Chapter Nineteen - The Moon - Part Four
“We really should have seen this coming,” I said to Twinkleshine, my eyes not straying from the sky.
“It was kind of obvious, wasn’t it?”
The two of us looked up at the now moonless, and consequently empty, sky. We hadn’t noticed it before, because we had been facing away from the stars in the other half of the universe in a regular Euclidean sense, so intuitively, it made sense that we hadn’t seen them. However, we really should have seen at least the brightest stars from the moon.
It only took a tiny, blue pinprick of light that we’d almost missed in the this sky to make us realize that.
“The moon is pretty bright, isn’t it, Twilight?”
Twinkleshine sounded even more annoyed than I was. There was obviously something out there, but the moon was too busy generating light to let us see it.
“Why don’t you try some of your magic?” I suggested. “Maybe we’ll be able to see something.”
Nodding, Twinkleshine lit up her horn for one of her simpler telescope spells. By the standards she and I now measured her, it was rather crude, but it required less magic, so she’d be able to send it out further away from the moon.
And we wouldn’t need any protection from high-energy light with this spell, but that was more of a side benefit. Somepony in the course of history wisely decided to modify the standard beginner’s illusion spells to only produce light in the visible spectrum. No small number of mysterious deaths in early Equestrian history were thought to have been due to otherwise benign illusions.
Anyway, if we were lucky we’d see something other than–
“Ack!” Twinkleshine and I shouted in unison as we looked away from her illusion.
Note to self: I needed to teach Twinkleshine how to put a maximum level of brightness into an illusion, which unfortunately was not a thing that anypony had put into the standard beginner’s illusion spells, and – argh, my eyes still burned! Why had my flares never damaged my eyes before! I could just heal them if I’d ever had cause to learn the spell!
“Twilight, soak these with water and cool them!”
My head snapped in the direction of whatever it was Twinkleshine was talking about, for all the good it did. I could feel her magic levitating two things nearby, but it hurt just to open my eyes. I wasn’t going to try a scrying spell for vision on the off chance it induced phantom pains, so I worked purely off of my magical senses.
I summoned a large chunk of water blindly in the air, letting it crash to the ground and soak everything on the floor. Immediately after, I froze the water remaining in the air.
Twinkleshine let out a tiny squeak. “Too cold, Twilight,” she said, as a block of ice bumped into my eyes. “Thaw them.”
What was going on clicked in my head, and I brought the wet napkins – that was probably what Twinkleshine had used – back just slightly above zero degrees. It was with much relief that I breathed out and relaxed as my eyes were cooled.
Breathing easy again herself, Twinkleshine said, “I’m so sorry, Twilight. I – I made a mistake with the coordinates.”
Sleepy and stressed, that didn’t surprise me. I really should have just sent Twinkleshine to bed.
“It’s fine. Accidents happen. Again, apparently, based on your reaction.”
“Yeah… I sort of screwed up a few times when you first started helping me. How bad do your eyes feel? Were you looking straight at the spell? Can you still see?”
“My eyes feel like they’re on fire, but they’re working.”
First sighing in relief, Twinkleshine said, “Great. You should be okay in a few minutes or so.”
A few minutes? How bad could it have been? Hours? Days? Years? No, probably not years if Twinkleshine had done this to herself more than once. More importantly–
“What about you?” I asked.
“About the same, I think. An hour at the most…”
Just then, the door burst open to the sound of ragged breathing and shouting.
“Your Highness! Are you! Alright!” Chamomile asked between breaths.
“Not really,” I said, using the wrong Equestrian before repeating myself. “But we will be.”
“Whew,” Chamomile said, collapsing to her knees and then to her belly when that wasn’t enough. “I’m sorry. I just. Need a moment.”
Wow. Chamomile was obviously in shape just by looking at her. Just how fast did she have to move to put herself in this state?
Putting on what I suspected was going to quickly become my princess smile, I said, “Don’t worry about it. Thank you for your concern, though.”
“H-happy to serve.”
Turning…well, turning my attention, if not my nonexistent line of sight, back to Twinkleshine, I asked, “Where did you put your lens?”
“Huh? Oh, I – I think I accidentally inverted the sign on the relative coordinates…”
Inverted the coordinates? That would mean looking in the vaguely opposite direction of that blue pinprick of light, with the lens placed on the other side of the moon. The viewing direction must have been flipped, too, pointing away from the moon, because the moon was nowhere near that bright. I mean, the moon sort of hurt to look at directly when you were on the surface, but it wasn’t blindingly bright like that.
“I think that was moonlight,” Twinkleshine said.
I hesitated a moment before I said anything, not wanting to flat out tell Twinkleshine she was wrong, especially since she was probably right. The color of light the illusion had produced was burned into my eyes, and it had been the pale white color the moon gave off.
Still, it made no sense. The moon was no brighter near the surface than staring at a normal illumination spell from a couple centimeters away. Twinkleshine’s spell would have reduced the intensity by at most half, so while it would still have hurt to look at, it shouldn’t have been so painful. Unless the spell ended up inside the moon. It should be very bright there, although still not burning bright.
