• Published 23rd Dec 2011
  • 3,827 Views, 37 Comments

Under Cover of Night - Gordon_Blue_4



A look at Luna's experience later on Nightmare Night

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Chapter 3


Luna’s office was not the sort of cavernous seat of power one might expect from a reigning royal. Instead it looked more like it was owned by an eccentric professor; blackboards and whiteboards with mathematical formula, astronomy charts and timelines made up an entire wall and each surface was brimming with scribbled notes, dog eared reference books and empty inkwells.

A very cantankerous looking Earth Pony was sitting opposite Luna’s desk, gently pawing at the floor. Bright Beacon and Luna’s relationship had been…tenuous since they first met about a week after Luna’s return to Canterlot. They had come to blows almost instantly, arguing over the proper protocol for receiving guests, the alignment of stars and just about anything else that could be argued about. As a result, they rarely spoke unless under sufferance or a directive required it.

‘What could she possibly want?’ he wondered, looking around the room.

“Bright Beacon, thank you for coming” Luna’s voice cut the air like a knife.

“I was summoned by my monarch, so here I am” he replied dryly.

“I am leaving on some business that cannot be left to anyone else, so I require you to take up your old duties for a short time once again” Luna ignored his impertinent tone as she backed a saddlebag.

“We have different definitions of short, Luna, which are you using?” Bright Beacon asked, arching his eyebrow.

“Your Stewardship will be required at least a month, longer depending on my luck” Luna affixed the saddlebag to her midsection and turned to face the rather adversarial public servant.

“Why me? You and I see nothing aligned. I vocally dislike you and I suspect it is by Celestia’s good grace that Lock On or Drakestone, to say nothing of those other two morons who follow you like besotted foals, haven’t assassinated me yet” Bright Beacon was most confused.

“Two reasons. For one, I can always trust that you will do a good job, if only to spite me” Luna explained, walking towards the door.

“And the second?” he probed.

“With you I always know where I stand…had it been your intention, you would at least stab me in the chest” Luna finished, leaving the room.

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Luna made quickly her exit from the castle; a few turns found her a balcony from which she took flight. She headed north, passing over country towns and guard posts. After several hours of solid flying, she found herself requiring to land but fortunately she knew this route well. There was a garrison fort and a small merchant town on the border between Equestria and the Fire Plains.

“Princess Luna!” the night watchpony on duty barely heard the lunar monarch land on the roof of fort.

“At ease, I simply require a bed for the night, this visit is not official” Luna hoped she could calm the stallion down.

“Aye, Princess, follow me to the Fort Commander, his quarters should be appropriate for a guest of your stature” the guard turned on a bit and began marching towards the door that lead into the fort.

Luna rather liked old buildings like this one, unlike the newer ones constructed out of steel and plastics, these old ones were made from stone. If she concentrated hard enough, she could hear faint echoes of conversations held a hundred years ago, footsteps from a decade ago or the sounds of a lover's embrace last night.

They arrived at a large wooden door with the combined Equestrian coat of arms adorning it in old but well cared for bronze. The guard stallion pounded three times on the door, his shoes and the old iron beam making a clanging noise not unlike a large bell.

“So help me Celestia, unless you’re my spouse come to seduce me, I’m going to get really bucking annoyed” a stern female voice sounded, muffled by the thick hickory of the door.

“Um, Captain Rimfire, we have an important guest whom I need to present to you” the guard looked terribly embarrassed.

“Of course, some random noble has gone nature hiking and found him or herself lost and the idea of actually paying to use the inn offends them so they come crying to my fort” there was a pause and the sound of hooves clopping against stone approaching the door.

“Well I hope you wiped your arse with poison joke because…because….” The captain floundered after she flung the door open and caught sight of Luna.

“Greetings Captain Rimfire” Luna was struggling not to laugh; the captain and she would probably get on once the poor dear managed to un-swallow her tongue.

“Sling Blade” the captain deadpanned, looking to Luna’s escort.

