• Published 3rd Sep 2012
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Genealogy - (or the Mating Habits of Nocturnes Pegasi) - Georg



A trip to Ponyville turns into adventures in fashion, love, and romance that unfold like a kick to the head with the two most hapless Night Pegasi ever to work for Princess Luna.

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Chap. 4 - Not-So Random Selection

Genealogy - (or The Mating Habits of Nocturnes Pegasi)
Not-So Random Selection


The Nocturne had a secret which was only guessed at by the other races of ponies. It was also a closely-held secret for Luna since her return, and she preferred not to advertise it around either. After all, it was her spell, with Nightmare Moon’s power, that had turned her winged followers into the race of dragon-winged dark ponies known as the Nocturne. The forbidden powers that lurked beneath the surface of the Everfree Forest may have been channeled by Nightmare Moon, but the spell they powered was originally created by Luna. That spell had a teeny, tiny flaw that would have irked Nightmare Moon to no end, and would have ultimately caused the collapse of Night Eternal. Luna did not think of it so much as a flaw, but as a feature.

Night Pegasi could not easily sleep while the moon was up.

Princess Celestia had known of the spell her sister had crafted even before the times of Nightmare Moon. After all, her and Luna were sisters, and the most powerful source of magic in the entire country. She had contributed little to her sister’s spell designs other than constructive criticism, and a great deal of grammar and spellchecking, but the spell was still only a theory at that time. The concept might have been valid, but Celestia viewed the idea of a pony who not only was forced to a preference between night and day, but enforced by their very self to remain awake during that preference to be—distasteful. And so had Luna, at that time. Until Nightmare Moon.

Over the years, Celestia had given serious thought to transforming the remaining Night Pegasi who had survived Nightmare Moon’s banishment back into regular pegasi. It would have been dangerous, true, but giving the transformed pegasi back their original form would have been a victory of free will. Or at least so she thought, until she had asked for their opinion. To a pony, they had declined her offer. And not just once, but for several generations as she asked the question to each new wave of adults. She had finally quit asking when one of her Night Guard responded rather gently, “My Princess, dost thou really wish to eliminate the remnants of thy sister’s memory? For as long as we live, Luna will live in us.”

So technically, what was about to happen to Pumpernickel was not really his fault.

Pumpernickel knew none of this. He only knew that since he had been a foal, the setting of the sun corresponded directly with the need to get up and out of bed, untangling limbs and tails from the communal family bed and heading out to greet the dawning moon.

This evening as he sensed the setting of the sun and began to stagger up into wakefulness, he felt something different. One of his forelegs seemed pinned underneath a fuzzy, heavy, weight. Still short on sleep, he gave a gentle poke to the warm body pinning his foreleg.

“Princess Luna, it is nearly dark,” he mumbled. “You need to get up and raise the moo—” With a sudden dawning of terror, the warm body next to him came into sharp focus as a very dark and very angry Night Pegasus mare. Pumpernickel blanched. “I’m sorry, I was just—”

“Princess?!” The two malevolent yellow orbs boring holes in his head made it impossible to think.

“Well when she was having trouble sleeping, I wound up— ”

“Princess!!” One of Laminia’s eyelids had begun to twitch and Pumpernickel panicked.

“It was just a few times when she was having nightmares when she needed something to hold when she was asleep and she got a hold of my hoof and I told her it was embarrassing but she’s the Princess after all and—”

“YOU SLEPT WITH PRINCESS LUNA?!” Laminia screamed right into his face and ground her teeth in rage.

“No!” blurted out Pumpernickel. “I mean… I was asleep and she was asleep but I was on the floor and she was on the bed!”

“Oh.” Lamina’s rage began to calm almost instantly, and after a few minutes she started to chuckle, but remained lying solidly on top of her guard’s hoof. “Well, well, well. That’s a Hoofmaiden task I never had to… I’m glad she never asked me…” She finally burst out in joyful laughter. “You must have been so embarrassed!”

He scratched his head with the one hoof that was not trapped under Laminia, and actually managed to chuckle along despite his blush. “Well, I never told anypony, and she promised not to tell anypony. I’m just glad I’m not on her personal detail anymore. That was not very fun.” He chuckled along some more with the Night Pegasus mare, but was still unable to retrieve his pinned foreleg. “You say she’s not sleeping like that anymore. Did she get a fuzzy stuffed animal or something else to sleep with like I suggested?”

