Luna pulled the last of the confetti from her mane and tail. She sighed and tossed it over the side of the chariot, watching the colorful paper drift away. Celestia had given her a proper sending off, complete with banners saying things like "Do your best!" and "Go, Luna, go!" Luna wondered whether her sister was using her pranks and outrageousness as a coping mechanism or a punishment. Possibly both, she mused, a hoof resting on the suitcase where her own coping mechanism lay. She had insisted that Abby's suitcase remain by her side for the duration of the trip and managed to keep even Celly from seeing inside it.
It was somewhat saddening to think about for too long at once and Luna attempted to distract herself with mental games. She counted the clouds and imagined what object their shapes represented. Surely there was an artist among the weather patrol, because each fluffy lump of white was carefully sculpted into a delicate floral arrangement. The trails of vapor connecting each one reminded Luna of her own works and the thin bands of dust and gas that she manipulated, weaving them among the stars as she led them through the night.
She started committing patterns to memory, her eyes trailing over every shape and curve of the clouds. The landscape was exquisite and seemed so very different from what she remembered. A thousand years of change had swept across it and Luna wanted to know every nook and cranny again, to bask in the world. She turned her gaze to the place where the sky met the earth and smiled at the peaks protruding from the ground, jagged mountains scraping at the heavens above.
Ponyville was an expanding point on the horizon, a civilized blob breaking up the skyline. Another hours flight at this pace, maybe more. It was hard getting used to terrestrial distances after using her magically enhanced sight to spy upon her lost domain from the moon. It was certainly much easier to judge by scent and sound, and the apple orchards were much closer. Luna could smell, and almost taste, the ripe red apples. She felt her stomach cringe a little and she realized she was hungry.
On the moon she had starved. Without food or water she had longed to slake her thirst or ease the endless pains of her empty stomach. Technically neither she nor her sister needed sustenance of any sort, but taste was a sense that she couldn't imagine living without savoring, and hunger was a painful experience if left unchecked. And a thousand years of hunger had burned that feeling into her mind.
"Excuse me, sirs, but would it be possible to increase our pace? I don't mean to rush you, only I find myself getting rather peckish."
One of the pegasi pulling the chariot looked over his shoulder at her and Luna gulped. His expression was the same stern look as all of Celestia's guards, unflinching and unchanging. He looked her over for a moment before nodding.
"Then I advise you to hold on to something, Princess Luna."
Luna barely had enough time to brace herself before the pegasi suddenly rocketed forwards. After a split second their harnesses drew taut and the chariot followed after them. Luna couldn't help but feel an intense terror and exhilaration as she clung to the hoofrail for dear life. The suitcase beside her began sliding backwards and Luna latched onto it with her magic, binding it with ethereal ropes and dragging it along.
For the briefest of moments her magic moved without her instruction, binding her, the chariot and the pegasi pulling it. It was only for a single second, but it was enough to startle her. The rope she had conjured thinned and snapped and Abby fell from the chariot. Luna heard a scream and wondered where it had come from before she realized that she was the one screaming. She then realized that she had leaped from the chariot, falling after the suitcase.
She spread her wings and dove, magic slowing the falling luggage as she conjured new bindings to trap it in the air. Her horn glowed and flashed as she finally caught up to it, biting on the handle and hauling it upwards. The pegasi had slowed to a stop and were only now doubling back around. Luna hovered over to them and climbed back into the chariot.
"Are you alright, Princess?"
"Shall we try that again, sirs? Only this time I think I would enjoy it greatly if I could secure my belongings properly first."
One of the pegasi chuckled but the other seemed agitated.
"Of course, Princess Luna. I apologize for not waiting."
"Take as long as you need, we'll be patient," the other added with a chuckle.
Luna couldn't tell if the pegasus was laughing at her or his co-pilot and pushed it out of her mind, binding the suitcase to the chariot with a sticky ball of magic.
She braced herself properly this time, strapping herself down and giving each pegasus a nod. This time when they took off at full speed she was only jostled around a bit, the wind whipping her mane back and forth.
She looked out at the land below and resumed making her mental map of the area. She watched the way the river curved around the town and the hills rose up around it. She immersed herself in its geography and wondered how many different ways there were to arrange the stars to get a perfect view of each from every hilltop at once. It would certainly be an interesting project to work on and she mentally filed it away for later.
As the chariot touched down Luna couldn't help but notice the lack of crowds. The streets, while certainly not empty, weren't filled to the brim with ponies expecting her arrival. It was as though Celestia hadn't actually warned anyone of her arrival, a thought so hopeful that she immediately dismissed it. Celly wouldn't squander a chance to mess with her, especially when she was so aggravated. Any minute now somepony would jump out at her, or a crowd would be hiding behind the corner of the next building, or-
She yelped and leaped away from the sound of the voice, falling over her suitcase. The glue holding it to the chariot flexed and stretched before snapping back into place, pulling out from under her and flipping her over a second time. She looked up meekly from her position on the ground at the guard who was already shaking his head. The other was shaking with what was more than likely stifled laughter.
