• Published 23rd Apr 2012
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A Friend of the Night - Shotoman



Luna's depressed. She needs friends.

  • ...
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Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Dear Princess Celestia,

Winter Wrap Up was one of the most special things I've ever been a part of here in Ponyville. It helped me to learn that we all have hidden talents, and if we're patient and diligent we're sure to find them. And as always, with good friendship and teamwork, ponies can accomplish anything...

“Winter Wrap! Winter Wrap Up! Let's finish our holiday cheer! Winter Wrap Up! Winter Wrap Up! 'Cuz tomorrow Spring is here...”

“Miss Sugar Heart, what art thou singing?”

It was a testament to how used to Luna's idiosyncrasies Sugar Heart was that she didn't even react to the her sudden appearance from behind. “Ah, Princess Luna!” she said, turning as Luna entered her room from her balcony. “How was the moon-raising?”

“'Twas the same as always, Miss Sugar Heart. We will admit that we will miss winter. The sky is rarely clear, but when it is, it looks ever so crisp and clean. Also, as we have already asked, please just call us Luna.”

Sugar Heart grinned. “Sorry, Princess Luna. I may be the least proper servant here, but there is a limit, even for me. Besides, I notice you're still calling me 'miss'.”

Luna sighed. “Thy point is irritatingly valid. But, back to the subject at hoof, where hath thou learned this song thou art singing?”

Sugar Heart shrugged her forelegs dismissively. “I really don't know. Happens every year at Winter Wrap Up, and a couple of other events. Everypony just feels compelled to sing a song to celebrate and help focus. The song's different every year, yet everypony seems to know it. Wasn't it that way before, ah, the moon?”

Luna shook her head. “Nay. In those days Equestria was darker. Wilder. The country was peaceful enough, but it had not been so for terribly long. 'Twas the first time of uninterrupted peace since the three tribes defeated the windigos. The Magic of Friendship had not yet permeated the land sufficiently to effect... spontaneous singing. In truth, during those times, we never would have imagined Equestria would have become such a wonderfully peaceful land. A land where ponies engage in song, simply for the joy of it.” Luna's expression turned wistful. “'Tis a glorious thing. So glorious. And you do not even know, having never known what it was like before. We think, back then, Celestia knew. Or at least could dream. She always lived more for the future than us.” Luna noticed Sugar Heart's smile and stopped. “What art thou smiling for?” she asked.

“Nothing, Princess. It's just...” A brief huff of a chuckle escaped Sugar Heart's lips. “I've never pictured you as the whimsical sort.”

“Still thy tongue. We are Princess of the Night. Those dark hours just before morning light make for the most wistful of moments, after all.”

“True, I suppose, but the Princess of the Night tends to yell in ponies' faces and causes thunder to strike when she laughs.”

“As we have told thee, 'tis tradition!” Luna smiled at Sugar Heart's incredulous look. “And we enjoy it as well,” she admitted.

The conversation paused as Sugar Heart began to cough. Luna looked upon her friend with a raised eyebrow. “Art thou all right?” she said.

“Yeah, just a little bit of a cold. No big deal, really. You, however, have an appointment with the head of the Cloudsdale Weather Bureau in less than ten minutes, and if you don't leave now you'll be late.”

Luna sighed, with a roll of her eyes. “How our sister was able to deal with all the bureaucracy of ruling the country for so long is beyond us. Is it truly necessary for us to officially give permission for every little night storm and overcast night?”

Sugar Heart smiled with a bit of irony in her expression. “Organization is what separates us ponies from the lesser animals, or so I'm told,” she said. “Though I think that's just an excuse the bit counters say to feel better about themselves.”

Luna laughed. “We suppose we should not keep the good stallion waiting. We shall return by midnight.”

“Looking forward to it,” was the reply, though Sugar Heart was glad her friend had already left when another coughing fit took her.

~FIM~

Luna was surprised a few nights later to find her room empty of company when she returned from the moon-raising. As her best friend and devoted servant, Sugar Heart was almost always there waiting for her, usually with the bed already made and the miscellaneous clutter from Luna's various projects removed from the floor and either organized on her desk or thrown away. Sugar Heart had developed quite the sixth sense when it came to what Luna might wish to keep and what was truly garbage.

Concerned, Luna opened the door out to the hallway with the intent of finding her friend. She did not have far to look, as it turned out. Sugar Heart was already on her way to Luna's chambers, albeit not with her usual cheerful gait. She seemed to be stumbling down the hallway, her head drooping toward the floor. Upon closer inspection, Luna could see that her eyes were bloodshot and baggy and there was a definite flush to her cheeks. “Miss Sugar Heart,” the princess gasped. “Thou looketh... terrible!”

Sugar Heart grinned a bit. “Thanks for that, Princess Luna. Just what anypony wants to...” She stopped as a midnight blue foreleg placed itself upon her forehead. After a few moments, Luna removed her foreleg and placed her ear up against Sugar Heart's chest, causing the latter to blush furiously. “What're you doing?” Sugar Heart asked, getting shushed in response.

“Deep breaths, please, Miss Sugar Heart,” Luna said, in a tone that brooked no argument. Sugar Heart complied, breathing in long, controlled repetitions. Luna's eyes narrowed as she listened; the sound she was hearing in Sugar Heart's chest was akin to a ball bearing bouncing around a fluid filled container. “Miss Sugar Heart,” Luna said sternly as she straightened back up to her full height. “Whatever ails thee is much more than a 'mere cold'. Thou shouldst be home in bed or, preferably, at the medical offices.”

