the station manager.
Twilight was tackled by a pink and purple blur.
"Hey sis!" said Moonlight grinning evilly. Twilight heard a snicker and looked behind her.
There was a pegasus colt with stripes and odd shaped eyes snickering behind her sister.
"Is this Storm Dancer?"
"Yup. Storm, come say hi to your new aunt. Twilight, meet Storm Dancer, my son/apprentice."
"Hello," he said shyly.
Storm Dancer had a white coat with black stripes, and teal colored eyes. His mane was more of a dark lavender and violet color. He didn't have a cutie mark yet, but Moonlight knew it was only a matter of time before he got one. She had the feeling it would either be a cauldron, something involving healing potions, or possibly prank related.
At this point she was heavily betting on healing potions.
As the three walked into town, Moonlight looked around confused. The place was awfully deserted during this time of day...normally ponies would be out and about for lunch.
Suddenly they were dragged into the library by Applejack, Pinkie and Rarity.
"What..." started Moonlight.
"Shhh! Do you want her to hear you?" said Applejack.
"What is up with you today?" asked Twilight.
"Zecora's in town. No pony ever goes out when she comes out of the forest!" said Pinkie, as if that explained everything.
"Oh for magic's sake! Not this nonsense again! Zecora is a Zebra, those stripes are normal!" said Moonlight rolling her eyes.
Storm perked up.
"Did you say Zecora?" he asked.
"Who's this?" asked Apple Bloom.
"My newly adopted son Storm Dancer. Storm, if you want you can go check if that's really her," said Moonlight.
Storm was practically dancing on all four hooves when the door slammed open from his exit.
The mysterious Zecora, who lived in the Everfree Forest, was knocked to the ground by the overly eager pegasus colt.
"Auntie Zecora!" he cried.
Zecora's hood was thrown back, revealing a normal looking Zebra with bangles around her neck and a striking resemblance to the pegasus colt.
"What a surprise that dances before the eyes! Storm, you're alive!" she said in shock and delight.
Most of the Ponyville residents had watched this little show with outright shock. Zecora didn't look evil with the hood down and a young colt prancing around her.
"Long time no see Zecora. I take it Storm is the missing nephew you told me about last time I visited?" said Moonlight, coming out of the library, Apple Bloom behind her.
"It is a rare treat, to have a missing relative to greet," said Zecora.
"It's lucky I stumbled upon him in that orphanage. They didn't know his talent for what it was," said Moonlight.
Seeing that Zecora wasn't as evil or mysterious as everyone believed (mostly due to where she lived and the fact that she had such an odd way of speaking) the rest of Twilight's friends sheepishly came out of the library.
"So what's this about anyway?" asked Twilight.
"Zecora here had a sister who died during a Diamond Dog raid. After the incident, her son went missing and Zecora has been looking for her nephew since. I found him by accident while recovering from the whole Summer Sun Celebration incident and recognized what his talent was. I wasn't about to let a prospective potions master fall to the wayside simply because the ponies didn't understand his gift."
"Moonlight mentioned finding a pegasus colt with stripes, and when I heard the name I couldn't help but hope she had found him," said Zecora.
"The rest I'd assume was good timing...though we were going to visit your cottage later anyway to see if you would be interested in teaching him Zebra potions, since there aren't any good books of the subject in Canterlot," nodded Moonlight.
"Wait, if he's Zecora's nephew, then wouldn't he be staying in Ponyville?" asked Applejack.
"Legally I adopted him. However I can arrange for him to stay in Ponyville and have him make several visits to Canterlot. Or I could find a good teleportation spell and simply commute between the two places so I can continue my apprenticeship with Luna and work as her assistant. It's not like she's up during the day to begin with," said Moonlight.
Personally she was leaning towards staying in Ponyville anyway, and apparating between there and Canterlot around the time Luna woke up. She had more or less gotten the spell down enough to do it silently at this point.
As much as she loved her mother, Twilight Velvet could be very smothering at times.
Luna looked at her apprentice/assistant.
"Let me see if I have this correctly. You wish to move to Ponyville and commute to Canterlot during the evenings in order to maintain you position as my aide?" she said slowly.
"I more or less have the wizard's transport spell down that I don't make much noise. And to be honest moving to Ponyville would help Storm and Zecora bond over potions and get over the damage done because the orphanage didn't recognized his gift. And besides, Ponyville isn't that far away from Canterlot to begin with."
"The fact it takes you out of range of your mother's smothering habits is just a perk I take it?" said Luna amused.
"I see no reason to agree to this. Most of his studies would take place during the day, during which I sleep until near evening. And it would allow you to bond with your twin, which you see far too little of to begin with. I assume you are procuring a separate home for you and Storm?"
"Absolutely. As much as I love Twilight and Hermione, I am not going to stay in the library with them. I've suffered enough of Hermione's insane study schedules and I have no desire to allow Storm to fall prey to them as well," said Moonlight.
Once had been enough thank you.