• Published 22nd Sep 2014
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Dueling Keyboards - FanOfMostEverything



FoME's submissions to the Writeoff Contests, along with other bits and bobs.

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The Logic of Ladybugs

"Princess Luna, some ponies wish to speak to you."

Luna looked up from her afternoon reading to see one of her dark-armored chiropteron guards poking his head through her bedroom doors. “With me?"

"Aye."

"With you?” Luna said with a smirk. Adopting her speech patterns was a well-known occupational hazard of being her personal guard. “Which is it, Guarding Dark?"

The bat-winged stallion gave her a flat, long-suffering look that brought basset hounds to mind. “Your Highness."

Luna’s smile turned more genuine as she rose from her desk cushion. “Take it from one who brooded for centuries on end. Unending severity is no way to live your life."

"It is when I'm on duty, ma'am,” said Guarding Dark, still staring straight ahead as his charge moved about the room. “We get a special incision in the guard. It lets us out take out our sense of humor at the start of the shift."

"Never let Pinkie Pie hear you say that unless you want her to perform field surgery on your sorry hide.” Luna nodded in satisfaction as she spotted the faint shudder that made it even through Guarding’s training. “Now, who wishes to petition me outside of court hours, and in my personal chambers, no less?”

"Dame Fluttershy and Dame Rainbow Dash of Ponyville, Your Highness."

"Dames?” Luna tilted her head. “I thought they were duchesses at minimum by now."

"I believe they declined the elevation, Your Highness. Should I bring them in?"

"By all means." Luna decidedly did not spend the next few moments settling herself into a suitably mystical and inscrutable pose in front of the door. Both mares doubtless remembered the Caramel Incident from last Nightmare Night, and any attempt at maintaining her dignity after that was doomed to failure.

Thus, the pegasi entered to see her sitting casually once more, mystique be damned. "Greetings, friends! What brings you here?"

Fluttershy was the very image of pegasine unease, every part of her in fitful motion. ”We, um, we're worried about Twilight."

“Indeed?” Luna drew herself up into proper posture. Casualness among friends was one thing. A friend in peril was quite another. “What concerns you?"

Rainbow Dash was not as outwardly agitated as Fluttershy, but Luna could see the way her eyes and ears darted about, how her tail lashed and wings shifted. “The other day, she flipped out over a ladybug. Like, rearing back, wheeling forehooves, panicked whinnying, the works."

Luna raised an eyebrow. “To be clear, we speak of the harmless little spotted beetles, yes?"

"Yeah,” said Rainbow. “And the really weird thing is that I've seen her look at ladybugs before and be fine. They're even in that friendship chant she does with Cadence."

"But this was all before she became a princess, and..." Fluttershy trailed off, unable to maintain eye contact.

"I believe I understand,” said Luna. “Cadence is far off in the Empire, and my sister has never been forthcoming with information about the alicorn condition. Moreover, neither has succumbed to madness in their ascended state. Thus you come to who you see as the best authority on alicorns sane and crazed alike, in hopes that I may be the light in your long, dark night of ignorance."

That got her a pair of blank stares for several moments. ”Um, yeah,” said Rainbow. “That. So is she okay?"

"She told us about Midnight Sparkle in the human world, and if something like that happened to her…” Fluttershy winced. “I don't even want to imagine it."

"It does you both great credit to seek me out, and I am pleased to say that I can allay your fears. You see, ladybugs have become one of Twilight's banes."

The mares turned to one another and saw matching incomprehension. Upon turning back to Luna, Rainbow said, “You mean like the juiced-up stallion who broke the Batmare?"

Luna gazed blankly at her in turn. “I do not know of this juicy stallion, nor what he did to an officer's assistant. But banes are how the universe keeps its mightiest inhabitants in check. You see, the intrinsic nature of the universe is neither good nor evil, harmony nor discord. It is balance, balance between all four and more besides. And to maintain that balance, those who rise to the greatest heights are assigned ways that they may be brought low. An intrinsic weakness, a designated nemesis, or in this case, a crippling fear."

“Oh, I get it,” said Rainbow. “Like her thing with quesadillas?"

Luna nodded. “I have suspected as such. I asked my sister, thinking some manner of foalhood trauma soured Twilight on cheesy flatbreads. But as far as Celestia knows, the fear simply appeared one day late into Twilight's studies. The first bane is always something almost completely harmless, and thus frequently ridiculous."

"Like Rainbow Dash's fear of hoof files?" said Fluttershy.

Rainbow leapt back, wings spread to match her furious expression. “I just have sensitive hooves! Why would you even say that?"

Luna extended a leg, quieting her subject. “Take pride in those hooves, Dame Rainbow. Passing few mortals are mighty enough to earn a bane."

"But…” Rainbow was silent for several moments. Luna knew well what she tried to comprehend. “Hang on, so being scared of something lame—not that I am! But if I were, that would mean I'm just that much more awesome?"

"Indeed,” Luna said with a grin. “Any creature with a bane to their name merits awe. And the stronger they are, the mightier and more numerous their banes in turn. Celestia's greatest bane is Queen Chrysalis herself. Only by striking the first overwhelming blow has my sister ever been able to triumph over that bloated tick."

Guarding Dark, who had been standing along the wall the whole time, cleared his throat as though to remind Her Highness that the diplomatic summit with Hive Thorax was next week. It was a very carefully modulated sort of cough.

She waved off the reminder. “Her spawn have redeemed themselves. I have yet to see one scrap of evidence that their twisted progenitrix shall ever do the same."

Fluttershy’s expression managed to become even more horrified than when she’d entered Luna’s chambers. “And when Discord nearly destroyed himself by trying to behave normally for me..."

"One such as he has banes without number.” Luna looked off into the distance, for mystique was not an easily abandoned companion. “It is ironic in a way. The chaos that empowers him compels him to obey his own inscrutable laws."

"So Twilight's okay?" said Rainbow.

Luna nodded, glad to see her friends relax with the news. “That and more. In truth, she has one over on her dear mentor. She took her own nemesis bane and used her to defeat herself.” A wide smile broke through her demeanor. “Then took her under her wing! An incredible coup."

After a moment, Fluttershy said, “You mean Starlight?"

"Of course. A nemesis bane is often a twisted reflection of the one she is destined to thwart. And yet Twilight thwarted hers in turn, once through you, once through her own impossible compassion. She humbles us all."

"What does that have to..." Dash trailed off as she scrunched her muzzle in thought. "Wait. Are you saying Twilight's afraid of ladybugs because she's too good at befriending anything else the universe can throw at her?"

Luna considered this. “In essence, yes."


"And that's the principle of banes, or at least an introduction to it. There are quite a few details I've glossed over, but this seems like a logical break for questions. So, questions?"

Luster Dawn frowned and finally voiced what had been bothering her for half of the lecture. "Just one, Princess Twilight. What's a quesadilla?"

The princess kept smiling. She usually smiled. But this smile made Luster's ears fold back. It made her think of all the horrors that had tried to overcome Princess Twilight. "Well, Luster, it's like Luna told me. The most reliable way to overcome one of your banes, especially one you can't outwit or befriend, is through overwhelming force."

Author's Note:

For reference:

And we never do see a quesadilla in the post-timeskip parts of "The Last Problem." Cheese Sandwich may or may not be on a watch list.