Morning broke as the sun rose over the horizon, bathing the world in its rich glow. The sun's rays shone upon the golden towers of Canterlot, practically igniting the countryside with the glow from the white palace. This rich splendor however was lost upon a certain unicorn mare who was awakened by the sun so rudely bouncing one of its golden rays off the roof of the tower upon which she rested and directly into her eyes.
Jerking awake she was briefly overtaken by panic. This was definitely not her apartment! Briefly the scared mare wondered if she'd gotten drunk last night and crashed somewhere on the way home. Eventually, the rest of her mind caught up to her. No, she wasn't sleeping off a hangover in a rose bush somewhere (that had been an experience!); she was still on top of Don't Look Down Castle, with its weird winged unicorn inhabitants.
She shivered briefly at the remembrance of exactly what the regal looking pair had been talking about. Teleportation, rogue magical experiments, and something about a Veil. It sounded a bit too much like magic to her. On impulse, the mare looked down at herself. Speaking of the impossibilities of magic and weird horse creatures, she still was one.
That particular mystery continued to unfold a little more. Looking down at herself brought her attentions to the shadow of something sticking up straight off her head. Bringing a hoof up, she felt the long horn she had somehow missed sticking out of her face like a knight's lance.
Amazingly enough she accepted this a little easier than the body swap, mentally storing the little factoid she was now a magical, mythical creature to freak out about later. Besides the horn was already helping to keep her unruly mop of a mane out of her eyes, which was a plus considering hands really weren't an option currently. Now she had no reason not to address her most obvious problem of getting down.
While striding around the perimeter of the tower, a plan started to form in her head. It would require some agility, a decent rate of speed, and precision timing, all of which she had never really had before in great amounts and all in a body she had been in possession of for a couple hours, most of which were spent sleeping. The unicorn's best bet was the balcony below.
Unfortunately that presented a problem to her. The edge of the tower's roof hung over the balcony by a couple feet. Had she had some rope and her hands, she simply could have tied one end around the narrow tip of the tower and rappelled down. Since she possessed neither, the mare was limited to the stupidly dangerous options, a choice she had been well acquainted with in the past.
Like using a broom to retrieve what was apparently a magical cloth and sitting on the rail on the second floor, a small portion of her mind grumped at her.
Taking a few breaths to help calm herself and then steeling herself with the comforting thought that if she missed she would have a several hundred-foot drop to lament on her bad aim, she started galloping. Badly. She had tried walking around on all fours a little earlier to get used to the new body, but a few moments of walking around a curved roof didn't make for good practice. Not too mention she didn't wish to risk unnecessary attention until she was inside. Walking around on four legs was akin to moving about on hands and feet to a human, only having all four legs a similar length gave her better maneuvering.
The hooves were likely one the weirdest things she had ever felt. She could feel pressure on them but little else. It was like walking on one's finger and toenails. An apt comparison if her biology classes had been right about equine anatomy.
Now she was at a full gallop, using all of the very little practice she had to put as much speed on it. Maintaining her speed while keeping away from the edge of the roof was quite taxing, but she labored on, pushing her legs as fast as she could. Any thoughts of who might be down below and how they'd react to her intrusion were pushed to the side. That would come after she had descended.
Her course traced a spiral around the tower's roof, each lap taking her closer to the center and higher on the tower. Finally at the highest point she could reach without falling, she cut across her path and barreled towards the section of the roof over the balcony. Just before she reached the edge, the unicorn stabbed her hooves down and rotated her backside out and over the edge. At that point she thrust her rear hooves forwards and allowed her weight and momentum to throw her towards the balcony below. For once, one of her plans worked!
The daring maneuver she had concocted had her coasting through the air toward her desired destination. In fact, the stunt worked too perfectly. The speed of her descent now working against her, the unicorn found herself flying forward into a rather ornate glass door.
