• Published 22nd Nov 2022
  • 178 Views, 15 Comments

Of Moon and Stars - Isuvyw

Nightmare Moon is coming back, and it's up to a griffon to stop her.

  • ...

Chapter 2: The Unanswered Question

Tarla quickly traversed the wide halls of Canterlot Palace, talons clacking loudly against marbled floors. She’d done well being first in line for court; now came the challenges of nasty nobles’ talk, steely-eyed guards, and fatigue on her way to the courtroom. She’d promised herself that stars only played circus once in a lifetime, so last night’s frenzy would be her first and last. Well, she hoped it would be.

She and Aidan had tracked twelve stars moving from their initial positions; the messy, ink-blotted draft notes had transformed into a fully annotated and neatly arranged parchment. Only one question remained – why? Tarla had, of course, no answer for that; neither did Aidan. Supernatural responsibility was high on the list, but Tarla was unsure whether to take that as a solid answer. Facts, facts, and facts should be the best option now.

One idea did intrigue her, though, and despite her reservations regarding supernatural stuff, she could not put it out of her mind.

Aidan mentioned in passing some famous legend of a certain Nightmare Moon, a monster that Celestia had allegedly fought and banished to the Moon. Not too long after, a prophecy appeared, predicting that Nightmare would return after a thousand years by the aid of the stars.

The pony had dismissed it as an old mare’s tale. Tarla had done exactly the same.

She reached the corridor to the throne room. It was a short one, with an ornate lantern hanging above, flanked by rich designs from Canterlot’s golden age. In niches on either side were great busts of Canterlot’s founders; they both exemplified dedication on the part of the sculptor, and awesome terror on the part of the viewer. Tarla quietly confessed that neither affected her greatly as she made her way past; she wasn’t much for the arts anyway.

Two guards stood post at either side of the great door. “State your business!” declared one.

Tarla produced a little plaque from her satchel – a bronze-gilded piece of wood with her name and Celestia’s seal embossed upon it. The guard eyed her warily for a moment, then nodded with a grunt.

“Follow me,” he requested as he and his fellow pushed open the doors. She complied, walking in softly and trying to be as meek as possible.

“Your Highness, Miss Tarla Sparklefeather requests your audience!” bellowed the guard.

The princess looked up and nodded. The guard turned and left. Tarla bowed, as deep as possible. “Good m-morning, y-your highness,” she greeted, stumbling over her words a little. The princess gave a hearty chuckle.

“Good morning, Tarla. Please, be at ease and rise. Don’t be afraid.”

Tarla breathed, rising up to face the princess. Her warm, genuine smile put her heart to rest, at least a little. A familiar scene came to mind, when she’d stood in the very same court to be judged for–

She shook her head and beamed a huge smile to the princess, shutting away that memory.

“How has your work been?” asked the princess.

Tarla smiled a little. “It’s been going great, your highness. The autumn star map’s going pretty well too. But, um…” She hesitated.

“What is it, Tarla?”

The griffoness sighed, opening her satchel and pulling out the parchment. “Last night, my assistant and I saw twelve stars suddenly moving from their positions in the sky. We tracked their movements” – she offered the parchment to Celestia – “and recorded it here, all annotated as well. It’s a strange event. I… I thought you should know about this.”

A golden aura wrapped the parchment up and received it, Celestia reading it with a raised brow. Tarla froze in terror when she heard a gasp coming from the throne.

“When did this occur?” urged the princess.

“L-last night, your highness,” quickly answered the griffoness. The princess sighed, then arose from her throne. Tarla gulped and bowed so deep her beak kissed the marble floor.

“I watched the stars last night. The very same occurred,” answered Celestia, pausing in her steps. She frowned. “It was… strange. Dark, even.”

Tarla glanced up, but remained bowed. “Do you have any idea what it is, your highness?”

Celestia eyed her sadly. “Unfortunately, no, I don’t. This is something that I’ll have to take up with the Thaumaturgy Department. Thank you, though, for letting me know,” offered the princess with a smile.

Tarla nodded. An idea suddenly came back to mind, the one that’d fascinated her. She was curious as to what Celestia would say about it. It wouldn’t hurt to ask, right?

