• Published 16th Apr 2016
  • 522 Views, 8 Comments

O Blessed Night - Dafaddah



This night is going to last forever. This night is never going to end. O Celestia, what are we to do without you?

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Come the revolution

Charlie and Francine

S’quoi ça?” said Charlie, squinting into the north where a low cloud had been growing over the last few hours. With a pale blue wingtip he shaded his eyes from the huge full moon hanging low in the east.

J’sais pas, moi!” asserted Francine, annoyed he would ask. The earth pony mare could barely see the blob on the horizon, let alone identify what it was. Usually, there was nothing this far north. That’s why the pair had come here. With no ponies around for dozens, maybe even hundreds of miles, there was still forage to be found: mushrooms, dried grasses, there were even a few – not many – tough pine trees that had survived the sunless years, and still bore cones rich with nuts. She had been nibbling hungrily on just such a treasure when something up north had caught her coltfriend’s attention.

With a grunt he launched himself into the air and flapped his ragged wings hard, gaining barely enough altitude to rise above the sparse treetops before folding his wings and making a shaky but mostly controlled glide back to earth.

Idiot!” declared Francine. “T’as pas les reserves pour voler!” She pointed a hoof at the easily visible ribs of his barrel. “Tu crèves déjà, s’pèce de cave!” she swore at him.

He chuckled and took a breath, winded even from so slight an exertion. He pointed to where the low cloud continued to grow. “Y’a une armée qui s’approche! On est mieux de s’cacher!” He pointed backwards towards a low stand of dead scrub where they had slept a few hours earlier. They’d found it while foraging the previous day and knew that when hidden inside they would be impossible to discover, even by an army of ponies passing by.

Francine looked longingly at the few remaining pine cones up the tree. Those would probably not survive the the passage of hungry soldiers. Reluctantly, she turned around and followed Charlie into the stand. Pulling dead scrub behind them, they blocked the only access into the tiny refuge and with the patience of the starving they lay down to wait.


Applebloom

Thora sat on the sofa in the parlour, awkwardly holding a glass of water in her hooves and gazing at everything around her with huge eyes and a look of awe on her muzzle. She took a sip and sighed contentedly. She’d never drunk water from a glass before. She hadn’t even known what the objects were for, until Scootaloo had bade the young changeling to sit and have a drink while the house’s inhabitants talked. She blinked and trembled a bit. The flood of powerful emotions emanating from the kitchen nearly made her head spin.

From the doorway into the kitchen, Apple Bloom took a peek at the changeling, shook her head, and turned back towards to the ponies gathered at the room’s enormous table, built in the days when the Apple’s kitchen might be called to serve twenty of more ponies at a time.

“Ah cain’t believe you brought a night critter into this house!” she whispered. “You know the rule. Any exception could be the end of us all! It shoulda been dealt with!”

Big Mac looked properly abashed; Spike grinned sheepishly. Scootaloo’s expression, however, was defiant. “We’ve killed critters before, but she’s not a critter. And if you need proof, she’s got a cutie mark!”

“Cutie mark, shmootie mark!” Apple Bloom voice was no longer a whisper. “She’s a changelin’, straight out of that book of dangerous critters. Them things a menace to ponies!”

Scootaloo crossed her forelegs over her chest. “We aren’t going to hurt her! Nor are we going to send her away.”

“And just why in tarnation should I expose my niece and nephew, along with the only food producing farm in Ponyville, to some critter who could turn into who-knows-what kind of monster on a whim? Ain’t we had enough bad surprises already tonight?”

Scootaloo winced at the reminder of the catastrophe she’d caused. She turned her head away. The motion brought the colorful image on her flank, a flank that had been blank since she could remember. In the brighter light of the kitchen she could now see it clearly, an image from her foalhood: a glass of milk and a plate of cookies. She didn't have a clue what it meant, but somehow, the image calmed her down. Straightening up, she locked gazes with Apple Bloom.

“She got her cutie mark tonight, same as we did, Bloom. It happened just after we saw that rainbow. I don’t know what it means, but it’s gotta mean something. Somehow, us three and that changeling are linked!”

Big Mac’s head reared back and his eyes widened. “Well Ah’ll be hornswoggled!”

“What it is, Mac?” asked Spike.

The stallion took a moment to gather his thoughts. “Ah knew there was something familiar about that rainbow thing in the sky. That’s the way mah sister Applejack got her cutie mark too! She done told me just after she came home from a visit to Manehatten when she was still a filly. She heard a boom and saw a circular rainbow crossing the sky. Next thing she knows she’s got her cutie mark, just like what happened tonight!”

