• Published 30th Jul 2016
  • 2,483 Views, 68 Comments

The Night Mare's Guard - Shadow Quill



The Changelings haven't been sitting idle the three years they haved been gone. Now they're back and better than ever, with their sights set squarely on the alicorns of Equestria. One dark mare, shrowded in mystery, sits right in the crosshairs.

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14 A King's Resolve

Breakfast was a miserable affair, my stomach twisting into knots regardless of the delicious food laid before me. The stallion that had waited on me before was almost sweating bricks as I moved my food about with my fork, his lips pressed together and his eyes near pinpricks of terror.

I swear the poor soul nearly jumped through the ceiling when I turned to face him, “Forgive my lackluster mood, I simply do not seem to have much of an appetite this morning.”

He nodded in a jerky manner, his voice thin as he replied, “Y-Yes Your Highness, I-I understand perfectly. Do you r-require anything else?”
I pushed my seat back and stood up, shaking my head slowly as I turned away from him, “That will not be necessary. There is nothing you can do for me at this time.”

I left the dining hall with my head bowed and my mind spinning like a raging tornado. I barely took notice of the Shards following in my wake, although I did pause when I passed the doors that led to my chambers. For a moment I let my gaze travel across the gilded crystal, my thoughts wandering to a navy alicorn that was growing ever further from my new home and yet staying firmly planted in my mind.
One of the Shards cleared her throat behind me, and I glanced over my shoulder to address them. I recognized Colonel Carapace and
Major Wasp as my gaze roamed across their forms, Carapace stepping forward with what seemed to be a worried gleam in her eyes.
She hesitated for a moment, as if unsure how to speak her mind, “Your Highness, far be it from me to question your authority, but I can’t understand why you released Luna from your control and sent her back to Canterlot. You also seem to be taking it rather hard and I don’t know what we can do to help.”

Wasp nodded her agreement, although she quickly averted her gaze and hid behind her mane with a squeak.

I sighed as I faced forward once more, “It is a personal matter that I must deal with alone. I do not expect you to understand my troubles nor attempt to solve them for me.” I waved one hoof in a shooing motion, “You are dismissed for the rest of the day. I require some time alone to think.”

There was a pregnant pause before their soft hoofsteps faded down the hallway, leaving me on my own in the vast space. I turned down another path and found myself walking through the upper levels, the tall spires rising above me on all sides as I stepped onto the outdoor parapets. The sun shone down on me and glinted off the crystal surrounding the central spire, yet did nothing to brighten the dark pain that throbbed inside my chest. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this pulsing agony, and yet I knew that it had something to do with Luna. For some reason, that mare made me feel emotions and brought thoughts to my mind that I had never experienced before. I walked along the battlements as the smooth breeze tossed my mane and tail behind me, words I had never known rising from the core of my very being.

You could never change your heart,
And I could never change your mind
Instead of treating you like a slave girl,
A possession of mine
Your face haunts my dreams at night,
And I can’t seem to win this fight
When your love is like a lantern,
Fading out of sight

My hooves carried me across the open space, my words echoing off the towers and ringing in my ears as unbidden tears ran down my face. I ignored the traitorous droplets as I continued, my gaze roaming over the city below as my throat constricted.

Had the time, had a chance, but I lost it
Had my hooves on your heart but I broke it
All I know I can't fight this flame
You could never change your heart,
And I could never change your mind
Cause I'm crazy 'bout you baby, night after night

Without you
One night alone, is like a year without you baby
I feel like our chance has flown
Without you
Can't stop the pain inside
When love and fate collide

I paused as the winds tossed my mane about behind me, closing my eyes as I spread my wings. For a moment I felt almost like I was flying, yet still planted firmly on the ground. Then, like a friend who left without saying goodbye, the breeze suddenly dropped, and my mind came crashing back into my body.

I don't wanna fight no more,
I don't know what we're fighting for
When we treat each other baby,
Like an act of war
I could tell a million lies,
And it would come as no surprise
When the truth is like a stranger,
Hits you right between the eyes

I made my way through the open archway at the other end of the walkway, my words now ringing off the walls and ceiling as I slowly made my way back down to the ground floor. I passed a few servants but paid them no mind as I wandered through the castle, leaving several very confused ponies in my wake.

There's a time and a place and a reason
And I know I got a love to believe in
All I know, got to win this time

Without you
One night alone, is like a year without you baby
I feel like our chance has flown
Without you
Can't stop the pain inside
When love and fate collide

I forced my tears to halt as I passed by two of the Shards, their gazes firmly planted on the wall across the way as I passed them. It would not do for a changeling to see their king crying. I made my way back to my chamber doors, throwing them open with a burst of magic before sealing them behind me.

