There was nothing. I took a deep breath and leaped through the door ready for a fight… but no attack came and I felt foolish. Foolish, but not foolish enough to lower my guard as I looked around. Rich purple carpet covered the stone floor and was still in relatively good shape. It ran into the various narrow halls that shot off each side of the foyer. In front of me were two curved staircases that led up to a balcony and I chose that path first.
Both staircases were in the shadow of the large balcony above. It jutted out over the foyer and was likely designed to allow a noble to address those below. It also resulted in the trip up being somewhat blind and that raised my hackles again. When I reached the halfway point on the stairs, it suddenly dawned on me that there was a soft light emanating from above. It wasn’t intense, but it was there.
Light but no sound. I lowered my stance just slightly and crept up until I reached the top. A couple of meters in front of me was a large pillar that I couldn't see around. Light spilled out from the opposite side of it as if it framed a window. That light illuminated two large marble thrones that overlooked the foyer below. They were far nicer than the one Princess Celestia occupied in Canterlot.
For the second time, I felt a wave of fear. Why did this place have thrones? Did someone rule from here? Was Princess Luna concerned that they were coming back? The mission felt suddenly more important… and dangerous. I wanted to see what was on the other side of the pillar. I needed to.
I gave the pillar a wide berth as I crept around it. More light poured out onto the floor and I hesitated stepping into it. Keeping my head down, I carefully tested the light. It was neither warm nor dangerous. I stepped into it and looked up.
Vaguely, I heard the sword clatter onto the floor as my mouth opened wide in awe. My legs weakened and on instinct alone I prostrated myself as I looked onwards at the brilliance beyond the pillar.
This was, in fact, a window. A stained glass window the likes of which I had never seen. It put all of the windows in the palace to shame. By comparison, they were nothing more than colored glass… meaningless.
In the center of this wonder, she stood proudly: a dark purple alicorn more imposing than Princess Celestia. Her mane and tail were painted with the evening heavens in the same way Princess Luna’s were and on her flank was a perfect full moon surrounded by stars.
Even though I knew it was just glass, it was as if I was in her actual presence. Perfect, deep blue eyes stared directly into my soul. The light—all of it—radiated from the alicorn figure. A self-illuminating window. She was awesome to behold… and not the ‘awesome’ we throw around casually. Awesome in the way ponies of old used the word. She inspired in me an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, and fear.
Compared to her, I was nothing. Compared to her, we were all nothing. Nopony could stand in her presence… except one. I suddenly realized there was another pony in the stained glass. It took all of my effort but I tore my eyes from the alicorn to look at the other pony. A foal or a filly. Tiny by comparison. She was a deep blue unicorn with a smattering of black on her flank. Black that surrounded a crescent moon.
“Luna!” I gasped.
What had I seen? I fumbled on the floor for my sword and hurriedly sheathed it. Backing away respectfully, I crawled down the stairs. Once all traces of the light were gone, the grip on my soul released. This dark alicorn was too powerful. I put a hoof on a wall to stabilize myself. My coat was covered in sweat and my breathing had turned ragged.
What sort of magic was this? Who was she? How could a stained glass window have such power? I felt my chest tighten as fear washed over me. It couldn’t be any ordinary window. Canterlot was full of them and I had looked at them more times than I could count. This was different.
As I stumbled out of the keep, I looked around with new eyes. She must have done this. Everything was in shambles yet her window was pristine. That meant she was still here. Her presence had to have been what I had felt. And now she knew I was here, too.
I had seen all I needed to see and I wanted out of the crypt. With little regard to being quiet, I galloped out of the keep and leaped into the air. Flying would be faster. I zipped down the main street and into the winding hallway that I knew would take me out. What was probably minutes felt like hours when I finally burst out into the moonlight.
My landing outside the cavern was not graceful. I crashed onto the platform, sputtering and shivering. Rest wasn’t on my mind, however. It took a second to find my helmet and get it on before I started pumping my wings. I had to get back to Princess Luna and warn her immediately about this magic. We were all in danger!
There wasn’t any time to go through the gate. The princess had to be warned! I flew to the balcony of Princess Luna’s chambers. The great glass doors were open and I zipped through them... and the invisible spell that kept out intruders. Only the princess and her royal guards were keyed for it.
I had too much momentum and tried to pull back as best I could. It wasn’t enough and resulted in a rough, loud landing as I crashed into the princess’s sitting area.
“Intruder!” Lavender called before bursting into the chamber and charging at me. Risky was hot on her heels.
“Intruder?” It was here already?! I turned, ready to fight just as Lavender leaped at me. What was she doing?!
My instincts kicked in and I ducked out of the way. I took her by the forehoof and used her momentum to topple her onto the ground.
Risky took a wild swing at me and I dodged. He got a one-two right in the helmet.
“What are you two doing?!” I managed to get out before Lavender jumped onto my back. She had her hooves around my neck to subdue me. Tucking my head in close, I bucked several times and finally tossed her over me and back onto the ground.