“So if that was moonlight,” I began, “do you have any ideas on why it was so bright?”
“A few. I’ve been thinking about this ever since I heard there was another half of the universe. I think the universe is made up of two paraboloids of revolution. If we put their axis of rotational symmetry along z-axis, then we’d be in the negative z’s now.”
“Or the positive z’s,” I commented dryly. “There’s no sense in being too hasty. Maybe this half of the universe is the better half.”
I could almost hear Twinkleshine rolling her eyes in her tone of voice. “Anyway, if I’m right, I think what happened is the moonlight focused a bit stronger than normal, and since it’s so close to the edge, the moon reflected its own light – probably more than once – which resulted in us looking at a blindingly bright moon.”
That…sounded an awful lot like an excuse. That would get us maybe a factor of two, and that was really stretching it. I generally didn’t think of moon rock as reflective, and a lot of the energy should have spread out anyway.
But then moon rock was white, and – no, I wasn’t even going to go there. I either needed to brush up on my astronomical scale physics, or I needed to leave this to Twinkleshine. On second thought, I’d just leave this to Twinkleshine; she didn’t need me encroaching on her territory any more than I already had.
“Also,” Twinkleshine started hesitantly, “it didn’t help that my lens also took a large sample for a small image, preserving power, not intensity.” It sounded like Twinkleshine was fiddling with her hooves as she whispered, “It’s usually a good idea.”
Ah, so that was the real problem. Twinkleshine didn’t really need to try to deflect the blame to the universe, but I wasn’t going to call her on that. I didn’t really care. It was just an accident.
Sighing, I squinted my eyes extra hard as I removed the napkin. Very slowly, I cracked them back open, wincing once they were open enough to actually see anything. It took some time and a lot of blinking, but eventually, my eyes readjusted to the ambient light in the room.
“Well, I feel less like tearing my eyes out now.”
“Sorry…” Twinkleshine said, her dejection crystal clear in her tone.
“Twinkleshine, I didn’t mean anything by that. I was just trying to say I feel better.”
Getting no response, I gnawed on my lip. I had a feeling that this was one of those moments where anything I said was just going to make things worse.
“Why don’t we find you a bed to sleep this off in?” I suggested.
Twinkleshine nodded, and we left the turret with Chamomile leading the way. Despite her objections and her pouting, I carried Twinkleshine down the stairs with my magic. The last thing we needed was her tripping while I was distracted and breaking her horn, or neck, or anything else.
I sighed as Twinkleshine finally fell asleep. Getting her to put off investigating the universe until after a good morning’s rest had been nearly impossible, requiring a promise that I would wait for her and several reassurances that the universe would also wait for her.
Anyway, as much as I’d love to snuggle into some blankets myself, I still had some things to do. The rest of my crew were as much my responsibility as Twinkleshine was, and with only one translator among them, they probably could use some help. If nothing else, I’d make sure they all found somewhere to sleep that was as cozy as the palace room Chamomile had provided for Twinkleshine.
As I headed for the door, I caught sight of my reflection in a mirror. Double checking that the door was closed and that Twinkleshine was asleep, I took a moment to look myself over.
That wasn’t something I heard everyday. I was a little overweight for my age, although that would probably disappear as I grew taller. I didn’t exactly pay much attention to my appearance in any other way, either. Even my mane and tail I just cut in a straight line when they got too long.
Well, it wasn’t as if I really cared too much, but the flattery was nice. Besides, even if it was generalizing from only three data points, I’d probably grow up into a beauty as an alicorn.
Right then. I spun around toward the door, opened it, and marched straight out. Chamomile was still waiting for me.
“Is there anything else you need, Your High…”
I gave Chamomile a small, sad frown.
Switching to a smile, I said, “You’ll get it eventually.”
I’d probably spend a lot of time up here in the future digging through history, and Chamomile seemed like decent enough company, if perhaps surprisingly easy to fluster with informality.
Ooh! Maybe I’d even get to watch Luna try to paint the past thousand years.
Actually, yikes. A thousand years was a long time; painting them would be quite a task, now that I thought about it, a true labor of love. And Luna probably only had second hoof information for a lot of it, too. Maybe she wouldn’t even continue it…
“Anyway,” I began, “I’m going to need another six beds for my friends and myself. And breakfast when we get up, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Of course. I’ll tell Pumpkin to bring breakfast up to the castle. Would you care for anything in particular?”
“Hmm… Do you know what pancakes are?” Getting a nod, I added, “With blueberries and orange juice?”
A momentary frown flashed through Chamomile’s face before she spoke. “I believe we might be out of blueberries after tonight, but I’ll make the request.”
How unfortunate. Blueberry pancakes were pretty great. Spike really liked them, too, especially with chunks of – oh.
“If you could bring me a pile of carbon as well, I’d appreciate it. Spike gets a bit testy when he doesn’t get any gems.”
“Carbon?” Chamomile asked, clearly confused. Carbon was one of the oldest known elements, so that wasn’t the problem.
