Luna's Story: Rise of the Lunar Stallions
Part 2: Honor Thy Ancestors
Aegis Shield grunted as he was thrown into the dungeon. It was a surprisingly clean place, though still of dark grey hewn stone. His bonds were removed and he was pushed back into a nest of old straw so the guards could lock his cage. He lay on his belly, a little overwhelmed at all that had happened. All that he’d done.
“Be nice to him. He’s just had a stressful day at work.” The Appleoosian guard mare said to the jailor. The stallion cocked his head. The others weren’t stupid, Aegis Shield knew. They hadn’t seen it happen, but they knew something he’d done had awakened the princess. After a month of her slumber, the word would spread like wildfire. All of Canterlot would know his name, maybe even further out than that! He shuddered, for he knew the rumors would fly as well. “Hey, Aegis.” The mare said, drawing his gaze. “I don’t think you’ll be in here long, just take a rest, eh?” she smiled sympathetically at him, and he gave a slow nod.
Aegis Shield had the whole night ahead of him. Being a pony that worked during the night shift, his day had only just begun. The chocolate brown stallion settled in as best he could. He had a barred window, some nice blank walls, some nice blank ceiling, some nice blank floor, and a little nest of hay to either lay on or eat. Having only had breakfast an hour ago, he wasn’t hungry. Slowly reaching, he removed his armor bit by bit. Gently placing each piece in a long row along the far wall, he stared at them in the moonlight. Solar stallion indeed. Couldn’t keep his hooves off a helpless princess. He winced, trying to console himself. He’d helped! She was awake now! Surely though would excuse him? At least partly? He didn’t know what princess Celestia had in mind for him, but it was better than ‘the nearest chopping block’, as Mountain Hoof had so eloquently put it. Maybe if he stared at the ceiling long enough he would find sleep? Doubtful. The stallion laid on his back, his hooves bunched up under his chin. He sighed and stared out the window at the moon instead.
It was nearly dawn when movement jerked Aegis out of his stupor/doze. He twitched awake, rolling until he was upright. Straw struck to his mane and fur, sticking out in odd directions. Tossing his mane quickly so he could see better, he rushed to the bars and held them with his front hooves, craning his neck to see who was coming. “This is him down here. Yes, your highness.” The jailor had returned, keys jangling on his saddle. Bowing, he made way for a tall and slender figure. Princess Luna.
Aegis’ breath caught in his throat. She stared at him carefully after coming to a stop in front of the cell. He very suddenly felt like a bright-colored bug in a jar and blushed. Averting his gaze from her highness’ for a moment, he saw her eyes drawn to the bits of his armor lining the wall. If he’d known she was coming he would’ve donned them again, blast it! Now he was all but naked in front of her, such a shameful thing for a solar stallion! His hooves slid down the bars a little and he pressed his forehead to them, waiting for her to speak. “Our sibling tells us we slept for a month.” She said with a certain air of speaking downward. “And that thy affections apparently roused us when noise, doctors, and medicines could not.” She was eyeing him up and down, sizing him up with a very critical eye. He swallowed, then nodded silently. “Yet we find you locked in a cage for thy actions.” She scowled a little, then stepped back with her horn alight. The stallion panicked briefly, jumping back just in time. The bars shrieked bloody murder to bend out of the way, making a wide and open exit by pressing themselves east and west. She could’ve just opened the cell, or better yet called for the key. But no, this made a better statement. “Emerge, stallion, and tell us thy name.” she commanded, stepping back with the same scowling expression.
The pony came out of the cage slowly, as though the floor might be hot or the bars about to spring back into place and crush him in twine. “I’m… I’m Aegis Shield.” He said, bowing low and onto his belly for her. “I kissed you.” He blurted a little, miserable now that he was in her sight.
“Thy name is shield-shield?” Princess Luna pondered a moment, rewiring her thoughts. “Oh no, no… an aegis is a shield affiliated with a religious figure. Such as ourselves.” She chuckled a little, then snapped back to the moment. Leaning, she checked his cutie mark curiously. A golden shield with a star upon it. “Interesting.” She said, before returning her gaze to his. “How didst thou know we would wake from your kissing?” she leaned forward with one hoof lifted. “Tell us now, please.” Her tone was completely mismatched to her words, and he took it as aggression.
