• Published 14th Feb 2020
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Imperial Revision - The Sound of Loneliness

What would you do if you already had everything? Or everything you wanted. Her Majesty Nightmare Moon has recently discovered there is more to life than war, intrigues and edicts. Luna is trying to be helpful. She has no choice.

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The Youngest Soldier

The night was quiet, warm and welcoming, just like Silver Shine liked it. Weather ponies always made sure the sky was clear, letting the moon shine over the Canterlot streets, allowing its dwellers to always bask in Her grace. The citizenry, in turn, ensured the streets were always clean, the buildings maintained and all under the watchful eyes of Her Guards, making sure they all were safe and secure on the streets of Her chosen city.

He murmured thanks and a blessing to a passing stranger as she dropped a few coins in his oversized hat.
That was a kind person, she gave the change she didn’t need to someone else who could use it. It always brought a smile to his tiny face to see ponies being as generous as their ruler, even to somepony like him, a stain on Her beautiful city. He was too little to work and he and his Father needed any bits they could get. Father would surely object to the way he got the money, though.

Most generous ponies tended to be farm ponies from the local lands. They always had something to give him: a few apples, occasionally a warm loaf. Silver pitied them, for they had to toil during the day and never got a chance to see the moon in the sky. Some of them were too stubborn to embrace the nocturnal way of life, but mostly, they were just afraid to go out at night.
Timberwolves and other dangerous creatures waited for them in the hallowed dark. Perhaps the Empress would one evening declare her order for the Imperial Army to chase all the dangers out of the land! Silver wanted to be there to hear it.

Silver always loved when his father told him about Her, he used to be one Her Guards and spent a lot of time observing her. Father may have lost his leg serving Her, but he never spoke ill of her regardless. Moreover, every time he remembered his time in Her presence, he spoke with aspiration! A reason alone to ask him to tell more.

His favourite story was Her ascension to the throne of the Empire. Back then, she prefered a different name. She had her sister and her friends at her side, but she couldn’t be content knowing that any of her subjects suffered from her actions. Thestrals, her favoured tribe, exiled in their own land, hated and feared.
The Lunar Princess could not let this continue, knowing that even though her sister was opposed to the idea of reaching out to the lost tribe, Her Majesty refused to let go. She risked everything and rebelled against the Solar Princess once more and fought for the bat-winged ponies to finally have a place in Equestria again.

Though other ponies tended to be put off by their overall weirdness, Silver still liked Her thestrals; though they didn’t seem to like him much in return. Silver could understand them being a little grumpy after being contained to some stupid mountain range for a thousand years.
Their “religion,” as Father called it, made sense to him too. Princess Celestia has been methodically spreading the knowledge of her nature for the entirety of her rule specifically to avoid such cults appearing.
But thestrals knew nothing of this, it only made sense for them to think the pony who could move both sun and moon, as well as govern their dreams, was a goddess. Silver would think so himself if he didn’t know any better.

The fact that Her Majesty was rather reclusive didn’t help much either. She seldom left the palace and when she did, it was rarely for anything public.
Silver was very glad to have had a chance to see Her in person, even if it was just once, when she announced the return of Princess Celestia and their reconciliation--though that was rather unexpected too. He constantly heard other ponies grumbling about how inconsistent the Empress became in recent times, but Silver was only glad for her. He knew how bad it was to lose family.
Silver wouldn’t trade that moment for any other, to witness Her Majesty’s power when she raised and lowered the celestial spheres was one thing, but seeing Her mercy and kindness bloom for everyone to see was something totally different.

This was proof that their Empress, despite Her new fearsome guise, was no more evil or cruel than she had ever been. Despite everything the Princess of the Sun did wrong, both to Her Majesty personally and Her most devoted subjects, the younger sister still found the strength to not relish in the older one’s suffering, offering her the same kind of mercy she herself received.

Judging the time by the moon’s position in the sky, he deduced it had to be early morning by now, which meant it was time for him to return home. He heard hoofsteps coming his way, though, and decided to linger for a few more moments. From the sound of it, there were two more ponies approaching.
Maybe he’ll have a little more bits to bring home. Silver Shine pumped and smoothened again his crummy, though still soft, mane and dropped his sight down on the hat - staring was very impolite.

The hoofsteps stopped before him, just like he hoped, but no coins dropped. After waiting a moment, the foal figured they wanted him to look up at them, and started to slowly lift his eyes.
There were two ponies there, both of whom were quite tall and elegant. Silver concluded they had to be mares, and rich ones at that, judging by their jewelled shoes. One was obsidian black, while the other was alabaster white. The foal stopped his sight from ascending further, not daring to look any higher.

“You didn’t tell me you had such cute little beggars in your city, sister,” a pompous voice announced, giving a delighted chuckle. It was very different from what he remembered from the older recordings.
Well, at least he wasn’t in trouble yet…
“Eyes up, child. Your Empress took interest in you, let her see you.”
Silver did as he was ordered, looking up and right into their faces.
Princess Celestia was giving him an encouraging, although a bit haughty, smile. But Her Majesty was simply studying him, no visible emotions on her face at all.

