A shrill cry echoed down the decorated corridor, the two guards who were on duty leapt to their hooves at the sound of the lady’s cry. Yet before they could even turn towards the bedchambers the mighty brass doors swung apart from a tremendous force within. Several earth pony mares flooded out from the room with intent, as orders were barked to them from another voice within. The two guards were unsure of how to react, but a small peach coloured pony stepped forward to provide them with instruction.
“You there, run and fetch the doctor. The madam has gone into labour, so hurry!” The guard at whom she was speaking to started to bolt in the same direction as the maids. The small mare who take taken control of the situation carried an air of authority with her as she turned to face the remaining guard, “and you are continue with your duty, more specifically don’t let any stallion enter! Keep an eye out for the stablecolt, he’s always sneaking around places he doesn’t belong.”
The lone guard saluted as the mare re-entered the bedchambers, closing the doors behind her. Marie was a young pony, having been a filly only a few years past, her small frame apparently wasn’t able to keep up with the development of her mind but most ponies regretted having underestimated her strength and confidence. She had been a part of the noble Sear family for as long as she could remember, it’s funny how the arrival of a new life makes a pony think of their origins. Marie had been born and raised in the mansion, she remembered her parents telling her that they had been bound in a life-debt to the head of the house that they were more than happy to serve. Even though she was not subject to this contract, the young mare continued to serve in her parent’s steed, after their eventual passing, with a level of dedication and pride that earned her much respect from the other servants and more importantly: the madam. Thus despite her young age, Marie was entailed the head maid.
Marie returned to her madam’s side, even though the unicorn was draped under many layers of purple silk, the contractions of her swollen belly were clearly distinguishable from her breathing. The madam gave out a another cry, even though it carried far less volume than the first, it was enough to make Marie jump. The young maid poured a glass of water and carried it to the suffering mare.
“Madam, I’ve sent the others to fetch the towels and hot water. The guard is retrieving the doctor as we speak. Is there anything I can do to help?” The loyal pony felt helpless and the hesitation in her voice betrayed her silent concerns. The madam smiled and tried to sit upright, drapes of her scarlet coloured mane ran down the sides of her face. Marie could see beads of sweat collecting on the pearl coat of her master and she looked towards the door in frustration that the towels had still not arrived, she then felt a comforting hoof being placed on her shoulders, followed by the madams words.
“Marie we both know that you don’t have to ask such questions, just having you here is all I need; right now you are the only pony in this mansion who knows what I require. That was your special talent wasn’t it? The gift of empathy, to understanding other’s feelings.” The madam reached for her belly as another pulse rippled across the smooth sheets. With sudden understanding, Marie jumped to her hooves and ran back to the door, calling to the guard outside.
“Dispatch a Pegasus to the northern border immediately. Tell him to inform Commander Sear that his child should be birthed by daybreak and that his wife wishes for him to return home. Even if it’s just to meet their child.”
The guard started to complain that he couldn’t leave since his partner had yet to return, but then the madam called out to him herself: “Tell my husband that seeing his newborn son is more important than arguing with another dragon!” The shrill pitch of her voice sent the stallion galloping down the hallway with no complaint. The two mares in the bedchambers both started to laugh and Marie returned to the Madam’s side.
“My lady, how do you know you shall have a son? Aren’t you worried the Commander shall be angry with you should your child be a girl?” The madam had slid back into the sheets of the bed and had started an attempt to make herself more comfortable.
“I’m sure he would be disappointed, but Helios will love his child regardless. Besides, I’m sure he has all the reason to be proud since this babe has a powerful kick! No doubt he or she will love to play with the guards.”
Marie tried to chuckle, “I’m sure that if it is a filly, you and I will be able teach her how to act like a proper lady, powerful kicks or not.”
“Let us hope that it is a son, I wouldn’t want to go through this pain for a second time!”
Marie could see that the convulsions had started to cycle more frequently; she poured another glass of water, “It must hurt, being a unicorn.”
“I’m sure it is the same for all mothers, Pegasus, Unicorn or Earth pony.”
“Then I don’t want to be a mother!”
Marie could feel a gaze coming from the madam after mentioning those words, the piecing nature of the look made her feel uneasy, but she held her ground. At last the madam uncharacteristically looked away and spoke:
“Marie. If that’s what you really decide, could I make a selfish request?”
Taken back by this unexpected statement, Marie could only respond in the humble manner she was accustomed too.
“But of course my lady, I live to serve you.”
Marie could feel the power gaze examining her once again, the intensity of it was no less than before but the duration was noticeably shorter.
“I’m not asking this of you as a master. But as a friend and fellow mare,” the madam paused as she looked to the door. The sounds of hooves running outside implied that the other maids and guards were about to return. “I want you to take care of my child as you have for me. More than you have for me, please raise him like a son of your own. This child will need a guide when my husband is not at home.”
The doors parted as the room was suddenly filled with a hive of activity, maids carrying buckets of warm water and towels. They began setting up the room in preparation for the doctors arrival. Marie stood still from the confusion caused by her madam’s request. She placed her hoof on her master’s and recoiled as her fears were realised, she could feel the sudden calm that had come over her master.
“H-how long have you known?” Marie whispered.
“Since the day I discovered my special talent,” the madam smiled, “everypony knows I have the gift of foresight, was it not natural that the first future I ever saw was my own fate?”
Marie was on the verge of tears, “But your family needs you, we need you, I need you.” Once again she could feel a hoof being placed on her shoulders, she could feel it’s warmth and the assuring nature of it’s owner.
“Marie, I’m entrusting my child to you. Don’t tell the others here what is about to happen, I want them to focus on the child; this is supposed to be a day for celebrating, I know you can feel their excitement.”
