• 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. 7 - Alone Again, Naturally

Genealogy - (or The Mating Habits of Nocturnes Pegasi)
Alone Again, Naturally


Pumpernickel woke up screaming, fighting his way out of tangled blankets which pinned him down and scraped agonizingly against his bandages. “No! No! Get away!”

The close confines of the library storeroom where he and Laminia had been sleeping the last two nights came into focus very slowly. The worried Night Pegasus mare was no more than a hoofslength away from his face, which did not help his recovery from the nightmare one bit.

“What was it?” she asked in a panicked voice, her eyes wide with concern. “Are you alright?” Laminia had obviously been caught unaware; her mane was knotted up like a rope and a look of genuine sympathy flooded her face.

“Oh it was terrible, the worst nightmare I’ve ever had,” he said, sucking in air in great gulps. “We were married, and we had five little fillies, and you were pregnant again…” His voice trailed off as he watched the look of concern on Laminia’s face slowly fade into a cold, emotionless mask. “And—”

---

Twilight Sparkle stopped knocking on the door and frowned. The Night Pegasi she had permitted to sleep in her storeroom had a number of strange Traditions she was still getting accustomed to, but hopefully waking up screaming was not one of them. She considered knocking some more, but certainly they knew she was outside, and there was no way anypony was still sleeping after that kind of noise. Just as her concern peaked and she was about to force the door open, it opened by itself and a very bedraggled Pumpernickel came dragging out, with a fresh hoofmark over one eye.

“Good afternoon?” she started, nearly jumping off the stairs as the door slammed closed behind the Guard, narrowly missing catching his truncated tail. “Is there anything—”

“No.” The Guard plodded over to his armor which was carefully hung on a dressmaker’s dummy by their door. The helm went on first, only making it half-way over his new blackened eye before he gave up and put it back on the dummy, after which he made no effort to finish dressing. Pumpernickel just stood in place with his back to the door much like the dummy, immobile with his eyes closed.

“Ahem,” Twilight Sparkle cleared her throat and looked guilty. “I”m sorry to have disturbed you, but Spike just got a letter from Princess Luna. It’s addressed to you. I’m afraid I opened it by mistake. I’m not used to getting mail for others.“

“Can you read it please?” His voice was an emotionless monotone, and his eyes remained closed.

“Oh. Well. If you insist.” Twilight nervously unrolled the scroll.

To: Pumpernickel, Optio of the Royal Guard
From: Her Highness, Princess Luna
Re: Assignment

As of Moonrise tonight, you will be replaced as protective detail for my Hoofmaiden, Laminia. Be assured this is not in response to any action of yours, but is a routine procedure. Due to an increase in crime in Ponyville, Laminia’s security detail is being increased to Class 1 status, and since you have never completed training for a Class 1 security detail, you are being transferred back to Canterlot for reassignment.

It is your responsibility to see to the transfer of my Hoofmaiden to your replacements in a timely and secure manner.

Signed this day,
Princess Luna, Diarch of Equestria, Princess of the Moon and Night, Keeper of the Stars and Planets

“Huh,” said Twilight absently. “She left off ‘Matriarch of Dreams and Ruler of Shadows’ this time. I guess they don’t fit on her signature.” She rolled the scroll up and awkwardly stuck it in with Pumpernickel’s charred armor and the rest of his things. “I guess this means you’ll be going back to the Princess’s personal guard in Canterlot, right?”

“I serve the Princesses.”

“Oh.” Twilight glanced away from the impassive Guard, not quite sure why his emotionless look was making her more nervous than the night she had found him smashed into a wall by Princess Luna. He did not look sad, or angry, or even dangerous, he just looked as if everything in his life that made him keep going had been yanked out from underneath him.

“Well. Look at the time. Your replacements will be here fairly soon. I suppose you’ll want to take a shower and get ready to—”

“No. I’m staying right here.” Pumpernickel backed up until his flank was touching the door.

“Right, then. I’ll just send them up when they arrive. Right? Heh.” She backed carefully down the stairs and out of his sight.

* * *

Eyes front. Shoulders straight. Expression stoic. Heart… broken. Well, it was her special talent. He wanted to look back at his flank, to see if perhaps a giant mouth had suddenly taken refuge there. For just one brief, shining moment, Laminia had looked like she cared. And then he had to open his big mouth and wreck it all. The mask had finally come off and he had seen the true heart of a terribly frightened and vulnerable young mare, who had been given such a hard and pain-filled time during her life. And his response? Smash her right in the ego by saying his worst possible nightmare was to be joined to her in marriage and have children. During his training as a cadet in the Academy, they had repeatedly warned him not to get involved in whoever he was guarding, from the most to least important charge. And what had he done? First gotten involved with Princess Luna, and once she had sent him away, gotten involved with her very own emotionally vulnerable Hoofmaiden.