“I… didn’t.” he said lamely, ears turning back in a shameful way.
“Thou thought to take advantage of us in our comatose state?” Luna said, sounding shocked. “Perhaps thou does belong in a cage!” she lifted him by magic, bodily, back into the sail.
“I can’t do that, I’m gelding!” he blurted, flailing about and red in the cheeks.
Princess Luna dropped him neatly on his hooves, cocking her head. “Thou art what?” she didn’t have the word in her archaic vocabulary. “What does this word mean: gelding?” she leaned forward like it meant there was something wrong with his face. He leaned backward submissively, intimidated by her voice and stature.
“Er well… it… it means…” he blushed deeper, turning his head to one side.
“It means there’s no pleasin’ the mares for him. He’s married to his job.” The jailor butted in a little nastily. Luna cocked an eyebrow, then looked startled. Tilting her head until it was upside down, she leaned and rather unceremoniously checked. Aegis Shield could do not but stand there and wish there was a convenient way to hang himself somewhere in the cell. Or blow himself up. Or simply drop dead. That would’ve been fine too. The cross-etchings of where the stitches had been still left nasty scars on his lower pelvis. The princess stared at it all for awhile with interest.
“Ohhh, thou art castrated.” Luna said, righting herself and nodding like she hadn’t just blatant checked out a stallion’s joy department. “Well, that makes us feel a little better.” She nodded officially, then finally returned her attention to his face. “Forgive our bluntness, we did not know this was still practiced. It seems even after a thousand years, my sister still insists on some of the old ways.” Her eyes wandered briefly to the pile of armor, then back to him. “Why hast thou shed thy armor?”
“I didn’t feel like a solar stallion since I… well…” Aegis Shield gestured vaguely at her. Luna, surprisingly, gave a little chuckle.
“Since you embraced the night?” she said in a playful, sultry way. It was Aegis’ turn to smile wryly, and he nodded. Luna was pleased to see the rise of color in his cheeks. “Come then, stallion. We shall see that thou art grandly rewarded for thy courage, accidental though it may have been.” She teased him a little, and he relaxed at last. The princess nodded to the jailor and they were away. Aegis had no idea where they were going, but he wasn’t about to turn down a demigoddess and sit in a cell, thank you very much. The stallion was fascinated by her. The way she walked with such long, slender legs. Not like a giraffe, but less motion than a regular pony. He had to trot to keep up with her great strides. Wherever they went ponies moved out of the way, bowed, and let them by. Aegis didn’t pass any guards he knew, but they were certainly shocked to see the princess up and about. Word would spread like wildfire. “Tell us, Aegis Shield, did thou always have the nighttime shift for thy guard duties?”
“Not always, no, but I preferred them.” He admitted.
“Why?” Luna turned a corner with him.
“Er-well… it’s quieter, cooler outside, and there are more bad ponies to stop.” He said with a guilty smile. “It's more interesting. Most crime takes place at night.”
“So does most lovemaking, but we do not blame lovers for their preferences.” Princess Luna snorted, tossing her mane as they went through a massive set of double doors to the armory near the barracks. “But we understand thy meaning. Thy vocation is more likely to apprehend evil at night.” She stopped before a pair of double doors.
Aegis Shield stopped. Those hadn’t been there before. He was in and out of the royal barracks a dozen times a day, every day. Those had never been there in the past. He frowned, leaning as Luna placed her hoof on them and traced the dust. She tittered a little, shaking her head. “It seems in our absence thy fellows let this place go uncared-for.” She said a little sourly. “Come in with us.” She commanded over her shoulder. The nervous stallion took his place at her side.
“I’ve never seen these doors before.” He admitted to her a little pitifully.
