• Published 3rd Apr 2023
  • 2,170 Views, 177 Comments

A Change in Darkness - David Silver

Bat ponies were a convenient hiding place. Few knew of their true nature, if they even really existed, so he could pretend to be one and get few hard questions. A pity one princess knew more than most, and would not be casually brushed aside.

  • ...

18 - A Guard's Purpose

Skyline arrived at Luna's door. The guards nodded, knowing him. He'd come there often enough to warrant that. "Is she in?"

"She is," barked the larger male. "Is this concerning her project?"

"It is." Skyline nodded. "I have news for her, mostly good."

The smaller female reached for the door with a wing, knocking. "Ma'am, Skyline to see you."

"Send him in," came muffledly through the wood.

Both guards backed away, allowing Skyline forward. He opened the door and stepped into the dim room. "Ma'am? Luna?"

"Right here." She sat before a great and wide mirror atop a desk. "Have you news?"

Skyline closed the door first, then went to Luna's side. "I know how to do this, so they grow strong and happy."

Luna turned in place towards Skyline. "Do you? I am most gladdened to hear that, Skyline. Please, tell me the details."

Skyline spread his wings. "It can't be done with any single mother, nor single father. To raise a new creature, pony tribe or not, requires an existing community. I will be the start, but it must, must, then pass on. The community must love each I make, in every way. When they grow large enough, they will find mates, those mates must not be the ones I created."

Skyline inclined his head, pondering that future. "They must grow among ponies, raised among them as fellow foals, to marry them later. We must keep track of who is pairing with who, to avoid... complications. But they must have a family. I can't, alone, provide a family."

He frowned softly. "Especially not if you would have me making more eggs, to increase the odds of this."

Luna nodded slowly along with the tale Skyline was weaving. "I see nothing we can't do, so far. But you speak as if there were some great catch involved. What is that catch?"

"We need a family, and we have one." Skyline stood as tall as he could muster, barring shifting his form. "The night guards. They must become this family. They will already be the bat ponies the foals will expect."

Luna inclined her head left. "Why is that a catch?"

Skyline snorted. "That is a full-time job, ma'am."

Luna wrinkled her nose. "I should think not. Parents work while raising foals, and if you have a whole group, why would they all stop working with so many hooves already assembled to the task?"

Skyline considered Luna's perspective thoughtfully. She made a reasonable point - parents often maintained careers while raising young. And with the night guard acting as a collective family, there would be no shortage of caregivers to nurture the fledgling tribe.

Still, uncertainties lingered in Skyline's mind. "There is truth in your words," he conceded. "But this is no ordinary foal we discuss. To establish an entire new pony tribe - the first bat ponies - requires deep bonds between parent and child."

He paced the royal bedchamber, searching for the right words. "Raising a foal alone can be difficult even for two devoted parents. But we endeavor to cultivate an unknown new people, shrouded in myth. The burden upon each guardian will be immense."

Skyline stopped and met Luna's gaze. "If duties divide the night guard's care too thinly...might we not lose the young ones? I do not wish to gamble their wellbeing for convenience's sake."

He stepped closer, tone gentle but conviction shining in his eyes. "You have been more than a princess to me...you have been the nurturing mother of my fledgling place in this world. I would wish the same enveloping care for each of the bat foals born into my keeping."

Skyline extended a pleading hoof. "Grant the night guard furlough when the offspring come, I beg you. Let the bat ponies' first familial bonds shape them wholly, unencumbered by competing obligations. Only then can they flourish as you desire."

He hesitated, then added carefully, "Of course the decision is yours, Your Highness. I speak only from my longing to see this bold vision properly realized."

Skyline awaited Luna's decree with bated breath, hoping she would accept the temporary sacrifice required to seed a new age for pony, night guard and bat pony alike.

Luna touched her hoof to Skyline's. "If I have served as mother, then that proves it quite nicely. I have never set down my duties as princess, and yet... Here we are." She touched her nose to Skyline. "Your fears are justified, but they have grown out of proportion. You're not giving your fellow guards enough credit."

She sat up. "But I have been considering your other words. I don't think you were wrong. Denying the guards their tribes was wrong of me... I was too narrowly focused on a very specific dream... Let bat ponies be... a modifier. Like crystal ponies. Most of them are a particular tribe, but others exist. Most bat ponies, pegasus type. Some, horned. Some, robust. All three tribes will be found within them, and they will see this reflection in their caretakers, and the ponies they brush against in the world."

Skyline smiled, feeling a rising warmth inside of him. "That's... great, ma'am." He could imagine the guards rejoicing at the news. "How long will it take to adjust the armor?"

"That is already in the hooves of ponies more suited to that task." Luna waved that thought away. "The guards will guard, but the care of the foals will be their assignment as well. I will go easy on them." She winked at Skyline. "They will be quite busy."

Skyline chuckled, relief flooding through him at Luna's reassurances. The night guard would maintain their purpose while still nurturing the precious new tribe - an elegant compromise he had not thought possible. Luna's wisdom and adaptability never ceased to impress him.

Still, logistical concerns lingered at the back of his mind. "Going easy on the new parents is welcome news," he remarked. "But even your most lenient schedule may overwhelm, guarding alongside foal-rearing..."

