Princess Luna stared at the double doors of her office, the knocking that reverberated off it startled her despite her knowing full well to expect it after summoning one of her guards. The Princess collected herself, discarding a few tissues into the wastebin before taking a deep, but very welcome, breath of air to ease her tired nerves.
The Princess had watched the sun rise and set without rest, her mind far too flooded with the loss of one of her dearest friends. All the memories she formed with him, the day of her return to Equestria, the lessons he taught, the laughs they shared, all of that was now the only thing she had left of him. While her tears had subsided, the pain still ached and would for a long time. With her initial mourning over with it was time for her to think and act. This is where she would start.
“Enter.” she commanded to the one responsible for knocking. The door quietly opened and a single Lunar Guard entered. Her dark smoky blue furred legs and body moving in a quiet fluid motion toward the center of her office. The thestral mare was a pony that was hard to not notice. It was not just because of her short spiky cut mane that resembled a hot blue flame with her dark and light blue mane streaks or because of her sharp scrutinous rich pink colored eyes, but all of that combined with the fact she was one of the tallest mares in the guard, surpassing the average stallions height by several inches.
“Ye called for me, Princess?” She bowed, her armor chinking with the sharp attentive motion. The thestral’s expression was calm but her tone was solemn.
“Sergeant Nightcaster, thank you for coming. Please, be at ease.”
The Lunar Guard looked to her left and right before simply plopping her flank down in place, answering in her signature accent. “How can I help ye Princess Luna?”
Luna noted that she must be tired with how her posture was more sunken than even her usual laid back self. Basyrr’s death was certainly on her mind. Shaking her head, Luna forced a smile. “You needn’t worry over titles and formalities.”
“Well, what is this formal name business wit me then?” She looked up to Luna, eyebrow raised in mild confusion. Her tone had changed from measured to quite an abrupt boisterous informal one that coupled with her accent well..
Luna realized she had indeed addressed her by her rank not a moment ago. “I see. Well, it was my mistake then, Emi.”
The Lunar Guard’s face twisted, a hint of rose coming to her cheeks before dropping her face into her hoof. “Prince- Luna, ye know I don’t like being called that.”
Luna smiled sincerely as she could not resist the little giggle that came from her. “My apologies, Caster. It is so often I hear it from Gale that it has become more second nature.”
Caster’s cheeks became a deeper rose color as she rolled her eyes and cross her forehooves in defiance to her statement. “Well, she be a stubborn one and I let her get away with it a wee bit sometimes. You know how she can be.”
Luna’s smile rose further as she recalled the antics the two of them could be up to in the late hours of the night. They always managed to bring a smile to her face and be among the most interesting pairs of Lunar Guards. “Quite. I am all too familiar with your interactions you both share.”
Were it any other pony else, Caster would likely return a smirk, but when Luna, Princess of the Night and Dreamwalking, says it, one can only wonder how much she knows.
“Aye...Ye could say that…” Caster felt her cheeks start to burn red while she looked about the room nervously, peeking a glance at Luna every few moments to see if the Princess knew what she might be suggesting.
Luna’s brow raised, Caster’s reaction having confused her. Perhaps they had been up to no good again or she had missed a joke. “Has something become of you two? Did the Captain catch you two playing that card game on duty once again?”
She thanked the stars Luna wasn’t the most socially perceptive pony and let out a half honest laugh. “No, no. I haven’t gotten into any trouble with Captain ‘smokey bat’ since last time.”
Luna’s expression dropped to a mild deadpan as she was reminded of the incident. “When you bludgeoned one of your fellow Lunar Guards unconscious?”
“Oi! He touched me rump like he fancied me!” She put her hooves up and gave the air a few sparring punches, having an imaginary duel with the air.
Luna had to guard herself as the corners of her mouth were tempted to curl upwards at Caster’s antics. The energy and exotic personality that Caster had made Luna appreciate having her around. She probably could have had a couple more promotions by now if not for that but then again, she might not have gotten the ones she has now if not for her willingness to take action when others would be to afraid to. Regardless, Luna had to roll her eyes and sigh. “Hopefully there will be far fewer ponies reaching for your posterior in the future. The fewer Guard in the infirmary the better. I wish to talk to you, however, about matters...”
Caster went rigid and saluted her Princess, the realization that maybe this was why she was called in, much to her worry. “My apologies my Princess. I be more than willing to accept any disciplinary action from you.”
Luna shook her head, a smile coming to her at her friend so quickly seeking forgiveness to keep her approval. “Worry not, Caster. I am not here to talk to you about accidents or mistakes made, as we are sure your superiors handle those incidents appropriately with you. Rather,it is of a much more recent matter that I wish to speak of...”
