• Published 11th Jun 2020
  • 2,280 Views, 32 Comments

The Reluctant Protector - LadyMaria



Twilight Sparkle finds a place seemingly devoid of magic in the Everfree and informs Celestia.

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1 - Uninvited but not Unwelcome

I woke up, much to my annoyance, to the sound of ‘wapa-wapa-wapa’ on my front door. “Hello?” came a muffled voice. I looked to my bedside table and to the alarm clock to see that it was still two hours before it was due to go off. It was 6:30AM. Ugh. “Hello?” Came the voice again, a little louder this time. “Look, I know it’s early but this is important! Come on, Artemis, you know I wouldn’t come if that wasn’t the case!”. ‘Wapa-wapa-wapa,’ came the knocking again. The world better be about to explode… I thought.

I stood. The headache slapped me in the face. “Just give me a second!” I yelled to the voice and tried to orient myself in the blurry room. The floor of my cabin was… it was a mess. Bits of parchment with half scrawled notes acted as a pseudo carpet. Boxes of ingredients sat in places with low walking traffic. Equipment, books, scrolls, knick-knacks, bits and bobs and various other things I probably didn’t need, probably, littered the shelves in what some might call a haphazard way. I like to think I have a system. That doesn’t mean I do; I just like to think it. I stretched and cracked my back, then picked up the half-empty bottle at the side of my bed, sniffed at the contents, then promptly downed the remaining liquid.

Wapa-wapa-wapa.’ I strode over to the front door and swung it open. “I swear the world better be about to explode…” I said to the mare. She backed up a few steps and looked up at me. I towered over her. Just like I do all the people of this world. I lost all anger when I saw the worry on her face. Lyra Heartstrings, My… friend? Sure, let’s go with friend. Our relationship hasn’t really been defined. She just sort of visits and hangs out while I work and I teach her some things along the way. Her coat was a very light aquamarine. Her short, messy hair was a pale grey, similar to the colour of mine, but had a white streak that careened over her right ear. A cracked horn poked through her fringe.

“It’s not.” She said. I began to close the door. “Wait!” The door hit something as it was about to shut. I looked down. Lyra has stuck her hoof in the entry way. “The world isn’t about to explode, but this is really bad! I think your about to be discovered!” She was starting to hyperventilate.

Oh boy, here we go… “Lyra look at me.” She was breathing faster now. I grabbed her head and forced her to look up at me in the eyes. “Focus on me. Focus on my breathing.” I began to take long, calming breaths. “That’s it. In. Out. In. And out.” She began to calm, she looked exhausted. “Now, tell me what happened.” She took one more deep breath and began.

“I had to get up early this morning to pick up a shipment from the post office for the shop. It was too big for the mail mare to bring it, you see? So, I had to go and get it because I’m trying to work on my levitation, but I didn’t want to because it can hurt my horn, so Bonny was like,” She put on an exaggerated nasally voice. “‘Lyra, if you don’t use your magic, how are you going to get better? I’m only looking out for you! Also, if you don’t help me then no sweets for a week,’ and do you know what that’s like?” She continued, returning to normal. “To live in a sweet shop but not be allowed to eat anything?”

I stared at her. She was silent. Is… Is she expecting an answer? “Oh, um. No. Can’t say I do.”

She looked satisfied with that and nodded her head. “Right, it’s awful let me tell you! Especially when Bonny makes her Lemon drops, they’re so good.” She got a bit angry. “Ooh, I just can’t stand not being able to-”

“Lyra!” I interrupted. “Focus.”

Her face went slightly pink in embarrassment. “Right, Sorry.” She cleared her throat. “So anyway, my path to the post office took me past the Ponyville library. And I overheard voices inside. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop! Honest! It’s just that they were so loud, especially that early in the morning.”

“Details, Lyra. Details.” I prompted.

“Right. So, the librarian is a mare called Twilight Sparkle, we were in the same class together in Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns and let me tell you, she was a real teacher’s pet. She probably still is. I had to drop out because of my-”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I interrupted.

