• Published 2nd Apr 2019
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Knight of Equestria III: Pizzicato and Changelings - scifipony



Vinyl Scratch lands a gig for DJ Flopsy Mopsy: the public party for the royal Canterlot Wedding—in a stadium-sized venue! Handling this taxes her fledgling abilities, but, when she thinks she owns all the hooves, all Tartarus beaks loose.

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Judgement

I found my face submerged in heavily iced hard cider. Into which somepony had had the temerity to add strawberry daiquiri mix.

"Ugh!"

I coughed out the sickly sweet concoction. It burned my nose and throat, but especially my eyes. I wiped at them furiously, feeling for a bar-mop with the other wing.

I found it. At least the terry cloth was wet with water, not detergent. I shook out my mane with three loud snaps and heard the droplets strike the table, floor, and temporary walls.

When I pushed through the heavy black canvas with my dripping cold nose and looked about, I saw nopony there. I dragged myself to the colonnade fence and stood wringing out my hair and wiping my fur, afraid it would dry to a painfully sticky mess otherwise. The white-water cascade of the east river rumbled deeply off the Canterlot Drop to my right. I breathed in cool air as the lights of Ponyville twinkled in the distance, below a spattering of bright stars in a dark sky.

The drip from my nose was tears.

I was crying. I could barely hear the rave behind me. The Night Electrical must have cast a muffling spell. Such things worked both ways, I hoped, and might protect what was left of my dignity.

Eventually, it dawned on me the nature of my convoluted thoughts, why I cried: I had been there when Princess Nightmare Moon had escaped the moon. Behind Ponyville Town Hall. Wrestling a rubbish bin outside. She had attacked Princess Celestia with a tornado of rainbow magic. I had witnessed the entire ambush and had been instantly convinced I'd seen Princess Celestia murdered.

I pressed the cold towel against my forehead with a wing, thinking furiously but—even today I'm still sure. In that moment—I was convinced.

I'd witnessed a regicide.

And what had I just done on the stage? It sure felt like an assassination.

Had I done it because, when Princess Nightmare Moon had addressed me after her foul deed, I had curtseyed before her royalty and, unprompted, called her, "Your Royal Majesty"?

Monarch. Sole monarch. Not a princess— A bloody queen.

Now I did my queen's bidding?

I knew it, deep inside my soul: I was evil.

"Flopsy Mopsy?"

I shrieked at the sound of Princess Celestia's voice. Like I'd heard a ghost. I jumped, flared my wings, and dashed myself into the nearest colonnade on the promenade. My head bounced off with that coconut sound you don't want to hear from the inside. I fluttered down, tangling my rear-legs together, tripping, then landing on my back, wings splayed out. Flopsy Mopsy, indeed. The bar-mop landed with a special splat before a pair of white hooves.

Princess Celestia pushed back her hood as she looked down over me. Her blue and green streaked pink mane pulsed as if blown toward the cliff. She wore none of her regalia; the bling would have given her away. Her cloak was even oversized, so it gave the impression that the pony inside was smaller than she was. She didn't even wear eye makeup, and for a mare who always noticeably wore heavy dark mascara, that did help keep her from being recognized. Plain. She looked plain. That and hiding her wings. I understood completely that she probably moved around Equestria in disguise more often than Coloratura thought.

"Are you all right?" she asked. "Let me help you up."

She caught me up in her magic like a leaf in the wind and righted me. As I nibbled a painfully bent primary into place, she dusted me off and dried me with her magic. She added, "You seem terribly clumsy for a new hero of Equestria."

I burst into tears and collapsed to the worn travertine tile that paved the promenade. It felt really cold, despite the mid-summer's eve. I'd been recognized. I couldn't hide. I'd been seen for what I had never wanted to be.

"Are you all right? Did you hurt your head?"

I found myself sniffling and sobbing, but I levered myself up only to bow. I had bowed to her sister in her worst mania, but never to Celestia herself. "Your Royal Highness!"

She scoffed. "Oh, none of that, Miss Flopsy Mopsy. If this has anything to do with the song, do not worry. I rather liked it. I'm not offended. I hope somepony recorded it. Luna would kill for a bootleg of that." She winked.

I answered her question about my condition, taking it as a by-your-leave to speak.

"It's not that, Princess." I met her violet gaze with my own eyes, despite my blinking away tears. Shy—the simpering Flopsy Mopsy prior to meeting Princess Nightmare Moon—could never have looked a pony in the eye. The mare after had no fear to look even a princess in the eye. It was no longer in my nature to look down. Crazy. I was crazy.

