For a two full weeks, I was acting sergeant. Even after the temporary replacements went home, I held onto the title. The flu had hit Sergeant Windchaser particularly hard and the captain saw it fit for me to continue on. I thought it would be awkward being responsible for my peers, but nopony seemed to have an issue with it. They did their job, and I did mine… well, Sergeant Windchaser’s.
As a reward for my hard work and dedication, I was given a few mandatory days off. The captain was worried I had worked myself too hard. The sergeant even tore up my note about sleeping. “Extraordinary circumstances,” she had said before commending me for my honesty. Oh well, I could see their point.
I was standing guard quietly in Princess Luna’s chambers the day before my mandatory vacation was to start. She was excited and antsy. For most of the day she had been pacing and finally she said, “Silent Knight, we cannot wait for the morrow's eve!”
“Tomorrow is Nightmare Night. We have decided that we shall grace the citizens of Ponyville with our royal presence and show them we are not to be feared,” she exclaimed loudly.
Tomorrow? No, tomorrow I wasn’t on duty. She couldn’t go without me. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust the other house guards. I did. They weren’t me, though.
I was sidelined when Princess Luna wanted to go out! “Tomorrow, Princess? Perhaps it can be delayed until next week?” I suggested.
Princess Luna looked at me strangely. “The day has not changed in many decades, Silent Knight. Didst thou not celebrate it?”
“No, Princess,” I replied. My father thought it was frivolous and best left for the 'simple Ponyville farmers,' but I didn't volunteer that information.
“Then thou shouldst celebrate this year! Go forth on thy vacation and enjoy,” she declared.
“Yes, Princess,” was my reply and I meant it. That was exactly what I’d do.
“You want to WHAT?!” Iridescence asked as if I was crazy.
I repeated the plan calmly, “Disguise myself, infiltrate Ponyville, and keep an eye on Princess Luna to ensure she is safe on Nightmare Night.”
“On your MANDATORY vacation,” Iridescence reminded me.
“The princess said to go and celebrate. I choose to do so in Ponyville where I can keep an eye on her. Will you help disguise me or not?”
Iridescence frowned at me and then sighed. “Fine… I’m on duty here anyway so it isn’t like we could spend time together.” She went to her foot locker and pulled out a potion.
My eyes narrowed. “What is that?” I asked.
Pulling the cork out with her teeth, my very special somepony said, “The potion that turned you into a mare. What could be a better disguise?”
She had a valid point. Very few people would recognize Silent Dame. “It only lasted six hours last time. I need it to last all night.”
“Runic reworked it. It should last until you take the antidote.”
I nodded and then paused. “Wait. Why do you have this?”
Iridescence waved a hoof at me and replied, “No reason! Mind your business.” She flicked some of the potion onto my face. Then she gasped and covered her mouth.
“Am I a mare?” I asked.
“No…” Iridescence said, trying not to laugh.
I looked in Iridescence's hoofmirror and thought, “Runic my friend, you and I are going to have a talk.” My face was pink and the color was spreading through my whole coat. I was still a stallion but now I was pink. I looked like a cotton candy Silent Knight. “This does not work for me.”
The laughing started then. I went to the water basin and tried to wash the color off. That didn’t work. Iridescence kept laughing but was ultimately helpful. She took an old sheet from her trunk, used a letter opener to cut out two eyeholes, and threw it over me.
“Good enough?” she asked.
“I guess. Now I’m as under cover as I can be.” Lightly, I pressed my sheet-covered nose to hers and added, “I’m off to protect the princess. Don’t wait up.” I ran out into the hall and headed for the train station. I would be there before the princess and she would never know.
Ponyville was in full swing for Nightmare Night. Evidently the local ponies took their holiday very seriously. I walked alongside the hay ride to scout the area. It was hard to tell who was out of place when everypony was dressed in costume. One particular pony looked suspicious. He was dressed like a ninja and kept staring at me. Was my cover blown?
The stallion approached me and I shifted my weight onto my back legs so that I could leap into action.
“Would you like to dance?” he asked.
Oh… Oh, that was not what I had expected. Not at all… but blending in was important. I nodded at him and he led me to the open area in front of the stage.
I’m not much of a dancer, but my commitment to my disguise allowed me to hold my own. I bopped up and down under my sheet while he asked me if I was from Ponyville and other similar questions. All of my answers were in the form of yes or no via nod or shake. He seemed okay with that. Once the dance was done I excused myself and headed back on patrol.
One pegasus pony was pushing around a storm cloud and scaring others with thunder and lightning. She thought it was funny and, in general, it was harmless, so I let it slide. It was also around that time that the local mayor gave an address. Everypony collected in front of the stage. Looking around, I spotted two other ponies dressed identically to me. That just seemed lazy.