Caster relaxed some, the weight of disappointing a pony she looked up to having subsided. “Oh, thank the...yeah. I am not exactly wanting to do anymore community service again anytime soon. Captain ‘Stogie Smoke’ has some pretty twisted ideas, like helping out at a daycare or retirement home…” Despite the relief, something about Luna’s tone had her thinking it was rather important. “So, my lady, what is it that you need of me? Small talk is fun and all, but I doubt ye asked for me just fer that.”
Nodding her head solemnly, Luna looked to the floor before Caster. “Yes, of course.” Rising from her seat, the alicorn glided around her desk and eased herself onto the floor, seated next to Caster. The informality was not entirely new to the thestral but she drooped her ears beside the Princess that sat only a couple inches above herself. “I know the loss of Basyrr pains your heart just as it does mine. He was a friend of yours, and secured your citizenship here in Equestria.”
Caster nodded, her head hanging low as memories and emotions started to flood her mind. The wounds of the previous night were still quite fresh and she had been wondering how Luna had been fairing.
“He was there for me when I returned from the moon, he taught me how much had come to change, how to adjust, to fit in, and…” Luna felt her voice beginning to tremble and stopped herself momentarily to recover. “I know he was of help to you in getting on your hooves when your mishap occurred.”
Caster faintly blushed and nodded. “That he did. I never got to pay him back.”
“I think you know what he would want his last request of you to be…”
Caster was silent as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, keeping herself as composed as she could despite the memories resurfacing. “I do know…”
“I am glad for you, Caster.” Luna put a wing around her softly. “You are strong, and you care for him as much as I do.” She looked down to her and hugged her with a wing. “He trusts you. I trust you.”
Caster looked up to Luna, already knowing just what she may be building this up to. “...You believe me then? You believe what I said?”
Luna looked out the window into the night sky, her starry night decorating the darkness while her moon gave a gentle glow to the land. “You were the last pony to see Basyrr alive, and the only one to speak up about seeing a pony who didn’t belong there that night.”
“Nopony else wants to risk it saying who it was.”
“But you did, despite the infighting that it may have caused. Fear not, for only my sister and myself are aware and it shall remain so for the time being. However something must be done and I will need your help.”
Caster turned squarely to Princess Luna and bowed. “Anything, my Princess. For Basyrr, and you.”
Luna smiled and motioned for her to rise with her wing. “You must keep this to yourself and speak of it to no others. Doing so would undo all of it irreparably.”
A nod was given in reply. “I swear on me Princess, me life, and me oath that I shall not speak a word of it without your approval.”
“I accept.” Luna nodded, glad to know she understood. “Something has been happening among the castle nobility, especially the Council. Somepony else’s influence is taking hold, though before Basyrr could be more certain…” She recalled the image in her head of his body, laying at the bottom of the wall. “Somepony knew he was aware, and knew he was going to make a list.”
“A list. What was on it?” Caster asked.
Luna was quiet for a moment, thinking to herself. “It was to be a list of ponies he would recommend to the Council. Ponies and houses he knew were not going to be influenced.”
“The killer took the list?” She clopped her front hooves together, flexing some muscle with the idea that maybe she would be ‘retrieving’ this list in a manner she was quite familiar with.
“No.” Luna shook her head. “He did not get that far. There is no list and we no longer have his foresight. However, he did name one Noble House in private. One pony who might be the only one that I could trust on the Council”
Caster raised an eyebrow, curious to know, and also curious as to how she was going to tie into all this. She hoped that it was not going to be some inglorious babysitting duty.
“His name is Viktor Vanity, I need you to find him and get in touch with him, off the record and not to draw as much attention as a meeting with me directly would.”
Caster sighed internally with relief. “I can do that. Easy enough, but why me? And why not ask him to just come to the castle to talk to ye?”
“Basyrr died for merely speaking to me on the matter on a few occasions. Somepony is listening in and willing to kill for their benefit. I will take no chances and I need a pony who is committed both personally and by oath. I have known you for nearly as long as Basyrr. I know I can trust you.”
Grinning, Caster proudly stood tall and gave her a salute. “Oi, I be proud to be of service to ya my Princess.” Her heart soared with pride. “I’ll go see this feller and tell him what ya want me to.”
Luna smiled to her loyal guardsmare. “Thank you. Now, for my message to him, I ask-”
“Wait, erhm. Princess Luna.” Caster put up a hoof.
Luna raised her brow. “Yes Caster?”
