Luna’s Story: Rise of the Lunar Stallions
Part 7: Witness Thy Comrade
It was a strange thing indeed when a royal proclamation with the lunar cutie mark appeared on the general boards around Canterlot. There were easily over twenty of the posters hanging up, each proclaiming the same message: Princess Luna was looking for a strong stallion to become to second of her lunar guards, and would be touring the city as well as holding contests to determine who was worthy. This sent just about every young stallion in Canterlot into a frenzy. Just imagine, the chance to be a royal guard merely by impressing her majesty! No years of academy training? No back-breaking boot camp or classes on armor polishing? It was like a dream come true, and every hot-headed stallion from Canterlot and beyond were going to vie for the prize.
“Is this wise, Luna, just putting up wanted posters?” Aegis Shield was a little doubtful, walking the halls of the palace with the princess of the night. “Surely you could pick another solar stallion, or find somepony about to graduate from the academy?” He was already drawing up a list of names of ponies who could certainly fit the bill.
Luna cut him off before he began to cite names, “We art accustomed to letting our gut instinct define the worthy, Aegis Shield, do not fret.” She said officially, turning her muzzle up a little. “Did we not pluck thou from a prison cell?” she prodded. He hung his head. It was true. If the princess could make a powerful lunar stallion out of the pony that had kissed her in her coma, she could certainly find a second who was equally worthy. “We merely need to trim the numbers.” Both of them could already hear the crowd gathered outside. The dark-pelted alicorn was going to address those gathered, as per the posters’ instructions.
“Ready?” Aegis Shield asked her, putting his hoof on the curtain that obscured the balcony. Luna looked herself over briefly, then her lunar stallion. Satisfied, she nodded and he thrust the curtain aside with a flourish. Tilting her head back and closing her eyes, the princess of the night emerged onto the balcony overlooking the royal gardens.
There was a massive crowd of ponies waiting below, talking and chattering amongst themselves, comparing hoof-sizes and generally showing off to one another. Luna waited patiently. The courtyard served as an excellent place for parties and other gatherings, but the gardeners would probably have a field day after this. With so many gathered ponies, there was no telling how many plants would be tromped or nibbled on. Finally, a few of them noticed her and there was a growing wave of shushing going back and forth. After a minute or so, the gardens were as quiet as the grave. Many, many faces were looking up at Luna expectantly with bated breath.
Princess Luna lowered her face and opened her eyes. Looking down, she favored the crowd with a confident smile. Lots of ears lifted and turned forward. The cloak she was wearing burst into bats, which swooped over the crowd and made a few ponies dive for cover. Her wings snapped open powerfully, showing off their full span and making the crowd flinch. “CITIZENS OF CANTERLOT!” The Royal Canterlot Voice concussed the night, imploding across the gardens and reverperating off of the stone walls. Normally it would blow the eardrums of anypony, but with the massive crowd it was actually appropriate this time. “YOU HAVE DONE WELL TO GATHER THIS NIGHT! WE ARE HONORED BY THE TURN-OUT OF SUCH EXCELLENT SPECIMENS OF PONIES!” she made a sweeping gesture across the crowd. There were murmurs of appreciation and lots of smiling. “UNFORTUNATELY, MERELY ONE OF YOU WILL BECOME THE SECOND LUNAR STALLION!” she mega-phoned. Aegis Shield looked around the crowd without turning his neck. There were a lot of goobers down there. This would be interesting to see his princess widdle the crowd down. “FIRST! WE MUST THIN THE NUMBERS BEFORE WE EXAMINE THOSE EVEN MILDLY WORTHY!” Luna trumpeted. “WHEN WE ASK YOU TO LEAVE, WE EXPECT THOU NOT TO TARRY! THIS IS NOT AN OPTION BUT A ROYAL ORDER! IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?!” There was murmuring from the crowd, some scattered applause and general positive response. Luna turned to Aegis Shield, nodding to him with a smile.
