The Changelings haven't been sitting idle the three years they haved been gone. Now they're back and better than ever, with their sights set squarely on the alicorns of Equestria. One dark mare, shrowded in mystery, sits right in the crosshairs.
Queen Chrysalis has a plan for the ponies who slighted her the last time she invaded. In order to take over Equestria and get revenge on those who foiled her, she sends her son, Prince Silver Jacket, to seduce and control one of the princesses. His target of choice, Princess Luna. Disguised as a member of Luna's personal guard, Silver Jacket worms his way into the good graces of the royal family, with the aim of stealing a powerful artifact and turning it against the alicorns. With the power of all four princesses, Queen Chrysalis will be able to break free of her imprisonment and would be unstoppable in her quest to rule ponykind. The only thing that could possibly stand in her way, and the plans she has for the ponies, is something that not even she could possibly foresee. Could Silver Jacket's feelings for Luna be more than an act, or was it all just a ploy to get under her fur? Only time will tell, and only fate knows the outcome of this battle for love and country.
My patchwork wings buzzed softly as I flew down the twisting tunnels of our nest, my silver carapace glinting in the infrequent shafts of light that filtered through the partially covered air ports. My cobweb mane and tail were neat and smooth, their pale white coloration a stark contrast to the sickly green tint that the drones sported. See, unlike them, I was unique, I was special. We might all be sons and daughters of the queen, but only I could be called her heir. Thus I, Prince Silver Jacket, slowly followed the familiar route to the deepest and darkest reaches of our nest, where our mother patiently awaited my arrival.
Here, where the only light was provided by bioluminescent moss, was where our mother resided, although it was far from her choice. As I paused next to the opening to her chambers, I could hear the soft clink of metal on stone as she moved around. The sound set my fangs on edge, because I knew what that sound was even without seeing those accursed chains. I cleared my throat softly to announce my presence, and I heard a great sigh echo through the next room before she spoke.
“You may enter my son.” Her voice hummed softly though the air as I rounded the corner, her emerald gaze locking in on me from under her dark green mane as she attempted to rise to her full height.
I bowed my head in respect as I walked up to her, though only enough as was required. After all, we were both royal within the changeling ranks, so my motion was not needed but was still appreciated. I gazed upon her slightly hunched form as I lifted my gaze once again, noting that while her horn had begun to heal and her wings didn’t look as threadbare as before, the great chains that drained her magic were still as strong as ever.
The twin lengths were attached to a magically enhanced shackle that bound her to the chamber walls around her barrel, forcing her to either sit upright or lay on her side in order to avoid getting pulled in one direction or another. The black iron links hummed with magic as they drained her power into the very structure that had become our home, the green bolts of energy making quick flashes as the air cracked with each burst. They did not look to be all that strong, and yet their very nature made them impossible to break. Because they would drain away any magic used upon them, and increased their strength with each burst of stolen power, no amount of force short of an alicorn could hope to shatter their detestable bond. It was all because of those damnable ponies that she was like this, and why after three years we had still not found a way to free her.
She nodded her head in turn as I sat down in front of her, the chains clinking softly at the motion, “We have much to discuss this day Silver Jacket. But first, I wish to know if you have chosen one of my daughters to be your mate. You are fast approaching your coronation, and yet you seem to have no interest in finding a suitable queen.”
“Forgive me mother, but there are no drones that have caught my eye within these halls.” I paused to blow a rebellious lock of my mane out of my face before continuing, “Perhaps I would be more successful if you let me look through the heirs of other queens, they might be more to my liking and would make our hive stronger by combining our strength with that of another.”
She ground her fangs together in annoyance, “I would prefer if you would choose among your brothers in sisters first. Combining royal lines among changelings has always been a risky business, even before our disastrous attempt at ruling the ponies.” She tossed the matter aside with a flip of her mane, “Regardless, that is not the matter that I wished to speak to you about. I have a mission for you, one that could very well free me from this forsaken prison and give us the power to finally take over Equestria.”
I leaned closer, my eyes glinting with interest, “Oh, what plans have you formed this time mother? Are we going to pony-nap one of the princesses again?”
She shook her head, a dark fire flashing in her eyes for the first time since her imprisonment, “Oh nothing as open or straightforward as that my son.” She chuckled evilly as her fangs glinted in the darkness, “Oh no, we will be doing something far more devious than that.” I leaned closer, eager to hear what it was she had in mind.
“You will be going to Canterlot,” she spoke softly, like it was a secret only I should be hearing, “and when you get there I want you to pick one of the princesses as your target. I don’t really care which, so long as they do not suspect you or your motives. Once you have secured their trust, you will search for the item known as the Amulet of Autolycus and use its power to steal the magic from the royal family. The amulet allows the wearer to use the magic stolen from others, and we will use that power to free me from these chains once and for all. Then, with the alicorns powerless to stop us, we shall take our rightful place as the rulers of Equestria.”
I smiled as my mind exploded with possibilities, all focused on how I could seduce one of the princesses into doing my bidding. Chrysalis laughed for the first time in years, the echoing sound making my chitin tingle with excitement as I began to join in. Our combined call to arms rang through the tunnels of our nest, causing the hive to buzz as drones worked faster and with more purpose. There was only one reason the Queen and her son would be laughing, and that was cause to work harder and with greater strength, because the hive was about to go to war.
As we slowly brought our laughter back under control, Chrysalis turned to me with a wicked smile and slowly began to sing, Demons of hate and fury, please break me from this cell. For these stone walls and iron chains have been witness to the hell. Of a changeling's broken dream, and spell. Like a hunter without a bow, a queen without her gown. The power that once surged through me, Has burned to ashes with my crown.
She placed a hoof on my chest and matched my gaze with her own as she continued, her eyes flashing with pride and determination,
All that I once had I give it to you. They will pay for making me fall, before we’re through.
She removed her hoof and pressed it into one of the chains holding her down, her smile warping into a frown of fury as she ground the iron into the stone beneath it,
Somepony break this spell. Shackled to my heart. Soon you’ll be leaving, I'm begging for vengeance, for you to break this spell. Please heaven help me now, Break these shackles for my crown. And you’re on your way,
Her gaze locked with mine as the last line hissed through her fangs,
To bring them down.
My wings buzzed with excitement as I stood up, my own fangs on display as I placed my own hoof on her shoulder,
Stoke the fire that fills your veins, surging like a wave. I’ll lead you out of the darkness, it is the hive we work to save. All you once had you give it to me. They will pay for making you fall, just wait and see.
I moved my hoof until it rested on top of her own, adding more pressure to the chain link as our eyes burned with a twin fire of vengeance,
For I will break this spell. Shackled to your heart. Soon I’ll be leaving, They'll beg me for mercy, when I break this spell. Please heaven help me now, Break these shackles for her crown. And I'm on my way, To bring them down.
She moved her hoof from under mine and pulled me to her side, our gazes locked on a distant castle that only we could see. Her voice joined in with mine, creating a chorus of hatred that echoed around the room as we swore to ourselves and our hive that our actions would be the downfall of anyone who stood in our way,
Hear us when we say Curse their love and break their bones, When we set they’re world on fire. We’re gonna give them all-out war Their fear will be rising higher and higher. Shroud them in the cold and dark, before we give one last farewell. When we finally break this spell
For a moment there was silence as she turned her gaze to mine, her voice soft as she pressed her flank against me,
All that I once had I give it to you. They will pay for making me fall, before we’re through.
I joined in with her for the last time, our voices rising in volume until the whole hive could hear us,
Cause we will break this spell. Shackled round this heart. Soon we’ll be leaving, They'll beg us for mercy, when we break this spell. Please heaven help us now, Break these shackles for our crown. And we're on our way, To bring them down.
Our voices echoed off the tunnel walls as I stepped away from her, my eyes blazing with the same determination as hers as I walked out of the chamber.
“Do me proud son.” Her voice followed me as I stepped around the corner, “Make them regret they ever believed they could hold us down.”
I paused for a moment as I replied, “They will know your hatred and will bow before us by the time I am done. Rest assured that you will be free once again, mother. This I swear to you.”
With that I walked through the various tunnels of the hive, taking my time to form a plan of action, now that my determination had cooled to a calm and calculating simmer. To achieve what mother planned was not going to be easy. It would take every skill and every type of manipulation I had learned to even stand a chance at success, and even then it would have to be done with the most delicate of touches, or risk falling apart at the seams.
The wind rippled through my mane and tail as I stepped outside and onto one of the many landing platforms near the top of the hive. This one was so close to the top it might as well have been perched on the peak of a mountain for how vast and far-reaching the view was. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath as my wings buzzed in anticipation of flight. I denied them that wish for now, instead letting them create a pleasant counterpoint to the whistling of the wind as it moved through the many air ducts and tunnels within the monolithic structure.
Far to the east I could see the mountains that separated the capital from this desolate plain, the sickly grass and spindly trees providing barely enough nutrients to sustain our prey. While changelings could survive without love, it was still necessary for us to grow and for our magic to function outside of our basic transformation abilities. Even a royal such as me, who could feed off of any emotion in place of love, would be hard pressed to lift a stone the size of a horseshoe without straining. Needless to say, we could survive out here, but we would never thrive or expand unless we could find a source of love.
I sat down and closed my eyes once more, bringing to mind the princesses of Equestria so that I could figure out who my target would be. The images of four mares, each as unique as the last, formed in my mind until I had a complete picture of each from shoe to horn.
The first was by far the tallest, easily standing a head taller than the others, her mane and tail rippling ribbons of prismatic colors that flowed in an ethereal wind. Her coat was the most pure white, while her eyes were a pale magenta. I immediately discarded Princess Celestia as a target, given her experience with changelings in the past as well as the simple fact that she never let common ponies into her personal life.
The third alicorn, a bright pink in color with a tri-tone mane and tail, was also discarded, given that she had been the target of our last attempt at taking over Equestria. On top of that, she was married to the captain of the royal guard, so any attempts at seducing her would have to be done in his image. This would pile on his pony-napping and one extra complication that I simply couldn’t afford.
The fourth, a purple youth with a dark blue mane and tail was also removed as a candidate, mostly because she was the one who discovered our ploy during the royal wedding as well as being too young to be a true target. Add on her five friends just to make things even more difficult, and it came up to a total of being simply out of the question.
That left only one princess as a possible target, although I was beginning to wonder if mother had the right idea going after the princesses for the second time in a row. Princess Luna, the younger of the Royal Sisters, was a near complete mystery to even her own subjects, choosing to stay out of the public eye for the most part and caring for the citizens during their sleep. Very little was known about the midnight blue alicorn, although given her tragic past I figured that she at least presented some options as to getting on her good side. The fact that she stayed out of the public eye would actually work in my favor, although that created the problem of how to get into her good graces to begin with. My wings buzzed in concentration as I tried to come up with any and all ways of getting close to her without drawing attention to myself, when I realized something.
Before she was banished to the moon, Princess Luna had a group of ponies known as the Shadow Sword, a small group that had been blessed with the powers of the night in order to act as her personal guard. From what our scouts had been able to discover, the Shadow Sword had not been reestablished upon her return to grace. Instead, a portion of the Day Guard had been reassigned to the night shift to act as sentries during the time that Celestia and her chosen were asleep. I opened my eyes as I gazed out upon the open grassland separating our hive from our rightful home, my lips curling as an idea began to form in my mind.
Who was to say that the Shadow Sword had to remain decommissioned? What if somepony volunteered to be the first member of the new Shadow Sword and took the position as the one and only personal guard to the Princess of the Night? I chuckled to myself as I lifted off of the platform and began flying across the open plains, heading straight for the glowing halo that shone from behind the distant mountains. That glow, while faint from such a distance, was the light of Canterlot and its thousands of residents as they went about their evening routines. Slowly, as the moon began its graceful accent into the sky, the glow faded until there was only the sparkling of the stars and the silver moonbeams to light my way.
With a flash of green fire, I changed into a dark grey pegasus stallion, my mane and tail pure silver a shade or two darker than my natural coloration. On my flanks a full moon with a black shield covering the right side appeared, and with it I created the name that I would be known by while on my mission.
“Just you wait Princess Luna,” I said in my new voice, the warm tenor mixed with a slight growl to be easy on the ears, “because Silver Shield is coming to rock your world.”
With that I flew off into the darkness, knowing full well that the fate of my hive rested squarely on my shoulders. My queen needed me, my mother needed me, and I was not going to let anything, not even the princesses, stand in my way.
The flight into Equestria was rather uneventful, despite there being several pegasi flying around under the stars. Most simply waved and sent a quick smile before continuing on their merry way, completely oblivious to the fact that a strange pegasus was flying straight towards the capital. Either the ponies had gotten far too complacent during our absence, or they had completely forgotten how easily we had infiltrated their ranks before. I shrugged my wing bases as I cleared the top of the mountains, any lack of security on the part of the ponies would only make my mission easier.
Below me, sprawled out like a spider web of stone and brick, was Canterlot. The great city covered nearly ten square miles of land, with almost half of the structures hanging off of the cliff-side and what seemed to be far too little stone between the buildings and a straight drop to the plains below. However, as impressive as the sights were, they were not my primary concern. I made a slow turn until I once again faced the mountain, the towering spires of Canterlot Castle rising up to rival the great peak that shadowed them. The polished marble almost glowed under the moon’s ethereal light, and I couldn’t help but imagine what it might look like once mother took over. The smooth stone would be riddled with holes for ease of access to the interior, the white and purple colors would be muted to a dark green or grey, and the great towers would be reduced to rubble in favor of a single monolithic dome centered within the courtyard.
My mind was shaken from its musings as I detected wing beats coming up from below, and I glanced downward in time to spot two Night Guard pegasi flying up at me. They had matching dark grey coats and deep purple armor covering the majority of their bodies. In their hooves they held identical short swords, although they had yet to aim them at me, and their eyes held the slight glaze of ponies that didn’t want to be doing what they had to do.
“This area is a restricted flight zone.” The guard on the left said as he and his companion flew up in front of me, “State your business and move along before we arrest you.”
I lifted one brow in mock surprise, “Restricted airspace? I had no idea. I just flew into town and I was taken in by the sights. Terribly sorry for causing any trouble, it won’t happen again sir.”
He nodded once, his expression stern as he turned back towards the castle, “See that you remember that next time. You won’t get off with a second warning.”
With that they dropped back towards the castle, leaving me to hover alone as I pondered my options. There wasn’t any way I could sneak into the castle from the air, although my intentions didn’t require stealth. Perhaps it would be simplest to walk in the front door? After all, they had no reason to suspect a single unarmed pegasus.
With almost comical ease I flew down to the main gates of the castle, identified myself to the two bumbling guards stationed there, and proceeded into the castle itself without so much as a single precautionary inspection.
I snorted to myself, “The ponies must be absolutely mad to have such lax security. I mean, really, letting a complete stranger into the heart of their local government without even checking some kind of identification?” I spit into a random flowerpot as I made my way along the corridor, “Sloppy, far too sloppy.”
After taking a few wrong turns and checking with some of the interior staff, I made my way up to a set of great doors, carved with the image of the Royal Sisters flying in a circle around Equestria’s national symbol. I took a moment to inspect the design in greater detail, before a pony on my right cleared her throat.
I averted my gaze from the doors and turned them towards the pony in question, a middle-aged unicorn mare with a dark green coat dressed in a form-fitting black dress. Her mane was a near-black purple with streaks of grey here and there, although her eyes were sharp as she inspected me from ear to hoof.
“Why is it that you wish to speak with Princess Luna?” She asked, her voice nearly monotone as the dull flavor of boredom washed over me. “Night Court is currently open to those seeking an audience with her, but I before you can enter you must state your plea to me.”
I fought to urge to roll my eyes as I walked up to her, “My dear lady, I wish to speak with Princess Luna about a matter of personal importance. While I understand you need to know something about my request, I’m afraid that it is something that only the princess herself can truly grasp.”
One eyebrow rose in a questioning manner, a slight spark of cherry curiosity overlaying the waves of boredom, “Oh, I take it that you wish a personal favor of her Majesty and it has some impact that she alone will understand?”
I nodded, hoping that she would buy my song and dance.
She sighed as she turned to the doors, the spark vanishing as she once again resumed her stagnant watch, “Very well, I shall announce you.” She glanced back at me as her horn ignited with a soft pink glow, “And your name would be?”
“Silver Shield madam.” I replied.
She nodded as the doors were enveloped in her magic, the massive structures opening with a smooth and soundless motion as the mare stepped forward.
“Announcing the petitioner Silver Shield!” Her voice rang through the room, and I saw with a slight twinge of amusement that Princess Luna jumped to attention on her throne, almost like she had been about to doze off prior to my entrance.
I walked forward as the attendant closed the doors behind me, leaving me alone before the Princess of the Night, members of the Night Guard stationed around the perimeter of the room like sentinels. She was seated on a solid black throne, marked with a crescent moon over her head and a midnight blue pillow under her rump. Next to her was the currently vacant throne that Celestia would normally reside in, the curved backing marked with a blazing sun over the pure while oak wood. While Luna’s throne was not as tall as her sister’s, it was no less imposing as she gazed upon me from the top of the dais. I bowed before her, closing my eyes and waiting for her to acknowledge me. Petitioner or not, respect to her rank was a must if I wanted to get anywhere with her.
There was a pause, and I almost thought I felt a twinge of lime nervousness coming from the throne before she spoke, “You may rise Silver Shield. State your request so that I may attempt to assist you however I can.”
I rose until I stood straight, my gaze locking with hers as I spoke, “Princess Luna, I have come with a request that you alone can approve. I have always been curious about you and how you used to rule Equestria before your imprisonment. It was due to this wonder that while looking through Equestria’s history, I stumbled across a scroll mentioning something called the Shadow Sword.” I noticed her eyes widen slightly at the mention of her former guard, “It described in detail who and what these ponies represented, and I realized that I wanted to bring back that which used to be your pride and joy. The Shadow Sword were said to have been gifted with the blessings of the night, and were trusted above all save for your sister when it came to matters of state and your own life.”
I took a few steps forward and bowed my head once again, “It would be an honor if you would allow me to volunteer to be the first member of the new Shadow Sword, as I believe it is my destiny to protect and serve Equestria at your side.”
The silence was palpable and I could taste the sharp cinnamon of shock as it radiated off of everypony present, the princess foremost among them. For several long moments she seemed at a complete loss for words, before a smooth wave of evergreen calm washed away the shock that had permeated the room.
“I can honestly say that nopony has ever requested that.” she replied in a perfectly level voice, “Few even venture out at this hour, let alone choose to speak with me rather than my sister. Lift your head Silver Shield, so that I may look you in the eye as I speak.”
I complied with her request, rising from my bow and locking my icy gaze with her deep ocean eyes. She scrutinized me for a moment, much like her attendant had done before, although her eyes seemed to bore much deeper into me than I could have ever imagined. For a split second I was tempted to fidget under her penetrating gaze, but my training overrode that impulse, knowing that any sign of discomfort could tip off my prey that something wasn’t right.
She smiled as she softened her eyes, her back straightening as she relaxed her posture, “Few would dare hold my gaze like that. I comment you for your courage and hope that you retain that quality in the future.” She stood up fully for the first time, her voice ringing out across the room, “Crystal Crier!”
The mare that ushered me in opened the door and stepped through with a slightly bewildered expression, “You called your Majesty?”
“Please inform Captain Shining Armor as soon as it is convenient that he will be receiving a new trainee the day after tomorrow.” Luna replied in a softer tone, “Silver Shield will be undergoing the training required of a castle guard before he will be worthy of becoming the first new Shadow Sword.” Her gaze leveled on me, “You will be required to pass all of the tests set before you, and even then you may not be chosen to undergo the changes required of a Shadow Sword. Do you still wish to proceed, knowing what you do now?”
Either way, it mattered little to me so long as I could be around the princesses and could move through the castle unimpeded. While becoming a member of Luna’s personal guard would be beneficial to my mission, it was not required for it to succeed.
I bowed one last time, “I understand your Highness. I will do my best to prove I am worthy of being a Shadow Sword.”
I looked up as she nodded, her calm demeanor now fully restored from her initial shock, “I look forward to your progress. Crier will show you to one of the guest bedrooms for the night. I’m sure you will need the time you have to rest before your training begins.”
“Thank you your Majesty,” I said as I followed Crier out of the room, my lips curling into a hidden smile as the doors closed behind me. Luna might not know it, but she had just invited her greatest enemy into her home, and no one was going to be the wiser until it was far too late.
I followed Crier down several hallways until we reached what looked like the guest wing. The only indication I had of that idea was the identical doors running along both sides of the hallway, along with the magical plaques that adorned the wall next to each one. The plaque next to the door in front of us flashed once before white magic began carving my false name into the gold surface. Crier paid the plaque no mind as she pulled a ring of keys from one pocket of her dress, the fabric curiously having showed no signs of being occupied prior to the action. She unlocked the door and stepped to one side so that I could enter, her hoof extended in a polite gesture as I walked into my temporary residence.
It wasn’t large or extravagant by any stretch of the imagination, but it would be more than enough for the two days I would be staying in it. I had a feeling the mattress and pillows would be expecting far too much of the guard barracks once I began my training. So, without paying much attention to the rest of the room or my shadow, I flew over to the bed and flopped onto its downy surface with a solid thump. “Remember,” Crier said in a warning tone, “you are a guest of the castle until you begin your training as a guard. That does not give you the right to destroy castle property or go mucking about where you don’t belong. Stay out of trouble, or I’ll throw you out of this castle myself. Is that understood?”
My fake snoring was her only answer. Had I even paid attention for longer than three seconds anyway, I would have discarded her warning out of hoof. She might not think of me as anything more than a featherbrained pegasus, but the mind manipulation powers of a changeling were not to be trifled with. Even if I did get into trouble, a single memory spell would be all I would need to put my mission back on track. She closed the door with a huff, the latch clicking softly as her hoofsteps faded down the corridor. I opened one eye and pushed up into a sitting position, going over my current options and what they might provide me with in the future.
On one hoof, being a part of the regular Night Guard would provide me with all the access I needed to find and steal the Amulet of Autolycus. Getting to the princesses from that point forward would be a simple task. However, if I could indeed become the newest member of the Shadow Sword, the opportunities the added level of trust and closeness to Luna would create would make the mission all too easy to accomplish. In fact, it might even provide me the one thing no changeling had ever been able to claim, the love of an alicorn. While it was a general assumption that love from different types of ponies provided different levels of power, nopony had ever been able to see if the love of an alicorn would prove to be greater than the more common breeds. It was a once in a lifetime chance to gain the greatest power any changeling had ever wielded, and then use it to destroy Equestria from the inside out while the princess’ magic allowed my mother to break free of her prison. Combined we would be unstoppable, and we would rule Equestria as we were always meant to, while the ponies supplied us with an endless supply of love.
I chuckled to myself, imagining the raw energy and power I could wield if I could somehow get Luna to fall in love with me. It wouldn’t be an easy task, but if I could prove my worth to her, and become a Shadow Sword with her blessing, then the only thing standing in my way would be time. Oh, and there was nothing but time for me to carry out my mission. Mother had been imprisoned for three long years, she could wait a little longer if the ultimate prize was her standing over Celestia in Canterlot Castle’s throne room. And me sitting beside her with a brainwashed Luna as my queen, I added as an afterthought.
I let my head come to rest on the pillow once more, closing my eyes after locking my transformation spell for the night. Changelings could remain hidden even in sleep, but it took a special magic lock to keep our disguises solid once we passed out. After checking the lock was in place, I let myself slowly drift off, knowing that come sunrise, I had work to do in preparation for my new life as Silver Shield. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew that with enough patience and proper planning, mother’s dream would finally become a reality.
The morning light that shined through my window awoke me just as the first rays peaked over the horizon. I grumbled and rolled over, hoping to get some more sleep, although my would-be late start was cut short when I remembered what it was I had to do. While my training as a guard wouldn’t start until tomorrow, that did not mean I could sit idle while the entire city of Canterlot was at my disposal to recon and investigate.
I pushed away my sheets and rolled into a sitting position, rubbing my face with one hoof before letting out a huge yawn. Had it been any other day, I would have gladly slept in. But, duty called, so I stood up and walked over to the door, ignoring the details of my room as I had the night before. It was a place I could sleep and plan my next move, nothing else mattered, given I would not be staying here from this point onward.
The door opened with a slight squeak, and I let myself out before closing the entryway behind me. I ruffled my feathers a bit and shook out my legs to get my blood pumping, and started off down a random hallway, wondering how far I could get before the security stopped me. Nopony else seemed to be up, and the few guards I saw were still rubbing the sleep from their eyes as they took their posts. I waved to a few, thinking that being friendly couldn’t hurt, especially if I was going to be one of them before too long. Most simply nodded back, although one young mare averted her gaze and tried to hide the blush that formed on her cheeks. I basked in the vanilla flavors of attraction, letting my body take in as much as I could before I walked around the next corner.
I smiled to myself, now feeling energized and ready to seize the day. While I could have easily grabbed a snack from the castle kitchens, the raw emotion I had just absorbed would be enough to last me all day, even if I picked up nothing else from anypony before I went to sleep. While it was nowhere near the amount of power that I would have received from love, the strength would be enough for a while and would suit my tastes far better than the other emotions I could feed on. Royal changelings could feed off of any emotion, unlike drones, who could only process pure love. The only drawback was that any emotion that wasn’t love supplied a reduced amount of power, with the emotions unrelated to love providing less than more positive emotions. Attraction or happiness would produce a fairly large surge, while more negative emotions like anger and fear would do little more than act as a light snack, even in very large quantities.
I shook my head to clear the stray thoughts from my head. I needed to focus, and I had a feeling that my first destination should be the castle barracks. While I wasn’t scheduled to report in for training just yet, that didn’t mean I couldn’t look around the place and figure out my surroundings. Rule number one during infiltration, know your location and all possible routes for either escape or ambush sites. It was the first thing all changelings learned before our first hunt, followed quickly by the other two. A changeling must never reveal his or her identity while on mission, and must always have a second disguise ready in case of discovery. I had already logged the image of Crystal Crier into my mind, knowing that if things got out of hoof she would be the last pony anypony would suspect.
The winding halls of the castle passed like an oversaturated painting, the bright purples and white marble almost enough to make me squint. Little of the décor interested me, save for the stain glass windows that seemed to be everywhere I looked. There were ones that had to be centuries old, while the more recent ones looked like they had been molded out of liquid rainbows. I paused under one particular pane, my stomach twisting in anger as I looked up at the gilded image.
In the center were two ponies, their bodies bent into the general shape of a heart and waves of pink magic radiating from their bodies. The pony on the left was a white unicorn stallion with a dark blue mane and tail, while the one on the right was a pink alicorn with a tricolor mane and tail. Below them were twisted green images that I could barely recognize as changelings, and I resisted the urge to shatter the glass as I turned away. It was one thing to hear of our defeat at the hooves of Princess Cadence and Prince Shining Armor, it was quite another to have that defeat rubbed in my face in such a spectacular fashion.
I moved on to the outer courtyard of the castle, letting the sunlight warm my fur for a moment before I made my way towards a squat building on the west side. It wasn’t much to look at, given the splendor that surrounded me, but then again, it wasn’t meant to be impressive. The guard barracks was a two-story rectangle that was made of simple grey stone, flanked on one side by a fenced training ground and two smaller buildings on the other. A quick glance at the secondary structures proved my initial suspicions correct, one was almost certainly the armory, as it was secured with heavy iron locks and the windows were barred. The second building, partially hidden behind the armory, was a tavern. There was a signpost swinging idly over the door, displaying the image of a mug superimposed on a guard’s helm. The words, The Iron Tap were carved into the wood under the image, and I could imagine the residents of the barracks were quite happy to enjoy their time off shift within these walls. After all, what better way to blow off steam then over a cold drink with comrades who have to do the same boring tasks day in and day out.
From what I could tell the Night Guard members were already in bed, if the loud snoring coming from the barracks windows was anything to go by. The Day Guard had already taken their posts on the city walls and within the castle hallways, although I was slightly puzzled when I heard the sounds of metal on wood coming from the training grounds.
I spread my wings and flew up and over the building, spotting the lone pony along the far right side of the grounds, a sword held in his telekinetic grip as it pounded against a wooden dummy. His helm was resting on a bench behind the line of training targets, so his dark blue mane was open to the air as his head whipped back and forth as he slashed and bashed his sword against the ironwood mannequin. Even from a hundred yards away, I knew in an instant who it was I had stumbled across, Prince Shining Armor, captain of the Royal Guard. I waited for a moment, content to observe as he alternated between sword strikes and magic attacks, the spells impacting the enhanced wood with enough force to knock it back several feet. It was no wonder that a unicorn with so much magical power could defeat my brothers and sisters. Combine that strength with the might of an alicorn and I was surprised that mother even survived the blast that banished us to the Badlands. Although, in truth I wasn’t that surprised. Even with all that power at their disposal, the ponies were soft-hearted and that made them too weak to finish us for good. Now their mistake would cost them everything, and I would take great pleasure in killing the stallion before me myself, once his wife had been properly dealt with.
Shining Armor stopped his seemingly endless assault on the dummy, taking several deep breaths as he lowered his sword and moved over to the bench his helm rested on. I took that moment to fly down towards him, calling a quick hello as I went. He looked up and acknowledged my approach with a nod, his magic picking up a large container that he quickly drained of its contents.
I landed a few feet from him and walked up, noticing that despite his obvious workout, the prince had barely even started to sweat. “Hi. You’re Shining Armor right? I was taking a look around and I couldn’t help but see you practicing.”
He wiped his mouth with a hoof before answering, “That’s right, and you’re the new trainee I heard about. Silver Shield if I remember correctly. You caused quite a stir among the ranks when you volunteered to be a member of Princess Luna’s personal guard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pony with more guts than you for asking the princess like you did.”
I averted my gaze, faking bashfulness, “You heard about that?”
He laughed, a warm sound that made me want to puke, “Oh everypony knows about the pegasus that was crazy enough to sign up for guard training. Most of us are here because we need the bits, not because we want to be. I don’t know if I should wish you luck or try and talk you out of it, but either way you have my support. I will be in charge of your training after all, so I might as well see what you’ve got.”
I looked up, my eyes wide with honest surprise, “Come again?”
He smirked, a face that I found to be both irritating and unsettling at the same time, “You heard me trainee. Your official training starts tomorrow. Your initiation starts right now.”
He tossed a set of pads into the air and attached them to my body with his magic before I could get in a word edgewise. Before I even knew what was going on, he grabbed me in his telekinetic grip and lobbed me into the air, my wings flaring just in time to stop me from crashing into the dirt. I shook my head to make the world stop spinning, just in time to dive to the side as a blast of magic whistled past my head.
“Come on trainee,” Shining Armor called out as he fired more magic bolts at me, “you’ve got to do better than that if you want to be a guard.”
I realized I had no choice in the matter if I wanted to get out of this without getting flattened. So, I pumped my wings and flew straight up, positioning myself in the glare of the sun and diving straight for Shining Armor while his vision was knocked out. He sent a few magic blasts my way but quickly switched to defense when he realized what I was doing. A pink dome formed around his body and I was forced to break off or risk smashing my teeth in. I growled in frustration as I went back to dodging magic bolts, Shining Armor’s lips turned up into that damnable smirk of his.
I ducked and wove through the air, trying to figure out a strategy. I knew fighting the captain head on was a foolish idea, and with the strength of his shield spells, I had no chance of getting at him once he put one up. So, my only option would be to get past his attacks without giving him cause to put up a shield. Then, it hit me. I could use his pony compassion against him. It would hurt, but I had a feeling it was a tactic he would never see coming.
I dodged bolt after bolt, making it look like I was trying to get close to him. Yet, just as I anticipated he was about to put up a shield, I did the unexpected. I faked one of my wings cramping, causing my flight path to change directly into the trajectory of one of his bolts. I curled my wing into the path to try and soften the blow, but it still hit me like a brick wall as the force pinned my wing against my side and flung me across the field. I grunted as the air was knocked out of my lungs, but at least my wing took the brunt of the blow, meaning the spots that flashed across my vision didn’t fade to black as my side impacted the hard-packed dirt. I slid for several feet, forcing my body to go limp as I bumped over rocks and dirt clods, coming to a slow stop with my right wing pinned under my flank.
I closed my eyes and pretended to be unconscious, knowing that the captain would check on me if he thought I had been injured. I wasn’t disappointed as he cursed under his breath, the sound of his rapid hoofsteps reaching my ears as he raced towards me.
“Are you alright?” He yelled as he slid to a stop next to me, “Speak to me Silver Shield!”
I stayed perfectly still, barely breathing as I sensed him move closer. Then, just as I felt his hoof touch my flank, I sprang into action. I pushed off of the ground with as much force as I could muster, grabbing onto the captain as he yelped in surprise. We tumbled for a moment, my superior speed getting the better of him as I spun us around, pinning his chest against the ground as I twisted one hoof behind his back.
I bent over and chuckled as he struggled in vain under me, “Gotcha. Never assume an opponent is out unless you put a sleep spell on them. Nice power bolt though. If I hadn’t got it with my wing first I would have been out cold for real. What were you trying to do, knock my teeth in?”
He stopped struggling as he turned his head to meet my gaze, “Just giving you a proper Guard welcome. Nice trick, faking being hurt like that. I never would have thought of pulling a stunt like you did just to get the drop on somepony.” He glanced at my hoof holding his behind his back, “You mind letting me up now?”
My answer was to release him and step back, shaking the dust out of my fur as he stood up. His armor was coated in dirt and his mane was a complete mess, although his smirk had been replaced by a true smile, his eyes glowing with the barest hint of respect.
“Nopony’s gotten the best of me like that in a while.” He said as he offered me his hoof, “We should spar again sometime, if you can survive the training I’m going to put you through that is.”
I smirked, shaking his hoof with my own, “I look forward to it, although I think I’m going to need something more than pads if I’m going to be taking you on anytime soon.” I winced as I shook out my wing, “Those bolts of yours sure pack a wallop.”
He nodded, the slightly spicy taste of pride coming off him as he lifted his head, “Runs in the family. Nice to talk with you Silver Shield. I look forward to seeing how you do in the actual guard training. If you can do stuff like that every day, I’m certain you’ll have no trouble making it through.”
I waved farewell as he picked up his helm and canteen, watching him for a moment before turning back to the training dummies. I checked over my shoulder to make sure he was truly gone, and then used a quick burst of telekinesis to snap the dummy’s head from its body.
“Just you wait Shining Armor.” I hissed under my breath, “I’m going to make you suffer for what you did to my hive, right after I finish draining you wife of every scrap of magic that she has.”
I turned and walked back the way I had come, the dummy’s head dropping to the ground with a dull thud, rolling along the ground before coming to a stop against the now headless body’s leg. My mission would come first, that would never be a question, but I had a score to settle with that unicorn, and the first chance I had, I was going to make sure he regretted ever crossing the changelings. After that, I was going to do the same thing I had done to the dummy, only it wasn’t going to be nearly so quick or painless.
I took a deep breath to calm my frayed nerves as I made my way back through the halls of the castle, letting my hooves take me wherever they might. I thought about exploring the rest of the grounds, but I also needed to make certain that the castle itself wasn’t hiding any unwelcome surprises. I had no doubts about what would happen to me if I was discovered, so my first priority was to make sure there wasn’t anypony inside the castle that might see through my disguise. The alicorns would be able to in a heartbeat if they had cause to worry, but without evidence to support such an invasive breach of privacy, I knew they would never dare alienate one of their precious ponies. I had just passed what seemed to be the thousandth identical doorway in another brilliantly colored hallway, when I ran straight into another pony coming around the corner. We both stumbled and ended up in a heap on the floor, my right wing bent awkwardly under the other pony’s body as I struggled to disentangle our legs.
“Watch where you’re going you featherhead!” I grumbled as we finally pulled apart, “You just about ripped my wing out of its socket.”
My irritation was near boiling after my interactions with Shining Armor, so I was quite tempted to blast my unwelcome companion through the nearest wall. However, my anger was cut short as a powerful wave of both attraction and sour mortification washed over me. I took a moment to actually see who it was I had run into, and saw it was the mare I had passed before during my morning walk around the castle. Her armor was gone, revealing a soft peach coat with a deep red mane and tail, her dark green eyes wide with horror as she averted her gaze. A set of neatly preened wings were flared over her back, nearly ramrod straight from what seemed to be both nervousness and something else. While I had heard of something pegasi called the ‘stiffies’, I had never actually seen a pegasus’ wings get like that other than when they prepared to take off. I moved my gaze from her wings to her flank, noting the sunbeam cutie mark that adorned her side, the light ray breaking through a dark grey cloud like a spear through cotton. Glancing back up at her face, I saw her cheeks were flushed to the point that her entire head and neck had turned a deep red. It came as a slight surprise when I realized that she seemed to have developed quite a crush on me, given the short time we had known each other.
“I’m so sorry!” She yelped as she ran over and pulled me to my hooves. “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going and now I bumped into you and I’m such a klutz.” She continued to ramble as she checked over every inch of my body, her hooves brushing off nonexistent dust as she fawned over me like a foal.
Finally, as she made her third run around me, I pulled her to a stop and tried my best to keep the annoyance out of my voice. It wouldn’t do me any good to antagonize such a vibrant source of energy, if the veritable nova of attraction coming off of her was anything to go by. I had already halted my absorption of her energy, lest I get greedy and begin actively draining her.
“Hold up there, settle down.” I said in a placating voice as I held her still, “No harm done alright. Now take a deep breath and let’s start over fresh, okay?”
She took several gasps of air as her wings slowly folded back at her sides, her eyes returning to normal as she stepped back. She coughed once into her leg and brushed her mane out of her eyes, smiling meekly at me as she lowered her head.
“Sorry about that. I can get a bit chatty when I get nervous.” Her eyes roamed over my body and I felt a fresh wave of attraction radiate off of her, “I saw you this morning while I was on post. You’re the pegasus that volunteered to be Princess Luna’s personal guard, right?”
I nodded, “That’s me. I always knew that I was destined to be a guard, but when I found out about the Shadow Sword, I realized that my calling was much greater than just a regular Night Guard.” I raised my chin and put on a confidant smirk, “Do you like what you see?”
This time her blush wasn’t so strong, but the faint extension of her wings and the slightly spicy zest of lust I felt coming from her informed me of her answer before her nod could confirm it.
I extended my hoof to her, “The name’s Silver Shield. What’s yours?”
She seemed to realize that she had yet to introduce herself, standing straight and shaking my hoof in a firm grip, “Where are my manners? I’m Sunstreaker, but my friends call me Sunny. It’s nice to meet you Silver Shield.”
I smiled, “Sunny huh? Well, it’s nice to meet you too. Will I be seeing you around once I get started with my training?”
She bounced slightly as she pulled back her hoof, “I hope so. There aren’t that many pegasi in the Guard, so I’ve been a bit lonely when I get put on aerial post.” She scuffed her hoof against the ground as a twinge of uncertainty crossed her features, “But you’re going to be on the night shift while I’m stuck here during the day. Maybe I could put in for a unit transfer, but I’m not sure my commander would allow it.”
I placed a hoof on her flank, feeling her muscles tense slightly as she looked up at me, “Don’t worry about it. You have the afternoons off from what I can see, so we could hang out while neither of us are on shift, since I probably won’t start until after nightfall. Sound good to you?”
Her face lit up as the uncertainty faded away like morning dew, “That sounds wonderful! See you tomorrow after your training lets out for the day?”
I nodded, “I’ll meet you at the Iron Tap once I get away from Shining Armor.” I chuckled for effect, “From what I hear, I’ll need something to wash away the pain after he gets through with me.”
She smiled like the sunbeams she was named for, her eyes lidding as she walked past me. Her flank rubbed against mine, and I was very tempted to join her for the remainder of the evening, but I pulled my emotions back into check. If I let myself get carried away with this mare, then I could very well lose sight of my mission. No matter how tantalizing her emotions were, I had to remain focused and do my absolute best to win over Princess Luna. While Sunny’s attraction would provide me with enough strength to last for weeks on end, my true prize would be far worth the patience I was practicing now. After all, compared to Sunny, the raw magic of an alicorn would make her emotions look like a candle next to the sun.
I walked around the castle for the remainder of the day, committing the layout to memory while also familiarizing myself with the daytime watch. It seemed that there were two shifts, the first starting at dawn while the second picked up after lunch. I assumed that the night shift would run the same way, so that would leave me with time to spare if my training followed a similar schedule. I only hoped that if I did end up with that much free time, I would be able to occupy myself without raising suspicion. After all, exploring the castle was one thing, snooping where my nose didn’t belong was quite another.
I climbed back into bed as the moon began its accent of the sky, letting my tired eyes close as I prepared for the assault I was going to face in the morning. I had a feeling Shining Armor wasn’t going to go easy on me, now that he knew I had some idea of how to fight, so I had best get as much rest as possible before I was pounded into the dirt. The soft chirping of crickets filtered in through my open window as my mind faded into sleep, the pale light of the moon the last thing I saw before unconsciousness took me away.
My peaceful rest was brought to an abrupt end when somepony yelled at the top of their lungs right next to my ear. I would have jumped in surprise, had I not been picked up and bodily thrown across the room. My wings flared on reflex, but couldn’t stop me from crashing upside down against the door. I grunted as the wind was knocked out of my lungs, and closed my eyes as the floor began a rapid approach to my face.
However, the impact never came, and I slowly opened my eyes to see I was hovering about an inch from the floorboards, my body held in a light green telekinetic grip. I looked up and saw two ponies in gold Day Guard armor standing next to my bed, the unicorn stallion’s horn aglow with the same light that held me aloft.