Laminia chuckled harder and poked Pumpernickel in the ribs, which was much easier since his armor was resting on a dressmaker dummy in the other room. “Yes, she has a stuffed Celestia doll.”

Pumpernickel doubled over with suppressed laughter. “Oh my. I had no idea telling her I had a Celestia doll as a colt—

“YOU SLEPT WITH CELESTIA TOO?”

-----

As they came down the library stairs that evening, Twilight Sparkle looked up at them with an inscrutable expression. “I’m so glad the two of you are finally up. Tonight’s weekly Book Club meeting just got over and… You two really should keep your voices down. This is a library.”

“They didn’t hear us, did they,” asked Pumpernickel painfully.

“Um. Maybe a little.”

Laminia bolted for the door in a streak of blush. “I’mlateforRaritiesI’llseeyoulaterbye!”

Pumpernickel just sat on the stairs and stared blankly into the distance.

Twilight Sparkle raised an eyebrow and put a bookmark in her book. “Aren’t you going to follow her?”

“I think — I may just fly off to the Griffon lands. Change my name. Live off fish. Take up knitting.” He turned around and climbed back up to the balcony, presumably taking his previous observation position from the thumping noises that filtered down through the tree. Or perhaps he was just beating his head against the tree.

Eventually the noises died down and Twilight returned to her studying. “I’m just glad I left a sound dampening spell outside their room this evening. I wonder why they were yelling about Celestia and Luna?”

* * *

Whatever those two fashion fanatics were working on must have gone fairly well, thought Pumpernickel as Laminia fairly bounced out of the boutique after midnight, and actually flew towards his library perch. Happiness seemed to flow from the excited Night Pegasus as she made a quick circle around the balcony and landed with a delicate pirotte, only spoiled by the grating noise of her shoes on the balcony tile. “Darned shoes. Once we get back to Canterlot, I’m getting them taken off. I feel like I could just fly.”

Her good mood was contagious, and he could not help but chuckle along. “Silly filly. Of course you can fly. Tonight for your training, I’d like to—”

“Nope!” Laminia dropped backwards off the balcony and popped open her wings, gliding off in in the direction of the boutique. “First things first. Come on in, I need to show you something. Rarity left me a note saying she was going to Canterlot for a whole day shopping, so I had all evening to myself to play.”

* * *

Only two dressmaker dummies in the boutique were occupied, the few others that remained were either empty or covered with sheets. A faint smell of smoke still lingered about the room, indicating just exactly how displeased with the designer’s previous attempts Princess Luna was, and just exactly how she expressed her displeasure at the offensive designs. Laminia stood proudly at the occupied dummies, chattering on about the design and such while Pumpernickel just stared.

It was horrible. It was repulsive. It went against everything he had ever been taught while growing up.

But he had to admit, it didn’t look bad.

“Laminia,” he said when the mare finally took a breath. “What in Celestia’s name were you thinking?”

The designer’s mood flipped from bubbling to bristling. “You inbred idiot. Just because there are no Royal Guard mares now, does not mean there never will be any.” She waved at the dummy, fully dressed in a sleek, modified version of the Night Guard’s armor, but in cloth, not steel. And shaped—he had to concentrate to wrap his mind around the idea—female. Admittedly it looked good, but there were no mares in the Guard. None. Never had been. Never would be. Never. It was more than Traditional, it was Historical.

He very carefully picked up that idea and turned it around inside his head, poking it carefully. It did not blow up. It did not warp into some strange mind-eating monster. It took some concentration, but if he squinted really hard while looking at the armor, he could see a Nocturne mare wearing it in defense of Princess Luna as part of the—he concentrated—Royal Guard. And if he squinted really hard—he could see every Nocturne elder chasing Laminia and himself out of Canterlot with flaming torches, declaring them no longer part of the families and striking their names from the Book of Tradition. He did not think Laminia would mind, but…

“Actually,” he slowly started, “Princess Luna gave me strict instructions to not to interfere with, or offer any help with your tasks. And—I think I better take that escape hatch.” He wrenched his eyes away from the armor and looked at the other dressmaker’s dummy. It took a few minutes for his brain to stop thinking of the armor, but when it finally did, he could not help but give out a low whistle.

