• Published 2nd Feb 2013
  • 6,593 Views, 148 Comments

Justice - TwilightSnarkle

Worker has found happiness, health, and most importantly, home. Now he struggles to defend those who made his new life possible while he wrestles with his own demons.

  • ...

New Questions

Princess Luna’s chambers were alive with all manner of buzzing, clattering, and chirping toys. Butterflies fluttered near the ceiling, turtles trudged beneath the bed, and a caterpillar was making itself at home as it crawled up the draperies. Luna sat at her desk, happily watching a tiny hedgehog run around in circles. It paused every now and then to scratch at an imaginary itch before continuing on its spiraling path.

A gentle knock sounded at her door, and the lack of a guard’s challenge told her who it was. “It’s open,” she called, looking over her shoulder as the handle turned. Her sister stuck her head in, winced at the cacophony, and then stepped inside.

“Good afternoon, Luna. You’re up early. I was coming to wake you when I heard these most interesting devices.”

“Aren’t they marvelous? They’re all the rage in the city; as soon as they reach the shelves, they’re sold. I was lucky to find these.”

“Lucky, my sister? When you can teleport, fly, and bear the crown?”

“Oh, nonsense, Tia. I always wear a disguise when I’m not on official business.”

Celestia knew about the disguise, as did every resident of Canterlot. Still, she was trying her best to rejoin her subjects, and Celestia couldn’t fault her for a minor oversight.

“Oh! That reminds me, sis. Here, I got this one for you.” With that, Luna levitated a package from behind her bed, spinning it about as it hovered before her elder sister. “Don’t worry, it doesn’t creep or crawl or buzz. I know how you like things just so.”

Celestia examined the expertly wrapped parcel. “Thank you, sister. Did you want me to open it?”

“You can, but you’re probably busy. Open it when you have a moment.” She rose from her desk and walked over to her big sister, nuzzling her neck and burying her face in Celestia’s flowing mane. “Love you, Tia,” she said simply, her clarion voice muffled in her sister’s coat. She pulled away, and added, “I’ll see you downstairs after I’ve eaten.”

With that, Luna left the room, smiled at the guards outside her door, and cantered away, humming a quiet tune.

Celestia took one last look around the room and its bizarre mechanical menagerie before shaking her head in quiet resignation. “I don’t know that I’ll ever understand you, sister, but I do love you so.” She doused the lights, closed the door, and carried her gift before her as strode towards a lesser hall and another meeting.

Celestia, while wiser in years than any of her ponies, never claimed to be the brightest. Still, with a little thought, she was able to unravel most puzzles and solve most of the problems she faced. When she could not, some consultation with her advisors would often set things aright. Despite this trait, or perhaps because of it, she faced the device before her with great consternation.

It was a timepiece—that much was certain—and it seemed to be able to sense the position of the sun in the sky and adjust itself accordingly. It had a heart of gears, wires, spokes, and assemblies that were so layered and mysterious, that it made the clockmaker’s craft seem simple. Indeed, when she had summoned the Royal Timekeeper and suggested he take it apart, he blanched, declining her offer.

Every hour, on the hour, while the sun was in the sky, the device played a short tune that changed according to the time. It was hopeful and earnest in the dawn, methodical throughout the morning, triumphant when the sun reached its peak, urgent as the sun sank, and sleepy as it rested on the horizon. As the day progressed, the device mirrored the position of the sun with a golden orb on a slender wand.

She had wound it fully, three days ago. Thirty rotations. She counted. This morning, the wind-key would only make one rotation. Most other clockworks required a daily refresh, and none would last a week. This device seemed ready to run for two months on a single winding.

It was a remarkable machine by any measure, one whose likeness she had not witnessed in Equestria before. That last part concerned her. Being interested in the gifts of all her ponies gave her a unique insight into the latest advancements in the arts and sciences, but this piece had neither an obvious predecessor nor an equal.

Turning it over, she read the markings once more:

Worker’s Toy Shop, Pasofino

It was time to find out more about this remarkable device and its maker.

