• 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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Mail Duty

“Give this to Captain Rolling Thunder,” Cloudy Dawn said, taking a package from a drawer under her desk.

“Yes, ma’am,” the courier automatically replied, but Cloudy wasn’t listening, consumed with instructing him and searching through the drawers for more mail.

“Drop these in a mailbox,” she continued, unfazed, passing over a stack of letters.

“Certainly, Ma’am.”

“And this you give to Lieutenant Rainbow Dash of the Experimental Aerial Warfare unit,” she handed over a large, sealed package. “She should be in the palace, if she hasn’t departed yet. If she has, leave it in the Imperial Mail Office anyway.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“After you finish that, find Rarity and give her this,” Cloudy closed her drawers after taking out the final letter.
“You know who Rarity is, right?” Cloudy Dawn finally emerged from her desk’s depths to give the colt in purple uniform a questioning look.

“Of course, ma’am!” he stood at attention again before she could catch him slacking.

“Tell me.” The colt gave her a confused look,

“Ma’am?” he asked. Cloudy rolled her eyes and clucked her tongue.

“Who is Rarity Belle?” the Minister repeated the question.

“Her Majesty’s Royal Advisor, ma’am!” he gabbled without delay.

“And how do you find her?”

“I ask in the office, ma’am. If they can’t help me, I ask one of the Guards.”

“And if they can’t help you either?”

“I wait until they can.”

“What you are not supposed to do?”

“Wander around the palace.”


“And bother anyone else with my questions.”

“Good,” Cloudy nodded approvingly. “Dismissed.”

“Yes, ma’am!” the colt darted out of the room. Cloudy sighed at the closed door.

As soon as Silver Shine left the office and closed the door, a wide smile stretched across his face. He had done a great deal of smiling in recent nights.
Everything started when another Imperial courier had appeared on their doorstep with a letter straight from the Imperial Personnel Department…and it had Silver’s name on it!
The letter contained the date and time of when he was to report for his new duty as a full-fledged Imperial courier. Well, almost full-fledged, tonight was his first time on the job. But he already had his set of IDs—a pair, just like the protocol required—one stored in his locker within the Imperial Communications Ministry and the other proudly clipped on this chest at all times. When he was on duty, that is, wearing it off duty would be a breach of protocol.
He was also issued the insignia that was now buttoned to the collar of his shirt—a sealed letter wrapped in thestral wings, a full moon as the background.

Being called to the Imperial service was good enough by itself just from honor and prestige alone—not to mention the pay—but it kept getting better and better! His first-ever run was going to be to the palace! Normally, only diplomats, high-ranking officials, and otherwise important ponies were allowed inside—Imperial Couriers were a lucky exception, even if they only got to walk through the courtyard to the administrative wing. That is, unless they were the select few listed as the palace staff.

As amazing as it all was, it still wasn’t everything! He also got to meet the most important and illustrious ponies in the land! Starting with Cloudy Dawn, a mare who sat at the same table with Her Majesty, now he was set to meet Rarity Belle, the Imperial Advisor! Only the Princesses and the Empress herself were outranking her, and he had already met Her Majesty!

The very idea of how lucky he was made his head spin and his hooves fly over the ground. The night was as beautiful as ever, but he had no time to admire it, he had a job to do!
After briefly stopping at the mailbox and dropping the letter stack in there (just as he was ordered!), he continued on his way, the Imperial palace in his sights.

“Courier Silver Shine!” he stretched out his hoof with his ID card to the Guard stationed at the gate. The Guard looked curiously down at him,
“I have messages for Captain Rolling Thunder and Lieutenant Rainbow Dash!” he attempted to sound confident. Not that he wasn’t, of course.

“Huh,” the Guard scratched his chin with his free forehoof, the other one gripped a rifle. “That’s new.” He proceeded to peer at the presented ID, then looked back at Silver. “Who do you say you are again?”

“Silver Shine, sir, an Imp-”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” The Guard violently shook his free hoof, “Easy there, I only wanted your name. Shine, you say?”
Silver restricted himself to just nodding this time,
“Morning’s your dad?” Silver nodded again. The Guard smiled, “Huh, I get it now. Your old man some had strings left? Hard to write that one off, I tell you. Well, congrats, I suppose.”

“Thank you, sir!” Silver bowed slightly.

“Careful with that, you might not be as thankful in a bit,” the Guard warned, then leaned forward and continued in a hushed voice, “Look, Shine, not going to lie to you, this job isn’t a picnic. If your dad hasn’t told you, there are some rules of survival that you need to engrave on the inside of your skull.”

“Y-yes, sir!”

“First, don’t ever go, say, or do where and what you weren’t ordered to, got it?”

“Got it.” So far, it was just standard things.

“Next, always be on a lookout. Doesn’t matter what you do, keep your eyes open and your head on the swivel. You always gotta know if you are supposed to be somewhere or not, and important ponies sometimes don’t bother telling you.”