“Um, your highness, my assistant mentioned about some old mare’s tale about a monster called Nightmare Moon? One whom you supposedly defeated?” Celestia raised a brow, but Tarla continued. “Is it true?”

The princess slowly nodded, her subtle stiffness missed by the griffoness. “Yes, it’s true. It was a tragic moment in our history.” Her heart burnt for a moment; she forced it down. “Why do you ask?”

“Well,” continued Tarla, “he mentioned some prophecy that said she’d return with the help of the stars.” She chuckled. “Not that I’m saying it’s true, but do you think it has some connection to what happ–”

“What does a mere astronomer know?” chided a deep, slightly coarse voice. Tarla and Celestia snapped towards a white stallion trotting over to them in a grand stride, with matching suit and puffed wig over his head.

“Minister Armillary,” greeted Celestia, to which the stallion gave a quick bow. “What brings you here?”

“I’ve come to report to you a strange observation in the sky. Although, it seems” – he shot the griffoness a glare of spite – “somecreature less qualified has beat me to it. And even tried to make some connection with a foal’s story.”

Tarla’s griffon instincts ordered her to grab his throat and choke him to death, but she forced them down and dropped her gaze to the floor. Better to stay silent. Perhaps the princess was benign enough to defend her.

“Oh, minister, I assure you,” chuckled Celestia. “Tarla Sparklefeather is not less qualified.” She stretched a wing towards her. “In fact, she’s of high importance, for her eagle eyes are much needed for stellar observation. Her star maps are, as of now, the most accurate in all of Equestria.”

“Indeed, and the most distrustful,” he spat. Celestia raised a brow. “Lately, I’ve received reports that the Érudítí are wreaking havoc again. They’ve been attempting to shift stellar planes by use of star maps.” He fixed a suspicious eye on Tarla.

“And what do you insinuate by that?” questioned the princess.

“I only mean to report. Last night’s event could very well be connected to those rogues. In fact” – he trotted closer – “I highly suspect that figures in the palace may be involved.” He, again, eyed Tarla. She sulked.

Celestia eyed the minister with skepticism, while Tarla turned her gaze to a marvelous painting of a dragon roasting a bunch of ponies alive. Scary.

“Do you have any evidence, Armillary?”

“As of today, we’ve apprehended four earth pony suspects. Found some rather high-quality star maps with them. Which makes me wonder,” he paused, shooting a glare at Tarla.

“How should we know if this griffon could be supplying the means?” he accused.

“Minister, hold your tongue!” scolded Celestia. Tarla’s eyes widened to saucers. “Do not dare jump to conclusions!”

The minister quickly bowed. “With all respect, your highness, I speak out of concern for your safety!”

Tarla breathed hard, trying to process what he’d just said. She forced the urge to scream down into her heart. She could not get angry, not at this time.

“Your concerns are needless. Please, do not disgrace Miss Tarla’s presence,” chided the princess.

“B-but how can we trust her? For all we know, she could turn against us at any moment. She’s done that during the war!”

“The war is over. Do not bring it up. For the sake of your dignity and hers, apologise. And please, see yourself out after you’re done. You may discuss the issue with me afterwards.” The princess turned and trotted to her throne.

“My deepest apologies, Miss… Tarla,” mumbled the stallion. He arose and gave her one final glare of warning – maybe hate mixed in too – and left through a side door. Celestia huffed as she eased into the throne.

Tarla released a sharp exhale, eyes wet with anger and hurt pride. “I a-apologize, your highness. I should go now,” she offered with a bow. The smoke from burning candelabras was getting to her nerves, and she really wanted to go. Thankfully, the princess nodded. Sadly.

“Tarla,” called the princess as she turned to leave. “Don’t let your past mistakes affect you. It’s your choice whether you want to change or not. Nopony – nocreature – can tell you otherwise. Understand?”

The griffoness nodded. The princess smiled a little. She turned to leave.

“Oh, and Tarla,” added the princess. “Try not to look too much into the Nightmare Moon legend. It’s best that you don’t. I’ll… sort this out with my ministers, understand?”

“Yes, your highness.”

And out she went, sorely disappointed. Not only would she have to nurse her pride back to health, but she would also have to stem her curiosity about Nightmare Moon. She sighed deeply.

The question was, why?

She’d think about it over a drink. Rich, morning coffee with milk and sugar sounded really good right now.