• Published 25th Sep 2013
  • 9,073 Views, 296 Comments

Bat and Bug - Silent Quill



Two equestrians, both outside the norm, are forced together. One on assignment, the other for her own wellbeing.

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Meetings and Madness

Stalwart Drone looked up from his new kitchen table where he had been eating breakfast at a knock on the front door to his new home. He was still on a wonky internal clock, and as such it was in fact the correct time of day for breakfast. He’d only been released the day before after almost a week of being cooped up in the hospital for observation and had a fortnight of sick leave to get himself back into what the prince was calling ‘working order’.

He’d been told that he would have another sharing his residence with him for their own safety and, again in the prince’s words: ‘your sanity you blizzard-walking loon.’ He wasn’t sure why anypony would need to be bunked with a royal guard just for their safety; even those on the witness protection list usually just get shipped to Ponyville where the resident nutter (better known as Pinkie Pie) would somehow manage to not only guarantee their safety, but manage to tip off the guard should any possible danger be even approaching them.

He picked his sunglasses from their place on a table just within the front door and placed them over his eyes, a precaution that Princess Luna had advised to him and given him the sunglasses for. The Crystal Empire, while beautiful, was really, really reflective; especially with the roads polished to the mirror-shine they were, and the last thing he wanted was to be blinded for a few days due to sunstrike.

He opened the front door to find the current head of guard, Prince Shining Armour himself, waiting patiently on the other side. He gave a smile of amusement, so Stalwart assumed that the stunned look on his face was real. Beside him stood another individual wearing a long white cloak with the hood up and hiding their face, and behind him several guard were unhitching themselves from a wagon with a few dozen assorted sizes of wood upon it, including what appeared to be large, several foot long by at least two foot in diameter logs. A tool box, shiny in that freshly new way, was currently being fished down from the cart.

“S-sir, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

Shining Armour chuckled and urged him inside. “You recall that I said you would be getting a housemate, yes?” He asked as he and the cloaked figure followed him in to the lounge which still smelled of new furniture. “This is her, Miss Ruby Swift.”

Stalwart nodded to her, and the hooded figure nodded back.

“Sir, that’s all well and good, but what’s with the cart of tree carcass out front?” He asked curiously.

“Miss Swift is a carpenter and wood sculptor by trade; we’re going to need somewhere to set up her workspace… Is the attic free?”

“I’m using it for long term storage, sir.”

“Garden shed?”

“I don’t have one.”

“Basement?”

Stalwart paused. “I… don’t think it’s being used at the moment?”

Shining smiled and tapped a hoof against the floorboards. “Excellent; I’ll just go tell the guard where to ship your things, Miss Swift; you two get to know one another while I’m gone.”

“Sir, why is she wearing the cloak?”

Shining paused, looking back past Stalwart at Ruby for a moment before sighing. “She will explain. I trust you not to judge her; Princess Cadance and I have both heard her case, as have Princesses Luna and Celestia, and we all have come to the conclusion to have her put here for her protection. Princess Celestia has the Canterlot guard conducting an investigation into her claims, but for now we’re giving her the benefit of the doubt.”

“’Innocent until proven guilty’, sir?”

Shining nodded. “That’s correct.”

Shining stepped out of the room, and Stalwart looked back at the cloaked pony still sharing the room with him curiously.

“So, Miss Swift…”

She sighed and shifted uncomfortably before throwing her head back and making the hood fall, revealing her face. Stalwart took a step back, finally being aware that he was face to face with a changeling. Quick as his surprise began it ended, switching around into duty and dislike of the creature before him. He raised a hoof accusingly and she shied away, turning her face and clenching her eyes shut as if preparing to be struck. When he hesitated, lowering his hoof a little as bemusement stole his thoughts, she cracked an eye open to look at him fearfully.

“Y-you’re not going to hit me?”

He blinked at her and shook his head. “Why on Equestria do you think I would-“

“The last guard I encountered in my true form broke three ribs.” She countered in a breath. “What do you want to break? My ribs, my legs… perhaps my neck..? Go ahead, it’s not like I can stop you.”

