• Published 9th Jul 2013
  • 734 Views, 12 Comments

Star Shepherd - Plaguemouse



The Goddess of night has many duties.

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Moonset

The Goddess of the Sun sat wilted on her high throne, not so glorious and fresh as her regal token even now hid beyond the dark mountains. The princess was beyond her borders, and fell farther and farther from her kingdom with each passing minute of night. Tired amethysts gleamed dully from her eyes and sternly surveyed the pegasus on front of her.

Powerful and lithe, he stood fiercely erect, his strange leathery wings tucked tightly against the lavender stained leather of his armor. This was the captain of the Night Guard, a member of Luna’s personal army, and a member of a pony race so ancient it was closer to myth than an actual surviving species.

Even Celestia wasn’t excessively knowledgeable. She had heard that to look them in the eye caused a life of bad luck. She had heard they steal virgins in the night to drink their blood. She had heard their severed limbs were used to summon the servants of discord. She had heard many things, whisperings of peasants and the superstitions of the uneducated masses. Things that she had heard about these ponies could fill a thousand libraries, but the things she knew encompassed a single fleeting moment.

These ponies followed Luna, as their goddess, their sister, their mother. The Princess did not blame them. A generation prior, the Sorcerer Sombre had destroyed an Empire and disappeared without a trace. Even as Celestia poured over the frozen wastes for a single fleeting glint of crystal, Luna found and freed the forgotten, starving slave race the wicked unicorn had left. Celestia remembered their starved, emaciated forms as they streamed from rusted manacles and filthy, excrement filled caves, and she remembered Luna carrying skeletal children on her back when they could not themselves walk.

Luna had always had a softness for the children.

“Princess Celestia” The guard said quietly, his deep voice bordering on panic. “My stallions have searched the entirety of the castle grounds and the outlying farmlands. Our Princess is nowhere to be found.”

Princess Celestia’s breath held unremittingly in her chest.

“I shouldn’t have been so hard on her.”

“Ma’am?”

Celestia shook her weary head. “Expand the search all the way to the village of Canterlot. Comb the forest, every damned mile.”

“The Everfree, Princess?”

“Is that what they are calling it?” she sighed. “Cover as much ground as you can. Do not rest until she is found.”

The captain bowed low and retreated out of the throne room into the night. The Princess slumped in her throne casting her eyes to a stained glass panel, barely illuminated by moonlight. Her eyes swam over the glass image of her missing sister, standing tall beside her as an equal.

“Oh Sister,” she sighed. “What can I do.”

__________________________________________________

“I’ll stab ye with my rake iffin yer thinkin anything funny!”

The absurdity of the threat momentarily shocked Luna out of her panic. With the cracking of many twigs and the shuffle of leaves, the wielder of the threat (and presumably the rake) entered the clearing. It was a stallion, whose old and sagging flesh bristled with filament fur flecked with the white of age.
Even his cutie mark had faded and greyed to the point it was hard to see. Vaguely Luna wondered if eventually that mark would be completely gone if allotted enough time, and if the old stallion would become as bare as a colt. How like the silence of death to the dark of pre-birth that would be! And if a Pony's worth is the culmination of the use of their talent, are not the years before a talent is discovered and the old age at which talents can no longer be controlled not like nonexistence themselves?
The old stallion wobbled closer, a rake indeed strapped to his worn and oft-patched saddlebags. "I'm warning you! I may be old, but steel can still pierce flesh no matter who it's master is!"
Luna righted herself to her full royal height, and extended a hoof toward to accept the greeting of her citizen formally, but withdrew as he drew closer.
His movements were not right, too careful and measured. His long, jowled face was turned away from her, even as he threatened her. And most importantly, despite his ever closing presence on her, he did not know her. Even as the...less loved of the Royals, her visage was known as an eternal truth. She could not be mistaken for any other being in all of Equestria.
Except he was blind, and had no idea he was in the presence of a God.

Luna swallowed this truth, and chose to bow to it. Gods and Demons were well known to take the guise of mortals, and if her cowl was this stallion’s blindness, then she would make it a worthy disguise.

“We are sorry, Uncle. We were merely lost.” Luna said.

“We? There ain’t no more of ye.”

“I... I’m sorry.” Luna stammered, but after a second’s thought continued. “How do you know there aren’t more?”