The town of Pasofino was buzzing with the news: After five long years, Worker and Skyshine were to be wed within the month. Skyshine was beside herself, transfixed at a point between anxiety and joy, and Worker bore an absent-minded smile wherever he traveled about town.

Saber Dance was named bridesmare, and Bulwark—after some good-natured ribbing—accepted the role of best stallion, despite the difference in gender. Whisper, of course, agreed to officiate.

Wedding preparations were well underway when the letter arrived: a roll of luxurious, smooth paper bound with a velvet ribbon and pressed with the Royal Seal. Worker, with Skyshine at his side, opened it with some trepidation.

To my loyal subject, Worker of Pasofino:

Greetings, and congratulations on your wedding! It is truly wonderful to hear of your upcoming nuptials, and I wish you the utmost happiness in your marriage.

I write to you today, dear Worker, to inquire into the nature of these wonderful toys that have suddenly become so popular around Canterlot. I imagine Pasofino’s ponies enjoy them as well. Each one bears your mark, as well as your inimitable craftsmanship. Indeed, I have never seen such fascinating machines.

Princess Luna is quite taken by your craft. She owns several of your devices and gives them free reign of her room at all hours of the night. I believe a miniature hedgehog is her favorite of the set.

I ask that you present yourself to my court at your earliest convenience. Please, do not consider this a summons. I am eager to meet you and learn more about your tiny miracles, but I am happy to wait while you and Skyshine explore your new lives together as husband and wife.

I look forward to your reply.

Princess Celestia of Equestria

Worker sat in a stunned silence. Dumbfounded, he turned the letter this way and that as it levitated. The seal was a duplicate of the design embossed on every bit, and the ink was exceptional: a deep midnight black with tiny flecks of gold that caught the light as the letter spun.

“I guess it could be authentic,” he mumbled, shocking Skyshine from her reverie.

“What? Of course it is! Nopony would impersonate Celestia, Worker. It’s... unthinkable.”

“I suppose I’m still a little wary of the new, is all. Still, why me? Why do my little devices cause such a stir in a place like Canterlot? What would they think about some of my larger works?”

“I don’t know, dearheart, but this sounds like a wonderful opportunity. If you can impress the princesses, imagine what ideas you could bring about, what changes your devices could br—”

Worker lifted his hoof to interrupt, and then rested it against his forehead. “That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“Success?” she asked, brow furrowed in confusion.

He lowered his hoof, and sighed. “Changes. I’ll... I’ll explain later.” Carefully rolling up the letter, he set it on the table, then glanced at the clock over the mantle. “For now,” he grinned impishly, “some slip of a filly is late for her fitting.”

“Oh, my!” Skyshine clattered to her hooves, and gave him a peck on the cheek before she trotted out the door. “Goodbye!”

“Goodbye, Skyshine,” he called after her. As the door’s latch reset, he whispered, “I love you.” His smile faded as his plans dissolved into worry. Picking up a pen, he levitated a piece of paper onto the table, and began to fashion a reply.

The day of the wedding had arrived, and the town bustled with final preparations. The old Pasofino Conservatory had been remodeled and reopened just in time for the reception. Its owner, Silver Chimes, claimed she had simply been waiting for a reason.

Worker waited in the field behind the conservatory, pacing back and forth beside the pledge-stone where he and Skyshine would soon swear before the people of Pasofino and formally become husband and wife. Bulwark waited with him, leaning against an oak as she watched him burn off the nervous energy.

“You’ll do fine, Worker,” she reassured him. “All you have to do is remember three lines, and be able to hold up your hoof long enough for Whisper to tie the fasting-cloth about it. Child’s play.”

“You seem awfully confident,” he replied wryly. “How many times have you been married?”

“Hmph.” She stared into the limbs of her shade-tree, and theatrically stuck out her lower lip into an enormous pout. “See if I try to help anymore.”

Worker continued his pacing, beginning to sweat in his black coat. The wind picked up briefly, cooling him, but also carrying with it the sounds of a number of happy ponies.

“That’ll be the undertaker, my friend.” Bulwark lowered her gaze from the treetop and gave him a merciless, savage grin. “Judging by the sun, you’ve got about fifteen minutes of bachelorhood left. Anything you want to do while you still can?”