You could have a change of heart,
If you would only change your mind
Cause I'm crazy 'bout you baby...Crazy...Crazy

I walked up to the large windows at the back of the room, my gaze wandering over the lands to the south, searching in vain for a sign of the pony whom had done this to me. I turned away from the pristine landscape and climbed into bed, burying my muzzle in the sheets as my voice dropped to a near whisper.

Without you
One night alone, is like a year without you baby
Can you please let me atone
Without you
One night alone, is like a year without you baby
If you could chance your heart to fall
Without you
Can't stop the pain inside
When love and fate collide

As my voice wound down I collapsed into uncontrolled sobs, my tears streaming down my face as they dampened the spread below me. I don’t know how long I stayed like that, but by the time I gathered my senses the sky was already dimming into the early stages of twilight. I wiped my face with one foreleg, taking a deep breath to settle my nerves before opening my eyes and climbing off the bed. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to know what was happening to Luna in Canterlot.
My horn glowed brightly as the last light of day faded from the sky, illuminating my chambers with a green overtone as I tried to remember the spell for scrying. After a moment it came to me and a ring of green fire fabricated in the air in the center of the room, the interior pitch black before slowly fading into a clear image.

At first the grey stone and dark lighting confused me, before the angle shifted to reveal Luna being escorted by two drones down a roughly cut hallway. Her head hung low and her wingtips dragged on the ground as she was directed into an open cell door. I realized that they were in the dungeons below the castle, and I leaned forward as she stepped through the opening, the great iron door slamming closed behind her.

In an instant my eyes took in the occupants of the large chamber, though it was a few moments before anypony moved. Celestia and Cadence were resting against the far wall, curled around one another for warmth while Shining Armor lay on his wife’s other side. Twilight was sleeping in the center of her friends, their coats creating a multi-colored mosaic against the cold rock.

It was Shining Armor who reacted to the slamming cell door first, leaping to his hooves and falling into a defensive stance over his wife. His eyes blinked several times as he glared daggers at Luna, only for his expression to morph into one of shock as the others slowly climbed from sleep.

“P-Princess Luna!” He cried as he stood up fully, “You’re here!”

His voice echoed around the room, causing the others to jerk to their hooves as all eyes landed on the miserable navy alicorn.
For a moment nopony moved, and then it was an all-out race to get to Luna first. However, even the legendary hug speed of Pinkamena Daine Pie was completely outpaced by Celestia as she seemed to teleport from her position to Luna, her hooves wrapping around her sister’s withers in a bone-crushing embrace as she wept tears of joy. For a second Luna seemed frozen in surprise, though from the hug or her sister’s tears I couldn’t tell, before closing her own eyes and returning her sister’s affections. Cadence and Shining Armor piled on and were quickly followed by Twilight and the others, leaving very little of the midnight alicorn uncovered.

“I thought I had lost you to that beast,” Celestia sniffed as she regained her composure, pulling back just enough to match her sister’s gaze, “I thought you would become that fiend’s puppet for all of time.”

“How ever did you escape?” Twilight asked, everypony pulling back to give Luna some air.

Her words seemed to trigger something in Luna, because her eyes flashed with an emotion I didn’t recognize, and she looked to the ground in front of her hooves, “I didn’t escape.”

Confusion was rampant on every face in the room as Rarity tilted her head to the side, “But surely you must have done something to free yourself from his control, Your Highness, how else would you explain your free will?”

Luna’s head lifted until she was staring right at the white unicorn, “That’s just it, I didn’t break his control. He let me go.”

There was a collective gasp from everypony as Celestia stepped forward, “Explain yourself, sister, why would King Silver Jacket release you from his control? It makes no sense, especially after all the trouble he went through to make you his queen.”

Luna shook her head slowly, “I have no idea as to why he did it, but the first thing I can remember after his spell wore off is seeing his face twisted in agony.” She met Celestia’s gaze with an uncertain light in her eyes, “His visage was warped by pain and he struggled to even look at me. He couldn’t even meet my eyes when he told the guards to take me away. The next thing I know I’m on my way back here with no reason as to why or how.” Her head sagged once more, “I just don’t know.”

“Sounds to me like he got sick of having a brain-dead queen and sent you back here so he could get another of those bugs to be his mate.” Applejack muttered.

“Applejack!” Rarity gasped, “why would you ever say such a thing?!”

“I think she’s right,” Rainbow Dash added, “why else would the high and mighty king send Luna back here after doing all that stuff to take over Equestria?”

“Ooh! Maybe he wanted to throw her a big Congratulations-on-Becoming-My-Queen-After-We-Took-Over-Equestria party but he didn’t have enough streamers and cake to make it work so he sent her back here so that way he could get more supplies and then come get her once he gets everything set up and we are all invited to the biggest party ever thrown by Changelings in the Crystal Empire and I wish I had my party cannon – mmphmphmm” Pinkie’s rambling was abruptly cut off by Rainbow Dash sticking a hoof in her mouth.

