It was a rather novel experience waking up while flying through the air. I had only experienced it once before, and yet it already seemed to be a familiar sensation. The ear-splitting shriek that echoed around the room, however, was a new one for me, making my bone-grinding impact with the wall all the more uncomfortable thanks to the massive headache the high tone caused behind my skull.
I grunted as I fell to the ground, my vision swimming and my lungs refusing to work as I stared across the room upside down. Two things were made abundantly clear once my sight cleared of spots, Princess Luna was sitting bolt upright in her bed and she was not happy with me in the slightest. She had the sheets pulled up to her chest as her horn stopped glowing, the effects of her telekinetic blast fading from the room as her look of mortification slowly faded into confusion and anger.
Her wrath, fortunately, was brought to a grinding halt as a white nova burst into being in the center of the room, fading to reveal a very agitated Celestia, her horn charged and her eyes roaming around the room as she searched for possible threats.
“Sister,” she cried as her wings flared and she fell into a fighting stance, “what is wrong? Are you under attack?”
I remained where I was, trying my best to melt into the floor as I watched the scene unfold from my unique perspective. What I was not expecting, was for Luna’s rage to immediately revert to mortified shock as her cheeks flushed a deep purple. I lifted one eyebrow in interest, noticing that Celestia had seemed to come to the understanding that Luna was not in immediate danger. She straightened and cleared her throat, her gaze now moving across the room with a calm and penetrating gaze. She paused as her eyes fell onto my crumpled form, moving up from my body to the cracks that spider-webbed out from my point of impact about halfway up the wall.
She turned back to Luna, who had yet to stop blushing, and tilted her head to the side as she addressed her sister, “Do I need to ask why your personal guard is lying in a heap against the wall?”
Luna hid her head under the sheets, my lips curling into a grin as I realized that it was that was making her act this way. While Luna might find it shocking and insubordinate that I had climbed into her bed without her permission, Celestia would see it in a completely different light, especially with the image of Moon Blaze sitting right next to the bed and in plain sight.
I grunted as I rolled upright to let the blood flow away from my head, trying my best not to laugh at the situation. If Luna had wanted to, she would have ratted me out to her sister in a heartbeat, maybe even have me arrested for assaulting her in her sleep. The fact that she hadn’t meant that she knew the same thing I did, and had enough feelings directed towards me that she didn’t want to risk letting her sister find out. After all, they might be the rulers of a nation, but they were still ponies. And if I knew one thing, it was that ponies loved to assume things when there was nothing more than circumstantial proof, given how often those instinctual moments of clairvoyance seemed to be completely accurate. It seemed the Princess of the Night cared for her newest guard more than she let on, and felt the need to hide that fact from her sister in the hopes it would remain a secret.
Celestia looked from the lump that was her sister to me and back again several times, her gaze switching from questioning to confused as she tried to figure out what had happened. She turned to me and spread her wings, her royal demeanor coming back full force as she spoke.
“Captain Silver Shield, what happened in here to make my sister cry out like she was in the jaws of a Timberwolf?” Her penetrating gaze held me captive as I pushed myself to my hooves, although I took a moment to glance at the bed. Sure enough, Luna had peaked over her sheets and was staring at me with wide eyes.
I could imagine she was thinking of all the things I could say that would destroy the flimsy shield she had erected between her sister and the situation, but I felt like a bit of mercy was in order. After all, if I wanted this mission to be a complete success, I needed her to develop those feelings to fruition, not have them crushed in their infancy by her teasing older sister.
I turned back to the solar diarch and spoke with the most level tone I could muster, “Forgive me Your Highness, but I believe that this entire situation is my fault. I saw that Princess Luna was having a bad dream, so I did my best to wake her up.” I glanced over my shoulder at the damaged wall for effect, “It would seem that my actions were a bit too successful.” I returned my gaze to Celestia as her eyes rolled up in exasperation, “Please do not berate your sister on my behalf, for it was my own actions that caused this whole situation.”
“That does not excuse her use of extreme force when her own dreams are the root cause,” she countered, casting a glare over her shoulder at Luna. “She must remember that mortal ponies are not as sturdy as we, and as such, she must take care not to harm anypony, even when gripped by the terrors of sleep.” She huffed as she walked up to the door, using her magic to throw it open, lock or no lock, and walked out with her head held high as her the sun began to set.