“Is there anything you want me to tell him when he’s older?”
The madam smiled, “Daggers will not always be at your back, trust your friends and they will be your greatest strength.” She suddenly gave a cry in pain that caught everypony’s attention, “You will know when to tell him this. Now go check that the Pegasus messenger has taken flight.”
Marie nodded and headed to the door, as she walked down the long corridor the first guard came galloping past her with the doctor. She continued to walk until the madam’s labour pains could no longer be heard. Marie climbed the tower to the messenger’s roost and found no pony inside. She collapsed on the pile of hay, it was still warm. There she cried the night away until the cold embrace of sleep took her.
Marie leapt up with a scream. Something was burning her face and she instinctively pawed at her jaw with her front hooves, only to discover that molten wax droplets had dripped onto her snout.
“Sorry about that,” A familiar voice spoke above her “I couldn’t sleep since you took my bed so I was doing some late night reading. Does it sting?”
Marie recognised the messenger pegasus, he was floating on a small cloud that he had improvised as a nest. Without paying any attention to herself or his concerns, she unleashed a torrent of questions. “What time is it, why are you back, did you see the commander, how is the madam, is the child okay?”
“Woah woah woah, slow down. The Commander is downstairs with the madam. I’d say it’s about time Celestia rose the sun, as for the kid, well I dunno, no stallions allowed inside remember...”
Marie was already climbing down the ladder, “Thanks again Shivv, I’ll repay you later, oh tell your wife that we might have a new playmate for your son.”
He laughed and called down, “Vertigo may be only a few weeks old, but he’s got a strong set of wings on him, even the commander’s child will have a hard time keeping up with his energy... I know I do!” Marie had already bolted off, but Shivv continued to mutter to himself,
“My first chance for a decent sleep in weeks and I find another mare in my bed! Oh what would the Misses think?”
Marie was trying not to break into a full gallop, an uneasy feeling in her gut warned her not to rush head first towards her fears. The large brass doors to the bedchamber were closed as expected. Marie paused to compose herself, waiting for a sound, something, anything to indicate what was going on inside. There was cry, it was the madam’s voice. Marie breathed a sigh of relief and entered.
The room was hot and humid, the windows had been shut all night, and the steam from the warm water had altered the room into an unpleasant state. There were two stallions standing before the madam. The first was the doctor that Marie saw earlier, the other was unmistakably the Commander: Helios Sear. He was still fully adorned in his brass armour, the azure cape covering his golden coat. He turned to face the source of the noise; Marie was frozen by his gaze as they locked eyes. The weight of his hazel eyes caused Marie to feel nauseous and vulnerable, her legs start to tremble as he broke his gaze to resume concentrating on his wife. With his maroon mane facing her, Marie sank to the ground, he legs numb and weak.
Marie had met Helios several times in her entire life and her parents had always warned her to never make eye contact and for first the first time she understood why. Marie know understood why the soldiers respected him and the enemies of the Empire feared the Sear name, he was a pony that could see everything that made you who you were, in all your flesh and weakness. But it was the indomitable strength of his gaze which left the impression that resistance against his will would be meaningless.
The madam gave another cry which pulled Marie out of the trance, it was followed shortly with a cry of a differently nature. The baby’s screams soon filled the chambers and the tension in the room immediately dropped.
“Congratulations,” the doctor informed the Commander, “You have a son!”
“Is it wonderful dear, I told you it was a colt, he has a fighters kick.” The madam spoke, her voice soft from exhaustion, “Please, bring him here, let’s see his cutie mark before it fades. Marie, you too.”
At the sound of her name, Marie was able to summon back her strength and quickly leaped to her master’s side. In the madam’s arms was a small bundle of towels, within them was a squirming baby colt.
Helios spoke, “He has your mane and eyes.” His voice was rich and proud.
His wife laughed, “Well he has your coat and that is without a doubt your father’s horn.”
Marie had remained quiet, but couldn’t help but gasp when she saw the cutie mark forming on the young child’s flank.
“W-what is it?”
Helios quickly moved the blankets aside to get a better view, but the doctor quickly gave his verdict “Why it is a shield of course, and it bears an eye. It seems he is destined to be a great watcher, a defender of Pony folk! Thank Celestia for such a blessing to the Empire!”
Marie coughed, “That’s not what I can see from this side, it looks more like three swords.”
The doctor turned the child and looked in amazement at the different cutie mark. “I have only read about such things, but this is the first time I’ve delivered a child with a double cutie mark.”
Helios stepped forward, “But what does this mean for my son?”
“Nothing. A colleague of mine has also delivered a babe with double cutie mark, quite recently in fact, but he mentioned that such things are only a one in a thousand chance...” the doctor continued, “It might mean that he has a double destiny, maybe he can choose his future, or maybe he will be reborn a second time. I don’t know what to make of it, but it what I can say is that this child has a major role to play in Equestria’s history, but your wife would know more than me with regards to his future...”
“But what of his name?” The Marie asked
“Well a pony’s cutie mark can be seen for a short while after birth, this allows the parents to decide on a name that suits the child’s destiny and resonates with their soul... so-”
“Sol,” the madam whispered, “Sol Sear... I like it.” She stroked her newborn's head and pressed her own against Helios.
“Then I like it too.” he agreed.
Marie awoke later that morning at the sound of a mighty roar; the stallion’s voice shook the very foundations of the manor. She scrambled to the window to find out what had happened when Shivv burst in though it, nearly crashing into her.
“It’s Helios, his wife has passed in her sleep!”
Vertigo Shivv’s father