• Published 23rd Jun 2016
  • 3,934 Views, 200 Comments

Night Skies and Butterflies - Daemon of Decay

Fluttershy knows it is her honor to have born into the Lunar Guard. She knows it with all her heart. But sometimes, there is something that doesn't feel right. Sometimes she feels like Equestria is missing a little kindness.

  • ...

Chapter 2

Captain Cache ground his teeth together as he glared down at his clipboard, triple-checking his sums. He glared at the other ponies as they carted crates and barrels around the large storeroom, none brave or stupid enough to make eye contact. Finally, he lifted his head to glare up into the shadows of the ceiling, his slitted eyes narrowing further as they found the source of his displeasure.

“Legionary Fluttershy! Get your yellow butt down here this instant!”

There was a startled gasp as the barrel in Fluttershy’s grasp slipped from her hooves, narrowly missing a crate-laden stone salamander and its handler. There was a loud crash and the sound of splintering wood as it burst apart in a shower of spilled grain.

Captain Cache made another tally on his clipboard.

Fluttershy came to a delicate landing in front of him, her cheeks burning a bright scarlet. “I’m so sorry, Captain! I didn’t mean to–”

“I have a monumental headache, Legionary Fluttershy,” he hissed through his teeth, his voice low and dangerous. “Do you know why I have a headache, Legionary Fluttershy?”

“No, Capt–”

“In the last five days we’re only moved half as many supplies as usual. We’ve lost thr- four barrels to accidents. There have been two injuries, three misplaced bags of food, a stone lizard somehow escaped from its cage, and this morning I found a claw worm trying to make a new home for itself in my desk.”

“Oh my. Well, do you need me to take care of the worm for you?”

“I squished the sun-cursed worm!” Captain Cache shouted, throwing the clipboard at her. Fluttershy yelped and stumbled back a few steps as the board clanged off her dark purple barding. Captain Cache matched her every step, standing close enough that she could feel his hot breath wash over her whenever as he exhaled through his nose. He jabbed a thick hoof into her chest. “And I am seriously considering doing the same thing to you, if you don’t shape up! In a detail full of losers, you are without a doubt the most worthless pony of them all!”

Fluttershy’s hooves were rooted to the ground, her mouth flapping up and down as her mind scrambled for something to say. When she did finally find her voice, it was barely even a whisper. “You… killed it?”

Captain Cache closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Princess give me strength. When he opened them again he saw the rest of the detail had slowed down to watch the unfolding drama. He turned his fearsome glare on them with relish. “What are you maggots smirking at? Fluttershy isn’t the only one of you dirt stains in need of a swift kick in the tail! Now get back to work!”

The rest of the punishment detail hurriedly returned to their own tasks, none risking even another glance in Fluttershy’s direction. Even the stone salamanders moved a little faster.

With a snort, Captain Cache turned his head to stare down at the cowering soldier. His scowl deepened. “Clean up all that spilled grain and give it to the salamanders. At least they’ll eat well tonight.” His eyes narrowed. “But don’t you loiter around their cages. They’re beasts of burden, not family pets. If I hear another peep out of you about not using our whips or how mean it is to keep them muzzled on the job, I will personally flay you alive. Do I make myself clear?”

Fluttershy saluted, her arm trembling. “Y-yes, Captain.”

He dismissed her without a word, leaving Fluttershy on rubber legs, her thoughts a jumbled mess of fear and shame. Eventually she remembered how to walk and stumbled away in the direction of the cleaning supplies.

Only when she was alone and out of sight did she allow herself to cry.



Fluttershy jerked awake. She reached for her spear in the darkness but found nothing but more cool stone. It took a moment for her exhausted brain to catch up to her. Her panic evaporated. She’d left the spear in her room so it didn’t get in the way while hauling supplies.

She glanced around herself. The side-annex she’d lain down in after her shift was one of her favorite hiding places, a dead-end with little traffic and even fewer lights. A perfect place for a mare to go when too exhausted and upset to face her adorable little friends.

