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"Mail!" A loud, unfamiliar voice called out through the morning air, jarring Eclipse into the waking world. He looked around for the source, a bit startled.
"Hello? Who's there?" He didn't see anyone, and half expected a pony to jump out of the trees in his mural.
"Up here!" The voice called from the skylight. Eclipse looked up, and saw a wall-eyed blueish gray pegasus leaning in through the open window. "You're Eclipse Tumult, right? The draconequus?"
"Well, yes, I am... Are you alright?" He couldn't help but be a bit confused as the pegasus's state as she flew down to the ground. "Your eyes seem a bit..."
"I know! It's nothing, trust me. You have mail!" She reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a wad of letters tied with twine. She handed them to Eclipse, who cautiously took them from her.
"This... is all for me?"
"Yes! I'll admit, it was a little hard to find you! When I asked around, Princess Luna told me you were here, in the royalty wing! That's not all, either!" She jumped up into the air, flying up through towards the skylight. Without warning, she veered to the left, striking the ceiling beside the skylight.. "Ouch! Whoops!" When she came back again, she was holding a large basket. She dropped down, landing on his bed. "OOF!" As the basket bounced with her, its contents flew through the air. "Oh no! My muffins!" The strange pegasus immediately began trying to gather them up, dropping to the floor and scrambling to pick them all up.
Eclipse immediately began helping her gather them, trying to ignore his growing confusion. "Muffins?"
"Yeah, I baked you some 'welcome' muffins! Since you're coming out of hiding!" She smiled as they picked up the last of the muffins and placed them back into the basket.
Eclipse was shocked. She doesn't even know me... "Thank you! Thank you, Miss... Umm..."
"Derpy! Derpy Hooves!" She smiled. "And you're welcome! I'd love to stay and talk, but I have lots more deliveries to make!" She flew back up towards the skylight. "Goodbye! Have a nice day!"
Eclipse laughed as the pegasus disappeared from sight. "That was a pleasant surprise! I seem to be getting more and more pleasant surprises lately..." He picked up a muffin and took a large bite, turning to his wad of letters. "Mmm! Blueberry!" He opened the first letter, unfolding the paper carefully, and not knowing what to expect.
Dear Mr. Tumult,
My name is Thunder Shine, and I'm a young colt and the son of Thunder Runner, a palace guard. When my Dad came home yesterday, he told us that the last of Discord's race was staying at the castle! I was scared at first, but Dad says that you looked more scared than than scary. So, I decided that I should write you a letter to let you know, you don't have to be scared of my Dad! He's really nice, and wouldn't hurt you unless you were doing something bad!
The princesses say you're good, so you must be! And if you're good, you shouldn't be scared of my Dad!
Maybe, the next time that the princesses let the families come to visit again, I could meet you, too?
Eclipse read the note a couple more times, then opened another.
I write to you on the behalf of our palace guard when I say that you have nothing for fear from us. Your fright was evident yesterday, but I can understand feeling in such a way in front of such a large crowd. Rest assured, with the approval of Princess Celestia and Luna, the royal guard will not harm you, but instead be at your service.
Oh, and one more thing. There is one Princess that you have yet to meet. My dearest wife, Princess Cadence, expressed a desire to come and meet you after my recounting of yesterday's assembly. I warned her that it seemed as if you were about to meet many new ponies in the next few days, and that she should hold off on her visit until you were ready, but she's very strong-willed and may choose to visit at the time of her choice.
I hope that your adjustment to palace life progresses smoothly, and that you will see the other guards and I as allies and friends.
Another princess? I thought that Luna and Celestia were the only ones. Eclipse folded the letter, hoping that this "Princess Cadence" would listen to her husband's warning. He's probably right... There are going to be a lot of ponies who want to meet me. They could be waiting outside the door, for all I know! The thought made him shiver a little, and he quickly opened the next letter. Surprisingly, the address on the front said that it was from Twilight Sparkle!
Hello again, Eclipse!
Princess Celestia wrote to me last night to tell me about your introduction to the palace staff yesterday, and I'm overjoyed that you took my advice about stepping out into the public eye! When you feel like visiting Ponyville, you can feel free to come to my friends and I for a place to stay and a few well-placed introductions!
I know what it's like to be new and not used to making friends, I kept to my studies for the majority of my childhood and set aside the seemingly childish notion of making friends. Trust me when I say, I have never been happier to be wrong! Celestia threw me into a new place, where I would be forced to meet many ponies at once, and I met the ponies who are now my very best friends here. It was because of our friendship that we have overcome all of our obstacles here, and even saved Equestria!
I just want to offer you my complete support, morally and physically! I can still get you in touch with the three fillies who once worked writing a column for the paper if you would like to get your name out into public knowledge without having to introduce yourself to everypony on the street. Not to mention, it would be a good preventative measure for being mistaken for Discord.
