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The midnight sky was bright, unnaturally so. The stars lit the world like lamps and the moon was as brilliant as a searchlight. A fitting description, as the master of the night was indeed on the hunt. Soldiers flocked the streets of the royal city and all the inhabitants were ordered to clear the streets and remain inside their homes. Any unfortunate soul to be found on the streets was deemed a possible rebel and was to be detained. Detainment for suspected rebels usually included an ‘interrogation’ by the infamous Blackcloaks.
But despite the very real danger, two figures made their way through the mountainside city of Canterlot. Hugging the shadows and moving from one pitch black alleyway to another, the figures did their best to avoid passing patrols of armoured troops. After one such group walked beyond a certain gloomy crevice between buildings, the pair darted across the street to the next hiding place. A brief moment under the shine of a street lamp revealed the figures in full; a mare and a stallion, both unicorns in the prime of life, both cloaked in dark colors. The female clutched a basket against her body with her magic, protecting the precious bundle inside.
“This way, dear,” the male whispered, motioning to a corner in the maze of backstreets that was their only hope of evading capture.
It took the two quite some time to reach their goal, a building at the edge on the city. It stood alone, with little in the way of neighbouring structures. They both knew that meant there was hardly any cover, and so hardly any time to do what needed to be done. While they lingered among the surrounding trees, The mare brought the basket out in front of them and peeled back of the cloth enough to reveal a face. It was a baby foal, blissfully asleep under the light of the moon.
“She looks so peaceful,” the mother said weakly, tears beginning to form in her eyes.
The stallion’s mouth curved upwards in a small smile. “Thank goodness she is asleep. Otherwise this would be so much harder than it already is.”
“Do we have to do this?” the mare looked to her partner with blurry eyes.
“It’s what’s best for her,” he said. “It’s only a matter of time until we’re caught, and she must not be found with us when that happens.”
“But an orphanage… is that really the best place for her?”
“All of our friends are either on the run themselves or can’t take in our daughter. Don’t worry, I know the matron. She will be in good hooves. She’ll find a new family, and have a normal life with a normal foalhood. That’s something we could never give her, even if we kept her.”
“I hope so.” The mother looked to her child again, tears now falling freely down her face.
Together with the slumbering filly, the lovers walked to the large doorstep of the orphanage. Gently placing the basket in front of the door, the two ponies took a few moments to look for one final time at their daughter. The mare knelt down and kissed the foal.
“Goodbye, my darling,” she whispered. “We will always love you.”
The mare hesitated another moment, until the stallion called her name. She wrenched her eyes from the filly with a strangled sob and turned her back. Her husband rang the doorbell, and together they skulked back into the gloomy streets of Canterlot.
With lamps lit on every road and park, there was scarcely a shadow to hide in. The capital city of Equestria was alive, but not with its citizens. Legions of guardsponies coursed through the streets like blood through veins. The quiet night was shattered by the rhythmic tread of iron-shod hooves. Those brave enough to peek from their windows were astounded by the scale of the hunt. Some would even say that the hunter seemed desperate. None would have said that to her face.
Standing tall and regal, the hunter looked about her city. The search had run into the small hours, and every last member of the Royal Guard had been called to duty. Her instructions were clear: no road left unchecked, no block unlit. The fugitives would be found. Failure was not to be contemplated.
A large, muscular pegasus stallion wearing officer’s armour approached, marching formally to her side. His stoic face revealed none of his emotions, but his subtly tense jaw and the slight hesitation of his steps spoke volumes. He was apprehensive. And so he should be; he wouldn’t be the first to incite her anger that night. He bowed low in front of her, lower than mere formality demanded. Obviously the news was not good.
“Your Majesty,” he said. “The Radiant Falls precinct is now secure. We have seen no sign of the fugitives there.”
Despite expecting this news, she scowled at the stallion. “Then why have you bothered to report to me? Did I not make it clear enough the first time around that I want only good news or no news at all?”
“My deepest apologies, Your Majesty. The noose continues to tighten; with your wise leadership, the fugitives–”
Her scowl deepened. “I am in no mood for any sycophantic idiocy tonight, Captain Clipper. I want results. Don’t bother coming back to me if you haven’t found them, unless you desire my wrath.”
“Yes, Your Majesty. Right away, Your Majesty.”
His retreat was more run than march. The Empress would have chuckled at the sight of such a strong and accomplished soldier scurrying away in a panic like that, but she was more focused on worrying about the fugitives. Had they escaped the city? Did they spirit away the stolen item somewhere within Canterlot? What were they planning to use it for?
The minutes passed as she waited for good news. The huntress sat on a chariot, pulled by strong pegasus ponies clad in the finest armour. Her Honour Guard was fiercely loyal and capable, although they were mostly used as a show regiment in ceremonies and for carrying her around Equestria. The monarch had originally thought that they would be nothing more than that, as it was widely believed that nopony was brave or stupid enough to break into the palace. But, somehow, somepony had.