The Guard cast his blue eyes left and right, scanning for any sign of his brethren in arms and armor. When none were to be found, he allowed himself to break the guards' number one rule: Never smile. The reason for his smug smirk became clear when his rendezvous rounded the corner. Together they marched into their designated "meeting" place.
Laying down on the silk bed in the now empty royal bed chamber of Princess Celestia , she now beckoned to him teasingly, a coy look in her eye. Eager as a greenhorn to please, he practically bounded onto the bed from the doorway. Grinning slyly at him, the mare leaned in for a kiss. At that moment, the ornate balcony door promptly exploded, interrupting the two wayward lover ponies. A blue and white projectile literally came screaming in through the small hailstorm of glass shards.
The unicorn mare came in for a three-point landing. Her two rear hooves and her backside landed first, sending her skidding through the ornately designed room to slam into the foot of the bed. Covered horn to hoof in the silken sheets, the mare leaped up, crying out in the most authoritative voice she could muster. "FREEZE! INSPECTION NINJA!"
Needless to say, the guard and the maid were quite surprised at her entrance. The sudden entrance of the "inspection ninja" had left both locked in place as if time itself had frozen around them. The earth pony maid looked as if her mind had either broken or had involuntarily shutdown at the shock of being caught in the act. The guard's eyes shifted quickly from left to right, like a wild animal looking for a way to escape. Finally he drew himself up and mastered the emotions trying to work their way across his face.
"Who are you and what is your reason for breaking into these royal chambers! Speak quickly!" He bellowed out. Thankfully where his brain had failed him in his embarrassment, his training kept him grounded.
Taken aback at the force of his voice, the unicorn's mind floundered. Despite all that was happening as well as the adrenaline rush from having thrown herself off a tower, the idea of horse royalty brought her up short.
The reality of the situation she found herself in now crashed into her. Talking ponies meant more than not being in kansas any more. Like it or not she was in their land with no clue as to what she was doing or where she wanted to go.
Talking ponies, they may be, the unicorn reasoned her story wouldn't convince them of anything aside from her being crazy. Telling somepony that they were a talking primate from another part of the world or heck even another world all together would make them skeptical at best. Not only that the tale of how she came to be here was that she'd touched a magic cloth and was brought here and dropped upon the tower of their liege would be a bit much for any of them to take seriously.
Since telling the truth would likely get her thrown into a crazy horse insane asylum, briefly wondering what that would be like, the unicorn opted for the more unconventional method of getting out of the castle. The ability to talk was a sign of intelligence which is a double-edged sword that in turn can be used against opponents.
If the creatures were anything like humans, they had faults that could be exploited. Faults that those with intelligence tended to fall into. Faults like laziness, greed, lust-...The mare's eyes flashed around the room taking in as many details as possible like the opulent chamber she found herself in, the still-dazed mare on the beds and the fact she was wearing a maid's outfit and the armor of the fuming guard in front of her.
Adjusting the sheets over her face so she could see, the mare made her way around to the maid's side of the bed. A huge smile barely visible with her make shift mask over her face, she propped her front hooves on top of the rich red silken sheets.
"Wanna hear a joke?" She inquired. The guard's stoic face momentarily shattered into a look of confusion. Encouraged by his confusion, she powered on. "Have you heard the one about the guard and the maid about to get it on, on top of their leader's bed?"
The maid and the guard waited. Then waited a bit more. Finally the shaken maid, her grayish brown mane looking all the more frazzled, spoke up. "Aren't you going to tell us the punch line?"
Still trying her best to imitate the Cheshire cat, the unicorn initiated phase one of her plan, Operation Last One Out. "Normally, yes. But in this case you two get to determine the punch line."
Twin looks of understanding dawned on the two ponies face. In the case of the maid, this was followed by an expression of relief. For the guard however, his faced quickly darkened. "You dare blackmail a Royal Guard! I can get you sent to the dungeon for that, not to mention trespassing in the Princess' quarters!"
