By some measures, I may be ruthless. Some may even call me cruel, evil, diabolical, heartless and, sometimes, a meanie mean pants. I generously call it babysitting. And unlike most babysitters, my terms are often negotiable, if admittedly steeper than the devil's. "Very well, my lady." I said. "You may come with me later today....if you eat all your tomatoes." I raised the dish cover on her morning salad, revealing a veritable forest of lettuce and rose petals hiding many of my sweet succulent red landmines. It just so happened that my tomato planters bore fruit to the most exquisite harvest of baby tomatoes the day before. I have thus gathered an entire icebox full of ammunition, much to my lady's summer dread.
I watched as my lady made like a tomato and turned from a soft shade of green to a healthy rosy red. Her majesty is a creature of whimsical urges and impetuous impulses. Of course, she doesn't always act on all of them. Half the time this is because they are, in fact, impossible, even for an all-powerful alicorn princess - things like attempting to replace her parliament with five year old foals or eating one hundred jammy donuts all at once. The other half is because of me. I don't always have to bring out my trump card - my voice of reason. Often a simple test of willpower is enough, such as a my tomato salad to end all tomato salads.
To my great surprise, my lady's willpower proved the victor that day. "Butler, bring me a pitchfork. And some hot tea, lots of sugar." She commanded, her expression one of determined resignation like a gentleman in a public toilet stall facing a near future devoid of toilet paper.
"Right away, my lady." I said, offering her a fork on a napkin. I was even more impressed by the tenacity with which she attacked the salad. So complete was the devastation she laid upon my salad that I had no choice but to finally grant her the terms.
Sometimes I feel quite proud of my adorable little princess Celestia. "Only sometimes?" She raised a perfect eyebrow, glaring at me vengefully all the while.
"When some lapse of sanity strikes me, yes." I replied, airily, watching her empty the entire sugar bowl into her tea cup. Ah, how careless of me, leaving that sugar bowl by her side, with exactly two teaspoonfuls of sugar left inside no less, measured to the last grain.
"I would offer you some tea to have with that sugar." I said, kindly. "But I feel compelled to make the humble observation that that might a tad too much sugar."
"There is no such thing. Especially after such cruel and unusual torment." She muttered, stirring her cup vindictively. "Oh, and I hate you."
"I love you too, m'lady." I said with a smile. She suddenly spurt her tea all over her breakfast, choking and coughing for air. "And there is now such a thing as 'too much sugar'." I added, bringing her napkin to the rescue.
About two hours into the morning found me quietly stalking the corridors of the royal apartments, half-eaten plate of now-weaponized cloud cake in hand, in search of my daring cake thief. In my experience the culprit always returns to the scene of the crime, especially when it comes to my cakes, often pleading for forgiveness and mercy in the form of a second helping. I am usually quite generous, and nobody ever leaves me wanting. Ever again.
"Thou shalt not passsssssss." A soft voice accosted me in my pursuit of sweet justice. I paused in my tracks, if only because the voice's owner belongs elsewhere, specifically in her bed. And it is my job to ensure that, or so help me sunbutt.
"Luna, did you get lost on your way to your bed again?" I asked the corridor in general. Considering I left her at her dining table in her room, a stride away from her bed....Yes, that was much too far. I smacked myself mentally for my careless oversight. I have failed as a babysitter.
"We art taking the scenic route there." She said, loud enough for me to finally find her clinging upside down to the ceiling like a big, rather shapely blue raindrop. "And what a view." A wide upside down grin bloomed beneath her starry midnight mane. "Pocahontas!" She suddenly cried. Without any warning, save the random cry, she whirled off the ceiling and allowed gravity to do its work.
I promptly stepped back, safely away from her calculated landing zone.
With absolute elegance she landed on all four hooves on the floor before me. Though the same cannot be said of her expression. "Thou didn't catcheth Us!" She complained. "We could've been smushed mercilessly by Our nemesis, yonder ground!" She stomped a hoof at said nemesis.
"I had faith in you." I smiled, sincerely. Of course, I was certain in my knowledge that it was safe. Otherwise the ceiling would have long been transformed into a giant fly trap with EverStick™ super glue.
"That is more than can be said about Us and thee." Luna huffed.
"You're not a filly anymore, Luna." I chided, amicably.