Silver felt his heart trying to jump out of his chest. It really was them! The Princess had even talked to him! His father would kill him for showing his dirty face in front of royalty, and the fact they were ladies made the crime even worse! Silver had never wished so hard that he could bathe, what would Her Majesty think?

“What is your name, child?” she simply asked.

“...Silver Shine, Y-your Majesty.” It took him a moment to remember, which provoked another chuckle from Her Highness.

“Child, don’t just sit there! You are in the presence of royalty! Bow!” The Princess accompanied her instruction with a gesture of her hoof.

Oh, yes...how could he forget? His father would’ve already given him a cuff on the nape. The foal quickened to his hooves and bowed deeply, awaiting the next order, which didn’t arrive for a while.
Her Majesty simply eyed the coins in the hat for a long moment, then met his eye.

“Where are your parents?”

“My Father is h-here—” he pointed in the direction of his home, “—down the alleyway, Y-your Majesty.”

“Show me,” the Empress commanded. The Princess gave her sister a surprised look, but didn’t comment.

The foal jumped up and trotted quickly down the alley. The Princess giggled, making him realize he’d forgotten the night’s income, but he didn’t dare to return or even look back. Now, he had something much more important to do; without even mentioning he could bump into one of them and get his dirt on their noble fur!

Silver hastily led both royal mares half-way down the alley, then knocked on a door to his left.

“Silver, is that you?” A rugged voice growled out from behind the slab of wood.

“Y-yes, F-father.”

“Huh? Are you shivering? Is it that cold out there?”

“N-no, Father.”

The door opened. His Father’s mighty figure filled the doorway; though he was a Pegasus, he could rival the largest Earth Ponies, and him losing part of his hind leg did nothing to reduce his stature.

It was the first time Silver had ever seen his Father bending to the floor so quickly. He imagined Princess Celestia’s smile had widened, but he didn’t dare to turn around and check.

“May we enter?” the Princess asked. Her tone left no room for denying the request.

“O-of course!” The towering stallion hastened to get out of the way. Silver quickly trotted in and stationed himself by his Father’s side, as he was instructed to do in case of guests.
The regal visitors eyed the dusty hallway as if they'd found themselves in a museum or gallery. Her Highness openly shivered, making his Father frown and look down in shame. He wasn’t as good at keeping the house clean as Mother had been.
On the other hoof, Her Majesty showed no disdain, still bearing the same neutral expression. She was mostly interested in Father, rather than the scenery.

“Morning Shine?” Her Majesty called Silver’s Father by his name, and he gave a respectful bow.

“I...I am honored you remember me, Your Majesty... May I offer a seat?” He remembered his manners.
His Empress nodded to him, and he hurried to open the door behind him. Father always planned ahead, so they always stood with their backs to either the living or the dining room when receiving guests. The hallway was far too narrow for Father to comfortably walk past another pony, and pushing a guest against the wall wasn’t a good sign of hospitality.

Silver instinctively went for the light switch, but then remembered there was no power in the house and quickly backed away from it before anyone could notice. No reason to make their poverty any more obvious. Besides, it didn’t seem like either of the high mares minded the darkness.

“The house seems big for just two of you,” Princess Celestia commented.

“My wife is...” The Empress gave Silver’s Father a nod, stopping him mid-phrase.

“Thank you,” he said simply.

Father didn’t like to talk about the Mother.

Silver dutifully offered both ladies chairs by the fire. The Princess frowned at the seat, casting some spell at it before taking it. Her face immediately stretched back into a smile immediately after. Silver couldn't shake off a feeling that he was looking at a mask. She obviously didn't enjoy being here, what reason would she have to smile like this?

Her Majesty was even more reluctant than her sister, squinting her eyes at the light and grimacing. Silver saw and quickened to kill the fire.
“Don’t,” she stopped him, then proceeded to lower herself onto the presented chair.

Father brought over his own large chair, placing it before the fire. Sadly, that meant the supply was exhausted in the room, so the foal had to stand. But maybe there was a benefit to it after all.
Silver positioned himself between the fire and Her Majesty, shielding her from the direct light, which was so painful to her beautiful eyes. She blinked to readjust, nodding gratefully at him.

Silver beamed for a moment, but quickly suppressed it. He was not to grin like an imbecile in front of Her Majesty.
At least, that’s what Father would say. But to Silver, it didn’t seem as if she minded it. The Empress noticed him struggling to control his emotions, and after throwing a careful look at her sister to make sure the other mare wasn’t looking, gave him a warm, barely noticeable smirk. Silver felt himself blushing.
He noticed that unlike Princess Celestia, Her Majesty smiled not only with her lips, but with her eyes too.