Apple Bloom’s grim expression didn’t falter. “And what are we supposed to feed her? Who’s gonna starve so we can keep yer chubby little pet changelin’ and her cutie mark alive?”

Chubby? As if her looks have anything to do with our survival...” Scootaloo’s eye’s grew wide as the full moon and her jaw dropped. “Why, she is chubby, isn’t she! I haven’t seen a chubby pony for years!” She scanned the faces of her friends around the table. “Have any of you?!”

Heads shook, confirming her suspicions.

She stood up from the table. “Thora!” she called out. “Could you come in here a moment, please.”


Thora

Thora carefully deposited the glass on the coffee table in the parlour, and then clip-clopped slowly into the kitchen, round eyes staring at every pony and dragon in turn. “Yes, Scootaloo?” she asked hesitantly.

“Do you eat other food than emotions?” The pony’s expression mirrored the powerful feelings of curiosity and hope her new friend was broadcasting loudly.

While she had sat and sipped her water in the parlor, Thora had become increasingly nervous as the acrimony emanating from the kitchen increased. She’d imagined being confronted by the ponies, something that never ended well for little ‘lings who didn’t follow the rules in Mother’s stories. However, this question wasn’t one of those trick questions designed to trip up wayward ‘lings. In fact it was an unexpectedly easy one to answer. Thora smiled in relief and nodded.

“Oh, of course I do! Without emotions my magic would run dry. But my body needs tummy food too! I eat all kinds of things that grow in the dark! Mushrooms, molds, and that sort of thing. Most of what ‘lings eat we grow ourselves in our hives.” She frowned. “Or at least we used to. Mother taught me how to grow ‘em in some hollow tree trunks.” Her smile returned. “But, I also eat food from outside, some mosses, and lots of moonlight plants, too! Stuff like that.”

Scootaloo approached Thora, who trembled a bit at the intensity of the pony’s feelings. “Do you know if ponies can eat any of those things too?”

Thora nodded happily. “Uh-huh! I’ve seen ponies eat them while they passed through the woods. I could feel them from far away. When I hid near them I saw them eat some of the same food I eat. Besides, Mother taught me a spell to check if stuff will make me sick before I eat it.”

Scootaloo stared intently at Thora. “If you come with me outside, do you think you could help us find some of these tummy foods?”

The feeling of joy coming from her friend was the best thing Thora had felt in her entire life! Her smile widened even more. “Of course I can! I know where all the best tummy food is around here! Do you want me to show you?”

Scootaloo bent down and hugged Thora warmly. The changeling closed her eyes and trembled as the pony held her close. When the mare let go everypony in the room could see the twin tracks of tears down the sides of Scootaloo’s muzzle. “Okay, then!” Scootaloo said gently with a sniff. “Let’s go get some!” She led Thora out of the kitchen.


Spike

Apple Bloom’s frown softened only marginally. “Ah don’t know iffen I feel right about eatin’ night stuff just ‘cause that changelin’ says so!”

Spike let out a deep breath he hadn't realized he was holding. “We don’t have much choice, Bloom. But if what she says is true, we might just have found the key to Ponyville’s survival!”

Apple Bloom stared into Spike’s eyes, her expression spoke more of quiet desperation than hope. She nodded hesitantly. “Yeah, Spike. Wouldn’t that be somethin’?”

He came close and embraced her tightly in his strong arms until he felt her relax, if only a little bit. “I’d better go with them,” he whispered into her ear. “Just in case they do run into some monster out there!”

Bloom nodded again. “Yeah. You do that... and Spike?”

“Yeah?”

She nuzzled his broad shoulder. “Ya’ll be careful now, ya hear?”

He gave her a quick peck on the cheek. “Always, my love! And don’t worry.” With a garish smile he took off in pursuit of Scootaloo and Thora.


Meteor

Well! Meteor grinned ruefully. I knew I’d be presented to the First Citizen today, but I didn’t figure on wearing chains to the meeting!

To his surprise, he had not been conveyed to the finish line of the race, where She would traditionally watch the arrival of the winners and bestow them Her congratulations and the prizes they had won. Instead, the Shadowbolts had delivered him to the castle in shackles. Now he waited in the darkened corridor before the huge doors that led to the Court of Night.

“Tsk, tsk tsk!” The guard on the right shook his head and smiled at me. “It’s too bad for you the chairpony of the Committee for Public Safety is here tonight.”

“Yeah!” the guard on the left chortled. “E’s a special one, ‘e is!” He leered as he looked me up and down. “And e’s been thirstin’ all night to use his newfangled Guillotine. Har!”

