• Published 30th Aug 2013
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A Stranger Among the Voices - Tystarr


The arrival of a strange creature sends ripples through the lives of several inhabitants within Equestria.

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Chapter 4.5: Guardians

Celestia waited in the throne room portraying – as always – a calm and yet powerful presence. Normally by this hour she would have deferred to her sister to run the Night Court while she herself had retired to bed. Tonight however proved to be a special exception, one that she felt would become common over the next few days. The court had been postponed tonight, much to the displeasure of several petitioners and nobleponies, but it could not very well be helped. Celestia had personally apologised and offered, in compensation, to attend to their matters personally the next day; which, thankfully, had gone some way to solving the issue. An arrangement that Luna seemed, at least to Celestia, all too happy to agree upon, much to the Solar Monarch’s hidden amusement.

Both alicorns currently sat side by side before the large throne, positioned in such a way that neither held any higher status than the other. Strangely it was something they both did without consulting between themselves. Yet another sign, at least to Celestia, that things were returning to how they should be. Once more both sisters ruling as equals; two making one, as everything should be.

“Sister, art thou...” Luna scrunched her nose before continuing, correcting herself, “are you sure you do not require Captain Aurora to handle this?”

Celestia could sense the desire of Luna to do something, anything to assist. That was what made it so painful for her to slowly shake her head, the sting of the gesture removed with the warm smile she wore.

“No Luna, while I have no doubts about Captain Aurora’s prowess, I feel it would be better to have Captain Dawn handle this.” Alone in the room Celestia could spare to allow some of her formality to slip as she smiled more warmly. “I know you wish to help, and you know I would under normal circumstances accept without question.”

Spreading a wing across the small gulf that separated them, she brushed the appendage against the other alicorn’s back. Leaning partially to the wing, Luna gave a small sigh as she looked once more at the letter held within her ethereal grasp. Celestia, watching on was at least thankful her sister had acquired an hour or two rest after the earlier encounter, if only to try and observe more of the creature’s dreams to no avail.

“You are right, Tia.” Luna read over the words from Twilight Sparkle again. In a single letter, the unicorn had managed to both raise hopes and cause worry with what she had discovered. While the visitor from another world proved to be no threat was wonderful news, the fact she was so traumatised was not. Nor were the suspicions of something following the female creature. “I am well aware that my guards would cause unease for this task, though the knowledge of such does not make me any more at ease.”

Feeling her sister’s wing brush along her back tenderly, Luna spared a small smile at Celestia. She knew that Captain Dawn was the right choice, and yet she wished it was not so. Upon being reunited with her sister she had come to learn that her own guard had vanished after her banishment, a thousand years ago. With their absence, Celestia’s Solar Guard had expanded to take over all aspects of the military and as such, over time, the Lunar Guard had been forgotten.

Yet, after a series of events involving the sibling captains, Swift Dawn and Aurora Blossom, her guard, the ‘noctral’s had been rediscovered once again; or, at the very least, the long, lost descendants of such. Then, after proving herself no longer Nightmare Moon, they had begun travelling the immense distance to Canterlot to pledge their service to their self-proclaimed, ‘Keeper of the Night’.

Luna personally had always found the title a little romantic in a way, yet the numbers of her Lunar Guard still remained few. Also, much to her displeasure, their absence over a thousand years from ponies eyes had caused their appearance to create discomfort upon return. Personally, Luna found them charming with their bat-like wings, fangs and slit pupils, but the sentiment was unfortunately not widespread amongst the populace. Still, she was thankful their numbers were increasing and becoming ingrained within the royal guard, even if it would take time.

“Give our little ponies time Luna. The noctrals will once more fit in, and, as you know it has already started to happen.” Celestia’s words caused her sister to smile slightly, almost as if the other alicorn could peer into her thoughts. Luna found her gaze moving to the door where, on the other side, Captain Aurora would be standing to attention.

“You are right of course sister.” Luna sighed as she looked at the letter again finding herself reading the words for the seventh time. Celestia, seeing this, gave a small smile before inclining her head ever so slightly.