“Rise and shine trainee,” he said as he righted my body, “you get to sleep when Captain Shining Armor says you can. You better be ready to hustle, because I hear he has a special training program, made just for you.”
I growled under my breath, somehow managing to restrain the impulse to pound these two into the dirt. Earth pony and unicorn or not, a royal changeling would grind them to dust if I so chose. However, it wasn’t worth the effort, so I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, standing at my full height as I turned around. I opened the door and walked into the main hall, my wake-up call following me like shadows as we made our way out of the castle. The sun was barely above the horizon, and yet the training grounds were full of activity as we made our way around the barracks. Gold and deep purple armor moved about in rapid dances of battle as Night Guard members sparred with their daytime counterparts. Overseeing the training from a raised platform, was Prince Shining Armor, dressed from head to hoof in his purple and gold plating. Beside him were two ponies I did not expect to see, given I thought they would be busy with more important matters.
Princess Celestia and Princess Luna stood on either side of the captain, their impassive gazes roaming the sparing guard members with a critical light. It seemed that I had stumbled into not only a training session, but a royal inspection of the ranks. I swallowed despite my better judgment, knowing that if Luna didn’t approve of my skills, I might never prove myself worthy of being a Shadow Sword. Without the close proximity the position would allow, I would have to resort to my secondary plan, albeit the end result would not be all that different. The amulet was the means to which I could steal the Princess’s magic, Luna’s love and the power it would grant me was only a personal bonus that I would rather acquire before freeing my mother. After all, one could never have enough power when it came to ruling a nation. My musings were cut short as Shining Armor waved me up onto the platform, the princesses turning their eyes on me as I flew up to join them. I bowed as soon as I landed, letting the noise from the ponies below fade from my attention in hopes of picking up any small talk between the others. It was an old trick mother had taught me, although this was the first time I had tried it. Shining Armor was silent, but in the pause following my arrival, I heard a soft muttering between the royal sisters.
“He is a striking one sister,” it was Celestia who had spoken in a hushed tone, “he would look good in the black armor of the Shadow Sword.”
“That remains to be seen sister.” Luna replied in the same tone, “He must first prove he has the conviction to stand equal to the other members of the Guard, and the willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty whenever the situation calls for it. Only then will I deem him worthy of that title.”
I was pulled from my altered mindset when Celestia addressed me, the background noise folding back into my awareness like a deck of cards, “Rise Silver Shield. Today you begin your training as a guard, and in time, prove your worth as the first member of the new Shadow Sword.”
I straightened and nodded to Celestia, noting the perfectly straight look Luna was giving me. Given what I had just heard, she didn’t think much of me and my chances of proving myself. After all, I did kind of waltz into the castle and proclaim myself better than the entire royal guard. Only a fool would take such bold words at face value without proof to back them up. Perhaps I had misjudged the ponies, or at least this one in particular. She might have been the most viable option as a target, but that didn’t mean it would be easy to bend her heart and mind to my will. I suppressed a grin at the thought. I loved it when the prey made a sport out of the hunt. It was so much more thrilling when the dance finally came to an end.
Shining Armor stepped forward, his mouth a firm line and his back straight as an arrow, “Trainee Silver Shield, you are now under my command and will follow any order I or any other superior officer gives you. You will be given a copy of the guard regulations handbook and are required to know it cover to cover. Any breach in regulations or disorderly conduct will be reprimanded harshly. Any fraternizing with the female guards will result in a single warning. Any further incidents will be grounds for immediate termination as a member of the guard. Any questions so far concerning what I have told you?”
I shook my head, keeping my face neutral as I matched his posture. Nopony would call me a slouch when under pressure.
“Very good.” He continued with his speech as he indicated the ponies below with a raised hoof, “You will be joining our cross shift training today, and I will be watching your progress while you face off against other members of the guard. While you are not required to beat any of them, you must still show what skills you have that would make you a viable addition to the ranks. If you have nothing to give that would better the general ranks, then you will be of no use to Princess Luna as her escort. You will face off with guards of different ranks and stations, so that we can get a true measure of your power, speed and magical abilities.”
He turned to the princesses, “With your leave Princesses, we are ready to begin.”
Celestia and Luna nodded, their gazes locked on me as Celestia replied, “You may begin at your leisure captain. We will observe from here while the training progresses.”
He nodded once, turning back to me, “Right, trainee Silver Shield, your first task is to select an opponent.” He swept a hoof over the ponies below us, “You may pick any of the guard you see before you, but remember that once you pick a sparring partner, you must continue your match until one of you submits.”
I nodded, “Understood captain.”
I turned to face the sparring ponies and tried to think. Picking a suitable target would be the best way to prove I was better than these run-of-the-mill ponies, but I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew. After all, I was unfamiliar with the Guard’s fighting styles, and so would be at a disadvantage if I was caught unprepared. My gaze roamed from one pair to another, my mind spinning as I tried to pick the best opponent possible. Then, like somepony had shined a beacon on her head, I found the perfect one.
The parts of her mane that I could see poking from under her helm were a bright gold in color, standing out against her near-black coat and dark purple armor. Her tail had been cut to the point that it barely hung past her rump, and her blazing blue eyes were alight with the same fire of determination as the captain’s, her horn aglow as she threw her sparring partner around like a ragdoll. I had inspected the members of both shifts, and of all the ponies present, this one was by far the most powerful and the most skilled in personal combat. If I could best her, or even hold my ground, I had a feeling it would more than prove my worth to both Shining Armor and Princess Luna.
I lifted a hoof and pointed her out, “She’s the one. I pick her as my opponent.”
Luna couldn’t keep the snort of laughter from escaping her mouth, although it was quickly covered by a cough when Celestia tossed a glare towards her sister. Shining Armor seemed all-too eager to agree with the dark alicorn, as he had to cover his mouth with a hoof to keep his snickers under control.
“Alright trainee,” he managed to force out between coughs of laughter, “but you might regret your decision after you get a taste of what she can do.” He placed his hoof down and raised his voice over the clamor of fighting ponies, “Sergeant Frost Fire, report to the command station on the double!”
The mare paused as she held her victim upside down in the air, “Aww, but I was just starting to have fun with this one. Can’t it wait a minute or five?”
Shining Armor narrowed his gaze at her, and she rolled her eyes as the poor earth pony stallion she had been tossing around dropped like a box of bricks, “Fine, but this had better be worth it.”
She made her way through the others, sidestepping ponies like they didn’t exist as mares and stallions shifted in ever-changing patterns of kicks and magic spells. Yet, they seemed to flow around her like water as she stepped through the masses, and I realized that I might have made a huge mistake. This mare, or rather, Frost Fire, knew her way around a battlefield, and had the raw power to back up whatever untapped skills she had up her proverbial sleeve. This was going to be a battle that would test my skills as a fighter to their limit, given I was limited to the abilities of my current form instead of my natural changeling physique.
She climbed the same steps I had used and tossed me a side glance before turning to Shining Armor, “So what did you call me here for captain? Somepony need their head bashed against a wall?”
Shining Armor turned towards me, “That is true, in a manner of speaking. Trainee Silver Shield was given the choice of picking his opponent for today. He knew that once he picked somepony to face, he would have to fight until either he or his opponent gave in.” He turned back to Frost Fire, “The pony he chose to face is you sergeant. Give him a warm welcome to the corps.”
She turned towards me and rolled her eyes, “Seriously, I had to get saddled with the new colt?” She turned back to Shining, her eyes pleading, “Come on captain, do I really have to lower myself to training recruits? Couldn’t somepony else do it, one who might actually be a match for a complete novice?”
Shining Armor smirked as he glanced my way, “He might surprise you Frost Fire. He managed to incapacitate me yesterday when I tested his skills. He might not look like all that much, but he has a fighting spirit and some rather unorthodox skills to back it up. I think you find him a worthy opponent, at least while he can avoid your signature move.”
Her eyes sparked with interest as she turned back towards me, “Is that so? Well then, I think we might as well get this started.” She glanced over her shoulder at the captain, “You might want to move sir, you know how I get when things get going hot.”
He needed no further persuasion as he stepped off of the platform, leaving us alone as Celestia and Luna took to the air. I fell into a fighting stance as I sized up Frost Fire, knowing that if I couldn’t counter her initial attack, I wouldn’t last half a minute.
She dusted off her chest piece with a bored look on her face, “Make this interesting trainee. I don’t get to go all out much, so you better make it worth my while.”
“I intend to Frost Fire.” I countered as I took to the air, “Just be prepared to eat my dust when I grind your face into the dirt.”
She laughed as her horn flared to life, “The captain was right, you do have spirit. Let’s see how far that gets you against somepony like me.”
I expected her to take me in her telekinetic grip as she had her previous opponent, but instead I was met with a beam of blue magic that shot from her horn like a sunbeam breaking through the clouds. I dodged to the side at the last moment, feeling the icy chill that permeated the air around her attack. Had I been hit directly I had no doubts that I would be sitting on the platform, covered from ears to tail in ice. I tucked my wings in tight against my flanks and dove straight for the ground, picking up speed until the air whistled in my ears. I channeled some of my magic into my wings and felt them crackle with energy, the beginnings of what would eventually become lightning.
Frost Fire shot at me as I plunged toward the ground, but it seemed that I was moving faster than she predicted, given the only thing I felt was a slight chill on the tip of my tail. Just as I was about to impact the platform headfirst, I extended my wings and turned my downward motion into a horizontal sprint, my wings now sparking and fizzling with contained electricity as I zeroed in on Frost Fire.
She had the presence of mind to dodge my attack, leaping to the side as I rocketed past her, the charge on my wings making her fur stand on end as I pulled up for another pass. She fired another freeze blast my direction, but the change in stance from dodging me threw off her aim. My primary feathers on my left wing frosted over as her attack went wide, but it was enough to break my concentration, causing the lightning I had been creating to short out. I cursed under my breath as I dove once more, intent on bringing this fight to a swift end before Frost Fire got lucky.
She also seemed to want to finish the fight, because instead of a single beam, her next attack was a series of short bursts, scattered through the air like a frost nova. One of her shots hit my right wing, freezing it solid as I leveled my flight path over the platform. I slid to a stop, somehow managing to stay upright even with all of my leftover speed from the dive. Frost Fire took aim and fired another blast, but this time I was expecting it. I charged my remaining wing with electricity and swung it into the path of the attack, her ice magic sizzling as it encountered my own. A plume of steam erupted around me, and I realized that I now had the advantage of surprise. Slipping to the side, I charged my wing with one last burst of electricity, hoping it would be enough to put Frost Fire down. While absorbing magic from Sunstreaker had given me more power than I would normally have at my disposal, I was rapidly burning through it trying to counter Frost Fire’s attacks. If this last attack didn’t work, I would be helpless against her icy magic.
With a burst of speed, I raced through the fog and came out on Frost Fire’s left. She saw me coming just a moment too late, and was unable to stop my charge as I slammed into her side. I wrapped my forelegs around her neck and pressed my charged wing against her side, pumping every ounce of remaining power into her. She cried out as her fur began to spark along her entire body, and I used my momentum to pin her to the ground.
For a moment it seemed like it was over. Frost Fire was breathing heavily, her fur smoking lightly and her horn dark. Yet, as I tried to move off of her, I realized that I couldn’t move. I looked around, trying to figure out what was holding me down, when I realized what Frost Fire had done. Encasing both of us from the neck down, was a solid block of ice. While I had managed to incapacitate Frost Fire, had this been a real battle her comrades would have taken me out by now, unable to defend myself or fly away.
Shining Armor climbed back up onto the platform, his eyes wide with a mixture of awe and surprise. Celestia and Luna landed next to him, their own shock blatant on their faces as they openly stared at me.
Frost Fire groaned as she forced her eyes open and looked up at me, “Sweet Celestia that lightning has a punch to it.” She smiled as she lifted her head up to meet my gaze, “Nicely done trainee. I haven’t had this much fun in years. I look forward to sparring with you again.”
I smirked, “Next time don’t be a sore loser. Besides, you’ll have to get in line behind the prince. He’s already called dibs on my next rematch.” She pouted and turned to look at Shining Armor, “Aww, no fare captain. Why do you get to kick his flank first?”
“Because I outrank you,” he replied as he walked up, his horn alight as the ice around us began to melt, “and because I faced him first, therefore my rematch takes priority.”
She huffed as we stood up, “You’re no fun.” She bumped me in the shoulder with her hoof, “Don’t forget featherhead. You owe me once you get stronger.”
I nodded, “I look forward to it Frost Fire. I’ll be ready anytime you want to get you plot kicked.”
She laughed as she turned to walk away, “He’s alright captain. I think we got ourselves a winner here. Try not to scare this one off like you did the last one.”
He rolled his eyes as Frost Fire walked down the steps and joined the other guard members, “I can’t promise anything, but I’ll do my best.” He turned towards the princesses, one eyebrow raised in question, “So, what did you think of our newest recruit?”
Celestia nodded once, as if confirming her own thoughts, “Silver Shield does show great skills. He would do well if given the proper guidance and training. What do you think sister?”
Luna glanced up at her sibling before turning back to me, “I believe that there is potential that can be molded into a powerful tool, but only if Silver Shield is willing to do whatever it takes to be the best. After all, your ultimate goal is to become a Shadow Sword, is it not?”
I nodded, bowing my head at her words, “That is correct Your Highness. While I would be happy working as a member of the Guard, I feel that my skills would be better suited if given a more concentrated focus.” I glanced up at them through my fetlock, “If it pleases you my Lady, I would like to train under Prince Shining Armor specifically, as he is already familiar with my fighting style. He also possesses the raw magical skill to push my own abilities to their limits, forcing me to reach my greatest potential as fast as possible.”
Luna glanced up at Celestia, but when the sun Diarch made no effort to answer, she turned back to address me herself, “If you believe that is the most prudent course of action, I will allow it. However,” she glanced at Shining Armor, “I must also have your consent and approval before moving forward. Do you believe from your observations and personal experiences that training privately with Silver Shield would be the best option?”
He nodded, “I do Princess Luna. While his technique is rough and wild, his skills are sharp and he has a strong magical gift. I think that with enough time and the right training, Silver Shield will be more than ready to become a Shadow Sword.”
She nodded, “Very well then. If you’ll excuse me,” she stifled a yawn behind one hoof, “it is long past my bedtime and I do not wish to keep my mattress waiting any longer.”
With that she flew off towards the greater castle, leaving us behind as Celestia chuckled, “Ah Luna, your mind never seems to work properly unless it is the middle of the night.” She cleared her throat and turned to address us, “Carry on as you were Prince Shining Armor. I expect regular reports on Silver Shield’s progress.”
She flew off after her sister, and I glanced towards the prince with a knowing smirk. He saw my action and rolled his eyes, “Don’t get cocky just yet trainee. If you think that fight was hard, then you’re going to hate me by the time I’m finished with you. Your skills are obviously too sharp for the regular corps members, but that only means I’m going to have to push you twice as hard to get results. We will meet here at sunrise every day, and we won’t stop until either I say you can, or you pass out, whichever comes first.” He glanced at my disheveled looks and cleared his throat, “Well, we can leave that until tomorrow. Get yourself cleaned up and head to the mess hall to get some food. After that fight I’m sure you’re starving.”
I nodded, throwing a quick salute before turning away. I knew that I needed to feed after using up so much magic, but I wasn’t interested in food. Oh no, my desires were centered on a peach-colored pegasus that just so happened to be waiting at the Iron Tap for me. Her attraction alone would fill me up more than a thousand plates of food could, so with a bounce in my step I made my way around the back of the barracks, my gaze leveled on the tavern beyond, and the crimson-haired mare that stood next to the door. Today had been a good day, and from the looks of things, I was one step closer to reaching my ultimate goal.
Training under Shining Armor wasn’t a picnic by any meaning of the word. I had to get up before dawn and push my body to the limit every day of the week. He made me fly until my wings felt like they were going to fall off and work my weather magic until I had nothing left. Lunch was barely passable as food, and the water he allowed me to drink tasted like it had been taken directly from the castle washroom. The only respite I got was when he let me go for the afternoon, by which time I was so sore and drained of magic that I could barely stand up. If it hadn’t been for Sunstreaker, whose attraction supplied me with much needed power and sustenance, I would have been too weak to do anything other than go straight to bed and wake up the next day to begin my torture anew.
Yet despite the grueling regime, my powers and skills were steadily growing, far outstripping what I had learned from mother in only a fraction of the time. My speed was nearly unmatched among the guard pegasi, although I was still uncertain if I could match the nearly legendary speed of Rainbow Dash. My weather magic also benefited from the constant stress, growing powerful enough that I could smash a brick wall with a single bolt of lightning. Add to that the combat tactics I was committing to memory and the strength my body was building, and I felt like I could nearly take on the princesses without the amulet.
Exactly two months after I began working under Shining Armor, he called me to the throne room of the castle just as the sun had begun to set. We had bypassed training for the day, so I had enough free time to hang out with Sunny above the clouds, flying for leisure on the thermals and simply enjoying each other’s company. While her feelings were undeniable, I had maintained a steady distance between us, knowing that any closer interactions with the sweet mare would result in her being drained of her energy, instead of simply absorbing it. I had no wish to expose myself by foolishly becoming greedy of a willing victim, so I stayed firmly friends with her, despite the numerous attempts at bridging the gap on her part.
I brought my mind back to the present as I stopped in front of the great doors that led to the throne room. A twinge of nostalgia flashed through my chest as I remembered the last time I had walked through these gilded monoliths. It seemed like years had passes since my arrival in Canterlot, and yet it had only been two short months. I smirked as the irony of the situation hit me. Here I was, a changeling infiltrator, about to overthrow the rulers of Equestria using the very combat techniques I had been taught by the captain of the royal guard. I chuckled at the idea before composing myself.
I was dressed in full Night Guard armor, my helm held under one wing as I knocked on the doors. Shining Armor had instructed me to be in full parade dress, which made me almost certain of what awaited me in the next room. Without a doubt I was going to be presented to the princesses, although the question of whether I was worthy of being a Shadow Sword remained a mystery.
The doors slung open as they glowed with a bright golden aura, indicating that Celestia was granting me entry herself. I stepped into the great chamber as the doors closed behind me, leaving me alone with the three occupants. Prince Shining Armor was stationed at the base of the dais steps, his body dressed in full armor just as I was, his gaze locked on me as I crossed the open area between us. Princess Celestia and Princess Luna were seated on their respective thrones, their gazes also fixed upon me as I dropped into a bow.
Shining Armor stepped forward, his voice firm and level as he addressed me, “Trainee Silver Shield. You have completed your training under my supervision and have earned the rank of Sergeant within the Night Guard. Should you choose to accept this title, you will be stationed here in Canterlot and be put in charge of your own personal squad. It is an honor usually reserved for seasoned corps members, but your raw skill and tactical brilliance have proven you are worthy of this rank. Do you wish to receive this honor, or do you still desire to become a member of the Shadow Sword?”
I lifted my gaze and locked my eyes with his, “I wish to serve as Princess Luna’s personal escort. While I humbly thank you for the honor of such a rank, I believe my destiny lies beyond the scope of the rank and file.” I lifted my gaze to stare over his shoulder at Princess Luna, “You told me that if I trained hard and proved my worth, then you would consider bestowing the blessings of the night upon me. Have I acquired the skills you wish a member of your personal guard to possess, or am I still not worthy of the title?”
Her gaze never faltered as she stood up, her head held high as she stepped forward and down the steps. Shining Armor stepped aside as Luna stopped mere feet from me, forcing my gaze to climb in order to lock eyes with her. Her expression was as blank as a stone and revealed none of her intentions, although I could sense a tiny flicker of uncertainty that she nearly succeeded in covering up. Whatever it was she had in mind, it was big enough to rattle even her composure.
“Silver Shield,” she said in a clear and powerful voice, “you have shown great skill and progress since we last met. You are without a doubt one of the most capable ponies I have ever met. Yet skill and knowledge are not enough to become a Shadow Sword. You must have unwavering loyalty, and be willing to give your very life to protect me and my subjects. Are you willing to do so, knowing that once you become a Shadow Sword, there will be no turning back?”
I nodded, my eyes firm as I held her gaze, “I am Your Highness. It would be an honor to serve you, and to act as your right hoof stallion in any and all matters you endeavor to achieve, be they of great political importance, or personal project.”
Her horn lit up as the sun crossed beyond the horizon, the throne room falling into darkness as the first stars began to appear, “Then prepare yourself. The blessing of the night is a painless process, but will tax your body to the very brink of your endurance.”
I braced as my helm dropped to the floor with a clatter, my legs locked and my eyes firmly focused on her face as the moon began to rise. A beam of pure silver light, crafted from the glow of the rising orb, shot through the stained glass and hit me directly in the chest. I grunted under the impact, feeling a strange sensation spread over my body as my hooves were lifted off of the ground. I rose until I was hovering above Luna’s head, her eyes closed and her brow furrowed in concentration as the beam began to widen. I was forced to close my eyes as the light passed over the rest of my body, my lungs struggling to obtain air as powerful magic coursed through my veins.
It started at the very tips of my hooves, and it took me a moment to realize that the sensation moving up my legs wasn’t my imagination. I forced one eye open to try and see what was going on, and what met my sight was something I had never expected. Much like the ring of fire that surrounded a changeling when we transformed, an oval of moonlight was moving up my body, changing my disguise inch by inch as it passed over my fur. The lower halves of my legs were now completely black, instead of the dark grey I had been previously. Once the magic reached my armor, the dark purple metal was also changed to shiny obsidian, the crescent moon insignia on my chest being replaced by a slit pupil eye of bright blue coloration. I was forced to shut my eyes as the magic grew brighter, the blazing power flaring within me like a cold sun. My bones vibrated with the intensity as my wings changed, although with my gaze blocked I couldn’t tell what they had become. Finally, after what seemed like ages, the spell completed its work, setting me down on the floor in front of Luna. I groaned as I opened my eyes, trying to get my legs to work as Shining Armor helped me up. I started with surprise when I stood at my full height and realized that I was now a few inches taller than the prince, and a quick examination of my body revealed that was the least of what Luna’s spell had done. My wings were no longer covered in feathers. Instead they were flesh and bone like a bat, equipped with a single clawed digit at the wrist joint and perfectly smooth to the touch. I glanced at Shining Armor, but was distracted by something reflecting off of his chest plate. I looked closer and nearly jerked back, not having expected to see slip pupils staring back at me. I almost checked to make sure my disguise hadn’t been shattered, but fought down the impulse when Luna cleared her throat.
“You have been given the blessings of my night, and as such have now become the first Shadow Sword in over a thousand years.” She stepped forward and pinned me in place with her cold eyes, “Remember the noble cause you now represent, and do everything in your power to honor those who came before you. While I am hesitant to add more ponies to the ranks, you still have the title and authority to command any of the Guard corps, as long as you do not abuse that privilege.” She turned to face Shining Armor, “Prince Shining Armor is now your equal in rank, although your position as my escort does not give you the right to overrule his command. Because of his title of prince, he can still countermand any orders you give to the Guard, but your personal orders will come from me and me alone.” She turned her gaze back to me as I picked up my fallen helm, “As such, you are being given the rank of captain, so that there will be no confusion if you require members of the Guard to assist you in any way.”
I bowed my head, slipping my helm over my ears as I straightened, “Thank you for this honor Princess, I won’t let you down.”
She nodded in reply, “See that you keep that oath. Now, before we begin your first night on the job, my sister would like to have a word with you.”
I turned to face Celestia, feeling more confident now that I had a better measure of her moods. She stood up and walked down the steps to join us, her ethereal mane and tail flowing around her as she stopped at their base, “Know that the Shadow Sword are not well known to the regular populous. Your new appearance might cause concern or even outright fear because ponies will not know how to interact with you. Keep in mind that you are no longer just a regular pegasus, and as such must take care not to get into situations where your augmented abilities could injure somepony.”
I nodded, “I understand Your Highness. I will do my best to avoid conflict of any kind, unless my duty to your sister requires me to act.”
She nodded in turn, “See that you do.” She turned her gaze to Luna, “I will let you handle things from here sister. If you will excuse me, it has been a long day, and my bed calls to me.”
Shining Armor stifled a yawn as he bowed to Luna, “I will take my leave as well Princess. I have detail in the morning and I do not wish to oversleep for watch duty.” His lips twisted into a grin, “Besides, Cadence doesn’t like it when I leave her alone at night. She complains about it being too cold without me there with her, but I think she just likes it when I rub her wings after a long day.”
I found myself matching the smile that graced the dark alicorn’s face as she hid her mouth behind a hoof, “Well then you had best be on your way. Wouldn’t want to keep your wife waiting would we?”
He smiled in return and threw a crisp salute before walking out of the room, the doors closing behind him with a loud thud, leaving me alone with Luna.
Her face returned to its normal calm expression, her eyes taking on a strange light as she faced me, “You have done valiantly to have come this far Silver Shield. Now your true test begins. It will not be easy acting as my escort each and every night, and part of your duties involves guarding my personal chambers while I sleep. It will be hard and nearly thankless work, but you will be treated as the elite of the elite by all who know you. I would not be surprised if you were swarmed with suitors once the initial shock of your appearance has worn off. I will not hinder any relationships you foster while here in Canterlot, but you must understand that your first duty is to me. Any other activities beyond your tasks as my guard will be done during your free time, or there will be harsh repercussions. Am I making myself clear?”
I kept my voice level as I replied, “Crystal Your Highness. My loyalty is to you first and foremost, so you needn’t worry about my personal agendas.” I glanced toward the doors, my voice lowering a tad as a smirk crossed my face, “Just between us, I think your sister is a bit jealous of you.”
One eyebrow rose in a questioning manner, “What would make you think that?”
My smirk morphed into a full smile as I turned back to face her, “Because she couldn’t take her eyes off of us during the entire audience. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Celestia has never had a personal guard like the Shadow Sword. Do you think she might be thinking of changing that now that the Shadow Sword has been reinstated?”
Her own lips twitched as she suppressed a smile, “Your intuition seems to be more astute than I had first thought. I thought I was the only one who could see past my sister’s mask when she chooses to hide her emotions.” Her eyes lit up with respect as a flash of pride washed over me, “That instinct will serve you well in the future. Do not let your skills grow soft now that your training with Shining Armor has come to an end. I will expect you to continue your self-improvement when you have the time to train, but do not push yourself too hard. After all, if you drop unconscious because you stayed up all night working on your weather magic then you be of no use to me.”
For a moment I thought she was reprimanding me for speaking out of turn against her sister, that is until I sensed the undercurrent of amusement that was nearly hidden under her firm resolve.
I chuckled as I bowed, spreading my wings wide in a mocking manner as I looked up at her, “As you wish Princess. I shall keep that in mind for when I’m not busy guarding your royal plot.”
Her eyes widened in shock for a moment, before her lips parted into a full grin, her eyes igniting with joy as she strained to contain her laughter. “Oh you don’t know how long I’ve waited to see somepony crack a joke around me. You don’t know how refreshing it is not to have everypony groveling at my hooves the moment they believe I have taken offence to something they said.”
I straightened and dusted off one hoof against my chest armor, “I try my best Princess. Just don’t forget that I will serve you until the day I die. I just choose to live a bit more loose than the average guard.”
She nodded, her face lit up like the moon she stewarded as she directed me out of the throne room, “Come, we have much to do this night, and I would enjoy speaking with you while I go about my duties. It has been far too long since I’ve had somepony to who would talk to me like a normal pony.”
I fell in beside her, my back straight and my head held high as we made our way through the castle, “It would be a pleasure Princess, just warn me if I go too far. I wouldn’t like being flung through a wall for offending your pride.”
She giggled as we turned down another hallway, “Oh you will have no problem knowing if I am displeased. Your first offence will only result in a flowerpot being dropped on your head. It is the second offence when I throw you through a wall.”
I coughed to try and prevent my laughter from waking up the castle staff, “I think this is going to be a wonderful arrangement Your Highness.” Her eyes turned towards me as a warm glow flared within them, the unexpected wave of attraction nearly making me stumble as a surge of raw power ran through my body. That one flash of emotion had nearly made my chest explode with power, and it had been mere attraction. I could only imagine what would happen when she finally fell in love with me.
Unaware of my reaction, she spoke in a soft and gentle tone, “It is Luna while we are alone. I would like to have you as a friend, as well as my personal guard. While Tia is loving in her own way, there are few ponies that I would consider my true friends, so I get rather lonely when I am not attending royal matters with my sister.”
My eyes widened in shock, but I found myself nodding none the less, “I would be honored to be your friend Pri –, I mean, Luna.” She nodded, her cold mask forming once more like nothing had happened, “Then I will require you to accompany me outside of my normal duties, if you would be willing to set aside some of your own time to join me on occasion.”
We entered what looked like an observatory, the various equipment shined to a fine polish and the great pane windows taking up the entire far wall. Luna stepped up to the huge telescope that rested in the center of the room, but turned back to face me as her mane mixed with the night sky behind her, making it hard to tell where her body ended, and the true stars began.
“I will need some help calibrating the telescope for tonight’s work.” She said as she indicated a complex set of knobs and levers on the side of the machine, “If you would take your place at the controls, I would like to begin your training as a Shadow Sword.”
I stepped up to the brass levers and cranks, feeling oddly out of place next to all of these delicate instruments, “I’m not sure I understand Luna. What does calibrating a telescope have to do with being your personal guard?”
“It doesn’t,” she said as she looked through the eyepiece, “I just didn’t feel like working them myself tonight, given I have such willing help to do it for me.”
I rolled my eyes as I placed my hooves on the panel before me, “Why do I even bother to ask?”
“Because you like it when I mess with you.” She added without looking up, her lips curled as her horn levitated a clipboard and quill to her side, “Now hush and listen to what I’m going to tell you. These are exact movements that must be done with care.”
I smirked as I concentrated on the numerous controls before me, “Yes Princess.”
“I told you to call me Luna when we are alone.” She said as she glanced up from her work, her eyes narrowed as she locked them onto me, “Did you not hear me when I told you that?”
I kept my gaze locked on the controls as I rotated a wheel on my left, “I did, I just wanted to mess with you.” I glanced back at her with a grin, “You’re not the only one who likes to pull jokes.”
She shook her head in exasperation, “What am I going to do with you?”
“How about make me your court jester and dress me in a pink gown before I dance the Casanova Jig?” I offered.
She didn’t bother to grace my joke with a reply, but I didn’t miss the slight shaking of her shoulders as she went back to recording her observations. She liked it when I had fun around her and I basked in the growing attraction that was blooming within her like a rose. She didn’t know it yet, but she was already headed toward sealing Equestria’s doom, and it would come about because of her own emotions. I centered my focus on the controls once more, following her directions as she made notes on her clipboard. We stayed there for several hours, the moon slowly making its way across the sky before the bell tower chimed the midnight hour.
Luna stepped back from the telescope and set her notes on a desk beside me, her eyes red with fatigue but alert none the less, “That will be enough for tonight. There are other tasks that must be done this night, and I need to attend to them before I grow too absorbed in my private projects.”
She indicated for me to follow her, and she led me back through the castle until we came to a set of silver doors carved with the same crescent moon that marked her flank. The doors swung inward as she stepped through the opening, my steps faltering only for an instant as the interior met my eyes. The colors were all deep blues and silvers, unlike the brilliant coloration of the rest of the castle, along with a large bed made to look like the pony within was sleeping within the moon. Above us the ceiling was decorated with mechanical devices that resembled clouds and the sun, their movements creating a soft clicking sound as they moved about overhead. Along the walls were numerous bookshelves, all piled high with scrolls and tomes so old that the paper was turning yellow.
Luna climbed into her bed without a moment’s hesitation and set an alarm clock next to her, “I will be stepping into the dreams of ponies for the next several hours. Make sure I am not disturbed unless it is an emergency.”
I threw a crisp salute as she pulled the covers over her body with her magic, “I will make sure you are not disturbed unless absolutely necessary.”
She nodded, her gaze distracted as she settled into position, her horn lighting up as a light blue haze formed around her body. For a moment I waited to see if anything else would happen, but when nothing did I simply settled in next to the door, focusing my gaze ahead as I fell into the practiced post stance. It would keep the blood from pooling in my legs and making me pass out, but would also prevent muscle fatigue from having to remain standing for long periods of time. However, my eyes moved over to the seemingly sleeping pony across the room, and I couldn’t help the soft smile that graced my lips. She looked so much more peaceful like that, instead of the uncertain or controlled persona she put on around others. A part of me wished she would loosen up a bit more, if only so that I could seduce her faster without her insecurities in the way.
The moon made its way across the sky, just as the mechanical sun made its way across the room’s ceiling. And through it all I stayed perfectly still, not even glancing at Luna as I kept vigilant watch over her body while her mind entered the dreams of her citizens. The first light of dawn was just beginning to show on the horizon when the alarm next to her bed went off, the harsh ringing causing me to jump slightly before I could regain my composure.
Luna’s body lost its glow as she opened her eyes, a hoof moving to shut off the alarm as she sat up. Without even looking at me, her horn lit up with her magic, and I saw the moon setting as the first light of day passed through the windows. Her eyes fluttered closed as she closed the shutters with her magic, her head falling back onto her pillow as she passed out completely. I remained where I was until I heard soft snoring coming from the sleeping princess, letting me know she had fully fallen asleep.
I broke stance and walked up to her bed, standing over her sleeping body as a dark grin crossed my face, “Of how easy it would be to take you right now. Helpless as you are, I could overpower your mind in an instant.” I reached out and ran a hoof through her mane, her lips parting as she murmured in her sleep, “How easy it would be to put you under my spell and take over the castle from the inside.” I pulled my hoof back and turned away, my grin turning down into a frown, “But that would be too easy. There isn’t any fun if you can’t put up a fight. Besides,” I muttered as I resumed my post, “seeing you fall for your greatest enemy is almost too entertaining to stand. I wouldn’t dream of taking that thrill away until I’ve had my fun. Sleep well Luna, because sometime soon your greatest fears will become reality.”
Because Luna’s more personal projects were done in the hours directly following the moon’s rise, it was during that point that I was given time to myself. Most of it was spent sleeping, but thanks to the energy and power I was receiving from her, that timeframe was rapidly becoming shorter, leaving me more time to spend accompanying the Princess.
We fell into a sort of routine, my time with her becoming less like that of a guard and princess, and more like two close friends spending time together. Night Court was a bore, given I was the only one who had bothered to use it to talk to Luna on matters of state since her restatement as ruler alongside Celestia. However, it provided us with much needed quiet when there was always so much that needed to be done during the night. There was also the planning of celestial events, such as lunar eclipses and meteor showers that needed to be ironed out well in advance of the actual date. I learned much about how Luna molded and worked the stars to her whims, making seemingly endless patterns that fit together into one complete masterpiece. And yet, there was a sense of sorrow that seemed to shadow those times, particularly if it had to do with the details of the moon. While I was familiar with the story behind Luna’s fall and her subsequent banishment, it was an entirely different thing seeing the pain behind her actions contorting her features every time she looked up at her charge. At times I just wanted to hug her, if only to share the pain that radiated off of her when she fell into her memories.
The final task of each night was the visitation of dreams, and the placating of nightmares that might be troubling some of the citizens. She entered the minds of her subjects in the darkest hours of the morning, usually falling to sleep immediately afterwards and leaving me to my own thoughts while I stood watch at her door. At times I wondered what it was like to walk in somepony else’s dreams, and then quickly discarded it as something better left to mystery. After all, I knew what it was like to manipulate a pony’s waking mind to my will. I could barely imagine having to do the same to the chaotic realm of sleep.
It was during one clear night, almost a week and a half after I was blessed as a Shadow Sword, that another of Luna’s haunted moments came to be. She awoke after sleeping through the day, her eyes bleary and her movements slow as she pulled herself out of her bed. I had remained by the door, standing watch over he as she slept, although as her horn lit up, I noticed that there seemed to be something off in her eyes. Rather than the calm and collected demeanor that she always had, there was instead a deep sadness that immediately began to wash over me like a chilling frost. The minty flavor was so strong I could feel its cold enter my very bones, although that was nothing compared to the expression that Luna wore as she walked over to the balcony to watch the rising moon.
For a while she simply stood there, gazing up at the silver orb with a glazed look in her eyes, her wings slack to the point they dragged on the floor. I was about to step forward, but paused as she took a deep breath, opened her mouth, and began to sing. The haunting noise almost made my eyes water, and I quickly fell back into stance as she belted her heart out to the deep blue sky.
I never knew that the day Could seem so far away Dear sister rules the light While my virtue is the night And though my past is gone My heart is torn by grief Waiting for the dawn
She bowed her head as she paused in her lament, her eyes watering as they closed, allowing only a single tear to drop from her chin before she lifted her gaze to the moon once again.
For a time I was loved My moon shining from above And while the ponies slept Their dreams I did accept And then the darkness spawned The hatred of my heart That came to break the dawn
She turned around and walked back into the room, though when her eyes passed over me without acknowledging my presence, I realized that she had fallen so far into her own memories that she had forgotten I was in the room.
I pushed away my sister And tried to shun her day I made such mistakes I quickly lost my way Then I fell like a wounded swan
She glanced over her shoulder at the moon, her eyes growing misty as several more tears ran down her face,
The moon became my prison To hide me from the dawn
I remained perfectly still as she walked around the room, inspecting paintings of herself and Celestia as young alicorns, their manes light blue and soft pink respectively instead of the familiar pastel rainbow and ethereal night sky. She placed a hoof on a picture that I couldn’t see, her eyes closing as she turned away from the small frame, and I wondered what it was that she found so important that it could create such strong emotions. While the sorrow that radiated off of her had not slacked, for an instant a blinding flare of love and guilt had nearly bowled me over when she had looked at that image, and I resolved to get a look at it the next chance I had.
For one thousand years I waited To see the light of hope once more Now they smile up at me with pride Yet the past I cannot ignore I wish that I could move on And let these scars fade away In the light of the breaking dawn
Her shoulders began to shake as she stepped onto the balcony again, the glint of falling tears seeming to glow like shooting stars as they dropped off the edge and into the open air below.
Oh what I wouldn’t give to find A heart with whom to share this song
Her head fell until her nose nearly touched the floor, her body shaking as she openly began to sob. Her legs trembled with the effort of keeping her standing, and yet I did nothing as her fit ran its course. I had a feeling she would react very poorly if I stepped in at this point, so I remained at my post as she got herself under control.
She sniffed several times as she wiped her eyes with a hoof, her head lifting as she cast one last mournful look towards the stars. With that the calm and almost blank expression I had come to know so well materialized over her face, the lines of sadness and pain fading away like the morning dew as she turned around. I stayed still as she walked up and opened the door with her magic, although she paused in the opening with her gaze firmly facing forward.
“If you tell anypony about what you just witnessed here,” she muttered in a perfectly flat tone, “I will personally see to it that you do not leave the castle dungeons until you fade to dust. Is that understood?”
I nodded, also keeping my gaze forward, “I understand Princess. Nopony will ever hear about this so long as I live.”
She nodded, “Good. Now come, we have much to do tonight, and very little time to do it.”
I fell in at her side as we made our way through the castle, any thoughts of sleep immediately being dismissed as I pictured what we might be doing after a scene like that. Not that I really needed sleep after the maelstrom of emotion I had just bore witness to. That single blast of love had me so charged with power I could barely walk straight, and it hadn’t even been directed at me. I was beginning to wonder if going after Luna’s love was such a good idea, and if the raw power I would obtain from such a connection would destroy me from the inside before I could get it under control.
These thoughts plagued me through the rest of the night, although Luna seemed to be in little mood to talk right now. I couldn’t blame her, not after what I had seen, although I missed her quirky jokes and detailed explanations as we conducted several more experiments within her lab. While the findings were amazing, and the benefits to ponykind would be incalculable in years to come, it was like all of the emotion had been sucked right out of the lunar diarch, her face remaining cold and impassive even when a test proved fruitful.
When we returned to her chambers in the waning hours of the night, she chose to climb into her bed without setting the alarm for her dream walking. Instead, she pulled the covers up to her chin and closed her eyes, rolling away from me to attempt at falling asleep. Her horn glowed and the moon made a rapid descent behind the horizon, even though the sun had yet to even grace the eastern sky with its glow. The shutters were drawn and she huffed out a sigh as she settled into her bed, her head nearly swallowed by her pillows.
I took up my position at her door and began the long process of guarding her chambers, although the sour mood that had permeated the air all day didn’t help my stomach to stop throwing fits. While the love and other emotions I had feasted on earlier would give me strength for at least a week, if not more, the negative emotions that had followed Luna’s breakdown made me feel like I was going to puke, even though there was nothing to get rid of. I winced as my gut rumbled a complaint at me, and I tried my best not to fidget as the hours began to tick by.
Yet, all was not as peaceful as things appeared to be the sun began to climb into the sky. I was alerted to something being amiss when Luna began to move about in her bed. She never moved while asleep, given she slept like a log when not engaging in dream walking, so that alone was enough to grab my attention. I moved up and stood next to her bed, leaning over to see what was troubling her.
Her brow was soaked in sweat and her face was contorted like she was in pain. She would whimper every so often as she kicked and rolled around under the sheets, and I realized that she was having a nightmare, or rather, daymare. I waited to see if she would wake up from it, but as the minutes began to tick by I realized that unlike the dreams of her citizens, she didn’t seem to have control of her own.
I was about to wake her up when something on her bedpost caught my eye. I turned to get a closer look, Luna momentarily forgotten as I inspected the simple frame and the image it contained. It looked to be centuries old, if the peeling paint and the positively ancient wood were anything to go by, not to mention the fact that Luna’s mane was her pre-banishment light blue, her face much younger and more innocent then the calm and calculating mare I knew now. Standing beside her was a stallion, his mane and tail a bright blonde in comparison to his jet black fur. His crystalline green eyes were filled with warmth as he gazed into Luna’s eyes, her own reflecting the same light even through the faded paint. While Luna wore her royal regalia, the stallion wore the same armor that I now sported, his bat-like wings revealing that he was a member of the Shadow Sword.