“I’m getting there, let me finish.” She said with an eye roll. “I heard her talking about how she was given an assignment to survey the beginning two miles of the Everfree around Ponyville and she discovered a void.”

“A void?”

“That’s right. Specifically, a void in the ambient magics?” She prompted. I stared at her. “A void approximately the size of your plot of land?” She waited for me to catch on.

My eyes widened. “Oh… Well… That’s not good.” I turned away from her and rubbed my chin. Placing a magic dead zone around my property was not by choice. I actually placed a perception filter around my property so that it would get ignored if anyone came too close. The void in the ambient magics is just a side effect. I was kinda banking on no one discovering that… If someone does get too close, they start to get a feeling of impending doom which makes them want to run for the hills. It’s a remarkably good deterrent. It even works on the wildlife. That’s right, no pests for me! My tomatoes are safe. Although, there was one pest that managed to get through… I turned back to Lyra. “If she reports on that, then someone will come to investigate and find me.”

She nodded vigorously. “Exactly, as soon as I heard, I came running here to warn you!”

“Relax.” I said. “We’ve got plenty of time before her letter gets to anyone important.” I turned back into the cabin and left the door open, indicating for her to follow me. I started to rummage through boxes. “I’m going to give you a potion. Find some way for her to take it before she sends the letter and she should forget about what she’s discovered.” I found what I was looking for and pulled out a small vial of blue liquid with cork stopper.

She shook her head. “No, no, you don’t understand! She’s currently the number one student to Princess Celestia herself!” Uh oh. “She has a direct line of communication with her. The Princess probably already knows!” Crap. If Celestia suspects I’m here, she’ll come down on this place like a tonne of bricks. What to do…? I pocketed the vial.

“Tea?” I said to Lyra.

“Huh?”

“Tea. Do you want some tea? I’m sure I have some around here somewhere…” I said moving boxes around.

She looked at me as if I’d just told her pizza was a vegetable. “Huh? But, wha- how-” She stomped her hoof. “How are you so calm?!”

I raised an eyebrow. “I’m not. I’m freaking out right now. Alas, there is nothing I can do. If Celestia discovered this place she could bypass the perception filter no problem. I mean… you got through it…”

“Hey!” She clenched her fists.

I waved my hands in a placating manner. “That’s not to say it was easy to do, you managed to push through by sheer will alone. That’s extremely impressive!” She puffed her chest out. “But what I’m saying is, you’re barely at a novice level thanks to that.” I pointed to her cracked horn. “Not an immortal alicorn that raises the freaking sun every day. If you can do it, she sure as shit can.” I found the kettle and placed it on the stove.

“I guess…” She looked around the room. “If you’re getting visitors soon, you should really clean this place up.” She kicked an empty cider bottle and it rolled across the floor to my feet.

“Oi.” I said leaning down to pick it up. Bad idea, the headache came back. I sighed and rubbed my head. “This place is fine, if whoever she sends doesnt like it, that’s their problem.” I placed the bottle in a box. It’ll probably come in handy later. Probably.

“Also,” she said. “And please don’t take any offense at this, it’s nothing against you personally, I’m just trying to be objective.” I gestured for her to continue, “You stink. Like, really, really bad. It’s like a mixture of alcohol, vomit, and some kind of spice. You probably can’t tell because you live in such a filth-”

“Alright, alright I get it.” I said, pinching the bridge of my nose. “How could I possibly not take offence at that?” She shrugged. I rolled my eyes. “I’ll be back in a minute. Keep an eye on the kettle, I don’t want this pig sty to burn down. And if you’re so concerned about what others think of your dear old Human, then get started on cleaning.” I waved my hand and the door to the broom closet opened. She grinned in amusement and watched me walk off towards the bathroom.


About half an hour of scrubbing later, I was sat at my vanity mirror. It was covered in various bottles of one kind of intoxicating drink or another like some collection of perverse perfumes. I sighed. I knew this would come back to bite me in the ass. This is just another mistake to add to the list. I don’t know how she’s going to react to seeing me. Can she ever forgive me? Perhaps she has… Oh who am I kidding? Of course, she hasn’t. She’s probably going to be pissed… I stared at myself and sighed again.