“You’re not helping, Bulwark.”

“Said I wouldn’t,” she replied simply.

Worker considered a withering response, but decided otherwise when he saw the crowd approaching, seemingly composed of half of the village. Within minutes, the open field was covered in brightly-colored ponies, each wearing their finest attire. He forced himself to stop pacing, but his heart took up the duty by pounding in his ears. Where was Skyshine?

A quiet cough from Bulwark’s resting spot brought Worker’s attention to the fore. There, on the other side of the field, stood a trio of mares. Two wore simple moss-green robes, and the other... She was bedecked in a dazzling white gown: layers of silk and satin that cascaded from her poll and flowed like water down her crest, across her withers and croup, finally breaking like a wave where it reached the ground.

“Skyshine...” His pounding heart nearly stopped as it tripped over itself. Worker was dimly aware that his mouth was open. He closed it and forced himself to swallow. He could hear Bulwark laughing.

He watched as she approached the pledge-stone, shadowed by Whisper and Saber Dance. She shyly met his gaze from behind a lace veil. His ears flicked wildly as they reddened in response. He simply could not take his eyes off of her, and stood stock-still before the gathered crowd.

Worker realized he was beginning to feel light-headed, and the edges of his vision had begun to fade. Somepony nudged his shoulder, and he suddenly recalled the importance of breathing. By the time the dots cleared from his vision, Whisper was nearly done with the ceremony.

“...and so, we bring these two ponies together to begin a life anew. Each will state their pledge, and then join their hooves together as a symbol of the path they now take as one. Skyshine?”

He watched as she placed one hoof on the pledge-stone, then looked into his eyes, and smiled at him before speaking.

“I, Skyshine, pledge to be a faithful wife. I pledge to trust my husband in all he does. I pledge to deserve his trust in me.”

Skyshine and Whisper looked at him expectantly. With equal parts love and terror, he placed his hoof aside hers, and recited his pledge. “I, Worker, pledge to be a faithful husband...”

Celestia peered across the gardens at her sister’s court. Its doors were opened, and a pair of silver-clad unicorn guards maintained watch outside. She sighed, stepped out onto the plaza, and ascended the spiral staircase to the parapets. She preferred to watch her sunsets. While she did not have to see the sun to control it, she found that doing it by ‘feel’ often left her irritable.

She focused, and brought the sun safely to the horizon. I’m sorry, Luna, she thought. I wanted to do this with you, today, but... As if answering, she felt the familiar surge of magic that raised the moon. At least their duties had been met, even if they had not seen one another.

She walked back down the stair, mentally checking off a list. It had been one of those days. The morning session had run long with a diplomatic session between a pair of villages that each claimed to be the furthest East from Canterlot. The absurdity of the claim seemed only to serve as fuel for the heated arguments that followed. Then there was a matter of a missing envoy from the griffin territories, and a sighting of an Ursa Major in the Everfree...

Celestia reached the plaza once more, and shook out her mane. As she stepped through the door, she nodded at a stocky grey pegasus clad in a gold and ivory tabard. “Silvermoon, is our guest still waiting?”

“Yes, Your Highness,” he replied, ascending from a reflexive bow and furling his wings. “Master Worker has been in the side chambers for roughly an hour, now.”

The princess tsked in frustration, paced across the gallery, and mounted the stair that led to her throne. As she settled into it, stretching each wing in turn, a horn sounded from the other side of the gardens, and a high voice called into the gathering darkness.

“Hail the Night! All hail Princess Luna!”

“That would be Herald Dazzle, wouldn’t it?” She smiled kindly at Silvermoon. “How is your sister?”

“As insufferable as ev—” he began, before remembering where he was. “Ah...” His ears burned brightly and he stared, poleaxed, at the tiles before him.

Celestia chuckled quietly, sparing a sympathetic look for the mortified pegasus. “I did ask. Well, I think our guest has waited long enough. Would you be so kind?”

“Yes, of course, Your Highness.” He turned and nodded to the guards at the chamber. Quickly regaining his composure, he stood at attention.