“They’ve always been here, in the corner of thy eye.” The princess of the night smiled bemusedly, an expression usually only seen on Celestia’s face. “Where most ponies are afraid to look.” She leaned and lifted the latch, pulling at the heavy bronze hoop. Stale air hissed at them, then finally the door gave and swung open on screaming hinges. The stallion was reminded of a horror movie very suddenly, for the stairs beyond them led down into blackness. Luna looked around, as though to check that nopony was following them. Aegis Shield was shocked when two guards walked right by, talking animatedly, and didn’t even seem to notice them. Was it the door itself? Something beyond it? Why didn't they see them? Why could he suddenly see the doors? Was it Luna, letting him see them? “See? They do not notice us. The magic is still strong here.” She started down the stairs, then poked her head out. “Well? Come along.”
“Where is here?” he found himself asking as they descended into darkness. The stairs spiraled down, down, down. Torches burst to life as they passed them, illuminating the passage in a flickering blue light. The stone and brick was cold and ageless, the two of them stirring inches of dust everywhere they went.
“Our sister has her shining, blinding solar guard to look after Equestria, Aegis Shield.” Luna came to a blank wall after the stairs emptied out into an open area. Torches flicked on all around them, brightening the ancient room. “But, during the times of old before I was banished, the night hosted a different sort of guard.” Leaning, she pushed aside thick cobwebs and blew at the dusty surface. “Look upon them.” She gestured, motioning for him to come close. The stallion clip-clopped slowly until he stood almost shoulder to shoulder with his princess. There, upon the intricately designed slab was a battle scene. A war. There were spears and arrows, muzzle-swords and even cannons. A terrible, bloody era of the ancient world. Shuddering, Aegis Shield looked at his princess with questions in his eyes. “The peace that thou enjoys in this era was not earned with idle chatter and treaties, but by the blood of thy ancestors and their companions. A peace that lasts even today.” She ran a hoof over more and more of the stone tapestry, revealing more colors and swiping away more cobwebs. “But in no small part thanks to my own personal guarding forces.” With a flourish, she revealed the sky in the picture by pushing aside a massive cobweb. It was swarming with angry-looking, bat-winged ponies with sharp teeth. All of them bore swords and arrows, raining down death to the battlefield below. The picture even showed they flew above the bow range of their enemies, shooting down. Untouchable to non-flyers.
“What are they? They look like monsters!” Turning sideways to use his wing, Aegis Shield tried to revive some of the colors of the ancient picture. The more of the picture he revealed, though, the bigger the battle scene became. It was all one big picture, outlined with etchings of crescent moons and pony skulls. Dark indeed.
Luna smiled quietly, lifting her head and uncovering a section that showed herself in the battle. “I was there to lead them.” She said. “I called them— lunar stallions. No mares were allowed in the military back then, just stallions.” She chuckled a little. “So you can imagine their delight when their princess decided to go into battle with them.”
“You fought in the great wars?” Aegis Shield whispered, looking up at her in awe.
“Until we destroyed our enemies so badly that even history has forgotten their names.” Luna smiled rather wickedly, and an icy chill went over his spine. “But worry not, that dark time is long past.” She consoled him, turning. “Now is the present.”
“Princess… what are we doing here?” Aegis Shield ventured.
“Thy reward awaits beyond this barrier.” She told him, smiling in a peculiar way. “However, this place has become a ruin of dust and spiders and disuse. It shames those that it was built to honor.” She gestured to the ponies depicted in the sky of the battle scene. “This displeases us.” She told him. “Since thou hast all but been discharged from the solar guard, perhaps thou shalt do us a favor and cleanse this shrine for us?” Princess Luna gestured all the way across the room. It was big, it would need a lot of love to even see the pictures again, much less be presentable for any sort of habitation. “And in return, the reward we promised you initially. Neigh, more than that.” She tap-tapped the barrier with a large hoof. It made a hollow sound. He leaned, perking his ear. She tap-tapped again. There was a passage beyond it, perhaps?
Looking around slowly, he finally met her eyes and bowed. “Yes, your majesty.” He was no cleaning pony, but she did have a point. No solar guard lived to see rank after being thrown in the dungeon by princess Celestia herself. If Princess Luna was giving him a task, who was he to turn down royalty. “I’ll have it done—”
She raised a hoof to silence him. “Do not constrict thyself to a time limit. Work slowly, carefully, and meditate amongst thy ancestors’ glory.” She gestured with her silver-shoe’d hoof. He slowly looked up at the grand scene, then back to her. He nodded. Luna inclined her head a bit. “If thou shalt excuse us, the dawn is coming. We must lower the moon for our sister.” With that she turned and was away, leaving the stallion alone in the half-light. He peered around, wondering what he’d just gotten himself into.