They were sitting together under a tree, the stars and night sky depicted by small dots of white across a field of deep blue, although as I looked closer it was almost like the image began to take on a life of its own. I could feel the cool breeze that blew through the branches, smell the morning dew before the sun’s light could burn it away. The sounds of crickets chirping met my ears, and I could have sworn I could feel the warmth of somepony next to me as I fell deeper into the image.
I shook my head, bringing myself back to reality as I looked over my shoulder at Luna. Why would she have a picture of a Shadow Sword on her bedside table? It didn’t make any sense. And yet, like a light spell igniting over my head, I understood. The guilt and the love I had felt when Luna had stopped to look at this picture during her song, the raw emotion that came off of her like a sunburst. She had been in love with this stallion, deeply if I had to guess, and yet her fall from grace and banishment meant that he had to have died a long time ago. She never got to tell him goodbye or say how sorry she was for making such huge mistakes.
I glanced back at the picture, its true meaning now hitting me like a freight train, “So you’ve kept this picture of the two of you, holding on to the love you once shared even though he has long passed to the Golden Herd.” I shook my head as I tried to wrap my head around it, “No wonder you feel so weighed down my guilt and sorrow. Your true love is lost to the sands of time and you never had the chance to find closure. Such a tragic and terrible fate.”
I turned around and saw that she was still trapped in the grip of her dream, her sheets soaked with sweat and her face streaked with tears. I did the only thing I could think of and climbed into the bed with her, letting my hooves wrap around her gently as my head came to rest behind hers. She struggled for a moment longer before settling, her breathing smoothing out as she hummed in contentment. Before I could react, she rolled over and wrapped her legs around my middle, her head coming to rest under my chin as her breath rippled through my chest fur.
I waited to see if she would wake up, yet chose not to act when she remained asleep. I doubted I could get out of her grip without waking her up, and I just couldn’t bring myself to leave her after seeing her in distress. I might be on a mission to destroy her and the country she holds dear, but that didn’t mean I wanted to be a cruel monster. Call it as you will, but I wouldn’t stand by while she was gripped in her own fears, so long as it was still to my benefit to do so. Once I had the amulet and stole the princess’s magic, all bets were off. Until that point, I would do everything in my power to keep her happy, as it would only make me more powerful when the time came to destroy Equestria from the inside out.
I closed my eyes and held her closer, feeling a soft burst of happiness flow from her to me as she murmured in her sleep. I was just about to nod off when I heard her say something clearly, and my gut twisted as I realized what her words meant.
“I love you Moon Blaze.” She whispered into my chest, “Please forgive me for leaving you for so long.”
I battled with myself for a moment, before following my instincts and bending close to her ear, “I love you too Luna. I always have and I always will. Sleep well my beloved.”
Her lips curled into a smile as she snuggled into me further, her mane covering both of us like an ethereal blanket as she fell into true sleep. I closed my eyes once more and used my magic to lock the doors. It wouldn’t do for somepony to walk in and see us like this. Not yet at least. I rested my chin on top of Luna’s head, letting her horn rest against the side of my neck as I pulled her against my body. That was how we fell asleep, and that was how we both awoke the next evening, although the reaction she had upon waking up was not as pleasant as the one she had when I climbed into her bed.
It was a rather novel experience waking up while flying through the air. I had only experienced it once before, and yet it already seemed to be a familiar sensation. The ear-splitting shriek that echoed around the room, however, was a new one for me, making my bone-grinding impact with the wall all the more uncomfortable thanks to the massive headache the high tone caused behind my skull.
I grunted as I fell to the ground, my vision swimming and my lungs refusing to work as I stared across the room upside down. Two things were made abundantly clear once my sight cleared of spots, Princess Luna was sitting bolt upright in her bed and she was not happy with me in the slightest. She had the sheets pulled up to her chest as her horn stopped glowing, the effects of her telekinetic blast fading from the room as her look of mortification slowly faded into confusion and anger.
Her wrath, fortunately, was brought to a grinding halt as a white nova burst into being in the center of the room, fading to reveal a very agitated Celestia, her horn charged and her eyes roaming around the room as she searched for possible threats.
“Sister,” she cried as her wings flared and she fell into a fighting stance, “what is wrong? Are you under attack?”
I remained where I was, trying my best to melt into the floor as I watched the scene unfold from my unique perspective. What I was not expecting, was for Luna’s rage to immediately revert to mortified shock as her cheeks flushed a deep purple. I lifted one eyebrow in interest, noticing that Celestia had seemed to come to the understanding that Luna was not in immediate danger. She straightened and cleared her throat, her gaze now moving across the room with a calm and penetrating gaze. She paused as her eyes fell onto my crumpled form, moving up from my body to the cracks that spider-webbed out from my point of impact about halfway up the wall.
She turned back to Luna, who had yet to stop blushing, and tilted her head to the side as she addressed her sister, “Do I need to ask why your personal guard is lying in a heap against the wall?”
Luna hid her head under the sheets, my lips curling into a grin as I realized that it was that was making her act this way. While Luna might find it shocking and insubordinate that I had climbed into her bed without her permission, Celestia would see it in a completely different light, especially with the image of Moon Blaze sitting right next to the bed and in plain sight.
I grunted as I rolled upright to let the blood flow away from my head, trying my best not to laugh at the situation. If Luna had wanted to, she would have ratted me out to her sister in a heartbeat, maybe even have me arrested for assaulting her in her sleep. The fact that she hadn’t meant that she knew the same thing I did, and had enough feelings directed towards me that she didn’t want to risk letting her sister find out. After all, they might be the rulers of a nation, but they were still ponies. And if I knew one thing, it was that ponies loved to assume things when there was nothing more than circumstantial proof, given how often those instinctual moments of clairvoyance seemed to be completely accurate. It seemed the Princess of the Night cared for her newest guard more than she let on, and felt the need to hide that fact from her sister in the hopes it would remain a secret.
Celestia looked from the lump that was her sister to me and back again several times, her gaze switching from questioning to confused as she tried to figure out what had happened. She turned to me and spread her wings, her royal demeanor coming back full force as she spoke.
“Captain Silver Shield, what happened in here to make my sister cry out like she was in the jaws of a Timberwolf?” Her penetrating gaze held me captive as I pushed myself to my hooves, although I took a moment to glance at the bed. Sure enough, Luna had peaked over her sheets and was staring at me with wide eyes.
I could imagine she was thinking of all the things I could say that would destroy the flimsy shield she had erected between her sister and the situation, but I felt like a bit of mercy was in order. After all, if I wanted this mission to be a complete success, I needed her to develop those feelings to fruition, not have them crushed in their infancy by her teasing older sister.
I turned back to the solar diarch and spoke with the most level tone I could muster, “Forgive me Your Highness, but I believe that this entire situation is my fault. I saw that Princess Luna was having a bad dream, so I did my best to wake her up.” I glanced over my shoulder at the damaged wall for effect, “It would seem that my actions were a bit too successful.” I returned my gaze to Celestia as her eyes rolled up in exasperation, “Please do not berate your sister on my behalf, for it was my own actions that caused this whole situation.”
“That does not excuse her use of extreme force when her own dreams are the root cause,” she countered, casting a glare over her shoulder at Luna. “She must remember that mortal ponies are not as sturdy as we, and as such, she must take care not to harm anypony, even when gripped by the terrors of sleep.” She huffed as she walked up to the door, using her magic to throw it open, lock or no lock, and walked out with her head held high as her the sun began to set.
We stood still for a moment after her exit, Luna’s horn lighting as the moon rose behind the mountains as the night began. However, that calm was shattered the moment she opened her mouth to speak.
“Would you mind explaining why I woke up to find you in my bed and your hooves wrapped around my body?” The sheets had been tossed aside as she stood up, her gaze firm with controlled anger as she walked up to tower over me, “Explain yourself right now or I will have my sister come back and chain your sorry hide to the wall.”
I dusted myself off, readjusting my armor before locking gazes with her, “I wasn’t lying when I said you were having a bad dream. I did the only thing I could think of and comforted you while you slept. I don’t know what the daymare was about, but as soon as you grabbed me around my barrel you calmed down.” Her eyes widened and I couldn’t help the grin that crossed my face, “Oh make no mistake Your Highness, I may have climbed into your bed to comfort you, but it was you who grabbed onto me like your life depended on it. You even spoke in your sleep, although you might not like it if I told you what you said.”
Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, “And what, pray tell, did I supposedly say while gripping onto your body like a helpless filly?”
My grin widened as I leaned in close and whispered into her ear, “Take a look at the image on your dresser. The stallion you are sitting with apparently made an appearance in your chambers to comfort you while you slept.”
One eyebrow rose as she turned to look, although as her gaze fell upon the faded image next to her bed, they widened in complete shock as understanding flashed in their depths. The majority of her head and neck turned a deep purple as she turned back to me, her mouth opening and closing as she tried to find the words to respond.
I couldn’t help the one last tease, placing one hoof on my chin as I looked towards the ceiling, “Now what was it you said? Oh yes, I remember.” I put on a fake loving expression, doing my worst imitation of her voice as I spoke, “Oh, Moon Blaze, how I love thee. Hold me close and never let me go so that I may love you for all time.”
I would have gone on, had Luna not planted both hooves over my mouth and shushed me, her body a solid purple from the shoulders up, “Alright, no more, I beg you. I couldn’t bare it if my sister happened to hear you.”
I nodded, my lips still curled in a grin as she pulled back, hiding her mortified face behind her mane and tucking her tail between her legs. My grin quickly faded as her embarrassment faded into something darker, and I quickly stepped forward as her shoulders began to shake. I could imagine a thousand ways this could go wrong, but I hoped it would work out in the end. So, I wrapped my hooves around her shoulders as she cried, shushing her gently as she instinctively copied my action. She buried her muzzle in the crook of my neck as her tears ran down my armor, and I did my best to just be there for her as all of her twisted emotions ran their course. I could clearly sense almost a dozen different feeling coursing through her mind like a hurricane, and I tried not to let myself feel ill, given the majority of them were not so positive in nature.
Finally, after about five minutes, she got herself under control. She pulled back and cleared her throat, wiping her red-rimmed eyes with one hoof as she met my gaze, “Thank you Silver Shield. This night has not gone exactly as I was planning it to go, and after what had just happened I was not in a clear state of mind.”
I nodded, keeping my face blank of any reaction to her current state, “It was my duty, as I am supposed to protect you from any and all threats.” I let a small smile grace my muzzle as I wiped a stray tear from her cheek, “Even threats you cause yourself.”
She giggled slightly, the sound slightly hoarse as she stood up fully once more, “That is true, and I thank you once more. You could have caused me a great deal of shame and personal suffering if you had told Celestia the real reason you almost made a hole in my wall.” She winced as she glanced behind me at the sizable dent in the masonry my body had made, “Sorry about that by the way.”
I shrugged my wing bases and waved it off with a hoof, “No harm done, and I kind of deserved it after climbing into your bed without your permission.” I rubbed the back of my head with a hoof, “Yeah, not my brightest idea.”
A small smile warmed the negative cloud that had settled over Luna’s features, “While that may be true, you did save me from a terrible dream, although I do not remember its exact details now that my mind has been so perfectly distracted.”
I bowed, flaring my wings as I looked up at her, “I am here to serve you Princess, just say the word and it shall be done.”
She lifted one eyebrow in a fake mocking manner, “I thought we already had our conversation concerning your form of address when we are alone?”
I smiled as I stood straight once again, “I know, I just like pulling your tail to make you smile.”
She giggled for real this time, swatting me playfully over the head with one wing, “Then you had best come up with a better way of doing it. The joke is starting to get stale in its current form.”
I laughed as I picked up my helm and placed it back on my head, thankful the metal had been there to take the brunt of the blow when Luna had so graciously tried to put me through to the next room.
“Whatever you say Luna.” I said as we exited the room, “I live to serve you, and your words are my binding law until the day I die.”
She rolled her eyes as we made our way into her lab once more, “Must you always be so impertinent?”
I lifted my chin and put on my most haughty air, “It’s part of my charm to be a thorn in everypony’s side. I find it keeps things fresh and makes it so that my jokes never fall flat.”
She stifled a laugh with a deep sigh, “It seems that I can’t get a straight answer from you even when I want to.” She paused to rotate a knob on one of her many mechanical devices before turning back to me, “Before we begin our activities for tonight, I do have one question for you, and you must answer me without your usual cocky mannerisms.”
I nodded, my hooves hovering over the controls as I focused my attention on her. If she was telling me to put aside my usual goofy attitude, then her question had to be important.
She seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if unsure of how to ask, “What do you think of me, not as a princess, but as a pony? What am I to you?”
Well that was a loaded question if I had ever heard one, two in fact. I glanced down at the knobs and levers before me, taking a moment to think this through. I could simply confess my so-called feelings for her, but that was probably not a good idea, given the mess we had just gone through. A respectful comment about her being everything a pony should be wouldn’t fly either, given idle flattery was sure to annoy her instead of make her feel important. That left me with an option that would be a mix of both, but would have to be done absolutely perfectly in order to work. Luna was almost as good as Celestia when it came to picking out lies, so I had to actually mean what I said or she wouldn’t believe me.
I turned back towards her, finding that her eyes had not left me during my moment of thought. “I think you are one of the most interesting ponies I’ve ever met. You care about others and yet have difficulty letting them care for you. You feel the guilt of your past mistakes even when everypony has forgiven you for them. It puzzles me why you would do this, and yet it makes you unique among the citizens of Equestria, and not because of your rank or your abilities as an alicorn.”
I paused, noting that she was paying close attention to my words, “While I cannot say one way or the other if you feel you deserve your self-induced solitude, I will say that it is something I feel is not to your benefit or to that of Equestria as a whole. You are a beautiful mare with a mind as sharp as any sword, and enough heart to fill this entire castle to the brim if you would let others see it. I know it is not my place to say what you should and should not do, but I think you have a right to happiness, just as every pony deserves to share their happiness with you. You need only show them the Luna that I know so well, and I swear to you that everypony you meet would do anything they could to make that dream a reality.”
She let the silence hang for a moment after I stopped speaking, her eyes searching my own for something I couldn’t explain. After a minute or two she finally nodded, smiling as she picked up her clipboard and quill, “Thank you for the kind words Silver Shield. I will take them to heart and try to be more forgiving of myself. The stars only know I have blamed myself for so long for the horrors I committed as Nightmare Moon.”
She looked into the eyepiece and I started to move the enormous telescope towards the piece of sky she indicated. By now I didn’t need verbal instruction. She need only point with her quill in the direction I needed to move the brass behemoth and my hooves would act of their own accord. For an hour or so we conducted the usual nightly observations, but as the time passed an idea began to form in my mind.
I waited until Luna pulled away from the eyepiece to take a moment before asking, “Luna?” She glanced at me and nodded as she took a sip of her hot tea, “Have you ever spent time during the night outside the castle?”
One eyebrow rose in a questioning manner as she placed her cup back on its saucer, “What do you mean? What is there to do outside the castle at night other than fly about and look at the sky? Ponies have always slept through my night, and that lack of admiration was the root cause of my fall into darkness so long ago. Why do you ask?”
I withheld my grin as I came to realize how out of the loop she was concerning daily life of modern ponies, “Oh you would be surprised what ponies do after dark. I know of a place that would be a blast to visit after the moon has risen. Perhaps we could take some time tomorrow night away from your observations so we could go and have some fun?”
She seemed drawn to my words like a moth to a flame, “What would you have in mind? What do ponies do after dark that could possibly be so exciting?”
My devious grin managed to break free at her question, my imagination running wild at the possibilities that had just been presented before me, “Oh I wouldn’t dare ruin the surprise Luna, not when the only way to truly express the experience is to have it for yourself.”
She bounced from hoof to hoof and let out a whine very unbecoming of a princess. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed her of acting like a filly in front of somepony besides her sister. Yet there she was, acting like a foal that wanted to have a cookie that she wasn’t allowed to have.
“Oh do not torture me with such ideas,” she replied in a high tone, sounding like she had regressed to the age of five, “you’re only making me want to stop tonight’s work and go now.”
I shook my head, feeling oddly like her father as I turned back to the controls, “We have more stuff to do after we finish with our work here. It will be a long excursion into the city and we do not have the time to do so now. Otherwise you’ll miss your dream walking work in the early hours of the morning, and I will not allow you to put aside your responsibilities to have fun on the town.”
She stuck out her bottom lip in a pout that made my nonexistent heart want to melt, “But I want to have fun with the other ponies at night. It has been over a thousand years since I could enjoy a night activity.”
I rolled my eyes, “For the last time no, we can’t do it tonight so we have to wait for tomorrow. I give you my word that we will go as soon as you raise the moon, but not a moment earlier. Is that alright with you?”
In an instant her childish expression changed back into her usual calm demeanor, “Very well, we shall venture into the city tomorrow night.” She winked at me as she picked up her clipboard and quill and returned to her post, “Enjoy the fact that you are one of the few who have seen me like that. Although I don’t think Tia has ever gotten me to beg for something before. Count yourself honored to be the first to have ever made Princess Luna lower herself to such a level as to plead like a filly for a treat.”
I smiled as I winked back, “Oh don’t worry Luna, I intend to make use of that fact later, if only to embarrass you in front of your sister.”
Her eyes widened on horror, “You wouldn’t dare.”
I smirked as I returned to my work, “Oh wouldn’t I?”
She groaned as she turned her attention back to the eyepiece, “You are going to be the death of me Captain.”
“But you love me for it anyway.” I countered, “Just remember not to tick me off, and I wouldn’t have to share this little exchange with somepony who might tease you for it.”
Another groan was my only reply, and I chuckled as we returned to our studies of the sky. I had a feeling tomorrow was going to be quite exciting, and if Luna’s naiveté was anything to go by, it could very well prove to be useful in the completion of my mission. While I didn’t hate working with her all night and guarding her during the day, I still had to find the Amulet of Autolycus in order to steal the princess’s magic. I had no luck finding out anything from the members of the Guard during my training under Shining Armor, so that meant only the princesses knew where it was. If I played my cards right, Luna could very well lead me to the tool of her own destruction, without ever even knowing it. As the light of the coming dawn began to light up the eastern sky, Luna’s alarm went off and she blearily opened her eyes, switching off the device before rolling over and pulling the blinds closed.
“Silver Shield,” she muttered as she closed her eyes.
“Yes Luna?” I asked from my position at the door.
“If I find you in my bed again, even if I was having a bad dream, I will make sure you go all the way through the wall instead of just denting it.” She rolled over to glare at me out of the corner of her eye, “Is that clear Captain?”
I threw her a salute, feeling a bit of formality was required, “Crystal Princess. I shall stay here the entire night and do nothing save for keep watch. You have my word I will not invade your private space again.”
She nodded, her jaw splitting open in a huge yawn as she rolled back over, “See that you do.”
Before long the soft snoring coming from under the sheets let me know she had fallen asleep, and I snickered to myself as a thought crossed my mind.
“You might not like it having me in your bed now Luna,” I muttered darkly, “but by the time I get through with you, you’ll be begging me to get in the bed and take you to the moon with something other than the Elements of Harmony.”
I fell into the practiced stance and locked my eyes ahead, feeling like things were now progressing at a pace I could work with. While mother was patient enough, I would rather not keep her waiting longer than necessary. After all, she had a country to take over.
Needless to say Luna needed no prompting to get out of bed the next evening. In five minutes she was awake, had her mane and tail brushed to perfection, and was itching to move so much she could barely stand still.
I rolled my eyes as we walked out of the castle’s main gates, “You do realize you have no idea what it is I’m taking you to go do, right?”
My comment didn’t even phase her jovial mood, “I care not so long as it lives up to your description.” She glanced at me as we made our way down the relatively empty streets of Canterlot, “Although I am still curious as to what ponies could be doing at this hour. I would presume that most would be asleep to rest before beginning another day of work in the morning.”
I nodded, “Most would, but there is a group of us who like to have fun after dark, and the place I’m taking you is only open after the sun had set.”
Her eyes widened slightly, and I had to suppress a grin as the neon sign came into view. It was a large number with hundreds of individual tubes that combined to make the words, Midnight Medley. It was a club Sunstreaker had taken me to at one point during our brief time together, although I had never forgotten the experience.
There was already a sizable line working its way around the end of the block, the bouncer a familiar dark brown earth pony with shades and an earpiece hanging off his left ear. I led Luna past the line and straight to the bouncer, the grumbled comments from the patrons quickly silenced as they spotted who it was that was cutting the line.
I nodded to the bouncer as we walked up, Luna’s confidence now turning to slight nervousness as her head tilted to one side, “Evening Minder, see any interesting ponies tonight?”
Gate Minder, or Minder as he was known by to his friends, shook his head as he lowered his shades to look at us with his black eyes, “Not much tonight, although your companion is probably the most interesting mare I’ve seen in the last three years.” He bowed slightly before straightening, “Welcome to the Midnight Medley Princess Luna. I hope you have a wonderful time.”
He pulled the rope out of our way and I led Luna through the doors, nodding my thanks to Minder as he pushed his shades back into place and began checking ID’s once more.
Luna turned toward me and opened her mouth, probably to ask a question about how I knew the bouncer, but was stopped mid-action by our entrance into the building proper. The Midnight Medley was a club run by one of the most famous DJ duos in all of Equestria. Vinyl Scratch, aka DJ-Pon3, usually oversaw the enormous sound system that took up the entire far wall of the club, the lights and speakers making it nearly impossible to see or hear straight if one wasn’t used to it. Luckily, ear buds were supplied at the door for those that wanted to have a more toned down evening. They were magically enhanced by Vinyl herself to block out the majority of the music, while still making it possible to hear casual conversation. It was an ingenious spell, and one I was quite interested in learning about if I ever got the chance. Life in the hive could be quite loud when everypony started talking at the same time, so ear buds such as those could come quite in handy. Her partner, Capriccio, was a relative newcomer to the music arena, but was quickly gaining popularity thanks to his skill and his close relationship to Vinyl. On the several occasions I had come here, I had tried to figure out if they were romantically involved, but the emotions I got from the two were far to numerous and complex to get a good read on their relationship.
Speaking of the DJ duo, they were currently behind the twin turntables in the center of the electronic behemoth that took up the back wall. Vinyl was bobbing her head to the beat, her trademark shades covering her eyes while her electric blue mane flew about her head. Her horn glowed as numerous knobs and switches moved about, her white coat changing colors at random as the light system flashed overhead.
Capriccio was standing next to her, his wings flared as he spun records around with his hooves, his lips split into a wide grin as he swung side to side in time with the melody. His grey fur wasn’t all that impressive, but he more than made up for it with his blond and sky blue mane, his bright green eyes flashing from under his tan news pony cap. His vest, also a light tan color, was currently being swung around on one wingtip, creating an artificial wind that blew through both pony’s manes. It made them look quite similar to Princess Luna and her sister, at least on the most basic of levels, because the breeze that only they could feel had their manes and tails flowing like water in the flashing neon lights.
I was pulled out of my altered state of mind by a wing gently brushing my shoulder. I glanced over and saw Luna had extended hers until the tips brushed against my flank. Her eyes were filled with a nervous glow, roaming around the inside of the club as the bass vibrated our bodies to the bone. She tried to ask me something, but over the music all I heard was a garbled mess. So, I grabbed some of the ear buds and held them out to her. She looked at them for a moment in confusion, before levitating them out of my hoof with her magic. She followed my lead as I plugged my ears with them, her eyes shifting from nervous to wonder as the background suddenly faded to a much more manageable level.
“Amazing,” she whispered as she held up a hoof to her ear, “I never would have imagined that something like this could make such a difference.”
“Why don’t we step out of the way and take a minute?” I asked, “We could sit at the bar until you get used to the atmosphere of the place.”
She nodded, some of her old fire returning to her gaze as she followed me over to the right wall, a long marble bar with numerous stools taking up the majority of the space. We sat down together and I hailed the barkeep with one hoof. The cherry red mare walked up, two mugs and washcloths levitating next to her deep brown mane as she cleaned them out.
“I think Princess Luna might need something to settle her nerves.” I said once she got up to us. I glanced Luna’s way with a wink, “Perhaps a Lightning Charge to kick things off?”
Rosy Ale nodded, her eyes flashing with mischief as she began mixing the drink. Her horn flashed with the same ice blue as her eyes as she charged the brew with power, the pegasus drink having a large percentage of its name attributed to the static zap it gave its drinkers. As she placed the large mug in front of Luna, she glanced my way and asked, “You’ll be having your usual?”
I nodded, “Two Cloud Chasers with a Dive Bomb.” As I glanced at Luna, I noticed that she was looking at her drink like it was about to bite her. “Make that two Cloud Chasers and an LC. I think the princess might need some encouragement concerning her drinking fare.”
Rosy nodded as she began mixing my drinks, her gaze flicking between the two of us with more than a little interest. “So what brings you here tonight Princess? I haven’t see you around the city before.”
Luna jumped like she had been struck, “Oh, um, I have been staying within the castle for quite some time now. I thought it would be good to see the citizens again without the need of a special holiday.”
One of Rosy’s eyebrows rose in a questioning manner, “And how are you finding the night life? Was it anything like you were expecting?”
Luna shook her head firmly, “Not at all. I was expecting some late night strollers through the city parks or ponies having a romantic dinner under the moon.” She glanced over her shoulder at the ponies dancing like there was no tomorrow, “This is beyond anything I could have imagined.”
Rosy smirked as she placed my drinks on the counter before me, “Well you’re not the only one to feel that way. Lots of ponies feel a bit overwhelmed the first time they step into the Midnight Medley. Not everypony is cut out for the night life, but for those who are, this is the place to go if you want to have fun.”
Luna ducked her head and hid her face behind her mane, “I do not yet see the fun in having bright lights flashed in one’s face and music vibrating through one’s bones. It is rather overwhelming to be completely honest.”
I reached over and pushed her drink closer to her, “Try this. They don’t call alcohol liquid courage for nothing.”
She grimaced as she lifted her head to glare at the drink, “I have partaken in alcohol before. I did not care for the burn or the bitter taste.”
“Oh you’ll be surprised when you taste this stuff,” I said as I picked up my own mug, “just take it slow or you won’t enjoy it that much.”
She watched me as I took a sip of my Lightning Charge, the electricity buzzing over my tongue as the raspberry brew passed into my throat. I let it swish around in my mouth for a moment before swallowing, letting out an appreciative sigh as the smooth aftertaste hit me. I turned to Luna and grinned, hoping that she wouldn’t chicken out before she even had a taste.
She looked at her own drink with some skepticism, and did the one thing I had never seen anypony do. She took the mug in her magic and placed it against her lips, tipping it back and chugging the entire thing in one go. My mouth dropped open the same time Rosy’s hit the floor, and I waited to see what would happen as she slammed the mug against the counter and coughed once.
At first nothing happened, and she smacked her lips once as she savored the taste, “Not bad. Much sweeter than I was expecting, although the electrici –”
She was cut off as sparks began to run up and down her body, her wings flaring wide as small lightning bolts arced across her feathers and in between her legs. Her muscles jerked as she fell out of her seat, my last minute dive saving her from landing flat on the floor. I realized my mistake all too late as the charge going through her body now found its way into mine, and I yelped as a particularly large bolt jumped from the tip of her horn and hit me right between the eyes.
For almost a minute we were stuck like that, held together by the electric charge that surged through our bodies. Finally, the magic found its way into the floor, leaving us both gasping for air as we pushed to our hooves. Rosy was bent over the counter, her eyes wide as she openly stared at us. A quick look around showed quite a few dancers had also stopped to watch the show, their eyes wide as they were able to make out who exactly it was that was lying on the floor.
I cleared my throat and helped Luna up, “Maybe next time you’ll listen when I tell you to take it slow.”
She nodded, to winded to respond as we climbed back into our seats. Rosy shook herself as she checked over Luna with a spell or two, the princess’s body glowing softly in different places with what I assumed were injury detection spells. After a moment, Rosy stopped her examination of Luna, seemingly having found she wasn’t hurt. However, her concern quickly changed to snickers as she attempted and failed to hold in her laughter.
“I never thought somepony would chug a Lightning Charge like that.” She forced out between giggles, “I knew stallions would dare each other to take mouthfuls of the stuff, but that takes the cake. You are one brave pony Princess.”
Luna shook her head as she took some steadying breaths, “A bit more foolish than brave in my opinion.” She shook her mane and wings out to clear the last of the static from it, “My captain warned me against doing such a thing, and yet I was expecting something more like wine. I used to be able to drink a gallon of the stuff and not feel a thing, yet one mug of this drink is enough to put me on my royal arse.”
Rosy’s eyes widened as I stifled my own laughter, “It wasn’t the alcohol that got you my Lady, it was the magic Rosy infused into it to give it that static charge. You just ingested the equivalent of three lightning bolts of electricity. No wonder you got a little more than you bargained for.”
She nodded, her eyes watering as she coughed a small puff of smoke, “It would seem that drinks have evolved quite a bit since I last partook in a stiff glass.” She turned towards me and eyed my other shots, “I wonder what else ponies have come up with in the time I have been gone.”
I pushed one of my Cloud Chasers towards her, the small glass shot filled with a light blue liquid, “Then you’re welcome to try one of mine. I probably shouldn’t be drinking a lot on the job anyway.”
She sent me a knowing look through her lashes as she grabbed the shot. We both knew that wasn’t the reason I was sharing my drinks with her, but neither wanted to voice it out loud. She inspected the shot before turning to me once more, her voice returning to the confidant and controlled tone I was used to.
“Is there a special way to drink this as well, or does one simply drain the whole glass at once?” She didn’t even give me time to answer before downing the whole thing, and I shook my head as I realized I might have a new problem on my hooves.
Three hours later, I was moderately buzzed, absorbing the lust from three pegasus mares as we danced in the center of the floor. Luna was a bit to my left, although she was far beyond what most would classify as drunk. Plain and simple, Luna was sloshed, and I was having difficulty trying to keep her under control when she seemed to think she could do anything she wanted, even though her complete lack of concentration and coordination made next to everything on that list a hazard to both her health and everypony around her. She had tried flying around and joining the dancing pegasi in midair, only to narrowly avoid giving herself a concussion smashing into the far wall. Only because I put myself between her body and the stone had we avoided injury, although I made sure to tell her that under no uncertain terms was she to try flying again. She had grudgingly agreed, although I think it was more from the fact that she could barely see straight rather than her near miss with the wall.
Currently she was having a blast dancing between two unicorn stallions, the one on her left a burly fellow with a deep blue coat and a neat steel grey mane. The one on her right was a more slim bloke with a golden coat and black mane, his head topped with a tan Stetson and his shoulders sporting a black string necktie. I could feel the raw emotion from halfway across the room, although I had a feeling with how inebriated Luna was those two didn’t have the more honorable intentions for her. Prey or not, it was still my job to protect her, so when the grey stallion began leading her off to one side, I broke from the mares surrounding me and followed.
We came out of the side of the building, Luna’s giggling making it easy to follow them until we got to the darker parts of the alley. I cleared my throat as the stallion turned towards Luna, who was having trouble standing, causing them both to turn towards me.
“I think the Princess has had enough for one night,” I said in my most menacing tone as I walked towards them, “we should be getting back to the castle before she gets into trouble.”
“And what would you do about it if I had other plans?” The stallion asked as he placed himself between me and Luna. “I was thinking of having dear Luna over to my place for some fun before she sobers up.”
“I like fun.” Luna slurred as she stumbled up to glare over the stallion’s shoulder at me, “Why you have to take fun way?” She stumbled and nearly hit the dirt before righting herself, her gaze out of focus and her wings flared for balance.
“See?” he said as he placed a hoof around her shoulders, pulling her towards his body, “the princess wants to come with me tonight. And aren’t all guards supposed to follow royal orders without question?”
I ground my teeth as I flared my wings and fell into a fighting stance, “I am no ordinary guard member. I am Princess Luna’s personal escort, the first and so far only member of the Shadow Sword. Now step away from her Highness or else I’ll be forced to remove you myself.”
His face turned hard as his horn lit up with a dark red glow, “You try anything and I’ll throw you through the wall. I don’t care if you’re Celestia’s personal butler, I’m going to have some fun tonight and you can’t stop me.”
My eyes narrowed in fury as he began to step back, pulling Luna by her shoulder as he moved further into the shadows. I roared and charged my wings with electricity, kicking off and pumping my wings as hard as I could. The idiot never had time to react as I slammed into him, knocking him back and into the dirt as I pumped every ounce of magic I could muster into his body. His cry of pain became a jerking gurgle as his eyes rolled up into the back on his head, his body falling completely still as foam began to bubble out of his mouth.
I stepped back, letting the heat of my hatred cool before turning back to Luna. She was looking at me with a very confused expression, her eyes somewhat crossed as she stumbled towards me, “He taking a nap now?”
I nodded, feeling better about myself when I detected a faint heartbeat under the stallion’s ribcage. It was more than he deserved, but I didn’t feel like dealing with a body count until after I took over Equestria. “He’s taking a time out. Let’s get you home Luna.”
She pouted, her bottom lip trembling slightly as she stumbled over to me, “I want fun. You promise fun at place tonight.”
I caught her as she fell to one side, grunting as her full weight landed on top of me, “You had fun tonight Luna. Now it’s time for bed. You like going to bed, don’t you?”
She hummed softly but otherwise didn’t answer. I locked my jaw and pulled her fully onto my back, her head hanging over my left shoulder as her back hooves and tail dragged on the ground behind me.
I grunted again as I began the long walk back to the castle, “The things I do for the sake of the mission.”
Somehow I managed to get us back into the castle and up to Luna’s room, although my legs were complete Jell-O by the time we got there. The morning light was already beginning to light up the eastern horizon, yet I knew Luna was in no shape to lower the moon. I slid her off of my back onto her bed, moving her body gently until she was in a somewhat comfortable position. She hummed and rolled over to look at me, her eyes somewhat clear for the first time since she had her first drink.
“Thank you for getting me home.” She whispered, her eyes fluttering as she tried to keep them open.
I nodded, “No trouble at all Luna. I was happy to do it. Did you have fun tonight?”
She yawned widely, her eyes closing for a moment as she murmured in an affirmative tone.
I knew she was about to pass out, but I still had one last thing I needed to do before she fell asleep. I tapped her on the shoulder, and waited until she looked my way once again. In an instant, my eyes changed from ice blue to lime green, capturing her gaze as her own eyes began glowing the same color. Working a mind control spell on an alicorn while they were fully aware would have never worked, but I hoped the combination of alcohol and the need for sleep would allow me to use it without her remembering my actions later.
“Where is the Amulet of Autolycus kept?” I asked, getting directly to the point.
“It is held in the secret vault behind the throne room,” she replied in a monotone voice, her unblinking eyes locked with mine.
“How do I get in?” I pressed, knowing the longer I kept the spell going the more likely she would remember it later.
“You need to use a spell that can both penetrate and deactivate the protective field around the door.” She answered, “I can show you how to use it.”
“That will not be necessary,” I mused as the information passed through the spell directly into my mind, “thank you anyway for offering, my little Luna.”
I deactivated the spell and her eyes returned to normal. For a moment I thought she was fully aware and would start yelling for her sister, but the next moment her eyes rolled up in her head and she fell back into her pillow. Soft snoring indicated she had passed out upon contact, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now all that remained was finding a moment that I could get to the vault without being seen by the princesses or the regular guard. I could get Luna drunk again and have her stand guard while I entered the vault, but I dismissed the idea immediately. Once was risky, twice was just asking for somepony to discover me. That meant I would have to do it when neither royal was present, which would mean I would have to slip away while Luna was working on one of her experiments. It wouldn’t be easy, but I had a feeling it wouldn’t be too hard to accomplish. I was the prince of the changelings after all. Slipping past a single mare should be a piece of cake compared to the other things I’d had to do so far.
I pulled the sheets up and over Luna, letting them fall under her chin as she drifted off to sleep. “Good morning Luna, sleep well.”
Acting on impulse I leaned down and brushed her mane out of her face, giving her a brief kiss on the cheek. A slight surge of her energy tingled across our contact, and I was oh so tempted to drain her completely right then and there. But, I restrained myself, letting that small taste act as an appetizer for when she fully fell into my sway. I backed away and took up position at her door, watching as the moon lowered itself and the sun followed it into the sky. Celestia must have taken over the lowering of the moon in her sister’s place, although I would imagine there would be questions come the next evening.
I shrugged, figuring it would fall on Luna to explain why she got sloshed and couldn’t lower the moon. I had restrained myself during our little outing, it would stand to reason she could have done the same and chose not to. I smirked at the image of a hung over Luna arguing with her sister in front of me, and I fell into my stance to wait. It would be worth the verbal lashing I would get from Luna if I could see that happen, so I figured waiting for nightfall wouldn’t be too big a challenge.
It was a rather uneventful day, as it usually was, but as the night began to fall the peaceful silence was broken by a very disgruntled groaning sound. I smirked as Luna rolled over in her bed, her eyes screwed shut and her hooves pressed against the side of her head as she groaned once more.
“Remind me to never let you take me out to have fun in the city again.” She muttered darkly as she rubbed the sides of her head with her hooves, “I think I would rather have my head pounded on by a mystic hammer than to go through this again.”
I couldn’t hold in the contempt snort that escaped my lips, “Says the mare who had to try every drink available at the bar, when she knew that having that much alcohol would make her regret it.”
She cracked one eye open to glare daggers at me, “Speaking about a pony in the third person is considered rude when they are in the room.”
I rolled my eyes, “And yet I don’t see you doing anything about it. Must be something to do with that splitting migraine that drinking too much imparted on your unprepared skull.”
She growled as her horn ignited, although it quickly sputtered out when she hissed in pain, “Mark my words, you will regret saying that once my head stops pounding like a drum.”
I walked up to her and handed her the cup of hot coffee I had brought up from the castle kitchens, “I’ll be waiting for that beating. Until then, drink this, it will help with the pain.”
She took the cup in her hooves and sniffed it suspiciously, “Not another magically enhanced concoction is it?” She lifted one eyebrow as she looked at me over the rim.
I shook my head, “Just regular coffee, black as the night with no cream or sugar.”
She grimaced as she looked at it like the dark liquid would kill her, “I think I would rather drink another of those electric brews then to drink this.”
I chuckled as I placed a hoof on her shoulder, “It might taste horrible but it will help to make the headache go away faster. It will also help to soothe the stomachache that is no doubt turning your gut inside out.”
She winced as she looked up at me, “You must have experienced something like this before. When did you learn of these cures?”
I rubbed the back of my head sheepishly, “Let’s just say I had to have one of the regular guard carry me back to the barracks after a night on the town. We had training in the morning and we both knew Shining Armor would string me up like a piñata if I came to training nursing a hangover. So my buddy fixed me a cup of coffee so black I felt like I had to chew the damn stuff. It tasted terrible but it got me through the hangover in no time flat.” I noticed her disgusted expression as she looked at her own cup, “Don’t worry, I didn’t make yours that strong, but it still has enough kick that you should be up and ready to go in about twenty minutes.”
She nodded, still looking rather unhappy with me, or maybe herself, as she swirled the drink around in the cup, “It would probably be best to take it in one go, correct?”
I nodded, “Think of it as one of those shots, but with a lot better result after you drink it.”
She nodded, tipping the cup to her lips and downing the entire thing in one gulp. She coughed as she lowered the glass, her face screwing up in discomfort as her eyes watered. “Well that was rather, invigorating.”
She placed the cup on the bedside table and looked up at me, her eyes now at least clear of pain to the point I could tell what other emotions were running around her head. The primary one was a combination of gratitude and regret, although I figured the regret was probably due to the lack of memories the stiff liquor had caused. She wouldn’t remember most of what happened last night, but of what little her mind would be able to piece together, I imagined she would rather not know the rest.
“You seem to be none the worse for our little venture,” she mused as she looked me up and down, “I take it you did not lose control of your drinking as I did?”
I shook my head, “I had a feeling that you might get carried away when you found out the drinks actually tasted good. I limited my own drink so that I could at least keep you out of trouble. Do you remember anything from last night?”
She winced as she placed a hoof against her head again, “Just bits and pieces. I can still feel the music pounding in my head, although that’s probably the drinks. I remember dancing and feeling more free than I have in a very long time. However,” her eyes darkened as she turned back to look me straight in my own, “there was a stallion that I remember taking me somewhere. It was dark and I think he was talking to somepony. I don’t remember what happened next, but then you appeared and spoke to me about something.” She closed her eyes and grumbled under her breath, “I wish my mind would clear so I could remember what happened.”
I gently placed a hoof on her own, making her pause as she looked up at me, “Trust me Luna, it’s better that you don’t remember. That stallion wanted to take advantage of your suggestive state, and I put a stop to him before he could do anything. You needn’t remember something like that, for it would only sully the good memories of your first visit to a club. Besides the exes drinking that went on, did you actually enjoy our little outing?”
She nodded, placing her hoof back on the sheets as she stretched her wings, “I did have fun, although I think next time I should skip the drinks and focus on dancing.”
“There’s nothing wrong with having a drink or two Luna,” I assured her, “you just need to take it in moderation. Too much of a good thing and all that. Besides, a few shots can take away from of the nerves when it comes to having fun around ponies you don’t know, and can make the night more enjoyable for everypony involved.”