“Where are you, Fluttershy? I know you’re around here somewhere.”

Fluttershy lifted her head and wiped away her old tears just as a familiar blue and grey mare rounded the corner. Even in the shadows there was no mistaking those inquisitive eyes or the streak of fire in the other pony’s mane.

“H-hello, Echo,” said Fluttershy.

“Fluttershy?” Bright Echo let out a chirp, illuminating the hiding place. Her face fell even further. “Oh, Fluttershy…” She hobbled over towards Fluttershy as fast as her bandaged leg would allow. She drew up short, fighting within herself, before she relented and wrapped her arms around Fluttershy, the hug making Fluttershy’s ears flatten against her head. They both pulled back with relief after a single heartbeat.

“How are you holding up?” asked Echo.

“I’m fine,” Fluttershy said, forcing a smile onto her face. It was a lie, but seeing Echo cared enough about her to endure such an uncomfortably long hug did make her feel a tiny bit better. “So you, um, heard about what happened?”

“Yeah. I would have come to see you sooner, but… well, you know.” Echo stuck out her bandage-wrapped leg and wiggled it about. “Still, I managed to escape when they weren’t looking. A hurt leg isn’t a problem when you can still fly.”

Fluttershy gasped. “It was broken in three places! That takes time to heal. You really shouldn’t have snuck out like that. You might injure it again, or make it worse! Echo, you really need to… to… Oh.” She bit her lip and glanced down at her hooves, ears drooping again. “You’re just teasing me, aren’t you?”

Echo’s loud guffaws reverberated down the halls. “Only because you make it so easy! Seriously though, my squad already chews me out enough as it is for missing all my duties. Ending up back in bed with another injury just isn’t an option. I might have a thick skull, but I’m not stupid.” She pulled a sheaf of paper from her tunic. “See? I got my discharge papers right here. And praise the night, the sawbones even gave me light duty for the next week!”

Her exuberance dragged a thin but earnest giggle out of Fluttershy. Only Echo could tease Fluttershy and still make her laugh. “I really hope they don’t make you spar until it’s fully healed. I couldn’t believe your Sergeant thought you were well enough to fight. That was… I didn’t like that.”

“I didn’t either. Rockwing is a sack of guano, and once I’m back at a hundred percent I’m gonna challenge that smug slug to a rematch. He’s more responsible than the diamond dogs. They just gave me a little hairline fracture. It was his fat flabby flank that really broke it. And the bragging!” Echo licked her fangs, her eyes narrowing on some imaginary figure only she could see. “Ooooh yes, I’m gonna enjoy a rematch so very, very much.”

“He wouldn’t have hurt you if I’d just agreed to fight with you instead…”

“Hey now, don’t you start blaming yourself for what happened. It was my nitwit of a Sergeant who thought I was bluffing. And you know the rules: no holding back when in the ring. If you’d agreed to fight me then you’d probably have broken it yourself.”

“What? Never!” said Fluttershy, looking aghast.

“You know that you have to try your hardest in the ring, period. If you ever end up in an actual life or death fight, you can’t hesitate just because your enemy has an upset tummy. You fight to kill. You fight to win.” She gave Fluttershy a fanged grin. “Well, maybe you don’t. I’d have won, even with the hurt leg.”

“But it’s still stupid that you had to fight in the first place! You were still recovering.”

Echo shrugged again. “We’re legionaries, Fluttershy. We serve the True Princess, we fight the Long War, and we obey orders. Even when they’re given by Sergeants who don’t understand what ‘still recovering’ means.”

Fluttershy kicked at the floor. “You shouldn’t have to obey dumb orders…” she mumbled.

There was a long silence, causing the hairs on the back of Fluttershy’s neck to stand on end. She glanced up, but the fear that her vaguely seditious comment had crossed a line vanished when she saw the amusement in Echo’s eyes.

“What?” said Fluttershy defensively. “I don’t like to see my friends getting hurt.”