Well it was going to stop right now. Without the comforting weight of armor it was difficult to settle into a guard position, but he set his steel-shod hooves onto the library’s wooden floor and braced. Eyes front. Shoulders straight. Expression stoic.

Only in the very back of his mind could he still hear the faintest sound of crying.

---

The tall Night Pegasus that politely knocked on the library door braced himself to attention as it opened. “Buttercup of the Royal Guard, Commander of the Night Division, requesting permission to enter!”

If Pumpernickel was a prime example of youthful vigor in the Guard, this pony was a foretaste of what he would look like after a half-century of service. Frosted white tipped nearly every remaining hair on the Commander’s body, with the exception of eyebrows and a glorious moustache which fairly glowed a moonlit white through and through. One ear tip was stubbed off from some unknown injury in the past, and a gold tooth glittered ominously from his square jaw.

Twilight Sparkle smiled up at the Night Pegasus Commander. “Come on in. We’ve been expecting you.” She glanced out the door at the dozen Royal Guard arrayed in strict rows outside and her smile got a bit strained. “I really don’t think I have room for all of you though.”

“Of course not, Ma’am. We understand the exigency of the circumstance that forced Princess Luna’s Hoofmaiden to reside within your domicile, and we have taken steps to eliminate the issue. We have reserved an entire floor of the hotel, and a team of specialists are soundproofing several of the rooms now. We appreciate the service which you have provided to the Crown, and I am assured that proper repayment is even now being procured. May we see Her Highness’s Hoofmaiden now?”

During the trip up the staircase, Twilight Sparkle tried not to worry. It worked about as well as water trying not to be wet, but she tried.

Oh I hope he doesn’t think putting the Princess’s Hoofmaiden in a closet to sleep is an insult. But Pumpernickel said it was Traditional for Night Pegasi to sleep together, do the guards sleep in a big heap too? If Princess Luna travels with her Night Guards overnight, or would that be overday somewhere, does she sleep with them in one big NO DON’T THINK ABOUT IT!

“Halt! Who goes there?” Pumpernickel’s voice sounded crisp and sharp from his rigid position in front of the storeroom door.

“Buttercup, Commander of the Royal Guard. I bring your relief.”

“Advance and be recognized.”

Buttercup stepped up onto the top step of the stairs and saluted, getting a razor-sharp salute in return from the battered guard. “Pumpernickel of the Royal Guard, Optio of the Night Division, reporting for duty sir! Twilight Sparkle! Please scan the Commander and myself for illusion magic.”

“Oh, I really don’t—” Twilight cut off abruptly as Pumpernickel looked at her with an iron sincerity of purpose she had not seen in the young stallion before. “Oh. Okay.” A ripple of purple magic waved across both pegasi, and she nodded. “No illusion magic, just the enchantments on the armor.”

“Very well. Thank you, Twilight Sparkle. Please go out and examine the rest of the Royal Guard contingent.” Pumpernickel waited until the sounds of hoofsteps had faded before turning to the Commander. “Am I relieved?”

“Yes, you are relieved.” Commander Buttercup seemed to slump a bit and shook his head as he looked over Pumpernickel and his damaged gear. “Sheesh, Lumpy. What in heck did you get into to blow the enchantments off your armor like that? Are those electrical burns?”

“Minor injuries sustained in a ‘Wolf, Dog and Rabbit’ training exercise conducted with the Royal Hoofmaiden. You will need to alert my replacement protective detail that the town is very safe, but they should not allow Raindrops to play ‘Wolf’ should they decide to repeat the exercise. Also there is a shy yellow pegasus in the town named ‘Fluttershy’; they should take great care not to injure any animal in her vicinity. In particular, fish.” Pumpernickel’s expression and posture remained razor-straight, and did not change a bit during his response.

The old Night Pegasus grinned. “Did you get suckered into that too? On my first assignment in the Griffon lands, the little bastards managed to convince me to eat fish. I was throwing up for a week, and I swear the dammed things were trying to swim back out.” His grin faded as Pumpernickel simply remained standing in his rigid guard pose. “Well, I suppose it really wasn’t that funny.” He rapped gently on the ‘bedroom’ door. “Hoofmaiden Laminia, your new guard contingent is here.”

The door clicked open almost instantly, as if she had been listening behind it. “Commander,” she said quietly, nodding but not changing her expression at all. “I will be traveling to the boutique in a few minutes. Please inform the guards to remain outside the building, as not to disturb our work.” The door clicked closed.

