• Published 9th Jul 2013
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Star Shepherd - Plaguemouse



The Goddess of night has many duties.

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Illumination

Slowly Luna sank to her knees under the weight of a burden that was so much more than she could then bear. Closing her eyes, she opened her heart and felt each of her subjects slip away from her towards her sister's day. One by one their dreams were extinguished like candles in a wind. So many nightmares unrelieved, so many fears left to fester in the dark corners. There were simply too many to chase away. Luna felt like a worn mother resigned to her children's screams; she could not possibly kiss the ghosts away from them all in one night. This insistent fact destroyed her inside. Her subjects were out there beyond her reach hurting, frightened, alone, dying, crying for help to ears that could not possibly listen to them all. How could she possibly choose? This was not how her beautiful night was meant to be.

She covered her face with her hoof, willing herself to sleep on the floor, but unable to divorce herself from the dying lights fading in her mind, the hearts of her subjects waking and forsaking her. But then, just as she resigned herself, a new burst grew, so close that it might have even been in the castle. She felt as a beautiful dream grew within the heart of one of her blessed subjects, denying celestial day! Luna rose to her feet, coat bristling in excited triumph. She had not been awake alone, and even in sleep this pony dreamed of beauty and not of ugliness or fear! This was a glorious dream and Luna meant to see it, to meet this equestrian who denied the seduction of the Sun!

Luna focused and became insubstantial, allowing herself to be pulled towards this dream. She needed this after the previous night. She needed to be reminded of other things than nightmares and children dying in their sleep. She needed to know someone loved her night. As she fell into the dream she was initially confused. This was indeed the castle, or how it had once been a year prior. She was standing in the royal scriptorium, which had been discontinued by her sister last summer upon the adoption of a brilliant new invention: movable press.

Books could be created much faster than by hoof copying now, and thus the royal scriptorium became the royal publishers. It had been a good option. Books could be distributed more widely, and control of the publishing guaranteed continued control of the media and that which the public consumed. History could be more widely spread, and Celestia could keep dangerous magic from being commonly available. The loss of the scriptorium was a blow worth taking.

Still, how strange that a pony would dream of it, she thought, especially considering how few actually ever saw it. Furthermore, Luna could not understand the joy of this dream. It was merely an empty workshop. Nonetheless she continued further, past racks of drying parchment and abandoned work desks. Then she felt it.

Joy, golden, radiating joy whose warmth rivaled her sister's sun, brilliant and spilling like liquid mirth through the cracks in the far door frame. The Princess approached, and the door burst open before her without a touch to a room singing with light and such joy!

At the center of the room, leaning heavily on a drafter’s desk was a paint-stained unicorn, placidly directing at least forty pieces of parchment at one time all around the room with her magic and bathing the entire space in an intoxicatingly welcoming light. Images emblazoned the pale parchment as they flew past her eyes, pictures that danced with color and crisp pure beauty, details too numerous to absorb in the half seconds of their airborne journey from desk to drying rack. Among the papers, pens and inks and paints and brushes floated wildly about as the mare deftly applied strokes and images to paper. Though no words or sounds were made, this joy of joys rang clear with its own music. For this moment, Luna was happy just to bask in this mare's simple happiness of working, and for many moments that is all either did, until the artist noticed she was no longer alone.

"Princess!" she cried, but even still continuing her work. "I was not expecting you. You have come to see the progress of your royal highness's latest commission, yes?"

Luna smiled, and decided to play along. "Yes, my subject. We would love to see thy progress." With a wide smile the mare nodded and several pieces of parchment pulled themselves from the racks to hover before the princess.

Before her hung illustrations—no, illuminations—of the highest caliber. The lines flowed effortlessly across the page and the colors danced within her heart: manes flowed, fur rippled, eyes sparkled, and every inch breathed in a manner all too familiar; she had seen these very illustrations before, in a tome commissioned by her sister to commemorate their victory against Discord. When presented the book, Luna had lazily leafed through it, assuming she would not gain anything by dwelling on events she had been present for. At that time she had paid little heed to the illustrations inside, and she realized now how disrespectful that had been.