On stage the mayor greeted everypony and introduced a zebra named Zecora. Zecora, it seemed, was going to tell the legend of Nightmare Moon. She related the story and I couldn’t help feeling it was in bad taste. Nightmare Moon was gone and Princess Luna was a far different pony.
Of course, I realize that it was only a story meant to frighten foals into going easy on the candy and I couldn’t fault pony parents for that. I just wish they had come up with something new.
The tale winded on and Zecora walked us all out into the nearby forest. To my surprise, some ponies had built a monument to Nightmare Moon. That seemed silly to me but I guess they really took the holiday seriously.
Thankfully the princess missed the retelling and just as it ended she arrived on her chariot in grand fashion. She was shrouded in a robe and had two guards pulling her. They were dressed up like vampire fruit bats in what I can only imagine as an attempt to be festive for the evening. The costumes were clever but, again, this didn’t seem to further the impression that Princess Luna wasn’t Nightmare Moon.
The ponies of Ponnyville and I hurriedly followed the chariot back into town. We arrived just in time to see Princess Luna leap from it. To my surprise, the two guards pulling it simply flew on without her. The princess was alone! I would speak to them later about that but thank Celestia I was there.
The ponies of Ponyville knelt immediately and I followed suit. It would have been too obvious if I remained at attention. It may be disrespectful to say but, in my opinion, Princess Luna came on a bit strong.
In a loud, royal Canterlot addressing tone, the princess declared, “Citizens of Ponyville! We have graced your tiny village with our presence so that you might behold the real Princess of the Night! A creature of nightmare no longer, but instead a pony who deserves your love and admiration! Together we shall change this dreadful celebration into a bright and glorious feast!”
“Oh, Princess...” I thought.
A pink pony dressed as a chicken shouted something and all of the foals ran away screaming. My eyes narrowed. I recognized that pink pony: she was the one with a cannon at the Gala.
That caught Princess Luna’s attention and she exclaimed, “What!? No, children, no! You no longer have reason to fear us! Screams of delight is what your princess desires, not screams of terror.”
Even I could tell that this particular event wasn’t going to go wonderfully. The ponies were still cowering as Princess Luna offered them her hoof. Even the mayor was too frightened to speak.
“Very well, then! Be that way! We won’t even bother with the royal Canterlot farewell!” Princess Luna said before storming off.
Another pony, dressed as Star Swirl the Bearded, followed after her. I got up from my position and tailed her at a safe distance.
Creeping along in the bushes while under a sheet is not easy. Iridescence was the stealthy pony, not me. I was close enough to keep an eye on the princess but slightly out of earshot. The two conversed and at one point I heard the princess say the name “Twilight Sparkle.” Wasn’t that the captain’s sister?
The princess started to float and her voice carried through the area. “It was thee who unleashed the powers of harmony upon us and banished our dark powers.” Then she was quiet again.
It went on like that for a bit longer before the pair headed off. I followed as quietly as I could. We all ended up outside a cottage on the outskirts of town.
To my surprise, Twilight Sparkle pulled a yellow pegasus mare from the home. It was the same one that had been on the poster at the train station.
She was clearly terrified of the princess. The goal seemed to be training Princess Luna to speak quietly and it was making my job even more difficult.
From over my shoulder, I heard the sounds of the chicken-clad pink pony approaching with all of the foals. My eyes narrowed. She was the ring leader. If I could take her out, the princess might have had a chance of blending in. I shifted in the bushes, ready to pounce.
She must have sensed me because she screamed and ran off, taking two foals with her.
Behind them, Princess Luna shouted, “Nay, children, wait!” and then looked sad once more.
It hurt me to see her like that. I knew that it was time for me to take the chicken out of the equation. I hated to leave the princess alone, but she was in the care of the mare I believed to be the captain’s sister. Carefully, I backed out of the bush I was hiding in and made my way back to town.
I moved quietly along the alleys between the houses of Ponyville until I could get a good view of the village square and the festivities. This needed to be a quick snatch and subdue. I was going a little outside of the manual, but royal guards learn to defend against this sort of attack. It also made us experts on how to carry them out.
The chicken was going door to door begging for candy, surrounded by her posse of foals. Extracting her would be a challenge. I pressed myself up against the wall of a house and hid in the shadows. A distraction was exactly what I needed, something to get everypony’s attention right when the chicken passed by the opening of the alley.
It was right around that time when Princess Luna returned with Twilight Sparkle. As expected, the villagers fell to the ground before the princess. This was my chance to grab the chicken. When I turned to look for her, she had somehow moved from the house next to me to one down the street. Nopony moves that fast.