Echo laughed. “Then you’re in the wrong line of work. We don’t get that luxury.”

“It’s not like I ever had a choice. I couldn’t muster out even if my conscription period was up. My aunt would never allow it.” Fluttershy sighed. “I’m just a terrible soldier. Sometimes I’m glad Mom didn’t live long enough to see me in uniform. I think it would have broken her heart.”

“Hey, there’s no need for that. You’re trying your best, right?”

“Yeah, but-”

“No. No buts. You do your best and that’s all that matters. Nopony can ask you to do anymore than that.”

“If doing her best means being an embarrassment and a failure, I’m worried about what her worst might look like.”

Fluttershy and Echo spun around at the new voice to find a pair of stallions strolling towards them out of the perpetual twilight. The smaller of the two wore a sharp sneer as he regarded the two mares with his striking red eyes. He nudged the other stallion. “What do you think, Iron Pick?”

The bigger stallion barely fit into his armor, the straps digging into his doughy flesh. His piggish face lit up with amusement as he looked down at his companion. “Haha, yeah. I don’t think the Legion could survive that.”

Echo stepped forward and spread her wings wide, her eyes focused on the smaller of the two. “You had better get out of here, Russet Lance, before I lose my temper and beat the snot out of you all over again.”

“Oh please, Echo. You’re just low-born scum.”

“Having a famous name doesn’t mean guano.”

Russet laughed. “Maybe you’re right about that. Fluttershy’s family commands the Legion, and she’s the worst soldier in it. She’s living proof that sometimes even the most gifted of families can produce a mewling little runt from time to time.”

Fluttershy whimpered, refusing to meet his contemptuous stare. Russet continued to draw closer despite Echo’s warning growl, brash confidence oozing from his pores.

“You take that back you smug piece of trash!” Echo shouted, stamping a hoof against the floor.

“Or what? I would seriously consider how far you’re willing to take things tonight,” he said with a wide gesture at the empty hallway around them, “because this time you don’t have your little thieving band of pisspots to back you up.”

Fluttershy reached out to put a restraining hoof on her friend’s flank. “C’mon Echo, let’s just go. It’s not worth it…”

Echo just shrugged her off and stormed forward until she was a hoof’s distance from Russet, their eyes boring into one another. “I’ll show you how special you are when I make you swallow all of your noble-born teeth!”

Russet’s smile only widened, fanning her anger. She matched his sneer with one of her own, so focused on the smirking stallion that she didn’t see Iron Pick slip a wooden cudgel from his belt.

“Echo!” Fluttershy shrieked.

Echo dropped low and tried to roll away. There was a meaty thwap as the club hit her shoulder, dragging a short bark of pain from Echo. Her infirmary tunic was no protection. Coming out of the roll she hobbled backwards as she tried to put some distance between herself and the other ponies. She bared her fangs at Iron Pick. “That was my arm, you fat slug!”

He frowned. “I was aiming for your head.”

Fluttershy imposed herself between Echo and the stallions. “Both of you b-back off!” Trembling, she lowered herself into a combat pose. “Please, just leave us, and nopony has to get hurt!”

Iron Pick and Russet looked at each other before bursting out laughing. “You actually sound like you mean it!” said Russet as he wiped a tear from his eyes.

“I do! I swear, I’ll-”

The rest of the threat went unspoken as Russet darted forward and slammed his polished horseshoes into Fluttershy’s chest in a one-two punch, the impact sending the little mare tumbling loudly across the floor.

Fluttershy stared up at the ceiling as the sound of battle echoed around her. The melee was a riot of noise, grunts and gasps and the occasional smack of wood on skin. Pain was a constant companion as she tried to shake off the shock of the sudden assault, driven on by the bitter sense of uselessness filling her body.