She sighed as she pushed the sheets off of her body, “I guess you would know best, given I have no experience in such matters.” She rolled over and pushed into a standing position, stepping off of her bed as her horn glowed, “I must tend to my charge before sister has to take my duties upon herself again. I imagine she is not going to be very happy with me.”
You would be correct in that regard dear sister.
We both jumped as Celestia’s voice echoed around the room, her body appearing in a nova of light as it had the day, “Your carelessness and lack of foresight caused me great concern when the moon refused to set. Had I not checked your chambers with a far-sight spell I would have thought you were hurt or missing.”
Her hard gaze bore into me as I tried to back up, “And you need to be more careful of where you take my sister. While you are her personal guard, do not think for a moment I won’t discipline you myself if you lead my sister astray. She is still adjusting to modern pony life, and as such is naïve to many of its dangers. See to it that you take that into consideration next time you take my sister on another outing.”
I nodded, feeling much like a bug under the eye of an eagle. I might be powerful enough to trick Celestia into believing I was a regular pegasus, but I would rather return to the hive a failure than risk facing the solar diarch head to head. Even mother would not dare to challenge her, at least not without the power boost of true love backing her magic.
Celestia nodded in turn, sending one last reproaching glare towards Luna before vanishing in the same flash of light she had arrived in. Luna an I stayed in place for a moment before she huffed and stomped one of her hooves in frustration.
“Does she think me a filly?” She growled as she walked over to her vanity, picking up a navy brush in her magic as she smoothed her mane and tail, “I can take care of myself thank you very much. I don’t need her to look over my shoulder every time I do something outside the castle.”
I chuckled softly as I watched her run the brush through her mane with firm and determined strokes, “You must admit your sister does have a point. Had I not been there to protect you, you might have been taken advantage of by that stallion. Then where would we be?”
The brush paused mid-stroke as she glanced at me through the mirror, “I suppose you are right. It would have been bad if something had happened to me because of my own foolish mistake. Never the less, I still think she is too overprotective of me. I am almost as old as she is.”
“And how much of that time was spent on the moon?” I covered my mouth and cursed myself as I realized what I had just said. Apparently Luna had heard me, because this time the brush slammed onto the vanity wood with enough force to crack it.
“You think I do not know my own lack of knowledge concerning this new time?” Her voice had taken on a dark edge as she looked over her shoulder at me. Her eyes were murderous as she stood up and walked up until she was nose to nose with me. “Do you honestly think I could ever forget the reason that I am still distant from my subjects, nay, my own family? I spent a thousand years in isolation because of my own foolish pride and greed. Now I have a chance to start anew and yet I am still alone. While I was on the moon my sister lived a thousand years among the ponies, making friends, watching them die, leading a nation on her own when she knew I would gladly take her pain for myself. The mare that just left this room is not the same Celestia I remember, and every pony I cared about is so far beyond dead that I doubt even their bones remain in whatever forgotten graves they call home.”
She sniffed as tears began to run down her face, “So don’t you dare believe you know my sister’s actions better than I. Don’t ever think you could possibly understand the pain we both undergo each and every day, knowing that the sister we once knew is no more, and yet we cannot forget the love we once had for each other. Oh yes, we still love one another, but compared to the inseparable bond we once had, the spark between us now is nothing.”
I kept my gaze locked with hers, feeling the rage and pain radiating off of her like a bonfire. And yet, behind that, there was a deep sorrow that was so powerful I felt like I might drown in it if I fell to far.
After a minute or two she broke our staring contest, her wings deflating as she turned and walked over to the balcony that led outside, “I will not be requiring your services tonight. You are free to do as you will, just so long as you do not leave the castle.”
I took a step forward, hoping beyond hope I could salvage this disaster, “Your Highness, I didn’t mean to –”
Her wings flared and her horn ignited as a set of ethereal swords materialized next to her head, “I would greatly advise you to leave now, before I lose my patience and do something we will both regret.”
I needed no further prodding, spinning around and exiting through the double doors as fast as my hooves could carry me. While I knew all hope was not lost in winning her heart, I had just made my own job a lot harder. I smacked myself upside the head with a hoof as I walked down the halls, feeling like three kinds of an idiot for what I had said.
“Nice work Silver,” I mutter under my breath, “you might as well kiss having Luna fall in love with you goodbye. You’re going to need a miracle to win her over now.”
I was working my down the east wing when I overheard ponies talking. My interest sparked, I walked around the corner to see two members of the Night Guard talking with one another as they stood watch over the main hall. Their conversation was cut short as they spotted me, any they both threw crisp salutes as I walked up to them.
“At ease you two,” I said as they lowered their hooves, “I’m just on a walk tonight and heard you two talking. Anything of interest?”
They shared a look before the one on the left spoke up, “We were just figuring out either of us wanted to submit a song for the contest.”
My ears perked forward, “Go on.”
The other seemed to pick up his stride a bit now that his companion had broken the ice, “Yeah, Princess Twilight and her friends are putting on a contest for the Grand Galloping Gala. Anypony can submit a song for them to pick from, and the one they pick is going to be sung, by them, at the Gala itself.”
His cohort nodded before adding, “It was an idea Princess Twilight came up with to make the Gala less of a bore. With all those nobles sticking their noses as high in the air as possible, it would be a nice change of pace to have one of us common ponyfolk contributing to the event.”
“Are there any requirements for somepony to submit a song?” I asked, an idea already taking form in my mind.
The guard on the left shook his head, “I don’t think so. It just has to be mailed to Princess Twilight at least three days in advance of the Gala itself. Other than that, I can’t remember there being any other rules.”
“And the Gala is two weeks away,” I mused, “meaning there’s plenty of time to come up with something and send it to her.”
“Is there anything else you need from us Captain?” The guard on the left asked.
I shook my head, “No, that should be all, keep up the good work and I’ll keep this little discussion between us.”
They smiled and saluted me once more, holding their position until after I turned the next corner.
“So Twilight and her little friends are putting on a show?” I muttered to myself as I made my way back towards the main body of the castle, “This could be my chance to get back in Luna’s good graces. Although, since I have the night off, might as well get some business taken care of. I might not have a chance like this for a while.”
I made my way to the throne room, hoping that Luna wouldn’t be holding Night Court this evening. That would put a major kink in my plans if she caught me snooping around a secret vault. However, my progress was halted directly in front of the great doors when a familiar peach-colored mare stepped up to me.
“Hi there Silver!” Sunstreaker chirped as she removed her now Night Guard helm, “I’ve been looking forward to seeing you for a while now. How have you been?”
“I’m sorry Sunny,” I said as I walked past her, “but I’m in a bit of a hurry right now. Can we talk later?”
She grabbed me about the shoulders and spun me around, “No, I’ve waited for weeks to see you again, and I’m not going to let you just walk away from me without an explanation. Why did you leave me? I thought we had something special together while you trained in the Guard.”
I rolled my eyes, I didn’t need this right now, “Because I’ve moved on to other things Sunny. I don’t have time to do stuff with you anymore. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have business I need to take care of and you are keeping me from it.”
I spun around and was about to walk away when she spoke, “It’s her, isn’t it?”
I paused mid-step, looking back at her with my eyes narrowed in confusion, “What?”
“It’s Princess Luna that you like now.” She clarified as she walked up to me, “You don’t want to be with me anymore now because you think she’s better than I am. Well I don’t care! I love you Silver Shield, and I want you to love me back even if it kills me!”
The pure need and raw emotion that washed over me was nearly enough to make me say yes, if only so I could drain her dry of the delectable love she was generating. And yet, I couldn’t. I had a mission to complete and I couldn’t delve into my own personal desires now any more than I could back in training. So, with a steadying breath to calm my nerves, I shook my head no.
“But why can’t you love me?!” She cried, her voice going up an octave as she closed the distance between us, “I’m just as pretty as her! I’m just as available if not more so! Why can’t you return my feeli –”
She stopped mid-sentence as her eyes began to glow green, my own holding her gaze hostage as I worked over her mind. I had no issues with controlling her, unlike Luna, but I didn’t have time to be arguing semantics with a love-struck mare.
“You will forget we ever had this conversation.” I said with force as I overpowered her mind, “You will forget ever having feelings for me other than that of a close friend. You will return to the barracks and tell anypony you see that you are taking the night off because you feel sick. When you wake up tomorrow, you will switch back to Day Guard and never attempt to contact me again.”
“O-Okay.” She whispered as she slowly nodded, “We’re just friends, nothing more. I will return to Day Guard and never contact you again.”
I nodded, shutting off the spell as she shook her head to clear it, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have business I need to attend to.”
She glanced up at me and nodded, “That’s alright, I’m feeling a bit sick. I think I’ll take the night off.”
I sighed as she walked back the way she had come, turning back to the doors of the throne room. Now that I had that mare out of my mane, I could get back to work.
I pushed the doors open with my magic, making sure to close them behind me as I crossed the expansive space. Behind the thrones there was a tapestry that depicted the same design as the doors. However, it was what lay behind the tapestry that I was after. I shoved the cloth out of my way and draped it over Celestia’s throne. Where there should have been a blank wall was actually a magic seal, the design spiraling out from a central point in the shape of a starburst. In the middle of that starburst was a hole, and I knew from Luna’s memory that it was activated by sticking one’s horn inside the hole. I activated my transformation magic, giving myself an exact copy of Celestia’s horn before I pumped my wings and flew up to the hole. I activated the spell I had stolen from Luna’s mind, and stuck the horn into the hole. For a moment nothing happened, but then the design began to glow, and as I pulled my horn out, the wall began to fold in on itself, revealing a single doorway wide enough for a pony to walk through. Beyond the opening was a single room, no bigger than twice Celestia’s length and thrice wide. I stepped through the gap and looked around, seeing various ancient tomes and weapons hung in suspended animation magic. It was the item on the far left that caught my eyes, and I couldn’t help the grin that formed on my lips as I walked up to it. I removed my new horn, returning my disguise to its natural form, and flew up to inspect the trinket floating at about Celestia’s height. It was a necklace made of pure silver, the chain nearly too thin to see and yet assumingly indestructible. The metal formed a spiral design, encapsulating a glowing sapphire within its bindings like a seed in the roots of a tree. It was large enough that it would take up most of the space on my hoof, and yet seemed far too small to be something so powerful. Yet, that was the great trap of magic, sometimes it was the most simple of objects that could become the most dangerous.
I snatched the necklace from the cylinder of magic that held it aloft, and hid it under my armor before quickly leaving the vault. I returned to my quarters once I made sure the doors had been sealed exactly as I had found them, the wall now just as unassuming as it had always appeared. My own room was a rather simple affair, stationed in the west wing of the castle directly below the tower that Luna called home. It wasn’t large or even fancy by any standard, and yet it was more than enough for the meager possessions I had. There was a birch desk on the left side, while my bed was stationed along the far wall under the single window pane, currently closed and shuttered to keep the wind out. There was a dummy that I could hang my armor on if I so wished, and a trunk so I had someplace to secure my valuables. It was within that trunk that I hid the amulet, placing it within my bag of bits so I could take it with me if the chance presented itself to use it. I had no idea when something like that would occur, but I felt it was better to be prepared just in case.
With my spoils now stowed away, and with nothing else to do for the night, I climbed into bed and shut my eyes, feeling it would do me some good to metabolize the emotion I had just absorbed from Sunny and Luna. While negative emotions would provide me with sustenance, it didn’t mean my body would enjoy the experience. Kind of like Luna’s hangover, too much negative emotion could make me ill, although the effects wouldn’t be long-lasting. I closed my eyes after I removed my armor and climbed into bed, realizing as I began to drift off that this was the first time I had slept in nearly a week.
“Need to work on sleeping like a normal pony.” I muttered as I rolled onto my side, “Can’t have ponies thinking I’m different because I never sleep.”
With that I passed out, knowing full well that the rising sun would call me to duty guarding Luna once more, and would signal the beginning of my songwriting career. The contest could very well tip Luna’s feeling for me into actual love instead of the friendship we currently had, I just needed to come up with the perfect song to push her over the edge and into my waiting trap.
The next two weeks passed in both a blinding blur and a stagnant crawl. Luna was still acting cold towards me, and barely spoke with me other than to provide instructions or directions during her experiments. I knew that she was still upset over the argument we had before, but I was beginning to wonder if there was any way to patch up the budding bond we had before my monumental blunder. Well, we were about to find out, because the Gala was tonight, and if all went well, Twilight and her little group would be singing a very special song for the Princess of the Night.
We stood at the top of the main steps in the grand ballroom, Celestia, Twilight and Cadence standing together at the top as they greeted the nobles. Luna was next to me, a few steps behind the other princesses and definitely not in a very good mood. Her face was calm and smooth as stone, but I could tell by the slight twitch of her tail and the glances she kept sending the vast windows that she would rather be someplace else.
I had to stifle a yawn as the last noble couple left the steps, leaving the royals alone at the top save for myself and Twilight’s friends. Celestia stepped forward and spread her wings, the ponies below falling silent as they listened.
“I want to thank everypony for attending this year’s Grand Galloping Gala.” Her voice rang clear and pure over the amassed ponies, “Tonight we have a very special event planned for you all, and I dearly hope you enjoy what is in store.”
She nodded to Twilight, who stepped forward with her friends and spread her own wings, “For the last month, ponies from all over Equestria have been sending me letters, containing songs of their own creation that they wished to have presented here tonight. While there were many songs that we thought were amazing, three stood out above the rest.” In typical Twilight style, she pulled out a list in her lavender magic, reading it off as Rainbow Dash and Applejack rolled their eyes, “In third place, we would like to congratulate Archmage Seal Breaker for his eloquent and profound piece, A Single Word.”
I looked out over the assembled ponies and spotted the aforementioned Archmage, his deep brown fur accented by his bright green mane and piercing grey eyes. He nodded his head to the Princess of Friendship, the others stomping their hooves politely as attention was returned to the purple alicorn.
“In second place,” Twilight continued, “we have Grazioso Cadenza, written by Canterlot’s very own Octavia Melody.”
This time the response was much stronger, ponies stomping and even whistling as a dark grey mare with a black mane blushed and hid behind the familiar Vinyl Scratch. It took a moment for the noise to calm down, but as silence fell over the ballroom everypony waited on baited breath. Everypony wanted to hear who got first place, and what kind of song could outshine even the renowned concert cellist. Twilight smiled as she shared a glance over her shoulder with her friends, “In first place, we have a song that comes from one of Canterlot’s most elite. In dedication to Princess Luna, it is my honor to announce that Captain Silver Shield, with his creative and inspiring piece Moonlight Day, is our contest champion.” She glanced over her shoulder at me with a knowing smirk, “My friends and I will be singing his song for all of you tonight, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.”
I stayed perfectly still as the eyes of everypony present turned to me, including the burning gaze of a certain alicorn, whose shock and uncertainty washed over my like the tide as Twilight and her friends took to the stage that had been erected on the right side of the room.
Luna leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”
I smirked as I responded, keeping my eyes locked on the six ponies standing center stage, “Because it wouldn’t have been a surprise if I had. Now hush, they’re about to start.”
She was either too shocked or too preoccupied to reprimand me for my language, but I could feel the curiosity coming off of her like fireworks as the lights dimmed. A moment later six spotlights fell onto Twilight and the others, casting them into stark relief as a powerful and yet whimsical instrumental began. I had no idea where the music was coming from, but I figured it didn’t matter, so long as it kept going as it was. The lively brass melded well with the more smooth woodwinds, creating an almost dreamlike atmosphere as Twilight stepped forward.
I can see you now, standing over there Your heart is full of hope and nothing can compare Shake off those darkened dreams, because you are the one The one and only pony, who has faced her fears and won
The beat picked up as her voice rang through the hall, the others picking up the chorus and echoing her cry as the music took flight.
This is for you, (Yeah) stand up and sing now Take your place now, and give a royal bow We know you feel the pain, of making past mistakes But tonight, you fly, under a starlit moonlight day (You fly-y-y) Under a moonlight day (You fly-y-y)
Twilight stepped back, swaying to the beat as Rainbow Dash flew up and over the crowd, singing and smiling like a filly as she did loops and barrel rolls.
You once made ponies, feel so strong and proud Your sky lit up our dreams, whenever you’re around Now you’re here again, standing tall and bright With ponies who want to be your friends, and bring you to the light
Right as she got to the end of her solo, she flew up to Luna, giving a crisp salute before flying back to the stage. The group picked up the chorus together, their voices ringing through the air as ponies began to sway and dance to the beat. I even caught Cadence and Celestia tapping their hooves as they threw knowing looks my way.
This is for you, yeah, stand up and sing now Take your place now, and give a royal bow We know you feel the pain, of making past mistakes But tonight, you fly, under a starlit moonlight day You fly-y-y Under a moonlight day You fly-y-y
At that moment Pinkie Pie did a flying jump right to the edge of the stage, her body bent over backwards as she did mind-bending acrobatics. And yet she never lost the words, singing in a rap version of my song that even I never saw coming.
So don't let anypony, tell you that you’re wrong And don't let anypony, break your heartbeat song Yeah there’s days when we might feel down, and need some time alone But the truth is that you have all of us here, to brighten your gemstone
Pinkie finished her breakneck rap with a triple backflip, landing right next to Applejack as Rarity stepped forward. Her voice was a crisp and bright light as her melody floated through the air, and I was beginning to wonder if this was even my song anymore, so moved was I by the adaptation of the lyrics into something much more than the original.
So don't ever be ashamed, to wear your crown of gold You're the light of the night to all of us, you’re the star of every show You glow like the moon and the stars, in the brightest midnight sky This is for you, trust who you are, don’t ever say goodbye
This time, instead of all of them singing the chorus, Applejack took up the mantle and sang it in her kind southern drawl, the others backing her up as she performed a one-pony square dance. Her eyes were closed as she spun around, flipping her hat into the air and letting it land right back on her head as she finished.
This is for you, (Yeah) stand up and sing now Take yer place now, and give a royal bow We know you feel the pain, of making past mistakes But tonight, you fly, under a starlit moonlight day (You fly-y-y) Under a moonlight day (You fly-y-y)
The music changed key and I felt my wings stirring as the beat picked up. I could have sworn that I was flying through the moonlight with them as the song carried me away. I was almost too enraptured to notice the emotions coming off of Luna, but as I paused a moment to look at her I nearly fell over.
Luna had tears rolling down her face as the six mares sang the chorus once more, her eyes so full of emotion that I couldn’t begin to place them all. Any yet, under all of them, there was one that stood out from the rest, one so powerful that it nearly knocked me over as I tuned into it. It was tranquility, like her heart and soul had soothed from a tortured tempest to a serene lake. In that instant I realized that my song had done something unbelievable. It had allowed Luna to accept her past, and maybe even embrace the present.
Twilight and company paused as the music wound down to a soft melody, their voices filled with joy as they stood together for the final lines,
You shine like the moon and the stars, don’t ever fade away We love you, Princess Luna, don’t let your heart give way
As the lights slowly came back to their regular brightness, the entire ballroom was silent. Then, it erupted in cheers and whistles as ponies on every side turned to face Luna and me. I felt suddenly self-conscious as masses of ponies began to crowd around us, asking questions and pressing against me like a howling gale.
I sent a pleading look towards Luna, who was having a similar problem, and she nodded before her horn began to glow. In a flash of blue light my stomach turned itself inside out, only for the world to swim back into place as my vision cleared. I grunted as I stumbled slightly, feeling a steady flank press against my own as I got my bearings back.
“Forgive me for not preparing you,” Luna said as I stood up fully, “teleportation can be rough the first several times on ponies who aren’t used to it.”
I shook my head to clear the last of the spots from my vision, seeing that we were now standing in front of the doors that led to Luna’s chambers, “So it would seem. May I ask why you brought us here?”
She looked away and I felt a quick surge of embarrassment as her cheeks flushed purple, “In all honesty I was thinking that we might hide here for the rest of the night. If only to avoid the new fans you seem to have acquired.”
I smiled as I rested a wing on her flank, “Do I need to hide from you as well?”
She looked back at me with one eyebrow raised, although after a moment understanding crossed her features, “Oh you have no need to worry about me. I greatly enjoyed your song, but I won’t go about chasing you through the halls asking for your autograph.” She got a cheeky grin on her lips as she leaned down to meet my gaze, “Why? Does my faithful Captain want to be chased around by a fanfilly version of his princess?”
I shuddered at the mental image, “No thank you Luna. I’d rather you send me back to the ballroom then deal with that.”
She nodded, the smile never leaving her face as she opened her door, “Then I suggest you come in before said ponies find us. I would hate to lose my favorite Shadow Sword to a mob of adoring fans.”
“I’m your only Shadow Sword,” I reminded her as I walked in, the door closing behind me.
“But that makes the title so much easier to earn,” she countered as she climbed into her bed and lay down with her legs neatly curled under her chest, “after all, it’s not everypony who gets to spend time with me in my personal chambers.”
I nodded, conceding the point, “Hey, Luna?” I asked, “May I ask you something?”
She seemed to sense the change in mood, her face becoming more somber as she locked her gaze with mine, “You seem to have something weighing on your mind. What is it you wish to ask?”
I paused, hoping I wasn’t making another massive mistake, “Can you forgive me for what I said the last time we spoke?”
Her eyes narrowed in confusion, “To what do you refer?”
I swallowed, knowing that once I said my next words, everything could either fall into place, or fall apart, “The things I said that night two weeks ago,” I clarified, “the comment about your banishment in particular. I was stupid and said something I know I shouldn’t have. I made a huge mistake and pushed a wedge between us that hasn’t gone away until tonight. I want to know if you can forgive me for my foolish actions, and if you would consider letting me make it up to you.”
Her expression became thoughtful as she looked down at her sheets, “I understand that what you said was not meant in spite or anger, yet the pain it caused me was still very real. While I can forgive you for putting your hoof in your mouth, I cannot forget the pain it created so easily.” She lifted her gaze to meet mine again, “What would you do to make it up to me?”
My eyes lit up as I felt the sparks of our bond igniting into a small yet powerful flame once again. Gotcha. “I would like to take you on a picnic, if you would like to join me in the castle gardens once the Gala has come to an end.”
This was it, the moment I had been waiting for. Now if she would only take the bait.
She took a second to think, although if the flare in her emotions were anything to go by, I already knew her answer. She smiled softly as she nodded, her eyes shining with happiness as she looked at me, “I would be delighted. Where shall we meet?”
I nearly let out a sigh of relief, but managed to hold it in as I went through the possible places we could go. It had to be someplace private, so my actions would be hidden from any passing ponies, but still with the right atmosphere to work to my advantage.
“I think the clearing by the pond would be a nice place,” I said, “the trees would be beautiful under the moon, and the stars wouldn’t be hidden by the castle lights.”
Not to mention the castle guard don’t patrol that area. I added in my mind. It’s the perfect spot for an ambush.
Her face lit up and she nodded, “That sounds lovely. I shall meet you there after the castle has gone to sleep for the night. Will you be waiting for me when I get there?”
I smiled, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
I walked over to the door and checked to see if the coast was clear. When I saw that there wasn’t anypony nearby, I glanced over my shoulder and gave Luna a quick wave before slipping out the opening. I quickly made my way through the halls, using less traveled corridors to avoid the ponies that might be out this late. Luckily, I made it back to my quarters without incident, and locked the door behind me as I walked over to the chest against my wall.
I opened it and pulled out the Amulet, taking a moment to look it over before slipping it under a fold in my armor. It wasn’t visible to anypony and should be secure until I had a chance to use it. Like it or not, my mission was coming to a head at this picnic, and only fate knew if it would end in victory, or failure. I looked around the room one last time, taking in the simple furniture and slightly dusty shelves.
“Come tomorrow,” I mused to myself, “this will all be ours. I’ll be living in the royal suite with mother, and changelings will rule Equestria as we rightfully should.”
I opened the door and stepped back into the hallway, closing the door for the final time as I made my way to the castle kitchens. Hopefully they had something that would pass as picnic fare, at least for as long as it took to use the Amulet. There would be no room for mistakes, no second chances, and I could feel my mind racing at the thrill of a hunt nearing completion. This night, under the moonlight, Princess Luna would meet her doom.
The soft evening breeze rippled through my fur as I waited, the moon sending silver streams through the branches of the willows. The stars seemed extra bright tonight, as if paying homage to their creator as I folded out the white blanket and set the simple wicker basket next to my flank. I checked over everything, knowing that this had to be absolutely perfect if I wanted to have any chance of trapping Luna. However, my fears faded slightly as the wind teased the feathers of my wings, making me almost wish I could stay in this form.
I sighed as I extended them slightly, letting the air currents dance over their surface while my mane flowed over my shoulder in a soft ripple. It’s almost a shame to have to ruin this night, but the mission must come above all else.
I opened my eyes again, hearing the soft thumps of approaching hooves on the neatly manicured grass. I glanced over my shoulder in time to see Luna stepping through the bushes, her eyes alight with wonder as they roamed around the clearing.
It was a perfect spot in all seriousness, the moonlight reflecting off of the perfectly smooth pond, with the stars twinkling overhead as the wind danced through the willow branches. Had it been anything more than a very pretty trap, I would have been shocked if a pony could resist falling in love in such a scene. But, that was the whole point behind doing this, to lower the Princess’s guard so that she would never see my attack coming.
“You have outdone yourself,” she murmured as she walked up to me, “I could never have thought that the gardens would be this beautiful at night.”
“Only because of your moon and stars,” I countered, “if not for them this would be a dark and lonely hovel, hidden in the depths of a forgotten wood.”
I saw the blush creeping up her cheeks as she sat down next to me, curling her legs under her chest as she eyed the basket, “You flatter me when it is not necessary. What did you bring for us to eat?”
I smiled as I flipped open the lid with a wing, pulling out my treats one by one as I set them out on the blanket, “A few of Copper Pot’s hidden treasures. A bottle of his finest Caberneigh wine, two platters of oat cakes smothered in his secret sweet sauce, a raspberry tart just big enough for two,” I winked at her and she giggled as I pulled out the last item, “and a bag of chocolate bits for us to share.”
Her eyes seemed glued to the fake gold coins, and I couldn’t help but snicker at the expression she was making at the foal’s candy. She shook her head as she looked back up at me, the affection towards me nearly making my stomach groan. Yet, I held off, knowing that if I filled up on her weaker emotions, there wouldn’t be any room for the main course.
“You seem to have gone to great lengths to pamper me,” she mused as she lifted one of the tarts in her magic, “is there some ulterior motive behind this little midnight rendezvous?”
I forced a blush to my cheeks as I rubbed the back of my head with my hoof, faking bashfulness, “Well you see Your Highne –”
“Have I not told you to call me Luna when we are alone?” She teased, her eyes flashing with mirth as the affection between us grew.
I nodded, smirking on the inside at how easy this was going, “You did say that.” I cleared my throat, “You see Luna, I might have brought you here for some reason other than to simply show you a good time.”
She leaned closer, placing the cake between her lips and looking at me through her eyelashes in the most adorable expression I had ever seen. She bit into the cake and prompted me to continue with a nudge of her hoof.
By that point I no longer had to fake the blush, it was simply too much seeing the Princess of the Night looking at me like a lost puppy while nibbling on an oak cake. “I-I may have developed some feelings towards you that might not be considered proper.” I averted my gaze despite how badly I wanted to continue gazing into her navy orbs, knowing that I had to nail this performance, “And I might have brought you here in the hope I could convince you to return those feelings.”
I closed my eyes, nearly laughing like a mad pony on the inside as the affection coming off of Luna was mixed with a large dosage of unease and surprise. However, those negative emotions quickly morphed into something nearly akin to lust, and I could feel her body heat as she leaned closer. Her hoof gently turned my head towards hers, and I nearly jumped out of my disguise as I saw how close she was to me. Her eyes were half lidded and her muzzle was only an inch from my own. I could feel her mane gently brushing over my shoulder, and I could smell the sweet scent of her breath as she lowered her leg.
“You might be surprised at what my answer is.” she spoke in just over a whisper, her tone sultry and warm as she extended her wings. I never thought I would see the day that a princess of Equestria would get the stiffies over a regular pony, but I could not deny what my eyes were telling me. Add in to that the waves of lust now coming off of her, and I had no doubt in my mind that she was just an inch away from falling in love with me. Now all she needed was that final push.
I pined my ears back and flared my wings, feigning my own arousal as I locked their joints, “And that answer would be?”
She didn’t speak, instead she leaned closer, closing her eyes fully as her lips connected with mine. I resisted the urge to fall into her embrace as the lust within her exploded into full-power love, and I drank it up like a starving drone. I could barely keep myself under control as the power surged through my body, nearly making me forget what it was I needed to do. Hoping to keep Luna distracted, I wrapped my forelegs around her shoulders, deepening the kiss with a soft lick on her lips. She moaned as she complied, and I used the moment to pull the Amulet out of my armor with my magic as our tongues danced in her mouth. I pushed her over, keeping our lips connected as her back settled on the ground. She moaned into my mouth again as her hooves held tight to my neck, and I smiled as I activated the Amulet, knowing that even if she wanted to resisting wasn’t going to save her now.
Her eyes flew wide as the magic drain began, our connection causing the flow to move directly through our lips. Her body began to glow a deep blue as mine radiated a fusion of green and white, her magic transferring from her body through mine and into the Amulet. The jewel in the necklace’s center began to rotate and glow with the same color as Luna’s magic, the metal shifting around it until the crystal was hovering in the center of an open sphere. Luna tried to get out from under me, but with my superior position I was able to easily pin her in place. Her hooves pushed against my chest, but in her current state she wasn’t able to do more than lift one of my hooves off the ground. Trying to fight my strength while doing everything to stop the magic dump proved to be more than even she could handle, because after a few moments of token resistance, her body fell completely limp as her eyes stared into mine. I couldn’t help the arrogant smile that crossed my lips as the last of her magic flowed into me, going so far as to nibble on her bottom lip in a dominant way before pulling back as the aura around her body faded to nothing.
She lay there, gasping for breath as I stepped away from her, her eyes locked on me as she tried and failed to speak. I spit several globs of resin on her hooves and wings, pinning them together and to her sides before turning towards her face. She was just sucking in a great lungful of air to scream when I cut her off with a resin gag. The air came out of her nose in a rush as she glared at me with all of the hatred she could muster, the pure fury of her emotions washing over me like a forest fire.
I chuckled as I shed my disguise, knowing that here there was no risk of discovery. “You never knew, did you? That the perfect stallion and willing guard was in fact your greatest enemy?” She tried to yell something through her gag but it came out as an intelligible mess. I bent down and smiled evilly as our eyes met, “You may be the keeper of dreams, but this is one nightmare that you will never wake up from.”
Her eyes widened as her hatred turned to fear, and I reveled in the thrill it gave me as I turned away, “I’ll come back for you later, but first I believe that your sister and I have some unfinished business.”
Her fear strengthened into outright terror as she screamed through her gag, and I laughed as I replaced my disguise. Oh my, it was good to be back on top. No more having to fake interest in stupid tasks or buttering up to ponies I couldn’t stand. I was Prince Silver Jacket, heir to the changeling throne, and tonight the mighty Princesses of Equestria would fall to my power. I cast a quick sleep spell over my shoulder as I slipped into the bushes, hearing Luna’s muffled protests instantly halt as her defenseless mind plunged into slumber. She’d be out for a couple hours, meaning I had more than enough time to take care of the rest of my targets before the sun was due to rise.
I made my way through the castle grounds, moving with stealth to avoid the Guard patrols until I entered the north wing of the complex. It was here that the royal quarters resided, and where I would complete my conquest of this once great nation. The first room I came to was attended by two members of the Guard, their eyes fixated ahead and their bodies standing strong against any possible threat. Yet, that stoic grip on their emotions faded as I walked up. I had slipped the Amulet into my armor to avoid any undue attention, and fixed a calm smile upon my face as I approached them.
“Good evening Captain,” the one on the left called out in a hushed tone, “what brings you to our neck of the woods at this hour?”
“I just had to deliver some important information to Princess Cadence and her husband.” I replied, “It’s urgent and requires their immediate attention.”
They shared a nervous look before turning back to me, “Would you like for us to announce you so they can grant you entry? I’m sorry, but we cannot simply let you into their private chambers, no matter how important it may be.”
My eyes glowed a bright green as I activated a mind spell, “That won’t be necessary, I’ll let myself in.” Their eyes flashed the same green for a moment before they slumped to the floor. I smirked as I walked past them and slipped through the doors. Mind spell gets them every time.
I pulled the Amulet from its hiding pace as I entered the lavish room, my eyes locking onto the two sleeping ponies in the center of the bed. I walked up and gathered the resin I would need in my mouth before spitting it onto each of their mouths. Their eyes flew open in shock and duel muffled cries escaped their muzzles before I pinned them to the mattress with my magic. Their eyes locked onto me as I activated the Amulet, their bodies beginning to glow a light blue and fuchsia as their magic was drawn out through their horns. The tendrils of magic flowed through the air and into the Amulet, causing its dark blue glow to become a tri-colored rainbow as it began to spin faster in its metal sphere. It only took a few moments before the glow around their bodies faded away, and I used my magic to remove the sheets before securing their legs and Cadence’s wings with more resin. Their eyes remained locked on me the entire time, the fear that radiated from their bodies nearly enough to knock me over as I walked out the same doors I had just entered through. A quick spell over the shoulder, and two more ponies entered the now unprotected realm of sleep.
Moving quickly, I made my way down the hallway to another set of doors, these marked with a purple starburst surrounded by six smaller white ones. I took a moment to settle my breathing, letting my heart slow down to normal speeds as I pushed the oaken monsters open. I slipped into the darkness and paused to let my eyes adjust, though what met my gaze was not what I had expected.
Lying in sleeping bags around the base of the bed, were Twilight Sparkle’s friends. The shock of their presence was enough to make me freeze for a moment, before a sinister grin plastered itself over my face. Here was one of the greatest threats our hive could face if things went south, wrapped up for me all nice and pretty like a Hearth’s Warming gift. I worked my way into the center of the room, being careful to avoid stepping on the sleeping dragon next to the white unicorn. After I made sure I had enough resin for the whole group stored for use, I activated the Amulet.
At first nothing happened, save for the ponies beginning to glow the same colors as their innate magic. However, that quickly changed as Twilight’s eyes cracked open. She only had enough time to gasp in shock before my resin clamped her muzzle shut and pinned her limbs to her body. Her struggles and muffled screams weren’t enough to wake the entire group, but it was enough to rouse a certain rainbow-maned pegasus. She was a bit faster than her alicorn companion, getting half of a shout off before I secured her to the wall and shut her muzzle for her. That cry was enough to wake the rest of the ponies, but by that point it was far too late.
The last of their magic flowed into the Amulet and it began spinning like a top as a true rainbow of colors flashed from within the crystal. Helpless and weak, it was a simple task to round up the lot of them and spell them back into slumber. I chuckled to myself at how easy this was turning out to be, and walked around the corner towards my final target. If this was the best defense the ponies of Equestria had to offer, I was beginning to wonder how mother had been repelled all those years ago.
Like with Prince Shining Armor and his wife, Princes Celestia’s room was guarded by two members of the Guard, although rather than simply having her cutie mark painted onto the doors, it was forged out of dozens of plates of gold, inlaid with topaz highlights that would no doubt radiate under the morning sun. The two guards proved to be just as easy as the pair previous, and I slipped into the room with barely a wisp of air to mark my passage.
I took a moment to look around the royal chambers and noted that it bore a striking resemblance to Luna’s only in a reverse of design. Instead of clockwork clouds and sun moving about across the ceiling, the night sky was nearly perfectly recreated upon the tile, the stars small crystals embedded into the stone while the mother-of-pearl moon hovered dead center over the bay windows that took up the far wall. To my right was a large desk, piled high with scroll after scroll and several ink wells made of polished silver. And last but certainly not least, was the massive bed that took up the entire left side of the room. The behemoth was nearly four times the normal size of a pony bed, although given the size of its occupant it wasn’t that surprising. The covers were a deep orange that reminded me of the sunrise, while the misty curtains that hung from the bedposts were a soft yellow not unlike that of a canary.
Behind those curtains, sleeping soundly, was Princess Celestia herself. Her normally flat expression had softened in slumber, her shoes and collar resting on the floor and bedside table respectively. Her crown was sitting in a silver bowl that had two prongs in the center to support it from behind. I took a second to inspect the sleeping princess before I activated the Amulet, my magic ready for any and all attacks that might come from the solar diarch. For a moment it seemed that the Amulet was working, Celestia’s body began to glow with a pure gold light, but as her body began to shimmer and fade I realized that I had been tricked.
The tiniest flash of malice was my only warning, and I leaped to the side as a blast of solar power vaporized the rock where I had just been standing. I spun around to see the real Celestia landing next to the doors, her horn aglow and her eyes narrowed in fury. Yet even then, I could barely sense the raw hatred coming off of her, like she was many miles away instead of mere feet from me.
“I wondered when you would come for me,” she stated in a flat tone as she looked me up and down, “I was expecting a unicorn to be behind the theft of the Amulet, not a pegasus. You may shed your disguise changeling, you cannot fool me when I know that form could not allow you the use of that artifact.”
I smirked as I flared my wings, “You may have seen through me, but you underestimate your enemy.” I let the ring of transmutation fire race up my body, revealing my true form as Celestia’s eyes widened in surprise. “I am no ordinary changeling. And your time ruling Equestria is over.”
Celestia recovered from her shock quickly, her eyes narrowing as the glow of her horn doubled in strength, “So Chrysalis has sent her heir to take what she failed to conquer. I’m surprised she would risk somepony so critical to her hive for such a task.”
“You forget, it also makes me several times more powerful than my drone brethren.” I countered, “A single drone would not stand a chance against you and your allies, yet in a mere hour, I have stolen the magic of every princess save for one, with a few extra ponies as a bonus.” I let my combat stance relax into a more dignified pose, my head level with Celestia’s as our gazes sparked against the other, “You cannot hope to defeat me as you are. I have the magic of three alicorns and half a dozen of the most powerful ponies in your kingdom under my control. You can’t possibly believe you can beat me.”
Her eyes narrowed as she flared her wings, “Be that as it may, I have faced foes stronger than you in my life, and I will not back down to anypony who threatens my subjects.”
She fired a beam of pure magic directly as the Amulet, and I realized that she was trying to destroy it before I could bring the stolen power to bear. I flung a shield in front of the blast, feeling my hooves slide on the floor as the overwhelming force of her attack impacted my spell. I knew I had one chance to beat her before she overpowered my shield, so I activated the Amulet’s second function. The metal shifted until it was once again an open sphere, but this time the crystal did not draw magic in. Instead, it slowed to a stop and then began to spin the other direction. Faster and faster it spun, and I could feel the magic it contained flowing through every pore in my body as the might of Equestria’s greatest surged through me.
I laughed as Celestia’s eyes widened in fear, her calm mask shattering as her true emotions surged out in waves. I let my shield spell fall, taking the brunt of Celestia’s might directly in the chest. And yet I did not feel it. The sheer difference in our power made her attack feel no more significant that a filly’s telekinetic grip. I turned to face her and let her magic impact the Amulet directly, activating the first function before she had a chance to react.
She cried out in desperation as she pulled her horn back, but it was too late. Already her body was glowing with the gold aura her double had before, and even as she tried to step away, her magic flowed into the Amulet like an endless river. I used the last of my resin reserves to pin her to the wall, using small globs on each of her hooves and wings instead of covering her whole body. Tears streamed down her face as she cried out in desperation, but I put a stop to that with one final glob across her mouth.
It took far longer than it had with the others, but even still, Celestia’s magic finally ran out. The stream from her horn trickled down to nothing, and she slumped in her restraints as she gasped for breath. The Amulet returned to its natural state and spun so fast it simply became a blur, the gold light of the princess’s magic completing the rainbow that it radiated from within.
I stepped up to Celestia, about to knock her out with a sleep spell, but stopped as she met my gaze with her own. There was a question in her magenta orbs, one that I could read as easily as if she had spoken it.
I lifted her head with one hoof, forcing her to meet my gaze directly as I spoke, “I’m going to use the very magic you hold dear to free my mother from her prison. With you out of the way nopony can stop us. You ponies thought we were defeated, but you couldn’t have been more wrong. We survived, we grew stronger, and now you will all pay for underestimating our might.”
I let her head go and she seemed to deflate as the true reality of her situation hit her. I could feel the desperate glimmer of hope fading to nothing as the inevitable conclusion reared its head in her mind. She had lost, and with the other princesses already disposed of, there was nopony left to stop what was about to happen.
I stepped back, using a small token of the magic contained in the Amulet to boost my teleportation magic. A ring of green fire sprang into being between me and Celestia, revealing a black abyss within its boundaries that led to a very specific location. I removed the Amulet and dropped it into the wormhole, the ring of fire closing around the necklace as it traveled to its new owner. I turned my back on the silently weeping Celestia and walked out onto the balcony, turning to face Mount Equinor as the first hints of dawn began to show over the shadowed crags. Then, with a thunderous crack that threatened to split the very sky, a beam of rainbow energy erupted from behind the massive mountain, and I could have sworn I could hear a mare laughing as the beam faded to a sliver before disappearing. I couldn’t help the smile that formed on my face as I looked back at the still Celestia, because Chrysalis had returned to rule over all of Equestria as its new Queen.
As dawn broke over the castle and the surrounding city, most ponies would have looked to the shining light as a sign of a new day, a time to move on from the frustrations and challenges of the night before. Yet for anypony looking to the sky on this fateful morning, their hearts wouldn’t be filled with hope and optimism, because as the sun’s rays lit up the sky, so too did a black cloud descend on the capital. A swarm of thousands of changelings, so numerous they looked like a living storm front as they poured over the peak, had come to take their rightful place as the dominant race of Equestria. And I was there to watch it all happen from the balcony of Celestia’s chambers, a wide grin spreading across my muzzle as my brethren laid claim to what was ours.