Silver quickly nodded.

“Okay, this one is very important, you never-ever cross royalty! Whether it is Her Majesty, Princess Celestia, or Princess Twilight, you stay the hay away from them unless told otherwise. They don’t usually pay attention to Couriers, unless you have a letter for them, but don’t think you can get away with eavesdropping or any other crap like that. Princess Twilight might not eviscerate you herself, but if Her Majesty or any other important mare hears about you being a nuisance, and they will hear, don’t you doubt that for one sec; you are going to wish you’ve never set hoof here. You get my meaning?”

“Y-yes, sir!”

“Okay, then the last one. This is the most important one! Keep your mouth shut. The easiest way to lose your head in this Empire is to wag your tongue on things you are not supposed to.
“In the palace you are going to see and hear a lot of things. Whatever it is you hear or see, be it a pep talk between two maids or the Captain laying out a new defensive strategy, you don’t talk about it. If you can help it, try your best to keep yourself from learning about anything at all. Curiosity will get you in trouble—in this place information is both life and deadly poison. You don’t want to know things that you aren’t supposed to know. You clear?”

“Crystal clear, sir!”

“Good, now run along. And try not to piss off anyone at the Office, you are going to be dealing a lot with them. And say hi to your dad for me. I think I still owe him a hundred bits.”

“I will, thank you, sir.” The Guard hit the intercom on the wall, mumbled a code, and the gate slowly slid open. Silver quickly slipped inside.

“Oh, wait. One more thing.” The colt halted, briefly turning back to the Guard, “You ever need anything, you run straight to Rarity. Just put her a note through the Office. Rarity will help you, just don’t forget that you owe her a favor. Okay, go now.”

Silver couldn’t lie, his resolve was shaken. With all the excitement, he’d forgotten where he was going. This was the Imperial palace, not a museum or a vacation spot! Even just thinking otherwise was a display of irresponsibility!
Luckily, his Father would never find out about how much dishonor Silver almost brought to their name. ...Hopefully he wouldn’t.

Silver hastily checked to make sure his uniform had no creases, then ventured straight to the left side of the courtyard, to the administrative wing entrance.
As expected, there was a guard post there too. The Guard cocked his brow, but didn’t question him.

Coming through the door the soldier opened for him, Silver immediately discovered a stark contrast with the still image the palace provoked when viewed from outside. Ponies coming and going to and fro in all directions, carrying stacks of papers, briefcases, tablets, and bags of every imaginable size. The air was filled with a constant rattling of multiple voices and dialects, most of which the colt had never imagined existing! This place reminded him of the Canterlot market in the harvest season, the only difference was that the trades made here mattered more than how many pumpkins a buyer got for their bits.

The hall harbored, it seemed, every kind of pony the land had to offer. There was a group of clerks quietly chittering among each other outside of their booths. A few bored-looking Guards stationed all around the hall tried not to fall asleep from the lulling hubbub. Various civilians such as earth ponies, pegasi, unicorns and even a few thestrals huddled together in numerous queues, or peered at each other from waiting benches.
Other creatures were present too. A tired-looking griffon in a classy, black suit was sorting through his papers, briefcase lying open next to him on a bench. A group of changelings in military uniforms—the very same creatures Silver’s dad had lost his leg to—waited quietly for their appointment in a corner, scanning the hall with wary caution.

The most curious creature was one that Silver had never seen or even heard of before. It had a beak and claws like the ones of a griffon, but the body of a pony...except with a vastly larger stature than was normal, towering over the other ponies around. Sadly, Silver wasn’t supposed to bother anyone with his questions.

Dodging and ducking passing bureaucrats, Silver made his way to the far side of the hall where the “Mail Reception” sign was visible. There was only a small queue of only two ponies there, so it shouldn’t take long.
First in line was a gray-coated pegasus mare who’s colored uniform cap covered her sandy mane. As Silver looked closer, he could see that the cap was the same shade as her coat.

“Miss, you are still missing the G5 form. I can’t help you until you bring me a signed form with the ‘security Approved’ stamp,” the receptionist said tiredly. Silver guessed she must have repeated this same thing more than once already.

“But this is just a regular letter! See?” the mare stretched the envelope to demonstrate it had nothing more inside. “There’s no bomb in here or anything, you don’t have to check every single letter this carefully. They are confidential, you know!”

“Miss, this is exactly why they have to be checked! To make sure they ARE confidential! I am sorry, I can’t help you until you have the G5 form. Please, don’t hold up the queue.”
The mare looked behind herself. Silver noted that her eyes were gazing, weirdly enough, in different directions.

“Oh, I'm sorry, everypony!”

“Please don’t hold up the queue!” the receptionist insistently repeated. The mare quickly stepped away, murmuring another apology.