“You’re-“

“A changeling, yes,” she finished for him, still not looking directly at him. “Before you ask me; no I was not involved in the Canterlot invasion. Instead I was accused of being a monster and driven out of my home and left to wander the countryside for three months with barely a bit to my name. I do not feed on emotions but rather food. As it stands, I do not have a home, nor do I have a family to return to.” She turned her face to him, glaring at him weakly. “I don’t expect you to like me, nor do I expect the opposite to occur either.” She huffed and started to walk past him to the stairs. “I’m going to go find my room, I’ll know if it is yours by scent, so don’t worry about me stumbling in on any dirty magazines you might have.”

As the Changeling stepped up the stairs, Stalwart grumbled and turned towards the front of the house, walking quickly and heavily until he came upon Shining Armour telling the two guards who were unloading the wagon what needed moving and how.

“This is some kind of joke.” Stalwart growled at his superior. “You must be under her control or something. She’s-“

Shining’s hard stare bored into him and made him stop nervously. The prince waved a hoof. “The work table next, boys.” He said. “Be slow.”

The pair of crystal ponies looked between one another worriedly before lifting the table from the wagon and taking it inside, moving beyond hearing range.

“Now, is something the matter, Captain?”

“She’s a Changeling!” Stalwart growled. “By the Princess’s glorious moon, how do you-“

“I know she’s a changeling, Captain. We know she’s a changeling, Captain. As I said before, Princess Celestia has her best ponies checking her backstory. I’m expecting a letter any day now, seeing how those boys and girls work. Also, I was unaware that curse existed; works wonders as a double entendre. I’ll have to tell Cadance, she’s sure to get a laugh.”

Stalwart Drone blushed faintly and looked away for a moment. “Sir, you’ve got to be out of your bucking mind, these things are monsters!”

Shining glared and rounded on him, striding towards him menacingly. “Now you listen here, Captain Drone,” he began with his tone just as firm, “once upon a time, Equestria classified Gryphons as monsters, yet I know a Gryphon within the guard who I would trust to the ends of time, who currently teaches advanced inter-species combat to the rank and file. Once upon a time, Sphinxes were classified as monsters, but now the Royal Vault in Canterlot is guarded by not one but two, who are almost as trusted by the Princesses as the Captains of the Guard.

“When the Princesses’ report arrives, I will tell you how well she can be trusted, but for now we are giving her the benefit of the doubt. She appears to have been through much, and the last thing she needs is for a Royal Guard Captain to label her a monster when for all we know she’s just another victim of the Canterlot Attack.” As he had managed to back Stalwart up against the doorframe, he poked him sharply with a hoof. “Is that clear, Captain?”

Stalwart nodded furiously, his sunglasses dislodging and making him flinch and shut his eyes tight against the sunlight before pressing them back against his face.

Shining Armour leaned back, holding his head high. “Good.”

“Sir, aren’t you going a bit far for this… changeling?” Stalwart asked. “I mean, you just berated a guard Captain…”

Shining chuckled. “Hey, I’m married to Princess Cadance, I had to get it from somewhere.” He said cheekily. “And to answer your question; if Celestia’s investigation turns up that she’s been telling the truth, that changeling has been an Equestrian citizen for most of her life. As it stands, the worst she’s done is become an illegal immigrant, and I’m sure that the Princesses will be more than willing to overlook such a small technicality. Yes, we will have to keep our eyes on her, but if she’s telling the truth, we’ll be keeping our eyes on her to protect her.

“We’re in the Crystal Empire, the most northern hold in Equestria, surrounded by the snowy lands where the Windigo rest; we cannot afford dissent of any kind else we risk waking the beasts. If you won’t befriend her, all I ask is that you at least tolerate her. If she’s not telling the truth then I’ll interrogate her myself and send her off to Canterlot to stand trial, but… Cadance and Princess Celestia seem to just have this feeling from her. Princess Celestia mentioned that it felt as though Miss Swift herself doesn’t like lying. From her own admission, she only used a disguise within the Empire to get into the castle because she had lost her cloak, which we’ve replaced for her. Just follow orders and leave her be, alright?”

Stalwart sighed and hung his head. “Yes sir.”

Shining chuckled. “Good; now, the day guard has informed me that there are a couple of beekeepers on the north western boulevard, what they’re calling ‘Glimmer Road’. I’d suggest making yourself acquainted with these ponies; who knows, you might be able to buy some bees from them or something. I would also advise going through the markets on the main northern road, I believe it was named ‘Quartz Drive’ or something like that; you’ll have to excuse my ignorance, we’re still learning the Empire.”