Anyway, I'm glad that you're feeling better, and I'm proud that the paranoid draconequus who thought knocking witnesses unconscious was the only answer is now trying to overcome that fear!
Twilight's definitely being very supportive, but I don't think I'm ready to be in the newspaper quite yet... Eclipse thought. He picked up the slowly shrinking stack of letters and another delicious muffin.
By the time he had finished, the basket of muffins was depleted. He stood up and stretched, letting the last letter fall on top of the pile that had accumulated on his bed. Aside from Twilight's letter, all of them were from friends and family of the ponies who worked in the castle, or the ponies themselves. Each one was different, but they all welcomed him and/or asked to meet him. To be honest, Eclipse was feeling very much less afraid to walk out of his bedroom doors now. These ponies really are nice, I guess.
When he walked out his doors, there was nopony there waiting. He looked around, but there was no sign of Celestia or Luna, either. I guess that this means I have some time to myself... Eclipse looked around for the Princesses one more time, but still saw nothing.
"Both of them are in a meeting about a possible retaliation from the changelings..." A nearby guard informed him. "They won't be out for another couple hours..."
"Oh. Thank you..." Eclipse was caught a little off-guard by the... guard. Looking at the golden-armored pony, he had a sudden idea. "Umm, excuse me? Do you know if Shining Armor is here today?"
"Well, yes... Why do you ask?"
"Well, I got a letter from him, and I'd like to meet him in person." Eclipse smiled. "Do you know if he's available for a visitor?"
"I'm afraid that he's in the meeting too, sir."
"Oh..." Eclipse rolled his eyes, a bit disappointed. "So... Maybe I can ask you! What is there to do for fun around here?"
It looked as though it was the pony's turn to be caught off-guard. "Well, um... I don't really know. I just work here, I don't spend much time in the castle, aside from that."
"Surely Luna and Celestia get bored, sometimes!" Eclipse groaned. "There has to be SOMEthing to do..."
"Well, sir... I know that Princess Luna spends her spare time playing video games. I'm not sure about Princess Celestia..." The guard shrugged. "I'm sorry. There are lots of rooms here that I've never seen into, though. There no telling what's around here."
"Thanks for the advice..." As the guard walked away, Eclipse began to wander, still thinking about the letters that he had received. "Maybe another pony who wrote me a letter is around here..." He shook his head. "Probably doesn't matter... I don't know what they look like."
It was a strange feeling, to wander without a definite destination. Most days, in the Everfree forest, Eclipse would go out to look for food or try to find things that he could use to make his camps better. Now that he no longer needed to search for either of those things, he was unsure of what to do with his time. He didn't feel like sticking out his neck to meet anyone new, and after chatting with a few more guards on patrol, he began to realize that they were all like the first one: they didn't know much about how to spend free time, they only worked in the castle. He swung by the kitchen and picked up a couple peaches, but all of the ponies in there were too busy to talk, preparing meals for themselves and the other staff.
Eclipse finally became bored to the point of opening random doors. Most were simply closets or living quarters for the ponies who had to stay in the castle at all times, but he did have a few interesting finds. These included a personal spa, a pool, a hall in which to PLAY Pool, a cider-making machine, a rather intimidating-looking piece of equipment that seemed to be part of the castle's electrical mainframe, and countless janitorial closets.
Then, he found it. The mother lode.
"Eclipse? Where did you go?" Celestia had wanted to run out of the conference room, but she chose not to do so. Eclipse's room was empty, with a large pile of letters and an empty basket that she recognized as one of Derpy's muffin baskets.
"He's not here?" Luna asked, following her sister. "I thought that after yesterday, he might just stay in here until we came to get him..."
"Apparently not..." Celestia picked up a few of the letters and smiled. "He's getting fan mail..."
Luna laughed. "That's great! Maybe it gave him the courage to go out on his own! Tia, I'm sure you'll find him, he doesn't exactly blend in well..."
Celestia eyed her sister warily. "I'll find him?"
Luna smiled and turned tail. "If you want to. I'm headed to go unwind, that meeting was tense!" Luna took off to go and visit her private sanctum. It was a room where Celestia could never enter without permission, Luna had taken care of that with a spell designed specifically for her older sister. Not that she ever wants to go in there, except to bug me about spending too much time... She trotted down the hall, happy at the fun that she knew was to come. She finally reached her private room in the eastern wing, pulled open the door, and found Eclipse.