My plan would need to be adjusted… or so I thought. Something had suddenly changed. Princess Luna was happy and the ponies didn't seem to fear her. I crept out from my hiding place and blended back into the crowd. She was having fun! Everything seemed to be getting on the right hoof.
“I ask that thou call us... me... Luna, fair Applejack. Hear me, villagers! All of you! Call me Luna!” she declared.
Call her Luna? That was a high level of familiarity, but the princess was allowed to make such decisions. In my mind, it was better familiarity than fear. There were smiles all around and I relaxed. “What could go wrong?” I thought and immediately regretted it.
The colt that was dressed as a pirate tipped forwards and almost fell into the apple bobbing tank. Princess Luna saw the danger and rescued him. Only instead of sighs of relief we were again met with the shrieks of the chicken. Celestia take that chicken!
The fragile bonds between the princess and her subjects broke down at that point and chaos reigned. Ponies ran in all directions with little regard for caution. It was the Gala all over again. The difference this time was Princess Luna and I were in the middle of it. I started to push my way through the crowd towards her. If I could get to her side, I could protect her.
It seemed my services would not be required that night. Protecting an alicorn princess is not exactly the same as protecting anypony else. We treat them the same and sometimes it is easy to forget that they wield seemingly endless power. Princess Luna demonstrated that. Lighting arched across the sky and her voice echoed in my very soul.
Everypony was immediately compelled to stop and kneel before the princess. Despite all of my training, even I found myself on the ground without a second thought. It was an impressive feat of magic.
Princess Luna was swift and direct with her decree: Nightmare Night was canceled forever and she was leaving. It was not the outcome I had expected, but I didn’t blame her. This night was a reminder of her dark times.
The ponies of Ponyville were picking themselves up, their expressions a mixture of sadness, fear, and confusion. I looked on, angry that the chicken’s actions had offended the princess. Alicorn or not, she had feelings, too.
I turned to go and find the princess, but it seemed Twilight Sparkle had beat me to the task. Perhaps she would be better able to handle the situation. Mare to mare. Talking pony to talking pony.
I lingered in town and casually helped straighten things up a bit. The amount of damage that the ponies had wrought in such a short period of time was shocking. These ponies didn’t do anything halfway. They also looked miserable as they went about the task of cleaning. What an awful night.
In the distance, I swore I could hear the sound of the chicken squawking, mocking me and my Princess of the Night. “Squawk on, chicken,” I muttered under my sheet. “One day we will have a go.”
The mayor and Zecora started consoling the foals and advised that perhaps a candy offering could turn the night around. I doubted some sugary treats could improve the princess’s mood, but it wouldn’t have been the first time I had been wrong.
By some miracle, Princess Luna, Twilight Sparkle, the chicken, and all the foals returned to town not long later and the celebration was back on. From that point onwards, the evening went perfectly. The princess played games, smashed gourds, and even enjoyed some pranks. I loosened up, too, and danced with that stallion again. Don’t judge; I was on vacation and he kept asking.
Everything went great until it was time to call it an evening. I turned to head towards the train station and catch the overnight express. Princess Luna had been behind me and was now blocking my path. Casually, I moved to go around her and she said in a new, softer, but no less commanding voice, “Silent Knight.”
I wasn’t Silent Knight right then. I was a pink pony dressed as a ghost. All I had to do was pretend I was acting out the role of a ghost and stay in character. It was a brilliant plan. Now to just get into character— “Yes, Princess,” I said. Stupid, honest mouth! We would have been fine.
“Pink is not thy color.”
“Yes, Princess,” I said softly. She was right, of course. I had not meant to be pink. That was Runic’s mistake. I wonder if she would have known it was me if the potion had worked correctly.
“Dost thou need a ride home?”
“Yes, Princess.” I wasn’t sure if what I had done had broken the rules. Princess Luna didn’t seem upset.
The other two royal guards arrived with her chariot and we got on. She went first, of course. My sheet came off and I sat as proudly as I could with my pink coat. Once we were airborne and halfway home, she turned and suddenly hugged me. It was shocking but sweet, and I hugged her back.
“Thou art most kind to have been so concerned about us that thou camest here,” she said.
I smiled. “I promised I’d always be in your corner, Princess.”
She smiled brightly back and corrected, “Luna.”
I repeated, “I’ll always be in your corner, Princess Luna.”
She shook her head, looked me in the eyes, and pronounced it slower. “Loooonuh.”
“Princess Loooonuh,” I repeated exactly.
The princess sat up and said, “Thou frustratest us,” but kept a wing around me for the ride home.