“I am glad that the creature is benign, yet, I cannot help but feel concern as to what brought her into this world.” Celestia sighed as she looked at one of the large stained glass windows, an image of Discord being defeated causing unpleasant memories. “If he was not locked in his stone prison, I would suspect him responsible.”

Luna closed her eyes, well aware of whom ‘he’ was. Celestia, noticing her sister looking thoughtful, folded her wing back in.

“You seem to think otherwise dear sister.” Celestia knew Luna held other suspicions, especially having shown what she had discovered earlier in the day. “Please, tell me what you think.”

Luna met her sister’s gaze with her own teal eyes, a sad smile slowly coming to the alicorn’s face.

“The tome, I feel that it plays a vital role to her appearance here.” Looking at the majestic doors at the end of the room, Luna sighed quietly before ruffling her wings. “I felt… magic lingering within the tome, a powerful spell. Though, I continue to be unable to identify it… yet.”

Celestia too seemed to realise they would soon have the company they both expected, muted voices barely heard from on the other side of the portal. A small nod was given to her sister to continue, knowing those soon to enter could be trusted.

“Nay, that is not the whole truth. I believe the tome holds the truth of the matter, but as to how, or why continues to elude my efforts.”

“I am here for you Luna, and I always shall be if you need to confide in me.” The Solar Monarch nodded to her sister, her tone as warm as the rays of the sun as Luna offered a smile in return.

“And as always, I return the same offering to you.”

Both alicorns shared the moment, a welcome return to how things used to be. Still, there was a pressing matter to attend to as the doors opened, two pegasi clad in golden armour standing within the entranceway. Guarding the door stood a helmless noctral with a lopsided bob for a mane, a small grin passed between her and the helmless Solar Captain.

Trotting forward, both pegasi approached only to stop short of the princesses, bowing before standing to attention.

“Captain Dawn, Bastion, thank you for coming on such short notice.” Celestia greeted both while Luna nodded towards the two. Still, she couldn’t help but spare a glance to the entranceway where Aurora stood with her tongue sticking out at her brother’s back. Realising she had been seen, the Lunar Captain coughed and stood at attention, her slit pupil eyes flicking back towards Luna several times. If Celestia noticed she wisely chose not to betray the fact, Luna instead giving a small grin towards her captain which was returned.

“You need only ask, Princess.” Captain Dawn stood proudly to attention, his armour immaculate, and his blond mane styled short, combed, and with not a hair out of place. He, like his sister, went helmless but every other piece of armour worn was polished, capturing the light over every inch of its surface. Beside him stood a larger pegasus, also without a helm, but his short blue mane was ruffled and looked barely maintained. Still, he stood stoically and held an air of responsibility about him that Luna always found admirable.

“I have a task I wish you both to undertake, one that may put you both into harm although I wish it were not so.” Swift Dawn listened to his princess before bowing his head, Bastion following shortly after. They didn’t need to hear the details before they would accept, it went without saying. Still, Celestia smiled and continued anyhow.

“Luna, if I may?” A tilt of her head indicated for what she desired, the letter being offered to her as her golden aura overtook that of her sister’s. A nod of thanks was given before Celestia looked down at her two guards once more.

“I require you both to undertake a very special assignment, one where you are to guard an individual.” A look at Luna was given as the dark alicorn took her cue.

“We wish for you…” A soft tsk was given by Luna as she started to revert back to her comfortable way of speaking. “That is to say, my sister and I, wish for you both to guard a very unique creature.”

Seeing the questions already forming upon their faces, well, Swift Dawn’s at least – even Celestia evidently could never truly tell what Bastion was thinking – Luna started to explain.

“This creature is not from our world, she has come here through means that I am currently investigating.” A look at both of them was given, and, for good measure, one also towards Aurora before she continued. “You are both to be protectors, not wardens. You are to guard her as you would any other pony, not stifle and restrain as you would a prisoner.”

A look to her sister was met with a nod, Celestia taking over again.