"I am as young as the company I keep." She waved a forehoof dismissively.
I made a show of looking around the empty corridor. "So, not at all?" I ventured.
"So what are thee, chopped liver?" She rolled her eyes.
"The joke is in the question." I smiled. "I am otherwise incandescent." I said, narrowing my gaze just enough to tell her I mean business. "You should be asleep, Luna." I gave her a reproachful eye.
"Sleep is for the weak." She scoffed. "Real stallions drink coffee."
By all that is adorable and pony, did she just....? I caught a whiff of deadlines and heart attacks in her breath. Yes, she did. She had coffee. And from the smell of it, not just one, but enough to fuel an entire month of movie night marathons.
Alright, calm down. Don't make the caffeine do anything it might regret. First, establish level of residual identity and reasoning. "Luna, first of all, you're a mare. An alicorn princess who moves planetary bodies, tides and assorted lunatics, but a mare nonetheless. Second of all, we have had not one, not two, but a very embarrassing number of very lengthy discussion on what caffeine does to you."
"We agreed it gives Us wings. And it makes Us invincible." Luna asserted.
Excellent. identity and reason down the drain. I only just then began to appreciate just how manic and twitchy her smile was. And the mildly frazzled mane was likely not bed hair, come to think of it.
"No, I recall we agreed you already have wings." I pointed out, doing my best to re-establish some semblance of logic. "As for the invincible detail..."
"We hath yet to test that hypothesis." Her look suggested she would go take on a hydra or Angel Bunny to do just that.
I debated with myself on how best to talk to the caffeine without causing it to explode all at once. I should probably just keep it talking for now. "There is only one repository of caffeine in this entire palace, Luna. Did you just....?"
"Break into thy room?" She completed my sentence for me. "Please. We art above such pettiness. We approve of thine wardrobe of unmentionables, by the way."
And that was without the caffeine. Discord knows what she would do with it. I voiced my concerns as carefully as I could. "With all due respect, Luna, caffeine has the tendency to bring out the...unpredictable in you."
"Unpredictable?" She laughed. "We art the Moon! We art the very measure of predictabilililility. Now bring Us Our shoes, Our lunchbox, perhaps the armoured bra and some of thy choice bubblewrap!" The very measure of predictability demanded.
And this is why I need help, ninja maid knights notwithstanding. "Having an...all-dayer, Luna?" I asked, giving the caffeine the respect it deserves. "What do you have in mind? I'll be the judge of whether or not it justifies you being out of bed at this hour, young lady." I carefully asserted authority too. A shot in the dark, but I would take any port in this poo storm.
"What else? We art going with thee this fine afternoon to hunt thee these ninja maid knights thou seekest." She said, as if it was as obvious as going to the grocers for some bread and butter. "We look forwards to seeing for Ourselves what manner of trader at the market deals in ninja maid knights." She said, confirming my suspicion. "We foresee a pony of secrecy, elegance and danger in equal measure."
My imagination entertained the image for just a moment. For some reason all it managed to summon up was some variation on pirates.
Right, I can fix her world view later. Nothing tightening a few loose screws can't fix. More importantly, how did she hear about that?
I think I found my cloud cake thief.
"So, Luna." I said, putting on my best smile. "How, pray tell, did you manage to listen in on our conversation?" Through my lady's most intricate anti-eavesdropping spell no less.
"The moon hears everything, sees everything, knows everything." She didn't even try to deny it.
I glanced at the nearest window. "It's daylight." I observed.
There was a pause. "....Everything." She repeated, smile turning a few degrees more manic around the edges.
"The cake was good, was it?" I asked, casually.
She tapped a hoof on her chin thoughtfully at this. "Not as sugary and creamy as thy usual fare, and a little thick on the rum..." She noticed my look, "It was delicious and moist. Thank you, Butler." She quickly said, at least looking sheepish. "Um, s-sowwy, Butler." She added in a little squeak, visibly shrinking under my withering look. "P-pwease, don't hate me." She whimpered under my siege, pressing herself into the floor. "W-woona will do anything!" She pleaded for her life as she curled up into a little ball.
Well, she apologized. And she at least looked repentant. "And the coffee?" I demanded, for good measure.