Russet drew his own club and the stallions rushed Echo together, attacking from either side. Iron Pick was a powerhouse, using his raw strength like a sledgehammer, forcing her to dance and weave around his wild swings. It was clumsy and elemental and Echo exploited it, landing a few blows of her own against Iron Pick’s armored chest. If they had been in the Ring together, there would have been no doubt who would have come out on top. But unarmed and with only her tunic for protection, Echo found herself on the defensive, too busy deflecting attacks to launch one of her own.

Russet was much more methodical in his approach, watching Echo’s movements before striking, each time forcing Echo to dodge and retreat right as she gained the upper hoof against Iron Pick. There was a dangerous glint in Russet’s eye, his cruel laughter filling the darkness whenever he managed to land a hit.

Lifting herself up off the floor, Fluttershy watched in growing terror as the two stallions pushed Echo back step by step. Focused on the rain of clubs and keeping herself in the fight, Echo was blind to the real threat. She was being corralled into a corner.

Fluttershy gasped and wheezed, her voice raw and trembling as she tried to alert Echo to the growing danger. “T-trap!” she coughed. “It’s a trap, Echo!” Fluttershy stumbled forward, the paralyzing fear replaced by desperation.

Her warning went unheeded, the other ponies too focused on the fight. Ducking beneath a wide swing Echo leapt backwards – and was stopped by the cold stone of the wall behind her.

Fluttershy was only yards away, but it could have been miles. There was nothing she could do.

Russet’s club cracked into the side of Echo’s head, and she dropped lifelessly to the floor.

The bulky Iron Pick stepped forward and brought his hoof down on Echo’s bandaged leg. The unmistakable sound of breaking bone brought Fluttershy to a halt.

Russet spit on Echo’s body. “Stupid filth.” Nodding to Iron Pick, the two stallions returned their clubs to their belts and turned away. Russet blinked when he found Fluttershy standing behind them. Her downturned face was hidden beneath her helm and the few curls of pink mane that poked out from beneath it. He laughed. “Fluttershy? I forgot you were still here.”

“I thought you would have run away already,” Iron Pick added with a smirk of his own.

Russet strolled over to Fluttershy, cruel amusement sparkling in his eyes as he watched tears roll off Fluttershy’s nose. “I bet she couldn’t get away even if she wanted to. Too scared to fight, too scared to run… she’s just too scared to do anything. Even help her only friend in the Citadel. Isn’t that right, Flutter-cry?”

The only answer was Fluttershy’s heavy breathing as she refused to look up.

Circling like a shark, Russet ran his tongue over his fangs. “You’re pathetic. You’re a stain on everything the Legion stands for. How far has your clan fallen that you’re the heir? You can’t even fight to defend your only friend in the world.” She trembled. Smelling the blood in the water, he leaned in closer. “Come on Fluttershy, why don’t you go ahead and beg me to leave you alone again?”

His smirk slipped when there was no response, the mare continuing to stand wide, head down low. Her hoarse breathing grew more rapid. “Hey, I’m talking to you,” he said with a huff. He reached out a hoof and grabbed her shoulder. “Answer m–”

She grabbed the hoof on her shoulder and gave a firm twist, snapping the wrist cleanly. Russet tried to scream, but Fluttershy’s other hoof slammed into his throat, sending him into a choking fit. His arm still gripped tightly, she spun around and bucked him straight in the chest, dislocating his shoulder with a wet pop.

Fluttershy released the arm as she finished her spin. It flopped uselessly at Russet’s side. He stumbled past the stunned Iron Pick, screaming in fits and bursts as he tried to fill his lungs.

The confidence drained out of the bigger stallion when she turned to face him. There were still tears on her cheeks, but her eyes were thin pinpricks of burning hate that rooted him in place. That furious stare dominated his field of vision, the shadows in the cave swallowing up everything else as those baleful eyes crushed him down into a tiny ball of nothingness. He tried to draw his club, but it slipped from his trembling hoof.

Baring her fangs, she lunged at the stallion.


“All hail the True Princess! All hail Equestria!”