“Morning,” Princess Celestia addressed Silver’s Father. “How did you injure your leg? I had no idea my sister let her Guards fight, except to defend the palace.”
The Princess didn’t appear to be very interested in the answer herself, it seemed only that she simply didn’t want the silence to establish itself.
Father looked away again. His “honorable discharge” wasn’t a story he was proud of.

“It’s my own fault, Your Highness,” he said quietly. “I stepped on a landmine.”

“When?” she pried, eyeing him sharply. Silver thought it was just so that she could look at him, rather than all the dust around.

“The Battle of The Hive.” Father gave a small nod to the Empress, “Her Majesty flattened the changeling fortifications, forcing them to hide in their tunnels. They didn’t take the mines with them.”
Her Highness gave her sister a respectful nod, apparently impressed.

“Don’t you… have any friends?” She continued. Father gave a tight smile.

“Don’t you… have any friends?” Her Highness continued. Father unevenly smiled.

“Your Highness… I am sorry, this is a hard question.” Father didn’t like this subject either. Her Highness seemed to sense whatever questions would be the most difficult for him to answer.
“We Guards are not very popular now, you see,” he continued. “The army sees us as glorified security guards who get to sit in the comfy palace while they sleep in trenches. And civilians keep their distance to anything related to Her Majesty.
“The only ones we can depend upon are other Guards, and, since recently, Thestrals; they seem to recognize us now for protecting Her Majesty.” Her Highness nodded again.

Father then turned to the Empress.
“Ma’am, if I may,” he said. Her Majesty proceeded to indicate her permission with another nod. “I never got the chance to apologize.”
He nodded at his leg. “I…I am sorry for failing you like this. You gathered us all because you needed us for a purpose…Cripples make poor soldiers.” He dropped his eyes.
“I…I… Thank you for coming tonight and letting me tell you this. I did all I could, but it wasn’t enough. Your Majesty, I am sorry.” Despite the sincerity of Father’s words, Silver didn’t notice a muscle moving on Her Majesty’s face. Was she really this cold-hearted?

“Are you a soldier or not?” Her Highness jumped at him like a wildcat. “First, you get yourself hurt over your own remissness, and now you are trying to make us sorry for you?! How dare you even to—”

“Sister, enough,” the Empress abruptly interrupted, immediately receiving a confused stare. “I imagine Corporal Shine already received more than he deserved.” Silver watched Her Highness’s eyes running all over the room before the usual smile returned to her lips.

“Yes, sister. You are entirely correct.” The Princess stood up from her chair. “I believe we’ve overstayed our welcome. We should return to the palace.”

“Yes, sister. It is time we take our leave. Thank you for your hospitality, Corporal.”

“Silver, escort the ladies, please,” Father ordered the colt. The artificial tone of his voice gave Silver chills. Princess Celestia gave Silver a dismissive glance, then chuckled and walking out of the room.

Her Majesty watched her sister leave, then swiftly turned back to Silver, squinting her eyes again because of the fire.
She took a small velvet pouch out of the depths of her flowing mane, then held it out to Silver. He eyed the pouch, unsure of what he was supposed to do or say.
The Empress pushed the pouch against his chest, making him instinctively take it with his hooves, then turned on her heels and quickly followed her sister. Silver looked at the pouch in his hooves in utter confusion, but quickly took it in his mouth and followed the royalty to the door.
Both mares already were outside when he made it to the hallway. It sounded like they were having a conversation, and somehow Silver knew he was supposed to listen in.

“What was this for, sister? I didn’t propose for us to walk together in your beautiful city just to entertain some old cripple and his beggar foal!” The Princess was much more expressive than her sister, allowing Silver to catch every bit of her irritation despite her voice never rising above a whisper.

“It is important to get to know our subjects, sister. There are not supposed to be beggars on the streets of my city. This isn’t right.”

“This old wreck isn’t supposed to even be in your city!”

“Watch your tone when speaking of my servants.”

“Your former servant! He is not useful to you any longer, get rid of him! He’s tainting your city!”

“There are other ways of clearing my city without raising unrest amongst those still useful to me, sister.”

“As you wish,” The Princess angrily snapped. “Do whatever you want with your own subjects.” Quick, sharp hoofsteps informed Silver of the Princess’ departure.

The foal proceeded to quietly push the door outward. The Empress stood a few steps away from the doorway, watching the Princess quickly retreating out of sight.
That probably was something he wasn’t supposed to think about. Silver made a step down from the perch, attracting Her Majesty’s attention.

“It’s yours...” the foal started, but knew he didn't need to continue, the Empress knew. He produced a muffled, half-apologetic, half-confused response, but still made a step to her. The Empress waved him to stop and he instantly obeyed, two of his legs still on the porch.
Satisfied, the monarch said nothing else and simply left, leaving Silver to stand on the pouch alone and try to comprehend this night he knew he would never forget. He couldn't hope to understand her motives, but she had given him a clue.
Silver carefully proceeded to put the bag he was given on the pouch and untie it. The gleam of gold was the only answer he got.

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