My shoulder length, light-grey hair was still wet and I brushed it back behind my ears to reveal a plain face. It was pretty angular. I was never happy with my appearance. Not ugly though. She helped me see that. How could someone like her see anything in me? I turned to the side and looked at my right ear. Covered in holes. Pretty gnarly looking. I reached down to the side of the mirror, picked up my gold and silver ear rings, as well as various studs and small chains and got to work replacing them. When I came to the last one, I stared down at it. It was a tiny, black triangle. I rubbed my fingers over it, then replaced that too.

There was a knock on the door. “Are you done in there yet?” Ugh, this mare…

“Gimme a sec, Lyra.” I called back. “Give a girl some privacy will ya?”

“But they’ll probably be here soon. And the place still isn’t clean. I need your help! What will they think of me?”

“What will they think of me you mean?” I said under my breath. Lyra gets it in her head that she lives here sometimes. When she first discovered me, she thought she was dreaming. Apparently, she read some books about humans in the past, probably written by me or Celestia, and became obsessed. She pestered me day and night about answering various questions she had thought of over the years. I didn’t particularly mind. After being alone for so long, you need the company or you might start talking to a rubber ball. “Just go wait in the living room, I’m still getting ready.” I called back to her. I heard her hoofsteps getting quieter as she walked away.

I went over to my wardrobe and started getting dressed. Black cloth pants, worn leather boots, and a white cotton shirt. Rather comfortable. On the way out of my bedroom I grabbed my grey wool cloak, put it on and checked the inside pocket. My flask was still there. Yep, I’m gonna need this. I opened it, sniffed at the contents, and took a sip.

Back in the living room, Lyra was pacing. I moved past her to sit on the couch. “You’d better not put a hole in my floor.” I commented. I sat down and took another sip from my flask. Lyra snatched it from me.

“I don’t understand how you can be this calm! The entire world is going to know about your existence. They’re going to discover that there was a human living under their noses this entire time. A human! The legendary creature from folklore! They all called me crazy for believing in them. But I was right!” I stood up. My form towering over her. I started at her. She was starting to sweat a bit. I slowly reached for my flask and took it from her hands then put it back inside my cloak pocket and sat back down. She had relief visible on her face. As if I’d do anything to her. It does help to be a bit intimidating when you want silence though.

“First of all, they should have known about humans. We’re in a couple of books. It’s not my fault you’re apparently the only one who believes what’s written down. Plus, Celestia knows that I exist… did exist.” I added sadly. “So, she can calm down the masses. Second of all, I have a saying. ‘When life gives you rotten lemons, you sip the juice to see if they’re salvageable enough to make a decent lemonade’. This is not the optimum outcome-”

“You’re telling me…” Lyra cut in. I ignored her.

“-But there is nothing I can do now. Celestia is going to find out. The best I can do-” she glared at me. “We can do.” I corrected. She nodded. “Is to just get this over with and see where it takes us.” Suddenly, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and my nose started to bleed. Lyra said something to me but I couldn’t make out what. She put a hand on my shoulder to steady me and the room went blurry for a second, then, returned to normal.

“-temis? Artemis?! Are you ok? What happened?” I stood. Someone just broke the perception filter. Not just broke it, but shattered it. It must be her. I looked into Lyra’s eyes.

“They’re here.” Lyra made a pathetic whimpering sound and sat down with a distant expression on her face. She cradled her cup of hot water; I had no tea. “Lyra.” I said. No response. I tried again a little more forcefully. She slowly turned to look at me. Her eyes where shimmering. “Hey.” I placed a gentle hand on her forearm. “It’s going to be ok.” She smiled, turned, and wiped her eyes. She didn’t want me to see the tears fall.

“I know.” She said with a sigh. “I just… I just don’t want you to go away…” her voice wavering. I was silent after that. What could I say? I quietly reached inside my cloak, pulled out my flask, and took a sip.