Leading the mass with a smile that would put the Element of Laughter to shame, was my mother, with the Amulet of Autolycus resting against the center of her chest. She caught my gaze as she flew down to land on the balcony, the rest of the swarm flying past us as they began rounding up the ponies of Canterlot.
“You have done well me son,” she said as she leaned down to nuzzle her cheek against mine, “you have proven your right as my heir and shall be praised by all changelings as the one who defeated the ponies of Equestria and paved the way for our rule.” She looked into the bedroom and smirked as she saw the inert Celestia, “It would seem you have a bit of my dramatic flair when it comes to taking prisoners.”
Her horn lit up as the resin holding Celestia to the wall became liquid once more. She chuckled as the defeated mare slumped to the ground, her complete loss of spirit seeming to have robbed her of even the strength to stand. “Let us see how the former ruler of Equestria will react when I tell her of my plans.”
I fell in at my mother’s side as we walked into the room, Celestia lifting her head just enough to glare at us in defiance.
“The ponies of Equestria will never bow to you,” she forced out as we came to a stop before her, “your hive will never be able to control my subjects with so few drones at your command.”
Chrysalis chuckled as she bent down to level her gaze with Celestia, “Oh but I don’t need drones to control Equestria, or have you forgotten that I now control the power over night and day? Even the love of your subjects is mine to do with as I please, and I could not begin to think of what would happen if I was able to turn your precious Elements against the very citizens they were created to protect.” She smirked as she straightened, “Really Celestia, I would think that somepony of your age would have seen that coming, oh well, I guess even the elderly can still surprise you at times.”
Her horn began to glow as she created several portals of various sizes. After a moment the inert forms of nine ponies materialized from the emerald and obsidian rings, their bodies still secured with my resin and the sleep spell holding tight to their minds.
“Behold your champions,” Chrysalis said with sarcastic bravado, “the most powerful of your kingdom’s defenders, reduced to helpless foals thanks to my son.” She turned her gaze back to Celestia, who was staring at the sleeping ponies with blatant horror, “Your time ruling Equestria is over, and now we shall take our place at the top of the food chain, as is our birthright.” She lifted a hoof to the Amulet, her eyes flashing with power as her horn began to glow once more, “With your combined magic at my beck and call, nopony will stand in our way. However,” she lowered her hoof and turned to face me, “There is one unresolved issue that needs to be addressed.”
My look of confusion matched Celestia’s as my mother turned to face me fully, “What did I forget mother? Was there some mission that I failed to complete?”
She shook her head in answer, “No my son, you have not failed me. It is I who has failed you, by not recognizing your loyalty and service to the hive before now. As such, I will be rewarding your efforts here in Canterlot by giving you the one thing you have yet to receive, your crown.”
My eyes widened and I took an instinctive step back, “You mean, my coronation, it’s finally happening?!”
A true smile formed on her face as she nodded, “You have proven yourself worthy of the title, and as King you will rule over the Crystal Empire with your chosen Queen. There you will start your own hive, and one day I hope your strength will surpass even the might of my own. Tomorrow we shall hold your coronation in the throne room, and it is there that we shall cement our place as the rulers of all Equestria.”
I had to fight to keep the tears from spilling from my eyes, “Mother, I, I don’t know what to say. All these years, I thought that I wasn’t worthy of succeeding you until you were on your deathbed. To be crowned as King while you’re still in your prime, it’s beyond anything I could have ever dreamed.”
She placed a gentle hoof on my shoulder, “Take pride in what you have done this day, because your skill and cunning will go down in history as the greatest among changelings. Not even I could have fooled the princesses after what I did during Cadence’s wedding. You have done something that was beyond even my talents, and that is the reason why you have earned your place beside me, not as my heir, but as my equal.”
I nodded, wiping my eyes as my face hardened in determination, “I won’t let you down mother, I swear by the First Queen’s name that I will make you proud of me.”
She opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by a scoff coming from behind her. We turned and saw Celestia had forced herself to her hooves, her eyes narrowed in murderous fury and her horn pointed directly at my mother’s nonexistent heart.
“Save your prideful words for the afterlife.” Her voice positively dripped with venom as she glared daggers at us, “Even if it costs me my own life, I will not stand by and let my subjects fall to ruin.”
She let loose a battle cry and charged at us, her wings pumping even though she no longer had the magic to fly. For an instant it looked like she might succeed, until a green aura washed over her body and stopped her horn mere inches from my mother’s carapace. She hovered there for an instant, before she was flung back into the far wall with enough force to create a spider web of cracks in the marble. Her mouth gaped as she gasped from the impact, her fall to the ground only stopped by a ring of magic around her throat. It wasn’t tight enough to choke her, but it still held her aloft as my mother tisked in time with her forward steps.
“You truly are a fool if you thought you could harm me with an attack like that.” She stepped up to Celestia and pressed her muzzle against the alabaster mare’s, “And yet I won’t kill you. Seeing you simmer and fester over the loss of your kingdom is going to be far too much fun. No, I think you and the rest of your little band are going to be my personal playthings once Silver Jacket leaves for the Crystal Empire. It will be absolutely wonderful to see you agonize over the ponies you swore to protect, and yet will be helpless to do anything to save them.”
Celestia cracked one eye open and coughed up a small bubble of blood, staining her chin red as it ran down her neck, “I won’t ever stop. I’ll find a way to defeat you, even if it takes me the rest of my life to do so.”
Chrysalis cackled with glee as she pulled back, letting Celestia drop to the floor like a sack of potatoes, “That’s the spirit Celestia, boil over with rage and do whatever it takes to face me. I will watch you toil and struggle, and feast upon your hatred as your desperation leads you to your own destruction. You may have the drive to defeat me, and yet without your magic you will never again stand as my equal. I shall savor your pathetic attempts to usurp me like the good little toy you are.” She turned to face me and the rest of the sleeping ponies, “I wonder if torturing your greatest supporters would help speed things along?”
Celestia roared as she leaped for my mother, but with a simple flick of her horn Celestia crashed to the floor in a heap, her mind forcibly plunged into the realm of sleep.
“I think that is enough for one day,” Chrysalis muttered as she walked up to me, “tomorrow is a big day after all. By the way, have you chosen a drone to take as your queen once you are given your crown?”
I hesitated for a moment. It was a thought that had always nagged at the back of my mind, but I have never imagined I would need an answer to it so soon. My gaze wandered over the sleeping ponies behind my mother, and without really meaning to it locked onto the midnight blue alicorn that lay just to my left.
My mother’s gaze followed my own, her lips curling into a knowing smile when she saw how it was that had captured my attention, “Very well then, I see your tastes lie elsewhere that in the ranks of your hive.” She moved her gaze back to me as emerald eyes met silver, her lips curling into a sadistic grin as she began to laugh, “Oh I can’t wait to see Celestia’s face when we reveal your chosen queen. For that matter, I want every pony in this room to see it.” Her eyes raked over the slumbering quadrupeds like the fresh meat they were, “This is going to be one coronation that nopony is ever going to forget.” ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The rest of the day was spend securing the capital and ensuring that nothing escaped, not even word of our arrival in Equestria. For all her bluster and idealistic views, Celestia was right that we couldn’t stop the entirety of the pony race if they banded together as one, not yet at least. Even with the power of four alicorns and more, mother was still cautious. This wouldn’t be the first time the ponies had overcome unbeatable odds, and it would be our own fault if arrogance sowed the seeds of our destruction. The Royal Guard put up token resistance, as did some of the more militaristic nobility, but that only lasted for an hour or so before they were overwhelmed by our superior numbers. Celestia and her companions were put under a stronger sleep spell, to ensure they didn’t cause any trouble before the coronation tomorrow. After that, they were transported by teleportation ring into the castle dungeons, where they would remain until we retrieved them for the festivities.
Mother chose to oversee the final details as commanders flew in to report the progress of the invasion, her head held high as she reclined on Celestia’s throne. I was rather tired, given all that I had done in the previous night. So, without really thinking, my hooves carried me up to the top of the eastern tower, where Luna’s chambers overlooked the city. I pushed open the doors and paused to take a look around, feeling a sense of nostalgia as I remembered all of the careful planning and selective manipulation I had conducted in this very room. The fading hues of the sunset were slowly overcome by the rising moon, its silver glow outlining the details of everything as I stumbled over to the bed.
I stood at the bedside, looking down at the smooth sheets and catching the faint hints of rosemary that wafted from the cloth. I realized that I was smelling Luna’s own unique scent, and for a second I hesitated, falling into habits from my time as her guard. I shook my head to clear those unneeded thoughts from my mind, and climbed into the massive expanse of satin and lace. My head came to rest on the pillow beneath the headrest, and immediately I was enveloped in Luna’s scent. It seemed to permeate the air around me, and I could have sworn that she was resting beside me, just far enough to avoid contact.
After about two minutes of that I realized there was no way I was going to fall asleep if I couldn’t get my mind off of Luna, so I hopped off the bed and walked over to the couch. I groaned as my head fell onto the plush pillow at one end, my legs curled up against my chest and my tail folded over my body like a blanket. It might be a lot less comfortable than the bed, but compared to the bare rock of the hive, it was like sleeping on a cloud. I cracked one eye open to look at the bed, and pondered for a moment why I couldn’t seem to get Luna off my mind. I shrugged as I settled in for the night, come tomorrow it wouldn’t matter anymore, because I would have Luna all to myself, without all the frustrations that came from being her guard. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The morning light pierced through my eyelids, and I grumbled under my breath as I rolled to cut off the rays. Unfortunately, I forgot that I was sleeping on a couch, and rolled right off of the damn thing. I cursed as my head impacted the floor, and I rubbed the rapidly forming lump as I pushed to my hooves. I sent a deadly glare over my shoulder at the offending couch, but it simply sat there, oblivious to the annoyances it put me through.
I stood up and rolled my shoulder joints, feeling my armor creak and pop several times as the plates realigned themselves. A quick brushing of my mane and tail with my forehooves, and I deemed myself in presentable shape for the day. I walked over and pushed the doors open, the two changeling captains on either side popping to attention as I exited the room. I gave them a passing nod as I made my way through the halls of the castle, noting that the place felt rather empty without the servants and nobles milling about.
Apparently I had pulled off my little coup better than I had hoped. With everypony that was anypony present in the castle for the Gala, we didn’t have to hunt anypony down in order to secure the nation’s elite. Top that off with most of the Royal Guard attending as well, and it all seemed a bit too easy in hindsight. I smirked to myself as I entered the dining hall, the room buzzing as changelings socialized with one another. It only proved the pony’s folly in how lax they had become after three years. It was that same blindness to outside threats that had nearly proven to be their downfall at the Canterlot Wedding. I chalked their saving grace to be a combination of dumb luck and an unforeseen ability. Other than that, the ponies would have fallen all those years back, and we would be standing as we were now, rulers of the nation that had dared to oppose us.
Drones called their greetings as I made my way between the crowded tables, my casual nods acting as my reply before I came to a stop in front of the double doors leading into the throne room. Unlike the main doors, these ones were simply stylized with a depiction of the sun and moon, fused together so that each half of the design depicted either the radiant day or silent night. I pushed them open with my magic and stepped into the throne room itself, noting that I had come out on the side of the room, about halfway down the right wall from the main entrance.
Mother was sitting on Celestia’s throne, her body posture relaxed as she rested her head on one hoof, her elbow propped up on the left hoof rest as a trio of commanders issued their reports. I got a sense of déjà vu because I could have sworn that I had left her the previous night in this exact same position. However, she showed no signs of having stayed up all night, her eyes clear and her expression focused as she listened to her officers.
She waved them off as she spotted me out of the corner of her vision, “Thank you for your timely reports. I look forward to such pleasant news concerning future events if things move forward as they stand. Dismissed.”
They bowed and backed away from the throne, passing me as I walked up to the dais and dropped into my own bow.
“Oh don’t start that now Silver Jacket,” she admonished me with a slight smirk, “after all, today is your special day.”
I nodded as I straightened, “Sorry mother, force of habit. So, when is the event planned to take place?”
She smiled fully, her fangs gleaming in the sunlight as she sat up to address me, “Why, I was planning on starting as soon as you are ready. Why waste time when you could be off getting your hive started in the Crystal Empire?” She paused for a moment, her expression becoming slightly concerned, “That isn’t an inconvenience for you I would hope.”
I shook my head, “Of course not. I would be delighted if you would perform my coronation at any time today.”
She nodded, “Then it shall be this morning, as soon as the required guests have arrived.” She indicated the throne next to her own, marked with a crescent moon upon its backing, “Come, sit with me while we get things ready.”
I hesitated for a second before walking up and taking my seat, realizing that I was now sitting on my queen-to-be’s former throne. I cast my mother a nervous glance, but she had already closed her eyes as her horn began to glow. In an instant, a massive ring of emerald fire sprang up in the center of the room, depositing ten ponies of various sizes on the tile before disappearing. The changeling guards moved to secure them as Celestia, Luna, Cadence, Shining Armor, Twilight and the rest of her friends were made to kneel before the dais steps. All were still asleep, thanks to the power of mother’s spell, but would be awoken once the proceedings began.
Over the next hour, nobles of all ranks and station were escorted into the room, flanked by changelings in case anypony got ideas of resisting. Most gaped as they saw the incapacitated princesses sleeping in front of the steps, but their cries of dismay were quickly silenced by glowing changeling horns. Behind the nobles the common ponies were ushered in, filling the room to capacity as more and more ponies were brought to attendance. Finally, as the great doors were slammed shut, mother’s horn glowed and a splash of green magic washed over the slumbering ponies before us.
There were several grunts and groans as the ponies rubbed the sleep from their eyes, their minds still foggy from being forcibly subdued. However, that only lasted for a moment before their eyes jerked open and their heads swiveled to take in the room around them. The assembled ponies, the changeling guards, my mother and I sitting on the twin thrones, all were taken in by their wide gazes in a matter of seconds.
As her character predicted, Rainbow Dash was the first to make a move, “Why you creepy, bug-eyed freaks!” She tried to take to the air, but only succeeded in driving her muzzle into the floor when her wings proved insufficient to support her weight. She was dragged back into place by one of the changeling guards, her face a mixture of rage and confusion as her brain tried to figure out what just happened.
“What did you do to me?” She cried, her head jerking around to stare at her wings, “I can’t fly anymore!”
Twilight closed her eyes and seemed to concentrate, but when nothing happened she opened them again and turned to her friends, “And I can’t use my magic!”
Before the others could express their own lack of abilities, it was Celestia who focused the collective attention of everypony present with her voice, “You will find that your usual abilities are beyond your control, my little ponies.” Her gaze washed over them before turning to glare at mother, “The Amulet of Autolycus steals the ambient magic from any living thing and allows the wearer to use it as they wish. We were ambushed after the Gala and our magic was stolen by one who we believed to be a trusted ally. Captain Silver Shield was in reality Prince Silver Jacket, son of Queen Chrysalis and heir to her throne.”
Twilight and her friends gaped at her, the lavender alicorn stuttering over her words before she could speak, “B-But how could he have defeated you?! He hadn’t been feeding off the love of ponies like Chrysalis had so how could his magic overpower yours?”
Celestia sighed, a look of remorse washing over her features as she stared at the floor before her, “Sadly, by the time Silver Jacket came for me, he had already stolen the magic of the rest of you, meaning he had more than enough to overpower my own magic and then steal it from my body.” She glanced sidelong at them, her expression one of a mare who had given up, “Forgive me my friends, there is nothing we can do now that can stop them.”
“But what ‘bout when Tirek stole the magic of everypony in Equestria?” Applejack asked, “We used the power of the rainbow to kick his sorry flank back to Tartarus. Why can’t we use that now?”
“Because the magic that we used to defeat Tirek was used up creating my castle.” Twilight replied, her voice soft as she turned to face Celestia, “That’s why we haven’t been able to use it since then, right?”
Celestia nodded, “Indeed my faithful student, and because that power is lost to us, I fear there is nothing that can stop Chrysalis from taking over Equestria now that she has our magic.”
Mother yawned as she reclined on her throne, “Do you ponies always talk this much, or is it just something you ten like to do?” She muttered something under her breath before sitting up straight, “Never the less, I feel that things should get underway before we lose sight of why I called you all here.”
She cleared her throat before speaking in a near perfect imitation of the Royal Canterlot Voice, “PONIES OF EQUESTRIA, CHANGELINGS OF THE HIVE, I HAVE GATHERED YOU HERE TODAY TO CELEBRATE A MOST MOMENTOUS OCCASION. MY SON, PRINCE SILVER JACKET, HAS PROVEN HIMSELF TO BE WORTHY OF THE TITLE OF KING. THEREFORE, UPON THIS VERY DAIS, I WILL BE PERFORMING HIS CORONATION, WHEREIN HE SHALL CHOOSE HIS QUEEN AND THEN TAKE HIS PLACE BESIDE ME AS MY EQUAL. BE HONORED THAT YOU CAN BEAR WITNESS TO SUCH A RARE AND SACRED RITUAL, FOR FEW HAVE EVER SEEN A CHANGELING CORONATION AND LIVED TO SEE THEIR HOMES AGAIN.”
She paused for a second, her voice still ringing from the archways as she turned to face me. Without prompting I stood and walked around so that I was standing before her. I bowed my head and bent my front legs, spreading my wings in a true changeling bow as she stood up from her seat.
“Prince Silver Jacket,” her voice had returned to a more normal tone but still carried across the room, “you have proven you are worthy of taking on the title of King. Take pride in your accomplishments, but be humbled by the responsibility that you will now take upon yourself. Lead your new hive with a just but firm hoof, and care for your drones as a parent should.”
She stepped forward and I could feel her mane touch my own as she touched the tip of her horn to my forehead. The carapace just behind my own horn grew hot as her magic slowly poured into me, and I felt a surge of tingles move through my body like electricity. That feeling spread through my body until if filled my entire being, before slowly moving back towards my head. As the sparks came to a focus where mother’s horn connected with my body, she pulled up and away from me, causing the sparks to move with her horn as the carapace of my skull shifted and grew.
In a matter of moments, it was done. I opened my eyes as my mother stepped back, lifting my head to look at her, her eyes filled to the brim with pride. She raised her voice, so that everypony present could hear her, “Rise, King Silver Jacket, and claim your place beside me as a ruler in your own right.”
I rose to my hooves, feeling a slight tingle cross them as some of the leftover magic cracked between my hooves and the floor. I walked up and turned to face the amassed ponies, their jaws having collectively dropped to the floor at what they had just seen. Only Celestia and Luna remained in control of their features, although I could see the spark of interest in both their gazes. I didn’t even need a mirror to know that a crown just like mother’s now adorned my head. The only difference being that the three gems would be silver crystal instead of emeralds.
Chrysalis turned to me with a smirk on her face, an expectant look in her eyes, “So, King Silver Jacket, have you decided on who you will choose as your queen?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but was interrupted by Rainbow Dash muttering to Applejack, “I wouldn’t want to be the unlucky bug that gets saddled with him.”
In an instant, Rainbow Dash was enveloped in green magic before she was jerked into the air and moved until she was floating directly in front of Chrysalis. Her eyes widened in terror as she met my mother’s murderous gaze, and she cried out as the magic began to bend one of her wings the wrong way.
“Now, what was that little comment you made about my son?” Her voice was deceptively calm yet held all the venom of a pit viper.
“Go kiss a bug zapper.” Rainbow hissed before crying out as her wing bent further behind her back.
“Now, now, we can’t have talk like that in front of royalty.” She spoke in a mother’s tone like she was scolding a foul, “We might need to teach you a lesson so you won’t forget to hold your tongue when you speak before us.” Rainbow was actively crying as the joints in her wing began to creak with the strain, “Maybe if I cripple your ability to fly you’ll learn your lesson.”
Rainbow looked like she had just been issued the death sentence, “No, please, anything but that. I don’t care if I can’t fly without magic, just leave my wings alone.”
“Let her go Chrysalis,” Celestia warned with a fire in her tone that spoke of her past connection to the sun, “if you cripple a helpless mare just for the fun of it, no power in this world will save you from me.”
Mother turned to the weeping Rainbow Dash, who had closed her eyes in preparation for the inevitable. “Very well, but you shall bear her punishment in her stead.”
Before anypony could react, Rainbow was tossed back into her friends, who watched in horror as green magic enveloped Celestia’s left wing. With a sudden jerk and a sickening crack, said wing was bent backwards until it separated clean from its socket. Celestia bore it with dignity, barely wincing as her wing fell limp at her side, her gaze locked firmly with mother’s as the ponies around her cried out in horror. Luna made to stand, her gaze murderous as she flared her wings, but with the magic of three changelings securing her to the floor, she didn’t get very far.
Chrysalis nodded to me, the whole incident seeming to take less of her attention then a mosquito, “As I was saying, you were about to tell us who you chose as your queen?”
I nodded, stepping forward until I stood at the edge of the stairs. My eyes moved from one pony to another, until they settled on the seething navy orbs of Luna.
“My choice for my queen,” I paused for dramatic effect, “Is the former Princess of the Night, Luna.”
It was like I had slapped the entire room with a wet rag. Everypony’s jaw, even Celestia’s hit the floor with a resounding thunk. Luna was so shocked she couldn’t even speak, her rage forgotten in the wake of my words. I stepped forward until I stood directly in front of Luna, my eyes locked with hers as the rest of her companions stared between us.
Finally, she seemed to regain control of her body, her teeth bared in fury as she spit at my hooves, “If you think I would be your queen then you must truly be a fool. I would sooner die then join you.”
I couldn’t help the smirk that cross my lips, “You fail to understand. I’m not asking for permission, I’m telling you how it is.”
“Over my dead body,” Celestia hissed, her broken wing forgotten as she tried to rush me. However, her efforts were stopped by a sudden magic burst against the hanging limb. She cried out and slumped to her knees as her eyes watered, her gaze locked onto me even as she battled the pain.
“My son has made his choice,” Chrysalis said in a measured tone as her horn’s glow faded to nothing, “you would do well to remember that I am the one who passes final judgment now. I would be careful of your actions Celestia.”
“Buck your blithering judgment,” Celestia hissed through grinding teeth as she pushed to her hooves, “My sister is not a toy for you to play with. I would sooner die then see her mistreated in such a way.”
“You misunderstand,” I countered, my gaze locked with hers as we faced one another, “Luna will become my queen in every sense of the word. She will live like she has as a Princess of Equestria, only now she shall rule at my side instead of yours.” I turned to face Luna again, my eyes flashing green as I activated a mind spell, “Isn’t that right Luna? You want to come with me and rule the Crystal Empire at my side.”
Her eyes flashed the same green, her expression going blank as my magic overwrote her mind, “Yes my love. I want to be with you, always and forever.”
“You beast!” Celestia screamed as she charged at me, although this time it was my magic who intercepted her, not my mother’s.
“If you continue to bother me, I will take the liberty of breaking your other wing, and each of your legs for each transgression.” I glanced at her out of the corner of my vision, “Choose your next words wisely, for the amount of agony you endure is now up to you.”
“Buck you!” She growled, struggling against my magic even when there was no use, “You might as well kill me, because I won’t stop until you let her go.”
I sighed, “Very well, if that is your wish.” There was another sickening crack, and this time Celestia held nothing back as a blood-curdling scream echoed across the room.
“CELESTIA!” Twilight and the others cried as they collectively made a dash for the now crippled diarch. However, they were stopped by my magic as I pinned each of them in place.
“Do not interfere, or else your wings and legs will be next on my list.” They immediately stopped struggling, their eyes wide with fear as their looked from me to the now unconscious Celestia.
Both of her wings now hung limply at her sides, the muscles and ligaments holding them in place having been ripped beyond repair. Even with magic healing, even if she had the use of her pegasus magic, Celestia would never fly again.
Cadence and Twilight were holding each other and crying their eyes out, the rest of Twilight’s friends doing the same for each other. Shining Armor was looking at me like I had just murdered his mother, while Luna still gazed off into the distance, the green light of my mind spell holding her consciousness captive.
I dropped Celestia to the ground, her body making a solid impact with the floor as I turned back to Luna, “Now, where were we? Ah yes, I remember now.” My eyes flashed green again as I worked to finish what I had started, “Shall we retire to our new home, my love? I hear the Crystal Empire is lovely this time of year.”
She nodded, a wave of love washing over me as my magic took effect, “Yes my love, take me with you to a place we can rule together.”
I smiled, ending the spell, leaving Luna’s eyes with their green glow as I walked up to her, “Then follow me. We have a hive to get started.”
I turned and walked back up the steps, Luna following in my wake as we came to a stop before my mother. She smiled before placing a hoof on my chest. A surge of magic washed through me like a tide, and I gasped for a moment before I got it under control.
“Think of it as a going away present.” She said warmly, “It should be plenty to teleport you to the Empire from here. Send me a letter once you get things worked out, and let me know if the locals give you any trouble. I’d be more than happy to send some of your brothers and sisters to support you if need be.”
I smiled at her offer, “Thank you mother. I will let you know as soon as the Empire is under my control.”
I turned to face the assembled ponies, most of them still reeling over the fact that Celestia had just been crippled before them. Even Cadence, Twilight and the rest of the gang were still holding tight to each other. I smirked, knowing that if nothing else, that little stunt would cement mother’s place as ruler faster than any invasion could. I focused my magic on teleporting me and Luna to the palace in the Crystal Empire, and a ring of emerald fire erupted under us. We dropped into the black dimensional rift, and I heard a voice that sounded like Celestia call out just before the rift closed above our heads.
The tunneling spell created the same disorienting spiral of gravity that it always did, making my stomach flip several times as space and dimensions warped around Luna and I. The spell opened up above us as it should, depositing us in what I immediately recognized as the plaza directly under the Crystal Palace. I shifted into my guise of Silver Shield on instinct, hoping that nopony saw us coming out of a changeling spell. It wouldn’t do for my identity to get out before I was ready to reveal it.
“You there!” A gruff voice cried from behind us.
I turned to see a Crystal Guard walking towards us, his wings were folded at his side but the sword strapped across his back was nothing to sneeze at. His steel grey coat was mostly covered by his silver armor, although his bright red mane stuck out like a fifth hoof compared to the rest of his body.
He seemed to realize who it was that was standing next to me, because his eyes grew wider and wider as he approached, until he dropped into a bow and spread his wings at his sides, “Your Highness, I’m sorry for addressing you as such, I did not recognize you.”
An idea flashed in my mind as Luna regarded the pegasus with a blank stare, “Princess Luna has news from Canterlot that needs to be shared with the populous as soon as possible.” I stepped forward to get the guard’s attention, “Can you and your troops gather up the common folk in the square so that we can share the news with everyone. I’m afraid there isn’t time to go into details, but it is a matter of grave urgency.”
His gaze flickered from me to Luna a few times, “O-Of course sir, we’ll get the townsponies here as soon as we can.” He threw a hasty salute before racing off to gather his fellows.
I turned to Luna with a smirk, “Looks like we get to greet our new subjects today. Won’t that be fun?”
“Of course my love.” She replied in a monotone. For a moment I expected her to say more, but when there was no indication she was going to continue I let out a soft sigh.
I led her through the doors on one side of the plaza and up the stairs to the balcony overlooking the square, “Sometimes I wish mind control allowed for some of the old personality to remain. You were so much more fun to talk to when you were my charge.”
Luna remained silent at my side as the square slowly began to fill with ponies. Most of them were wearing expressions that were a mixture of confusion and uncertainty, their charged emotions reaching me in waves as more and more ponies gathered below us. Before long the entire space was filled to the brim, and I heard the soft click of hooves behind us as two guards took up posts beside the stairs. I cleared my throat as I stepped up to the balcony edge, Luna mirroring my movements as the crystal ponies gazed up at us.
“Ponies of the Crystal Empire,” my voice rang out and echoed off the buildings behind the assembled masses, “we come to you with grave news. Canterlot has fallen,” I paused for a moment as alarmed murmuring spread like wildfire, “the princesses have fallen,” I smirked as the murmuring took on confused tones, although they shifted into cries of fear as I shed my disguise, “and the changelings lord over Equestria in place of your former alicorn rulers.”
“What have you done to Princess Luna?!” One pony yelled as she took a hesitant step forward.
I bared my fangs in a sadistic grin as I draped one wing over her back, “She has been stripped of her magic, just as the other alicorns have been, although she has proven to be an interest of mine in the time we have been together. So, even though she no longer rules the night and has no free will of her own, I have chosen her as my mate, meaning that she is now Queen Luna, just as I am your new King.”
I sighed as I heard the unsheathing of swords behind me, “Oh please, do you really think a couple of pegasi guards can do harm to me when I have defeated alicorns?”
“We can certainly try,” one muttered around his sword hilt as he and his fellow flew to either side of me, “we won’t let you take over the Crystal Empire without a fight.”
I rolled my eyes, my horn glowing briefly as I put them both under a sleep spell. Their weapons clattered to the plaza below as their bodies were enveloped in my magic, my power slowly moving them back to their original posts by the steps before dropping them like so much dead weight.
“Now that we have that out of the way,” I muttered, “I will not seek to control you as your rulers have in the past. You are free to go about your lives as you have up till now. The only new law that you must take into account is that changelings are now superior citizens to ponies. If a changeling is in need of love, they have the right to take that love without permission and without consequence. They will be, in a sense, members of the royal family after all.”
Several ponies shared uncertain looks before one called up, “You don’t mean?”
I nodded, “My mate and I will be starting a new hive here in the Crystal Empire. Therefore, any changelings you meet will almost undoubtedly be our children. Keep that in mind when you interact with changelings over the coming years. Also, even if they are not our offspring, changelings from my mother’s hive are to be given the same treatment. If anypony so much as speaks to a changeling wrong and I hear of it,” I narrowed my eyes as my horn glowed threateningly, “be warned that the punishment will not be merciful by any stretch of the imagination.”
The masses shrank from me in fear, and I let them simmer in it for a moment before allowing the magic to fade from my horn, “If there are no questions, then my queen and I will be taking our leave. We have much to do and little time to do it, so you are all dismissed until I see fit to call upon you again.”
I turned and walked back into the palace, the raised voices of the citizens ringing in my ears even after the doors had closed behind us. I forced my mind to other topics as Luna followed me through the halls, the guards either making fools of themselves getting out of our way or by trying to attack me. The guards that were of the latter group were knocked out without a second thought, while their fellows who backed off were left to stare at our retreating forms in fear, the slumbering forms of their comrades lying at their hooves. It wasn’t long before we reached the royal chambers, as depicted by the crystal heart and blue shield affixed to the doors. My mouth turned down slightly in annoyance, and I ripped the decorations off with my magic before tossing them aside. The carefully crafted crystal shattered as it impacted the floor, and I snorted once in contempt before I pushed the entrance open. Luna followed me into the room like a puppy following its master, and I closed the doors behind us before securing them with a seal spell. Nopony was going to disturb us unless I allowed it.
I led her over to the massive bed and climbed onto the plush surface, feeling it give slightly under my weight as Luna climbed up next to me. I glanced at her with a smirk as a fresh wave of love washed over me, my veins pumping with power and my stomach filling near to bursting. And yet, there was something else I had in mind for our little private moment, after all, a hive can’t start itself now can it.
“Come here my sweet.” I murmured as I pulled Luna to me with a wing, “Lie down and let me treat you like the royalty you are.”
“Of course my love,” she replied in monotone, her back hitting the mattress with a soft thump as her wings flared outward.
I couldn’t help but feel turned on by the way she was laying there, waiting for me, and I climbed up and over her with a wide grin as her breath washed over my chest. Her glazed green eyes met mine as my member hovered over her opening, yet for some reason something felt off. Here I was, about to make the former Princess of the Night my mate and begin our rule as King and Queen of the Crystal Hive, but the only thing I could feel in my mind was disgust. Luna’s eyes were still locked with mine, her body waiting and open for me to take, yet it seemed like a hollow accomplishment. There was no subtly in this conquest, no sly manipulation or hard work put into achieving this. Her mind was mine by all rights but it was as if her body was something I hadn’t earned yet. For some reason my subconscious was screaming at me that I didn’t deserve her like this, that I was better than this.
I growled and shook my head, “What am I thinking?! I am King of this hive, I have every right to take my Queen in mind and body to further the prosperity of my people.”
Then why is it you feel like she wouldn’t want this, that you haven’t earned the right? A soft voice muttered in the back of my mind.
I wanted to shut that voice out, to just take what was mine and damn the consequences, but as I looked down at Luna’s dull green eyes my stomach pinched like I was going to be sick. I growled again as I climbed off the bed, muttering under my breath as I paced back and forth. Luna rolled onto her side and watched me with her blank expression, her wings folding against her sides as I battled with my own mind.
I stopped and made a wordless cry and I ground my fangs against each other, “I’ll start on the hive tomorrow, once the crystal ponies get more accustomed to having us as their rulers.”
Is that the only reason? That annoying voice chipped in again.
“Shut up!” I yelled at the wall, “I am King! Nopony can tell me what I can and cannot do!”
Not even yourself? it muttered. Maybe you aren’t as sure about your choices as you think.
I pressed my hooves against my head, trying to block out that aggravating voice that seemed to question everything I thought. I sighed with some force as I walked over to the doors, undoing the seal before pushing them open.
“Remain here Luna.” I ordered over my shoulder, “Do not allow anypony to enter unless I say you can.”
She nodded, never having moved from the bed, “As you wish, my love.”
I closed the doors again and placed another seal to deter any would-be rescuers from getting at my mate. The guards might not risk doing anything so stupid, but there was no telling if any of the commoners would try something in a desperate attempt to free her from my control. I was just about to take a step down the hall, when a large ring of green fire erupted from the floor and spread out for almost a dozen feet. My momentary surprise was quickly calmed as the forms of twelve changelings materialized from the black hole. As the magic under them faded, I noted that each was wearing the dark purple armor of the Queen’s Sentinels. Only the most accomplished of soldiers could join their elite ranks, and only if a drone defeated one of the current members in single combat. Given the QS only had a maximum of twenty five members, the presence of nearly half their rank before me was nothing to scoff at. I had no idea why they had been sent to me, but it certainly for a very good reason.
The one at the front of the group nodded her head, the others following suite as she handed me a scroll. It was tied with an emerald ribbon and sealed with my mother’s crest, a pair of black changeling horns crossed over a cracked Redstone heart. Only the Queens and Kings of the changeling race had crests, so I knew for a fact that this was an official letter from my mother. Why she had to go about with all of this was beyond me, but I guess formality would never go out of style, no matter how annoying.
I took the scroll in my magic and snapped the seal cleanly down the middle, placing it and the ribbon to the side as I unrolled the coarse paper.
To my dearest son,
I understand that you have had little time in which to secure your place as the new ruler of the Crystal Empire, but I felt it necessary to have some of my best soldiers sent in order to make sure things go smoothly. Major Carapace and her fellows will be your personal guard to do with as you see fit. I only hope that the creation of your new hive goes smoothly.
On a side note, I have found that having Princess Celestia and her followers around is quite fun. The anguish they express every time I bring up their dear Luna just fills me with glee. Not to mention the games I can play with them without their magic to get in the way. Although, hearing that loudmouth Rainbow Dash try and sound intimidating can grate on one’s nerves if not put in check. So, I stick them in the dungeons when I grow bored of their yammering. In any case, I wish you the best of luck, and await news of your new hive.
With my best regards, and my most sincere support,
I nodded once, burning the scroll with a flash of green fire before turning to the waiting Sentinels.
“So you are here to act as my personal guard, is that correct?” I asked.
The first, Major Carapace if I guessed correctly, nodded as she and her fellows snapped to perfect salutes, “That is the case Your Highness, although you may reassign us as you see fit. We have been relieved of our stations as Sentinels and have been placed under your command.”
I nodded, “Well then, the first thing I’m going to do is give you your new titles. From this moment on, you will be known as the Silver Shards, protectors of the royal family and enforcers of my will. Major Carapace,”
“Sir!” She dropped her salute and stood at crisp attention.
“Congratulations Shard,” I continued, “you have just been promoted to the rank of Colonel and will be given the title Shard Master. As such you will act as the leader of the Silver Shards and see to it that everyday matters are taken care of. It shall fall to you to make sure that your soldiers are cared for and are fit for duty. If you encounter any trouble with the locals, come to me and I will sort out any misunderstandings. Have I made myself clear?”
She nodded, “Yes sir! Permission to dismiss the Shards in preparation for new assignment?”
“Granted.” I watched as they began to break ranks but raised my voice as an idea hit me, “Wait a moment!”
All eyes turned to me, the newly promoted Colonel pausing with one hoof in the air as she looked over her shoulder at me, “Yes Your Highness?”
“See to it that one of your soldiers guards this room.” I gestured to my new quarters, “My Queen is currently resting inside and I don’t want anypony to disturb her.”
Carapace nodded and pointed towards one of the Shards, “Lieutenant Stinger! See to it that the King’s chambers are looked after! We’ll work out shifts later once we get things working around here, but I’ll make sure to have you relieved by sunset.”
“Ma’am!” Stinger replied as he flew over and took up post on the left side of the doorway.
I nodded, “That will be all for now Colonel. I shall be taking a stroll of the palace now, so I will require an escort while you see to business.”
She nodded, her gave flicking over to another soldier, “Major Wasp, escort the King while he performs his duties!”
“Ma’am!” The smaller drone jumped into a salute, although I detected a slight shaking in her legs as she walked up to me.
I glanced down at the younger drone with interest as I began walking down the hall, taking note of her slightly jerky movements and how her gaze seemed to flicker from me to other targets and back again.
I waited until we were out of earshot of the other Shards before I spoke, “You seem nervous Major, is there something wrong?”
She jumped slightly at my words, her wings buzzing slightly before she could get them back under control, “Oh, n-no sir, I-I mean Your Highness! I-I’ve just never been that good with solo assignments.”
I lifted one eyebrow in interest, “Do tell. I’m curious as to how such a nervous drone like you could attain the rank of major in the Queen’s Sentinels.”
She seemed to shrink for a moment under my scrutiny, our hooves falling silent as we came to a stop in the middle of the hall. “W-Well I’ve always been a great fighter, a-at least that’s what my instructors told me b-back when I was a new r-recruit.” She scuffed one hoof against the floor, her gaze firmly planted between her forelegs as she continued, “I w-was never very good at d-doing tasks on m-my own, at least when there wasn’t anypony there to make sure I did it right. I would just get so n-n-nervous when the responsibility of whatever I was s-supposed to do fell on my s-shoulders and nopony else’s.”
Her tail tucked between her legs and I noticed that her wings seemed to be pulled tight against her body. “I-If we could n-not talk about this please, Your Highness? I-I don’t like being the center of attention m-much at all.”
I nodded, turning back to face forward as I began walking again. Wasp fell in at my side and for a while we didn’t say anything. The few pony guards we passed paid us no mind, and for a moment it was almost like I was back in the old hive, taking a stroll for the sake of doing it. Nopony telling me I had somewhere to be, nopony asking me for something that I had no authority to give them. And especially nopony trying to butter me up because I had influence with the Princess of the Night. I shivered at the thought of the nobles that had talked with me on rare occasion, trying to make me convince Luna that there were new laws and taxes that just had to be passed, all for the sake of their own greed.
Finally, after what seemed like hours of just walking along in comfortable silence, we came back to the doors of the royal chambers. Lieutenant Stinger was still at is post, making no move to look at us or otherwise react as I stepped past him to undo the seal.
I turned to Wasp and said, “Stand out here with Lieutenant Stinger until I return. I think it’s time we got to sample some of the famous Crystal Empire food I’ve heard so much about.”
She nodded, taking up post on the other side of the doors as I pushed them open. Her gaze became locked in the forward position as the doors closed behind me and I took note of the fact that Luna was still lying on the bed, exactly as I had left her several hours before.
“Come Luna,” I said as I walked up to the side of the massive piece of furniture, “let us go and see if the famed palace kitchens have anything worth eating.”
“Yes my love,” she droned as she climbed out of the bed and stood at my side.
Once again I was hit by the same strange feeling I had felt before, that sense that something just wasn’t right. Yet no matter how hard I tried, it continued to slip from my grasp before I simply growled and shook my head.
“Right,” I muttered, “let’s be off then.”
Together we walked out of the room and made our way down the hall, Wasp and Stinger falling in behind us like shadows without a word. It took a few tries to find the dining hall, but when we got there I was surprised to see that the grand table had already been set with a massive spread of food. Salads, soups, pastries and more took up most of the twenty-foot crystal slab, the two seats at the end seeming out of place compared to the veritable feast before us.
My eyes were drawn to a caramel-coated unicorn as he walked out of a set of double doors on our left. His dark green mane was slicked back and his black uniform was pressed to perfection. He jumped slightly as he spotted us, although he quickly recovered as he dropped into a bow.
“The castle staff thought it would be a god idea to prepare dinner for you should you wish to dine tonight.” he glanced up with a slightly nervous expression, “Is this to your liking Your Highness?”
I nodded once, “You seem to have outdone yourselves with tonight’s feast. I can scarcely choose what to sample first.”
I walked past the stallion and took my seat at the head of the table, Luna sitting in the second chair while Wasp and Stinger took up positions behind me against the wall.
The servant walked up and rubbed his hooves together in a nervous motion, “Is there anything you would like to try first, Your Majesty?”
I shook my head as I levitated what looked like a cream of vegetable soup from the far side of the table, “I think I can handle feeding myself for tonight. Tell the castle staff that I will be expecting breakfast, lunch and dinner every day from this point forward. I do not care what is served so long as they do not do the same dish in a row. I had little in variety before I came to Equestria, and I wish to exercise my freedom to taste something new every now and again.” I glanced over at the unicorn and narrowed my news slightly, “Is that understood?”