Stalwart shrugged. “You spent your whole life learning Canterlot, I’m honestly not surprised. Just so long as you don’t forget your wedding anniversary; your princess would skin you alive.”

Shining chuckled as he pointed out another hefty piece of wood for the two guards to move inside, “Oh, I don’t know about skinning me, she’d probably shave me though.”

Stalwart chuckled at the mental image of Shining Armour shaved bald. “I’ll be sure to check them out, sir.”

Shining nodded and turned his face up to the second story. “That goes for you too, Miss Swift; it would be good for you to become acquainted with those you can trade with. We’ve got a purse of Bits for you down here in the wagon somewhere; it should be enough for you to get by for a little while.”

Stalwart looked up in time to see Ruby’s head duck back until just her ears were showing, then slowly poke back out to give a nod.

“I hope you don’t mind if she ends up planting a few trees in the back yard.” Shining said. “She’s likely to want to grow her own supplies.”

Stalwart sighed. “So long as there’s space for a beehive or two she can do what she wants to the back yard.”


*&*&*&*


After the guards and Prince had left, Stalwart said something about checking out some things in town and flying off, leaving Ruby alone in the house. This didn’t bother her, as she had hidden her purse of Bits down in the basement she now called her workshop and began work on the commission she had received from Princess Luna.

She had sketched out the rough design she was going to use, marking where holes for the bees to enter and exit were going to be cut out with pencil and also marking a design on the external faces. She was going to need some paint and coat to protect it from potential harsh weather, but she could worry about that when she went out after starting on the front face.

Her mind went to its usual vacant happy-place as she began carving, using a chisel and her magic to carve the fiddly curling details into the wood. There was only one thing that the princess had told her that she most certainly wanted on the hive and that was the image of a crescent moon on the front face. She spent a few minutes getting it as exact as she could for a waxing crescent moon before carving out the holes for the bees with utmost care; if she splintered the wood now, she’d have to start all over again.

With that taken care of, she carefully placed the panel down on her workbench and began with the second, only for her internal clock to start screaming at her for some reason or other. With a sigh she placed the wood down on her workbench and strolled from the basement, shaking the wood shavings from her form before she mounted the stairs.

The sun had moved a fair amount in the sky, letting her know that she had been down there for longer than she had thought and she quickly returned to the basement to get her purse before pulling her cloak from its hook behind the door and throwing it over her form, tugging the hood over her face before leaving the house and locking the door behind her. The Prince had been sure to give her a copy of the house keys so that someone could always lock up, and after what had happened to her last house, locking the doors felt like a good idea.

She walked through the Crystal Empire idly, observing the beautiful crystalline structures around her and only stopping when she noticed that the sounds her hooves made upon the crystalline road had changed, looking up and directly at the Crystal Heart itself. She blinked, marvelling at the crystal before a hoof found itself resting on her shoulder and she startled, turning her head to the pony beside her. Princess Cadance herself.

She’d taken on a glassy appearance, her coat now looking as if it were made of rose quartz and her mane neatly tucked away into a hairstyle matching those of the original residents of the Crystal Empire. Her face turned apologetic, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Ruby sighed and looked away momentarily before giving a quick curtsey. “It’s alright, Princess; I guess I was just spacing out.”

Cadance nodded. “It’s not uncommon for tourists to come right here to see themselves as a crystal pony, especially pegasi who want to know what it’s like to fly with wings like that. It can be amusing to see them become somewhat unhappy to find out that, after the first hours of being within the Empire the crystal appearance fades unless within close proximity to the Heart.”

Ruby shuffled her hooves. “I… didn’t even know it would be on public display like this.” She admitted. “I was only heading to the markets. I thought maybe I could find somepony selling saplings.”

Cadance gave a short giggle. “Who knows; it’s entirely possible. If not, I’m sure we can arrange some saplings sent up from Canterlot. However…” she gave Ruby a conspiratorial look and a sly grin to which she didn’t feel entirely welcoming, “I have wondered what a changeling would look like under the effects of the Crystal Heart…”

Again Ruby shuffled uncomfortably; looking away nervously before her magic gripped the cloak she wore and gently removed it from her form, folding it neatly upon the ground nearby. Cadance gave a gentle ‘ooh’ of fascination.