We stood still for a moment after her exit, Luna’s horn lighting as the moon rose behind the mountains as the night began. However, that calm was shattered the moment she opened her mouth to speak.
“Would you mind explaining why I woke up to find you in my bed and your hooves wrapped around my body?” The sheets had been tossed aside as she stood up, her gaze firm with controlled anger as she walked up to tower over me, “Explain yourself right now or I will have my sister come back and chain your sorry hide to the wall.”
I dusted myself off, readjusting my armor before locking gazes with her, “I wasn’t lying when I said you were having a bad dream. I did the only thing I could think of and comforted you while you slept. I don’t know what the daymare was about, but as soon as you grabbed me around my barrel you calmed down.” Her eyes widened and I couldn’t help the grin that crossed my face, “Oh make no mistake Your Highness, I may have climbed into your bed to comfort you, but it was you who grabbed onto me like your life depended on it. You even spoke in your sleep, although you might not like it if I told you what you said.”
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, “And what, pray tell, did I supposedly say while gripping onto your body like a helpless filly?”
My grin widened as I leaned in close and whispered into her ear, “Take a look at the image on your dresser. The stallion you are sitting with apparently made an appearance in your chambers to comfort you while you slept.”
One eyebrow rose as she turned to look, although as her gaze fell upon the faded image next to her bed, they widened in complete shock as understanding flashed in their depths. The majority of her head and neck turned a deep purple as she turned back to me, her mouth opening and closing as she tried to find the words to respond.
I couldn’t help the one last tease, placing one hoof on my chin as I looked towards the ceiling, “Now what was it you said? Oh yes, I remember.” I put on a fake loving expression, doing my worst imitation of her voice as I spoke, “Oh, Moon Blaze, how I love thee. Hold me close and never let me go so that I may love you for all time.”
I would have gone on, had Luna not planted both hooves over my mouth and shushed me, her body a solid purple from the shoulders up, “Alright, no more, I beg you. I couldn’t bare it if my sister happened to hear you.”
I nodded, my lips still curled in a grin as she pulled back, hiding her mortified face behind her mane and tucking her tail between her legs. My grin quickly faded as her embarrassment faded into something darker, and I quickly stepped forward as her shoulders began to shake. I could imagine a thousand ways this could go wrong, but I hoped it would work out in the end. So, I wrapped my hooves around her shoulders as she cried, shushing her gently as she instinctively copied my action. She buried her muzzle in the crook of my neck as her tears ran down my armor, and I did my best to just be there for her as all of her twisted emotions ran their course. I could clearly sense almost a dozen different feeling coursing through her mind like a hurricane, and I tried not to let myself feel ill, given the majority of them were not so positive in nature.
Finally, after about five minutes, she got herself under control. She pulled back and cleared her throat, wiping her red-rimmed eyes with one hoof as she met my gaze, “Thank you Silver Shield. This night has not gone exactly as I was planning it to go, and after what had just happened I was not in a clear state of mind.”
I nodded, keeping my face blank of any reaction to her current state, “It was my duty, as I am supposed to protect you from any and all threats.” I let a small smile grace my muzzle as I wiped a stray tear from her cheek, “Even threats you cause yourself.”
She giggled slightly, the sound slightly hoarse as she stood up fully once more, “That is true, and I thank you once more. You could have caused me a great deal of shame and personal suffering if you had told Celestia the real reason you almost made a hole in my wall.” She winced as she glanced behind me at the sizable dent in the masonry my body had made, “Sorry about that by the way.”
I shrugged my wing bases and waved it off with a hoof, “No harm done, and I kind of deserved it after climbing into your bed without your permission.” I rubbed the back of my head with a hoof, “Yeah, not my brightest idea.”
A small smile warmed the negative cloud that had settled over Luna’s features, “While that may be true, you did save me from a terrible dream, although I do not remember its exact details now that my mind has been so perfectly distracted.”
I bowed, flaring my wings as I looked up at her, “I am here to serve you Princess, just say the word and it shall be done.”