“Yes sir?” he asked, snapping to attention.

“Go away before I put you on KP” she face hoofed as the stallion zipped away so fast there was an after image of him.

“I apologise for interrupting your duties Captain, I just require a night’s rest” Luna noticed how easily it had been since meeting Big Macintosh, to refer to herself as ‘I’ and not ‘We’.

“Of course, and I’m sorry for being so rude about the Nobles, I’m sure they’re hard working, loyal and friendly and you’re not buying my bluff are you?” Rimfire saw that Luna’s face had a look that spoke volumes.

“How did that charming farmer I met put it? As much use as a plough on a piglet. One of my guards calls them all useless wankers” Luna chuckled.

“Do you know what that means?” Rimfire asked, looking shocked that one of her Princess’s would use such a word.

“The better question is; do you wish to be the pony who finally explains it to me?” Luna smiled as the captain broke into a peal of laughter.

“I can think of a few things I’d rather do, like duelling a griffon with a blindfold on for a start” Rimfire used her magic to remove her helmet, letting a dark green mane fall out.

“My quarters are back past that door. My assistant Seeker will be here in a moment and I place him at your disposal” she hung the helmet on a hook on the wall.

“Where do you intend to sleep?” Luna was surprised.

“My spouse lives in the town, and I’m off duty now anyway. I was just finishing up some minor paperwork. In fact, you’ve delivered me a boon. I have a good excuse to go home and see Ginger Snap now, we haven’t seen each other properly all month” the captain picked up a saddle bag and put it on.

“Well, my thanks for the use of your quarters, captain. They are far more than what I require, but thank you regardless” Luna smiled as warmly as she could, hoping the captain understood she was genuinely grateful.

“Thank you, Luna, it will be nice to get away at a reasonable hour, just don’t be surprised if a very happy mare tries to give you breakfast in bed tomorrow” Rimfire gave quick bow of her head before taking off.

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Back in Canterlot, Celestia was wavering between screaming in frustration and chortling in admiration: Luna had left a note with Bright Beacon explaining her absence from the castle tonight and what she intended to do. Celestia tried to remember when it was her running off doing impulsive things and Luna asking her not to, lest their mother and father find out.

‘Oh how things change’ Celestia thought as she left Bright Beacon to the Night Court, her personal bodyguard by her side.

“Majesty?” the guard was a powerfully imposing unicorn stallion named Morning Star and his voice reminded Celestia of rolling thunder.

“Yes?” she whipped her head around a bit too quickly and accidentally knocked her head on a light fitting.

“You are concerned about Princess Luna I assume” Morning Star smiled as Celestia set her crown right.

“Stunning observation” Celestia grumbled sarcastically.

“Only the best for you, your highness” Morning Star had been Celestia’s bodyguard for a long time, and as such more leeway was afforded in both directions.

“Yes, Kerastran is a friend and long-time ally of Equestria and most dragons that live that close to their ancestral home are well beyond their ‘grabby’ phase…but I’ve only had her back for a year and I guess I’m just being fussy” Celestia confided.

“I think sometimes you forget who taught ponies the arts of war. Luna’s personality is…powerful…to say nothing of her own formidable magic” Morning Star gave a gentle reminder to his Princess.

“True, I am more interested, the truth be told, in that stallion that caught her eye in Ponyville” Celestia’s eyes took on that mischievous glint that had dunked many an obstinate noble with a bucket of water.

“I heard about that, Starburst gossips like an old mare at a sewing circle. Big Macintosh I think he said his name was” Morning Star recalled Starburst’s insatiable tale telling.

“Yes, Applejack’s brother. The Element of Harmony for truth, finer stock you won’t find anywhere” a sudden voice caused both guard and princess to look to the side.

“Hello Smiley” Celestia said.

Smiley was Celestia’s Master of Spies. A unicorn stallion blessed with the ability to almost literally blend into any crowd and look as inconspicuous as possible with no effort. He was also very magically gifted in spells involving transmission of information and invisibility and levitation.

