Babs Seed awoke to the sound of snoring ponies and the pinch of a full bladder. It took a moment for the little earth pony to gather her bearings: she lay in her sleeping bag inside the Cutie Mark Crusaders’ tree house at Sweet Apple Acres, where she’d been visiting for the weekend. Gingerly she slipped out of the bag and tiptoed to the door so as not to wake her sleeping friends. Babs stepped out onto the balcony, closed the treehouse door behind her, and sighed a breath of relief.
"Huh. Sure is dahk out here in the country at night," she murmured to herself, feeling apprehensive about her imminent trip to the outhouse. The darkness seemed to swallow up the open field between here and there. It wasn’t at all like the big city where she lived, where bright lights illuminated every street-corner in the evenings.
A soft “clunk” resounded from the roof of the treehouse. Babs jumped back, swiveled about and nearly fell from the balcony. Up on the roof stood Princess Luna: her starry midnight-blue mane waving gently in the breeze.
"Oh geez!" Babs gasped, her muzzle dropped open. She squinted, then blew a stream of air upwards across her face to brush aside the tiny lock of pink mane which crossed over one of her eyes.
"Hello, my little pony," the alicorn announced, carefully keeping her royal Canterlot voice in check to avoid waking the others. She deftly hopped off the roof and glided down to the balcony, landing right beside the little chestnut filly. "You are the one named Babs, yes?" she asked.
"Y-yeah," said Babs. She’d never been this close to a real princess, unless you counted Twilight Sparkle, and to be honest, Babs didn’t. Twilight was just too, well… normal. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
"So, um, you’re that night Princess chick," the little pony declared, abruptly. The tall, dark mare looked taken aback by the little one’s directness, but quickly regained her composure.
"Yes. You may call us—I mean, me, Luna, if you like," the Princess offered with a slight nod.
Babs’ tiny docked tail flitted back and forth against her blank flanks. “Wait, does this mean I’m still asleep or somethin’? My friends told me about you bein’ in dreams, an’ stuff,” she remarked. “An’ they say you’re pretty cool,” she added.
Luna smiled. “I am quite flattered. But, no: this is not a dream. While I do wander into the dreams of restless sleepers, I also keep watch over Equestria by night. I happened to be overhead when I sensed the tension in your withers, young mare. I presume you are not used to the stillness of my country night?”
Babs blushed and looked down at her hooves. “Well, yeah, it’s different, that’s fah sure. I ain’t a scaredy cat or nothin’, but it’s just not this dahk out where I live, like, evah. Here, it’s like a big ol’ stretch of empty,” she explained, pointing down at the field below them.
The tall mare nodded sagely. “There’s nothing wrong, or even unnatural, with being afraid of the darkness. But I can promise you that the fields of Sweet Apple Acres are completely safe for you to traverse,” she said reassuringly.
Babs nodded. “Yeah, I know. I dunno what my prob is, miss Princess. I mean Luna,” she said.
The Princess paused for a moment, and reached down with a hoof. She gently took the filly’s cheek and turned it toward the grassy expanse. “Is it not beautiful, the way the darkness softly blankets the grass?” she asked.
"Oh yeah, it’s sure pretty alright," said Babs. "I can definitely see why you like it and all. An’ I know there ain’t nothin’ bad out there, but it feels like, if I can’t see somethin’, maybe I can’t trust it?" she added, fumbling to describe her feelings.
Luna felt sympathy for the young pony. Trust issues were all too common in foals: other fillies and colts could be so cruel and deceptive, leaving a little pony scarred and doubtful of everypony else’s intentions. The Princess looked around and noticed a small, white candle sitting on the edge of the balcony, and had an idea. Luna’s horn glowed as she levitated the candle upwards, magically lit the wick, then lifted it to Babs.
"Here, take this candle," offered the royal mare. Babs took the candle in her hoof.
"Well, it’s not much light, but I guess…" the filly began to mumble.
Luna leaned over, locking eyes with Babs, and blew out the candle.
"Hay! Whaddya go an’ do that for?" Babs asked.
Luna rubbed a hoof against Babs’ mane. “Only to help you,” she explained. “Why would you want the candle to be lit? If it is the darkness you fear, I wouldn’t want you to have to see it on your journey.”
Babs Seed scrunched her face in thought for a moment. It almost made sense. “But, isn’t this about what I can’t see…?”
The alicorn shook her head. “No, dear foal. In your mind’s eye, it is about something that isn’t there at all,” she corrected. “And if the unlit candle isn’t enough to keep you from seeing the darkness, well then: you can always close your eyes too,” she smiled, and playfully winked.
Babs stifled a nervous laugh at the silliness of her fears. “Okay, I think I get it,” she said, and remembering her urge, started stepping down the ladder. “I guess if I should trust anyone about this sorta thing then you’d be the one, right?” she admitted as she stepped down to the bottom of the tree.
"I will watch over you from here, Babs Seed," sounded the voice above her as Babs started walking across the field on three legs. Her fourth hoof still held aloft the oddly-comforting unlit candle that hid her from the darkness.