He nodded furiously, his legs shaking once or twice before he could get his nerves under control, “Absolutely Your Highness! I will make sure the kitchen knows what to do.”
“Also,” I added as I ladled the soup into my and Luna’s bowls, “tell the staff that I expect them to do everything in their power to assist my guards in whatever they need. That includes living quarters, assistants for paperwork and the like, those sorts of things. If they fail to give my new guards what they need without a good reason,” I let the threat hang as I glanced at the stallion out of the corner of my eye.
He sputtered for a moment before nodding, his eyes wide as he took several steps back, “I-I’ll see to it that the needs of your guards are met without delay. Umm, uh, if you’ll excuse me, I-I think I’m needed in the, uh, kitchens.”
I smirked as the terrified pony beat a very hasty retreat, “Never gets old.”
After that, dinner was a fairly quiet affair, with only the soft noises of silverware clinking against crystal plates and bowls to disturb the silence. I had to admit, even though changelings didn’t require food to survive if we had love, it was still rather pleasant to taste the massive variety of flavors that had been laid before us. The soups were smooth and savory, while the pastries were so crisp and sweet that it was almost overpowering. Even the simple salads, which looked innocent enough at first glance, were covered in a tangy sauce that made the crunchy leaves sing against my taste buds.
We retired for the night after that, Major Wasp taking over Stinger’s post outside our chambers as the great doors closed behind us. As a precaution I placed the seal on the doors again, hoping against hope that it was overkill on my part. With that done I climbed into the bed with Luna, letting her horn rest against my cheek as her head curled under my chin. Her forehooves and chest were pressed against my own, and her mane formed a second blanket over our bodies as we curled into one another. For a moment I thought about trying to mate with her again, to finally get our hive started before the crystal ponies could think up some crazy scheme. And yet, that small voice in the back of my mind kept telling me that it wasn’t worth it, that I hadn’t earned that right. My stomach twisted again and I winced as my body toiled under the strange feelings.
I growled as I closed my eyes, letting Luna’s breathing sooth my mind as I began to drift off, “One way or another, we will have a hive together. I won’t let these idiotic feelings get in the way of that. Come tomorrow, you and I will be having our moment together, feelings about the past or not.”
Will you really? That little voice asked, Will you really betray Luna’s love like that?
I ground my fangs in frustration, opening my eyes and looking down at Luna’s sleeping form. “Luna? Do you love me?”
Her eyes opened and flashed slightly as her gaze met mine, “Of course my love. I will love you forever and for always.”
A surge of emotion followed her words, and yet even as the power flowed through me, there seemed to be something missing. It was as if there was a part of me that the love couldn’t reach, like there was a hole in my chest that the energy couldn’t fill. Sure, it filled my stomach and strengthened my magic, but there was something more that I couldn’t seem to find. It was as if her feelings had become stale, bland, like a fresh loaf of bread left in storage for too long.
Her love had become empty.
I stared at her as she closed her eyes and went back to sleep, and yet I lay there, unable to calm the raging thoughts that were bouncing around my head. Had I been mistaken? Was Luna’s mind spell not complete? Was there something missing from my control over her that led to this deficiency in her love? And yet, that little voice kept calling out from the depths of my mind, and try as I might, I couldn’t shut it out.
Forced love can never compare to true love. You had true love as her guard, and you gave it up when you betrayed her.
I fell into a fitful sleep, my dreams plagued by image of Luna’s deadened eyes, of Celestia crying out for her sister, and of the other ponies that had been paralyzed with fear as my mother cackled on Celestia’s throne. It was not a pleasant night, and even as the dawn light radiated through the window, my haunted mind refused to let the images fade. I looked down at the sleeping Luna, and my stomach turned over in disgust as my mind conjured up the image of her mindless eyes staring up at me, our bodies entwined in passion as I took her most sacred treasure.
I rolled out of bed, stumbling as I made my way into the bathroom. I placed my front hooves on the rim of the sink and looked at myself in the mirror. What met my eyes was a broken stallion. My normally confidant eyes were red-rimmed and haunted. My mane and tail were in literal tatters instead of their normal cobweb appearance, and my carapace was scuffed and dull instead of its usual silver sheen. I washed my face with cold water, trying to banish the dark thoughts that swirled in my mind, and yet it did little good as more seemed to gather the longer I looked into that accursed mirror. I pushed off and walked back into the bedroom, taking in Luna’s form as her sides softly rose and fell. My stomach twisted again and I forced my gaze to look elsewhere in the hopes of banishing the pain.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I removed the seal from the door and called out, “Guards! I require your assistance!”
The doors swung open and two new faces walked in. Wasp must have been relieved at some point during the night.
“You called for us Your Highness?” The mare on the left asked.
I glanced over at the slumbering mare in my bed, “Yes, give me a moment. There is something that I need to do first.”
I walked up to the bed and tapped Luna’s shoulder with one hoof. Her eyes opened slowly and she smiled as she looked up at me.
“Good morning Luna.” I said with a smile, although my churning insides made the action bittersweet at best.
“Good morning my love.” She replied, a wave of emotion washing over me for a moment.
And yet, the energy I received just made my stomach feel worse, so I cut myself off and let the emotion wash over my guards instead. They inhaled sharply as the raw love surged through their systems, and I noticed that they seemed to almost grow under the sheer power it gave them. I sighed as I beckoned Luna from the bed, her almost robotic actions following my command as we stood in the center of the room. The guards watched with curious gazes as I stood directly in front of Luna.
I closed my eyes to collect my thoughts for a moment, letting my head clear before my horn lit up with magic. I placed it against Luna’s forehead and allowed the magic to flow into her mind, slowly but surely performing its work as it wove from seal to seal. Finally, it broke through the last of the enchantment, and I heard Luna gasp as she stumbled back a step or two.
I opened my eyes and saw that Luna’s eyes had returned to normal. Her ocean blue irises locked on me and filled to the brim with shock. Her mouth was hanging open and she seemed to be trying to speak, and yet nothing escaped her lips except for incoherent nonsense. I turned my back and faced the window, letting the sunlight warm my chitin as I spoke.
“You are no longer bound to me.” I said, my voice firm to try and hide the discomfort I felt inside, “You are no longer my Queen, and I release you from my service to do with as you will. Shards, escort the former Princess of the Night to the train station. From there you will bring her back to Canterlot and turn her over to my mother. You may let Queen Chrysalis known that I have grown weary of Luna’s presence, and will require some time to think about who my next Queen shall be.” I paused for a moment to keep my voice under control, despite the warring emotions inside me, “That is all, you are dismissed.”
The only sounds I heard were those of the guards and Luna as they walked out of the room, and I forced my gaze to remain firmly fixed on the rising sun. I felt a slight bit of moisture sun down my face, but I ignored it as I tried to get my mind under control. My eyes remained firm and resolute, despite the drops of water that hit the floor at irregular intervals.
That’s funny, I thought to myself, the sun is shining, so why is it raining in my chambers?
Any staff who happened to walk by the doors would swear that they heard somepony weeping, yet they held their silence and moved along, for fear of the source should they make themselves known.
Breakfast was a miserable affair, my stomach twisting into knots regardless of the delicious food laid before me. The stallion that had waited on me before was almost sweating bricks as I moved my food about with my fork, his lips pressed together and his eyes near pinpricks of terror.
I swear the poor soul nearly jumped through the ceiling when I turned to face him, “Forgive my lackluster mood, I simply do not seem to have much of an appetite this morning.”
He nodded in a jerky manner, his voice thin as he replied, “Y-Yes Your Highness, I-I understand perfectly. Do you r-require anything else?” I pushed my seat back and stood up, shaking my head slowly as I turned away from him, “That will not be necessary. There is nothing you can do for me at this time.”
I left the dining hall with my head bowed and my mind spinning like a raging tornado. I barely took notice of the Shards following in my wake, although I did pause when I passed the doors that led to my chambers. For a moment I let my gaze travel across the gilded crystal, my thoughts wandering to a navy alicorn that was growing ever further from my new home and yet staying firmly planted in my mind. One of the Shards cleared her throat behind me, and I glanced over my shoulder to address them. I recognized Colonel Carapace and Major Wasp as my gaze roamed across their forms, Carapace stepping forward with what seemed to be a worried gleam in her eyes. She hesitated for a moment, as if unsure how to speak her mind, “Your Highness, far be it from me to question your authority, but I can’t understand why you released Luna from your control and sent her back to Canterlot. You also seem to be taking it rather hard and I don’t know what we can do to help.”
Wasp nodded her agreement, although she quickly averted her gaze and hid behind her mane with a squeak.
I sighed as I faced forward once more, “It is a personal matter that I must deal with alone. I do not expect you to understand my troubles nor attempt to solve them for me.” I waved one hoof in a shooing motion, “You are dismissed for the rest of the day. I require some time alone to think.”
There was a pregnant pause before their soft hoofsteps faded down the hallway, leaving me on my own in the vast space. I turned down another path and found myself walking through the upper levels, the tall spires rising above me on all sides as I stepped onto the outdoor parapets. The sun shone down on me and glinted off the crystal surrounding the central spire, yet did nothing to brighten the dark pain that throbbed inside my chest. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling this pulsing agony, and yet I knew that it had something to do with Luna. For some reason, that mare made me feel emotions and brought thoughts to my mind that I had never experienced before. I walked along the battlements as the smooth breeze tossed my mane and tail behind me, words I had never known rising from the core of my very being.
You could never change your heart, And I could never change your mind Instead of treating you like a slave girl, A possession of mine Your face haunts my dreams at night, And I can’t seem to win this fight When your love is like a lantern, Fading out of sight
My hooves carried me across the open space, my words echoing off the towers and ringing in my ears as unbidden tears ran down my face. I ignored the traitorous droplets as I continued, my gaze roaming over the city below as my throat constricted.
Had the time, had a chance, but I lost it Had my hooves on your heart but I broke it All I know I can't fight this flame You could never change your heart, And I could never change your mind Cause I'm crazy 'bout you baby, night after night
Without you One night alone, is like a year without you baby I feel like our chance has flown Without you Can't stop the pain inside When love and fate collide
I paused as the winds tossed my mane about behind me, closing my eyes as I spread my wings. For a moment I felt almost like I was flying, yet still planted firmly on the ground. Then, like a friend who left without saying goodbye, the breeze suddenly dropped, and my mind came crashing back into my body.
I don't wanna fight no more, I don't know what we're fighting for When we treat each other baby, Like an act of war I could tell a million lies, And it would come as no surprise When the truth is like a stranger, Hits you right between the eyes
I made my way through the open archway at the other end of the walkway, my words now ringing off the walls and ceiling as I slowly made my way back down to the ground floor. I passed a few servants but paid them no mind as I wandered through the castle, leaving several very confused ponies in my wake.
There's a time and a place and a reason And I know I got a love to believe in All I know, got to win this time
Without you One night alone, is like a year without you baby I feel like our chance has flown Without you Can't stop the pain inside When love and fate collide
I forced my tears to halt as I passed by two of the Shards, their gazes firmly planted on the wall across the way as I passed them. It would not do for a changeling to see their king crying. I made my way back to my chamber doors, throwing them open with a burst of magic before sealing them behind me.
You could have a change of heart, If you would only change your mind Cause I'm crazy 'bout you baby...Crazy...Crazy
I walked up to the large windows at the back of the room, my gaze wandering over the lands to the south, searching in vain for a sign of the pony whom had done this to me. I turned away from the pristine landscape and climbed into bed, burying my muzzle in the sheets as my voice dropped to a near whisper.
Without you One night alone, is like a year without you baby Can you please let me atone Without you One night alone, is like a year without you baby If you could chance your heart to fall Without you Can't stop the pain inside When love and fate collide
As my voice wound down I collapsed into uncontrolled sobs, my tears streaming down my face as they dampened the spread below me. I don’t know how long I stayed like that, but by the time I gathered my senses the sky was already dimming into the early stages of twilight. I wiped my face with one foreleg, taking a deep breath to settle my nerves before opening my eyes and climbing off the bed. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I had to know what was happening to Luna in Canterlot. My horn glowed brightly as the last light of day faded from the sky, illuminating my chambers with a green overtone as I tried to remember the spell for scrying. After a moment it came to me and a ring of green fire fabricated in the air in the center of the room, the interior pitch black before slowly fading into a clear image.
At first the grey stone and dark lighting confused me, before the angle shifted to reveal Luna being escorted by two drones down a roughly cut hallway. Her head hung low and her wingtips dragged on the ground as she was directed into an open cell door. I realized that they were in the dungeons below the castle, and I leaned forward as she stepped through the opening, the great iron door slamming closed behind her.
In an instant my eyes took in the occupants of the large chamber, though it was a few moments before anypony moved. Celestia and Cadence were resting against the far wall, curled around one another for warmth while Shining Armor lay on his wife’s other side. Twilight was sleeping in the center of her friends, their coats creating a multi-colored mosaic against the cold rock.
It was Shining Armor who reacted to the slamming cell door first, leaping to his hooves and falling into a defensive stance over his wife. His eyes blinked several times as he glared daggers at Luna, only for his expression to morph into one of shock as the others slowly climbed from sleep.
“P-Princess Luna!” He cried as he stood up fully, “You’re here!”
His voice echoed around the room, causing the others to jerk to their hooves as all eyes landed on the miserable navy alicorn. For a moment nopony moved, and then it was an all-out race to get to Luna first. However, even the legendary hug speed of Pinkamena Daine Pie was completely outpaced by Celestia as she seemed to teleport from her position to Luna, her hooves wrapping around her sister’s withers in a bone-crushing embrace as she wept tears of joy. For a second Luna seemed frozen in surprise, though from the hug or her sister’s tears I couldn’t tell, before closing her own eyes and returning her sister’s affections. Cadence and Shining Armor piled on and were quickly followed by Twilight and the others, leaving very little of the midnight alicorn uncovered.
“I thought I had lost you to that beast,” Celestia sniffed as she regained her composure, pulling back just enough to match her sister’s gaze, “I thought you would become that fiend’s puppet for all of time.”
“How ever did you escape?” Twilight asked, everypony pulling back to give Luna some air.
Her words seemed to trigger something in Luna, because her eyes flashed with an emotion I didn’t recognize, and she looked to the ground in front of her hooves, “I didn’t escape.”
Confusion was rampant on every face in the room as Rarity tilted her head to the side, “But surely you must have done something to free yourself from his control, Your Highness, how else would you explain your free will?”
Luna’s head lifted until she was staring right at the white unicorn, “That’s just it, I didn’t break his control. He let me go.”
There was a collective gasp from everypony as Celestia stepped forward, “Explain yourself, sister, why would King Silver Jacket release you from his control? It makes no sense, especially after all the trouble he went through to make you his queen.”
Luna shook her head slowly, “I have no idea as to why he did it, but the first thing I can remember after his spell wore off is seeing his face twisted in agony.” She met Celestia’s gaze with an uncertain light in her eyes, “His visage was warped by pain and he struggled to even look at me. He couldn’t even meet my eyes when he told the guards to take me away. The next thing I know I’m on my way back here with no reason as to why or how.” Her head sagged once more, “I just don’t know.”
“Sounds to me like he got sick of having a brain-dead queen and sent you back here so he could get another of those bugs to be his mate.” Applejack muttered.
“Applejack!” Rarity gasped, “why would you ever say such a thing?!”
“I think she’s right,” Rainbow Dash added, “why else would the high and mighty king send Luna back here after doing all that stuff to take over Equestria?”
“Ooh! Maybe he wanted to throw her a big Congratulations-on-Becoming-My-Queen-After-We-Took-Over-Equestria party but he didn’t have enough streamers and cake to make it work so he sent her back here so that way he could get more supplies and then come get her once he gets everything set up and we are all invited to the biggest party ever thrown by Changelings in the Crystal Empire and I wish I had my party cannon – mmphmphmm” Pinkie’s rambling was abruptly cut off by Rainbow Dash sticking a hoof in her mouth.
“Yeah I don’t think that’s the reason,” the prismatic pegasus muttered with an eye roll.
“But what other explanation could there be?” Twilight asked, “It makes no sense otherwise. There’s no way Silver Jacket would just free Luna from his control and send her back to us without a good reason.”
Through all of this Cadence had been sitting quietly, her gaze moving from one pony to another as more and more ideas were tossed about. Yet her eyes kept coming back to Luna as her expression grew more and more uncertain.
“Aunty,” she spoke softly, yet the tension in her voice cut through the background din like a hot knife through butter, “do you think it could be something more, something you aren’t telling us?”
In an instant Luna’s voice grew hard as her back straightened, “What are thou accusing us of niece? Are you implying that I am hiding information as to the reason for my release?”
Cadence shook her head slowly, “No, nothing like that. It’s just that I’ve noticed something about you. Even though you are no longer under his control, I can tell that you still have some connection to the king.”
Luna bristled as all eyes turned to her, “Speak thy mind clearly when thou asks for Our opinion. Thou spins thy words and dances around the subject like a foul playing in the fields. What is it that thou is asking of Us?”
“Luna,” Celestia spoke in a calming tone, “you’re slipping into Old Equish again.”
“Be still sister,” Luna snapped, causing the others to gasp as her gaze locked onto the younger alicorn, “Thy niece will answer Us clearly or face Our wrath.”
Even under the withering gaze of the Princess of the Night, Cadence stood firm, even pushing Shining Armor aside when he tried to intercede, “You want a straight question, fine. I may not have my magic anymore, but I’ve been the Alicorn of Love for long enough to know the signs even without my power. So I’ll say to clearly for you, are you in love with the Changeling King Silver Jacket?”
The silence that followed was deafening. Gazes flickered between the alicorns like a flame, waiting for Luna’s answer. Some expressions were nervous, as was the case with Fluttershy, Twilight and Shining Armor. Applejack and Rainbow Dash were locked in thoughtful uncertainty, while Rarity was gaping in outright horror. Pinkie Pie was giggling and holding her hooves over her mouth while Celestia was completely expressionless. Even I was caught up in the moment, hanging on the tension even though I wasn’t even there. Could it be possible, could a pony truly love a Changeling without a mind spell?
Luna’s expression had morphed from outright shock to rage and then to nervousness as the silence dragged on. Sweat ran down her brow as her eyes flickered from one face to another. Finally, the pressure burst out in one fell swoop as she cried out, “YES!”
Before anypony could react, Luna continued with her outburst, “We know it sounds like fantasy, yet thy Changeling hath taken hold of Our heart. Every time We think of him, even knowing all that he has done, We cannot find it within Ourselves to hate him. Even now, We see his alter ego as the first pony that hath treated Us as a true mare, not as some untouchable god that must be treated like some priceless artifact. Thou hath no idea the happiness he hath brought Us, even now We see his tender gaze and feel his careful touch. We know it twas but an illusion, created to fool Us and weaken Our resolve. Yet We cannot but still love him, as he was the first to show us love in that regard since Our banishment.”
Celestia’s expression morphed into one of pain as she stepped up to Luna, “You must know I love you Luna,” she indicated the gather ponies with a hoof, “we all do. How could you say that nopony has loved you when you know that to be untrue?”
The raw fire in Luna’s eye nearly made be flinch, although it certainly did the job on her cellmates, “Thou speaks of loving Us, when thou banished Us to the moon for a thousand years and then brushed it off like some bad dream? Do not forget that We remember and understand your reasoning, sister, but never think for even a moment that it was easy. Does thou know the pain of loneliness in the dark void, to be aware but unable to even move by one’s own will? We know thou did what had to be done, but does thou expect Us to believe that it would only take a hug and heartfelt apology to make the pain of a thousand years vanish with the morning sun?”
Celestia’s eyes glittered with unshed tears, “Luna, I never knew, if you had told me then –”
“WE DO NOT CARE!” Luna screamed in the Royal Canterlot Voice, “FOR THE FIRST TIME WE FELT LOVED, FOR THE FIRST TIME WE FELT THE TENDERNESS OF ANOTHER. THOU KNOWS NOT THE PAIN OF BEING LOVED AND BETRAYED BY THOSE THOU HELD DEAR. VERILY, KING SILVER JACKET IS A CHANGELING, BUT THAT DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACT THAT EVEN AFTER ALL HE HATH DONE, AND ALL THE PAIN HE HATH COST US, WE CANNOT BUT REMEMBER THE LOVE THAT WE USED TO SHARE!”
Another lead silence fell as her voice echoed off the rock, her chest heaving in great gasps as tears ran down her face. The pure and unadulterated agony in her expression made me feel like something had crawled into my chest and died. The pure pain that she was feeling seemed to pierce my very soul as the other ponies gaped at her.
Finally, Celestia lifted a hoof, moving slowly as if to avoid frightening her sister, “Luna, I, I never knew. Please, let me help you through this.” She cringed away when Luna brushed her hoof off her shoulder, “We wish to be alone for a while. We are tired from Our journey and require sleep.” She stood and walked past the others, not even bothering with a passing glance as she curled up facing the wall and draped her tail over her body.
Celestia made to follow but was stopped by Cadence. The white alicorn cast a glance towards her niece, but the younger mare simply shook her head. Celestia cast one last glance towards the still form of Luna, before sighing and turning around to face the others. I had seen enough. I cut off the spell and stumbled back a step, my legs weak and shaking after the spectacle I had just witnessed. And yet, even with the image of Luna gone, my chest still throbbed and ached like I had swallowed a nettle burr. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get the image of Luna’s painful expression, her thunderous words seeming to echo in my bones with each passing minute. For what felt like an eternity I sat in that room, thinking on what I was going to do next. Should I send for Luna again? Should I make her my queen without the mind spell? I shook my head at the idea, there was no way she would ever forgive me for what I had done, even if she did have feelings for me.
But, another thought bounced into my mind from some unseen corner, maybe I could still do something to prove that her feelings meant something to me. I might not be able to give her back her magic and kingdom, but perhaps I could give her the freedom that she had lost when mother took over.
I raced to the doors and broke through the seal with such force that the doors flew off their hinges. The two Shards standing guard jumped in surprise as I marched out of the obliterated doorway, “Send for all the Shards. Your King is in need of your services.”
They nodded dumbly before racing off in opposite directions, and in seemingly minutes, the entire hallway was cluttered with a dozen Changelings.
“You had need of us Your Highness?” Colonel Carapace spoke as she snapped a salute.
I nodded, “At ease Shard Master, this is not a formal meeting. Now,” I let my gaze wander over the collected Changelings, “I called you all together because there is something I need to do. It will be very dangerous and could very well lead to my death. I have called you here to give you two orders. First, you are no longer my personal guard. I am giving you free reign on your own lives from this point forward. Second, I am asking for volunteers to embark on this dangerous quest. Those who come do so knowing that they will be committing treason against Queen Chrysalis and will be subject to the death penalty if we are captured. We will be freeing the pony princesses and their followers from the Canterlot dungeons and leading them out of Equestria. To where, I do not know. All I know that that I cannot let these ponies suffer any longer under my mother’s rule. We may be superior to ponies, but that does not mean we can treat them as less than dirt.”
I paused for a moment to let my words sink in, “So, now that you know what you will be walking into, what say you all?”
For a moment they muttered and talked amongst themselves, before they all turned to Colonel Carapace. She nodded and turned to me with a smile, “You won’t get rid of us that easily Your Highness. You can say it all you want, but the Silver Shards will stand by you till the last. We go where you go, and we would all die to protect you, no matter where you might run and no matter what you do.”
She raised her voice and called out, “Silver Shards, sound off and fall in!”
They fell into a single file and saluted one by one, starting with the furthest left,
“First Sergeant Acari reporting for duty!”
“Corporal Dorsum, present!”
“Lieutenant Stinger ready for action!”
“M-Major Wasp, here!”
“Captain Locust awaiting orders!”
“Sergeant Major Coxa, present!”
“Warrant Officer Pleurite, standing by!”
“Lieutenant Vertex reporting!”
“Sergeant Alula, present!”
“Petty Officer Frons good to go!”
“Captain Nodus reporting in!”
Carapace smiled as she snapped her own salute at the end of the line, “Colonel Carapace standing by! All Silver Shards are present and ready for action Your Highness! What are your orders?!”
I was struck with a quick flash of pride, as well as a fair amount of gratitude. Even without direct orders, these Changelings were willing to follow me on what could very well become a suicide mission. I held back my tears as I smiled, knowing that you couldn’t breed this kind of loyalty into a soldier.
“Very well,” I forced my voice to remain level, “if that is what you wish then so be it. Silver Shards, move out!”
“YES SIR!” Came the thunderous reply from every ‘ling present.
With my heart set and my mind clear, I led the Silver Shards out of the castle and to the train station, knowing that from this moment on, there would be no going back.
The train ride to Canterlot was uneventful, although that might have been due to the complete lack of other passengers in the car. The sun was beginning to set by the time Canterlot became visible in the distance, and I signaled to the Shards that it was time to make our exit. We jumped off the train at the base of the mountain, allowing the engine to continue up the slope towards the city proper. Meanwhile, we made our way towards the base of the mountain, where a secret entrance lay hidden.
“Remind me again why we’re going this way Your Highness.” Carapace asked as she followed behind me.
“We would never get past the Changelings in the city proper, let alone past the guards within the castle,” I explained, “so we’re going to use the same route that my mother used during the first invasion. We can slip through the crystal caverns into the lower levels of the castle and bypass almost all of the defenses. I’m positive that nopony will be covering this way because only my mother and a select few generals know where its entrance is located.”
She hummed in understanding, falling silent as we came up to a large opening in the rock. From the outside it looked like an ordinary cave, but I knew better. Inside this opening was a hidden passage that led up through the crystal caverns and into the deepest levels of the castle dungeons. If we were going to free the princesses and the others, this was our best bet at reaching them undetected.
For several hours we carefully made our way through the tunnels, using the bare minimum of illumination magic to hide our presence. Before long the bare rock gave way to massive quartz crystals of every shape and size imaginable. Several times I had to break off some of the larger sections to clear the way for the others, but other than a few small setbacks, we made it through without issue. I motioned for Carapace to stop with a hoof, creeping up until I spotted the opening that we had been searching for. It was a large iron door, set with a barred window at head height and a massive lock securing it to the surrounding stone. I knew that this thing hadn’t been here the last time we invaded, so it must have been a security measure put in place by the princesses while we were in exile. I motioned for Carapace to move up with the others, and I heard their soft hoofsteps as she fell in at my side.
“So what now?” She whispered, “We can’t get through that door without alerting the entire castle to our location.”
“Perhaps we could pick it?” Stinger muttered before igniting his horn.
A large pick made of green magic appeared in front of the lock and inserted into the hole. Before any of us could react, a flash of while light erupted from the lock’s hole and obliterated the construct, causing Stinger to yelp as the backlash knocked him on his flank.
He grunted before pushing into a sitting position again, “Note to self, don’t do that again.”
Carapace rolled her eyes, “That’s what you get for acting without thinking. Did you really think the princesses would leave a lock like that without making it pick-proof?” She sighed as she turned her attention back to the door, “I wonder sometimes how you’ve survived this long without getting blown up or something.”
“Quiet,” I hissed, “I hear something.”
Silence fell over us and I strained my ears to pick up what I had thought was hoofsteps. After a moment they grew loud enough to know for certain, and it was indeed hoofsteps closing in from the other side of the door. We ducked behind some of the crystals as two voices echoed off the rock, and I smirked when I made out what they were saying.
“I don’t see why we need to guard this stupid thing,” it was a male drone’s voice that grumbled loudly, “nopony knows about this tunnel except for the Queen and some of her most trusted generals.”
“Quiet Tarsi,” a female’s voice hissed, “you know that the ponies can pull some crazy things when pushed to the edge. Do you want to be the one to tell Her Highness that you let some pony rescue party slip through under our defenses?”
“No,” he replied, “but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be the most boring post in the entire city. I mean seriously, who in their right mind would come down here when nopony knows that it leads to a secret tunnel?”
I caught Carapace’s eye and nodded once, leading her slowly to the door before crouching down on one side. She slipped in on the other side and lifted a small crystal with her magic up to the opening. She rotated it slowly, narrowing her eyes as she concentrated. After a moment she lowered the stone and indicated with signals that there were just the two guards, and that they were on either side of the door. I nodded and ignited my horn, channeling my magic into two compressed pockets of power. I moved up to the window and looked out to make sure I had a clear shot at both guards. They were looking at the far wall with matching expressions of boredom, so I moved my magic through the bars before thrusting them into the back of both their heads. There was a small pop as the magic erupted into a powerful sleep spell, and the guards fell to the floor with a thump as I levitated the keys from the female’s belt.
Once we secured the doorway and moved the guards out of sight, I led my Shards through the tunnels towards the upper sections. As we moved further I kept my ears peeled for any sign of patrols, although as we made our way higher and higher I was beginning to wonder if mother even bothered with a guard detail for the dungeons. After all, the only ponies I knew were down here had no magic and would be hard pressed to find a way to escape on their own. Well, not without help that is.
We continued for a while longer, keeping to the back ways and keeping our horns dark. We couldn’t afford to let the glow of magic give us away now, we were too close to our goal to let the chance slip through our hooves. I motioned for Carapace and the others to stop once more, peering around the next corner to see if there was anypony we needed to avoid. Instead, my eyes fell upon two Changelings guarding a single iron door in the center of the hall’s right side. I pulled back and motioned for Stinger and Wasp to come closer.
“Alright, we’ve got two guards stationed in front of the door down the hall. My best bet is that we’ve found our targets. Wasp, Stinger, I want you to ready for an ambush. When I give the signal, I want you to take them out without killing them. I’ll act as the distraction so you can get into position.”
They nodded and I moved back to the edge of the wall, “Move out as soon as I have their attention.”
I took a deep breath and straightened my back, putting every ounce of my royal façade into play as I walked around the corner. The guards reacted immediately upon seeing me, locking their surprised gazes with mine as I walked towards them.
“Your Highness!” The right one yelled, “We weren't expecting you. What are you doing all the way down here?”
“I require some time to speak with the prisoners.” I replied, keeping my voice perfectly level, “You are relieved until I send for you.”
They shared a look of confusion, “I’m sorry Your Majesty, I don’t understand.”
I smirked, “No matter, I didn’t expect you to understand,” I flicked my ears and watched as Stinger and Wasp planted their hooves on top of the guard’s heads and drove them into the floor with a solid thud sound, “I expected you to lose consciousness.”
“Can we cut with the jokes please,” Carapace asked as she fell in beside me, “we’re running on borrowed time as it is.”
I nodded, “True enough. Let us venture forth and rescue our desperate pony prisoners.”
Using the keys I had taken from the other guards, I unlocked the door and pushed it open with my magic. Carapace and Nodus followed me into the chamber, our eyes quickly adjusting to the low light to reveal ten very confused and uncertain ponies.
I turned and called over my shoulder to the other Shards, “Guard the way back as well as the main hallway. I don’t want any unexpected surprises to drop in unannounced.”
“Sir!” They whispered as they split off into two groups.
I turned back to face the ponies, only to have a very pissed Shining Armor plant his muzzle against my own.
“You have some nerve showing your face here bug.” He growled, “I should beat you into a pulp and feed you to your troops.”
“But you won’t,” I countered as I lifted him with my magic and moved him back to the others, “because then you wouldn’t stand a chance of escaping.”
This seemed to throw everypony for a loop, because nopony spoke until Celestia took a step forward, “What kind of game are you playing at Silver Jacket?”
“No game Celestia,” I said, “I have come to break you out of this prison and lead you and yours out of Equestria. I have realized that this is not the path I had envisioned when I took over Equestria, and I would rather free my mother’s prisoners then see this travesty continue.”
Rarity scoffed, “As if we would believe a lying creature like you. What kind of fools do you take us for?”
“I do not expect you to believe me,” I met each of their eyes one by one, “but I am speaking the truth when I say that I want better things for you,” my gaze locked onto Luna, “especially you Luna.”
Celestia stepped in front of her sister in a protective manner, “Watch your tongue insect. Haven’t you done enough damage to my family already?”
I shook my head, “You misunderstand, I meant that I wanted better things for Luna, and it was because of those feelings that we stand here now.” I paused for a moment to let my words sink in, “You don’t get it do you? Why else would I release her from my control and then risk my own life breaking her out of here?”
“Because you like to play games with our minds and get a sick kick out of seeing ponies suffer?” Rainbow Dash offered.
I scowled but schooled my features before answering, “No, it is because of one simple fact. Believe it or not, Luna isn’t the only one who has feelings for the other in our twisted duo.” Gasps and snorts of contempt sounded in equal measure at my words, “Hear me, for I will only say this once.” I locked my gaze with Luna’s and took a step forward, “I could not make you my queen as you were, my mind rejected the idea of being your mate each and every time I so much as looked at your expressionless eyes. I tried, I really did, to move past that metal block, and yet it always came back to the same thing. I might have captured your love, but I hadn’t captured your heart, at least, not after what I had done.”
“You betrayed her love and stole her mind away from her,” Cadence hissed in fury, “she trusted you with her deepest desires and you threw them in her face like they were a joke.”
I raised a hoof to placate the mare, “And I was wrong. I understand now why I could never do what I had set out to accomplish. My feelings for you made it impossible to move beyond that moment and the love you were producing was like a hollow shell. I knew your true love as Silver Shield. I had your heart in my hooves and I threw it away and for what? Some gilded throne in the Crystal Empire with a puppet for a queen? An empty love that could never fill the hole in my chest like it once did? Do you take me for a fool? How could a creature like me, one who needs love to survive like you need water, not realize when his own feelings are mirroring those he wished to feel from others?” I took a breath as I closed my eyes, “I have come to free you from this cage and to take you away, where my mother will never find you again so you can be free once more. I know I can never ask for your forgiveness, at least not after what I’ve done, but at least trust me enough to let me protect you. Without magic you are helpless, and as such without my help you will never escape this castle.”
I opened my eyes and locked my gaze with Luna’s, “Please, in the name of the love we once shared, trust me to free and protect you, so that you can start over away from all of this.”
For a moment silence rang through the cell like a gong, and for an instant hope swelled in my chest. But then it shattered like glass as the faces before me hardened like stone.
“You expect us to abandon our subjects, to throw everything away and run for our own lives?” Celestia marched up to me with an expression of pure fury, “I would never do something so selfish and cowardly, not in a million lifetimes. Take your offers of freedom and leave. We will never abandon hope so long as we draw breath.”
“But don’t you see,” I reasoned, “there is no hope for you, not as you are. You could plot and scheme for a hundred years and never come up with a way to beat Chrysalis. She has all your magic at her command and an army to back her up. You have no chance and no hope of defeating her, even with my help you might still get caught escaping and then we’re all going to die. I’m risking my life to free you so that you have the chance to fight for your subjects. Live to fight another day and comeback when you stand a chance of winning.”
“How do we even know you’re telling the truth about me and you?” Luna asked, her eyes lidded with suspicion as she walked up to take her sister’s place, “For all we know this is another of Chrysalis’ games and you are simply the messenger.”
I paused for a moment, trying to think of a way to prove what I meant was the truth. Finally, an idea lit up inside my mind. My horn glowed and I slip a glob of resin into my telekinetic grip. Luna’s eyes widened as I shaped the goop into a sword and let it harden into a razor’s edge. Shining Armor and Celestia charged at me, but I stopped them with my magic before they could get to us. I turned my gaze back to Luna and moved the sword up to her. She eyed the weapon warily, and I nodded towards it to encourage her. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion as she reached down and gripped the hilt in her teeth, watching my every move as my horn stopped glowing.
Celestia and Shining Armor watched in confusion as I tilted my chin up and to the side, indicating my neck with one hoof, “To prove my worth I am giving you my life. If I am ever to expect you to trust your lives to me, I must be willing to do the same for you. If you wish it, you may strike me down where I stand, I will not stop you. After all that I’ve done I deserve a much harsher punishment than death.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, “If you will trust me to lead you away from this pace and out of Equestria, then break the sword upon the ground. If I cannot be redeemed, then remove my head right here and now, while there is still time to escape on your own.”
“You cannot seriously expect her to do something like this,” Twilight said as her friends murmured their agreement, “what will this prove?”
“That my feelings for her are real and that I would do anything to protect her.” I opened my eyes and turned to look over my shoulder, “Colonel.”
Carapace saluted as she stepped forward, “Yes sir?”
“If Luna kills me, you are to follow her commands and do whatever it takes to see them safely out of the capital. Should this be my final order, I will trust their lives to you should they wish your assistance.”
She nodded, although her expression was anything but sure, “Y-Yes sir.”
I turned back to Luna, whose eyes were wide with shock as she met my gaze. I closed my eyes and waited for her decision. I tuned into her emotions and tried to figure out what she was thinking, although it was like jumping into a whirlpool with a rock tied to my tail. For several long minutes I waited, until her emotions calmed and were replaced by a rock hard resolve. The sound of shattering resin reached my ears, and I opened my eyes to see Luna spitting the hilt to one side.
“You can lead us out of this prison,” she spoke softly and without emotion, “but you will never again hold my trust.”
I nodded, “Very well. Come, we must go while there is still time. We have lingered here long enough as it is.”
We exited the cell as a group and raced down the hallways, heading back the way we had come as the remaining Shards fell in behind us. However, as we rounded a corner not too far from the cavern entrance, I was stopped dead in my tracks as raw terror raced through my veins. There, standing in front of us, was a squad of ten Changelings with Chrysalis at their head. Her expression was one of quit contemplation as she walked forward slowly, the Amulet of Autolycus swinging slowly around her neck.
“Well this certainly is a surprise,” she hummed to herself, “I was expecting some ponies trying to free their princesses. What is the meaning of this Silver Jacket? Are you trying to play some kind of game with my little toys?”
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, “No mother. I am taking them with me, out of Equestria where you cannot hurt them anymore.”
She smirked, “That is quite the little joke Silver, but playtime is over. Return my prisoners to me and I will let you walk away without punishment.”
I planted myself in front of the ponies, the Shards moving to flank me as I lowered my head in challenge, “No. This ends now. Step aside so that we can leave and I will promise you will never see me again.”
Her expression morphed into one of slight shock, “You’re serious about this aren’t you? Why Silver? Why would you betray me and your kind for them? Ponies are nothing more than food for us to feed on. They are little more than livestock that we can control and do with as we please. Why would you stoop so low as to throw your lot in with their kind?”
“Because I know what it feels like to express love instead of simply feeding off of it.” I growled.
Her cackling laughter echoed off the walls as her troops joined in, “Love is food to a Changeling. We do not have the ability to feel love for ourselves. That is why we must feed off ponies in order to survive. You truly are a fool if you believe nonsense like that.”
I stepped forward, “You’re wrong mother. I have felt love, and you will never know that pain I felt when I betrayed Luna. Her love was like the sweetest sugar when we were together, and then I burnt it to a crisp when I turned the kingdom and her magic over to you. I will no longer stand for the injustice you have committed against the ponies. I will no longer stand by as you destroy the lives of an entire race for your own amusement.”
I stood as tall as I could and looked her dead in the eyes, “I will no longer stand as a Changeling King, and I will no longer stand as your son.”
As her eyes widened she managed to stutter out, “What, what are you doing?”
My horn lit up as my magic enveloped my crown, “Something that I should have done a long time ago.”
With a mighty crack I snapped my crown off at the base, biting my lip to hold in my cry of agony as splintering pain enveloped my head and neck. I powered through watering eyes as mother watched with utter shock, and threw the offending article to the ground.
“Today, I make my own choices about who I stand with.” I cried as I reared on my hind legs, “Today, I choose to stand for justice!”
With a roar of fury I brought my hooves down on my crown with all of my strength, shattering it into a million pieces as a brilliant flash of light erupted from the obliterated chitin and crystal. I stood there panting as green ichor ran down the sides of my face and between my eyes, doing my best to stand strong as pain pulsed up and down my spine.
For a moment nopony moved, although what happened next was something that nopony could have seen coming. A golden fire erupted from my hooves, and I hissed with pain as a brilliant burning sensation shot up my legs. I looked down and saw the fire begin to move up my body, and I cried out in agony as the pain multiplied tenfold. The volume and pitch of my scream rose higher and higher as the fire worked its way up my body, until I was screeching like a mare at the top of my lungs. I felt like I was going to die as the fire moved up my barrel and enveloped my wings, and I gasped just long enough to resume screaming as it moved up my neck.
Time and space lost all meaning to me. All there was to my universe was the pain. As the gold flames moved up past my eyes I was nearly blinded as the magic tore through my lids and penetrated into my mind. Yet the bliss of unconsciousness evaded me as the glow faded to normal, and I staggered as I tried to remain on my hooves. Through my stuttering breaths I heard everypony gasp, and I wondered for a moment what in the wide world of Equis had happened to me.
I opened my eyes and tried to keep my spinning vision on my hooves, although as my eyes cleared I noticed something odd. My hooves were slate grey, and more importantly, lacking in certain holes I knew should be there. I slowly lifted my head and looked behind me, taking in first the utterly flabbergasted expressions of both pony and Changeling alike, and then looking downward to take in my body. My eyes widened as I spotted more slate grey fur and a set of large feathered wings, along with an ice blue tail that shimmered slowly in an ethereal wind. A flash of near-white caught my eye and I used my horn to pull my mane into my line of sight. It too was a striking ice blue, and shifted slowly just like my tail did in a non-existent wind. My gaze traveled over my body once more, and I saw that my flank was marked by a pair of crossed swords overlaid by a gold set of scales. For a moment I thought I had transformed using my magic after I broke my horn, but when I tried to shift back my eyes widened when nothing happened. I concentrated and tried again, only to get the same result.
I turned so that I could look at the others behind me, my eyes wide with shock, “It would seem I’m no longer a Changeling.”