Sugar Heart became petulant. “It's not really that bad, Princess. I can work just fine, and you need me.”

It was Luna's turn to roll her eyes. “The kingdom will survive if we lack thee to remind us of our schedule.”

“That's not what I mean and you know it.”

Now Luna smiled. “We understand what thou meant, and we agree. However we would rather miss out on thy companionship for a few days in order to keep thee with us for many more years yet. And as such, thou art taking a trip to the royal doctor.” Sugar Heart yelped as she was magically lifted off her feet and placed her on Luna's back. “And thou mayst consider this a royal order.”

“Hey, I may not be feeling well, but I can still walk.”

Luna began trotting in the direction of the medical offices in spite of Sugar Heart's complaints. “It is an odd coincidence, then, that we are able to as well.”

“Ponies're gonna stare...” Sugar Heart was somewhat despondent.

“Let them,” Luna replied without hesitation.

Sugar Heart snorted, but she still allowed herself to relax so she could be taken to the doctor.

~FIM~

Hours passed before Luna was able to return to the doctor's office—she attended to fewer meetings and other duties at night than Celestia did during the day, but was still responsible for ruling an entire country during her waking hours. The doctor almost seemed to materialize at Luna's side moments after her arrival, and he was more than eager to relay his findings to his dark princess.

Luna looked over Sugar Heart's chart as he prattled on. “It's nothing too serious—her chest congestion is the worst of her symptoms—but it is a good thing you brought her here when you did. It could have gotten worse very fast.”

Luna nodded. “What was the cause of her illness?”

The doctor shrugged. “It really did start as a simple cold and, like so many ponies, Miss Sugar Heart ignored it and decided to power on through. Without giving herself the proper rest and care, her immune system was weakened enough to let something considerably worse affect her. Still, now that we've caught it, a few days of bed rest and a prescription should be sufficient to get her back on her hooves and right as rain.”

“We thank thee, doctor,” Luna said with a smile that actually passed as a good impersonation of her older sister's calm expression. “If thou would allow, we would like to see to our friend.”

“Of course, Princess. She is just down the hall. First on the left.”

Luna nodded and followed the instructions. When she opened the door, Sugar Heart instantly raised her head from her pillow and smiled. “Hi, Princess,” she said with an ever so slight slur. Luna guessed that she'd been given some medicine that, either as a side effect or through design, made her drowsy. Luna would have to keep this visit brief.

“Hello, my friend Sugar Heart,” Luna said. She actually managed to keep her voice down to a respectfully quiet level.

Sugar Heart, though tired, was not so dulled in the mind to miss the change in tone, nor the different title in which the princess had addressed her. “Princess Luna? 'S something wrong?”

Luna sighed softly. “In truth, we feel we have failed thee as thy friend.”

Sugar Heart raised an eyebrow incredulously. “How d' you figure?” she asked, mentally kicking herself over the medication-induced slurring.

Luna sighed. This was actually more difficult than she thought it would be. “We knew thou was ill days ago, yet did nothing. Only once the illness had affected thee in a most adverse manner did we intervene. As well...” Luna lowered her head in shame. “It appears that we have given thee the impression that we are dependent upon thee and thy companionship to the exclusion of all else.”

Sugar Heart was quick to try to reassure her friend. “Oh, no, Princess. You shouldn't feel like that at all! I always get like that when I'm sick. Anything short of tossing my apples I just try to work my way through. I don't like hospitals, and I don't like doctors. And I need to be with you as much as you need me.”

Luna was not yet entirely convinced. “We also feel somewhat bad that we could do nothing directly to help with thy illness.”

“Why?” Sugar Heart asked.

“We are unique, our sister and I,” Luna said. “Even beyond this...” Luna spread her wings and her horn glowed briefly with her magic. “We are different. Exceedingly rare though they are, other alicorns do exist. In this generation we have a niece, many times removed, who shares that particular gift with us; however she is still mortal, and her magic is but marginally more powerful than most unicorns. We, on the other hoof, have been alive for thousands of years—thousands, plural—and have the ability to affect the heavens themselves. We have been thought of not as simple princesses, but deities as well. Yet despite our power, we—that is, I—know very little of the healing arts. We have tried to learn, yet healing magic is so fundamentally different from our own that we cannot. For all our power, we can do nothing to heal a pony with a common illness.”

Sugar Heart said nothing for a moment. It was a strange occurrence, hearing one of the princesses—headstrong Luna in particular—admit to weakness. Sugar Heart admitted it never occurred to her that either of the princesses would have any. Yet she found herself smiling anyway. “Maybe that's one of the reasons you need a friend. It keeps you from falling for your own hype.” At Luna's confused look at the more modern turn of phrase, Sugar Heart clarified. “Friends help each other stay humble.”

Luna chuckled at that, though her expression turned sad. “We expect thou art correct in that regard. Had we friends back in the bygone days to keep our vanity in check...” Luna shook her head as if to forcibly remove such thoughts. The past was the past and nothing could change it now. “Rest now, dear Sugar Heart. Thou art a precious friend, and we wish to see thee well.”

Sugar Heart responded with a jaw crackingly wide yawn. “Yeah. 'll see you tomorrow.” As she began to curl up to sleep, a sudden thought caused her to come back to full attention, if only for a moment. “Don't let any of the other servants touch your papers. They wouldn't know what to do with 'em." With a chuckle she added, "But don't make too much of a mess for me, either.".

Luna smiled at that. “We shall keep that in mind. Good night, Sugar Heart.”

“'Night, Luna,” Sugar Heart murmured as she fell into a deep, healing sleep.