He furrowed his brow contemplatively. "Perhaps the day guard could assist at times? With so vast a force at your sister's command, a few could surely be spared for night watch now and then."

Skyline waved a dismissive hoof before Luna could protest. "Oh, I do not propose dissolving your forces into one indistinguishable whole!" he added hastily. "Merely...borrowing a few trustworthy souls upon occasion, to ease the burden."

He gave Luna an entreating look. "Forgive my mother-hen tendencies. In truth, I know not whether I prepare to lay one egg or dozens; such mysteries still elude me. And we'll want more, likely, afterwards."

Skyline sighed, a note of wonder entering his voice. "But if a whole hidden people emerge from my unlikely calling, and I aim to guard them well!"

He blinked, surprised at his own passionate outburst. Perhaps this maternal role was influencing him despite himself. But the drive to safeguard the future bat ponies felt inexorably right.

"Well. Um..." Skyline coughed, embarrassment tinging his features at getting carried away. "I only mean bolstering our ranks could help." He gave Luna a sheepish smile. "But as you say, we shall manage either way."

"We shall manage." Luna placed a hoof at her own chest. "Together. You will be their mother, but so will I, and the guards in front of my door. They will not suffer for lack of options." She chuckled at the idea. "The very first may even feel a bit... buried in parental choices."

Skyline smiled, hope raising by the moment. "Better than the alternative... I only had one parent, and she had no time for me, in the end." The words had come out before he thought about them. "Oh..." That he even had emotions about his upbringing...

Sure, he had ultimately rebelled, but... "Oh." He sighed softly. "Sorry, ma'am. I got distracted."

Luna pressed a hoof against his chest. "You are not 'distracted'. You are having feelings, as they say. And you are entitled to them." She smirked softly. "Celestia insists on it. When I was... a thousand moons ago, I would have sooner died than admit I was housing such things." She looked towards her window and rose to pace towards it. "We live in a new age. Bring that foal, or foals, and they will be loved. As will their mother."

Skyline absorbed Luna's words with a contemplative gaze. How strange to hear the Moon Princess, the stoic embodiment of the night, claim feelings were her right. But her transformation mirrored his own in seeking refuge among the ponies.

Perhaps together they walked a path of discovery, unlearning the shackles of their former lives in favor of Equestria's more enlightened ideals.

Skyline joined Luna beside the window, stars glinting distantly through the glass. Placing a tentative hoof on hers, he spoke, "I still struggle to name the sensations stirring within me...hope and fear entwined, a heart so full it might burst."

He gave a nervous chuckle. "I suppose such is the prerogative of expectant mothers everywhere. But know this journey has already worked profound changes upon me...thanks in no small part to your inspiration."

Luna turned to him, eyes glinting with what might be the faint shimmer of tears. Impulsively, Skyline drew her into a fierce embrace.

"We shall traverse this strange new realm together, my friend," he avowed, voice thick with emotion. "And when we emerge on the other side, perhaps we shall find ourselves transformed."

Luna returned the hug with sudden intensity, silent thanks ringing louder than shouts. No matter the role that awaited Skyline, they would face it as kin. Such bonds the loveless hive could never replicate.

At last Luna pulled back, features composed in her familiar sphinx-like smile. "Well now, no call for such brooding when we've an entire tribe's fostering at hoof!" Her laugh rippled rich and deep. "Let us to work!"

Skyline's returning grin needed no words. The future remained uncertain, but with Luna and the night guard at his side, he feared no shadows. Bat pony, mother and Guardsman alike, he would don each mantle proudly to shepherd this bold vision into reality.

"One thing." Luna tapped his nose with the flat of her hoof. "I am your princess, not an idle friend. Though my heart soars alongside yours, we can't have ponies thinking there's more to it than that."

Skyline rubbed his nose, cheeks burning. "Yes, ma'am... Sorry."

"Don't be sorry." She turned an ear at Skyline. "You certainly didn't force me to return that hug..."

A hint. Skyline smiled as he turned for the door. "I'll spread the news, if that's alright?"

"Go on." She brushed him away with a powerful wing. "Start with the ones at the door and go from there. I'm sure they'll be excited to hear it."

Skyline saluted sharply before bursting into a trot for the door. He glanced back, but pressed on, opening the door. Outside, he saw the two guards and slipped out to join them.

"News, from Luna." Both perked at him. "The foals I... birth..." He couldn't stop the blush in his cheeks. "They will be yours too. The whole night guard will be their mothers and fathers. Um, other good news."

The mare clapped her hooves together. "Aw, that sounds nice. What else?"

The stallion raised a doubting brow. "Uh..."

"Luna is working on adjusting these." Skyline tapped his armor. "To let us keep our tribes. Expect stockier night guards and horned night guards soon."

The stallion pricked, interest grabbed. "Really? Wow."

The mare burst into laughter. "You're told you're become a parent and that's no news compared to..." She squinted at Skyline. "What do pegasi get? Night guards already have wings."

Skyline raised two uneven hooves and brought them together. "This is a balancing. The others are being brought up to where pegasi already are. Um, so, nothing? They get to be happy for everypony else."

The stallion shrugged. "Well, alright. Still not sure I'm ready to be an uncle..."

Author's Note:

Luna handled that well, I think. Paths are being charted.

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