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Luna’s Story 2: Wrath of the Moon Champion
Part 6: The Champion’s Connection
Princess Luna had been acting very strangely all night. First, she’d consumed easily half of her body weight in fruits and salad at the dinner table. Then she’d become exhausted and decided to nap on the throne in the middle of the Midnight Court. Nopony dared wake her, for she snored like a raging Doberman. Even Aegis Shield couldn’t bring himself to mount the dais and shake her. Splayed out so oddly over the throne/pillow she favored, wings in odd directions and all four hooves in the air, she resembled a young filly if not for her ethereal mane.
“Should we call Princess Celestia, or a doctor maybe?” Stalwart Hide said under his breath, murmuring at his partner. Both lunar stallions looked up at the splayed out princess, unsure of what to do about her recent behavior. Usually she sat regal on the throne, now she was just laying there like it was her bed.
“And tell them what? She ate a lot and decided to take a nap?” Aegis Shield said, frowning up at the princess. It was true, she was acting way out of character, but something strange beyond that couldn’t be explained. She just didn’t DO things like that.
“Does she snore like that all the time?” Stalwart Hide wondered.
“No. She doesn’t even sleep with her mouth open.” Aegis said without thinking. Stalwart Hide looked at him, and the stallion blushed. “No, she doesn’t snore.” He said in such a way that it forbade questions or comments. The dark alicorn had been asleep for over an hour on the pillow/throne when Aegis Shield’s will broke. Sighing, he turned and went up the stairs to get a closer look at her. Was she sick? He touched her forehead with his foreleg. She was a little warm, but not ill. The way her back legs bicycled just a little, she was having an animated dream it seemed. Cocking his head, he prodded at her a few times. “Princess?” he whispered. “Luna, are you okay? You’re acting very strangely…”
Luna suddenly awoke with a slurred hiccup, sitting upright with a mildly matted mane. She spotted Aegis Shield and smiled a smile that seriously belonged in a bedroom, not in the royal courts. “Ahhh, my stallion.” She said, reaching for him. He tried to back up but she seized him and laid him out in front of her like a giant cat. Using one of her dinner-plate sized hooves, she proceeded to pet him. More than a few jaws in the room dropped. Aegis snuffle-snorted in embarrassment, trying to wiggle away. The princess’ horn ignited, pulling him back where he was so she could stroke his armored back some more. “So handsome.” She cooed with lidded eyes.
“Go get Princess Celestia!” Aegis Shield belted desperately at Stalwart Hide. The other ponies in the room had all stopped their tasks, staring at the bizarre scene in shock. Quills halted, travelling messages stopped, and squires just couldn’t believe their eyes. “Whuh-HUH?!” the stallion gruffed when her majesty’s magic flipped him over on his back so she could rub his belly instead. Her smile was just plain creepy at that point, like a young mare playing with her new husband. “Go! Now!” Stalwart Hide launched himself into the air, flapping his wings wildly and bucking the double doors open.
Earlier That Night...
“And stay out, you bucking vacuum cleaner!” The portly stallion shouted, shaking his hoof at her while she walked casually along. The Moon Champion sighed happily, finally finished feeding herself. That poor salad and fruit buffet never knew what hit it. The manager had to come out and cited a twelve plate rule for her to make her leave, despite the sign that said ‘all you can eat’. She was escorted from the place, but not before seizing a buttered bun in her teeth and scampering out. Chewing animatedly, she rubbed her belly and then licked her chops. She didn’t have a lot of money, but enough to treat herself like that now and then. After so many battles, the armor demanded fuel from her and her body. She wore it as a medallion under a featureless dark purple cloak, not trusting to fate to remove it entirely.
Stopping to gaze up into the sky, she admired the moon. Or rather, she tried to. It was waning and almost a fully new moon. A little sliver of it was still showing, but not much. In the next day or two, the night would be that much darker. Criminals tended to come out in greater droves during the full moon and the new moon. Why, who knew, but it was true. Smiling a little, she decided to take a walk in the lower tiers of Canterlot.
The city was divided into many levels, massive balconies and terraces. Built into the side of a mountain like it was, the builders had been forced to build up and down instead of out. So, the lower end was the older part of the city, and tended to attract most of the vermin. Maybe she could find some prey tonight. Licking her chops and rubbing her happy belly again, she made her way to the nearest grand staircase and started downward to the low tiers. All she needed to do was follow the scent of sweat and guilt.