Bang-bang-bang.’ You know someone means business when they ‘wappa-wap’ or ‘bang-bang’ on your door. Lyra whimpered slightly. I gave her arm a squeeze, letting her know I was still there. The voice that came next was very no-nonsense and gruff. “Attention resident! This is the Royal Guard!” Ooh, the do mean business… “Come to the door now, or we will enter the residence by force!” I placed a hand on Lyra’s head as I got up and went to meet my visitor.

The Stallion that stood before me was clad in golden armour and had a white coat. All the Royal Guards did, they were enchanted to all look the same to protect their identity. He stared at me in complete shock. I smiled to him. “Greetings, fine Sir.” I added a small curtsey. “To what do I owe the pleasure if this visit?” I said, batting my eyelashes at him. It doesn’t really work when your over three heads taller than the average Pony and a member of a race who, until now, only existed in stories. To his credit though, he managed to pull himself together with a clear of his throat.

“Ma’am, we were called here becau-”

“Artemis?” He was cut off by a voice that I would recognise anywhere. Oh shit, She’s here. In a bleach-white, Roman- or should I say ‘Roam’ style gown, Bloody Ponies, with a golden rope tied around her waist. Walking out of the forest and into the clearing ahead on brown leather sandals that covered her hooves, the straps of which, criss-crossed up her legs and were held together with golden buckles. She was almost as tall as me. Her hair, the colour of sunlight passing through a droplet of morning due, seemed to billow lazily about her head in an unseen breeze.

Princess Celestia Everfree. The Unconquered Sun. The Dawn-bringer. She walked towards me and the rest of the world seemed to stop. All the guards and even Lyra back inside bowed to her as she approached. “This is not good; this is not good…” I could hear Lyra saying under her breath, over and over again, as she prostrated herself before her goddess.

“Shh, Lyra.” I said quietly. “It’s alright.” Now that Celestia was closer I could make out her expression. Princess Celestia Everfree. The Unconquered Sun. The Dawn-bringer… Was crying. This surprised me. Believe me when I say that I have known her for a while. In all the time I’ve known her, I have seen her cry twice. Just twice. Yet here she was, with tear trails marring her pristine white coat. She stopped in front of me and looked up into my eyes.

“Leave us.” She said. So quietly I almost didn’t hear her. But the guard next to her did.

“Um, Princess are you sure that’s wise? We don’t know what this thing-”

“Now.” She said, as soft as a whisper, yet her tone held absolute authority. At once, all the guards saluted and walked out of the clearing. Creepy.

I turned back to look at Lyra who looked like she was about to have a heart attack or dissolve and disappear below the floorboards. Whichever came first. “Lyra?” I asked, very gently. The trembling minty-mare looked to me. “Would you mind going to put the kettle on to boil?” Lyra looked to the Princess who simply nodded. Taking the hint, Lyra turned and quickly disappeared into the cabin. I stepped out onto the porch and shut the thin wooden door behind me.

I felt a pair of warm hands on my face as I was forced to look at the Solar Sovereign. The clearing was completely silent, save for the occasional birdsong after they returned from the barrier being obliterated, all the while she stared into my eyes with the occasional tear falling to join the rest.

She Hugged me. She held onto me so tight I thought she’d break me. She buried her head into my neck. She was trembling. She wept.

I gingerly wrapped my arms around her back to return the gesture and her breathing hitched. “So, I take it you missed me?” I said with a sheepish expression. You know, all things considered that probably wasn’t the best thing to say. The left side of my face exploded in pain as she brought her hand across it. Ow. I don’t mean to brag but I have a pretty high pain threshold. This Princess can hit. Hard. “Okay, I kind of deserved that.”

She stared at me. A few stray tears still running down her cheeks. Whether they were tears of anger, regret or relief. I wasn’t sure. “How could you?” I felt awful. She was angry. As she had every right to be, hell I was angry at myself. Yet she still didn’t let go of me. I could still feel her trembling. “How could you do that to me?”

“Celly, I-”

Her voice became very cold. “Don’t. Don’t you dare call me that. Not after what you did." She shook her head in disbelief. "I needed you. I needed you more than ever and you… you just left.”