Regardless, I blurted out the something I'd known had been driven into my soul like a metaphorical spike just before Nightmare Moon had promised to knight me for recognizing her royalty. That something had likely stopped my heart, my emotional heart, from beating. "I was there when Princess Nightmare Moon caught you in her magic. I saw you murdered!"

And immediately swore loyalty to your murderer.

That part I couldn't say. How could I say that? No matter how true. How?

I burst into tears.

I heard heavy fabric thrown aside. A moment later, enormous wings enfolded me into an embrace. "My little pony! I am very much alive."

Why did it feel so warm? Why did I have to fight every instinct that made me want to struggle free and fly until I left Equestria forever far behind? Well, I knew.

I was Nightmare Moon's only living creation.

I was undeserving of comforting. Or of being loved. And, "I'm evil," I moaned. "Please, you shouldn't touch me. When Princess Cadance's magic swept the changelings away, it swept me along with it."

"So Riverdale said."

"I'm evil." Now I did struggle, but she held me even more tightly.

After a long pause during which I could hear the thump-thump-thump of her enormous heart, she said, "And you think I wasn't buffeted?"

I stiffened.

"The changeling queen imprisoned me in a chrysalis stuck to the ceiling of the hall. The wind dissolved the chrysalis but sent me flying into a wall. Fortunately, all eyes were on Shining Armor and Cadance. And there was that unyielding wall in the way. Would have been rather embarrassing had there been an open balcony door."

I stilled and she backed off.

She added, "A hero is by definition imperfect and not normal. This princess is no less so."

I studied her, no matter how cheeky it was for a former Trottingham peasant, an immigrant, the lowest of the common class. In the moonlight, the white winged unicorn gleamed. She looked perfect, but I felt her words seeping in, like rain through a damaged roof.

She had confessed... to... me!?

I blurted again, "I had to choose between six mares with a colt and a mare I knew with two fillies."

"And I sent my sister to the moon for a thousand years. And... and so much more that shall never be recorded in any history book."

"Please, Princess. I am no hero."

"After a thousand years, I still don't want to be a princess regnant, but it is what I must be. All I had wanted was to help my autistic brother, but I had this particularly annoying special talent and a big mouth. But especially that sun thing. Then ponies I'd thought I'd trusted made this happen." She flared her wings. "I do understand. Your talk with Lieutenant Riverdale, what Doctor Flowing Waters reported, and a letter Octavia Melody sent me pretty much concurs with what I can see. You are what you are—and we cannot be other than what we are—but I do understand that you really don't want other ponies to know."

"That's the truth, Your Royal Highness."

"The truth will out."

"Eventually is not today."

"That too is spoken truth. Now, however, I must do what a princess must do." I felt a wing touch the top of my head. "You are a hero, my little pony. Your quick action saved the lives of thousands who would have become panicked in the promenade. Had Twilight Sparkle not brought Shining Armor and Cadance together so their love could spark her magic in conjunction with his, your subsequent actions may have helped ponies escape an evil changeling reign. I see in you the seeds of the leader who would have led the pony resistance." She lifted my face by my muzzle with one wing and tapped my forehead with her primaries. "You are a smart cookie, much like the first infuriatingly honor-bound pony who bore that name. You are a Hero of Equestria, like it or not, and you have my undying gratitude."

She stepped back and levitated a black velvet box before me. "Open it."

The jewel box made a clack as I did. I found a gold coin medallion on a black silk ribbon. She reached over where I cupped it in my outstretched wings, tapping the surface. "You are not alone."

The heavy medallion was stamped with her royal seal and engraved with the number 107.

"There are 107?"

"Are. Were. You and 106 others. Half were born during the last century, the other half in the prior 900 years. Equestria needs every single hero. More so every day."

I said, "If Equestria never needs me again, I would be very happy."

"If you ever need to talk, you have my ear." Her white furry one twitched as if in emphasis. She gave me a simple nod, threw on her concealing cloak with her magic, and disappeared through the black canvas back into festival tents.

I still held the medal cupped in my primaries. It gleamed with that deep rich color of the purest gold. It certainly weighed like what it appeared to be.

"I guess that wasn't so bad."

What had I feared? I heard my Caramel Hay Princess Celestia remix playing in my head and found myself soon bobbing to the remembered beat. She did what she did. I did what I did. I had played the hero. Now I had a rave to run—that, and none this "Hero of Equestria" rubbish, was my bread and butter.

I felt good. Relief always felt good.

Or it could have been the hard cider I'd gulped.

Author's Note:

The epilogue is next... and a treat for you loyal readers of the series.