• Published 2nd Aug 2018
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Acolyte of the Lunar Court - Lets Do This



"The Night is not as forgiving as the Day." -- Twilight finds out the hard way what Luna's night is like.

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In the entrance hall of the Lunar Court, the five ponies waited, wearing their robes and Element regalia.

Applejack stared upward at the immense entry doors.

"Rainbow, is it absolutely necessary for you ta touch the top of anything tall?"

"This place is so cool!" called down a distant voice. "You girls look like bugs from way up here!"

"An' Rarity! Quit trying ta flirt with them guards! Cain't you see they're not interested?"

"Just getting myself in the right frame of mind, dahling!" she replied, batting her eyelashes at the guard anyway. "Doing anything later, handsome?"

Applejack looked at Pinkie and felt worried. The pink pony had been sitting motionless in one spot for over ten minutes. There was a glazed look in her eyes, and her tongue lolled from her mouth.

"Uh... what're ya doing, Pinkster?"

"I'm picturing chocolate cake, gumdrops, jelly doughnuts with pink frosting and sprinkles -- the blue ones not the white ones -- pumpkin pie, licorice whips, double-fudge ice cream with marshmallow whip, caramel apples, sacks of penny candy, and a sixteen-course dessert menu with sweet tea and those fun little chocolate-covered mints for afterwards!" She blinked, and looked worried. "I think I've given myself mental sugar-shock!"

"Just picture a bicarbonate of soda. That'll fix ya up."

Pinkie beamed. "Okay!"

Sitting next to Pinkie was a large brown sack. It had also been disturbingly quiet, for the longest time. Applejack walked over and prodded it gently.

"Y'all raight in there, Fluttershy?"

"Mmm mmm."

"Ya shure you're gettin' enough air in there?"

"Mmm mmm."

"Uh... that was a yes there, wasn't it?"

"Mmm mmm!"

"All raight, then!"

Applejack returned to the doors, just as Rainbow returned to ground level as well. The blue pegasus picked up her robe and hurriedly threw it back on. They all stared at the doors. The noise level inside seemed to be reaching some kind of crescendo. Then it dropped to nothing.

"Sounds laik our cue. Rainbow, go uncork Fluttershy. And keep an eye on her! Don't want her running off and gettin' lost down here."

"On it!"

The doors slowly swept open.

"C'mon y'all," Applejack said, squaring her shoulders. "It's show time!"

The five of them trooped along the carpet under the watchful eyes of the entire Court. Rainbow came last, because she was having to practically shove a trembling Fluttershy ahead of her by brute force.

They came to the bonfire, passed around it, and lined up facing the dais.

Before them they saw Princess Luna, standing tall and regal in her spotlight. And directly in front of her was Twilight, her hood thrown back, her element crown set atop her head, her eyes blazing with power. She lifted her snout, and spoke in the Voice:

CITIZENS OF EQUESTRIA, WE PRESENT TO YOU -- THE ELEMENTS OF THE NIGHT!

A roar went up from the crowd, and there was a thunderous drumbeat of hooves. Twilight's gaze swept down to the five robed figures before her, one of whom was huddled on the ground, forehooves covering its head.

"Hoo-ey!" Applejack whispered to Rarity. "She's really getting into this whole Acolyte of the Night thing, isn't she?"

"Of course not!" Rarity retorted. "It's just a performance, remember?"

"Pretty darn convincin', if you ask me!"

As if hearing them, Twilight's gaze settled on Applejack.

ART THOU PREPARED?

Applejack wondered how they were going to make themselves heard in the immense hall. Then with a flash and a pop, something very like a soap bubble but made of flickering energy appeared in front of each of them.

"What in tarnation...!"

"It's an illusion spell," Rarity whispered. "It magnifies sound. Just stick your muzzle into it."

"Wayall..." Gingerly, she poked her nose through the shimmering surface. It fizzed on her skin like bubbles from a glass of soda water.

YES, INDEEDY WE ARE!

She flinched, hearing her voice echoing like summer thunder from the walls. Then she noticed Twilight was wincing as well and surreptitiously rubbing her throat. Oh my lordy... Applejack thought. Is she playing amp for us? Don't overdo it, y'all!

Rarity spoke next.

RRRRARITY IS RRRREADY!

Pinkie Pie bounded in place, then remembered and stopped herself.

BORN READY... TO PARTAYYYYY!

Fluttershy craned her neck up, just barely managing to reach her bubble.

um... as ready as I'll ever be...

Applejack rolled her eyes. Fluttershy could make even the Canterlot Voice sound timid.

Then Rainbow shoved her muzzle into her bubble.

HAH! HOW HARD COULD IT BE!

"Rainbow!" Applejack frowned at her. But the crowd appeared to be eating it up. They screeched and roared and stamped and bellowed.

THEN TAKE THY PLACES, AND WE SHALL BEGIN!

As Twilight had suggested, they arranged themselves in an open circle around the rear of the bonfire. Across the circle, Applejack could hear loud whispering:

"Ow! You stepped on my tail, Rainbow!"

"I did not!"

"Oh, you most certainly did! Hmp! I wasn't going to run away!"

"Oh yeah! Says you!"

Rarity leaned forward. "Quiet, you two!"

"Uh, Rarity!" Applejack whispered across to her. "Leave it be! Rainbow's jest helpin' her prime her pump, is all!"

When they were finally all in position, Twilight motioned with her head for Spike to join her, and together they promenaded down the ramp from the dais to take up the open space.