"Oh, come ON! Who's the troll using mods?" Eclipse shouted into the headset as he furiously mashed buttons on the video game controller. He was curled in Luna's favorite gaming chair, engaged in a furious game of Super Smash Ponies Brawl. "Seriously? A bomb? Somebody throw it back at him! Oh! OH! Smash ball is MINE! YES!" He jumped out of the chair and raised his arms in victory as his character's most powerful attack rolled across the screen, knocking out all of the other players. "Yeah! You all just got pwned by the master of chaos!" The scene was all lit by the screen of Luna's huge television screen, which she had bought for the sole purpose of gaming.
"Eclipse! What are you doing here?" Luna shouted, running in and pausing the game. "This is my private room! My gaming center! Mine! What makes you think that you can just walk in here and-"
"I beat all of your high scores..." Eclipse gave the princess of the night a smug grin, finally looking away from the large screen.
Luna was dumbfounded, completely forgetting her previous anger at the trespasser. "What?"
"Well, I beat the high scores on all of the games that I had time to play, anyway..." He began counting off all of the games. "Megapony, Street Fighter, Space invaders, Queendom Hearts-"
"Wait!" Luna held up a hoof, stopping him. "You beat my high score... On Space Invaders?"
"Yeah, by about 2000 points!" Eclipse laughed, giving her an even bigger grin. "Problem, Luna?"
"Oh, it is ON!" Luna didn't even wait for Eclipse to reply, swapping out the game in the console with her favorite disk. Despite not needing one, Luna put on another headset and jumped behind Eclipse, landing in her gaming chair. "You're going down, Tumult... I never leave a challenge undefeated!" She couldn't help but smile.
"Luna, I beg to differ! It's a game about hiding and keeping your enemies far away, both things that I have excelled at for a long time..." Eclipse walked away and came back with a midnight-blue bean bag chair. "This is MY game..."
Celestia had been looking for Eclipse the entire day as she went about her normal duties. She would keep an eye out for him while she was signing official documents, wonder where he could be when she was reviewing old policies that were about to expire and needed renewing, and even ask her guards if they had seen him as she went about the castle. When she found herself alone at dinner, however, it was the final straw. Luna had better not STILL be in that stupid video game cave of hers... The solar princess thought to herself as she stormed down the hall towards Luna's sanctum. When she opened the door, she could hardly believe her eyes.
"HA! Beat my 35th wave, Luna!"
"That's nothing! Just wait until you're on level 40, like me! I'm going to kick your butt so hard, Eclipse!"
"Oh, we're competing? I thought this was just the warm-up! I guess I should start taking it seriously!"
There were her sister and Eclipse, sitting in a dark room, with an empty pizza box sitting between them and countless empty cans of soda, playing a split-screen game of space invaders and trash-talking one another... through their headsets.
"Yes! Got the mothership for 1000 points! Who's the man?" Eclipse bragged as the shot off another round of pixels across the screen, destroying a line of oncoming aliens.
"1000 points? I just got it for 1500!" Luna bragged in return as she shattered columns of invaders before they could reach the edge of the screen and move down.
"It's time to EAT!" Celestia shouted, trying to get their attention.
"It's okay, Tia. We already had lunch delivered!" She pointed at the pizza box without looking back at her sister.
"Sorry we didn't tell you, but we're both trying to get the high score!" Eclipse leaned to the left and right, perfectly in sync with his tank on the screen. "We're in the zone, so we couldn't leave, or we'd lose our focus!"
"It's time for DINNER!" Celestia shouted again. "Are you two seriously THAT involved in your stupid game? You don't have any idea what time it is?"
*PAUSE* The word flashed across the screen, and both games froze.
Luna stood up, stretching and levitating off her headset. "It's dinnertime already? Eclipse, I think that she has a point. We can resume our face-off later, we should get out of here and get some relatively fresh air..."
Eclipse rose to his feet, arching his back with several loud pops. "Yes, you do make a good point... And a good rival, Luna! It's been a pleasure playing against you..." He stood up straight, rising to his full height before coming back down to a bit of a slouch. "I think that I'm going to be seeing invaders and motherships in my sleep for a week..."
"Oh, just wait until you try playing it for 24 hours straight! You'll be seeing them when you're awake, too!" Luna laughed and walked out the door. "So, what's for dinner, Tia?"
Eclipse soon exited, too, shutting the door behind him. "Anything's good for me, as long as it's edible... Unlike that anchovy, mushroom, and garlic pizza! Seriously, Luna! Your 'brain food' smells like a timber wolf and tastes like an ursa's ear!"
"I like it..." Luna muttered. "I just have stranger tastes than you, Eclipse."
"Now THAT... Is saying something." Eclipse laughed as he gave Celestia a pat on the back. "Sorry to keep you waiting, Celestia... We really did lose track of time."
"That's alright... as long as you beat Luna and teach her a lesson." Celestia winked. "Just don't make me come looking for you two again." With Celestia giving in to laughter, the three of them joked and laughed all of the way to the dining hall.