“Smiley you old knacker” Morning Star liked the spy’s sunny demeanour if one could pardon the pun.

“Morning Star, how’s your wife and my son?” Smiley and Morning Star liked to snipe at each other in ways that only twenty long years of working together closely allowed.

“Boys, am I going to have to put you both in a corner?” Celestia rolled her eyes as they approached her chambers.

“Just popping in to say goodnight, highness, I’ll have a report for you first thing. Ta ta” Smiley said and teleported elsewhere.

“You’re dismissed Morning Star, I’m sure your family are looking forward to seeing you tonight” Celestia smiled and waved her friend off.

Once inside the privacy of her chambers, Celestia flopped onto her bed and let her worry out. She was worried about Luna, but her concern for Twilight Sparkle weighed heaviest on her. After all if Luna got into trouble, she had magic enough to move tectonic plates by sneezing and when she said she had full command of the night, she meant it.

The worry Celestia held for Twilight was different, as was to be expected when dealing with the fleeting and fragile life and emotions of a mortal pony. Different still, Celestia feared, was that she might be harbouring feelings beyond the professional or the maternal for the young unicorn mare. Rules were different for immortals when it came to love…and she knew this was gearing towards love because it felt different to what it had been for other past students.

“I hope you’re okay, Twilight Sparkle…I’m not sure if I could handle something bad happening to you or Spike” Celestia then decided that Twilight should at least know that she wasn’t alone in this and began to compose a letter.

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Twilight was in Rarity’s boutique, a glass of port in front of her and some very expensive cheeses and crackers. Most of her friends were there bar Fluttershy who had volunteered to stay at the Library in case Spike made a move to leave his seclusion. Twilight never drank alcohol, let alone something as strong as the port Rarity had given her.

“Twi, did the Princess write you back yet?” Rainbow Dash asked in an unusually tender tone of voice.

“No, not yet, although I was so distracted when I sent it, it may have ended up in the litter tray of the mascot cat and not Princess Celestia’s office” Twilight tried to joke but her choked delivery ruined the attempt.

“Twilight, listen, Ah….Ah mean we’re sorry. This is partly our fault” Applejack started but was violently cut off by Twilight.

“NO…..no it isn’t. It’s mine; I never explained anything I knew about Dragons to Spike, I just kept treating him like a pony with my typical hard-headedness” Twilight’s eyes became watery and she sank to her knees.

Rarity slowly padded over and put a foreleg around Twilight’s shoulders and drew her close and firm. The lavender mare began sobbing again for the third time in as many hours. Had this been anyone else, they all expected Twilight would have ripped down any barrier with impunity and launched into a massive lecture on how silly they were being…but this was Spike.

“I’m a bad mother” Twilight murmured, the revelation of how she felt about Spike nearly tearing Rarity’s heart in two.

Then there was a puff of magic, and a white scroll appeared on Rarity’s side table near her and Twilight. Rarity pulled the time over to her distraught friend once she recognised the Seal of the Sun adorning the paper. Wordlessly the rest gathered around her as she tore the missive open in desperation.

‘Dear Twilight Sparkle,

I am saddened to hear about Spike, and I am sorry that I have not yet responded. You should know that Luna has taken it upon herself to seek out an old friend, Kerastran, to help Spike.

I will be over to see you in the morning. If the rest of Twilight’s friends are reading with her, please take care of her until I arrive.

Love,
Celestia’

Twilight’s eyes widened as she read that name again…she was sure it was a myth, an old legend spun by old soothsayers and bards in themed pubs in Canterlot.

“Twilight, who is Kerastran?” Rarity asked.

“Is it another Alicorn?” Rainbow Dash was curious too.

“No. She’s a…she’s” Twilight was still wrapping her head around this.

“A what?” Pinkie Pie spoke for the first time in the last half hour.

Twilight turned and looked at her friends, a strange mixture of relief, fear and wonder in her eyes.

“Kerastran, the First One, The Eternal Queen…or as most of the other Dragons call her….mother”.