“I had a good reason, I-”

“Did you?”

“Celestia, she was my best friend. To see her turn into that… that… thing. Then to watch you send her away-”

“Damn you, Artemis!” She screamed. “She was my sister! I had no choice but to do that to her! I sent her away. Me. How do you think that made me feel?! Then you just… ran away!” She looked me dead in the eyes and at a disturbingly dead volume said, “You’re a coward.” I flinched at that.

“Celestia, please.” I felt tears of my own forming now. “I was selfish. I know that now. I had time away to think about my actions and come to terms with them.”

Celestia looked at me incredulously. “To think? To think?! To drink you mean?” her words where pouring forth like venom. “I can smell it on you. It’s disgusting. What happened to you, Artemis? Is this what you’ve been doing all this time? Trying to forget? About us?” She looked forlorn. “About… Me?”

“No.” I immediately said. “I could never do that.” I gently gripped her chin and tilted her head up to my eyes. I really hoped Lyra wasn’t listening to this, I’d rather not have some of these details known, but they need to be said now or this could fester and turn rotten. Here ‘goes… “Since I came to this world. You, Luna and my sister where the only ones who ever understood me. The only ones who I could trust completely. Even before I came here, me and Megan both dreamed of a life like you gave us.” She closed her eyes and the tears started flowing again.

“When she…” God, why was this so hard to say...? “When Megan… Died.” I swallowed. “I was lost. But you and your sister where there to get me out of my rut. I lost myself in teaching you. In protecting you. When Luna fell to the parasite, I had failed. Both as a mentor and as a friend. When I couldn’t fix the problem, and you sent her away, I had failed you too.”

Memories came rushing back, like a flood at the forefront of my mind. As if every spoken word was another brick taken from an enormous dam. Fear. Sorrow. Anger. Regret. Not to mention the worst… Helplessness. To see a loved one in so much pain, emotional and physical agony, and yet be unable to help no matter how hard you try… Every being has their breaking points. I guess that was mine. She is so much strong than me…

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I wasn’t there to help pick up the pieces. But I felt as though even being in your presence after that night was a disgrace to the both of you… Not to mention Megan.” She turned away from me and folded her arms. Whether it was because she didn’t want me to see her cry anymore or because she found me repulsive, I did not know.

You could have been helping me build something great.” She said, longingly.

I gave a warm smile that I hoped was reflected in my voice. “I think you’ve been doing a wonderful job by yourself.” She shivered at that word, as if it where some… repugnant taboo and I couldn’t blame her. That word summarised all of her fears and until now, her reality. Wait a minute… The light of the morning sun caught on something on her left hand. It was a ring. She still had it? Oh, Celly… I continued. “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but for a while after I left, I wandered.” Her ears perked up. “But I couldn’t get you out of my head. I couldn’t get my own thoughts out of my head. ‘Failure’ they would say. Over and over again. I started to drink. Anything to get them to just. Shut. Up.” I gripped my head and scrunched my eyes. My own tears where flowing freely now. “I wasn’t your perfect guardian Celestia. I’m only Human after all… But I want you to know that I never blamed you for doing what you did. I… I Lo-”

“Stop.” I did. She turned and wrapped me in a gentle hug. “I needed you.” She whispered. “I needed you more than anything else in the world.” She got very quiet, and after a long moment asked, “You wandered?” I gave a hesitant nod. She was quiet again, digesting this. “All this time, you were walking around the known world… yet you didn’t come back to me?” I didn’t speak. I couldn’t. “Now, to find out that you’ve been alive and well, hiding from me in this- this… forsaken endless forest…” She stared at me angrily. What could I say to that? Nothing. I kept my mouth shut.

She wiped her eyes. “You are going to make this up to me.”

“I’ll do anything. Name it.”

She looked to the front door of the cabin. “How did she find you?”

“Who, Lyra?” She nodded “I honestly have no clue. The deterrent I put up should have kept her away. Curiosity got the better of her I suppose.” I giggled. “Good thing she’s not a cat!” She didn’t react. Just kept staring.