The stallion snorted. “I can feel yer weight on the ground, through the earth. Yer a heavy one, but I don’t begrudge a gal her sweets. If there was a pegasus flying about, they'd be easy enough to hear. Never stop flapping those damn daft wings of theirs.” The earth pony scowled, but nonetheless nosed his vicious farm instrument to a less threatening downward position. “Whats a mare doing in the dark by herself? Don’t ye know it ain’t proper or safe? There be monsters in this damned country, no matter what the soldiers claim.”

“I was sleeping on a cloud. I fell off.” Luna said truthfully.

“A pegasus, eh? It’s a wonder ye can get off the ground with yer size, no offence miss. Since yer here anyway, come inside the cottage. I’ll boil ye a bit of tea to wake ye up so ye can fly home.” the stallion paused. “What’s yer name, young filly?”

“Windflower.” Luna said after a pause. She wasn’t sure why she wanted to lie.

“I’m Woundwort.” The stallion growled, and led the princess forward.

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


The old stallion’s cottage turned out to be just beyond the next few trees, camouflaged in the dark by walls so roughcut they still grew ardent sprigs. It now made sense how quickly the Earth Pony had reacted. Luna had, for all intents and purposes fallen in his back yard!

Luna approached the building with trepidation, but ultimately was prompted entry by a feeling of obligation and pity. But as she bowed her head to pass the low doorframe, pity turned to guilt.

This was not the shack of a helpless old pony, but rather the home of an innovator, of a survivor. Every inch of the cottage was carefully crafted for optimal use, eyes be damned. Surfaces were sculpted and carefully textured with patterns that insinuated size, distance, height. Useful tools and items were stored and organized with an obsessive perfection even the compulsive courtiers would have envied.

And in this humble place devoid of pomp and decoration, the blind stallion was king. Gone was his awkward gate, replaced by a youthful ease of movement that sent the old pony in a flurry of movement around the room. Luna sat at the dining table (on the ground, for there was only one chair) and watched the stallion build up the fire in the oven to boil tea.

Soon enough, the fire was crackling pleasantly and the cheery whistle of the kettle filled the space with it’s shrill notes, and the blind stallion carefully poured one, two, and then three old mismatched teacups full of boiling water, chased by pinch of loose tea from an old tin.

The trip to the table took three turns, carrying the teacups one by one carefully clutching each one in his teeth and setting them on the table. Luna looked down at the chipped blue teacup he had set in front other, and used a small breath of magic to stir the seeping leaves. She felt at ease.

“Is it that you are expecting someone?” she asked, looking at the two other cups. One was thick and tea-stained, and looked to be one of those worn but prized pieces used day in and day out, familiar and trusty. The other was delicate, thin as an eggshell with painted filigree on the sides. It was well loved, and chipped but obviously carefully cared for and special.

The old stallion eased himself stiffly onto the hard chair, drawing his tea towards him. “Not likely. But an old stallion can hope, and be ready in case one day she does.”

Woundwort’s blind eyes shone with light from the dim stove fire, and Luna felt her heart leap at the idea of secret romances from old, care-withered hearts. “Who is she?” after a pause.

Woundwort stared his unseeing gaze at nothing in particular, holding his cup of tea poised under his lips, occasionally blowing gently to cool the liquid. His muscles gradually clenched in the back of his neck, and in his withered limbs.

“You are too young to remember the Crystal War.”

“It is six decades past.” said Luna, indeed remembering.

“I was a young stallion when I joined the volunteer army. I was a medic.”

“The volunteer army was repeatedly told to disband.” Luna murmured. “The lives of the citizens were too precious to be ... to be....”

“Cast into certain death.” He finished, chuckling. “We knew what we were doing. And it didn’t matter. We would have all thrown ourselves into Tartarus for the Princesses, and we damned well wouldn’t let them fight Sombre alone. Even if we all died, we were going te stand by our Princesses, like they stood by us in the Years of Chaos. Besides, most of us had little else to lose. Death means nothing, if you have nothing.”

“And you?”

Woundwort was quiet for a long time. “I had a family once. Mother and father....and young wife. Earthstar. ”

Woundwort’s voice wandered away. Luna’s heart was pounding sickeningly with the memory of bloody battlefields, and the seemingly endless chaos. “What happened?” she asked.