The scraping of wood on stone underscored the final line of the pledge as the Council took their seats. General Nightshy looked over the assembled group from her position of honor at the head of the table, the polished onyx reflecting back the stern faces of thirteen ponies. All of the great clans were represented, each descended from the officers that had escaped the Sun Tyrant’s retribution so long ago. Holding themselves with the martial bearing one would expect from Legionary veterans, they were the sinew that had held the Lunar Guard together.

There was no more dangerous a place in all the Citadel.

Nightshy considered the other ponies before her, hiding her distaste with experience. At least a diamond dog will attack you from the front, Nightshy thought. That the fate of the Legion could depend upon the petty feuds and ancient rivalries of these dozen ponies was horrifying to consider.

Not for the first time she found herself wishing she was back in the ranks as a simple line officer. How her sister had managed to juggle being a mother, a general, and a politician, she had no idea.

Removing her helmet, she placed it atop the table in front of her, using the momentary distraction to collect her thoughts. Take it slow. Let them raise the issue of Fluttershy’s accident to judge where their loyalties lie. Clearing her throat, Nightshy began.

“I am glad to see everypony could make it to this Council meeting. We have plenty on our agenda tonight, including the recent reports from our Rangers on the disposition of enemy forces in the Canterlot region. The lack of a clear picture about the situation in the outlying towns is a strategic weakness we must confront, and soon.” Nightshy took a breath. “But before we begin, I wish to open the floor to any other topics of discussion first.”

She was greeted with the utter silence of an abandoned mine. Nightshy glanced around the room. Something cold wormed its way up her spine when none of the nobles would meet her gaze.

Not that they needed to say anything. The tension in the air was physical, like the change in pressure before a storm. The hair on Nightshy’s neck stood on end as memories of midnight patrols deep into enemy territory bubbled up from her subconscious. She was back there once again, lost and alone on unfamiliar terrain.

General Nightshy examined the other occupants closely, waiting for them to break the silence. Like actors on opening night, even their well-rehearsed expressions of neutrality couldn’t hide the nervous energy filling the room. Even her old companion from the Rangers, Blue Quartz, wouldn’t look up from the table, an azure hoof tracing circles on the black stone.

A few of the nobles kept casting uneasy glances at the two ponies at the far end of the table. Sitting forward in their seats, Silhouette and Sky Lance were an oasis of cool confidence. They looked at one another, and a smile threatened to spread across Silhouette’s violet face as if at some unspoken joke.

Nightshy narrowed her eyes. It’s an ambush.

Silhouette learned forward and softly cleared her throat, causing one of the nobles to nearly jump out of his seat. “Well, I have something to bring to the Council's attention, if I may.”

“Of course,” Nightshy said through her teeth.

“It’s safe to assume that everypony here is aware of the shocking disruption to our honorable General’s sermon last week, so I don’t need to repeat the details of that sickening insult done to our Legion and the True Princess,” Silhouette began, her voice as silky as a spider’s web. Ingratiating but firm, age had done nothing to dull her political acumen. “No, what is more important is to decide how we are going to punish the guilty party and ensure something like this never happens again.”

There was a smattering of sycophantic applause from a few allied nobles while the rest remained grimly silent. Standing up, Silhouette made a grand wave with her wing. “Pray tell, who amongst us knows who was responsible? What pony would dare to–”

“Save the theatrics for the stage, Silhouette,” Nightshy interrupted, scowling. “We all know it was my niece who was involved in the accident.”

“Accident? No, General, an accident is a one time occurrence. For the Council’s benefit I did some research on Fluttershy before coming to the meeting today, and what I found was most troubling.” As she spoke Silhouette lifted up a stuffed folder so everypony could see. “Ever since she was a mere cadet she has been a walking disaster. Injuries, disobeyed orders, destroyed equipment… the list goes on and on and on.”

Tossing the folder down onto the onyx table, Silhouette smirked at the seething Nightshy. “The question we have for our esteemed General is what she is going to do about this constant, troubling risk that lay at the heart of the Legion. After all, I do not need to remind the others that Fluttershy is your only heir. If something tragic were to happen to you, this canker sore of a Legionary would become our next commander.”