The other guard made an exaggerated pulling motion with his hoof. “He loves to yank the cord. I hear it’s so quiet you only know your head’s been chopped off... when it’s rolling on the floor and you see the blood gushing up from your neck like a fountain!” Both guards laughed.

He didn’t bother to acknowledge the idiots. Besides, the news that Citizen Blueblood was attending court on the very same night he was brought before it made his blood run cold. His reputation as a zealot of the republican cause was unmatched. It was said he’d even condemned family to death in those first tumultuous years of the revolution.

Disappointed that he wasn’t entertaining them with cries of despair, the guards lost interest in Meteor and stood quietly at their posts, their thought mercifully their own.

Finally, with a great shuddering creak, the way before him opened and a none-too-subtle speartip to the flank made him hop and shuffle forward as quickly as he could manage.

His eyes grew big and he almost stumbled at the sight that greeted him. The Court was everything he had heard tell of it, and more! Stained glass windows let in a strangely festive glow of moonlight, bathing entire sections of the hall in blue, red, and green, colours that the floating glow balls could not completely wash out in their harsh white light. Ponies in garish costumes strutted about, competing for proximity to the Great Leader herself, alternately smiling obsequiously and casting sneers as they navigated amongst their allies and rivals of the court.

Prodded onwards, he made his way towards the Central Court. Most of the courtiers did not meet his eye when he looked their way. Those that did bared their teeth in the predatory expectation of watching some loser become the night’s short-lived entertainment. He glared back at those, proudly displaying his own gleaming fangs. Others might back down to the rich and powerful, but not him.

He raised his head as ponies parted before him, clearing a the last few steps to a raised platform that supported a large table where sat the twelve ponies that made up the Republican Central Council. On one side of the table sat a single chair, larger than the rest. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Her seated there, the Founder and First Citizen of the Republic in all Her dark and sultry majesty: Nightmare Moon.

He was immediately transfixed by her eyes, slitted pupils narrow under the bright lights. His vision narrowed, and he felt like time itself had come to halt. In those eyes he felt a frightfully alien, ancient mind, one that had seen the very beginning of things, that had bested the demon Discord, and had thrown off the shackles of the tyrants Sombra and Celestia! A mind at once cold, serene, all encompassing and that gazed, measuring, into his very soul. To meet her gaze was to be swallowed by infinity itself!

So captivated was he by her overpowering presence that he almost didn’t hear the stallion sitting to her right speak. It took clapping hooves to finally tear his attention away from her awesome countenance. He lowered his eyes, suddenly abashed at his presumption in looking upon her face so brazenly!

“It would appear that Citizen Meteor has a prior engagement with Citizen Moon!”

The ponies around the table chuckled, while the circling courtiers competed to be the pony with the loudest laugh.

Meteor turned his full attention to the powder-white stallion. Blond maned and blue eyed, he was decked in an impeccable red velvet coat, and proudly wore the sickle moon cockade, symbol of the revolution and the Lunar Republic. There was no doubt, this was the dreaded Citizen Blueblood.

“You will find that our First Citizen these days rarely chooses to involve herself in lowly affairs of common criminals.” He waved a limb towards the table. “The Central Committee bears the burden of service, these nights.”

Meteor had regained some of the composure he’d lost when facing Citizen Moon, and gazed balefully on the white stallion. “You have my full attention, now, Citizen Blueblood.”

Blueblood’s eyes narrowed. “How gracious of you, Citizen.”

For the first time Meteor looked at the other ponies at the council session. All wore the velvet tunics of Republican officials. Some were obviously bored, but several sat rather stiffly in their chairs, sweat staining staining the articulations near their withers. One earth pony mare in particular stood out, the whites of her eyes betraying the fear that Meteor could easily smell coming from her direction. It was Citizen Harshwhinny, Minister of Sports, the organizer of recent race.

Blueblood turned to face the mare. “I was just discussing you with the minister. I was asking how it was possible that an agent of the monarchy could have infiltrated the race?” His leering gaze returned to Meteor. “Perhaps you might care to explain... in exchange for your life.”

Meteor felt his ire begin to rise. “I have done nothing but compete in a race, and I would never betray the revolution nor the First Citizen! Tell me, Citizen, what law have I broken?”

Blueblood again narrowed his eyes. “You would know that better than I, but let me remind you of a certain occurrence during the race. Something that hasn’t been seen since before the Republic, when I was but a foal. Something associated with one of the hated guardians of the Solar Empire, the so-called bearers of the elements of harmony. Or do you deny having produced a sonic rainboom, traitor?”