“We fear there may be individuals who wish to harm her, or to use her for their own needs.” Seeing the intrigued look upon Captain Dawn and Aurora’s face, Celestia nodded. “We have reason to believe that there is at least one changeling who has made contact with her. However, if something unexpected happens you are to follow, but not interfere.”

Celestia fought down the concern that threatened to flow over her features. What she was asking of them was to go against their very training. Not for the first time she sorely wished that things were not as they were, Luna’s noctrals were far better suited for this role with their penchant for subterfuge and stealth.

“Thou must be confused by my sister’s words.” Luna took over again as she raised her head to look down at the two pegasi. “We wish for you to not interfere so as to learn the reasoning why the changelings have an interest in this female, and, perhaps, find where they have been holding within our territories.”

Captain Dawn seemed to mull over this, a glance given to the other pegasus before he cleared his throat.

“I do not wish to doubt you Princess Celestia, or you either Princess Luna, but what if a threat comes that we must act upon?” A gaze to his side saw Bastion give a barely perceivable nod in agreement.

“In that situation my dear captain…” Celestia smiled warmly as she gave a small nod of her head towards the two guards. “Then I would expect you to do as you thought necessary.”

Her words seemed to ease some of the Swift Dawn’s concerns, Luna giving a small sigh to betray how she really felt.

“We are aware what we ask to be most difficult.” Luna’s words filtered through the air as the throne room fell into silence.

“I… Have a question.” The deep voice instantly garnered attention, if for no other reason than the one who spoke. Bastion, seeing he was being looked upon raised a brow before inclining his head ever so slightly back in Aurora’s direction. “You know I do not doubt Swift Dawn’s ability, but would it not make more sense for Aurora to be the one chosen for this?”

Captain Dawn nodded at the other guard’s words while Aurora raised a brow, her attention now firmly entrenched within the conversation. Celestia and Luna meanwhile shared a glance, the Solar Monarch’s expression relaxing somewhat as a wry smile tugged at her lips.

“You may very well be correct, but given the situation it would create undue attention.” A nod was given by Celestia towards Aurora to show there was no slight in her words. Thankfully the noctral smiled, accepting them for their face value as Luna also smiled at her captain.

“Two royal guards alone will create enough without complicating things further, but yes; Luna’s personal guard would make a more apt choice if we had more time. Although, the fact you are both pegasi and not unicorns also works to your favour in this situation.” Celestia gained a mirthful smile as she nodded her head towards the door. “Aurora, if you would please shut the door behind you and come join us?”

The Lunar Captain looked slightly confused before obeying to step forward. Once inside Aurora nodded back into the hallway causing two other noctral guards to fly over, each taking up guard position as a heavy clang signified the portal closing.

“Aurora, thou wilt not be left out, I will have a special task for you.” A smile came to Luna’s lips as the female guard blinked, a fanged grin coming to her muzzle.

“Well, that sounds intriguing.” A nudge with her bat-like wing was given to Swift Dawn, the Solar Captain grunting a little before rolling his eyes at his sister’s attitude. “See; guess you don’t get all the fun.”

Celestia watched their actions fondly as Luna grinned at her captain’s demeanour. It filled Celestia with joy to see her sister start to return to her old self, even if she might have to endure the insufferable pranks again at some point. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful sight to see noctrals and pegasi together again within the guard. Unicorn, earth pony, pegasus, and noctral, all were once again represented as they should be.

It also felt wonderful to have her sister back, even if she could not always express so as openly as she desired.

Luna however was simply amused at her captain; she knew she had chosen wisely upon appointing Aurora as such. She still remained impressed just how much the mare had given up obtaining the position, to be part of her guard. Images of a pegasus with long blonde mane and shining white coat flittered in her mind before she smiled at the grey mare currently teasing her brother, the short black bob partially hiding one of the mare’s eyes.

Thank you for believing in me Aurora. Luna smiled as she watched on, a glance given to her sister as the letter was rolled up then levitated towards Swift Dawn.

