There was nopony anywhere in Equestria who did not believe that Princess Celestia worked hard for her people every day, and today, she was showing that ethic as she usually did, sitting upon her throne and speaking with a number of officials. Mares and stallions alike were gathered before her, most of them of older generations, each accompanied by a member of the Royal Guard. Many issues were brought to her attention, from taxation, to suggestions for increasing the number of guard patrols in the city, to even smaller local matters like disused buildings that needed seeing to. All these and more she gave her personal attention to, and with every word, every command she gave, she was treated with respect by those who listened, even those for whom this was their first meeting with her. At the end of it all, she smiled warmly to them, giving a slight bow of her head as she issued her final statement.
"Thank you all for coming. It has been an enlightening afternoon."
Naturally, all of them gave far deeper bows, making sure to take several steps backwards before resuming their earlier stances, turning around, then making their way out of the throne room, again accompanied by the Guard as they left. Celestia kept her eyes upon them all, always maintaining her Motherly smile. But, as soon as they were gone, and the doors of the throne room were closed, the smile faded, and she let out a long sigh.
"Well...that's one day over and done with."
Unfortunately, her time of potential relaxation was not to be, for it was at that very moment that the doors opened once more, causing her to sit upright yet again. However, her expression softened when she realised who it was that had arrived. Night Light, Commander of her Royal Elite, flanked by several of his chosen troops. A smile crept onto Celestia's face, and she gave him a nod as he approached.
"Ah, Night. Glad to see you."
Sadly, the stallion did not seem as happy as she did.
"I wish it were under better circumstances, your Majesty."
He turned, looking to his cohorts, and it was here that Celestia realised that a number of them were carrying what appeared to be rolled-up sheets of paper. For a time, she didn't understand, then, slowly, realisation dawned for her, and a grim expression crossed her face.
Night responded with a nod, gesturing to his nearest companion, a unicorn stallion, who stepped forward as his Commander started speaking up.
"Yes, your advisers spoke truly to you. There are indeed a number of these posters around the city now."
Discomfort crossed Night's eyes, prompting Celestia to frown slightly.
"I see...that bad."
Night said nothing, instead giving a nod to the stallion who'd stepped forward, who nodded in response. His horn lighting up, the stallion levitated the paper to just in front of him, and it was soon unrolled, giving Celestia a good view of the image upon it, causing an earned look of dismay for her.
The image in question, it had to be said, was not exactly a pleasant one. It featured a number of tough-looking stallions, all clad in the distinct garb of the Lunar Guard, all staring at whatever potential viewer the poster might have had. There was a threatening red background, and in the space above this line of soldiers was, in bold letters, a very clear message; "Stop them, before it's too late!" Seeing this, Celestia paused, her shoulders slumping slightly, as she raised a hoof to her head and started rubbing her temples.
"So...it's come to this."
Night, for a time, avoided her gaze, as if ashamed for simply bringing these things to her attention. But, he looked back to her soon afterwards, as she started looking at the other pieces of paper more seriously.
"And the others?"
"Even worse, I'm afraid."
He gestured to another of his subordinates, and they saluted briefly before stepping forward, with the previous stallion getting back into his past position. Celestia watched as the second guard unfurled their own paper, revealing the second image to her. This one was very clearly aimed at her sister, for the eyes of Queen Moon herself were predominantly displayed in the upper half of the poster, staring menacingly out at the viewers, while in the bottom half there was the image of a sleeping filly on her bed, her expression one of clear terror. The words of this one? "Think your children's dreams are safe? Think again!" Celestia narrowed her eyes.
"Fear of the fate of one's children. A low tactic..."
She glanced sideway, mumbling under her breath.
"...though undoubtedly an effective one," she added, albeit begrudgingly.
Looking back to Night, she nodded, and her Captain nodded back, commanding the next Guard to step forward. The third pony did exactly that, giving another salute before revealing their poster. This one featured a bar of some sort, and at the centre of it were a number of stallions all trying to apparently charm a pretty-looking mare. But, unbeknownst to the stallions, the mare was casting a shadow on the wall that bore a striking resemblance to Queen Moon, wings outstretched and all. This message read, "Don't even Try, she might be a spy!" Celestia, seeing that, shook her head.
"I know a spy has been amongst us...but still...trying to evoke fear of their own neighbours? Disgraceful."
Night cleared his throat a little.
"If I may, your Majesty, there is one more. This one was found in the Griffon Quarter. No doubt the work of those worried about Queen Gabby's...choice of allies."
Celestia nodded, prompting Night to turn to his final companion.
"Step forward, Cadet Vapour."
The last Guard, a pegasus mare with very light colouring, did as instructed, though was very clearly nervous about being so close to Celestia. The Princess herself noted in her mind that this must have been a recent addition to the Guard, given her jitteriness at being here. And so, she offered a soft smile.
"Relax, child...show me."
Vapour nodded, then, rather reluctantly, did as asked, showing the poster to her leader. Sure enough, this one very definitely had a clear disdain for Queen Gabby, showing her striking a commanding pose, but, as one's eyes drifted upwards, showed that she was little more than a puppet on strings, controlled by a shadowy pony-looking figure at the top of the poster. At the bottom, however, was the message. "Don't believe the lies! See the true ruler of Griffonstone!" Silence fell on the throne room, and a lot of the Guard started looking nervous, with the exception of Night, who maintained his more disciplined stance before his Princess. As for Celestia, she contemplated this for a time, before giving a short nod.
"Thank you, Night."
The stallion nodded, and he gestured to his cadets, all of which saluted to him before turning around and heading back out of the throne room. Their Commander watched them go, and only when they were finally out of earshot did he break the silence, looking back to Celestia.
"So...what's to be done?"
Celestia thought long and hard on that before answering.
"When I created this nation...I did so with the intent of making it a place of harmony. Of peace. A place where petty conflicts would not tear friends and peoples apart. Vigilance may be necessary at times...but this?"
She shook her head.
"What I have seen today shames me. I will not allow Equestria to be a realm where hate and fear-mongering are allowed to fester and thrive."
She narrowed her eyes.
"Find the artists and inform them that this kind of creation will not be accepted in the streets of this city. Be diplomatic...but make it clear that we will not budge on this."
Night took on a concerned look.
"You know their response. They will say they have every right to do what they've done."
But Celestia once more shook her head.
"Spreading hate and fear is not something they will ever have a right to do, not as long as I am their Princess!"
Night nodded, giving a salute before turning around and walking out, no doubt to implement his monarch's order. However, barely had he taken three steps away from her when he stopped, thinking on all of this, before looking back to her, his expression one of clear concern.
"Tia...you know as well as I do that this is only the beginning of this kind of feeling in our city. In our country. It’s only going to get worse...you know that, right?"
Celestia, though she would have undoubtedly wanted to continue to appear strong and decisive in this moment, nevertheless softened in her expression.
"I know, Night...I know."
Slowly, she hung her head, looking down at the ground.
"Where, Night? Where...did things go so wrong?"