“You like what you see?” Laminia leaned up against the dressmaker’s dummy and ran one hoof over the outfit draped around it. A wave of shimmering, deep purple cloth swept across the shoulders of a stallion’s long-sleeved jacket, with high collar and silver piping across the chest highlighted by a pair of crossed black shoulder straps. Shining black shoes rose just high enough to provide ankle support, but not as high as the steel shinguards of real armor. Topping it all was a sharp peaked cloth cap, with a rank marker on the side. It looked razor-sharp and glossy in the dim lighting of the boutique, something that just dared a Night Pegasus stallion to slip into it for a formal dinner or late-night Royal dance.

“Now that, is impressive,” he sighed. Tapping the blank space where the shoulder straps crossed, he frowned. “What goes there?”

Laminia’s smile vanished instantly. “I don’t know. Nothing Rarity or I have thought up seemed to meet the Princess’ qualifications for a good symbol. Besides, we are just making suggestions, nothing set in steel yet.” She caressed the lines of the dark formal suit as if it were a lover, giving Pumpernickel a rippling chill up his flank. “Don’t you think this would look nice on the Night Guard in formal situations? Like dates?”

It suddenly seemed to be uncomfortably warm in the boutique, and Pumpernickel swallowed. “The Night Guard always wears armor when on duty. When off duty—” Pumpernickel shrugged with false nonchalance and a faint click of his own armor “—nopony has ever cared.”

“Oh, I’m certain Princess Luna has… ideas in that regard.” She chuckled softly and trotted for the door. “Come on lovercolt. We’ve still got flying to do tonight.”

By the time he made it to the door, he could hear his charge climbing up into the cloud layer, singing softly, “Pumpernickel and Luna, sittin’ in a tree…”

* * *

Mere minutes after raising the sun, Princess Celestia waited nervously in the small breakfast nook for her sister. Luna had not shirked her Royal Responsibility overnight. The Night Steward had reported to Celestia that the Night Court had been conducted with every possible bit of fanfare and tradition, and her sister had performed flawlessly. There was no mention of her injuries from last night, so in all probability she had worn an illusionary disguise for the entire evening.

Finally when Celestia had about given up hope, the door opened and Luna’s tired hoofsteps could be heard coming up behind her. “Good morning, my sister. I hear this night went well.”

There was a shimmer of dissipating indigo magic across the Night Princess’s face as she sat down wearily at the table and grabbed a piece of toast. If anything, the bruises the fading spell revealed were even worse, having been given a day to properly purple up and change colors. She mumbled something incoherent and began to spread jam across her cooling toast with fierce intensity.

“I still think you should have your injuries healed, my sister.” The dark alicorn bent over her task of toast with greater intensity, ignoring Celestia. “I’m certain we could have you looking your usual beautiful self quite easily.”

“No.” Luna crunched into the piece of toast as if it had done something unspeakable to her. “It is my shame. I’m letting it pass on its own.”

“Very well, I shall accept your decision.” Celestia continued buttering a roll until she realized how long she had been applying the spread; there was more butter than bread below her knife. She sat it to one side and focused on the task at hoof. “My little sister, I must confess something to you. I was going to speak with you last night, but there was the diplomatic dinner, and the reception.” She sighed. “Actually I lost my nerve.”

Luna quit chewing and looked at her sister. “You?”

“Yes. You see, when you showed up at breakfast last morning with your—injuries, and would not speak of them to me. I was concerned. Upset.” Celestia picked up another roll, then set it back down before drowning it in butter too. “I went to Ponyville yesterday.”

“Yes, I know.” Luna took another vengeful bite from her toast. “Your Day Steward told me.”

“Oh.” Celestia was briefly flummoxed, she had forgotten the stream of information from the Office of the Steward was two-way.

“I suppose your—” Luna seemed to bite off a profanity “—student told you all about my shame?”

“Actually no.” Luna looked up at her older sister’s face with a start.

Celestia shook her head. “She said you had made her ‘Pinkie Promise’ not to talk to me about it until you had discussed it with me. And Rarity too. She said that losing a friend’s trust, was the fastest way to lose a friend.”