“Yeah I don’t think that’s the reason,” the prismatic pegasus muttered with an eye roll.

“But what other explanation could there be?” Twilight asked, “It makes no sense otherwise. There’s no way Silver Jacket would just free Luna from his control and send her back to us without a good reason.”

Through all of this Cadence had been sitting quietly, her gaze moving from one pony to another as more and more ideas were tossed about. Yet her eyes kept coming back to Luna as her expression grew more and more uncertain.

“Aunty,” she spoke softly, yet the tension in her voice cut through the background din like a hot knife through butter, “do you think it could be something more, something you aren’t telling us?”

In an instant Luna’s voice grew hard as her back straightened, “What are thou accusing us of niece? Are you implying that I am hiding information as to the reason for my release?”

Cadence shook her head slowly, “No, nothing like that. It’s just that I’ve noticed something about you. Even though you are no longer under his control, I can tell that you still have some connection to the king.”

Luna bristled as all eyes turned to her, “Speak thy mind clearly when thou asks for Our opinion. Thou spins thy words and dances around the subject like a foul playing in the fields. What is it that thou is asking of Us?”

“Luna,” Celestia spoke in a calming tone, “you’re slipping into Old Equish again.”

“Be still sister,” Luna snapped, causing the others to gasp as her gaze locked onto the younger alicorn, “Thy niece will answer Us clearly or face Our wrath.”

Even under the withering gaze of the Princess of the Night, Cadence stood firm, even pushing Shining Armor aside when he tried to intercede, “You want a straight question, fine. I may not have my magic anymore, but I’ve been the Alicorn of Love for long enough to know the signs even without my power. So I’ll say to clearly for you, are you in love with the Changeling King Silver Jacket?”

The silence that followed was deafening. Gazes flickered between the alicorns like a flame, waiting for Luna’s answer. Some expressions were nervous, as was the case with Fluttershy, Twilight and Shining Armor. Applejack and Rainbow Dash were locked in thoughtful uncertainty, while Rarity was gaping in outright horror. Pinkie Pie was giggling and holding her hooves over her mouth while Celestia was completely expressionless. Even I was caught up in the moment, hanging on the tension even though I wasn’t even there. Could it be possible, could a pony truly love a Changeling without a mind spell?

Luna’s expression had morphed from outright shock to rage and then to nervousness as the silence dragged on. Sweat ran down her brow as her eyes flickered from one face to another. Finally, the pressure burst out in one fell swoop as she cried out, “YES!”

Before anypony could react, Luna continued with her outburst, “We know it sounds like fantasy, yet thy Changeling hath taken hold of Our heart. Every time We think of him, even knowing all that he has done, We cannot find it within Ourselves to hate him. Even now, We see his alter ego as the first pony that hath treated Us as a true mare, not as some untouchable god that must be treated like some priceless artifact. Thou hath no idea the happiness he hath brought Us, even now We see his tender gaze and feel his careful touch. We know it twas but an illusion, created to fool Us and weaken Our resolve. Yet We cannot but still love him, as he was the first to show us love in that regard since Our banishment.”

Celestia’s expression morphed into one of pain as she stepped up to Luna, “You must know I love you Luna,” she indicated the gather ponies with a hoof, “we all do. How could you say that nopony has loved you when you know that to be untrue?”

The raw fire in Luna’s eye nearly made be flinch, although it certainly did the job on her cellmates, “Thou speaks of loving Us, when thou banished Us to the moon for a thousand years and then brushed it off like some bad dream? Do not forget that We remember and understand your reasoning, sister, but never think for even a moment that it was easy. Does thou know the pain of loneliness in the dark void, to be aware but unable to even move by one’s own will? We know thou did what had to be done, but does thou expect Us to believe that it would only take a hug and heartfelt apology to make the pain of a thousand years vanish with the morning sun?”

Celestia’s eyes glittered with unshed tears, “Luna, I never knew, if you had told me then –”

“WE DO NOT CARE!” Luna screamed in the Royal Canterlot Voice, “FOR THE FIRST TIME WE FELT LOVED, FOR THE FIRST TIME WE FELT THE TENDERNESS OF ANOTHER. THOU KNOWS NOT THE PAIN OF BEING LOVED AND BETRAYED BY THOSE THOU HELD DEAR. VERILY, KING SILVER JACKET IS A CHANGELING, BUT THAT DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACT THAT EVEN AFTER ALL HE HATH DONE, AND ALL THE PAIN HE HATH COST US, WE CANNOT BUT REMEMBER THE LOVE THAT WE USED TO SHARE!”