Everything stopped and the lights came on. Princess Luna was standing in the door of her bedroom.
Lavender and Risky Storm stared at me in surprise.
“Sergeant?” Lavender asked, her eyes going wide.
“Of course, can’t you see—” I stopped. Of course she couldn’t. I could see in the dark. She couldn’t. “I’m sorry. You two did excellent on this little test. Please, take up position outside and uh… Risky, go see the medic. You’re bleeding.”
The pair looked at me like I was crazy. Then they looked at Princess Luna. She nodded and they left. Once they were gone, the adrenaline wore off and the shivers started once more, forcing me to kneel.
“Silent Knight! What is the matter? What didst thou see?” Princess Luna asked as she hurried over to me and pulled my helmet off. She cupped my face with a hoof.
“Gone… They were all gone. Nothing left but rotting, empty houses bathed in silence and gloom.” My breathing became easier as the princess held me. The fear was starting to subside.
I continued, “There was a keep and inside I found a stained glass window… it was so lifelike I thought I was staring at real ponies. You were on it with a purple alicorn.”
Princess Luna froze and stared down at me. My words lingered in the air before she finally stroked my mane. “It scared thee?”
“Terrified,” I admitted. “Is she dangerous?”
“Nay. I promise thee she is not dangerous. What thou art feeling… it is a control magic of sorts.” She shook her head. "I can’t explain it other than to say that it will pass. Thou art in no real danger, I swear. Relax and breathe,” she soothed.
“Who is she? You were a unicorn?”
The princess leaned down and kissed my forehead. “Some secrets are best left buried, Silent Knight.” She then fixed me with her eyes. “Thou art not to speak of this to anypony. Give me thy word.”
What was the princess trying to hide? Anypony meant everypony. Including Princess Celestia. Princess Luna never lied to her sister that I knew of… but I had to trust her. I was her protector and what did I know? “You have my word that I will not repeat it unless I believe it to be a danger to us all.”
She nodded and helped me up. "That will do. I can assure you, there is no danger."
Then she fidgeted. With a sigh, she asked, “Were there many bodies? Were they well cared for?”
I blinked in confusion, the haze of the magic starting to wane. “Bodies? No, Princess. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean gone as in departed, I meant gone as in… departed.” I made a motion with my forehooves to mime walking away and leaving.
In her eyes, I saw a glimmer of hope and her expression changed briefly to joy before evening out. “None? No bodies, no bones?”
“No. Whoever lived there had clearly moved away. They left nothing but what was too big to carry.”
Princess Luna brought a hoof to her mouth, tears in her eyes. “They left.” Her tone was joyous. “They left!” she repeated happily before hugging me. “Thank thee. I know that this was difficult but thine action hath brought me great joy. Go and rest, Silent Knight. I give my word that by tomorrow, thou wilt feel as normal.”
“Of course, Princess. Will there be anything else?”
She shook her head. “Nay. Get some rest.”
“Yes, Princess,” I said before I bowed and headed for home.
By the time I reached my room, I was feeling almost completely normal again. Unfortunately, even as the effects of the magic were wearing off, the reality of what I had seen was starting to set in. That place had been some kind of pony village. Probably pegasi and they had an alicorn. An alicorn that dwarfed the ones I knew. There were too many questions and zero answers.
As quietly as I could, I shut the door and removed my armor. Winterspear barely moved in her bed. She was a sound sleeper. I went over to my bunk and turned the sheet back. Another shiver went down my spine and I couldn’t get in.
Princess Luna had been a unicorn. A regular pony. Just like Crystal Wishes, Winterspear, Iridescence, or Sunny Day.
I turned and crawled into bed with Winterspear. That woke her up and through the haze of half sleep she asked, “Whatcha doin’?”
“Okay.” She looped her hooves around me and nestled to my back.
Taking the sheet in my mouth, I pulled it up and over our shoulders before I settled in. It took less than a minute for her to fall back asleep.
The sun would be up pretty soon and I had duty. I trusted in Princess Luna. I’d be fine in the morning and I would hopefully never again have to speak about what I'd seen.
Morning came awfully quick and I stretched out in Winterspear’s bunk. She was still asleep against my back. How that pony slept as soundly as she did, I’d never know. My mind was clear and, true to Princess Luna’s word, I felt like myself again. Yes, I had questions but they were rational now.
Slowly, I rolled over and nuzzled my sister. “Hey, lazy. The sun is up. Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
My reward was a hoof covering my face. “Shhh. If you’re really quiet, it will be like you’re not here.”
“Okay. Well, I’m getting up. If you get up, too, we could have breakfast together. I’ll buy.”
“You don’t pay at the mess hall, Silent Knight.” She pretended to be cross but she was moving.
“Actually, since we’re both up early enough, I wanted to take you to this great place I heard about from Miley Hooves. The breakfast menu looked awfully tempting when we had lunch there.”
Winterspear got up and started to brush her coat into place. “What is the occasion?”
My response was a shrug. “I don’t need one for my own family, do I?”
“I suppose not. Let’s get going, then!”