She lifted one eyebrow in a fake mocking manner, “I thought we already had our conversation concerning your form of address when we are alone?”
I smiled as I stood straight once again, “I know, I just like pulling your tail to make you smile.”
She giggled for real this time, swatting me playfully over the head with one wing, “Then you had best come up with a better way of doing it. The joke is starting to get stale in its current form.”
I laughed as I picked up my helm and placed it back on my head, thankful the metal had been there to take the brunt of the blow when Luna had so graciously tried to put me through to the next room.
“Whatever you say Luna.” I said as we exited the room, “I live to serve you, and your words are my binding law until the day I die.”
She rolled her eyes as we made our way into her lab once more, “Must you always be so impertinent?”
I lifted my chin and put on my most haughty air, “It’s part of my charm to be a thorn in everypony’s side. I find it keeps things fresh and makes it so that my jokes never fall flat.”
She stifled a laugh with a deep sigh, “It seems that I can’t get a straight answer from you even when I want to.” She paused to rotate a knob on one of her many mechanical devices before turning back to me, “Before we begin our activities for tonight, I do have one question for you, and you must answer me without your usual cocky mannerisms.”
I nodded, my hooves hovering over the controls as I focused my attention on her. If she was telling me to put aside my usual goofy attitude, then her question had to be important.
She seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if unsure of how to ask, “What do you think of me, not as a princess, but as a pony? What am I to you?”
Well that was a loaded question if I had ever heard one, two in fact. I glanced down at the knobs and levers before me, taking a moment to think this through. I could simply confess my so-called feelings for her, but that was probably not a good idea, given the mess we had just gone through. A respectful comment about her being everything a pony should be wouldn’t fly either, given idle flattery was sure to annoy her instead of make her feel important. That left me with an option that would be a mix of both, but would have to be done absolutely perfectly in order to work. Luna was almost as good as Celestia when it came to picking out lies, so I had to actually mean what I said or she wouldn’t believe me.
I turned back towards her, finding that her eyes had not left me during my moment of thought. “I think you are one of the most interesting ponies I’ve ever met. You care about others and yet have difficulty letting them care for you. You feel the guilt of your past mistakes even when everypony has forgiven you for them. It puzzles me why you would do this, and yet it makes you unique among the citizens of Equestria, and not because of your rank or your abilities as an alicorn.”
I paused, noting that she was paying close attention to my words, “While I cannot say one way or the other if you feel you deserve your self-induced solitude, I will say that it is something I feel is not to your benefit or to that of Equestria as a whole. You are a beautiful mare with a mind as sharp as any sword, and enough heart to fill this entire castle to the brim if you would let others see it. I know it is not my place to say what you should and should not do, but I think you have a right to happiness, just as every pony deserves to share their happiness with you. You need only show them the Luna that I know so well, and I swear to you that everypony you meet would do anything they could to make that dream a reality.”
She let the silence hang for a moment after I stopped speaking, her eyes searching my own for something I couldn’t explain. After a minute or two she finally nodded, smiling as she picked up her clipboard and quill, “Thank you for the kind words Silver Shield. I will take them to heart and try to be more forgiving of myself. The stars only know I have blamed myself for so long for the horrors I committed as Nightmare Moon.”
She looked into the eyepiece and I started to move the enormous telescope towards the piece of sky she indicated. By now I didn’t need verbal instruction. She need only point with her quill in the direction I needed to move the brass behemoth and my hooves would act of their own accord. For an hour or so we conducted the usual nightly observations, but as the time passed an idea began to form in my mind.
I waited until Luna pulled away from the eyepiece to take a moment before asking, “Luna?” She glanced at me and nodded as she took a sip of her hot tea, “Have you ever spent time during the night outside the castle?”
One eyebrow rose in a questioning manner as she placed her cup back on its saucer, “What do you mean? What is there to do outside the castle at night other than fly about and look at the sky? Ponies have always slept through my night, and that lack of admiration was the root cause of my fall into darkness so long ago. Why do you ask?”
I withheld my grin as I came to realize how out of the loop she was concerning daily life of modern ponies, “Oh you would be surprised what ponies do after dark. I know of a place that would be a blast to visit after the moon has risen. Perhaps we could take some time tomorrow night away from your observations so we could go and have some fun?”