"Do you require us to escort you to the library?"
Luna got to her feet as quickly and carefully as she could, failing on both counts and ending up stumbling on top of the suitcase once again. She sighed and straightened up, freeing the suitcase from its enchanted restraint and levitating it along with the others.
"I simply need to get my bearing straight. If you would be so kind as to point me in the right direction I would be most grateful."
The pegasi exchanged unreadable looked before one gestured down the road.
"Head down the main street, you can't miss it. It's the only building made out of a tree, and it has a sign with a book on it."
The suitcases made their way down the road and Luna followed behind them, shielding herself from the crowds as best as she could. She looked over her shoulder at the guard.
They both bowed low and turned, wings flapping hard as they pushed off the ground and flew off with the chariot. As they vanished behind a passing cloud Luna considered the possibility that this was just the beginning of a miniature hell engineered by her sister. She drew the suitcases closer to her, peering around them from time to time and keeping them between herself and anypony else passing by. One of the suitcases smacked into something and Luna collided face-first with it. She rubbed her nose and lowered the suitcase, peering around it.
On the ground was a bale of hay with glasses and a coat. Resting directly on top of it was what appeared to be a tiny alligator with purple eyes and a lazy, nonchalant expression of indifference. Luna backed away from it slowly, raising an eyebrow. The alligator didn't even seem to register her presence, something for which Luna was grateful. Even though it was small the scaly creature still evoked a feeling of fear and apprehension in her. Before Luna could think back to the source of her phobia the alligator became a green blur and she felt several pinching sensations all over her body as twenty toothless bites nipped her from top to bottom.
She shrieked, panic overwhelming her better judgment. She tried to bat the alligator away but every time she worked up the nerve to strike it latched onto her hoof and nibbled its way up her arm. She tried running around in circles and bucking but its jaws remained firmly clamped on her at all times.
The Element of Laughter jumped out from the bale of hay and rolled along the ground right past Luna. As she did her tail seemed to engulf the alligator, pulling it away. Pinkie Pie struck a dramatic pose and turned to Luna.
"Sorry about Gummy, he always gets chompy whenever he meets new people."
Luna stared at Pinkie Pie and her enormous smile for a moment, still quivering.
"Yes... of course... chompy indeed."
"Well duh! I mean, you're Princess Luna, which means he's never met you before. And if he's never met you before then he's gonna get chompy and excited about meeting you!"
The dark blue mare's eyes widened while Pinkie Pie's narrowed. Gummy stuck his head out from the pink party ponies' tail.
"You remember me?"
Pinkie Pie opened her mouth to speak and then suddenly gasped. Her body seemed to levitate above the ground for a moment, tail sticking out straight and limbs twitching. She dashed off as fast as she could, even more of a blur than her pet had been. Luna's gaze remained on the place where she had been a moment before, her brain still processing what had just transpired. When she snapped back to her senses several passing ponies had stopped to look at her, some confused and others with slowly dawning recognition visible on their faces.
Luna collected up her belongings and hurried on her way, the wall of floating luggage surrounding her completely. She ran almost blindly, eyes scanning the buildings around her for some sign of the library. Finally she came upon the large tree with a sign and a building carved into the living wood. The library seemed odd in a way that Luna couldn't place. No matter how she looked at it she couldn't shake the feeling that something strange was going on, and yet she couldn't detect any magic coming from it at all.
She approached the entrance and turned the doorknob. There was an odd, frightening creaking noise and the wooden facade fell towards her, crashing into the street. She stood there, staring at the door, cringing and wondering if this was another prank or a genuine screw up. Suddenly the door swung open and a certain pink party pony grinned merrily at her.
"Hi, Luna! Come on i-"
Pinkie Pie looked past Luna at the pile of painted wood and broken support planks.
"Huh, somepony made a really big mess in the street. Don't they know how dangerous that is?"
She turned her attention back to the princess and grinned.
"Come on in!"
Luna opened her mouth to speak but Pinkie Pie had already put a hoof on her shoulder to lead her through the doorway. Beyond it was what appeared to be a bakery filled with balloons and ponies. Pinkie Pie entered and dragged Luna behind her. Everypony looked at her and smiled, some bowing and others merely nodding their heads gently. A pink face took up Luna's vision completely and a shout that nearly deafened her sounded through the entire room.
"Surprise! It wasn't the library at all! It's your "Welcome to Ponyville, Luna!" party! Princess Celestia told me to throw you the biggest, bestest party ever so I did! What do you think?"
Luna recoiled in shock, flailing and falling backwards onto her flank. Everypony's eyes landed on her and the Element of Laughter seemed a tad concerned.
"What's wrong, don't you like parties?"