Luna looked up at the mare before her who had wrought such beauty. Her coat was pale, the color of old parchment. Her face was plump and jovial, framed by wild indigo locks that seemed to bounce and vine like climbing ivy. Luna had never seen a pony more blissfully happy before. This is the corner stone of the Equestrian Utopia we have wrought, Luna thought happily. Despite all the trials and tribulations they may face, ponies here are free to live off their passions while en-wrapped in a cradle of harmony and peace, and are free to create good works from their own two hooves. She smiled wide, a genuine, girlish (Somewhat un-princess like) smile. "These are exquisite, Miss...?"

"Inkstar, Head Illuminator," the unicorn responded without missing a beat. "Thank you, your Highness. It is an honor to be working for the crown." Luna smiled, and opened her mouth to relinquish further praise, when she suddenly found herself melting from the room back into her chambers.

The dream was dying. Inkstar was waking up.

*******************

Several minutes later Luna was trotting jauntily down to what was now the Royal Publishers, located on the more public western quarter. Her eyelids were heavy, but her heart flew, and she had it in her mind to commission another book from that joyful artist. It did not take her long to get there, and soon she stood at the threshold. It was not how the dream portrayed it. No longer did desks and ink and parchment fill the room, instead it was dominated by a series of heavy presses manned by large, burly stallions, bleary-eyed from such an early start. Many stopped and bowed their respects to the Princess. After a moments confusion somepony approached her.

"Good morning, your highness," bowed a thickly built red stalltion, "I am Master Printer RueFold. Is there anything I can do for you this day?"

Luna cast him a non-committal show of the royal teeth. "We are looking for the Illuminator known as Inkstar. Where may we find her?"

RueFold crinkled his nose. "I hope you are here to evict her. I know she lived here before, your highness, but we could really use the extra room. With all due respect, we can't figure out what to do with her now that we have switched to print. She just takes up space." Luna's ears fell back to her head as RueFold turned, leading her on to the back. "She should be in her studio room."

Before her stood the same room in the dream, but the closer Luna drew to it, the more she realized that in reality it was not happiness that seeped through these cracks, but instead some distasteful odor. Reluctantly, Luna pushed her way inside. The entire room reeked, of what Luna could not place. Papers littered the floor, shattered ink bottles and dried paints stacked up in little piles at her feet among countless empty bottles. Luna lowered her head to examine a peeling label.

!!!!Grandpappy Flam's Miracle Elixer!!!
The Potent
"Tincture of Opium."
Curative for all ailments, big and small! Satisfaction Guaranteed!
Ingredients imported from finest Saddle Arabian sources!

Luna's heart skipped a beat. Laudanum. A common street remedy for every pain you can think of, with the offset of being absurdly addictive and easy to overdose on. She had been begging her sister to outlaw it since it first gained popularity among the lower class. Luna's spine tingled. She remembered how much joy the dream Inkstar had derived from work, but the studio didn't need her anymore. What does a pony do when unable to fulfill her destiny, the very thing that is applauded as the single most important aspect to Equestrian life? Luna took another glance at the bottles for her answer.
Slowly she made her way through the mess, searching carefully for Inkstar, expecting the worst but praying for the best. She was not prepared for what she found.

Inkstar lay in a pile of filthy parchment, curled up under her drafting desk. Her plump frame was emaciated and crumpled, her fur lackluster, stained and missing patches, exposing scabby skin underneath. In her hoof was a half-empty bottle of Laudanum, spilling onto her gaunt face. Luna gently pulled her out from underneath the desk and checked her pulse. She had not been expelled out of the dream because Inkstar had woken.

Author's Note:

Thank you again to Love me Oppa for help editing this chapter!

This is probably the lease favorite chapter I have written. :s