On her signal, they each focused on their Elements. Spike had brought himself a small cushion, and he sacked out on it. The rest lowered their eyes and concentrated, generating a swirling cloud of shadow energy above the flames as Twilight lifted her hooves and spoke the re-summoning spell.

The bonfire blazed up. Out of it a firey tornado swept upwards into the heights, filling the cavern with a burning maelstrom. And in the heart of the inferno something with way too many claws, way too many teeth, and way too many heads... peered around nervously as if unsure of itself. Then it spotted Twilight and the others far below, pulled itself together, and made a great show of bowing to them.

SUMMONED I COME, TO SERVE THOSE AS HATH CALLED UPON ME! WHAT IS THY BIDDING, O MISTRESSES OF THE DARK ELEMENTS!

Twilight's blazing eyes stared up at it, and she smiled.

YOUR PRESENCE IS SERVICE ENOUGH THIS NIGHT! WE WELCOME THEE TO OUR LUNAR COURT, AND WE CALL UPON ALL PRESENT TO RECOGNIZE YOUR GENEROUS INDULGENCE!

The crowd, which up to now had been relatively quiet, broke into a loud roar of approval, which rang from the walls. The demon, momentarily overcome by adulation, actually flexed a bit. Then he pulled himself together and became titanically horrific again.

I AM AT YOUR BECK AND CALL, O MISTRESS OF THE NIGHT, his voice boomed, AGAINST ALL WHO WOULD THREATEN THEE! He bowed again, impressively.

Applejack heard Twilight coughing roughly. Clearly her Voice was running out of steam. But she raised it one final time:

BE RELEASED THEN, AND WITH OUR GRATITUDE! HENCE!

The demon raised its many claws in eager triumph, and the vortex of raging conflagration collapsed downward into the bonfire, becoming mere nine-foot-high flames again.

Luna's voice rang out through the momentary stillness.

LET ALL ACKNOWLEDGE THE POWER, WISDOM, AND GENEROSITY OF OUR ACOLYTE, AND OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE NIGHT!

The walls of the Court reverberated with their approval.

AND LET OUR LUNAR COURT... COMMENCE!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

They regathered in the shadows at the back of the dais, while Luna attended to normal Court business. Twilight was sipping soothing hot lemon tea that Pinkie Pie had prepared for her, using Rarity's magic to heat the water.

"I gotta admit!" Applejack said. "That was one heck of a show, gals! And I say that knowin' all the backstage stuff that went into it."

"I think we were splendid," Rarity said. "Though if we were going to take this show on the road, I would insist on our costumes being a little more -- distinctive. Basic black is all well and good but we need to shine!"

"Dunno 'bout that! Thought you was all pretty damned good myself!"

They turned to look. It was Fred, back in his demon-pony form, though he'd resized himself to normal pony height.

"Hi, Fred!" Then Pinkie looked puzzled. "Hey, I thought we banished him?"

Twilight shook her head. "I haven't spoken the actual banishing spell yet. I figured Fred might want to hang out with us for a few minutes after the show, before we sent him home."

Fred nodded. "You're very kind, Mistress! 'Specially that extra shout-out for me to the crowd. Gonna be a blast wavin that in everyone's faces downstairs! The Lunar Court! Me! Who'da thought it!" He beamed happily, then became serious. "And I meant what I said! Anyone messes with you, Mistress, you just say the word!"

"Hello, all! May we join you?" It was Luna, who had momentarily stepped away from her Court.

Then she spotted the demon. Her eyes went wide. "Oh. Ah. Hello, Fred. It is... agreeable to see thee again!"

Fred's eyes went wide. He fell on the stone floor, prostrating himself and shivering.

"Uh, Fred..." Twilight said to him, "This is Princess Luna. And she's very pleased with your performance this evening. Aren't you, your Highness?"

"Indeed we are!" Luna stepped cautiously closer. "We... hope thou can forgive us the excesses of the past. We have ill-used many in our service, and hope to make recompense. Along those lines... wouldst thou consider acceptable a position as ambassador to our Court?"

Fred looked up at her, astonished. "Would... that be a regular gig, like? With the summoning and everything?"

Luna nodded. "We would be pleased to consider you our Official Court Demon!"

"All right! Uhm... I'm exceedingly grateful, Mistress!"

Relieved, Luna nodded in response. "We shall leave it to our capable Acolyte to work out the details! Ah, excuse us! As always, duty calls." She returned to the spotlight to help settle a dispute between a gargoyle and a Morirohin, who were standing looking daggers at each other.

Fred stood up, looking dazed and unable to believe his luck. "I'd better get outta here quick, before anything else wonderful happens to me!"

Then he glanced around worriedly. He leaned closer to Twilight.

"Uh, hey, where's Oogha Boogha?"

"Oh, I... gave her the night off. She had some things to take care of!"

"Ah. Hope I don't know any of them personally, wouldn't want to be in their hooves!"

"She... did ask me to give you this." Twilight levitated over a basket of fresh-baked muffins. "Since you missed out on the cake last time!"

He stared at the basket. "Aw! Now that was sweet of her!" He glanced around. "Er, don't tell anyone I said that... bad for the image! Now, er, Mistress... if you've no further need for my services?"

Twilight nodded, and spoke the final banishing spell.

Fred took up the basket in his mouth and, waving a hoof, vanished in a puff of sulfuric smoke.

"He does seem awfully nice at heart," Fluttershy said. "For a demon!"

"Yeah, well!" Applejack frowned, "don't get too trusting. Deception is nine-tenths of shadow magic, ya know!"