Under the influence of the Crystal Heart, Cadance had seen a whole manner of creatures in a Crystal form, from ponies to her technical nephew Spike, who was a young dragon, and even a Gryphon or two. They always appeared in a gemstone colour similar to their natural colours. Brown gryphons turned into amber or smoky quartz, and Spike had become a mixture of amethyst and chalcedony. She’d always wondered if changelings would become an emerald or other greenish-blue colour gemstone. What she saw was not what she had expected.

Ruby had become a glistening black, her chitin turned into a deep polished coat of obsidian and the shell on her back, in which her wings were hidden when not flying, was a single piece of flawless and polished sapphire. Her wings, also, had undergone the change and were crystalline and ghostly, as if they were made from single pieces of paper-thin clear quartz.

She hummed curiously, circling the changeling and eyeing details she hadn’t seen in her natural form. She poked at an imperfection – a flaw along the Changeling’s side on her ribcage to which she suppressed a ticklish giggle and shifted.

“Where a guard broke three of my ribs,” Ruby informed.

Cadance poked another imperfection, this one on her left thigh.

“Stabbed by a unicorn in an alley in Trottingham,”

Another poke prompted another response.

“Electrocuted by a Pegasus with a storm cloud just outside of Fillydelphia,”

“You’ve not had very nice travels in Equestria, have you..?” Cadance mumbled sympathetically.

Ruby looked back at the princess curiously. “How do you know where my past injuries are..? They didn’t scar…”

Cadance chuckled. “They show up as imperfections in your crystal coat. It’s peculiar; I’ve never seen injuries do it before…” She gave a sigh and looked at Ruby sympathetically. “Though I’ve never seen anypony with wounds that match scars on their soul, either…”

Ruby looked down at the ground sadly before a clamouring of hoofsteps met her ears and she looked up into the sharpened tips of a garden fork, startling and jolting backwards. Her eyes darted around as she shrank down to appear smaller, her ears and head drooping significantly as she looked at the angry faces of the ponies surrounding her.

She heard somepony yell something, her ears barely registering the demand to step away from Cadance before she leapt into the air in fright, flying over the crystal ponies and making a mad dash down the road.

Her mind went back to all the previous times she had been chased out of towns; the mobs, the yelling, the anger. Images of ponies trying to hurt her with pitchforks and spears and fury, chasing her to the ends of their towns and beyond just to get a piece of her flashed through her mind and causing her to move faster as the adrenaline of fear hit her muscles.

Tears were streaming down her face as she ran past house after house, the residents within or around them watching her run confusedly, and then watching in even more confusion as a mob of their angriest-looking neighbours followed behind.

She was barely watching where she was going anymore, straining her still-taxed body to its limits in her efforts to escape the lynch mob. As she was just about to give up, to fall to her legs and simply slide to a halt and let them do whatever they wanted with her, a pair of hooves grabbed her and halted her sprint, wrapping around her protectively.

*

Stalwart had enjoyed talking with the crystal pony beekeepers that Shining Armour had advised him on, they’d told him a few things he already knew, which was inevitable, and a few things he hadn’t known, such as things about the local flora and their effects on the honey and wax that the bees produced.

After the initial confusion had worn off, anyways; for the first few minutes they had looked at him as if he had a second head and he had calmly explained the history of bat ponies, after which they had calmed down and opened up to him. He’d even been out long enough for his eyes to tolerate the bright sunlight, though he did still squint hideously to minimise the impact on his eyes.

He was heading to the markets now, in the hopes of finding something to occupy his time with until he could arrange for a hive and some bees to be shipped to him from Canterlot. He was hoping that they had some books, or maybe even some recipes he could try in the meantime.

As he turned out into a main road, one of the half dozen or so that branched out directly from the Crystal Palace at the centre of the Empire to the outskirts of the Empire itself. From above, the city had an appearance not unlike a snowflake thanks to this. He could see, down the street, a black shape running towards him followed by a large group of crystal ponies.

He quickly realized that the black shape was Ruby Swift, and that the ‘large group’ of crystal ponies would be more aptly described as ‘angry mob’.

