For the ponies of Equestria, Nightmare Night is just a silly little festival they throw every Autumn, a time to dress up in funny costumes and eat candy. It's not like there's anything real about it.
For the one pony in Equestria who remembers the truth, Nightmare Night is nothing to celebrate.
Read it here.
This fanfic includes examples of:
- Beneath the Mask: This entire fic is about taking a look at what Celestia really thinks and feels on one of the most personally painful days of the year, and also provides a look at her mental state in the final year before the Return.
- Body Horror: Celestia has a brief dream sequence which focuses on what she believes to have been Luna's mental state just before the Nightmare submerged her — specifically, a vision of her sister trying to push her horn off her very skull while her forelegs abraded against something harder than bone, while also attempting to bite her wings off at the joints. She later discusses the dream with Fancypants, suggesting the Nightmare screamed enough during their fight to imply that Luna had been attempting to find some way of changing back.
- Character Development: Inverted. Celestia's visit to the Archives provides our first direct look at what Twilight was like at this point on the timeline: a trotting horror of social confusion and open dismissal.
- Despair Event Horizon: Celestia almost crosses it during the events of the fic, particularly when she confronts Twilight, her last desperate hope to redeem her sister — and perhaps completely the wrong pony to do so, because it takes a group to use the Elements and at this point in her life, Twilight is the last pony who could be counted on to gather others around her.There is one chance.Exactly one. A single opportunity. Succeed or fail. Victory or potential apocalypse.The only way for everypony to have a chance at survival is for you to be the pony I hoped you were. The one I've been looking for across the centuries. The last hope.You are doing everything in your power to convince me that you're not.
- Friend to All Children: Just about the only thing which gets Celestia through most Nightmare Nights is having colts and fillies in the throne room, coming to her for their collection of tribute. The slow buildup of tradition has given first-arrival privileges to the offspring of the press.
- Gone Horribly Wrong: Celestia feels this way about the banishment, believing that she found the wrong answer in trying to fight the possession. She still feels there had to be another way — even if she can't voice or even figure out what it should have been.
- I'm Having Soul Pains: Demonstrated with horrifying detail. This is the first time we've seen exactly what Celestia goes through when she has to manipulate Moon, and it's — unpleasant.
- The night began in pain. It always did.
- Shrouded in Myth: Pretty much everything from when Celestia was younger is this; the position of Seneschal has actually come to mean the one pony in each generation that Celestia feels can be trusted with the inconvenient truths behind the myths that everypony has come to believe. (The original definition was the steward of a House: as Celestia feels herself to be the last pony who even knows the word existed, she also believes any current meaning belongs to her alone.) And even then, she doesn't tell him everything.
- Nightmare Night ultimately owes part of its lineage to a story of a thief who, while wearing a truly lousy disguise, got caught and tried to bribe the law with the haul from his last robbery — of a candy stall. After generations of distortion, it led to the traditions of disguises and tribute.
- Shrine to the Fallen: The blocked-off Lunar half of the castle counts for this. Most ponies believe it's closed down due to lingering, dangerous magic from the original battle. Celestia simply doesn't want anypony other than herself going in there, and has closed or walled off the majority of the entrances. She periodically visits in order to renew preservation spells on Luna's favorite books — and it's implied that there's something very important in that section, a specific area which has a hundred workings cast just to make sure Celestia is the only one who can ever enter that portion. We just don't know what's in there.
- Stepford Smiler: This fic, more than any other in the Continuum, shows just how sad, lonely and broken Celestia is — at least in the time before the Return. And just how much she has to convey the impression that she isn't, because Equestrian politics and her panicky little ponies depend on her doing so.
- Wrong Name Outburst: While greeting the costumed little foals and fillies as per Nightmare Night tradition, Celestia accidentally calls one little earth pony filly, who has dark blue fur and dark eyes, "Luna". This triggers a hasty exit from the throne room, followed by extended vomiting into the nearest sink.