“That truly would be a disaster!” one of the nobles called out. Nightshy assumed it was Sky Lance, although she didn’t look away to confirm it as she met Silhouette’s challenging stare.

“Which is why I have ordered Fluttershy to receive a just and fitting punishment.”

“Lifting boxes and stocking shelves is hardly a fitting punishment for what destruction she has wrought. If you were a lesser pony, General, I might suspect you were protecting your niece by just giving her a slap on the hoof.”

“Of course that was not her actual punishment.” Nightshy leaned forward as she tried to wrest back control of the conversation. “That was a preliminary settlement before we had our meeting today to best discuss how to proceed. The very public nature of her accident during the sermon means that such a decision should be handled amongst the Council. Therefore, I propose that Legionary Fluttershy be placed in a training battalion until–”

Silhouette interrupted her, stating flatly, “What she did during the sermon was hardly her only crime.”

“Her un-soldierly behavior in the past is certainly a contributing factor in any disciplinary decision, but–”

“What about assaulting fellow Legionaries?” This time it most certainly was Sky Lance who was speaking. The stallion rose to his feet, a look of righteous anger and inconsolable sadness competing for attention on his face. It was masterful acting. “What about my son?

“Your son?” Nightshy furrowed her brow. “What does your son have to do–”

“He is in the infirmary thanks to your beastly niece!”

Nightshy blinked. “What?”

“Fluttershy assaulted my sweet Russet late yesterday afternoon while he and another stallion were escorting a friend back to her quarters, a friend who’d only just been released from the infirmary. She gave Russet a broken wrist, a shattered jaw, a dislocated arm, and so many bruises and contusions that he can’t even bear the weight of the blankets upon his body!” Sky Lance leaned across the table. “And the wounded mare they were escorting is still unconscious after Fluttershy nearly caved in her skull with a club!”

There was a long, awkward pause as Nightshy stared back at the stallion. She blinked again. “Are we talking about the same Fluttershy?”

“Yes!” Sky Lance’s shouting shook the walls. “The same niece you have sheltered and coddled, who has never tasted proper military discipline, ruthlessly assaulted my son!”

“I can verify that what Sky Lance says is true.”

Nightshy turned to address the new speaker, his words like a knife to the spine. “Blue Quartz?”

He nodded. “My cousin, Iron Pick, was attacked as well.” Blue’s face sank. “I’m sorry, General, but this morning he confirmed Russet Lance’s story. Fluttershy attacked the three of them with a weapon. He was still quite shaken up by the whole affair.”

Nightshy ground her teeth together, confusion giving way to a seething rage that only burned hotter with every unanswered question. How is this the first I am hearing of this? Where are Penumbra and Antumbra? Why didn’t Blue Quartz talk to me before this meeting? And by the Moon, where is Fluttershy?

“You see, General, your niece is not just a poor soldier and a desecrator of sacred ceremonies, but a ruthless, violent sociopath,” Silhouette said slowly, savoring every word, taking control of the conversation once again. “Fluttershy isn’t just ill-suited for the Legion, she’s a threat to everything we are trying to accomplish, even actively acting against its rules and traditions.” She shook her head. “And the thought of a mare like that being given command of the whole Legion… well, to say I am concerned is an understatement.”

“You are not alone,” said Sky Lance, stamping his hoof in agreement. To Nightshy’s dread he was joined by other ponies, including those from the neutral clans. The ambush was sprung.

“She certainly needs more than some harsh words after attacking another soldier.

“If Fluttershy is placed in command, we are doomed.

“How could any noble family protect a failure like that?”

Nightshy looked around the table in vain for a friendly face. Even Blue Quartz avoided her eyes. “Please, we must remain rational and look at this clearly.”

Sky Lance leveled a hoof at Nightshy. “It is you who are not looking at this clearly, General. A member of your family has assaulted another Legionary, and your response is to put her on a training detachment?”