It was over an hour later when she passed a tavern, the Pig and Whistle, when she saw a spectacle going on. There were streamers and balloons hanging all over the place, and confetti littered the ground. Who had a party down in this part of town? Curious, the mare went onto the tavern’s porch and peered inside. The Moon Champion wrinkled her nose at what she saw. Inside, there was a massive gathering of stallions partying the night away. The cider was flowing thick, the laughter and jokes bouncing around. The place stank, even through the glass. What suddenly drew her eye, however, was a mare who was way more pink than she had the right to be. Bubble gum pink? Neon pink? Cotton candy pink? Somewhere in there. She narrowed her eyes to focus in on her cutie mark. Balloons. Odd to see a pony with a talent for… balloons? Parties? She didn’t know. She watched the pink mare walk along on her back legs, giggling in a high-pitched way, pushing a huge cart. The stallions eyed it and her with big smiles.
Wheeling the sheet-covered thing into the middle of the room, she waved a certain stallion over. The pony was pushed forward by the crowd amidst the laughter and drunken-ness. Even from outside the Moon Champion, she could see the stallion was more than a little cider-touched, for his face was red and merry. The pink mare flung the sheet off of the cart, revealing a massive decorated cake. There were shouts of awe and approval, stomping hooves all around. “Happy Birthday to youuuu! Happy Birthday to youuuuu!” the entire tavern began to bellow, stallions falling over each other and laughing merrily at their bad singing. The pink mare joined in the singing, giggling and blowing a party popper.
The Moon Champion was about to turn away from the window and leave, but her eyes flicked across the bar for a moment before she turned away. A stallion was whispering to the bartender, who in response nodded and dropped a hissing white pill-cube into a mug of cider. It frothed wildly and he stirred it, trying to be inconspicuous. All eyes were focused on the birthday stallion and the singing pink mare, though. None but the Moon Champion saw him doing it. Narrowing her eyes, she went inside.
The place was so crowded with partiers none of them saw her enter. Shifting her way back and forth through the crowd, she made her way to the bar and sat at a stool. The bartender was busily putting mugs on a tray, though the one with an added ‘ingredient’ sat idle. The stallion that had been whispering was still idling there. “C’mon Quick Buzz, I wanna get at least a round or two into the party mare before the night is out.” He chuckled in a wink-wink sort of way. The Moon Champion’s eyes narrowed in icy anger. Snatching a mug that sat empty nearby, she licked her chops and practically crashed into him. “Hey! What the hay are you doing?!” he demanded.
“Ohhh shorry about thaaaat!” She put on a drunken swagger and leaned on him, throwing an arm around his shoulders. He held firm, bearing her weight with a cocked eyebrow. “I jushhht… I jushhht didn’t look where I was going.” She giggled and made herself nose him flirtatiously. She waggled her empty mug at him, “More please?” she teased him.
The stallion and the bartender locked eyes for a moment, which she saw. They glanced at the bouncing pink party pony, then to her, making very male comparisons. The stallion gave a slight, almost invisible nod. The bartender threw on a smile. “Herrrre you are, little lady. Party hardy.” He chuckled, passing her the dosed mug. She took it with a slurred thanks and, without hesitation, drained it dry. It was potent, and she leaned on the stallion next to her, huffing faintly. “Whoa, looks like she’s a little worse for wear!” the bartender said. “We’ve got a back room, why don’t you take her back there to rest a bit?” it was code, all too blatant for what the Moon Champion had seen.
The Moon Champion had not been drunk to begin with, so it would take a few minutes for the poisons to take hold of her. That didn’t mean she couldn’t act, though. Flushed and panting, she leaned on the eager stallion as he led her away into the privacy of the store room. “You okay, miss?” he said with a smirk, locking the door behind him as he spoke.
“I’m better than you will be.” She said, dropping the act when he’d stepped away from the door. He blinked at her as she tossed away her nondescript purple cloak. She touched her medallion with a quivering, angry hoof. ““Under the moon I stand to fight, to root out evil through sheer might. Magic and steel, swords that bite. None left standing, blood this night!”
The party poppers and shouting party-goers more than drown out the poor bastard’s screams of death. Before it was over the store room was a lot redder, and the stallion a lot less… stallion-y. Even a gelded solar guard would wince to see him. After fifteen minutes or so, the bartender decided to check on his friend. He quickly met the same fate. The party went on without them, and the other employees had to take over the bar and run the tavern. They wondered where their boss had gone, but the store room was locked from the inside so they knew he wasn’t in there.