“Um...Could we maybe write this down? I’m not so good with remembering big fancy elaborate messages” She forced a smile as she felt her gut nervously twist.
Luna pondered for a moment. To say Caster would be one of the less ideal choices when it came to sending a diplomatic message was an understatement, but this matter was best kept on the low down. She rose from her seat and moved to her desk, magic tugging parchment from the drawer as she prepared a quill. “Very well. I shall write my message onto a scroll. However, I do wish for you to be prepared to speak on my behalf. My primary concern is to have an audience with him...And clear up any animosity that there is between us.”
“Is this ‘Viktor’ pony not a good feller to ya? I can talk sense to em if-”
“That will be quite alright Caster. I rather you do not try to pursue anything like that with him. His feelings toward me are...quite deserved. It is I who comes from the position of having done wrong unto his family. You will need to be...apologetic, if anything.”
Caster was perturbed by this, but she had a faint idea as to what could have happen. “...Princess...Was it because of your...return from the moon?”
Luna’s quill stopped writing along the scroll, the big question having been asked. A question she carried the guilt of for quite some time for quite a number of ponies. Feelings that tore at her every night, the same nightmare that reminded her of what she did and pledged to never let herself do ever again. Taking a deep breath, she sat back in her seat as her mind toiled with reflection.
“My apologies my Princess. I shouldn’t have asked-”
“His brother and sister in law were both killed in action fighting...Nightmare Moon. Captain Keaton Reginald Vanity and Major Sinnie Horizon Vanity.” Luna’s voice had become stale and dead, recalling the names with detached emotions. “His father, Audric Reginald Vanity, was put in a coma as well. He is not expected to wake. The brother and sister in law had a 4 year old named Reginald Arthur Vanity. Viktor’s mother had passed away not too soon before it all happen due to-”
“Princess.” Caster approached the desk. “I apologise. I understand now.” She knew Luna had a lot of guilt for the things that happened on her return. Basyrr had always cautioned her against ever bringing up the subject. The last thing she wanted to do was remind her Princess of past deeds that marred her reputation. “I’ll bring him the message.”
Luna was silent as she stared at the scroll, her eyes looking deep and beyond the simple scribblings of words on it. “Thank you....I hope he will be willing to listen. He has been...reclusive ever since the event, despite previous attempts to reach out to him. Perhaps...my humble request for his assistance will help heal the wounds.”
Caster was not sure how to continue this conversation. Luna was being reflective of a painful time in the past and it was hardly something she was qualified to comfort her about, unless going to taverns late at night and getting into bar fights was acceptable for a Princess. A change in topic might be best. “So...You need him to help? How?”
Luna was already scribbling away on the scroll, eyes focused and empty as she spoke without her quill stopping. “The council cannot be trusted anymore. I need ponies that I can trust. And he is the only pony Basyrr ever said he would trust on the council before he died. I want you to meet with him, give him my message, and tell him I would like an audience with him.”
Caster was a bit surprised by the news. Not trusting the council outright was no simple thing for a Princess to say. She saluted her in acknowledgement regardless. “Yes Princess. Where should I tell him he can meet you. Someplace secret?”
Luna put her quill away and began to roll it up before sealing it with some form of magic that Caster could only guess as to how it worked. “Yes, his dreams.”
“Oh…” She blinked, having forgotten how her dream walking had many good uses beyond just seeing into dreams. “Well...Why have me be a messenger at all then? Why not just show up in his dream?”
“Knowing how Viktor feels towards me, it would be rude to invade upon his dreams without permission, and quite likely cause harm before I have even a chance to offer my apologies. I need him to accept my offer so that he is ready.” She set the scroll down on the desk before her, looking to Caster. “Do you accept?”
Caster stood proud at attention and gave her a salute. “Aye, my Princess. I do.” She swiped up the scroll and tucked it away in her armor.
Luna smiled softly in return. “Thank you Caster. Please see it done as soon as you are able. And I’m glad to see your accent is getting better.”
The Lunar Guard smirked over her shoulder, about to take her leave. “Aye, I been working at it. Nopony can hardly tell, even a wee bit.”
“I’m sure you will sound like pony worthy of Sireland in no time at all.”
Caster opened the doors of Luna’s office to make her exist. “Oi, they won’t have no idea once they get ta know me. I’ll be returning to ya with the good news.”
“Thank you again Caster. May the night be your shield.” said Luna. Once the doors closed she let out a long sigh and laid over her desk. These last few days were going to be difficult, if not testing of her emotional capacity.
“Oh Basyrr, if only I could have kept you safe…”