Out of the corner of her dragon-like eyes, the regal mare saw a pony trotting casually and confidently towards her. The form was draped in a long black leather cloak with boots that matched the imposing outfit, and wore a pair of tinted goggles. The head of the Blackcloaks and her closest advisor was the only one who was so casual around her, the only one who had the gall to occasionally voice his own opinions.
“I trust this is good news, Inquisitor,” she growled.
“Of course, Your Majesty,” he said, bowing slightly. “If it were otherwise, I would have sent one of my subordinates.”
The mare allowed herself a quick smirk before continuing. “So you have found them?”
The advisor gave a short bow before calling over to a group of Blackcloaks. They came forward, their steps seemingly choreographed to create an air of tension; even now, every fibre of their being seemed to be focused on the goal of fear and intimidation. It was what impressed the Empress the most, and what disturbed her the most. Very few things disturbed the mare, but the Overwatch was at the top of that list.
The Blackcloaks parted to reveal two chained and slightly beaten ponies. A blue stallion and a light grey mare with a purple and white-streaked mane. They were forced to kneel before the tall, pitch black Empress, who sneered at them.
“You two have caused me quite a bit of trouble tonight,” the Empress chuckled. “Breaking into my palace, then into my vault and running out again. Such a dangerous mission, all to steal a little trinket.”
“I think we both know that it’s far from a ‘little trinket’,” the stallion said.
“So you do know what it is?” she smiled wryly. “I had wondered what you were hoping to accomplish with it. Not that it matters now–”
The stallion then did a surprising thing. He laughed. It was small and out of breath, but the empress could hear every ounce of defiance and contempt that the pony had for her in that laugh. She narrowed her slit-pupil eyes at the prisoner. The Blackcloak that forced him to kneel cuffed him in the back of the head for his impudence.
“What is it that you find so funny?” she growled.
“You’ll never find it,” he spat. “Even if you search for a thousand more years, you’ll never find your ‘little trinket’.”
And he still laughed. Even the mare next to him contributed a weak smile. Anger swelled within the huntress, making her shake. The insolence of this criminal was overwhelming. What was more; she saw something in the mare’s eyes, something that should not have been there. Hope.
“Take them away,” she hissed. “Find out all you can from them and then kill them.”
The Blackcloaks swarmed on the two, silencing the rebellious stallion with a couple more hard blows. As the ponies were dragged away, the male screamed out to the night.
“The dawn will come!”
Those words scared the Queen of the Night more than anything had in a very long time.
On the outskirts of Canterlot, where the buildings thinned and space became ever more plentiful, a very important basket lay on the doorstep of an orphanage. The cold night air was growing more vivacious just as the doorbell rang. The door opened and out stepped unicorn, brown in colour and with a grey mane that curled down her neck like mist. Looking around, she saw nopony around in the midnight cold, and was about to head back inside when she heard a tiny sigh of a yawn from below.
Looking down, she saw a baby filly. Purple, with a curious mane of dark blue and a streak of pink and indigo. A small horn could be just seen poking out of her hair. A bundle of cloth was wrapped around the foal to protect her from the chill of the frosty night. In the basket alongside the infant were a letter and a small box.
“Well, what do we have here?” murmured the mare, bending down to pick up the basket, still staring at the filly.
The old unicorn unfolded the letter with her magic and read:
This letter is not the way I want you to receive my daughter and this basket, but I have no other option. The walls are closing around us, I’m afraid, and there’s little else I can do. If you get this, then it means that we have succeeded and have stolen one of the most precious items in the world from the Usurper. It also means that I am most likely dead. We have placed our daughter in your care, in the hope that you raise her as you do with all of those in your care. Please give her a normal foalhood that any normal filly would have. Please tell her how much she means to us, and that we didn’t abandon her without good reasons.
As for the box, that too is important. I want you to hide it away in a place that nopony will ever find. Protect it and keep it safe until the Movement has rebuilt itself and recuperated from its losses. I apologise for using our codenames again, but if this letter was to fall into the wrong hooves, then our identities must remain anonymous. I probably don’t need to tell you to destroy it immediately after you read it. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us. You have always been a good friend.
The Dawn will come.
Your friend and comrade, Crescent.
The mare sighed and put the letter back into the basket. She glimpsed something written on the back. A name for the foal. She smiled and looked at the blissfully sleeping filly.
“Let’s get you inside and warmed up,” she said. “You have a long life ahead of you, little Twilight Sparkle.”
Questions, Comments, Concerns and Criticisms are welcome!
Written by Municipal Engines, Assisted and Edited by LordOfTheWrongs