The entire crowd locked their eyes onto the lunar stallion. Everypony there was comparing him or herself to Aegis, and he knew it. Coughing a little, he unrolled a bit of parchment on the railing in front of him. He saw the flick of Luna’s magic make it stick so he could read gracefully in front of the crowd. “Listen closely!” his deep bass voice was like a syrupy bronze bell, far too deep for any normal pony. Was that something that came with being a lunar st—oh wait, he was talking now. “Firstly! Stallions only! The lunar stallions are called thus because it is for males only, no exceptions!” There was a giant feminine groan from the crowd while the hoof-fulls of mares made for the exits. How unfair! How sexist! Stupid lunar stallions! “Second! You may not be married or have children! The princess requires your complete devotion!” There was more groaning, and plenty of the stallions left for that. So findin’ love or makin’ foals was against the rules of the lunar stallions, huh? Well pffft, they didn’t wanna be a part of that anyway! No matter how frickin’ cool the armor looked, or the night hours, or hanging around the princess! “Thirdly! Pegasi only! All lunar stallions must have the ability to fly, because of their fighting styles in times of war and battle!” Aegis Shield read down a list of a dozen carefully chosen characteristics, all mandated by Luna herself. She wanted her second guard to fit a certain way in her employment, and though she had plenty of mostly-unfair rules, it would prevent plenty of un-prepared stallions from stepping forward. By the time Aegis had finished reading the parchment, there were maybe a dozen stallions left.
“Well, our rules certainly narrow it down.” Luna mumbled out of the corner of her mouth. Aegis Chuckled behind his hoof as he made a show of putting away the scroll and bowing to the princess. Luna stepped forward with her full wingspan still on powerful display, and leapt off the balcony. Curving her wings gracefully, she touched the ground with a dainty clop on the stone path. Aegis Shield followed, landing behind her and to her right. “Congratulations, thou have all made the first cut.” She favored them with a second smile, which inflated more than a few egos. The gathering of pegasi looked energetic, virile, and certainly ready to prove themselves. She scanned their cutie marks. Quill, bottle rocket, lilypad with flower, etc. Nothing particularly impressive on any of them.
“C’mon princess!” one of them reared up a bit, flailing his front hooves excitedly. “What’s the next challenge? Lay it on us!” Aegis felt his anger inflating a bit at his casual disrespect for royalty. The ancestors murmured in the back of his head, conferring about taking the upstart’s head off or not. But no no, this was Luna’s show. She was in charge of choosing prospects. Breathing deeply and settling on a neutral glower, Aegis waited for the princess to lay down the next challenge.
“I wish for my second guard to be as clever as my first.” Luna announced the next challenge by praising Aegis Shield. His cheeks colored just a little, but his face remained neutral. They all looked at her expectantly. “Therefore, a seemingly impossible task shall be set forth for all of you.” They cocked their heads, blink-blinking. Looking up into the starry sky, she thrust a hoof at the moon. “Capture… the moon!” she declared. Their heads tilted back and all of their mouths gaped open. What?! What was that supposed to mean?! She was crazy! Only alicorns could affect celestial bodies like that! The group stared at Luna, as though she might say more. “Thou all have three days to accomplish this task. If thou cannot, do not bother returning. Now, away with you!” she said with a flourish, raising a mighty hoof and flapping her wings once. Aegis smirked.
Eleven of the twelve pegasi stallions took wing, one of the poor things shooting straight up towards the moon (hours later he would be hospitalized for passing out in the thin air of high altitude, and only barely saved by a passing guard). Aegis Shield stared at the one stallion who had not moved. Luna cocked her head at him, frowning. He peered about the royal gardens, and spotted a spicket sticking up out of the ground with a bucket under it. Trotting over quickly, he lifted the handle and pumped it a few times. Water gushed out until the bucket was full. The alicorn and the lunar stallion watched him curiously. Going to an open area with no trees over it, he set the bucket down and let the water settle. Cocking his head, he did several circles around the bucket. Finally, he stopped and smiled.
Coming back, he bowed before Luna. “Done.” He said. Aegis narrowed his eyes. He knew that voice. Luna cocked her head, going over to the bucket and peering into it. She saw nothing. The Pegasus, smiled, indicating where she should stand. The alicorn did so, then leaned down to get the proper angle. Sure enough, the reflection of the moon appeared in the bucket. He smiled and threw his chest out impressively. “Moon in the bucket.” He said to make it official. Aegis frowned, his eyes racing back and forth in thought. The ancestors were unsure of him, not sure of the newcomer. They didn’t like new things. Hmm…
Luna nodded, smiling a little. “Impressive. What is thy name, stallion?”