Another lead silence fell as her voice echoed off the rock, her chest heaving in great gasps as tears ran down her face. The pure and unadulterated agony in her expression made me feel like something had crawled into my chest and died. The pure pain that she was feeling seemed to pierce my very soul as the other ponies gaped at her.

Finally, Celestia lifted a hoof, moving slowly as if to avoid frightening her sister, “Luna, I, I never knew. Please, let me help you through this.”
She cringed away when Luna brushed her hoof off her shoulder, “We wish to be alone for a while. We are tired from Our journey and require sleep.” She stood and walked past the others, not even bothering with a passing glance as she curled up facing the wall and draped her tail over her body.

Celestia made to follow but was stopped by Cadence. The white alicorn cast a glance towards her niece, but the younger mare simply shook her head. Celestia cast one last glance towards the still form of Luna, before sighing and turning around to face the others.
I had seen enough. I cut off the spell and stumbled back a step, my legs weak and shaking after the spectacle I had just witnessed. And yet, even with the image of Luna gone, my chest still throbbed and ached like I had swallowed a nettle burr. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the image of Luna’s painful expression, her thunderous words seeming to echo in my bones with each passing minute. For what felt like an eternity I sat in that room, thinking on what I was going to do next. Should I send for Luna again? Should I make her my queen without the mind spell? I shook my head at the idea, there was no way she would ever forgive me for what I had done, even if she did have feelings for me.

But, another thought bounced into my mind from some unseen corner, maybe I could still do something to prove that her feelings meant something to me. I might not be able to give her back her magic and kingdom, but perhaps I could give her the freedom that she had lost when mother took over.

I raced to the doors and broke through the seal with such force that the doors flew off their hinges. The two Shards standing guard jumped in surprise as I marched out of the obliterated doorway, “Send for all the Shards. Your King is in need of your services.”

They nodded dumbly before racing off in opposite directions, and in seemingly minutes, the entire hallway was cluttered with a dozen Changelings.

“You had need of us Your Highness?” Colonel Carapace spoke as she snapped a salute.

I nodded, “At ease Shard Master, this is not a formal meeting. Now,” I let my gaze wander over the collected Changelings, “I called you all together because there is something I need to do. It will be very dangerous and could very well lead to my death. I have called you here to give you two orders. First, you are no longer my personal guard. I am giving you free reign on your own lives from this point forward. Second, I am asking for volunteers to embark on this dangerous quest. Those who come do so knowing that they will be committing treason against Queen Chrysalis and will be subject to the death penalty if we are captured. We will be freeing the pony princesses and their followers from the Canterlot dungeons and leading them out of Equestria. To where, I do not know. All I know that that I cannot let these ponies suffer any longer under my mother’s rule. We may be superior to ponies, but that does not mean we can treat them as less than dirt.”

I paused for a moment to let my words sink in, “So, now that you know what you will be walking into, what say you all?”

For a moment they muttered and talked amongst themselves, before they all turned to Colonel Carapace. She nodded and turned to me with a smile, “You won’t get rid of us that easily Your Highness. You can say it all you want, but the Silver Shards will stand by you till the last. We go where you go, and we would all die to protect you, no matter where you might run and no matter what you do.”

She raised her voice and called out, “Silver Shards, sound off and fall in!”

They fell into a single file and saluted one by one, starting with the furthest left,

“First Sergeant Acari reporting for duty!”

“Corporal Dorsum, present!”

“Lieutenant Stinger ready for action!”

“M-Major Wasp, here!”

“Captain Locust awaiting orders!”

“Sergeant Major Coxa, present!”

“Warrant Officer Pleurite, standing by!”

“Lieutenant Vertex reporting!”

“Sergeant Alula, present!”

“Petty Officer Frons good to go!”

“Captain Nodus reporting in!”

Carapace smiled as she snapped her own salute at the end of the line, “Colonel Carapace standing by! All Silver Shards are present and
ready for action Your Highness! What are your orders?!”

I was struck with a quick flash of pride, as well as a fair amount of gratitude. Even without direct orders, these Changelings were willing to follow me on what could very well become a suicide mission. I held back my tears as I smiled, knowing that you couldn’t breed this kind of loyalty into a soldier.

“Very well,” I forced my voice to remain level, “if that is what you wish then so be it. Silver Shards, move out!”

“YES SIR!” Came the thunderous reply from every ‘ling present.

With my heart set and my mind clear, I led the Silver Shards out of the castle and to the train station, knowing that from this moment on, there would be no going back.

Author's Note:

Well that happened. Sorry so much for leaving all of you guys hanging for so long, but school has been kicking my behind lately and I just found the time to write this now. Please bear with me, because once Christmas Break comes around I'll have more time to write chapters, and I hope to finish the book over the Break. No promises or guarantees, but that is the dream.
Anyways, I'll see you all next chapter,
Shadow Quill, Messenger of the Moon