The heavy door opened, and a shaggy orange-maned unicorn in a black jacket turned to peer into the gallery. An uncomfortable silence began to build as he stood, stock-still, staring within.

A nearly imperceptible cough sounded in the side chamber. The pony stepped forward, looking left and right, attempting to get his bearings. Celestia waited upon her throne, watching the silhouetted pony stride as confidently as he could into her court. Despite his high chin and steady steps, he showed some signs of nervous reluctance. That would not do; she wanted him to be at ease. He passed the herald, and slowed, able to now see the princess clearly.

“Announcing Worker,” Silvermoon shouted, startling the newcomer. “Toymaker of Pasofino!”

“Thank you, Herald Silvermoon,” the princess replied with faint exasperation. She turned to study the pony that stood in the center of the gallery, treating him to a warm smile. Behind her peaceful features her mind raged with intense curiosity. The nervous pony tried to set his shoulders, and took a deep breath. He remained silent, and glanced throughout the gallery, shuffling his hooves.

Celestia wanted nothing more than to begin questioning him immediately. She longed to learn about his methods, his techniques, and what other creations he had devised, and was intensely curious about how his talent could affect the lives of Equestrians. Decorum, however, demanded otherwise. He was a subject, and thus deserved the utmost respect.

He also appeared to be frozen in place.

“Worker,” she intoned, “thank you for coming so soon. Please, approach. It would not do for us to shout at one another.”

Woken from his reverie, Worker stepped closer. “Ah... greetings, your Highness. I have come as you have requested.”

“So you have,” she replied, a hint of merriment dancing in her dulcet voice. “Welcome to Canterlot, Worker, and welcome to the Court of the Sun. I do hope my invitation did not upset your wedding plans.”

“Of course not, your Highness.”

He continued to try to meet her gaze, and seemed to be gaining ground. Celestia was pleased. He might not have known precisely why he was there, but he was confident he could manage. Excellent.

“I am happy to serve,” he replied with a smile, although it did not reach his eyes. “I must admit Skyshine wanted me to wait another week.”

The princess mused on his words. Was he reluctant? Perhaps, but it seemed to her that he was stuck between warring priorities. If that was the case, how should—of course. “I’ll see that you have speedy transportation back to Pasofino,” she replied. “After all, it’s not good to keep a new bride waiting.”

“Thank you, Your Highness.” His smile seemed genuine, now, and his tone more relaxed. “That is most generous, and I accept eagerly.”

He seemed relieved. There must have been some friction at home, after—Ah, she was doing it again. Her tendency to analyze others, while useful in diplomacy, did nothing to help her relate to her ponies. Forcing suspicion from her mind, she attempted to move the conversation closer to her goal.

“Now, it is well past the time when I normally hold court, and my personal guard has pulled an extended shift due to some minor emergencies. Would you walk with me, Worker? It would do me some good to stretch my legs and give these fine ponies a well-deserved rest.”

“Certainly, Princess,” he replied quickly, then remembering himself, added, “I would be honored.”

Nodding, the princess stood and gracefully stepped down from the sun-emblazoned dais. Gazing past Worker, she called, “Captain Cadence, please dismiss the Court. If you would also notify the Night Watch that I will be touring with a guest, it would be most appreciated. We will likely stay to the parapets and gardens.”

Cadence bowed low, nodded to the herald, then left through the doors by which Worker had entered. Once he was out of sight, her personal guard bowed as well, then followed behind.

Worker turned to walk beside her without comment. As he did so, Herald Silvermoon struck the floor with his right forehoof thrice, and announced, “So closes the Court of the Sun! All hail Princess Celestia!”

Her ponies did like ceremony. Some effort had been required to get them to agree to such a simple dismissal. It was only after convincing them that, in times of need, a swift dismissal ensured the safety of the crown that they relented. Still, it kept them happy and alert, and that was as good a reason as any.

She passed through the great doors and took a left towards the wide expanse of stairs that spiraled gracefully to the upper walks. Worker kept apace, more intent on the placement of his hooves than his words. Soon, the pair arrived at the top of the inner wall of the palace. Either side of the moonlit expanse was flanked by a crenellated wall and dotted with the occasional unicorn clad in silvery armor.