“My name is Stalwart Hide.” He said, throwing his chest our impressively, wings on display. Aegis Shield barely contained his moan. No wonder he recognized him. It was the pony Celestia herself had dismissed from duty during Luna’s coma.
The remainder of the three days Luna set down came and went. None of the other stallions returned. Now Princess Luna, Aegis Shield, and Stalwart Hide stood at the entrance of the lunar stallion barracks. “I don’t remember this ever being here.” He said, cocking his head in amazement. “Are they invisible or something, if you’re not a lunar stallion?” he asked Luna.
“Somewhat.” Luna chuckled, throwing the doors open with magic and starting downward. The three of them went down, down, down the spiraling staircase and into the antechamber. The massive battle scene was to one side, and the scripture on the other. The princess stopped, gesturing. “Thy ancestors before thou.” She introduced the carvings. He approached with awe, staring at them silently for a long time. Aegis Shield stood to one side, smiling gently. It was a lot to take in. Luna stood next to him and told the story, the same one Aegis had heard. How the lunar stallions were the army and guardian forces of the night long ago, how they’d vanished into the darkness after Luna’s exile, and how there were only two armor sets left now.
Stalwart Hide mumbled a little, going to the other wall to study the scripture. “These are-- these are names.” He said after a time, lifting a hoof and squinting at a line of ancient Equestrian. Luna cocked her head, once more impressed. “I took a little ancient Equestrian in college before I joined the solar guard. Before Princess Celestia…” he trailed off a little, wilting under Luna’s critical gaze.
“Thou art an outcast? And dare approach me for such a coveted position?” Her voice was gathering aggression and her wings slowly starting to flip open.
“I was there, your majesty.” Aegis stepped in to interrupt before she went off on him. “Princess Celestia was so worried about you while you were in your coma she dismissed Stalwart Hide in a moment of anger.” He went through the story quickly, about the conversation they’d been having and how Celestia had wandered by at just the wrong moment to can him. Luna’s eyes narrowed, as though she weren’t sure if she believed the two of them. But, it did make sense. If nothing else, the times over the millenia that Luna had ever been injured had all made Celestia especially testy. Call it sister’s protective instinct.
“Very well.” Luna amended after a moment. “Come, it is time for thy transformation.” She turned and, wings folded, started for the great room.
“Er, I’m already gelded if that’s what you mean. No need.” Stalwart Hide scrubbed his black mane with a shy expression.
“Don’t tell her tha—!” Aegis Shield tried to warn him, but Luna had already turned around and peered under his undercarriage curiously. The lunar stallion fought down a groan, face-hoofing a little bit in embarrassment for the other stallion. Stalwart Hide’s brow went up and he stared at the princess staring at him. It was the same deal under there. Ugly scars hidden under thick fur, all from the stitches of the procedure.
Luna shook her head, grumbling softly for herself. “Our sister insists on un-stallion-ing all of her male soldiers, we swear we don’t understand.” Stalwart tried to back up a bit, but no she wasn’t done yet. His face turned a dark crimson while her eyes raced back and forth. “Does this not affect their growth, their strength, their virility in battle?” she bit her lip and shook her head with disapproval. Aegis stood there with his face in his hoof until Luna righted herself again. “We apologize for our sister’s barbaric old ways. But come, we have thy armor ready in the vault.” She turned and went down the tunnel. The new stallion looked at the other, who shook his head and gestured that he go on.
Gulping a little, Stalwart Hide followed Luna. They emerged into a freshly-cleaned great room. “Looks like the princess allowed some of the palace staff down here at last.” Aegis smiled around the room, eyeing the new furniture and the plush ornamental carpets and tapestries. The fireplace and strategically placed torches with mirrors lit the room nicely. It was clean, it looked great!
“Is that the vault?” Stalwart Hide asked, eyeing the massive polished door of steel. Luna nodded and, with a commanding line of ancient Equestrian, forced the seal open and swung the great portal open. “Wow…” he peered inside and stared at the two pedestals. One was empty, and the other held a pristine-looking set of armor. “Wow…” he whispered again, stepping beyond the threshold. Luna looked over her shoulder at Aegis Shield, silencing him with a look. He nodded, quietly going to sit by the fireplace and admiring the carvings on the walls that were now clean.