Seeing the armored pegasus start to raise himself from the bed, the masked unicorn made one last desperate stab at freedom. "And how, pray tell, will you explain finding me in the princess's quarters?"
The guard faltered. Pressing her advantage, the mare drove on. "Even if your maid friend over there were to remake the bed and stay quiet there'd still be the matter of where you've been this whole time. Not to mention a stray hair from either of you would put suspicion on what either of you have said." Taking a breath, she continued the verbal onslaught. "Yes, you could probably land me in the dungeon, but if that's the case you may well end up there with me. You really want to risk your career for that?"
At the mention of his career, the Pegasus guard's head finally bowed in defeat. "Yes, I won!" the mare crowed in her head. Then seeing the defeated look on the guard and the maid who looked as if her heart was about to detonate. "Then why do I feel like such a jackass?" she wondered briefly.
She'd never been a mean person much in her life. Yes, she had her rare moments that couldn't be explained away by "it was that time of the month." Still she generally tried to get along with everyone. Seeing these two before her that she had just used in such away caused her stomach to knot. Still she had to get out of this castle. While she did want to learn what had brought her here, she had absolutely no desire to find out from the two creatures, Celestia and Luna from the night before.
Especially now, since if what the guard had said was true, at least one if not both of that duo was royalty. Something inside her burned, warning her away from the attentions of those two. Shaking her head, the unicorn noticed the maid and the guard was now looking at her with vaguely concerned looks on their faces.
"Great, they think I'm a lunatic already. Shame I haven't told them where I'm from and how I got here yet." The unicorn gave her head another shake and made a mental note to stop talking to herself. By now the guard's eyebrow had risen so far it practically disappeared under his golden helm. The unicorn had to fight the urge to face hoof. She hadn't just said that out loud, had she?
"Anyway, let's just get this out of the way. I didn't mean to be here, I don't want to be here, and I don't even know the way out of here. And YOU are going to help me out."
The maid looked as if the hoof pointed at her had just grown nine heads, all resembling Nightmare Moon sticking her tongue out at her in a childish manner. "M-me?" the maid stammered. "Why not him? He could surely show you the way out just as well as I can." The maid shivered as she spoke.
The unicorn dispelled that notion with a shake of her head. "Um, no. Not happening. While I'm sure he knows the way about, I don't trust him to not march me into a jail cell." The guard answered her suspicions with a snort.
The maid mare looked at him briefly and spoke up again. "An-and I won't? What makes you think I can be trusted to get you out over him?"
Sheets still draping her form, the unicorn walked over to the maid and then laid her horn on top of the other's head. Nose to nose, the unicorn's magenta eye's drilling into the maid's light blue eyes. The guard, not sure what to make of this odd behavior, slowly started over to the pair. Abruptly breaking off the impromptu staring contest, the unicorn shifted her piercing gaze to him. While he stopped, the guard was unfazed and glared back at her.
Shifting her eyes back to the maid, she finally answered the maid's question. "I don't. I think however that you will take an opportunity to get out of a sticky situation and go with it. As will I." Her eyes softened. "So basically I'm going with you since we're on the level there. I don't want trouble, I just want out of the castle. Once we're there, I'll go on my way. Both of you will be off the hook and we'll all be happy."
Even the guard, despite his misgivings couldn't help but be somewhat pleased with that solution. Despite his desire to arrest this mare, he couldn't think of a way to do so that wouldn't end with his hard-won position in the Royal Guards going down in flames.
"And you, good sir!" He started at the voice, looking back at the mares he realized they had been talking to him for a few seconds. The masked mare was looking at him.
"Yes?" He returned trying to hide the fact he hadn't heard what they said.
The unicorn continued. "You, sir, will go off in the other direction from us. That way you can pretend you never saw us. Before you split however, check the hall for us." Not the most elegant plan, he thought, but it worked.