She didn’t seem to notice him until he grabbed her and wrapped his hooves around her, turning his back to the mob and flaring a wing to cover her terrified form protectively. She was hyperventilating and tears streamed down her face as she cried into his embrace in fear. He turned his angry face to the mob now hovering near him staring at him dumbstruck.

“What in the name of Princess Celestia’s royal boxer shorts is going on here?” He barked. “What in Tartarus are you all doing?”

One of the obviously less dumbstruck ponies motioned his shovel in their direction. “That’s a changeling.”

Stalwart’s eye twitched. “No really? I never would have guessed.” He retorted with a snarky tone. “What next, you’re going to tell me that I’m a bat pony? Maybe that you’re all crystal ponies? Here’s a good one, how about you all tell me who would like to be charged for attempting assault or forming a mob?”

“You can’t charge us with anything, you’re no guard!”

“Guess again, smartass; you happen to be looking at the new Captain of the Night Guard!” Stalwart hissed. “Captain Stalwart Drone, currently on sick leave until my wings heal from frostbite, but I’m pretty sure I can still fill out paperwork; so who wants to go first?!”

The mob of ponies all looked amongst one another nervously; evidently worried that he might follow through with his threat. A shadow passed over their heads and landed next to the guard and changeling; Princess Cadance looking down at Ruby worriedly. One of the mob shouted.

“Princess, step away, that thing is dangerous!”

“The only dangerous things here are you.” She snapped, managing to get them to flinch. It wasn’t often that she would take such a tone with anyone except her husband when toying with him, but her face displayed her far from toying mood. “Look at her; she cowers from you like a foal cowers from a thunderstorm; is this what the Crystal Empire stands for, the terrorizing of others?” She huffed and glared at them disapprovingly. “Your blind hatred will only serve to darken the Crystal Heart.”

“But…”

“She’s a changeling, yes;” Cadance stated firmly, “but she’s as much a pony as any of us in here,” she motions to her chest meaningfully before continuing, “and that’s the part that matters. Now please, go about your respective days.” She sighed and places her face beside Ruby’s, looking at her worriedly and shushing her crying as if she were caring for a child. “You’re okay, Ruby, don’t be scared; you’re safe in the Empire remember? I promised you that, remember?”

Ruby nodded, her face buried in Stalwart’s shoulder for what little comfort he offered her to recover from her sprint and fear. The guard stood sternly silent, his face firm and set as he allowed her to cry onto his shoulder. Cadance noticed a twitch of his flared wing and for an instant pain flicked through his eye and face before being smothered by the stern glare once more. Cadance sighed and put a hoof onto his wing, lowering it slightly.

“You may fold your wing, Captain; thank you for your courage in holding it out this long, I can only imagine how much it must hurt.”

He carefully lowered his wing, folding it back to his side with a wince. “Can’t feel the tips, ma’am; guess I’m in for a long bath tonight. Still; following orders and all that; do you want me to escort her home?”

“Actually, I think she was interested in heading to the markets; if you could accompany her we would be most grateful.” Cadance said with a smile, watching as the now defeated mob cleared out and returned to what they had originally been doing.

Stalwart nodded. “Yes, ma’am; I was headed there myself before all this nonsense began.” He nudged Ruby with his nose gently to get her attention. “Calm down Miss Swift, otherwise I’ll not buy you any ice-cream.”

She giggled faintly between huffs, lifting a hoof to wipe the tears from her cheeks. “Meanie.”

“Well, I’m hardly paid to be nice.” He retorted, sticking his tongue out at her.


*&*&*&*


The pair walked through the markets, looking about at the stalls curiously; ponies were selling all sorts of things. One store sold books, the one next door sold instruments, and next door to that was somepony selling jewellery. Stalwart stopped at the book store and looked about for something to occupy his time with, ending up buying a few adventure books and waiting patiently as Ruby purchased herself a pair of romance novels and something on wood carving.

After this, they strolled along until they came upon a toy shop, whereupon Ruby stopped in and talked with the store owner. She introduced herself and mentioned that she might be interested in selling hoof-carved toys to them for their store. While they were initially a little nervous about her, they seemed to eventually warm up to her enough to accept that they could purchase whatever she brought in, provided she not expect any promises; word of their business hadn’t spread to all of the ponies in the Empire so they might not have anything to really offer her. Before leaving, Stalwart bought a pair of saddlebags from them, mentioning that he hadn’t thought that they would be buying much but that he was growing tired of balancing the books on his back.