A far-off voice seemed to echo down the halls of the castle. “…forever…”

Both princesses looked puzzled for a moment, before Luna sat down her last bit of toast. “My dearest sister, I apologize. I am truly sorry for not revealing to you the circumstances of my visit to your student’s town, but my actions there did shame me. As such, I did not wish to reveal them to you, my closest and dearest friend. Can you forgive me?”

“Of course, don’t be silly. I’m your sister.” Celestia nuzzled her little sister, and licked a bit of jam off her nose with a giggle. “Now what happened to drive my silly filly into such a panic fit?”

“Celly!” Luna squirmed, but her big sister had one foreleg over her shoulder and was holding her tightly. “‘Twas embarrassing.”

“As embarrassing as the time I got you to tie up your mane and tail in those little white ribbons?”

“Worse!” An expression of disgust washed over Luna’s face. “I wish you would quit telling others about that incident. I continue to receive the most peculiar of gifts from our subjects in the form of mane and tail retaining products.”

“And have they sent you any new socks?” The Princess of the Night, Diarch of Equestria, and Keeper of the Stars and Planets squirmed mightily, but was unable to escape the grip of her white tormentor.

“Tia! I surrender! I shall tell you, but thou mustn't laugh.”

“Of course, my little sister.” The Princess of the Day, Diarch of Equestria, and Judge of the Yearly Canterlot Cheesecake Festival gave her sister a quick noogie before sitting back to listen. She managed to keep her mouth shut (with the assistance of some mango-flavored preserves and a moist flaky croissant) throughout Luna’s description of invisibly landing in Ponyville, and subsequent entrance into the boutique where her fashion designers were working. However when she described the attack of her Night Guard, and blasting him away, she was overcome with the need to say something.

“Oh, my dear sister. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“What?” Luna’s bruises made her puzzled face look angry. “I didst not smite him into death. My blow was quite restrained, given the circumstances, and the enchantments of his armor did absorb nearly all of it. Redoubtable did take the greater injury, and he shall be released in a few days from the hospital for proper recognition for his actions in my defense. Nay, all the physical injuries received by our loyal guard was to be stuck into a nearby wall so that all that showed was his cute plot and his tail.”

A relieved giggle tried desperately to force its way to the surface of the Royal Solar Princess, fighting its way through more than a thousand years of fierce mental discipline. “You said his plot was cute.”

“I most certainly did no— ” Luna smiled shyly. “Oh. Well. Can I be blamed for selecting my personal guards on certain criteria? Since I follow behind them a considerable portion of my time in the castle, selecting for a favorable view is quite rational. Besides, what of thy Day Guard? I seem to recall you saying more than a few times something about ‘quick march’ being your favorit—”

The barriers broke down with a mighty guffaw, followed by a wave of belly laughs, a tide of titters, and ending in the two Princesses leaning against each other by the breakfast table. Finally Luna looked up into her sister’s eyes and wiped away a tear of laughter.

“Tia. I’m sorry. I let my own fears of embarrassment get in the way of talking with you. Oh, and hold still.” Luna lunged forward and licked Celestia’s nose. “You had some preserves stuck there.”

When she had quit giggling, Princess Celestia looked down with a loving smile. “I forgive you too, my little sister. And I’m sorry I tried to strong-hoof your Hoofmaiden into telling me what you thought so important as to bind my faithful student to silence.”

“Wait a minute, Celly. You spoke with Laminia too? And she didn’t tell either?”

“Yes, she is coming along nicely. You are doing quite well with her training. In fact, both of your designers have sent you letters this morning. The Day Steward informed me that Rarity dropped hers off in person this morning before taking off on a purchasing trip about town. The one from your Hoofmaiden arrived by regular mail.”

Luna wasted no time opening and reading the letters, her face falling with each line. “They both want my guard replaced.”

“That’s too bad,” nodded Celestia respectfully. “I do believe that young stallion has potential, although a bit immature. He reminds me greatly of his grandfather.”

“He stood up to me.” Luna blinked and threw the letters back on the table. “A few months ago when I was having my—trying time. Do you remember when I took my entire Night Guard and flew out of the castle that night?”

“Yes, of course.” Princess Celestia nuzzled her little sister. “Your guards were so frantic with worry over your state of mind, that they were willing to abandon their oaths to me and swear exclusively to you. I admit I was partially to blame, I was just so glad to have you back that I did not give you any space to be yourself. I was forcing you into a mould not of your own choosing out of fear of losing you again. Hearing you leave with your Night Guard that night… All I could think of was that dark and terrible night so many years ago when I lost you. When you returned, it felt as if the entire moon were lifted off my shoulders.”