It was four days later when Aegis Shield realized that the last thing he should’ve done was clean the floor first. Everything he got off the ceiling, the walls, everywhere, would float around until it landed on the floor. Taking a page out of his grandmare’s book, he spent an afternoon shopping for cleaning implements. Broom, mop, cleaner, water, filters, polish, sponges, scrubbers, and so on. Coming back to the secret place, he made four trips with two buckets of water each. Making sure he had as much light as he could get, he started into it. He cleaned the floor, then made a mess bringing down cobwebs and dust, regretting it. Ah well, he’d have to do it again at the end.
If the lunar stallions had been forgotten since the time of Luna’s banishment, there was no telling how old this place was. Having been sealed, it had thankfully not crumbled into a ruin or succumbed to flood or mud. How the spiders and other things got in was anypony’s guess. The stallion tied a bandanna around his muzzle so that he wouldn’t inhale all the dust, and set to seriously work at it.
He spent time simply running a broom over the ceiling, knocking down spider webs and dust pouches. He shrieked when he found a little colony of them, spraying cleaner at them like mad. The moisture made them stick to things, and they soon fell and died on the floor. Huffing with relief, he took a towel to the columns to get their first layers of dust and grime off as well. Splashing water over the solid stone walls, he at first worried about breaking off bits of the old pictures and carvings. But no, they were solid as they were the day they were made. He suspected magic was involved. Scrubbing furiously until he could see colors ‘neath the dust and grime, he watched his ancestors slowly come to life before him. There were captions and boxes of ancient Equestrian to be read, but he sadly didn’t know the language.
He made a game of skating about on the floor, using thick sponges on all four of his hooves to help scrub it. So even walking around the room was helping. As time went by, and it did so rather quickly, the room began to come back to life. He uncovered massive, egg-sized gems inlaid in the wall that shone in the torch-light. Everything around the room was made to reflect the silvery-blue light of the torches on the walls. By the time he’d revived it halfway, he even considered taking down a torch or two. By the time he was almost done, he understood how the lights worked. There were curved mirrors laid in the walls that could be tilted and adjusted. The columns were placed just so, so they wouldn’t interrupt the beams of light. Beautiful.
Aegis Shield splashed buckets and buckets of water on the floor, scrubbing in fierce circles and later sopping things up with the mop. The floor was a slick marble stone, which would probably need polishing if it were to ever shine again. But it didn’t make it any less impressive, for even the tiles were covered with symbols and stories in ancient Equestrian. The longer he went on, the more the stallion wished he knew the elder language. Perhaps he’d visit the library another time, and poke at learning a little.
It was late twilight of the seventh day by the time the stallion had finished, splaying himself out on his back next to his mountain of cleaning junk to rest. Thankfully he’d chosen scentless products, otherwise he would’ve drown in the fumes by then. Aegis Shield looked around. He’d revealed a massive, door-shaped entryway that was sealed with a decorated slab of stone on one wall. The other wall was the battle scene, and the wall on the other side was covered with symbols and etchings. The columns looked beautiful again, sweeping and tall (he was thankful he had wings so he could clean the entire thing). It looked pretty good! Flopping down with a panting gasp, the stallion closed his eyes for a few moments.
“Thou art not sleeping on the job, we hope?” Luna’s voice made him jump, tumble over his own hooves, then finally snap up to salute without thinking. “Peace, stallion, lest thy automatic responses bloody your forehead.” She reached and pulled his hoof down, chuckling. He didn’t want to admit she’d seen him hit himself in the face to salute her. Stepping down from the stairs, she peered about to room. “Glorious.” She told him, nodding with approval. “Thy work is commendable.” The alicorn turned towards the stone slab that blocked the path onward. “I am sure thy ancestors appreciate thy efforts.” She went to the battle scene wall, rearing up to get a closer look. “Thou even shined the gems in their eyes. Excellent.” She gestured to the yellow gems inlaid in the eyes of each lunar stallion in the picture. Viewed from the right angle, their eyes seemed to glow like stars.