On the way out of the toy store, Stalwart commented to her that the Guard was always looking for wooden practice weapons such as swords, spears, and shields to replace those damaged in exercises and sparring matches. She could probably manage to get a stable income by providing these supplies regularly.

They stopped at a garden goods store next. Stalwart looked at the tools and such on the shelves while Ruby negotiated the purchase of a few trees, including a fruit tree that she was hoping could at least offer a reprieve to their wallets every time it bore fruit. Once she had managed to buy four trees she could grow for the wood, she made a purchase that Stalwart didn’t take much notice of and they left the store in high spirits and headed to the confectioners.

It was a small store, few tables for those who would buy a doughnut, muffin, or cupcake with a coffee or cuppa tea for the afternoon, and a veritable wall of available confections. They were evidently well supplied, with candies ranging from chocolates to sour lemon drops and everything in-between.

Stalwart and Ruby stood in line quietly, ignoring the looks they were getting from the few other patrons as they waited their turn and quietly discussed between one another what they were considering getting. Stalwart, true to his bat-like heritage, was interested in something fruity while Ruby was mumbling something about honey crumble, having noticed that it was available on their list.

She, also, hoofed Stalwart some Bits for him to buy her some assorted candies. He’d asked what she wanted, and she had simply replied with; “Anything except liquorice.”

He was polite and calm to the crystal pony at the counter who eyed him as if he were some form of enormous mushroom. With a practiced ease he ordered the two flavours of ice-cream, splurging out a little and buying them in tubs rather than just as cones, and the assorted candies that Ruby had asked for. After paying and placing the purchased goodies into his saddlebags.

One last stop procured them some bathroom necessities; soap, shampoo, a toothbrush for Ruby and some toothpaste. They also got some assorted groceries to use for meals and a rag which Stalwart said was for shining his armour and spear.

When they finally returned home the sun was almost at the horizon and the Empire was growing lazy and quiet; the only sounds on the breeze were those of pets loudly asking for their nightly meal or ponies conversing near enough to be overheard anyway.

Upon the porch they encountered Princess Cadance and Shining Armour waiting patiently, watching the sun in its descent together quietly. Shining was the first to notice them arriving home and he nodded to them.

“Evening,”

Stalwart snapped a lazy salute, “Sir,” he said before unlocking the door and letting everypony else in before walking in himself.

“Had a good day?” Cadance asked, to which Stalwart nodded.

“Fair enough after the… midday mob.” He replied before moving to the kitchen. “Make yourselves at home; I’ve just got to get these groceries into the fridge before the ice-cream melts.”

The royal couple obliged and sat next to one another in the lounge on the room’s couch, with Cadance motioning for Ruby to seat herself.

“So, Ruby, how have you been since this afternoon?” Shining Armour asked. “I heard about the… incident; I’ll be sending out a report on your presence in the morning and you shouldn’t have to suffer from any more such incidents.”

Ruby shrugged meekly, evidently not in the mood to talk about what had happened earlier at all, and soon enough Stalwart joined them in the lounge, sitting in a soft and remarkably deep chair before dipping his head to the royal couple respectfully.

“Captain Drone, I have news.” Shining stated cheerfully. “Just after fourteen hundred hours we received a letter from Princesses Celestia and Luna in regards to the investigation; evidently ponies are only too willing to tell guards about a changeling they encountered even months back. I assume you would like to know the result of the Princess’s investigation?”

Stalwart nodded, and Shining moved forward in the couch to lean forward before speaking with a more authoritative tone.

“The investigation began with the dispatch of a squadron of Pegasus guard to Coltorado. Upon arrival, the local townsponies were questioned about any changeling activity they had encountered, and the guard were promptly led to the site of a burned-down cottage. Once here, they were told about how a changeling had lived within the town for many years until the day after the invasion was publicised, at which point they chased her out of town.

“Using your own testimony, Miss Swift, questions were asked about whether or not the building was burned down before or after the changeling had left, and their response was a blanket ‘before’. Of course, all ponies involved in the alleged assault of Miss Swift were, as the lieutenant put it, stupid enough to boast. All of the ponies involved in the destruction of private property, namely the arson of Miss Swift’s home, and the ponies who assaulted Miss Swift were fined and given six months of compulsory community service.