“Wow indeed, stallion. This is your point of safe return. After this there is no turning back. Your transformation will take place here, and it shall be painful.” Luna declared, pointing at his chest with a massive hoof. “Art thou ready?” she said with a dangerous smile.
“Painful?” Stalwart Hide asked, lifting a hoof and leaning back. “What more can you do to me, making me into a lunar stallion? I’m already gelding.” He said a little awkwardly as the princess backed him into the vault with stomping hooves. “Hey now. Hey now! HEY!” There was a rolling crashing sound inside, the sounds of armor clanking and pressing on flesh as rivets were dug in and for some reason the sound of power tools. The stallion begged for mercy. All the while Aegis Shield studied the fireplace in a bored way. Luna emerged from the vault with a proud look on her face. “Wait wait wait waiiiiii-!” the vault slammed shut behind her, and she locked it with magic. Aegis looked over at her, cocking his head. There was loud banging on the vault door for a few moments, then it went dead silent.
“You didn’t wait for his permission.” Aegis Shield told her in a low, growly voice.
“He has come this far. If the ancestors of the armor do not think him worthy, he shan’t have to worry for long.” Luna snickered a little, going to a velvet couch and regally laying down. “I would not worry, my stallion.” She perked her ears as the blood-curdling screams suddenly started up. There was muted, rapid banging on the vault door. “The first time is always dramatic and painful.” Aegis frowned at her, but he knew from experience and said nothing. Whatever was going on in there was testing the limits of pain, sanity, and awareness. “If the armor does not accept him, we shall find another candidate.”
“What will the armor do if it doesn’t like him?” Aegis suddenly asked, moving over to her couch and sitting with her. Now that they were alone it didn’t feel so alien to act friendlier.
“Thou… worries too much.” Luna said after a long silence. There was another round of wild screaming as she leaned slowly and kissed his forehead. It sounded like the poor stallion in the vault was being butchered by the legendary Cupcake Murderer. Aegis shuddered. The door of the vault rang as he either threw himself against it or bucked against it. His screaming was muted, but there were sounds of begging and roars of agony. “Thou were just as vocal.” She soothed Aegis by stroking his back with one hoof, along the folds of his armor. “Worry not.” Suddenly the screaming stopped. Luna cocked her head with interest. Her lunar stallion looked at her eagerly for answers. There was a long silence, and both ponies perked their ears forward. Then the shrieking of bloody murder started up again and Luna sighed. Making idle conversation over the noise, she turned to look at Aegis Shield. “Has the kitchen staff been feeding thou well? We commanded thy new diet be wide and healthy since thy armor feeds from your own energy.”
Aegis winced when the screaming halted for what was no doubt head-banging on the vault door. It sounded wet and painful. “Oh, Uh— Yes. Yes. They’ve been taking good care of me.” Aegis offered, trying not to be sick at the terrible sounds coming out of the vault. “Can’t you help him?!” he finally burst out, running and putting his hoof on the vault. “He sounds like he’s dying in there! Help him!”
“Thou were tested in the same way, do not fret.” Luna said in a slightly more commanding tone. Aegis winced at her scolding, looking glumly at the floor. Suddenly the screaming stopped again, and there was a shuffling sound inside the vault. Low humming. Then, more banging on the vault. But this was much more powerful bucking. Aegis Shield felt his ears ring a little, and he slowly backed away from the vault door. Luna finally stood from the couch. “It is done.” she smiled in a slightly cruel way. “He has succeeded. He is frenzied.” Aegis turned his ears back, a little bit wary about opening the vault at this point. “Stand back, Aegis Shield. Let thy new brother pounce upon only me if that is his reaction. Do not interfere.” She commanded him, pointing to a corner. He went there quickly, mouth agape in tense, bated breath. Licking her lips to wet them, princess Luna spoke the ancient password. The vault hissed, spilling smoke and pressurized air out into the room. There was only darkness beyond the threshold.