Everypony and everyling present gaped at my new form, the ponies shifting their gazes from my horn to my tail and back again, as if trying to fathom what had happened. I turned and looked towards my mother, noting that even she was beyond words at my transformation.
“What have you done?” She whispered, her eyes slowly moving to match mine, “What did you do to change like that?”
“I think I can answer that,” I spun around at Celestia’s words. She stepped forward until she stood between me and the protective line of Shards, “My sister and I had theorized it was possible, but we never imagined that a changeling could perform it. Even the possibility of a pony doing what you just did is next to impossible.”
My gaze narrowed in confusion, “What do you mean? What happened?”
This time Luna stepped forward, her eyes still wide with shock, “Self-induced Alicorn Ascension. You performed an act that made you worthy of becoming an alicorn, but instead of being changed by either my sister or I, you did something so dynamic, so life-altering, that you produced the magic necessary for your transformation all on your own.”
My own eyes widened as the meaning of their words hit me in the chest, “You mean I’m like you, a pure-blood alicorn?”
They nodded, “Unlike Cadence and Twilight,” Celestia said, “you are ageless, and as such will live forever unless you are killed by either disease or injury. It would seem that your conviction to save us ran far deeper than we could have imagined.”
Nopony spoke after she finished speaking, and for a moment I was unable to formulate a straight thought as the sisters’ words played over and over in my mind.
I was pulled out of my reverie by quiet laughter from behind me. I turned around and spotted my mother, head bowed and eyes closed, as she cackled like somepony had just told the most hilarious joke.
“You really expect me to believe,” she forced out between gasps, “that my traitorous son has done something that not even one of your little ponies has ever been able to do? Oh that’s rich, truly a testament to Fate’s twisted sense of irony.” She cleared her throat as she straightened, regaining her composure as her expression turned dark, “Still, my son’s miraculous transformation notwithstanding, you are still my prisoners, and no amount of luck or trickery will ever change that.”
The Amulet began to glow as she took a threatening step forward, “Now all of you will surrender to me, or face the combined magical might of Equestria’s most powerful ponies.”
I squared my shoulders and signaled Carapace to step up to my side. She did so with all due haste, her ears perked towards me as we stared down my mother and her group.
“See to is that the ponies are safely evacuated from the castle,” I whispered, just barely loud enough for her to hear, “Kill the guards if you must, but I am charging you with their lives and their continued freedom.”
“What will you do sir?” She returned, “You can’t possibly stand against Chrysalis alone.”
“I don’t have to stand against her,” I countered, “just buy you enough time to get away. I don’t plan on dying today, but I’m the only one with even close to enough power to keep her busy.”
She nodded solemnly, “Good luck to you, it’s been a pleasure serving you sir.”
I smiled as I took a step forward, “Please, call me Silver.”
She nodded as she turned to face the others, “Make it back to us in one piece, Silver.”
Mother watched the entire exchange, her eyes narrowed in confusion as she watched Carapace race back to the others. “What did you tell that guard?”
I schooled my features into a mask, “Nothing you need to concern yourself with. Your opponent is me. Leave the ponies out of this.”
“No Silver!” Luna cried as the Shards began to herd them down the other tunnel, “She’ll kill you!”
I cast my gaze over my shoulder at her, letting a small smile grace my muzzle as our eyes met, “Hey, have a little faith in me, after all, I have somepony I have to come back to.”
Her eyes widened slightly before she nodded and turned down the stone hallway, leading the others out of sight as I turned to face my mother.
Her eyes flickered with contempt as she pointed the way the others had gone, “Capture the ponies and return them to their cell. Knock them out if you must but do not hurt them. Kill the traitors.”
I made no move to stop them as the smaller changelings raced by me on either side, my gaze locked with my mother’s as we were left alone.
“Why waste your life on them?” She asked, “You know you don’t stand a chance against me.” The Amulet flared as she began to radiate magic from her body like a torch, “Stand down now and I promise to make your death swift and painless.”
I charged up my own horn, feeling the different magic surging through my body in far greater amounts then I had ever felt before, “You have hurt them long enough, mother. I will not let you keep them under your hoof any longer. I’ve made my choice. The only way you’ll get past me is to kill me.”
Her eyes flashed with fury, her fangs bared in hatred as her horn ignited. Realizing that I would not last two seconds in the tunnels around us, I quickly envisioned the plains below the castle. A sphere of ice blue magic enveloped me, and I vanished with a pop as a surge of rainbow fire erupted from my mother’s horn. I felt like I was compressed and stretched at the same time, unlike the gravity effects I was used to from teleportation, and stumbled slightly as my hooves came into contact with solid ground again. I took in my surroundings and was pleased to see that I had indeed landed in the grassland below the palace, although my pride was short-lived as a blast of pure magic punched a hole out of the rock halfway between the castle and the mountain’s base.
Chrysalis flew out of the hole created by the magic beam, quickly diving down at me with her horn forming another spell. With no time to think and little to go with, I used my magic to charge my own body with extra speed and strength, hoping that if I couldn’t overpower her, I could at least outmaneuver her. I dodged as several bursts of magic impacted the ground around me, kicking up massive clouds of dust and dirt as the spells vaporized anything in front of them. My eyes widened in surprise, although given how pissed my mother seemed to be I guess it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise that she was trying to blow me to bits.
She impacted the ground not too far to my left, obscuring her movements with another plume of smoke, although I was smart enough to dance to my right as another beam of supercharged magic shot out of the cloud.
“You will die a slow and painful death for betraying me, Silver Jacket!” She cried as the smoke around her was blown apart by a shockwave that threatened to knock me flat.
Her eyes were absolutely livid, and for the first time in my life I was glad I couldn’t sense emotions. I would have probably been sick from the raw fury she was expressing, if not completely incapacitated.
“Well if I’m going to die a slow and painful death,” I taunted, “you could at least do a better job of trying to hit me.”
I hoped that as long as I kept her mad, she wouldn’t be able to focus enough to actually fight. If she got serious I’d never stand a chance.
“Buzzing from an insignificant insect,” she hissed as her eyes flared white, “I’ll burn you to a crisp and hang your horn on my wall!”
A bubble of superheated air erupted from her body as six beams of sickly green fire shot out in all directions. I flared my wings and dodged backwards as the first stream of magic impacted the ground where I had just been standing. I had no time to do anything except react as the other beams homed in on my position. Over and over again they impacted the dirt just inches from my hooves, and I could feel the heat singing my new fur along my legs and chest with every explosion. I took a moment to catch my breath as the attacks came to a brief end, sending a beam of my own magic back at her in the vain hope of doing harm.
She laughed as my magic impacted her chest, the power surging through her body deflecting it like water over a stone, “Did you really think that would do anything to me? You must truly be a fool if you think you can hope to stand against me with so little magic at your disposal.”
I growled as my horn flared with magic again, “You seem to think I’m trying to beat you. I know how much magic is in the Amulet. What could have led you to believe that I had any hopes of beating you in a straight fight?”
Her eyes changed from angry to confused, the power around her body fading slightly as she searched my gaze, “What are you planning?” I grinned as I fell into a combat crouch, “Now that would spoil the surprise wouldn’t it?”
I let my magic envelope me again as I teleported, coming back to myself directly in front of my mother’s muzzle. Her eyes widened in shock as my hoof made contact with the Amulet, only for my own to widen in fear as my hoof phased right through her body. Her after-image vanished from my sight, and I hastily threw up a shield as I was knocked over by another magic beam. I tumbled along the ground for several hundred feet before coming to a halt, my legs and wings aching as I forced myself back to my hooves. My limbs felt like they had taken quite a beating, and I winced with each breath as what I assumed to be cracked ribs protested my actions.
I teleported again, dodging another beam attack as I reappeared about twenty yards to the left. I stumbled as I came out of the jump, and barely missed getting my head removed as a blast of fire singed my back and wings. I grunted in agony as my burnt fur and feathers protested, along with my other injuries. However, I wasn’t given any time to recover before another eight beams of magic impacted the ground around me, throwing up choking dust and smoke as I tried to cover my mouth and nose with a hoof.
I did my best to clear the dust as my eyes watered and my lungs burned, but I wasn’t fast enough to see the next attack coming. Chrysalis came barreling through the smoke on my right and planted her forehooves in my ribs, breaking those that has already been cracked and popping my right wing out of its socket. We tumbled across the ground for several yards until we came to a crashing halt. Her hooved were planted into the dirt on either side of my head, while her hind legs pinned my lower half under her weight.
I did my best to hold her gaze as she sneered down at me, taking shallow breaths to avoid aggravating my partially caved-in ribcage. Her eyes shined with victory as she lowered her head towards me.
“You see, my son, there was never any hope for you. Even as you are now there was never any doubt that I would win.” She grinned as she lifted her head high, “Any last words before I send you to the next world?”
I ground my teeth as my horn flared, my final spell targeting the edge of the forest between the plains and Ponyville, “Come and get me.”
I vanished and reappeared at the edge of the wood, my body erupting in agony as my broken ribs and dislocated wing made themselves known again. I used my magic to force my wing back where it belonged, hissing as jolts of lightning ran up and down the limb. I used a basic healing spell to return my ribs to their formerly cracked state, although at the moment that was all I could do. For some reason I imagined being an alicorn would mean I had a lot more magic than this, although compared to my mother right now nopony had very much magic.
I limped into the shelter of the forest, hoping to buy some more time with a game of hide and seek. However, my hopes were dashed as a ring of emerald flames torched the grass between me and the shadows beyond. Chrysalis appeared from the black abyss with a bored expression, her stance relaxed and her wings folded.
“Must this really go on any longer?” She asked in a weary tone, “you are obviously running out of magic, have several broken bones and yet you still defy me. Why can’t you see that you have lost?”
I did my best to stand straight, although my left hind leg refused to hold my weight, “I will stand against you as long as it takes, as long as the ponies you held prisoner get to safety.”
She rolled her eyes, “And there goes that bravado again. Really, must it be so difficult to simply give up and surrender? You’re only making it worse for yourself by prolonging this pointless scuffle.”
I tried to channel magic through my horn, but all I got was a pitiful fizzle and a few sparks, “It would seem I am at the end of my rope. I’d try and beat you with my bare hooves, but we both know how that would end.”
Chrysalis’ gaze now took on a light that resembled pity, “Now this is truly pathetic. I’m almost tempted to let you live and take your magic. But, alas, I have some wayward prisoners to track down, so I guess this is goodbye.” Her horn ignited as a ball of fire formed over her head, “Any last words before we end this?”
I did my best to burn a hole in her head with my gaze, “You will never hold this country, not so long as the ponies are alive to fight back. One way or another, they will find a way to defeat you.”
She snorted in contempt, “Not bad for a final speech, too bad the only pony who will ever know what you said is me.”
With that she launched the spell at me, and I realized for the first time that I was truly going to die. Not just injured, not just sick, but actually die. I would have gotten out of the way, but my body had run out of steam. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. I stared down the emerald death as it bore down upon me, and I was preparing for the agony of impact when something unexpected happened.
Two hooves planted themselves against my left side, propelling me out of the way as the fireball impacted where I had been standing. I skidded to a halt a few feet away, lifting my head in shock as I tried to figure out what had happened. A cloud of smoke was rising from a small crater, and as the dust settled I was able to make out a form lying in the dirt. At first I didn’t know what I was looking at, but as the pastel mane and white coat became visible, my eyes widened in shock and horror at what I was seeing.
Princess Celestia had taken the spell in my place.
Pounding hooves echoed through the air as the rest of the group raced along the tree line, the ponies far outstripping their changeling protectors as Luna and Twilight led the charge.
Everypony came to a skidding halt at the edge of the crater, their eyes wide with horror as Luna and Twilight fell to their knees beside the wounded diarch. I pushed myself to my hooves and forced my body to move, my eyes locked onto the savage hole that took up nearly half of the Princess’s flank. The broken stubs of ribs lined the horrendous wound, while blackened flesh slowly oozed blood into her open chest cavity. Her breathing was labored and she coughed up thick streams of blood as her eyes slowly opened.
Luna cradled her sister’s head in her hooves, caring not for the blood that was staining her coat, “Hold on sister! We shall save thee!”
Celestia formed a weak smile as her sister’s tears dripped onto her cheek, “You’ve slipped into the Royal We again Lulu.” Another string of coughs shook her fame, adding more blood to the growing pool beneath her head and body.
Twilight was nearly incoherent because she was crying so hard, “W-Why Celestia? Why w-would you d-do this?”
Celestia’s gaze slowly moved to her former student, “Because it was a sacrifice worth making. You may not see it now, but Silver Jacket is the only one who can save us.” Her gaze narrowed for a moment, “No that isn’t right. Silver Jacket was a changeling king, who wished to control ponies like his mother.” Her gaze moved to me, “You are no longer that pony. You must have a new name for your new life.”
“Sister, now really isn’t the time,” Luna was cut off by a sharp look from her sister, although the ailing Princess’s gaze softened once it returned to me.
“My time in this world is coming to an end. With all of my authority as Princess of Equestria, I name you Prince Noble Light, defender of Justice,” she coughed several times, although her lips were curled into a smile as her gaze returned to me, “and my successor.”
Gasps escaped every mouth in the vicinity, including my own, although there was one pony who wasn’t rendered speechless.
“You cannot be serious, sister!” Luna cried in outrage, “after everything he’s done to us, to me?! Please, rethink this action before you regret it Tia!”
Celestia moved her gaze up to her sister, “My mind is clear dear Lulu. I know what I am doing. Somepony must raise the sun after I am gone, and I know that you would never be able to handle leading our little ponies alone. Forgive Noble Light for his mistakes. He has made up for them by freeing us this day.” Her eyes began to flutter as her breathing began to weaken, “Take care of each other, and I will see you in the next world.”
“Tia?” Luna asked as Celestia closed her eyes, “Tia!”
There was no answer. Celestia’s flank had grown still.
For a moment nopony moved. Then, like a pin had dropped, all of the ponies rushed to the fallen Princess’s side, doing what they could to rouse her.
Finally, after several seconds of everypony shouting out Celestia’s name, Luna’s voice echoed off the trees as the Royal Canterlot Voice rang through the countryside.
Everypony fell silent, wide-eyed and shocked into submission as the Lunar Diarch slowly rose to her hooves. “There is nothing we can do for her now. My sister has left us for the Golden Fields.”
“But Celestia can’t be dead!” Twilight cried, her face soaked with her tears as she turned her gaze to her former teacher, “She just, can’t be.”
“Why couldn’t it have been me?!” Rarity wailed as her makeup ran down her face, “It should have been somepony else!”
“If only I could have flown!” Rainbow Dash growled as she glared over her back at her wings, “I could have saved Noble and kicked Chrysalis’ flank at the same time!”
“I just can’t believe it.” Applejack seemed to be in a state of shock, her eyes locked with her fallen princess as she sat rooted to the spot.
Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie were crying into each other’s manes, too wrapped up in their sorrow to pay attention to anything else. Cadence was lying next to her aunt, holding her about the neck with her hooves as she silently wept, Shining Armor looking between his wife and Celestia with a completely lost expression.
It was at that moment that sick laughter echoed around us, and all eyes turned to Chrysalis as she slowly approached our group.
“Oh this is too good.” She cackled, “Not only do I get to kill my traitor of a son, but I also get to feed off of all this delicious sorrow and pain. Oh it must be my lucky day.”
Shining Armor had to hold back Luna while Applejack held Rainbow Dash by the tail. Twilight looked like she wanted to rip Chrysalis’ throat out with her bare teeth, while Cadence had to be stopped by Rarity and a miserable Pinkie Pie. Fluttershy simply hid behind the others as she curled up in a little ball.
“Oh don’t look at me like that,” Chrysalis drawled as she stepped past them and up to Celestia’s body, “We all know I could do the same to all of you if I so wished. But then there wouldn’t be any fun for me if I destroyed all my little toys.” She ran a hoof through Celestia’s mane, “A shame though, I was enjoying watching Celestia stew in her own helplessness. Oh well, that’s the way the cocoon cracks I guess.”
For a moment it looked like the ponies were going to jump Chrysalis, magic or no magic, but they were stopped as I took several steps towards my mother. The pure murderous intent in my gaze must have made them reconsider their actions, because all of them backed off and moved behind the Shards as I advanced on the changeling queen.
“You have taken the life of somepony that should never have had to die.” I hissed as lightning began to travel across my body, striking the ground around me as my eyes flashed from normal to white and back again. “You did something that nopony would have ever dreamed of doing. You killed one of the most beloved ponies to have ever lived, and now all you can do is laugh as you desecrate her memory.”
I could feel a magic surge traveling through my body, making my fur stand on end and my eyes flash fully white as I stopped mere feet from Chrysalis, “I will give you three seconds to surrender, or else I’m not going to hold anything back.”
Her eyes widened and her lips curled in glee, “Yes, let your anger flow through you. I want to feel your fury when I drain the magic out of your pathetic pony body.” She turned to face me, the Amulet glowing as she charged up its power, “I will revel in this conflict, and I will delight as I make you scream in agony.”
I turned to the rest of the ponies, holding back my power as much as I could for their sake. I met each of their eyes, along with those of my Shards, and gave them all one simple order.
The sound of rapidly retreating hoofsteps met my ears as I turned back to face Chrysalis, the lightning that arced along my body discharging into the ground between us in white-hot bursts. My horn lit up with magic and I teleported both of us a fair distance from Celestia’s body, given I wanted to leave her remains as intact as possible for her funeral. Chrysalis didn’t even flinch at the sudden shift in scenery, although her eyes did flash with an unknown emotion as she glanced towards the fallen princess.
“Such a waste of power.” She muttered as she turned back to me, “You use your limited reserves to save the body of a dead pony from harm, even when you know that you need every ounce of magic against me. Truly a pitiful sentiment.”
“You wouldn’t understand the meaning of my actions,” I growled as I fell into a fighting stance, “because you have no heart with which to care for anypony other than yourself.”
Her eyes narrowed as the Amulet activated, “I have my children to think about, just as you once did as my son. Now you fight to protect those who are beneath us, going so far as to revoke your birthright and throw your lot in with those who are meant to serve as our food. You are no longer a changeling, but you will be subject to changeling law. As Empress of Equestria, you are sentenced to death for high treason, with the added punishment of having all of your magic drained for my use.”
I felt a tug on my magic as the Amulet began to spin, and I did the only thing I could think of to stop the drain. I took all of my magic and pushed it into the ground beneath my hooves, creating a massive spell seal that glowed ice blue. It quickly grew until the edge vanished over the horizon, and I grinned as the pull on my magic stopped.
Chrysalis’ eyes widened in shock, “No! It’s not possible! Nopony can stop the Amulet from draining their magic! Not even Celestia could keep it from taking her power!”
“But that’s the trick,” I replied as I walked forward, “the Amulet takes magic from living beings and gives that power to its wielder. My body is devoid of magic so there is nothing for the Amulet to take. Yet,” I let some of my power flow back into my body, teleporting behind Chrysalis and blasting her between her wings with a charge of magic, “I can call upon my magic at will, meaning you can’t steal my power and I can still fight at full strength.”
She roared in fury as she spun around, “Simple tricks that will do you no good. I will have your horn on my wall, magic or no magic.”
With that the battle truly began. She let loose a massive blast of dark blue magic, marking it as Luna’s, forcing me to jump out of the way before the deadly stream could hit me. I called upon a portion of my own power and sent it towards her as several ethereal swords. She threw up a shield and deflected them while sending several of her own back at me, forcing me to throw up a shield of my own.
Back and forth we dueled, power charging the air like a thunderstorm as attacks and shields were created and destroyed in rapid succession. Yet it seemed that we were holding in a steady draw, neither of us able to get the upper hoof on the other. I guessed that my rage over Celestia’s death had given me more power to work with, or I was unable to realize my full power until I fully committed to defending the ponies. Either way, we were going nowhere fast, but I knew that in a drawn out battle I was going to lose my strength first. With the stolen power of the ten most magical ponies in Equestria at her disposal, there was no way I could out-last my mother in a straight fight. I had to come up with something fast or I was going to run out of steam.
I flared my wings and took to the air, dodging more ethereal blades while arcs of lightning threatened to fry me. Being off the ground limited the magic I could pull from the seal, but the added speed and maneuverability made up for it be allowing me to dodge instead of having to block.
“Sit still and let me kill you!” Chrysalis growled as her horn sent surge after surge of magic my direction, “This is getting rather annoying.”
I smirked as I dove towards her, creating twin sabers with my magic, “Then maybe I should take the fight to you!”
She formed a set of swords of her own, our blades clashing in a shower of sparks as I put my entire weight behind the blow. Her hooves began to slide along the ground as I pumped my wings, her fangs flashing in the shifting light as she tried to push against my swords. In a surprise turn of events, one of her hind hooves slipped on a patch of mud, and before she could recover my strength pushed her over and onto her back. I landed on top of her and pressed my blades towards her neck, her eyes widening if fear for the first time that I could remember.
“You think you can defeat me?!” She hissed as our crossed weapons inched towards her throat, “I have the powers of a god! Nopony can hope to stand against me!”
I grinned as I pressed down, my forehoof moving out of her line of sight, “Then why am I on top if you’re some invincible goddess?” Her eyes flashed white as the Amulet glowed, “I’ll show you who’s on top!”
With a burst of energy and a shockwave like thunder, I was knocked off of her chest and into the air. I crashed into the ground some thirty feet away, the impact knocking the wind from my lungs as my spine creaked. I coughed as I forced my eyes open, spying my mother as she took menacing steps towards me. Her horn was alive with sickly green magic, and her eyes were absolutely livid as her gaze bore into mine.
“You are an insect,” she cried as her wings flared, “no more important that the dirt beneath my hooves! I am a goddess, rightful ruler of Equestria, and I will not stand for any more of your foalish games!”
She reared onto her hind legs and slammed them into the ground, her magic disrupting my spell seal and causing it to dissipate into nothing. She turned her gaze onto me, her lips curled into a sadistic grin as she began to laugh.
“Now I can finish you without your pesky magic getting in the way.” She stepped closer until she was only a few feet away, “A shame really, you could have been something great if you had only stayed loyal to your kind.”
Her horn began to spark as the glow around it grew brighter, her laughter growing in volume as two, then tree over-layers of magic enveloped the twisted spire. A devastating surge of magic, brighter than the sun in the sky, erupted from her horn as emerald hellfire. It surged towards me as a wave of power, torching everything in its path as the ten pony wide surge bore down on my position.
An Equis-shaking explosion echoed across the plains, shaking large boulders from the mountainside and uprooting several of the nearby trees. Chrysalis continued to laugh as smoke billowed from the epicenter, although the sound died in her throat as a rainbow light began to peak through the thinning cloud. I grinned as my body became visible once again, along with the dome of shifting rainbow magic that had protected me from the attack.
Chrysalis gaped in complete shock, “H-How?! You had no magic to use! I destroyed your spell seal!”
I chuckled as I lifted my hoof from behind my body, revealing the Amulet as it pumped the magic contained within it through my body, “I’m not using my magic. You really should keep better track of your things.”
One of her hooves leapt to her chest, where it met bare chitin. Her eyes widened in realization, and I could see the truth dawning on her as the dome around me dissipated.
“That’s right mother,” I said as I placed the Amulet around my neck, “I never intended to kill you when we crossed swords. My true objective was always the Amulet.” She backpedaled in terror as I stepped towards her, “Now that the shoe in on the other hoof, give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now.”
“P-Please,” she whimpered, falling on her flank as her hind legs gave out, “I-I don’t want to die.”
I continued until I was muzzle to muzzle with her, my gaze locked with hers as her lips quivered in terror. I let her simmer in her uncertainty for a moment, before I activated the Amulet.
She cried out as her magic was drawn up and out of her horn, her body twisting and writhing as she fought to keep the magic within her. Yet, it was for naught. As she gave one last cry of loss, her magic was absorbed into the Amulet, never to be released.
She fell to her stomach as her strength gave out, her eyes locked with mine as her sides heaved. I lowered my head to her level, and whispered into her ear, “Unlike you, I am not a murderer. I’m giving you this one chance. Take your hive and never return to Equestria. If you do, know that there is no place on Equis that you can hide from me. If I even think you’ve sent infiltrators into pony lands, I will find you, and I will make you watch as I kill every last one of your children before I send you to the burning abyss of Tararus.” I paused for a moment to pull back, making sure she was looking me in the eye when I spoke, “Do I make myself clear?”
Her reply was a whimpering nod, and as I stepped away from her she scrambled to her hooves. “W-What about my magic? You can’t expect me to survive out in the Badlands without my magic.”
My eyes narrowed as a frown formed on my face, “You have a hive full of changelings who can use magic. Be glad I’m letting them keep their magic instead of taking it like I did yours. Now send the order through the hive mind. You have three days to get beyond Equestria’s borders. I don’t care which direction and I don’t care how.” She hesitated for a moment, so I took in a deep breath and let loose my own version of the Royal Canterlot Voice, “NOW CHRYSALIS!!!!”
She made a very undignified squeak, flaring her wings and making a beeline for the mountains to the east. As she did so a black mist seemed to rise from Canterlot itself, as thousands of changelings fled the city en mass. I nodded as they slowly faded into the distance, before turning back to the forest where the others had disappeared. As I had expected, they had only taken refuge inside the forest, not fled the area entirely. As I made my way back to Celestia’s body, the ponies and Shards slowly filtered out of the shadows to meet me. Most of them looked relieved, although Luna, Cadence and Shining Armor had uneasy expressions when they spotted the Amulet around my neck.
“So it’s over now, isn’t it?” Rainbow Dash asked as she looked between her friends, “We won?”
“That depends greatly on what Noble Light is about to do next” Luna said in a neural tone as her gaze locked with mine, “He alone controls our combined magic, and holds the fate of Equestria in his hooves.”
That seemed to hit the others like a ton of bricks, and I could practically feel the air chill as all eyes turned to me. The Shards weren’t worried, although I saw a couple exchanging interested glances.
I shook my head slowly, “You need not fear. I have no interest in taking my mother’s place as a tyrant.” The Amulet flared as I spread my wings, “As my first act as prince, I return the magic that I took from you.”
The magic swirled out of the amulet and up my horn, condensing into dense balls of magic, each colored corresponding to each pony. With a wave of my head the balls of power flew off and hovered in front of each pony, pausing for a mere second before melting into the center of their chests. And yet, there were still two motes of magic left. One, a bright gold color like the morning sun, and the other a sickly green like moss. The green magic I channeled into the ground, causing green shoots of grass to grow from the bare and scorched ground around us. Yet, when I tried to do the same to Celestia’s magic, it refused to follow my direction. I tried again, only for it to do something completely unexpected.
The mote of magic split into two, moving behind me and hovering over my cutie marks. I turned around to watch as the magic melted into my body, causing my marks to glow with the same golden light for several seconds. When the glow faded, my eyes widened as the changed designs met my gaze. The gold scales that had simply hovered over the crossed swords, were now emblazoned with the same sun design that adorned Celestia’s flanks.
Luna stepped forward slowly, her gaze lingering on my changed cutie marks, “It would seem you truly have become Celestia’s successor. You now bear the weight of her sun on your shoulders. Take heed that you do not squander her final gift.”
Slowly the other ponies walked up and formed a semi-circle on my left, their gazes traveling over my flanks with awe. Carapace and the other Shards walked up and saluted, her voice tinged with regret as she spoke, “Sir, we have failed our mission to protect the ponies. We are ready for whatever punishment you deem fit for us, as we were unable to keep them from harm as instructed.” My Shards dropped their salutes and bowed their heads to me in shame, “What must we do to make up for this failure?”
I shook my head slowly, stepping up to Carapace and lifting her head with one hoof, “You haven’t failed me Colonel. I highly doubt you could have stopped Celestia even if you had known what she was planning. I will not hold you accountable for the actions of a pony who had every right to choose her own fate.” I moved past her and pulled every one of the Shards to a fully upright stance, “I am proud of you all for risking your lives for my sake, and for the lives of these ponies. You are a credit to your kind and shall be honored as such.”
I winced as a blatant fact reared its head in my mind, “Although, given I am no longer a changeling, I guess you are no longer bound to my service as your king.”
They all clamored around me, shaking their heads as they spoke to the contrary. Carapace move up in front of me and spoke with her head held high, “Changeling or not, you will always be our king, although in light of recent events I should say you will always be out prince.” She bowed low as the other Shards followed suit, “We shall serve you until the end of our days, because you have proven yourself as a worthy leader.”
I was taken aback by their conviction, and yet as my gaze moved from one set of eyes to the next, I could see no hesitation, no second thoughts in any of them. They truly wished to serve me still, even as I had become.
I nodded, tears forming in my eyes, “Very well then. If the ponies will have us, I would be honored if you would serve as my Silver Shards once more.”
We turned to look at Luna and the others, who had mostly positive expressions on their faces. Only Shining Armor and Cadence looked conflicted, although they made no objection as Luna nodded.
“We would be honored as well if you would make your home in Canterlot.” She extended a wing towards the city, “Please, allow me to show you the city as it should be seen.”
I paused for a moment as the others turned to follow the ponies. I looked over at the crater where Celestia lay, “One moment please, we need to bring her along. A pony of her nobility and strength deserves a proper funeral.”
Luna nodded, her horn glowing with magic as the same navy light enveloped her sister’s form. In a flash her body disappeared from view, and under the questioning gazes of the others she explained, “I have transported her body to her private chambers. Nopony will disturb her until such time that we can give her a proper ceremony.” A single tear ran down her face as she turned back towards the city, “Come, we must make certain that no changelings remain in the city, and that our ponies are not falling to pieces in our absence.”
Her words were met with unanimous agreement, and she led our group up the mountain and to the city gates. It took several hours to reach the city proper, but it was that or wait for the train to pass by at sunset. Nopony was there to greet us, although that wasn’t the case when we made it further into the city. Ponies were cautiously peeking out from windows and doorways, as if uncertain that the nightmare had really ended. Yet as Luna led us along the main road, ponies started to come out in twos and threes, falling in behind us as we made our way towards the castle.
It started out as a simple whisper, barely loud enough to be heard over the sound of hooves on the cobblestones. And yet as more and more ponies joined our impromptu parade, a song that rang with hope and cheer began to rise in the afternoon light.
Today we live, today we breathe Today we know that we are strong when we are weak Today we trust, we overcome Take every chain that kept us slaves and throw them off
I turned and watched as ponies from all over began to sway and dance to the words, smiles on ever face as we walked down the main road towards the castle. The Shards and I were taken aback by the impromptu song, although the hope and pride that filled the air was quickly charging the hearts of everypony who could hear it.
We're not waiting for permission We defy our inhibition Like our middle name is "fearless" Unafraid
I nearly jumped out of my new fur as Rainbow Dash flew in next to me and sang with a loud enough voice to make my ears ring. Everypony joined in with her for the chorus, and I couldn’t help the smile that crossed my lips as two of my Shards joined in.
If we're gonna fly, we fly like eagles Wings out wide If we're gonna fear, we fear no evil We will rise By our power, we will go By our spirit, we are bold If we're gonna stand, we stand excited If we're gonna walk, we walk united We walk united
Twilight and Cadence fell in next to Rarity and Shining Armor, who started up the next part as Fluttershy sang backup chorus with Pinkie Pie.
Today is ours, it's always been Before we face the fight We know who's gonna win We live by faith and not by fear We don't want safe and quiet We don't wanna run and hide
This is not an intermission It's our time, not gonna miss it Today we shook off all our fear Today we stood for ourselves
With that the rest of the ponies joined back in, and I couldn’t help myself as I lifted my head and sang along. The rest of the Shards added their voices to the heartfelt number, and for the first time since beginning our rescue mission, I felt like everything was going to be alright.
If we're gonna fly, we fly like eagles Wings out wide If we're gonna fear, we fear no evil We will rise By our power, we will go By our spirit, we are bold If we're gonna stand, we stand excited If we're gonna walk, we walk united We walk united
I was shocked once again as Luna took a solo for the bridge of the song, her crisp and melodic tone rising high into the air as she spread her wings and lifted her head. For a moment I could only stare at her, before letting my heart go and joined in with her as the others came together for one final stanza.
Oh, everywhere we go The battle has been won We know we can be sure So, we take it hard in faith With every step we take We know we'll rise victorious
If we're gonna fly, we fly like eagles Wings out wide If we're gonna fear, we fear no evil We will rise We stand united, for all of time we stand
We came to the castle gates as the song wound to a close, and for the first time the ponies seemed to notice the extra alicorn in their midst, along with the dozen changelings that had somehow slipped without notice for the entire trip up the main road.
As the ponies began forming into a mob, Luna stepped forward and cried out, “Ponies of Equestria! Fear not, for these changelings are responsible for our freedom! They were instrumental in defeating Chrysalis, and are welcome in this city for as long as they wish!”
Her words were met with mutters and uncertain looks, although they quickly switched to confused as a pony yelled, “Who’s the new alicorn?!” Immediately all eyes were locked onto me, and I felt like shrinking under their gazes as they began yelling over one another.
“Where did he come from?!”
“What does he want?!”
“Is he your long lost brother?!”
Luna raised a hoof to still the crowd, and mercifully they quieted. “Prince Noble Light was changed into what he is now when he proved his loyalty and conviction to the ponies of Equestria. You should know that he used to be known as King Silver Jacket of the changeling race, but was transformed into an alicorn when he revoked his birthright and saved us from Chrysalis.”
A pony from the middle of the crowd called out, “Where’s Princess Celestia?! Wasn’t she will all of you when the changelings invaded?!”
Luna cast the rest of us an uncertain glance, before taking a deep breath. It didn’t take empathic abilities to see that she was struggling to hold in tears, and without thinking I stepped up and rested a wing over her shoulders. She cast me a grateful glance before turning to the gathered crowd.
“My little ponies,” she swallowed thickly before continuing, “it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you,” she paused for a moment, as if unable to speak the words, “that my dear sister has fallen in battle.”
Murmurs spread across the masses, and another pony asked, “You mean she’s injured? Is she in the hospital?!”
Luna shook her head, “No. I mean that my sister moved on from this world.” She took a deep breath, lifting her head high to look out over her subjects, “Princess Celestia is dead.”
She stalled the outcries of sorrow and pain with a raised hoof. I was blown away by the loyalty and devotion they displayed by quieting again, even though I could see many ponies wiping their eyes. Several flat out fainted, while others looked like somepony had taken their entire world view and shattered it. Then again, Celestia had been ruling Equestria for over a thousand years. To most of these ponies she must have seemed undefeatable, a constant in their world that would never change. To hear that she was dead must have hit all of them like a ten ton boulder.
Luna lowered her hoof and took a shaky breath, unaware or uncaring about the tears that were running down her face, “While my sister will be missed, her legacy shall live on in all of us. Prince Noble Light,” she indicated me with a hoof, “was given my sister’s magic over the sun. Her final act in this world was to name him as her successor, and as such, he shall be ruling at my side from this point forward. There will be a ceremony to send my sister off in five day’s time at the castle, where we shall pass her on to the Golden Fields in body, now that her spirit has moved on to the next world.” Her chest shook as she wiped her face with a hoof, “If you will excuse me, I wish to have some time to grieve alone. Know that I will be holding Night Court again tomorrow, and that Prince Noble Light will be with me if you have need of our services.”
With that she turned and walked into the castle, leaving the entire population of Canterlot in stunned silence. After a moment Shining Armor called for the Solar Guard, and they quickly moved out to make sure that the city was secure. Twilight and her friends followed Luna into the castle, as did Cadence and her husband. For a moment I hesitated, unsure if I was welcome, but a quick wave of Twilight’s hoof settled my mind. The Shards followed me in, and I led them down a side corridor to the now vacant Royal Quarters. The doors on either side of the hallway leading to the room were open, revealing spare chambers for servants if the need arose. The Shards moved into these rooms without a word, allowing me to continue on to Celestia’s rooms alone.
I pushed open the great doors, noting that the great golden sun design seemed to be just a little duller than usual. It was as if the castle itself was mourning for the loss of its princess, and I looked around the room in cold detachment, as I tried to still the sense of wrongness in my heart. Here I was, given the diarchy on a silver platter by Celestia herself, and yet all I could feel as I stared at her personal belongings was guilt. I had been the cause of her death, and although I know she would say it had been her choice to save me, it was still my actions that had led to her making that choice. If I had been stronger for them then maybe they could have escaped. If I had been faster Chrysalis might never have caught us in the dungeons.
What if’s bounced around my mind as I walked up to the bed, looking over the still form of Celestia. Her eyes were closed as if in sleep, the sheets covering her body and the terrible wound that had claimed her life. For a moment I watched her and thought about what I might have done to save her, yet I knew in my heart that she chose to save me. There was nothing I could have done to stop her even if I had known her plan. It suddenly struck me that once the funeral was held and Celestia was laid to rest, this would become my bed, my chambers. And yet, I would never dream of sullying Celestia's memory by taking it from her now. My time would come, but not now. Maybe once we had sent Celestia off and I could move on from some of the guilt in my heart, then I might be worthy of sleeping in her place.
I turned and walked over to the couch and climbed onto the cushions. I let my head rest on the pillows, and closed my eyes. Yet as my mind was beginning to slow, my horn activated and pulled me to my hooves. I walked over to the balcony without my consent and found myself looking upon the setting sun.
Realizing what my magic was trying to tell me, I let the power flow and felt the sun with my magic. It was a powerful and wind thing, sending charges of power through my body as I slowly lowered it. As the light faded and the moon began to rise, I felt the connection slip away, leaving me feeling drained and weary. I turned my gaze towards the opposite tower, where I spotted Luna going about her duties. For a moment I thought about calling out to her, but thought better of it as my tired body and mind called to me. I stumbled back into the room and climbed onto the couch, my head hitting the pillows with a soft thump.The next several days were going to very long and filled with more tears that I could ever hope to count.
I just hoped that I didn’t make a mess of things after Celestia entrusted her kingdom to me.
A dark cloud of sorrow had fallen over Canterlot, as the ponies mourned the loss of one who had once seemed untouchable. Princess Twilight and her friends oversaw the preparations for Celestia’s funeral, while Shining Armor and Princess Cadence did what they could to console Luna when she wasn’t with me at court. The Lunar Princess was nearly unreachable at any time of day, preferring to hole up in her chambers unless her duties called for her attendance. Yet there were no ponies to speak with her and I during the dark hours of Night Court. We sat in an empty throne room while the moon slowly made its way across the sky. I thought this might upset Luna further, and yet she seemed almost relieved that none of her subjects wished to speak with her, lest they disturb the fragile calm that hung over the palace like a smothering fog.
Five days slowly passed, and yet it seemed like an eternity had gone by in the span of mourning that had claimed the capital. Finally, the day had come, and I stood by dutifully as the ceremony slowly began. The sun was drawing near to its zenith as I looked over the masses of assembled ponies below, gathered before the castle’s main steps in a sea of color to witness this hallowed moment. The Shards were at attention to my left, while Twilight, Shining Armor, Cadence and the others formed a line opposite us to create an aisle leading to the dais. At the top of the steps, stood a massive memorial carved of pure marble, inlaid with gold and crystal highlights in the shape of two great wings. At its peak was a bowl flanked by two halves of a bronze sun, designed to match the marks that had adorned Celestia’s flanks. Below the memorial was a stone slab, large enough to hold several ponies and perfectly smooth to the touch. This would serve as Celestia’s final rest before we sent her on to the Golden Fields.
As the lone bugle pony raised his horn and began playing, Princess Luna stepped out of the front doors, carrying Celestia’s body behind her in her magic. Celestia’s body had been dressed in a pure while gown that covered her wounds and gave her at least some of the regal bearing she had in life, her regalia polished to perfection as the sun glinted off the gold shoes and chest piece. Her crown floated along beside her, and as Luna placed Celestia’s body on the stone slab, it came to rest against her chest as her forehooves were placed together below it. For all intents and purposes, Celestia looked almost as if she were sleeping, yet every pony present knew that no matter how much they might wish it to be true, Celestia was not coming back.
The bugler let the final note trail off as he lowered his instrument, tears streaming from his amber eyes as he nodded towards Luna. Luna returned the nod and stepped in front of the dais, addressing the assembled ponies with a blank expression.
“My little ponies, it is with great sorrow that I stand before you this day. During the battle against Chrysalis and her changelings, we suffered many betrayals, and gained many allies. Yet our victory did not come without a cost. My sister, Princess Celestia, was slain by Chrysalis saving Prince Noble Light from certain death, and it is here today that we say our final farewells. Most of you will have heard by now, that my sister’s final act was to name Prince Noble Light as her successor, even going so far as to give her magic to him so that he could carry on her duties controlling the sun. Thus, Prince Noble Light will be recognized as my equal, ruling over the day just as my sister once did.”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before continuing, “My sister was a pony that many of your thought would be here forever, just as she cared for your ancestors for the last thousand years. She was a beacon of hope and light in a world that can test even the greatest of us with corruption. Even I was not immune to this world’s darker side, yet my sister stood strong in the face of great personal pain, and banished me to the moon until I could be saved. She ruled by herself over all of pony kind, as a strong and capable leader who would do anything and everything to protect her subjects.
“You are all the product of her hard work, and the true symbol of this land and what it stands for. Ponies help one another in times of strife, you care for each other when trouble tests your will. She instilled the Elements of Harmony in your very beings, and through the sharing of those elements, we have become a nation that can be proud of who we are and what we have become. This was my sister’s gift to the world, and this is the legacy that she left behind for us to carry on.