“Thank you, your majesty.” Aegis Shield said, smiling carefully.
“Now then, we have tried thy patience and given thou menial tasks. Thy suffering is over now.” She chuckled, coming down to all fours again. “We merely wished to have this part cleaned before thou saw anything else. Think of it as a right of passage.” She nickered a little, gesturing for him to follow. The princess stood before the mighty stone slab at the end of the chamber and opposite to the stairs. “This antechamber serves as a reminder to all of where the lunar stallions come from, and what they mean.” Going to incline in the designs, she pressed her horn into a deep circular hole that barely fit her. She concentrated, then jarred her head to the side a little. Aegis Shield felt a buzzing in his ears as magicks worked in the air. Gems lit up like there were fireflies trapped inside, two by two, up and down the doorway. The slab began to lift upward, trailing dust and sand onto the floor. The passage beyond was deep.
“What do the lunar stallions mean, princess Luna?” Aegis found himself asking.
“Victory. Judgment. Willingness to do what it takes to succeed, no matter what It may be.” Luna listed off a few with a toss of her mane, walking regally down the passage. He followed closely, trying very hard not to stare at her ethereal tail and flanks directly ahead of himself. “The darker side of the Equestrian military.” She smirked over her shoulder at him, and he gulped. They emerged into a greatroom that was filled with covered furniture. “Do not worry, we shan’t make you clean all of this. Thou suffered enough in the antechamber. The complex is quite deep.” She consoled him, flipping the sheet off of a wooden couch that had certainly seen better days. “If we are to restore this place, it will take many ponies.”
“Restore it?” Aegis Shield echoed.
“Yes. Thou hast demonstrated the skills necessary to become a lunar stallion.” She told him, smiling wryly. “Didst thou think I was leading thou to treasure? Bits perhaps? What sort of reward would that be for saving our life?” she snorted, tossing her mane again as she came to what could only be described as a vault. “A silly one, we tell thou.” She turned her nose up briefly at him, then went back to paying attention to the vault. There were many passages going off in different directions, but the vault was right here, attached to the great-room. “This,” She gestured grandly. “is the armory. It is opened by voice.”
“It is? How? Like a password?” he leaned curiously, putting his hoof on it. The metal was cold and still shiny. “It feels thick, there’s no way anypony could break into this. What’s in there?” he turned to her, feeling a little overwhelmed. Luna cleared her throat and, in the Royal Canterlot Voice, spoke a long line of ancient Equestrian. He covered his ears as she proclaimed... well... something, in the old tongue, loud and demanding. Dust and sand fell from teh ceiling, spilling over the room. When she was done the vault suddenly moaned in response, like grand sheets of metal were bending. Aegis backed up a bit as the door hissed, unsealing, and then finally swinging open.
Princess Luna cleared her throat to part the dust, and ignited her horn. The torches inside exploded into light. There, upon a set of pony-shaped statues, were two sets of armor. Midnight blue and deep purple, they were dark. They were jagged and handsome things, the very opposite of the shining armor of the solar stallions. They had dorsal fins atop their heads, not Spartan feathers. They had a serpentine eyes on their breasts, flowing natural shapes along the flanks. A quartet of matching, sharp-edged horseshoes lay under each one. The display was beautiful, and he instantly ached to put one on. “Only two sets left.” Luna said, sounding disappointed. “Well, we suppose the lunar stallions that remained at the time of our exile would’ve gone into hiding, perhaps passed down their regalia’s like heirlooms. There are probably not many left that stood the test of time… perhaps a museum or two might host one.” She shook her head. “These, however, are in good condition.” She helped him notice the sharpness of the spikes, the sheen of the serpentine eye, and the handsomeness that came with the breastplate. “Well?” she asked him, looking at the rather overwhelmed stallion that stood in the vault’s archway. A rather dark smile rose to her face as he stared drunkenly at the strange regalia’s. “Art thou ready for thy reward, Aegis Shield?”
A slow smile crept across the stallion’s face. “S-suit me up, your majesty.”
End of Part 2