Luna sighed. “I cannot help but think their plan to take me away from you so that I would be able to find my inner self would have worked, were it not for the fact that you and I are so close. What I did not tell you of that night was this. After I had rebuked my faithful Night Guard for their foolish and treasonous actions, I ordered them to return to Canterlot. Without me.”

“Without you? But—why, my little sister?”

Luna leaned into her sister’s warm neck and nuzzled her ethereal mane. “I was a fool to take them to the ruined Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters in order to properly reprimand them. That cursed place contained powerful memories too overwhelming for me in my weakened state. So many died there for my foolish pride, and I was… willing to add one more to make restitution. Myself.”

“Oh, Luna.” Celestia held her sister closely and stroked her mane.

“That infernal idiot of a guard defied me. He refused a direct order, he stood up to me. For me. I could see it in his eyes; he knew what I had planned.” Luna sniffed. “And I nearly repaid his loyalty by accidently killing him last night, just because I wanted to surprise my designers.”

Celestia continued to stroke Luna’s mane, finally speaking in a very far-away voice. “The years after you were first imprisoned in the moon were not kind to me. My heart was broken, ripped in half by my actions, and I felt myself slowly bleeding to death on the inside. I built the garden outside with one intent; to leave something so you would be remembered favorably, even after I was gone. Every night I would go to the garden, thinking this would be my last night. Every night I would look at it and see one thing that I could make better, one flower that needed improved, one feature that needed to be built. I would perform the ritual of Moonrise and think of you, my little sister. I wanted so much to end the pain.

“I knew that if I were to build a wall around your memories and pretend you never existed, that I might survive, but to live with that kind of lie was unthinkable. It took years, but by then my nightly trips to the garden ceased to be a time of pain. They became a visit of renewal, a time of hope. I knew then if you were to return, and I were not there for you, the same emotions that I was going through would be yours. And I could not bear to hurt you in that way.

“I passed very near that same decision you were faced with, my sister. You were the one who saved me. I wish I could have been there to save you.”

Luna nuzzled her sister and wiped away a tear on her cheek. “In a way, you were. The guard’s loyalty to you is what kept them there for me.”

---

An emerald-green unicorn with a stack of paper for a cutie mark tapped his hoof while waiting outside the Royal Breakfast Nook, and glared at the broad-shouldered Royal Guardponies blocking his path. To his misfortune, he was neither astute enough to recognize the air of tension in the room, or powerful enough to see the enchanted wingblades on the pegasi Guards, or even sensible enough to realize a Guard Commander was never on sentry duty except in very special circumstances.

“I do not understand. Why can’t you simply knock on the door? I’m certain Their Highnesses simply lost track of time, and will be most pleased that you reminded Princess Celestia of her busy schedule. Breakfast was scheduled to be over an hour ago.”

“I have my orders.”

Papercut scowled. “Orders? There is a schedule to be followed. Her Highness has missed three appointments already, and there is less than an hour before Court starts. Do you have any idea what will happen if Princess Celestia is not present at Court?”

The taciturn pegasus Guard Commander blinked his bloodshot eyes once. “It won’t start.”

“Right!” Papercut arranged his thin bowtie and nodded. “So allow me to pass.”

“No.”

“What?” The house servant seemed to gain two shades of green as he raised himself on the tips of his hooves and scowled up at the guard. “This is uncalled for! Open that door this instant you insolent cur or I will—” The faintest whisper of air was the only warning Papercut got before the edge of a very sharp wingblade rested against the hollow of his throat. He froze in place against the wall, the sensation of feathers tickling the fine line of pressure caused him itch, and he could not tell if the thin trickle down his neck was sweat or blood.

“Commander,” said a gentle voice from the doorway. Princess Luna delicately stepped out of the breakfast nook and trotted down the hallway. “Please do not get blood on the carpet.”

Princess Celestia followed her sister more slowly, and paused to look at the frozen tableau with a look of icy concern. “Commander Swift Wings. Please move your security to outside the Royal Gardens. Now.” The gaze of the Solar Princess transferred to the released unicorn servant before he could regain his bluster, and pinned him to the floor like an insect. “Papercut. Please inform the Day Steward that I will be taking the rest of the day off to be with my sister, and make such other arrangements as need to be made.”