The Moon Champion exited through a small window in the store room while rounds of ‘He’s a Jolly Good Stallion’ started going up and rocking the tavern. The birthday stallion and his friends would never know what atrocities had happened just one room away. Much less the bouncing pink party mare. The poisons had been meant for her. The silver-armored pony galloped out into the night, her armor working hard to dilute the mug of poisons she’d swallowed. It didn’t keep her from feeling hazy, though. Nor hot and bothered, as the drug was meant to do. Sick, sick bastards. She would kill them all, as many as it took to make Canterlot peaceful and prosperous again.
By the time she made it to the clock tower to hide herself, she felt like a springtime mare, plunged into a furious and sweating heat. “Ancestors!” she begged in a husky voice, flinging herself into a wall and clutching at her belly. “S-save me!” she moaned, curling up and sweating. The mares in the back of her mind nickered and shuffled around in a furious gale of activity. They rubbed and stroked at their poor foal. She’d ingested such a potent poison, any lesser mare would’ve keeled over and been… The Moon Champion shuffled to press herself into a corner, sweating and panting quietly. Shuddering every time her back legs moved, she recited every single phrase of ancient Equestrian she knew to pass the time. Given her training and upbringing, that was quite a few. Then she used her shaky magic to press pebbles back and forth. So long as she didn’t move her body at all, she could go without screaming out into the night like a wild beast. The clock struck one in the morning, the bell pounding. She cried out when she flinched at the sound. She’d forgotten to put the sound-proof spell on. The mare's ancestors worked dilligently, trying to comfort her and dispel the drugs working in her system. She tried to find sleep in her armor, but the thin bedroll made it hard. Laying there, she pressed her lips together and suffered for Canterlot.
Luna suddenly snapped back to herself, sitting up and almost poking Celestia in the eye with her horn. She saw her sister’s pearly magic aura go out as spell ended. She was in her room. Something had just been cast on her, snapping her out of… something? The ponies gathered around her stared, smiles washing across their faces. “I didn’t fall into another coma, did I?” croaked Luna. A few of them chuckled painfully.
“If only for a few hours, sister.” Celestia said gently, raising a wing to lean down and embrace her. “Stalwart Hide came to fetch me when you started acting… oddly.” When Luna gave them a confused look, her sister told her everything that had happened since dinner. Stuffing her face, sleeping in court, treating Aegis Shield like a stallion boy-toy.
The midnight alicorn quickly looked over at her guard and lover, aghast at herself. “I remember!” she said, cocking her head like it was a faint memory. “I remember doing it all, I just...” she trailed off, furrowing her brow. “I’m so sorry, Aegis. That must’ve been so humiliating!” she reached for him and he quickly came forward to hug her.
They shared a quiet moment before he pulled away to speak. “Well, I’m just glad you didn’t decide to pet another stallion or mare in front of everypony.” He said deeply. There were a few nervous chuckles in the room. “Any idea what brought on the weird behavior?” he tilted his head.
“No.” Luna said, shaking her head. “Well, maybe.” Her face suddenly lit up in mild panic.
“Are you sick?” Aegis Shield asked.
“Are you being possessed?” Stalwart Hide wondered wildly.
“Are you pregnant?” Celestia ventured.
“SISTER!” Luna belted in the Royal Canterlot Voice, knocking both stallions and a lot of furniture equipment down. “HOW DARETH THOU?!” her old dialect returned in her flustered ways.
“I was just asking.” Celestia said pleasantly, wearing her usual bemused smile. Luna seethed like a falling comet at her solar sister. Like that was any of her business! She was always careful with Aegis Shield when it came to that! She—!
Luna took a few breaths to calm herself while the lunar stallions righted themselves, their eyes in swirls. “No, it’s something I’ve feared for a time now.” She said, turning on her side and then righting herself. They made to stop her from rising from the bed, but she seemed okay. She went to the vanity, busily putting on her crown and regalia. Stalwart Hide averted his eyes, remembering she was naked and without her royal trappings. “The Moon Champion has reached the second stage of her transformation.”
“Have you come any closer to catching her, Luna?” Celestia said, frowning a bit. She’d been filled in on the rogue lunar soldier, though there was little to be done but let her bretheren track her. Solar guards could not see at night, and would only get in the way. The princess of the night shook her head sadly. “And what do you mean, the second stage?”