“So, Worker,” she began, stepping out into the night, “tell me: What inspires your work?” She slowed her gait to match his, to let him better focus on his answer.

“Inspiration?” He mused a moment, suddenly looking comfortable. This was familiar terrain. “The concept of a toy reflecting the natural world is nothing new, as you undoubtedly know, and...”

Celestia allowed herself a smile. Her answers would come soon enough.

The moon was nearing its zenith, and Celestia was still no closer to finding what she sought. Her guest was well-versed in every topic she thought she might use to regain control of the conversation, and more than once she found herself gaining an insight into some esoteric, unrelated point simply by listening. Still, they had been speaking for hours, and while the garden was lovely at night, she did have a few minor concerns elsewhere in the palace that she wanted to address before sunrise.

Celestia rested on a long stone bench beside a burbling fountain. Worker, electing to stand, paced back and forth, animatedly gesturing as he did so. He was elaborating on the topic of something he called “fractals” and how they helped his efforts to miniaturize his work. That discussion had spawned from one on a concept called “number theory”, and that one developed out of a chat on how his machines ran so efficiently. The topic seemed familiar, uncannily so... Ah, yes.

“These fractals, Worker,” she interjected. “They’re infinitely complex, correct? A pattern that never ends?”

“Well, yes. Following the mathematics, the patterns disregard scale.”

“What do you believe would happen if you were manipulate the pattern at a given level?”

“Manipulate? In what way? The calculation results in the pattern. There are some systems that can reverse-engineer that, but...”

“I mean, what would happen to the rest of the pattern?” Celestia felt a little guilty for leading Worker on, but she had to know...

“It’s a new question to me, your Highness. I suppose...” Worker’s voice trailed off as he stared at the stars, lost in thought.

Celestia stood from the long stone bench and stepped close to Worker. She joined him in the study of the stars, and then quietly asked a simple question of her subject.

“Worker, who taught you how to use magic?”

“Magic?” He shook out his mane, clearing his head, then looked at the princess, only to be met by a warm smile. Under that knowing gaze, he decided to keep his answers as direct as he could. “I learned from Whisper.”

“Have you known Whisper long?” The princess’ voice was low and urgent, tuned not to carry over the noise of the fountain.

“About five years, now...”

“And you are not a colt, Worker.”

“Well, no, I...” He froze. His jaw worked silently as he struggled to regain his speech, his eyes wild with fear.

Celestia stepped back slightly, and looked into his face. She knotted her brow in genuine concern, and compassion tempered her voice. “I did not wish to trap you, Worker, but I must know.” She looked about for a moment, her horn glimmering under the moonlight. “Good. There are no ears that can hear us. Tell me, Worker: Where is your home? Truly?”

“I...” His eyes were still wide, but the earlier panic had faded to resignation. “Princess,” he sighed, “what gave me away?”

Celestia walked to the nearby fountain. She watched the rippling water for a few seconds before returning her gaze to the pony before her. “At an early age, every unicorn in the realm is offered formal instruction to master the basics of their magic. Every so often, a family refuses. This is rare, and I hear about each instance.”

She glanced back to the fountain, and channeled briefly, bringing out a small sphere of water.

“One of first concepts taught is that of resonance. Resonance states that small changes—”

She tapped the bottom of the sphere with her horn. Ripples traveled across its surface, crashing together when they reached the top, converging with a tiny splash.

“—unfold into large changes, if channeled correctly. It is very similar to these fractals, Worker, and had you been introduced to the concept earlier, I do wonder what works you might have accomplished.”

She glanced at the sphere of water, and it poured itself back into the fountain.

“But that is neither here nor there.” She looked at him once more, and continued, “Tell me: From where do you hail?”

Worker looked up at the stars in a silent plea. He sighed, and met the princess’ gaze. “I come from a world called Mobius—that is, a planet by that name. I came here through a portal, a tear in the fabric of space, when I sought retirement from that world. When I arrived here, I wasn’t a pony. I found myself in a cavern...”

As his story continued, Celestia’s serene mask slowly faded, her face darkening in the moonlight.