“Cold fish,” muttered Buttercup quietly before turning back to his stoic subordinate. “Optio Pumpernickel, you are hereby given five days leave. Take some time off, go back and be with your family.” He eyed Pumpernickel’s extensive collection of bruises and bandages. “Rest up. I’ll have your gear shipped back and replaced. A couple of the chariots are returning to Canterlot empty, so get on one. You may consider that an order. Dismissed.”

* * *

Pumpernickel felt nothing. The shell of Guard duty that he had drawn over himself for protection was shattered, he felt as if he had invested his entire being into a mask which had been snatched away into nothingness. It was all he could do to bring that nothingness down, wrap it around his body in the false shell of duty, and march out the door to the chariot ride home. Even after the chariot landed and he limped back to his family house, he kept the ethereal nothingness wrapped around his heart. He felt nothing as an Aunt changed the bandages on his limbs, chuckling at the memory of having changed his diaper as a foal. Polite queries at the breakfast table about his recent activities were either ignored, or batted away with monosyllabic responses.

Even in sleep, he denied himself the pain of feeling, but curled up at the edge of the heap of sleeping relatives and stared emptily into the darkness until Luna’s moon rose and the family went about the next night’s business. All about him, each Nocturne relative seemed to wear their own mask; the Aunts and Uncles, his vast collection of Sisters. Only the foals were free from the confines of their own masks, their scattered yellow eyes making him think of his nightmare.

What would it be like to be linked forever to another? To raise children, small bits of himself and his… wife. He had been forever besieged by sisters, both older and younger, and the attraction of becoming married to one of those was almost nonexistent. They lived and breathed to make his life miserable, so it seemed. Laminia had been so much like them at the start, or even more so. But as he grew to know her, it seemed she also wore a mask. A glass facade of strength hiding a fragile beautiful soul, topped with thorns to prevent anypony from getting close enough to see behind the mask. Perhaps it would be better for her to remain hidden as she desired, behind a hard shell to protect her fragile self from the ravages of the cruel world. If so, the last thing she would need would be somepony to try to bring her out of her safe shell, out where the world could destroy her. Still, he could not help but think of the way she looked, rolling around in the grass and laughing her hooves off as he attempted to catch fish. Hiding that kind of joy from the world would be like creating a garden with the most beautiful of flowers, then putting a fence around it so none could see the beauty inside.

He paid little attention to the family meeting that night, called on account of Princess Luna’s request that the family send their Book of Tradition in to the Element of Magic for examination. The official announcement did not stir his emotions; the newly renamed Office of the Diarch sent a few hundred of these notifications out every day to all corners of Equestria. An entire room in the Canterlot castle filled with unicorns using the Copy spell worked constantly at almost all hours, even besieging the Night Guards with the infernal papers. He touched the announcement’s slick surface while the family elders argued and wondered just how many copies of Luna’s order had been sent. Could Laminia’s own family be meeting this same way even now? Would they even care that her name was not entered in their own Book of Tradition despite being so trusted by the Diarch as to be Luna’s own Hoofmaiden? It seemed a terrible waste.

The argument between the elders continued unabated by his thoughts; there was a split between those who believed the command from Princess Luna made it right and correct to send the family Book of Tradition to the Element of Magic, and a small vocal minority who suspected trickery. Behind their words was a great unspoken concern about giving up the family history to a unicorn who was the direct protégé of Celestia; they called it a travesty, a mortal affront to the memory of Luna. It irritated him that they spoke of Princess Luna in that fashion, as if she were the powerful Princess of Legend, unable to make mistakes or show earthly flaws. They probably even thought she did not need to use the bathroom, or that she was unaffected by anger or regret. A simple mention of the Princess’s beloved fuzzy pink towel with bunnies embroidered on it would probably send the whole cluster of them into a fit of disbelief, clucking around the room like chickens whose nest had been invaded by a fox. He wanted so much to stand up, to throw their hypocrisy in their face and condemn them all before storming away. But where would he go?

Finally the vote was over, and the family unanimously determined that their Book of Tradition was to be conveyed to Ponyville at earliest opportunity as Princess Luna had commanded. The arrangements were to be carried out tomorrow night, thus giving enough time for Luna to come to her senses and cancel the request. As if that were ever going to happen.

The night passed, and Celestia’s sun returned to the sky. Pumpernickel did not care, he remained in the house, his bandages changed by the same Aunt as before, his sleeping spot the same as before, his thoughts the same. When Moonrise happened again, he offered no resistance to drawing the family carriage which would take the family Book of Tradition to Ponyville. It did not matter. The elders would bring the Book into the library, and he would remain in harness at the wagon. He would not even have to see Laminia, and she would not see him. It would be better that way.