“The next step was to send a dispatch to the towns you stopped at on your meanderings across Equestria. Without fail, at every single town or city your presence and the actions taken against you were rather proudly boasted to the guard. As a result, four towns have managed to, altogether, accumulate a total of four counts of inciting panic and a further fourteen accumulative charges of assault. A guard in the city of Trotsdale by the name of Scorch Hottrot has been put on probation and tripling of duties after his admittance to breaking three of your ribs without provocation.

“The report has painted for us a picture of multiple cases of assault, willful acts of dissent and disorderly conduct, and these could potentially be seen as diplomatic incidents, as you are the only known changeling residing within Equestrian borders peacefully and could be portrayed as a diplomat of sorts.” His horn flared and a pair of saddlebags were hoisted onto the coffee table, the sound of many Bits held within making itself audible when his magic let go. “In total, the report has accumulated this rough estimate of twelve thousand Bits in damages recompense, with a possible ten thousand more to be added on top as an apology for the royal guard’s gross misconduct.”

Cadance shuffled in her seat. “Ruby, are you alright?” She asked worriedly.

Ruby had gone stiff as a board, staring at the saddlebags of Bits as if she had never seen anything like them before her eyes rolled in her head –not that any of the ponies could really tell- and she flopped to the ground unceremoniously. The three still-awake ponies in the room blinked down at her in collective stunned shock.

Stalwart sighed and stood, moving over to the changeling and gently lifting her into the chair she had fallen from before carefully slapping her awake. Ruby gabbled away pointlessly for a few moments before returning to her senses and managing to find her tongue.

“T-twelve thousand Bits..?” She asked incredulously. “I… I don’t even know what I’d do with so much money…”

Shining chuckled. “That is, as the rookies say, your problem Miss Swift.” He said. “Though I would advise spending it wisely, I would also like to reiterate that this is only what you deserve in damages for the pain you have suffered over the last few months; the guard knows that money could never make up for your suffering, and we wish to extend our most heartfelt apologies.”

She nodded faintly, still processing what she had been given, and Stalwart took the moment to speak up.

“Sir, how have the Empire Guard been handling combat training?”

Shining grumbled. “Not well; we’re having difficulty getting training weapons shipped in from Canterlot; one of the pencil-pushers back home seems to have this thing against spending Bits on the Guard.”

“Sir, perhaps Miss Swift could plug the gap? She is, after all, a carpenter by trade; perhaps she could make wooden training weapons for the Crystal Empire guard in return for a stipend?”

After a moment’s thought, Shining chuckled. “I suppose that could be arranged; just so long as she’s aware that she’ll be in for a fair amount of work.”

“I need to finish that request from the princess first… everything else needs to take a back-seat until it’s done.” Ruby mumbled, still staring at the saddlebags as if they were some mysterious and exotic puzzle. She mumbled ‘twelve thousand’ under breath, clearly still trying to come to terms with the number. For that kind of money she figured could probably buy her own house and have enough left over to fill it with furniture, though she would have found making her own to be more fun.

Cadance held her hoof up to her face to daintily hide her laugh. “I think she’s still struggling with coming to terms with her sudden income.” She said before standing and motioning for her husband to follow her. “We’ll get out of your manes so you can enjoy your evenings; have a good night.”

Stalwart stood and followed them to the door, letting them out into the night with a final cheerful ‘goodnight’ before closing it and returning into the house. Cadance nudged her husband and giggled.

“You made a good call, putting them together.” She said conspiratorially.

Shining sighed. “Cadance,” he began with a tone not unlike that of parents scolding a child, “you remember what you promised your aunts; no love spells on ponies. Celestia knows how badly I’ll get chewed out if you did, and you’d never hear the end of it.”

Cadance only laughed haughtily. “Oh, Shiny, if you only knew.” She replied, punctuating her sentence by sticking her tongue out at him. ‘After all; when things are done right, it’s as if nothing was done at all.’

Author's Note:

Before anyone asks; yes, this story is going to have chapter after chapter of annoying alliteration. That cool? Yes? Good. No? Too bad. :3

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