Stretching his wings, and then resettling his armor so it wouldn't interfere with his flying, the guard poked his head out the door. After making sure the hallway was clear on both sides, he waved to them and then winged out the nearest window. He really needed a drink and a donut.
Watching the guard's egress, the unicorn motioned to her tour guide. "Now it's our turn. You know the drill."
The maid nodded her head. "I'll take you through the lesser traveled areas and away from the throne room and let you out one of the side doors." Satisfied, the unicorn nodded. "There's just one problem, miss." The maid's voice took the mare by surprise as she walked towards the door.
Turning back, she answered. "And what would that be?"
Gesturing towards her, the maid replied, "I think they'll notice if you're walking about in Princess Celestia's bed sheets."
The unicorn once again felt the immense urge to face hoof. She'd gotten so used to the anonymity the disguise allowed her, she had forgotten she still had it. Even then the mare was loath to give that anonymity up. "Ok, new plan. YOU walk in front. Don't look behind you at me. Don't even try to look at my reflection."
This bizarre demand startled the maid. Who after all was so paranoid about being seen? Apparently the masked mare saw her confusion. "It's for deniability."
The maid looked at the cloaked figure inquisitively, who rewarded her with a fierce glare. "Deniability? Why?"
Gesturing at herself, the unicorn replied. "Basically if you haven't seen me, you can't describe me to guards. If you can't describe me they can't lay the blame on you if I get caught outside." This seemed to satisfy the maid.
After losing the sheets, the maid averting her eyes the entire time, the pair made their way down the through the castle. The unicorn was truly happy she had the maid as a guide since the twisting corridors, stairs, and the occasional empty chamber had her completely lost. She could easily see how someone could spend an entire lifetime looking for the damn bathroom.
Rounding one corner caused both ponies hearts to almost stop. Entering from a door almost nearly hidden by the curve of the hallway a large navy blue pony appeared. The unicorn recognized the rather tall figure almost instantly as one of the mysterious speakers from the night before.
Looking at her guide, she found no help coming from that quarter as the maid had prostrated herself before the figure that seemed rather lost in thought at the moment. Deciding the best thing to do now would be to blend in, she promptly joined her companion on the marble floor, hugging the wall as best she could and doing her best to look inconspicuous.
"ImarugImarugIamrug!" The mantra running through her mind as she vividly imagined herself as one of the ornate rugs she'd seen placed around the palace.
Eventually the regal figure looked down at the maid. "How many times dost thou wish to ignore our orders to cease thy prostration everytime we enter a room?"
"It-it's tradition, Princess Luna!" If the unicorn hadn't been immediately behind the maid, she was sure she wouldn't have heard the maid's tremulous reply.
Princess Luna shook her head. The maid was right it was tradition but as she recalled not all traditions survived over time and quite frankly this prostration was a bit off putting. "We must insist you do not do it in our presence. A simple bowing of thy head will do for us." The maid nodded her head. Something about this particular mares attitude was off. The princess couldn't quite put her hoof on it. She was definitely scared of something.
"What illness has struck our vassal, we must ask?" The princesses' question seemed to strike something in the pony.
Standing up she answered. "I'm just heading down to the ground floor to aid in cleaning the throne room while your esteemed sister takes her lunch, your majesty."
Somewhat satisfied, the princess started walking down the hall the duo had just come from. Sighing with relief the maid suddenly realized the princess had never addressed her mysterious companion. Deciding to break the unicorn's rule, she looked behind her. The mare wasn't there! Before she could do anything something poked her in the chest. Looking down she saw the horn."Wha-how?!"
Sensing her a voice replied from beneath the maid. "I slipped underneath your skirt when you got up off the ground to speak to the princess."
The maid's eyebrows rose. "Surely I would have felt something."
The answer came with no hint of humor or irony. "Told ya I was a ninja."
AN: Much thanks to SoundofRainfall and Determamfidd for prereading for me. You've been a big help guys!