“She died. They all died. Slowly and painfully when the ground was tainted by damned crystal. Nothing would grow, and they starved to death. I only barely survived.” Woundwort’s deep voice was shaking. “It was the Princesses. They spirited the survivors south, and I volunteered on the road for the army, and galloped right back north.

I was angry. I wanted revenge. I wanted....I don’t even remember what in Tarterus I wanted, but I thought I could get it by fighting, by healing. It was late in the war my contingent stumbled on Sombre and the Princesses themselves, in what I suppose was the final battle of the war.

I was right in the thicket. I saw the light of the Elements, and the thick, greasy darkness of the King. I felt the stray blasts from their magic, like fire on my body, and I saw the Crystal empire fade away, and take my eyes with it.”
Luna’s stomach plummeted, and Woundwort continued.
“Darkness is unbearable for a thing like me, who lived their life in light. I started to hate. I hated SOmbre, and the war, and the Empire, but Epecially I hated the princesses. I hated them for not coming sooner when we were starving, for not saving my Earthstar. I hated them for the war, and for allowing that damn bearded arch mage to corrupt in the first place. I hated so viciously and completely, that my own mind became as dark as the rest of the world seemed But then something beautiful happened.”

The Stallion did his best to turn his face to Luna. His eyes were streaming and red, but his lips were tightened in a defiant smile.

“She came to me.”

“Who?” she said breathlessly, sick with guilt and overwhelmed with memories. “Who was it.”

“It was Princess Luna.” the stallion said, so quietly. “She came to me in my dreams, and led me like a shepherd out of the darkness into a perfect field of stars, and then with a sweep of her horn everything returned, everything came back to me! The sky, the grass, the trees, and my precious Earthstar! I could see them! She gave them back to me that night, and in every night since. She gave me everything I lost to keep safe in my dreams.
And one night, I hope she will come again so I can thank her. So I can tell her I am sorry for hating her all those years ago, and so she knows how much her kindness means to an old, blind, worthless stallion.”

Luna was surprised to find herself crying, gently. A thousand variants of pride and sorrow assaulted her until she realized what needed to be done. She had to return to the castle. Gently, she rose from her seat and drew closer to the old stallion. With a vague wave of her horn, he slumped slowly to sleep on the table. Her lips pressed against the wiry fur of the stallion’s brow.

“She knows.” she whispered, and after downing two cups of tea, was off.

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


Hours later and miles away, Princess Celestia stood staring at the moon, counting the seconds until the dawn. She had no particular love of controlling her sister’s moon. It was, afteral, her sister’s magic. Celestia could bully the moon to sink behind the mountains, but with every inch she pushed it, she felt a corruption grow. It disgusted her.

The seconds flew, and Celestia raised her head to lower the moon, only to find the celestial orb already caught in motion. She felt the warm presence of her sister fall in beside her, and together they brought the dawn.

The sisters watched as all of Equestria fell into light, from the halls and caves surrounding the castle, all the way to the newly constructed Canterlot, shining like a jewel on the far mountain, and far beyond.

“I was worried, sister.” Said the dully shining Goddess of the sun, without looking towards her sister.

“I.....we still are, Tia.” She paused. “There are so many ponies that are hurting in Equestria. All the struggle, all the fighting, what will it mean if our citizens are plagued by misery, by pain, by disease?”

Celestia sighed. “You chase away the bad dreams, you lead children to death, you visit dying addicts, Luna. You treat the symptom. You never see the large picture. If misery is to be relieved, it won’t be done pony by pony. “ She turned, the lavender orbs of her eyes piercing in the sunlight. “Come to court with me and we will do what we can. It is a new day.”

Luna watched as Celestia turned and disappeared into the corridor. “Why not a new night?” she whispered, startling herself. Shaking her head, she dismissed the thought and followed in the Goddess’s shadow.

Author's Note:

And there it is. Last chapter. I spent way too much drama on this old blind horse. I am out of drama for later.:p

:p Thank you for everyone who upvoted and favorited my story. I still need editing help pretty bad, and any critique, bad or good as long as it's helpful is always welcome.

Comments ( 3 )

3756395

Thank you so much!

I feel there is still much to be told here.

A night court and a further growing corruption.

It's true, she is only curing the symptoms, but the cause...the cause grows darker with each passing day.

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