“Do not let your sorrow cloud your hope, nor let fear of the future stop you from moving on. That is not what Celestia would have wanted. While she may not be here in body, she will always be here in spirit, in the hearts of all that have known her, and in the memories of those who came before us. Stand strong, now and forever against the challenges this world will send our way, because Celestia’s light will always be with us. So long as we do not forget the Charity, Compassion, Devotion, Integrity, Optimism, and Leadership that Celestia taught us, we will not fail to grow and prosper as a people, and as a nation.”
She spread her wings and ignited her horn, turning slowly as a single tear ran down her face. Yet she did not show any other signs of emotion as she faced her sister’s body, a small spark of deep blue flame forming at the tip of her horn.
She allowed the small mote of fire to drop from her horn and onto the trailing end of Celestia’s dress, stepping back as the magical flame caught and spread rapidly over the alicorn’s body. Almost too fast to see, the flame engulfed Celestia’s form, hiding her body from view as she slowly turned to dust as sparks rose into the air. The flames changed from deep blue to a blinding gold as Celestia’s body was burned away, and it was at that moment that Luna acted. She used her magic to pull some of the flames away from the main body of the fire, and lifted it up and into the stone bowl at the top of the memorial.
As it took hold, glowing gold enchantments ignited around the bowl’s rim, feeding the fire so that it would never go out. Luna turned to face the ponies once more as the fire burned behind her, raising her head to address the assembled masses.
“Just as Celestia’s lessons will live on in each of us, so too will this memorial stand the tests of time. So long as the fire at the top of this monument stays lit, know that Celestia’s teachings and pride lives on with us. We are one in this land, and will must do everything in our power to ensure that Celestia’s dreams for us stay alive, even if she is no longer here to guide us.”
She turned to face the flames once again as they began to die down, leaving not even a speck of dust or ash on the polished stone. Luna bowed her head to the memorial before stepping back, her body rigid and her mask barely holding against her emotions. She was just beginning to turn around when the sun reached its zenith. Before anypony could react, a sun shaft lanced down from the celestial orb, causing everypony to shield their eyes as a blinding flash went off in front of the dais. As the glare reduced to manageable levels, I lowered my leg and tried to see what had happened. Yet when my vision cleared, my jaw dropped in shock as what, or rather, who was standing in front of Luna.
Standing in her full regalia, yet transparent enough to see the memorial behind her through her body, was Celestia. Luna had only just blinked her eyes free of the flash, when she spotted her sister standing before her. Her calm mask broke like water over a stone, and her mouth gaped even as tears streamed down her face. “Sister?”
Celestia smiled softly and nodded, running her gaze over the ponies assembled before her. One by one they bowed to her, yet as her gaze rested on me I flinched back. It was because of me that Celestia had to take the blow that had killed her, and seeing her avatar before me only reinforced the fact that her death was my fault. Yet as her smile grew, I felt that maybe she didn’t hate me for her choice, that she didn’t blame me for her death. Celestia beaconed me with a single hoof, and I slowly broke formation to walk up to stand at Luna’s side. She slowly turned to her silently sobbing sister, bending down to rest her head against her sister’s.
Luna was openly weeping as tears ran down her face, “Sister, how is this possible? How are you here with me, with us?”
Celestia remained silent, yet the pure love and tenderness in her eyes spoke more than any words ever could. She kissed Luna gently below her horn, then took her hoof and slowly moved it over towards me. My eyes widened as she placed Luna’s hoof in mine, then stepped back to look at each of us in turn.
Luna’s eyes met mine, and in an instant, understanding seemed to flash through us like lightning. I turned to Celestia and asked, “Are you sure about this? Even after all I did to the ponies, to you, you would trust me with this?”
Celestia’s smile never faltered as she nodded, although as she spread her wings I noticed something odd happening. Two more forms were filtering into being on either side of the solar diarch. At first I couldn’t make out what they were, yet soon enough they condensed into recognizable pony shapes.
The one to Celestia’s left was a pure white mare, although her mane and tail were comprised of pure golden flames and her eyes were a bright amber. Her cutie mark was a crescent sun over imposed on a golden kite shield. The one to Celestia’s right was a pure black stallion, with silver eyes and a swirling galaxy for his mane and tail. His cutie mark was a collection of ten stars, arranged in a circle with a half moon in the center.
For a moment nopony moved or even dared to breathe, until Luna whispered, “Mother? Father?”
The two new alicorns nodded in unison, making Luna’s eyes stream once more as everypony else gaped in awe. Legends had been told about Galaxon and Solaria, but they had moved on to the Golden Fields even before Discord began his first reign of chaos. Nopony had ever seen the previous stewards of the sun and moon, yet they were here now for all of us to behold.
Luna lost control of herself completely as she leapt into her sister’s hooves, their parents moving to either side to embrace their daughters with hooves and wings as Luna howled out her misery for all to hear. Soon, ponies below started to follow her example, bawling their eyes out as their Princess said goodbye to her family one last time. Even the Shards were not immune, their faces running with tears even as they stood at attention.
Finally, with much sniffing and wiping of the face, Luna stepped back and looked up at her sister with bloodshot eyes. “I-I’ll never f-forget you Celestia. I’ll see you again when I join you in the Golden Fields. J-Just please, w-wait for me so I can, I can,”
Luna was unable to finish as she broke down again, and this time I didn’t wait for Celestia to beacon me to her sister’s side. I enveloped Luna in a tight hug, letting her soak my shoulder with her tears as she gripped me around my barrel like it was the only thing keeping her afloat. I turned to watch as Celestia and her parents slowly began to walk back up the sun shaft, Celestia taking one last moment to turn and wave to her former subjects. Almost everypony waved back, and that was only because some to too overcome with grief to move.
The light of the sun slowly faded back to normal, and as it did, so too did the strength seem to leave everypony present. Luna slumped against me, out cold with tears still rolling down her face. I turned to see if Twilight and the others were faring any better, but it seemed that everypony was emotionally exhausted after everything that had happened.
I turned to the Shards as they snapped back to attention, “See to it that the guard gets this lot back to their homes safe and sound, and take the princesses with their friends back to their chambers if you would. I think we could all use a break after this.”
They saluted and moved down the steps to talk with the royal guard that were present. I turned back to Luna and pulled her onto my back before carrying her back into the castle. I made straight for her chambers and pushed my way in without any delay, feeling my own strength fading with every step. I placed Luna in the bed and turned to leave, only to be stopped by a hoof against my flank.
I turned to see Luna had awoken and was looking at me with an expression of pure need. “Please, I cannot stand to sleep alone after what just happened. Would you stay with me, just until I get my strength back?”
For a moment I hesitated, this was Luna we were talking about, the mare I stabbed in the back and nearly impregnated while under mind control. Yet my mind flashed back to Celestia and what she had done. Maybe it was worth it to start over with Luna, at least to comfort her over the loss of her sister. I would be happy just to be there for her if she needed me. I held no illusions about her ever loving me as she once had, but I knew that in my new body I didn’t need her love to sustain myself. If all I could do was help heal the pain I had caused her and the other ponies, then I would do so until the end of my days.
I nodded, allowing a smile to cross my lips, “I would be honored to keep you company, Luna.”
Her own smile was brimming with gratitude, and she slid over to make room for me as I climbed into the bed with her. At first I kept a careful distance between us, yet she quickly wrapped her hooves around my barrel and pulled us together. Her head came to rest against my chest, and I could feel the tension leave her body as her eyes fluttered closed.
For a while I simply listened to her breathe, letting the soft rhythm of her heart sooth my frazzled nerves. Yet the soft lull of her chest against mine and the warmth of her body soon had my own eyes drifting, and I allowed my mind to wander as I joined her in the realm of sleep. I didn’t know what was going to happen next, but I did know that we would face it together, no matter what.
I was awoken the next morning by a somewhat familiar sensation. My back impacted the wall, leaving a spider web of cracks in the plaster as I slumped to the floor upside down. Luna was lying in the bed, eyes wide and filled with uncertainty as she held the sheets to her chest.
I sighed as I rolled upright, “I thought we were past all this Luna. Did you really have to wake me up by using me as a hoofball before I even have to raise the sun?”
Luna’s expression morphed from one of unsure confusion to rage in the blink of an eye, “Thou hath some nerve, saying such things to us when thou hath no business sleeping in our chambers last night.”
I lifted one eyebrow sarcastically, “That’s not what I heard last night when I tried to leave you to sleep.” I hiked up my voice in a mocking impression of her own, “Please Noble Light, I don’t want to sleep alone after what we went through. Would you stay with me, just until I get my strength back?”
Luna’s face lit up in a deep blush as her fury faltered, “W-We said no such thing. Y-You must have been hearing things and climbed into our bed of thou own volition.”
She turned her head to the side and stuck her muzzle in the air with a huff, leaving me to roll my eyes in response, “You can’t be serious. Are you really so self-centered as to hide your own weakness when just yesterday you were crying into my shoulder like I was the only thing keeping you alive?” When she made no indication that she had heard me I pulled out my ace, “Celestia seemed to think we would be a good couple when she –,”
“Don’t you dare speak another word.” She hissed as she leveled her gaze with mine, “I know what my sister did, and I would beg you to remember whose fault it was that we were in that situation to begin with.”
“You think I don’t know that?” I asked incredulously, “You think I don’t understand completely how much I messed up? I know fully well that Celestia would still be alive if I hadn’t taken your magic. I know that she would still be here with all of you and your precious ponies if I had never come to Equestria. I could have been faster taking down my mother, I could have taken the blast in her place, I could have done a million different things that would have meant she would still be here. I know that, Luna. Don’t you ever think for a second that I don’t hold her death on my shoulders and will do so for the rest of my life.”
“Then why are you still here?” She asked with a completely flat tone.
“Because your sister also tasked me with taking her place once she died. I could raise the sun from anywhere in Equestria, but I can’t rule the ponies if I’m not here by your side.”
She turned her head away from me again, the fight seeming to go out of her like air from a balloon, “Then you may stay. However, I wish to never see you unless there is royal business which requires both of us to perform.” Her magic glowed softly and pulled the door open, “Leave, and don’t come back.”
I opened my mouth to argue further, but the slight glimmer of tears on her cheek stopped me mid breath. I hesitated for a moment longer, then turned and walked out without a word. The door clicked behind me and I heard Luna quietly sobbing through the wood as I slowly made my way down the hall. Part of me wished to comfort her in her hour of need, but the rest of me knew that if I did it would only make things worse. So, I walked down to the dining hall and waited at the head of the long table for one of the staff to bring out breakfast.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a platter of food was placed before me as a kitchen pony made his quiet exit, leaving me with the freshly cooked eggs and pancakes gently steaming under my nose. The smell of the food made my mouth water in anticipation, yet my stomach twisted in knots at the very thought of eating. I lifted some of the food with my fork and tried to force it down, but it tasted like cardboard and sandpaper as it slid into my stomach, leaving me feeling even more ill than I had before.
I left the rest of the food untouched, roaming the castle like a ghost as my mind bounced from one possibility to another. Yet no matter what I did, I knew that nothing could change the fact that Celestia was gone, and that it was my fault that she was dead.
Day court had been convened for the first time since our victory over my mother and the Changeling invasion, yet it might as well have been closed for how many ponies showed up. The only petitioner to arrive was none other than the royal pain himself, Prince Blueblood. I was sorely tempted to singe his tail with a fireball by the time the yammering idiot had said his piece, but I restrained myself enough to politely refuse his plea. That was when the blundering buffoon had really done it.
“But why in the world would you refuse my plan to cut the nobles’ taxes by half?” He asked in his snide and self-entitled manner, “After all, we are the most pure and high-born of the ponies in Equestria. It’s only fair that we get to enjoy the pleasures of life without all the hassle of day to day drudgery.”
I rubbed my head just below my horn with one hoof, trying not to bite his head off, “That would cut the national budget by nearly a quarter, meaning the government would have less money to spend on important things like schools and road systems.”
He looked up at me with a high and mighty expression that made me want to slap it off his muzzle, “Oh but what’s so important about those things? After all, it’s not like any of us with noble blood have to deal with such trivial worries such as those. You’re just trying to play the good ruler so that those common dirt ponies don’t kick you off that throne like you did with Celestia.”
That did it.
I stood to my full height and charged my horn with magic, lifting the pompous stallion up by his tail and carrying him until he hovered directly in front of my face. I didn’t say anything at first, letting the cold fury in my eyes let him know how much he had messed up.
“Now I’m going to let that last comment slide,” I said in a low and perfectly flat tone, “on account of the fact that you must have been dropped on your head as a foul and I make it a point not to injure the disabled. However, you make another remark like that where I can hear you, and I will personally make sure you have your horn removed with a hack saw and spend the rest of your days shoveling pig shit on a backwater farm where nopony will ever have to deal with your idiotic nonsense again. Do I make myself clear?”
He nodded with wide eyes, his tail trying and failing to curl between his legs. I let him drop to the stone steps in front of the throne and watched as he scampered off like a frightened filly. I slumped against the back of the throne and rubbed my head with both hooves.
“There has got to be a better way of doing this.” I groaned under my breath as the sun continued its way across the sky.
Once Day Court came to an end, other than a mountain of paperwork left on my desk, there wasn’t anything else I had to do that day. So, once I got that taken care of and set aside for a servant to take care of, I was left to wander the halls once again like some aimless foal. For the rest of the afternoon I made my way up and down the castle hallways, from top to bottom and from the western gardens to the eastern barracks. Yet as I found myself walking through the Lunar wing of the castle, I found myself thinking about Luna and what she had said that morning.
“We can’t go on like this,” I said to myself as I came to a stop in front of her chamber doors, “we need to be able to work together or the country’s going to fall apart while we bicker and hide from one another.” I left out the silent wish in my mind that we could also learn to love one another again, as I knew that was nothing more than hopeful thinking that would never come to pass.
As the sun called to my magic I lit up my horn and lowered it slowly behind me, watching as my shadow climbed up Luna’s doors like a specter of doom. As the hallway fell into darkness the spell lamps ignited, bathing the stone in a warm glow that failed to reach my heart. I was petrified of what I was about to do, yet I knew in my head and my heart that it had to be done for the good of Equestria.
I walked up to the doors and knocked softly, waiting for Luna to respond.
“Enter,” came the muffled call, and I pushed the doors open and closed them behind me before looking up at the room’s sole occupant.
Luna was sitting at the open doors leading to her balcony, her magic’s glow just fading from her horn as the moon rose above the horizon. Her eyes widened for a moment before narrowing in anger, her wings flaring as she stepped threateningly toward me.
“What are you doing here?” She growled as her horn ignited once again, “I told you explicitly that I never wanted to see you again. State your business in my chambers before I throw you out on your ear.”
At that moment, I did something I had never done before. I bent my legs under me, got down on my stomach, and lowered my head in the deepest bow my body would allow me to do. I kept my eyes closed and waited for Luna’s response, hoping that this would get her attention.
“W-What are you doing?!” She asked in a shocked tone, “We are not worthy of such a submission from one such as thee. Thou art royal like us, though we are loath to admit it, so why art thou prostrating thyself like a common cur begging for forgiveness?”
Apparently, I had shocked her more than I thought if she was slipping into Old Equish again, “Because I am a low cur begging for forgiveness. I know that I wronged you and the ponies of Equestria, but we cannot rule together and yet keep at wing’s distance from each other.” I opened my eyes and looked up at her without moving my head, “We were meant for more than this. We are charged with the keeping of the peace, protecting the ponies we rule, and balancing the day and night together. We can’t do that if we are at war with one another or won’t even dare to look each other in the eye. We just can’t, it’s not fair to the ponies we care for and it’s not fair to Celestia’s memory.”
She bristled at the mention of her sister, “Do not dare to bring her into this. She died at yon hooves and only named thou her successor to keep the balance thou speakest of. She cares not what thou hath done to protect our ponies, only that thou were able to take her place upon her death.”
“Then why did she call me to comfort you when she appeared before us at the memorial?” I countered.
Luna’s mouth opened to fire back a retort, yet her words died on her lips as she lowered her wings and turned her head to the side.
“You know it’s true, Luna.” I said softly as I stood up, “She wants us to work as one to rule Equestria, to care for each other now that she’s gone. Don’t pretend you don’t know the same. She wants us to be there for each other, if for no other reason than to lessen the pain of her passing, for you especially.”
“What would you know about my pain?” She muttered as she looked at me out of the corner of her eyes, “What would you know about the suffering I’ve felt under your kind’s actions and the pain I endured because of your family’s ambition?”
I opened my mouth to reply but was cut off, “No, do not patronize me with your half-truths and honeyed words. I told you once that I never wanted to see you again, yet here you are before me. This is your final warning, stay away from me or I will personally see to it you never see the outside of the castle dungeons again.”
She turned her back to me and threw the door open so hard it nearly broke off its hinges. Yet I made no move to leave. I knew that things had to be said beyond what had been spoken. Yet I also knew that if I pushed Luna too far it could make the chasm between us too wide to ever bridge again. This would take every skill I had as a former Changeling, and as a former friend to the bitter night mare.
I slowly stepped forward, letting the words swell from my very being, hoping beyond hope that I was making the right decision.
I always thought that I was chosen, Nopony could match me or compare, But then I met somepony special, She showed me love and how to care.
For I was lost and then uncertain, With no idea on what to do, You showed me a better future, One where I could stand with you.
For you are the light that shines within me, You broke my soul from its darkened cage, You made me what you see before you, Your love brought calm to my fear and rage. My life is yours, don’t turn away now, Would you shatter the bond that you’ve made? You’re more to me than you could imagine, Because my heart is what you’ve saved.
Her face twisted into a grimace as she walked towards the balcony once again, “You wooed us once before with those sweet words. Thou shalt not do so again. Be gone before we remove thou by force.” She tried to seem strong and determined, yet there was a hitch in her voice and a slight shaking in her step. I prayed that my words were reaching her, and followed her out into the moonlit air.
I understand why you would hate me, You’ve every right to feel betrayed, I deserve to burn in hate and fury, But is there hope that I can stay?
That fool you knew was but a shadow, For his mistakes I must repent, Your love is worth more than a diamond, For hope and warmth is your lament.
For you are the light that shines within me, You broke my soul from its darkened cage, You made me what you see before you, Your love brought calm to my fear and rage. My life is yours, don’t turn away now, Would you shatter the bond that you’ve made? You’re more to me than you could imagine, Because my heart is what you’ve saved.
She turned to face me, opening her mouth to spit more barbed words at me, and yet in that moment I did something either very stupid or very bold. I placed my hoof over her mouth and stilled her words before they could be spoken. Her eyes widened in shock, her wings flaring as I slowly leaned forwards, my face a calm mask as I lowered my voice to a near whisper.
Love was but a tool to me, my strength was all that really mattered, But then I met you and everything changed, because then my nightmare truly shattered. My love for you is pure as gold, no more hiding or scheming plots, You need never be alone now, nor shed tears and feel distraught.
She moved her mouth from behind my hoof, “But Noble, I –,” I shushed her gently, draping a wing over her shoulders and looking out over the starry expanse that she worked so hard to create.
Share our love and treasure it, for my soul belongs to you. You pulled me from the pain of my past, and brightened my life like morning dew.
I turned my gaze to meet hers, those navy pools sparkling like starlit oceans as her breath rippled the fur along my muzzle.
Please love, forgive me, because of what we once held dear, Your eyes they hold my every emotion, my song is yours alone to hear.
Because you are the light that shines within me, You broke my soul from its shadow spell, Your love is all I could ever need now, And I am yours if you wish it as well.
I let my voice trail off, hoping beyond hope that my words had reached her shattered heart. For several moments we sat there, simply looking into each other’s eyes. Yet as the moon slowly rose overhead I began to wonder if she still hated me and was contemplating how to best fry my feathers. Yet I was surprised as she closed her eyes and leaned into me, wrapping her own wing around my body as her head came to rest on my shoulder.
“You really do care for me, don’t you?” She asked without moving. I found myself nodding even though she couldn’t see me.
“I’ve loved you ever since I first came to Canterlot all those months ago,” I pulled her tighter against me with my wing, “It’s why I couldn’t keep you under my spell in the Crystal Empire, and why I came back to save the ponies from my mother’s control.” She turned her head up to look at me, and I smiled at the question in her gaze, “Yes, I did come to save the ponies because it was the right thing to do, but I wouldn’t have realized it was the right thing to do if I had never realized my feelings for you. You could say, that had it not been for my love for you, Equestria would still be under Changeling rule, and some other unfortunate mare would be carrying my children right now.”
Her face twisted in disgust for a moment, “Not the most romantic way to put it, but I understand your meaning.” Her face became uncertain for a moment, “But can I truly trust that you aren’t simply manipulating me like you did before? What can you do to prove that you truly love me for me?”
I smiled and pulled my wing off her, stepping towards the balcony as her expression changed to one of confusion. “I’ll show you how much I care for you, and hopefully prove how much you care for me in return.”
Before she could say anything, I climbed onto the stone railing that separated the balcony from a very long drop. I looked over the side and gulped slightly at the dizzying height I was standing at. Before I could lose my nerve, I turned my head to look at Luna, and ignited my horn. A band of gold energy clamped around my barrel, effectively pinning my wings to my sides. Luna’s eyes widened in terror as I smiled, before I closed my eyes and stepped into open air.
I heard Luna scream my name as I dropped, although the roar of the wind drowned out anything beyond that. I kept my magic tightly wound around my wings and locked my eyes closed. For a moment all there was to feel was the wind in my ears and my stomach migrating to my throat. Yet it all came to a halt when I felt a pair of wings and hooves wrap around my barrel in a death grip. I felt the rapid deceleration as Luna pumped her wings for all her worth, and I opened my eyes as we came in for a bumpy landing in the castle gardens. I let the magic around my body dissipate as our bodies came to a rest on the grass, letting out a deep breath I hadn’t even realized I had been holding. Luna loosened her grip on me enough to look me in the eyes. When I smiled in return all I got for my trouble was a firm slap on the cheek.
“What were you thinking!” She screamed as she stood up, “What if I hadn’t come after you?! What if I wasn’t fast enough to save you?!”
I rubbed my sore cheek before replying, “Well suffice to say I’m glad I was proven wrong. Do you doubt my words after all that?”
She took a step back in shock, her eyes locked with mine as she struggled to find the words, “T-That was just to prove that you weren’t lying to me?! You could have killed yourself! What would Equestria have done without somepony to raise the sun?!”
I grinned as I pushed myself to my hooves, “Like I said, I wanted to prove that my words were sincere. I also wanted to make you show your true colors concerning your own feelings.” Her expression took on a dubious nature, “Oh come now Luna, you can’t honestly stand here after all that and say that you truly feel nothing for me. You love me, even if it’s only a small part, but you’re too stubborn to admit it to either yourself or to – mmphf!?!”
She kept her lips locked with mine for a moment before pulling away, her cheeks blossoming into a bright blush as she averted her gaze from mine, “Does that answer your question?”
I nodded, touching my still tingling lips with one hoof, “I guess it does. So,” I ventured, “what now?”
She turned back to me with an uncertain gleam in her eyes, “I’m not sure. We could just go on like normal and see how things fare.”
I smirked, “Are you sure about that? I could go for another of those wonderful kisses if you aren’t opposed to the idea.”
Her cheeks got even redder as she coughed to one side, “T-Thou wouldst do well to remember that we are not required to perform any such services unless we so choose. Even requesting such things could be viewed as slander against the crown.”
One eyebrow rose in response to her flustered state, “Oh, well then what’s the punishment for kissing the royal mouth?”
She turned to face me again with a confused expression, “What did thou say – mmph!!”
I closed the distance and pressed my lips to her in a mirror of what she had done before. Her wings snapped open and her body locked in place for a second. However, as I deepened the kiss she hummed in acceptance and began to return my advances.
I brought one hoof up and caressed her cheek before working my way around her neck, pulling her into me and wrapping her in a wing hug. She moaned softly and teased my lips with her tongue, asking for entrance. I obliged her and we battled for several moments with our tongues, Luna falling on her back as I stepped into and over her body.
We broke the kiss, gasping for breath, and I couldn’t help but wish that we could go further than what we had already done. Yet I knew that doing so would risk undoing all the hard work I had already put in, so against my better judgement, I stepped back and forced my wings back against my sides.
Luna looked up at me with a concerned expression, her eyes lit with confusion as she panted, “Why did you stop?”
I sat down and tried my best not to look disappointed, “I won’t risk all the progress we’ve made tonight by pushing my luck. I want nothing more than to take this all the way, but I care too much about you and our very shaky relationship to risk messing things up now.” As her downtrodden face threatened to pierce my iron resolve, I forced myself to look away, lest I be tempted to do something else, “Please be patient with me. I want nothing more than to share my love with you in every way possible, but now is not the time. Please, for the sake of our shared love and the possibility of it lasting longer than this night, allow me to hold out this once so that we can both go into this with clear heads at a later date.”
She huffed, puffing out her cheeks like a schoolfilly, “You’ve taken all the fire right out of me, you know that? I was oh so tempted to oblige that more adventurous idea until you went and threw a wet blanket on the whole thing.” She stood up, dusting herself off with a wing before turning back to me, “If you’ve finished trying to kill yourself and frustrating me, would you care to escort me back to my chambers?”
I nodded, stepping up to her side before spreading my wings, “Shall we take the express route or the long walk?”
She smiled as she spread her own wings, “I always prefer the most direct direction.”
With that we pumped our wings, spiraling up the outside of her tower before coming to land on her balcony. I walked through the room and was just about to walk out when I felt Luna’s magic grabbing me around my barrel.
I turned around with a raised eyebrow, noting the playful look in her eyes as she began to drag me towards the bed, “You may not be willing to go beyond those first few steps, but I’ll be damned if I let you walk away without staying the night. That little display on the balcony has me worried that you’ll kill yourself if not supervised.”
I grinned as she placed me down on the bed and climbed in on the other side, “If that is what you wish, I shall stay with you tonight.”
She smiled as she pulled the sheets over us, pulling her body against my chest as she rested her head on the side of my neck, “Goodnight Noble Light. I shall be watching over you dreams to make sure you don’t have any suicidal thoughts to go with your actions.”
I chuckled as I draped a wing over her body, “Don’t worry, the only thing I’ll be dreaming of is you.”
She rolled her eyes, “Flattery will get you nowhere unless you plan to back it up. Now go to sleep.”
“Just don’t wake me up by throwing me across the room again,” I teased, “I don’t think the wall can take much more abuse.”
She bopped me on the nose with one hoof, “Keep making jokes and I just might.”
I smiled as I closed my eyes, listening to Luna’s breathing as it slowly smoothed into the calm rhythm of sleep. Soon after I felt myself drifting off, and for the first time since I came to Canterlot as a disguised Changeling, I felt complete.
Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any and all "hnnnggggs" that may or may not be a direct cause of this chapter. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
I was an absolute nervous wreck. My wings were twitching nonstop and I was biting my bottom lip so hard it almost bled. It had been hours and still I had heard nothing from the doctors. By this point I was almost ready to barge into the emergency room myself and fix it all with my magic, but I had no idea if that would cause more harm than good in this situation.
Let me back up a bit. It all started a few months after Luna and I finally settled the bad blood between us, and had moved in together as the new rulers of Equestria. The ponies still had trouble trusting me, and I found myself alone in Day Court more often than not, while Luna was so busy during Night Court she had to send ponies home most of the time because there were simply too many. For a while we fell into this new routine and managed to find a delicate balance, doing our best to hold the nation together after the tragedy that had befallen Equestria.
Then, one night, Luna woke me up with a panicked expression, her mane soaked with sweat and her heart racing like a Wonderbolt after a race. We managed to get her vitals back to normal with some subtle magic, although the fever never truly went away. At first that was all it was, and Luna managed to keep herself presentable with morning and evening showers to keep her coat pristine. Then came the next surprise, headaches. These weren’t your normal variety headaches either. No these were the mind-splitting migraines that would lay her out on the floor for hours at a time. It happened once in the middle of Night Court, and Luna was forced to call off the meetings for the rest of the night, going so far as to dunk her head in a bucket of ice to dull the pain. I only found out about that little incident the next morning, when she told me over a cold bowl of ice cream that she had somehow convinced the castle staff to give her.
For weeks these headaches plagued her, yet when we asked the castle doctors to take a look, they couldn’t find anything wrong with her. Of course Luna’s physiology and magical signature were unique to any other pony in Equestria, so it was like asking the doctors to tell us why a hydra was losing teeth when all they knew was that manticores shed twice a year. They simply had nothing to go on that could act as a baseline. Luna and Celestia had never gotten sick before, so nopony had bothered to look into how they differed from normal ponies, and it was coming back to bite us in the flank big time.
It finally came to a head when the stomach issues began creeping in, forcing Luna to race to the bathroom at any hour of the day, no matter what it was she ate or drank. It was at that moment that I realized that there was truly something very wrong with Luna, and I had her admitted into Canterlot General until we could figure out what was going on.
Word spread rapidly that Luna had fallen ill, and with the wound of Celestia’s death hanging over the ponies, honest terror began to crop up within the citizens. Where they going to lose Luna, so soon after losing Celestia? What could be causing this disease? Why now after so long without any signs of weakness?
And then the rumors began to spread that Luna’s illness was my fault, that I had planned this from the very start and was slowly killing Luna now that Celestia had named me her heir. In a crazy way it all made sense, I let my mother kill Celestia after she brainwashed her into making me her heir, then once I fake banishing the Changeling invasion, I make it look like Luna fell prey to some unknown disease and take over completely.
For a while things tipped back and forth on a razor’s edge, leaning from all out panic to nervous waiting and back again and then over to plans of rebellion. Yet I could do nothing but watch my citizens stew in their fear and uncertainty, because I was feeling the exact same thing, watching Luna grow weaker and weaker.
It got so bad that by the fifth month, Luna didn’t have enough strength to lift the moon anymore, forcing me to take over her duties as a large mass began to grow in her stomach area. Just like with her headaches, her unique magic scrambled any probing the doctors tried, leaving them with no idea what it was that was slowly expanding in Luna’s abdomen.
Now, I was pacing back and forth in the waiting room, hoping and praying that Luna would be alright. The growth in her stomach had gotten big enough that it was starting to affect her ability to move and use the restroom, and the doctors had come to the decision that it had to go. Yet just as they were bringing her into the operating room, she had started complaining of pulsing cramps that were doing their best to rip her insides apart. Fearing that if they went in now they might cause irreparable damage, the doctors had forced me out of the room so they could monitor her vitals and keep her from hurting herself. One terrible part about Luna being an alicorn was that painkillers burned through our systems like sugar, meaning there was nothing they could do to ease the pain as her screams echoed through the building. For six hours I paced back and forth, listening to the sounds of my marefriend scream and sob as I ground my teeth in self-aimed fury. I felt next to useless out here, and yet there was nothing I could do to help Luna as whatever it was that had infected her tore her body apart. Finally, as her screams rose to a high-pitched wail that refused to stop, I had had enough.
I marched up to the Night Guards blocking the way to the emergency room, stopping only out of courtesy as they crossed their spears. “Let me by or I’ll shove those spears so far up your plots that you’ll have to clear your throat to polish the blades.”
They did a masterful job of keeping their emotions in check, the thestral stallion on my left managing to look me in the eyes as he replied, “I’m sorry sir, but we’ve been ordered by the hospital staff to keep everypony out of the emergency room so that the doctors can do their work.”
Luna’s screams became mixed with heart-wrenching sobs, and I refused to let her suffer any more when I could be at her side. “If you won’t let me pass, then I’ll just let myself in.”
My horn lit up with magic, and in a flash I teleported from the waiting room directly into the emergency room. Luna’s screams hit me full force as I came to my senses, and I placed a sound dampening spell around myself as I raced to her side. Yet I was stopped only halfway, my eyes widening in shock at what I was seeing.
Lying on the bed, her hind legs spread wide and her tail tied to one side, was Luna. Her nethers were exposed for all to see, while a single mare sat waiting with a blanket in one hoof and a towel in the other. The other doctors had moved to one side, their eyes wide in shock as Luna’s stomach contracted over and over. In that moment, it all came crashing together in my mind. Elevated body temperature, headaches, morning sickness, those were all common symptoms of a mare going through pregnancy.
The shock of that realization knocked me on my flank, forcing me to sit down as I watched the nurse ease Luna through birth. Birth. I just couldn’t believe it. Luna had told me multiple times that she and her sister were barren, unable to have foals no matter who they chose to bed with. Yet here we were, watching as a miracle unfolded before our eyes.
Finally, Luna’s screams faded until all she could do was gasp and grunt. The nurse was keeping a laser focus on her opening, the cloth in her grip ready to act in an instant.
“You’re doing fine Princess,” she said in a soothing tone, somehow keeping her composure while Luna struggled to breathe properly, “just a bit more and this will all be over.”
Luna managed to crack one eye open to look between her legs at the nurse, “Truly? Thank the makers.”
The mare nodded and held up the towel between her hooves like a net, “Alright Princess, this is it. On the count of three, give me one last big push. Can you do that?”
Luna nodded weakly, “Verily, we believe we can manage that much.”
“Alright then, one, two, THREE!!”
Luna clenched her teeth before letting out the highest and loudest scream yet. I had to close my eyes and place a sound-proof spell around my ears to keep from going deaf. Yet as Luna’s screams died down, they were replaced by the far weaker, but much higher pitched cries of a newborn.
I opened my eyes and slowly stepped forward, watching in awe as the nurse dried off the foal before wrapping it in the blanket. She carefully walked around and gave the foal to Luna, who gently held it in her hooves as she cradled it against her chest.
As I walked up to her bedside, the nurse smiled wide and said, “Congratulations Princess, it’s a filly.”
Those words seemed to break the ice that had frozen the room in place, causing the doctors to dash from their places along the wall to make sure Luna was still alright. She let them go over her vitals without seeming to see or hear them, her eyes and complete focus centered on the little bundle that was resting peacefully against her chest.
As the doctors came to the conclusion that Luna wasn’t going to keel over at any point in the near future, they filed out of the room with the nurse, leaving us alone save for the softly breathing filly.
Luna gently brushed part of the filly’s ebony mane from her face, revealing the muted lavender fur underneath. Her lips pulled back into the most pure expression of joy I had ever seen, and she leaned down to gently place a kiss on the foal’s forehead.
She didn’t even look up at me as she spoke, keeping her eyes on the precious bundle in her hooves, “For millennia my sister and I thought we couldn’t have children. We took lover after lover in our youth but were unable to conceive. Yet here I am, holding the one thing that I thought I could never have.” Her eyes filled with tears as she looked up at me, “I don’t even know what I’m feeling right now. Is this joy for myself, sorrow for my sister, or some unusual mixture of the two? I am truly at a loss for the first time in my life.”
I lifted a hoof and gently held her cheek, “I think it’s all that a lot more. You just gave birth to a foal that you had no idea you were carrying. You just became a mother when you thought it was an impossibility. I think you have more than enough reason to be a little confused right now.”
Her chuckle was dry and forced, but the smile that peaked around her exhaustion was genuine, “True enough, although that leaves little question as to how said foal got into me in the first place.”
The blood drained from my face as that information sunk in, “By the First Mother, I’m a father. I’m a FATHER!”
The giggles morphed into full laughs as I tried to get my mind to stop spinning, “Thou saw all of that and didn’t stop to think about how it had come to be? Apparently we are not the only ones who are a bit confused.”
I shook my head to clear it, trying to keep my focus on the here and now, lest I got nuts thinking about the what-ifs, “Anyway, that’s not important right now. What’s done is done. I think the thing that’s got me curious right now is what type of pony is our daughter? We know she’s not a unicorn because there isn’t a tiny spear stinking out of her forehead, but what about wings?”
Luna smiled as she looked down at the little filly, “I don’t truly care all that much what she is, so long as I know that she is mine.”
At that moment the foal decided to wake up, opening her eyes before opening her mouth and giggling. Luna and I gasped as she reached for Luna’s face with her front hooves, her slit-pupil blue eyes and tiny fangs doing wonders to make our minds stop working.
“No, it couldn’t be,” Luna muttered as the filly gently played with her mane, “could it?”
“There’s only one way to find out.” I replied, gently unwrapping the blanket from the filly’s body until it revealed her to our gazes. Sure enough, folded against her sides were a tiny set of bat wings, black as the mane on her head and tipped with a pair of pure white claws. Her ears also supported twin tufts of fur, making them seem far too large for her tiny head.
Luna’s mouth gaped as the filly twisted her starry mane between her front hooves, “A thestral. Our daughter is a thestral.”
I smirked as she slowly lifted her gaze to meet mine, “Well at least you won’t have to worry about her staying up too late.”
A hoof to the side of the head was my reward for that little joke, “Take this seriously Noble! What are we going to do about her schooling? How will she make friends? I’m worried she might not be accepted because of what she is.”
I climbed into the bed, taking up what little room there was, and wrapped them both in my wings as I kissed Luna on the forehead below her horn, “It’ll be alright Luna. We’ll figure this out just like every other parent has across the millennia. We just need to focus on taking it one step at a time and things will work out in end.”
“But how can you be so sure?” She asked as she turned her gaze back to her daughter, who had fallen back asleep while we weren’t looking, “What makes you so certain she’ll end up alright?”
I lifted her gaze with my hoof again, keeping her eyes locked with mine as I spoke, “Because she’s your daughter, and anypony related to you won’t take anything lying down.”
She smiled as she pressed a chaste kiss to my lips, “Don’t forget she’s also your daughter. With a clever mind like yours she can’t go wrong.”
“So long as she doesn’t use it to outsmart us.” I added, causing both of us to chuckle softly.
“So what are we going to name her?” I asked, gently running a hoof through the foal’s mane.
“I was thinking,” Luna said softly, “Primrose. It’s a flower that only blooms at night, and has one of the sweetest scents I have ever experienced in my long life.”
I smiled, “Then Primrose it is.” I leaned down and placed a kiss on her lips before placing another on Primrose’s cheek. The filly thestral giggled softly in her sleep and curled up next to Luna’s body, holding her mother’s mane over herself like a blanket.
The news that Luna had given birth spread so fast that it seemed the newspaper headline the next morning was unnecessary. Ponies flocked from near and far to come and see if the news was true, although at that point Luna was still too weak to take any visitors. I took every petitioner that came to ask the same question, and told them all the exact same answer. Finally, after about a hundred ponies had come and gone, I asked one of the guards to take a picture of Luna with Primrose and spread the picture around the city. Within the hour thousands of pictures were dropped from the sky, landing on every possible surface within Canterlot and leaving no question as to the validity of the headline.
Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the petitioners. In fact, it seemed to make even more show up then the first run of ponies. Finally, I called Day Court to a close and sent them all on their way, but not before telling everypony within earshot that Luna and our daughter were both healthy and safe, and that more news would be sent out as things progressed.
That seemed to at least appease the crowd, allowing me to make my way back to our chambers in peace while the castle staff bustled about like an agitated beehive. In light of what had happened, multiple changes had to be made to our chambers, not the least of which being a crib for our daughter. The ceremonial swords Luna kept on the walls had been removed, while the doors to the balcony had been foal-proofed to prevent the filly from falling.
All and all, the entire castle was going to get a makeover, starting with the rooms and halls closest to our chambers and working out from there. Nopony wanted to be the one responsible for leaving something dangerous where Primrose could get ahold of it.
I opened the doors leading to our room and spotted Luna lying on her side with Primrose resting against her belly. Luna’s wing was draped over the filly, creating a sort of tent for her to rest under while her body heat helped Primrose sleep.
“Good afternoon my love,” I whispered as I climbed into the bed, “how are things?”
Luna’s eyes were tired by bright with love and happiness, all of it aimed at the bundle of joy that slept peacefully under her wing, “I couldn’t be better. The simple fact that I have a daughter seems to finally be sinking in. I can’t seem to get it out of my head that this little filly is my own flesh and blood. At times I find myself fearing that she’ll simply vanish into thin air, like this is all simply a wonderful dream.”
I smiled as I nuzzled her softly, “Then I hope you never have to wake up. Seeing you like this makes me the happiest stallion in the world. I just hope I came make you feel the same way.”
“You already made me the happiest mare in the world,” she said as she returned my nuzzle, “when you gave your heart to me and helped me to heal after my sister’s death. You placed yourself at my hooves for me to embrace or to scorn, knowing full well what had happened between us. Yet you did so anyway, and now your love for me has created the most precious thing I have ever held.” She bent down and nuzzled Primrose with her cheek, a single tear sliding down her face, “I just want you to know that you’ve made me so happy that I don’t even have the words to describe it. You gave me a child when I thought it was an impossibility.” She lifted her gaze to meet mine, “Thank you Noble Light, for everything.”
I kissed her at the base of her horn as I draped my own wing over her and Primrose, “You don’t ever need to thank me Luna. You’ve given me the same things and more. It’s the least I can do after all we’ve been through.”
She nodded, resting her head against the pillows, “I’m tired my love, come sleep with your family.”
I had absolutely no reason to argue, lying down facing Luna while using my wing to gently slide Primrose up to rest on the sheets between our chests. I held the tiny filly with one hoof while Luna did the same, connecting all three of us as I draped a wing over both of them. The sun wouldn’t need to set for a couple hours, plenty of time to get some rest, “Sleep well Luna.”
She yawned wide before nodding, “Sleep well Noble.”
She closed her eyes, her mane falling over Primrose like a second blanket as she joined our daughter in the realm of dreams. I leaned forward and kissed her softly on the cheek before resting my head on the pillows. I closed my eyes and slowly drifted into sleep, comforted by the thought that no matter what happened in the future, I would protect Luna and Primrose with my life. That was the oath that I made as I fell completely into slumber, the soft rays of the setting sun bathing us in their glow as a peaceful silence fell over the castle. I didn’t know what was waiting for us in the future, but for that one moment, we lost the ability to care in favor of the love and tenderness we found in one another.