She seemed drawn to my words like a moth to a flame, “What would you have in mind? What do ponies do after dark that could possibly be so exciting?”
My devious grin managed to break free at her question, my imagination running wild at the possibilities that had just been presented before me, “Oh I wouldn’t dare ruin the surprise Luna, not when the only way to truly express the experience is to have it for yourself.”
She bounced from hoof to hoof and let out a whine very unbecoming of a princess. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed her of acting like a filly in front of somepony besides her sister. Yet there she was, acting like a foal that wanted to have a cookie that she wasn’t allowed to have.
“Oh do not torture me with such ideas,” she replied in a high tone, sounding like she had regressed to the age of five, “you’re only making me want to stop tonight’s work and go now.”
I shook my head, feeling oddly like her father as I turned back to the controls, “We have more stuff to do after we finish with our work here. It will be a long excursion into the city and we do not have the time to do so now. Otherwise you’ll miss your dream walking work in the early hours of the morning, and I will not allow you to put aside your responsibilities to have fun on the town.”
She stuck out her bottom lip in a pout that made my nonexistent heart want to melt, “But I want to have fun with the other ponies at night. It has been over a thousand years since I could enjoy a night activity.”
I rolled my eyes, “For the last time no, we can’t do it tonight so we have to wait for tomorrow. I give you my word that we will go as soon as you raise the moon, but not a moment earlier. Is that alright with you?”
In an instant her childish expression changed back into her usual calm demeanor, “Very well, we shall venture into the city tomorrow night.”
She winked at me as she picked up her clipboard and quill and returned to her post, “Enjoy the fact that you are one of the few who have seen me like that. Although I don’t think Tia has ever gotten me to beg for something before. Count yourself honored to be the first to have ever made Princess Luna lower herself to such a level as to plead like a filly for a treat.”
I smiled as I winked back, “Oh don’t worry Luna, I intend to make use of that fact later, if only to embarrass you in front of your sister.”
Her eyes widened on horror, “You wouldn’t dare.”
I smirked as I returned to my work, “Oh wouldn’t I?”
She groaned as she turned her attention back to the eyepiece, “You are going to be the death of me Captain.”
“But you love me for it anyway.” I countered, “Just remember not to tick me off, and I wouldn’t have to share this little exchange with somepony who might tease you for it.”
Another groan was my only reply, and I chuckled as we returned to our studies of the sky. I had a feeling tomorrow was going to be quite exciting, and if Luna’s naiveté was anything to go by, it could very well prove to be useful in the completion of my mission. While I didn’t hate working with her all night and guarding her during the day, I still had to find the Amulet of Autolycus in order to steal the princess’s magic. I had no luck finding out anything from the members of the Guard during my training under Shining Armor, so that meant only the princesses knew where it was. If I played my cards right, Luna could very well lead me to the tool of her own destruction, without ever even knowing it.
As the light of the coming dawn began to light up the eastern sky, Luna’s alarm went off and she blearily opened her eyes, switching off the device before rolling over and pulling the blinds closed.
“Silver Shield,” she muttered as she closed her eyes.
“Yes Luna?” I asked from my position at the door.
“If I find you in my bed again, even if I was having a bad dream, I will make sure you go all the way through the wall instead of just denting it.” She rolled over to glare at me out of the corner of her eye, “Is that clear Captain?”
I threw her a salute, feeling a bit of formality was required, “Crystal Princess. I shall stay here the entire night and do nothing save for keep watch. You have my word I will not invade your private space again.”
She nodded, her jaw splitting open in a huge yawn as she rolled back over, “See that you do.”
Before long the soft snoring coming from under the sheets let me know she had fallen asleep, and I snickered to myself as a thought crossed my mind.
“You might not like it having me in your bed now Luna,” I muttered darkly, “but by the time I get through with you, you’ll be begging me to get in the bed and take you to the moon with something other than the Elements of Harmony.”
I fell into the practiced stance and locked my eyes ahead, feeling like things were now progressing at a pace I could work with. While mother was patient enough, I would rather not keep her waiting longer than necessary. After all, she had a country to take over.