"I-I shalt be good henceforth! I shan't steal thy coffee from thine unmentionables wardrobe anytime soon!" She squeaked in apology. I noticed the glaring loopholes she left in her apology, but it was acceptable, for the time being.
I sighed. It's difficult to be stern with the all-too-adorable Luna. I knelt down and patter her gently on her mane. "Take the rest to your room and finish it." I said, handing her the half-eaten cake.
Her lips quivered at the gesture. "B-B-Butler....T-thank you!" She gave me a watery-eyed look of gratitude as she took the cake in her telekinetic grasp. She aimed her big, pearly puppy-dog eyes up at me. "So, can Woona come with you today? Pweaaaase?" She suddenly pleaded, giving me the most beseeching smile, throwing in her best pony-squee for good measure.
Check and mate. It was a trap! The perfect ruse! And I was helplessly caught in her ruthless wiles! But I would resist! I would be resilient! I would be stout of heart and iron of will!
"Y-Yes." I choked.
Do not judge me. It was either give in or have my heart explode and give in anyway. I was being pragmatic in choosing the lesser of two evils. That is all. Damn it.
"Excellent." She was back up on her hooves like a shot, cake in telekinetic grasp, smug smile of triumph on her face. "Now, come with Us. Thou can helpest Us with Our adornments for the day." She trilled, trotting off ahead of me while savouring a bite out of her spoils of war.
This is what makes Luna the more dangerous of the two. Unlike her sister, she is fully aware of how adorable she is, and is not afraid to use it against me. I could only sigh in defeat as I followed after her towards her room.
She led the way into her room down the corridor from her sister's. "Do come in." She said, waving a forehoof at me invitingly. To my relief it was in no worse a state than it was earlier that morning. It was still littered with every manner of human world gadgetry and techno-junk conceivable. Though the television set and ancient betamax player I had been forced to wire and set up in one corner of her room was on. Why betamax? Do not ask me. Around it a selection of tapes from the human world was piled precariously high.
'Human world'. It almost sounds like I'm referring to it as some alien realm now. The irony.
I had to fight down the urge to clean up the room, perhaps make use of some floral spray and a firebomb or two. Luna insisted there was order in her chaos. If I didn't know any better, I'd think Discord had possessed her. But I do know better, in that there are some minds too obsessively chaotic for even the likes of Discord to bear.
I walked past what looked like a dissected toaster, its stripped parts organized in order of size on the floor beside its remains. The sight was almost chilling.
The door slammed shut amidst my ruminations before locking with a resounding click. Why do all the doors in this apartment sound so deadly? A light blue glow enveloped the walls, coating it in ethereal hearts and crossbones. "An upgrade on Tia's spell." Luna said with a smug smile.
"Does it do anything about stowaways in food carts?" I asked, offhandedly.
"Err...no. But there is a distinct lack of food carts, so We believe we're safe." Luna said, turning to me. "Now, on to business. Straight to the point, We hereby dub thee Our very own Knight Commander."
I stood, transfixed, like a pony in the headlamps. "Well, that was indeed straight to the point." I managed, hoarsely. "You mean, I am to become Knight Commander to both of you?" I had to be clear. Because if this meant I had to train double the number of ninja maid knights, well, as they say in Dodge Junction, buck me.
"Technically, she hasn't yet appointed you." Luna pointed out with undisguised glee. "So We art first. For once, she gets to have the hand-me-down. Hahah!" She declared, smugly.
"Wait, she..." I blinked. Luna was right. I had interrupted my lady with my quip before she could properly appoint me. My appointment by her is, essentially, only implied. Luna's exultant smile threatened to tan my face.
"Teehee, We win! We win!" Luna did a little jig with her hooves. "But let it not be said that the great Luna is not benevolent and generous beyond measure, especially towards Our Tia. We shall share thee, more or less equally. And thou get to have double the fun! Lucky!" She said, graciously. "But We were first." She added with a smug hiss.
"Thank you for sharing me, Luna. You are too kind." I said, deadpan. "Alright, the impossibility of me being Knight Captain to both of you aside, surely there is a deeper reason than fighting over your toys?" I asked. "A reason that isn't caffeine in nature, hopefully?"
"Of course." Luna nodded, turning serious. "As you know We art due to finally resume Our place in the Equestrian court."
"Yes, of course. That was a very wide throne I had to dust off." I quipped.