“Bu—” The words of protest froze in his mouth as he stared into the implacable eyes of his Princess, which suddenly looked very much like the pegasus Guard Commander. “Yes! Yes, Your Highness.”

---

By daylight, the Royal Gardens transformed into a blaze of color and scents such that the castle servants took any excuse to pass by downwind, or to stop and gaze out a window down into the brilliant patch of color. Roses and Irises spread about both the inner and outer gardens in shades of colors not seen elsewhere in Equestria, Daylilies and Daffodils contributed their radiant daytime glory to the colorful mix, with Morning Glories and Evening Primrose making Dawn and Dusk entirely different displays.

It was said more than one ambassador or representative of a foreign state had gone home with naught to show for their trip but a leaf cutting or bulb, and been perfectly happy about it. Certain foreign rulers had even been rumored to threaten their neighbors just so Celestia would invite them to Canterlot for a peace summit during a particularly brilliant flowering season. The rumors were completely untrue, of course.(*)

As the sun rose, the flowers of Night would fold their petals in a delicate dance of color with the opening Day flowers, forming a line of colors which would dart back and forth across the garden during both the morning and evening hours of twilight. Servants in the castle had taken to calling it the “Royal Dance,” and actual discussions were seriously held as to if they were in the pattern of a waltz, or a tango. The fact that these discussions just happened to keep the idle discuss-ers close to the beautiful gardens (and preferably downwind) was completely coincidental.

The relaxing beauty of the garden was not unnoticed by the two Princesses gently landing in the center of the garden; Celestia resting on a pleasant grassy patch(1) and Luna kicking off her shoes to rest her sore hooves in the gently gurgling stream.

“Oh, Tia. I don’t think I will ever get used to Court again. The practice of proper manners and deference to our station has gone so far down the hill since—you know. Although we are pleased that your Guard Commander has the proper attitude for his position. I may just try to tempt him away from your service and into mine. Our Night Guard contingent is so small.”

Princess Celestia shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Oh sister. What good is it for you to have Guards, if you never take them with you? Instead of taking your own Night Guard to Ponyville, you took one of my best young recruits, Redoubtable.”

“His young wings were best suited to keep up with mine. He did score top in his class in long-distance flight, right above Pumpernickel. I confess I did think of assigning them both to my personal detachment simply for that reason.” She paused to smirk at Celestia. “They both have very cute flanks.”

Princess Celestia smiled, “Is that why you sent Pumpernickel with your lovely young Hoofmaiden to Ponyville?”

“Celly! How dare you insinuate that?” Luna splashed out of the pool and took a deep sniff of a nearby dark rosebush, the roses just starting to open in the morning sunlight. “And how did you ever get such a lovely shade of blue on this rose?”

“It’s called ‘Cupid’s Delight,’ little sister. If you had actually read those books you borrowed, instead of just skimming through them, you would know about the cross-pollination process I created over the process of several centuries to make that delightful flower. Oh, don’t—”

Luna took a bite of the blue rose and chewed, promptly sticking out her tongue. “Bleah. Celly! ‘Tis flavored like that disgusting plant! What type of monster did you create that looks so pretty but tastes like alfalfa?”

Princess Celestia giggled. “If you had read the book you borrowed, you would know it takes a long time to to breed out negative genes. I’ve got a lot of projects in the process and I’m not quite done with this rosebush. Just as it took me well over a century just to get all the toxins bred out of the common daisy, this rose still has several negative genes that need work, including flavor.”

“I didth too wead,” said Luna, still trying to scrape blue off her tongue. “‘Tis like math. You cross it with several other plants with similar negative characteristics, and the negatives cancel each other out.”

Celestia snorted with laughter. “Oh, Woona, you silly filly. That’s not how it works. If you crossbreed plants with negative characteristics, you wind up with twice as many of them. You crossbreed plants and creatures with characteristics you want to keep.” A look of realization swept across Princess Celestia’s face. “Oh, no. Luna, you didn’t! Not Laminia and Pumpernickel?”

Luna froze with her blue tongue still stuck half-way out. “Oops?”


(*) Or at least the rumours were denied
(1) Midnight Zoysia, tender and tasty with just a hint of mint