“Next, please,” the receptionist announced, sounding relieved.

“I need this sent to Second Lieutenant Stormbreaker of the 101st Paratroopers Division.” The next in line, a sky blue pegasus mare in Khaki-colored Army uniform, dropped a large envelope on the desk.

“Do you have the G4 security form, ma’am?”

“Yeah, here is. You’ve got no idea what I had to go through to get this!” She took out a folded paper from her pocket. Silver mentally thanked the stars that couriers didn’t need to bother with that.
“Don’t you dare tell me how you 'don’t accept creased documents,’ I had nowhere else to put it!”

“Miss, more restraint, please. Your attitude helps no one here.”

“Duh! All the better reason for you to not bother me with your ridiculous bureaucratic junk!”

The receptionist only sighed,
“No miss, if you have the G4 form, you have all that is required. We will have your request processed in a few days. Can I have your name, please?”

“Rainbow Dash, Second Lieutenant, the EAW unit.” Oh…how fortunate.

“Thank you, miss Dash. Next please.”

“Ma’am, I have a delivery for you,” Silver called out to the Lieutenant.

“Huh? Where did you come from?” Her question was paired with a surprised glance. Silver didn’t know how to respond.
“Okay, don’t bother. So, someone’s wrote me a letter?”

“N-no, ma’am.” Silver dropped his bags on the floor and dove into the right one, “It’s a package.”

“Huh, no kiddin’. Let’s see it then.” After much struggle, Silver managed to drag the package out of his bag,
“Oh no, you can’t be serious!” the Lieutenant groaned, slamming her hoof into her face.

“Ma’am?” Silver asked cautiously.

“Oh, this has nothing to do with you. I just know exactly what is it you brought me.” The mare dragged her hoof down off her face.

“You do?” Silver said politely.

“Yes, you brought me my dooooom!” she drearily stretched the word out. “You have noooooo idea how much stupid paperwork it takes to establish a new unit! They send me whole stacks of papers to go through and sign, it’s so boooooooooriiiing I wanna cry! Look, can’t you just go away and be late for a week or two? ...Well, thanks for the delivery anyway.”

“Hey!” the receptionist wedged in. “You can’t just take it and go!”

“Why not?”

“There’s a procedure! What if it has contraband in it? Give it to me, we’ll forward it to you as soon as it is inspected.”

“Ugh, give me a break! Look, let me make this easier for you. Pretend you didn’t see this and I won’t tell anypony.”

“What do you mean ‘pretend’?! This is an open violation!”

“Yeah, if you’ve got a problem with that, file a complaint. Come on, let’s get clear before she detonates.” Rainbow patted Silver on the back and started away from the desk. The receptionist gave Silver a deathly glare.

“Silver Shine, Imperial Courier Service. Here’s my documents. I’ve got a delivery for Captain Thunder.” Silver hastily dropped the mail and his ID on the desk.

“Oh, don’t I enjoy filing all of your papers for you, Couriers!” the receptionist cried out in frustration. “You know, the fact that you don’t do it, doesn’t mean the files aren’t required!”

“Uh… Ma’am, I really don’t have the time, I have one more delivery tonight. Bye.” Silver retreated before the receptionist could explode again.

The Courier quickly followed Rainbow Dash on her way out of the reception hall.
“Oh, there you are. Let’s get out of here. My head already hurts from the bullcrap concentration in the air.”

The Lieutenant lead him out of the hall and further down one of the hallways to the quiet office space. Silver had to admit, the Lieutenant had a point. With all the chatter in air, it was hard to hear his own thoughts back there.

“So, do they employ foals in the Service now?” Rainbow asked him without stopping.

“I… suppose they do. I was surprised too.”

“What did you do exactly? I mean, you gotta be somehow special to be the youngest courier to ever work for the Hag.“

“Well… It was just that… Wait, work for who?!” Silver stopped in his tracks, looking at Rainbow in disbelief on what he just heard.

“Huh? What’s wrong?” Rainbow gave him a curious look.

“You just insulted your Empress in her own home!” Rainbow Dash drove her hoof into her face with a loud smack.

“Ugh...” she painfully groaned. “Don’t tell me you are in the camp ‘zealot’ too! And I was starting to like you!
Look, what’s the problem with you? Aren’t we entitled to our own opinions anymore? The Hag herself doesn’t get as much offended as you, people, do!”

“What do you m-mean she doesn’t get as offended?! She would-”

“I swear to you on my damn shoulder boards that she wouldn’t! Oh, I’ll prove it! Let’s go find her.” Rainbow Dash continued down the hallway.

“Find Her Majesty?! She didn’t call for either of us! You can’t just walk up to her like this!”

“Oh, you just watch me! I’ll find her and ask exactly how much she is bothered with me not fawning all over her!” Silver knew he had to stop her. This was going to end very poorly for both of them.