"Hush with thee!" She waved a hoof at me, aiming to bop me on the head. I neatly sidestepped her attempt. "Now, the official commencement of the court of the night begins in exactly six months. Coincidence?"
I frowned. "You mean he's aiming for you too?" I asked, slowly considering exercising my murder rights as butler.
"Either both of us, Tia and I, art his targets. Or We alone art his insurance should the plan in supplanting you fail." She nodded, grimly. She took the fact that she is second to my lady in good stride, going so far so as to fully support her sister in her role. My lady could not ask for a better sister....except when it comes to fighting over their toys.
Buck me twice.
"We surmise that should he fail in supplanting you, he may aim to position his staff under Us and thusly assume control of the night court." Luna said. "Painful as it is for Us to admit, without thee, we art only slightly less useless than dear Tia. With an entirely new court, it would be so very easy for him and his lackeys to quickly gain influence."
"Not that I'm unwilling, but isn't it safer to have a butler of your own?" I asked. Cover all the bases and all that.
"Behind every princess, or two, there is an option - a butler or a butler." Luna said, playful smile returning. "As long as thou art capable, one chief of staff between the two of us shall suffice."
"As long as I'm capable, huh?" I echoed, hollowly.
"Think about it, Butler. Is there a single pony We could trust at this point?" Luna pointed out. "Recall why it has taken Us so long to reenter Equestrian politics. We art practically still a criminal in the eyes of Our ponies. We hath no friends to speak of, Butler." She said, suddenly looking downcast.
"That's not true, Luna." I quickly knelt before her, placing a comforting hand on her mane. I peered into her watery eyes, giving her a firm look. "That's not true. You have friends." I said, sternly. "Need I list them for you?"
"Fine, fine." Luna sighed, quickly blinking her eyes as she looked away. "But We cannot ask the Elements to be Our butler now, can We?" She raised an eyebrow sideways at me. "Tia's hand-me-down friends." I heard her mutter, almost indistinctly.
"Good point." For a moment I entertained the image of that charming Fluttershy being conscripted into being Luna's butler. I couldn't help but chuckle inwardly at the thought.
Luna cleared her throat. "We need thee as Knight Captain as well, lest they use the argument that said capacity is not catered for in Our case and attempt to install that lackey as Our knight captain instead." Luna explained. Even without a court to call her own yet, Luna was already proving herself a political mastermind, thinking a few steps ahead of even my lady. "We cannot allow them to use the argument that thou hath not prepared enough ninja maid knights for Our protection either."
My worst fears were confirmed. Yes, a double order of ninja maid knights, please. With extra secrecy, elegance and danger please. This can only go well.
"I feel so miserable without Blueblood." I sighed. "It's almost like having him here."
"We hath always warned Tia of the dangers of having blood so close to the throne. This is a long time coming." Luna nodded, dourly. "Still, We must admit, this is a rather sudden show of testicular fortitude on Blueblood's part. Are you not curious why it seems he hath grown a pair so very suddenly?"
"I always just assumed he forgets to put them on in the morning." I shrugged. "Did they come included in the box with High Horse?"
"In a way." Luna nodded. "Think of a recent current event, Butler."
"Considering 'current' for you is measured in centuries..." I began.
"Says you." She giggled. "But with how stagnant Equestria is, everything is." She added. "Come now, less teasing, more thinking." She chided.
She seemed to be hinting at something. I decided to at least give it some effort for her. "The portal to the human world." I said, finally. "This is about my lady's closed doors policy?" I raised an eyebrow. After the large portal to the human world was opened up at Neighara Falls a year prior, my lady had very carefully limited passage between the two worlds, building fortified gate cities on both sides. At the time trade was limited to natural resources and some approved products. Her wariness in allowing open traffic between the two worlds had attracted much criticism, even earning her policy the monicker 'The Closed Door Policy'.
"Exactly." Luna nodded. "They hath been trying to sneak the bill to open the borders past Tia for her-glorious-sunny-flanks knows how long. And a certain somepony has been, ah, what's the word? Yes, cockblocking their every move."
"Me." I scoffed.
"I must admit, thou hast a certain talent for it." Luna grinned.