“I noticed she has a crack in her horn.” She shook her head. “She has had a hard road for one so young. To be born and have something taken from you that is your right is a tragic thing.” Where is she going with this? “We both know that between me and Luna, I had the worst magical potential.” She gestured to herself. “Yet look at me now.” She smiled with a twinkle in her eye. She wouldn’t. Her horn lit and the door swung open. “Lyra Heartstrings.” She spoke with authority. Spoke. Yet it was loud as hell… I winced and rubbed my ears.

Lyra came running out from the kitchen and snapped to attention. “How do you know my name?” She asked. We stared at her. “Oh, um, I-I mean, yes your highness?” She added with a bow.

Celestia giggled. It was a melodious sound. “I make it a habit to learn all of my little ponies’ names.” That was a lie. While I don’t doubt that she makes an effort to remember those who introduce themselves to her, a sentient creatures name is written on their soul like a stamp of approval. It carries certain power if you know how to use it. A certain spell can determine a name at a glance. But I won’t tell. Lyra looked too pleased that Celestia knew her. “By royal decree I declare, that from this point forward, the creature known as ‘Artemis’, shall serve as your teacher, your mentor-”

“Celestia wait-” I tried to cut in, but she continued.

“-Your protector, your guide and should you deem it, your friend. You must write reports to her, detailing what you’ve learned. You will meet with my current student, Twilight Sparkle, at the Golden Oaks library in Ponyville once a week in order to forward the reports on to me so I can look them over.”

“Seriously?” Lyra asked. Visibly happy that Celestia made what she was going to try to get me to do anyway, a royal decree.

“Seriously.” Said Celestia with a wry smile.

“Celestia please, don’t do this.” I said. She turned to me. “I don’t know if I can, not after last time.”

“Artemis, I am doing this because of last time. I may drop by here from time to time too. You have forgotten what it means to truly live.” She said sadly. She looked past me and into my home. While Lyra did a commendable job trying to spruce the place up a bit, it was nowhere near enough. Many bottles shared shelves with dusty tomes and scrolls. Pieces of various fabrics and rags where strewn about the floor and on pieces of furniture. Boxes piled high, as they leaned this way and that, some piled so they blocked the windows. And the smell… “It breaks my heart to see you this way.” She gestured to Lyra. “Your new student will help you.” She turned to leave. “Twilight Sparkle will also help you with your alcohol problem, she’s read enough psychology and medical books to become a licenced doctor a few times over.”

I folded my arms and raised a brow. “What are you talking about? I don’t have an alcohol problem.” Lyra snorted. I gave her the side eye. Celestia brushed me off like a mother scolding a child.

“let’s not play that game, I felt the flask through your cloak when you were hugging me and I can see the empty bottles under the couch cushions.” Lyra gave a nervous little laugh. “Not to mention the smell.”

“Hey, I resent that remark!”

“Yet you don’t refute it.”

I looked down at my feet. “No… No, I don’t.”

She looked at me with pity in her eyes. I hate that. “Where did the woman I used to know go?” She stroked my face. “Artemis, please. For me.” She took my hands gently in hers and looked up into my eyes. She was so warm. I got a good look at the ring on her finger. “Get help.”

I looked at her for a good long while until finally I relented. “Okay, Celly. For you.”

A warm smile lit her face like a sunbeam. “Thank you.”

“Celestia…” How to say this? “Are we going to have a conversation about…” I looked to the ring.

She let me go and the world became slightly colder for it. “Another time.” I expected that. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. When she got to the end of the porch she stopped. “Oh, Artemis? One last thing.”

“Yeah?”

She looked at me with an uncharacteristically evil smirk. “I’ll let you explain to Luna why you weren’t there to greet her when she got back.” With that, she left. And the cabin was silent once more. My headache returned.

“Fuck.”

Author's Note:

This is my first ever story. Constructive criticism wanted! (Please be gentle).

Edited 25/08/20 - Fixed grammar issues. Added and subtracted from the text to (hopefully) make it flow better.

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