A deep, resonating growl rolled out of the blackness. Twin amber-gold eyes shone in the shadows, fast approaching the threshold. A lunar stallion with bloodied muzzle and head burst onto the scene, growling around the room like a wild animal. Whinnying and rearing up with flailing hooves, he roared and growled and bucked ferally. His wings opened and shiver-shiver-shivered at Luna, trying to look threatening and powerful. Luna stood stoic, looking upon him with a gentle expression. He came closer, like a rising cobra, threatening and baring his fangs at her. Aegis Shield winced. No wonder so many ponies were always staring at his teeth. They looked like a mouth full of triangle-shaped piranha teeth, able to rip flesh from bone! The newborn lunar stallion drooled and bled all over the place. His forehead was bleeding freely, not to mention his mouth where all the new teeth had just grown in. He was a mess of sweat and fur and blood. Aegis was struck by the serious symbology of being reborn in the vault. How violent and testing it was., emerging into the new world like a brand new foal, covered in blood and roaring like a beast. He’d been the same way, Luna had told him.
Luna conjured a towel to wipe some of the blood away. Stalwart Hide bit at the towel possessively, took it, shook it until he was sure it was dead, then threw it across the room in his teeth. Then he pounced wildly on Luna with a growl! “Do NOT interfere!” Luna roared at the already rushing Aegis Shield. “Do NOT!”
Straddled atop her the massive stallion inspected the alicorn with angry glowing eyes. Was she mother? Was she sister? Was she food? The ancestors were not sure. They were gathering back and forth in rows like a choir, in the back of his head. Not organized enough to form an opinion to aid him. He sniffed her quickly, ferally, trying to make sense of her massive wings and long legs. The newborn lunar stallion surveyed her back and forth with hungry eyes, a golden mist floating out of his eye sockets. Slathering back and forth he tried to chew on her chest regalia instead. The pain soothed the ache in his new teeth. She let him. Slowly, she put her front hooves around him in a quiet embrace. He panicked, biting her in warning, both legs. Luna yipped a little, but did not resist him. “Aw-w-w-w-wgh!” he roared into her face, bits of blood and saliva flying and spattering her cheek.
“Shhhh-sh-sh-shhhh…” Luna said soothingly. “Thou art mine now, your mind is not your own while the armor embraces you. Be calm, shhhh-sh-shhh…” she stroked his head a few times. The stallion garruff’d at her, taking her hoof into his teeth and snarling wildly. His nostrils were flaring hot steam, trying to get her scent, trying to understand what the alicorn was. Was she friend? Was she foe? Did she need to be destroyed? He cocked his head, releasing her hoof from all his jagged teeth and studying her mane more. Her mane was not normal. He tried to dig his teeth into it, but it didn’t work. It was ethereal and un-graspable. He growled in frustration, and instead surmised to check the rest of her for things of interest. Luna lay on her back submissively, letting the frenzied stallion do as he pleased. As soon as his mind was rewired, he would be back to normal and all would be forgiven.
He trailed down, sticking his nose under her chest regalia. The chains tinkled a little, which made him flinch. Then her wings were interesting, how big! Big hooves too, ohhh. He smeared the blood from his mouth here and there as he sniffed and nipped at her like a curious wild dog. Luna’s fur would stain at that rate. Then he went a bit lower, poking at the soft of her belly. The princess’ legs kicked a little and she whimpered. Then a little lower than her belly, down to her—! Luna squeaked, but said nothing, squirming a bit. (If only she had more lunar stallions, she would not have to be the proctor for every frienzed birth like this. In the olden times, half a dozen lunar stallions would aid when a fresh one emerged from the vault.)
The newborn lunar stallion never saw the full-sized COUCH that broke over his head. Shards of wood and metal went everywhere, exploding in a fantastic display of force. He roared in pain and confusion, whirling about. A stallion! Another stallion, right there! “No you fool!” Luna shrieked, flailing in the debris to right herself. “He is still frenzied! He is not responsible for his actions!”
The ancestors roared and whinnied and flailed about, demanding a righteous beating. No stallion touched the princess but Aegis Shield, they roared. Hundreds of ancient voices attached to the jealousy that had been slowly building up inside him since Stalwart Hide had burst from the vault. They fanned the flame. They augmented it, flaring it up into a wild and savage jealous anger. Clenching his teeth, the first of the two lunar stallions stomped his hooves wildly. No touching! Mine! MINE! The bloodlust boiled up inside him like a volcano. The frenzied lunar stallion charged wildly at the challenger, whinnying like a madpony!
End of Part 7