"Why, thank you. You're too kind, Luna." I grinned in reply. "But, really, all I do is bring my lady the paperwork." I shrugged. It is, to a certain extent, true. In between commissioning heroines to save Equestria and inspecting its sugar supply, my lady is much too busy to inspect the miles of red tape that comes out of the endless bowels of the government. So it falls to me to carefully comb through the bureaucratic cereal box in search of the more important surprises and bring them to my lady's attention.
"Your efforts have stopped the bill from ever seeing light time and time again." Luna said. "There are...hah...certain parties who think they would benefit from an open border policy."
"You are saying Blueblood wants to open the borders?" I massaged my temples at this. "He has all the racial tolerance of the cutie pox. You know how much he approves of me."
"He would work with anything, even the cutie pox, if they promised him their help and support in acquiring the throne." Luna said, simply. "No offense meant."
"None taken." I shrugged. "So you are suggesting his 'testicular fortitude', as you put it, is fueled by his new human friends who would help him in exchange for an open border policy?"
"I hath no proof of the crime, but I know our nephew well enough." Luna said. "Otherwise I would have the insolent fool for high treason!"
"And I suppose there's no way to dismiss him from court." I said, thoughtful.
"His position in the court is surprisingly strong. He hath no enemies to speak of. Being royalty helps." Luna rolled her eyes. "Though he is intensely disliked by his 'friends'." Luna seemed thoughtful for a moment. "Even if we do remove him, We are sure there are others behind him. Maybe even thy kin in disguise."
"Disguised as ponies?" I raised an eyebrow. "You give us too much credit. We're not exactly changelings."
"Ah, yes, thy arrival in Equestria was by other means, We recall." Luna nodded. "But before the big portal in Neighara Falls, the primary contact between our two worlds was through the magic moon mirror."
"Ah, yes, the creepy one that transforms one from human to pony and vice versa." I said. "So you think someone has slipped through?"
"The gate in that statue in the human world has become known to thy kin. So while Tia and We hath taken steps to prevent it, the possibility remains - that somepony may hath made it through. Even now he or she may be lying in wait amongst us." Luna said.
For some reason my mind went straight to High Horse. If he was, in fact, human, he was good enough not to show any hints. Come to think of it, if there had been any difference for him, it could only have been an improvement.
"I'll keep my eyes open." I said. "I won't let anyone get in the way of either you or my lady. My lady is holding back on the open borders policy for a reason."
"No doubt." Luna nodded. "Tia is not stupid...most of the time. She is all about friendship, and friendship with your kin will be a step forwards for Equestria. She is simply being duly cautious with that step."
"I don't blame her." I said. I mean, considering the sum total of her experience with humanity so far has been, essentially, all me, it is no wonder she is giving the rest of my kin all due caution.
"Me neither." Luna gave a little chuckle. "Still, there are those who are hopelessly enamoured by what thy kin has to offer us." Luna huffed. "All thy fancy electricicicicity, all manner of gadgetry and gizmos, newfanglements and claptraps." She sighed, wistfully.
"Yourself included." I nodded at her room, smiling knowingly.
"Of course!" Luna lifted herself onto her hindhooves to do a little twirl. She waved her forehooves around her as she spun, gesturing at her assorted collection of Christmas lights flickering on the walls of her room. "Imagine! A night lit up by human electricity! Street lamps making it safe for Our little ponies to enjoy Our night! Electric lights allowing them to enjoy their time together late into the evening! Rockets and space elevators to finally turn Our moon from a place of banishment into a new frontier for Our people! With the help of thy kin, not even the sky is the limit!" She declared, before giving a wistful little sigh, calming down a little. "But do not confuse Us with those who would sell Our world at the drop of a hat to the more opportunistic of thy kin." She added, in a sudden growl.
"I wouldn't dream of confusing you with anything, Luna." I replied. "Though I wish you could have thought up a crazier plan. This is barely a Monday yet." I chuckled, helplessly. Oh, for the love of all that is adorable and pony, what I do for my princesses.
"Thou asketh for 'crazy'?" She smiled manically once more. Oh dear. "Thou cannot spell 'lunatic' without 'Luna'. Now, fetcheth Us Our shoes and Our hunting bonbons! We hath ninja maid knights to hunt!"
I could only sigh at the prospect. "It's probably not too late to try and get Shining Armour in a maid uniform." I said, optimistically.