Meteor’s eyebrows rose. “Sonic Rainboom. So that’s what it’s called!” He grinned. “I won’t deny what is evident, Citizen. I produced the rain-boom. I will, however, refute that it is a treasonous act, as it was an unintended consequence of trying to prevent the untimely death of a foal.”

Blueblood’s grin grew feral. “I submit to the Committee that the witness corroborates being the source of the rain-boom.” He turned back to Meteor. “Tell us, traitor, how you came to be a contestant in the race?”

“I tell you again, I am a loyal citizen of the republic! And you know full well that the contestants were selected by the Minister of Sport via several qualifying events earlier this year.”

Minister Harshwhinny in her chair seemed to go paler and paler as the questions progressed, her eyes practically bulging out of her head. “But... but I didn’t –”

“– but yes, you did!” interrupted Blueblood. “You, and you alone, put this recidivist in a position to spread monarchist propaganda to the good citizens of the republic. The witnesses own words make that plain!” He shook his head in seeming regret. “The only conclusion we can draw is that you too are a monarchist.” He gestured to the guards, then at Harshwhinny. “Put her in a cell befitting a monarchist agent. We should have known better, given her ties to the tyrant Celestia that precede our glorious revolution.”

“No!” Harshwhinny rose and was instantly surrounded by guards. “I’m innocent, I say! You can’t do this, Bluebl–” whatever other words she had to say were lost when she was struck in the face by an iron-clad hoof. The other ministers around the table stared impassively as she was led away to laughs and snickers from the crowd.

Blueblood smiled knowingly in their direction. “And as to the traitor himself, I have another, more fitting punishment in mind.” He gestured again to the guard ponies. “Let’s introduce him to my favorite traitor rehabilitation device.”

“Wait!” Meteor began to panic. The situation had gone downhill so much faster than he had anticipated. A tall device topped with a huge blade was wheeled in, to the applause of the courtiers. “You can’t do this!” Ponies laughed as he was dragged towards the device. Meteor’s struggles were in vain. Inexorably he was pulled into position and his head forced into the bloody stocks above which shone a highly polished steel blade.

Blueblood took the release cord in hoof. “Any last words?”

“I didn’t do anything! I swear!”

Blueblood looked bored. “How original.” He sighed and lifted his hoof.

“STOP!”

The word rang out louder than Meteor would have thought possible.

Citizen Moon rose from her chair. “Bring him to me,” she called in a cold voice that brooked no argument.

Blueblood was only surprised for a moment. He quickly indicated that the guards should comply. They pulled Meteor’s head from the stocks and dragged him before Nightmare Moon. Prostrate, he looked up into her cold slitted eyes.

“I have better use for him in the far north,” she intoned. “Unshackle him.” The guard ponies complied and Meteor clambered back onto all fours.

“Follow,” said the First Citizen. She strode towards the doorway and exited to the room with Meteor in tow. Once they they were outside she turned her head towards him. “You will assist my agent in the north with her surveillance of a threat that has returned to Equestria.” Cold eyes regarded him. She squared her withers and began to walk away. “His name is Sombra,” she intoned, “and you, Meteor, will help me defeat him.”

Meteor felt his jaw strike the floor.


Charlie

Charlie heard a noise disturbingly close to their hiding place. Ever so quiet, he inched his way closer to the entrance. His heart dropped into his stomach. The noise approached still closer. Finally, he felt the brambles blocking their thicket get pulled away. Charlie scrabbled backwards, doing his best to push Francine behind him and use his meager bulk to shield her from whatever creature was invading their hiding place.

The couple winced as a bright glow suddenly illuminated the burrow. Their eyes slowly adjusted to the unaccustomed light revealing a blue furred unicorn head floating in the place Charlie had just vacated.

Surprise lit the face. It was a mare. She stared at the cowering couple for a moment. The expression was short lived. She rolled her eyes and shrugged.

“You will excuse her intrusion,” said the mare in Central Equestrian, “but a whole army wanting nothing more than to kill her approaches, so she will hide in here with you.”

Not knowing what else he could do, Charlie nodded his assent.

“Good!” declared the mare.

”’Oo is she?” he asked breathlessly.

“Oh my, a Prench accent!”

The unicorn pushed her way into the thicket and pulled the brambles back into place behind her. In the cozy intimacy of the hiding place, she grinned and offered a hoof. “She is the Great and Powerful Trixie, secret agent extraordinaire to her excellency the First Citizen, Nightmare Moon.”

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