“The armor she wears is potent. It is like lunar stallion armor, but far more powerful. Therefore, it’s attachment happens in stages.” She spoke frankly, turning and making a slight gesture as she spoke. “The first stage is simple. A much more powerful version of the lunar stallion armor. It comes with weaponry and a visor.”
“And the second stage?” said Stalwart Hide warily, trying to ignore the itch in his neck.
“The second stage strengthens the bond between the Moon Champion and her patron goddess. Me.” She said softly. “The side effect is that it connects us in a very personal way.”
“How so?” Aegis Shield asked.
“If something happens to her, it will happen to me as well, to a degree.” Princess Luna said as gently as she said. She winced at their horrified looks. “You must understand, the Moon Champion was my avatar. She sometimes went into battle in my stead. It felt cowardly, so I imbued the armor with the ability to let us share feelings and effects.”
“Does that include injury?” Aegis Shield asked sharply.
“If someone were to stab her in the heart, I would feel a great pain in my chest, not pitch over dead. Remember, the last true Moon Champion took a ballista bolt meant for me. I did not fall from the sky when that happened.” Luna soothed. All three ponies seemed to relax at her words. So, the connection wasn’t total, then. “That explains my odd behavior, though.” She scratched at her scalp a little.
“So tonight the Moon Champion was super hungry, super tired, and then…?” Aegis trailed off, embarrassed. Luna nodded gravely. “Doesn’t that sort of… take you over, though? Can’t you sever the connection?”
“It is sporadic. Like a… check in system. During the last campaign of the great wars, thousands of years ago, the armor would 'check in' every few days or so. It let me know she was still alive.” Luna shook her head. “And no, I would need to disenchant the armor direction to sever the connection.” She sighed. “I’ve yet to see her in person again, so I’ve not had the chance.” The dark alicorn studied her companion’s faces.
“Luna, this is getting very serious.” Celestia said softly, coming forward and frowning sadly. “My Little Ponies, even the bad ones, are precious to me. They’re dying out there, so long as your Moon Champion is wandering the streets at night. You have to stop her.”
“We know!” Luna said, frustrated and returning to her vanity mirror. She brushed her mane furiously, setting her jaw. “But she has no pattern, no agenda beyond killing those that she deems evil! We have nothing to tempt her out of the shadows with!” She clopped a hoof hard on her vanity, leaving cracks across it. “No morsel she would stick her neck out for.”
“…Me.” Said Stalwart Hide softly, ears turning back. All eyes turned to him, and brows rose. At their confused looks, he dipped his head in an ashamed way. “We’ve been… that is… the Moon Champion and I have been… flirting. Sort of.” They stared at him like he’d grown an extra head. His face turned a slowly deepening red, and he stared at the floor. “Just a little, I mean… erm…” the lunar stallion felt deep shame, but it was all he could do to offer up the truth. He told them about the kiss, about the flirting, a few more details about the fight they’d had. Also, about the bite in the donut shop.
Luna’s mouth went agape and she suddenly put all the pieces together. “Thy neck bite marks were not from an attack!” Princess Luna rushed over and pressed him angrily against the wall. “Thou art fraternizing!” she said accusingly. “Aegis Shield, arrest him!” she demanded.
“Luna—” Celestia tried.
“No! This is unacceptable! There is a killer on the loose wearing the most sacred armor I ever created for ponykind, sullying the name of my most trusted soldier! And this stallion is out there… FRATERNIZING with her!” she blasted poor Stalwart Hide against the wall with her voice. He broke into a fit of coughing as the room shuddered. Aegis slowly went forward, helping the stallion to his hooves and starting to escort him away.
“You asked for something to dangle in front of her, what better than something she apparently wants? Or rather, somepony?” Celestia said. She pushed aside the neck flap of Stalwart Hide’s armor, blocking the doorway as she spoke. The bite marks were gone but the embarrassment was still there, like a colt that had been caught with a hicky on his neck. Luna stopped, cocking her head. It was a rather basic idea. The royal sisters stared at each other for a time, then down at Stalwart Hide, who wilted like they might strike him.
“Thou art un-arrested.” Luna grumped a little. She stepped up close to him, opening her wings. “Thou art now… bait.” She smiled wickedly. Even Aegis Shield had to shudder at the princess’ expression, for most of her teeth were showing. She didn't have the shark teeth that the lunar stallions had, but it didn't make her any less terrifying.
End of Part 6