“When I drafted those orders I was unaware that–”

“Of course you were unaware! You have mismanaged the Legion ever since you took over for your sister. If she hadn’t been so foolish as to get herself killed–”

The crack of Nightshy’s hoof striking the table silenced the whole room. Standing out of her seat and leaning forward like a dog at the end of its chain, she fixed Sky Lance with a glare that would cow a volcano. “I will not tolerate any disrespect for my sister.” Her whispers were deafening in the quiet chamber, each syllable dripping with restrained fury.

Sky Lance sat back down and swallowed loudly.

“I agree, there is nothing to be gained from bringing up the dead when we have much more pressing concerns to deal with,” Silhouette interjected gently, her tone composed and conciliatory. “We are discussing Fluttershy and what is to be done with her.”

Nightshy bit back a curse that would have made her drill instructor blush. Stiffly, she returned to her seat. “As I have already told the Council,” Nightshy spoke slowly, fighting to keep her voice as calm as possible, “I have drafted orders that will place Fluttershy in a training detachment for an extended period of time. Considering the new information that has been presented to me, an extension on her sentence is more than justified.”

Silhouette shook her head, the expression of regret on her face never reaching her eyes. “I am sorry, General, but considering your close familial relationship with the guilty party, it is unseemly to have you alone deciding her punishment.”

The nods around the table only deepened Nightshy’s grimace. “I am an officer first and an aunt second. It is my duty and right as commander of this garrison to mete out discipline as I see fit.”

“Even so, the scale of her multiple transgressions make this a special case. You should not be party to disciplinary decisions when they regard your niece and heir. How could we ever be convinced that you truly were making decisions in the best interest of the Legion and not your own blood?”

A surge of agreement filled the air.

Baring her teeth, Nightshy was about to retaliate when Blue Quartz cleared his throat and stood up. Finally meeting her gaze, he gave a polite bow in her direction. “General, if I may?”

“By all means,” Nightshy said cautiously.

“Members of the Council, General Nightshy has done sterling work as our commander in the years since her sister’s tragic passing. In that time she has not once shown any sort of favoritism for her own clan over the interests of the Legion. But Silhouette is right. This is a special case that should be left in the hooves of the Council.”

The look of surprise on Nightshy’s face was echoed in Silhouette’s, although the older mare recovered with the quick ease of experience. Silhouette gave her erstwhile adversary a nod of thanks as the other nobles stamped their hooves in agreement, although distrust lingered in her eyes. “Well said, Quartz. But I–”

Blue Quartz cut Silhouette off. “That is why I believe our esteemed General should excuse herself from the Council’s deliberations. Her martial ability is beyond reproach and her family has faithfully led the Legion for a hundred generations, so I know that she will allow us to decide this matter for ourselves.”

Sky Lance and Silhouette remained conspicuously silent as the other nobles stamped louder and voiced their support.

Only a pony who had served over a decade in the same Ranger cohort with him could see the imploring look in Blue Quartz’s eyes when he turned to face Nightshy again. “General, I believe it would be a generous display and a reassurance to this Council if you were to leave us while we consider Fluttershy’s punishment.”

The Council turned as one to face her, but Nightshy’s continued to stare at Blue Quartz, searching his face for a clue about his intentions.

“Please, General.”

Nightshy slowly nodded. “You… make a strong case, Blue Quartz. I give this Council the right to pass judgement on the defendant in my absence.” Every word was sandpaper in her throat. She had been outflanked and forced up against a wall, but instead of fighting till the end she was placing her niece’s fate in the care of selfish vipers.

Blue Quartz hid his relief well. “Thank you, General,” he said, his thanks echoed by a number of the friendlier clans.

Picking up her helmet and placing it on her head, Nightshy turned on her hooves and marched out of the room with her head held high. Only when the large doors were securely shut behind her did she take off at a full gallop, racing for her offices. She was certain the twins would be there, eagerly awaiting a debriefing on the Council meeting. There was a more important task for them.

They had to find Fluttershy.