“But… why?! Are you trying to get yourself in trouble? Why would you risk over something so silly?”

“Because you are being ridiculous! Being loyal is one thing, but worshipping her? Where did you lot get the idea?
She is a pony! A pony! Not a goddess and not an idol! A lightning isn’t going to strike you if you let the “blasphemous” thoughts to be in your heads!”

“What? I don’t think she is a goddess! That’s what thestrals believe! I only think you should respect her! She is your Empress too after all!”

“Oh yeah? And who asked me if I wanted her as my Empress? In case you didn’t know, kiddo, she didn’t exactly win an election!
She just waltzed in with her army of zealots, like you, and installed her plump plot on the throne! A bit less grand than how she tries to make it out to be, ain’t it?
She never asked anyone about anything! All of us were just made to face the fact! I never wanted her around! I never wanted to even see her again!”

“That’s a lie! The throne is rightfully hers! It always was! Even Princess Celestia admits as much!”

“I don’t give a crap who admits what! She is NOT, MY, EMPRESS! She is a usurper! A criminal! A tyrant! And as long as I live will NOT call her anything el- AHHH!” Lieutenant's ear suddenly became engulfed in the light blue aura and got pulled roughly to the side.
Looking around the disgraced Lieutenant, Silver discovered an elegant unicorn mare in an airy dress quickly coming their way.

“Rainbow!” a unicorn mare chided through gritted teeth, stopping at her side. “Can’t you behave yourself for a moment?”

“But it’s tru- AHHH!” The mare pulled Rainbow’s ear again, silencing her.

“Quiet, you bile-filled, disgrace of a friend! You already said enough for the clerks to come running for me to the other side of the palace! Do you have a single idea how disruptive your behaviour is?”

“Rarity, since when I don’t get a right to have a disagreement? I was just explaining to my new pal why I don’t like the Hag. AHHH!”

“Stop calling her that!”

“Stop pulling my ear!” Rainbow tried to wrestle away, but Rarity firmly held on.

“No! You are not getting away this time!”

“And what are you going to do exactly? Confine me in my room like a filly?”

“Excellent idea, Rainbow!” Rarity started on her way back, dragging Rainbow with her.

“Nooo! Rarity, that was a—AHHH!”

“Oh, I assure you, I am completely serious, Rainbow!”

As much as Silver enjoyed the show, getting the Lieutenant punished the moment he met her probably wasn’t the best way to start in the palace.

“Miss Rarity!” Silver quickly trotted to the Unicorn, “I have a letter for you!”

“Oh, dear!” Rarity put a hoof to her mouth. “I am terribly sorry, darling! I completely forgot about you!
I am sorry that you had to sit through Rainbow’s twaddle. I am positively shocked by her foul manners in recent time.”

“I didn’t say--AHHH!”

“Quiet, you cad!” Rarity turned her attention back to Silver, offering him a smile. “Now, what was that message you had, darling?”

“Here, Miss.” Silver reached into his bags and took out the correspondence. Rarity rotated the envelope around, her expression becoming more and more intrigued.

“Who gave you this, darling?” she asked, without looking away from the sealed letter.

“Minister Cloudy Dawn, Ma’am,” Silver answered without a second thought.

“Huh, curious. Did…Miss Dawn happen to tell you where she got this from?”
Silver felt the fur on the back of his neck start to rise. Something wasn’t right.

“No, Ma’am. I am simply a courier. I only do...” Silver fell quiet, for he noticed that Rarity wasn’t listening any longer.
The illustrious mare carefully unsealed the envelope without tearing it, then lifted the inner paper out only as much as was needed to read. Silver waited patiently for the high mare to dismiss him, but she didn't.
He wasn’t sure if she even remembered that he was there, or the Lieutenant for that matter, who started to slowly creep around her to have a look on what could bemuse Rarity for this long.

“Rainbow...” she finally said. “I have an urgent matter to attend to. Would you be so kind as to show dear Silver to his tips? I am afraid I do not have any on me.”

“Sure, Mom.” The Lieutenant mockingly saluted her.

Rarity simply turned on her heels, quickening away, down the hallways from which she came, letter held closely to her chest.

They both watched her go, till she rounded the corner and disappeared.
“Come on,” Rainbow said, starting off to follow Rarity. Silver didn’t move an inch, however, and she quickly stopped, “You coming?”

“Lieutenant, the exit is the opposite way!” Silver reminded her, desperately trying to pretend he didn’t understand exactly what the mare was about to do.

“Good thing we aren’t going there. Now come on, we’re gonna lose her!”

“We can’t! You are breaking the law!” In response, Rainbow rolled her eyes.

“Look, kid. Rules are good and all, and I am sure Dawn made sure you know every single rule by heart before she let you go, but the most important part is not to just know the rules. It’s to know when to break them!”

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