“Captain Dawn, this here is a message from my most faithful student Twilight, she is working in our stead to learn more about our visitor. In that letter you will learn as much as we know about the situation.” As Swift moved the letter onto the ground to unravel, he looked up to catch a mischievous twinkle within his princess’s eyes before she continued speaking. “Just try not to distract my student too much.”

A snigger escaped Aurora while Swift Dawn’s lower jaw dropped. Luna’s gaze slipped over to meet that of Celestia’s while a small smile was given back, the Lunar Monarch in turn holding a hoof before her mouth to stifle the gentle laughter.

“Princess!”

“Yeah, yeah, Twilight’s just a friend… Well, that and we both know what Shining would do if you really did like her that way…” Aurora slinked up beside her brother after his outburst, a predatory gaze on her face as she grinned. “Plus, we all know the kind of mare you do prefer an-“

Finding herself now with a gilded hoof pushed to her muzzle, Captain Aurora lowered her brow at the owner of the limb, namely her brother. Bastion meanwhile sighed ever so softly before stepping forward, somewhat distancing himself from the twins he had known from foal-hood.

“When do we leave?” His question, as normal, was blunt, precise, and thankfully, at least for Swift Dawn, brought the conversation back on track. Once more the very image of poise and dignity, Celestia bowed her head to the question before looking to her sister. With a nod shared between the royal monarchs all three of the guards stood to attention.

“You both are to arrive there first thing tomorrow morning. If you need to contact me for any reason, do not hesitate to ask Spike for his services.” A smile was given as Swift Dawn and Bastion nodded their understandings. “Now, you had best go prepare, and thank you, both of you.”

“You need not thank us princess, it is our duty.” Both golden clad guards bowed before making their way out, the scroll rolled up to be slipped into Captain Dawn’s armour with a wing. Aurora, casting a glance back at Princess Luna was met with a warm smile.

“Luna will go over your role later Aurora.” Celestia tilted her head before nodding towards the doors. “Go spend some time with your brother; I know he will miss you while he is in Ponyville, even if he won’t admit it.”

A nod was given as Captain Aurora bowed before the two monarchs prior to following the other two out. Left alone once again with her sister, Luna instead gazed towards the ceiling.

There were still too many unknowns about all this for Luna’s liking; chief among them being why was the creature so familiar with a changeling, at least in her dreams. Then there was the fact of the tome and the writing within. Such a thing couldn’t be coincidence and that alone alarmed her. Still, she was glad that the creature turned out to be as she had hoped. Something about the girl seemed so, vulnerable, yet she could feel within the dreams something trying to get her attention, trying to pull her somewhere.

“A bit for your thoughts, dear sister?”

The voice broke through Luna’s musings as she turned her attention to the caring visage of Celestia.

“It is… nothing, I am… Well I am most relieved that the creature, this ‘Foal-Hunter’ turned out to be nothing of the sort. Still…”

Picking up on her sister’s concern, Celestia leaned a little closer, moving a wing to brush against one of Luna’s own.

“The existence of the tome, along with the changeling troubles you, doesn’t it?” Celestia’s words earned her a small nod from her sister.

“I would not be being honest were I to say it did not.” Luna exhaled before gazing up at the stained glass portraying the Bearers and their respective Elements of Harmony. “The mystery remains, why would she be on friendly terms with a changeling, and why would a changeling have such interest in her? But… most of concern is why would there be the tome in her dreams, one she appears guided to work upon.”

“Starswirl, what secrets didst thou take with thee?” Luna added quietly, yet Celestia overheard, concern falling over her features as she watched her sister ponder. Deciding to put the morose thoughts aside, at least for the evening, Celestia smiled and got to her hooves.

“Come Luna. We both know there is little we can do tonight, let’s go and get something to eat before we send a letter informing Twilight of what we have decided.”

Seeing the wisdom in her sister’s words, Luna got to her own hooves and followed, a nod given to the guards positioned outside the chamber. Indeed, the events of the day were catching up to her as she stifled a yawn lest her sister see and demand her to sleep. Tomorrow with Twilight Sparkle meeting with the creature directly would hopefully have more answers brought to light.

And that, ultimately, would have to suffice for now.