Clarifying myself, I said, “I’ll make a diamond for him with it.”
“Ah,” Chamomile said, her face lighting up in recognition. “I heard there was a dragon here, but I never saw one. Are – are they not bigger than houses?”
I couldn’t help snickering at that. Sure, Spike would be a dozen meters tall in a century or two, but he’d be shorter than me for decades to come. Honestly, I had a hard time picturing Spike as a giant, hungry dragon. Well actually, the hungry part was pretty easy to see.
“Spike is just a baby dragon,” I said. “He’s not even my height yet; it’s very easy to miss him in a crowd of ponies.”
“Oh,” Chamomile said, faintly blushing. “I see. Sorry for presuming that…never mind. I’ll go prepare those bedrooms and await your return in the courtyard.”
As I watched her go, I idly thought about how I could thank Chamomile. She’d been really helpful, far more than so than anypony at Canterlot Castle had ever been. Then again, that could be the difference between being a princess and being a princess’s friend at work.
Oh well. I’d ask Luna what a good gift idea would be for a moon pony later. Right now, I had to deal with Cherry Berry. Hopefully Crescent had warned everypony not to feed her information before she got to them.
“You’re a goddess?” Cherry Berry half-shouted at me in Old Equestrian. Berry Punch, Berry Pinch, and Spike were with us, too, as we wandered about looking for the rest of our merry band; Cherry Berry at least had the decency to do this in private. Oddly enough, her tone was some weird mixture of fear, excitement, and annoyance, as if she couldn’t make up her mind on how she wanted to approach me and decided to try everything.
“More like a filly goddess,” I said. I was pretty sure that Cherry Berry wouldn’t buy the extended family argument anymore. I wouldn’t have erased her memories anyway, but if I did, it would leave a rather gapping, obvious hole in her memory that would make her suspicious. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention that to anypony.”
“No, no, no. You’re a goddess!”
“Well, again, more like a filly goddess. I’m still not a proper alicorn yet.”
If I were, I’d have just been to Mona and back as a pleasant morning teleport. Not that I was going to put that into Cherry Berry’s head if I could help it.
“No. Just – princess, sure. But goddess?”
Frowning, I said, “You’re acting like you weren’t alive when Ca – when Princess Mi Amore Cadenza appeared out of nowhere. Where did you think goddesses came from? The æther?”
I might as well have thrown a brick in her face for how stunned Cherry Berry looked.
“Look, I wouldn’t mind if you told anypony if ponies didn’t react exactly like you are right now.” And also if they couldn’t spread the information back on Equus, but Cherry Berry didn’t need to know that. “I’d like to live the rest of my unicorn years in peace, if you would be so kind as to let me.”
“But… But… But…” Cherry Berry was really impressing me with her vocabulary.
This was really dumb, but it’d probably snap her out of her stupor. “You can write my biography, if you want.”
“What? Really? Wait. Hang on. That’s not important right now.”
Sighing, I stopped walking, drawing Cherry Berry’s gaze to myself. Locking eyes, I said, “Look, you knowing won’t change my behavioral patterns toward you or anypony else. I don’t see what the big deal is.”
“Well of course you wouldn’t. When you find out somepony is a goddess, you just go, ‘Welcome to the club.’”
Heh. ‘Welcome to the club’. I could imagine it now. The next time a pony ascended unsupervised like Cadance, I would just walk up to her, give her an unimpressed look, and then throw out that line along with a gift basket before walking away. Stars, that would be hilarious.
Sort of. Okay, so it wasn’t actually that funny. And it would probably take years to move past the horrible first impression. And it was just a little mean spirited in general.
Hmm… Alright, maybe I shouldn’t.
I sighed as Cherry Berry continued rambling about how this changed everything, only listening to every other word. Eventually, I spotted Fluttershy and Dash sitting together at a table that had obviously been moved away from the others.
“Not very subtle, Fluttershy,” I mumbled to myself.
The two of them were busy eating…something cold and soft looking with the oddest shade of green, so they didn’t notice our approach. It also didn’t help them that they were pretty distracted with each other.
“I hope we’re not interrupting,” I said. Fluttershy flushed immediately, but it wasn’t until I spoke again that Dash joined her. “You realize you’ve got each other’s feathers in your manes, right?”
Part of me wondered what they’d have to have been up to for that to have happened, but most of me was just wondering where they’d gotten up to it at. I didn’t want to have to go apologizing to a random local for having their house broken into and their bed used.
Somehow less beet red than Dash, Fluttershy managed to whisper, “It’s a pegasus thing…”
Hmm… They were sort of ordered, and there were only a few.
“Right, well anyway,” I began, “I’m not here to tease you until you stop being embarrassed right now. I’m rounding everypony up to get them to a bed in the palace. I asked for six beds, but do we only need five?”
“Twi!” Dash moaned. “Please stop.”
Please? Oh my, I might have broken Dash.
“Alright.” There’d be plenty of time for that later. “Seriously though, if you’re getting tired, you can come with us, and I’ll take you to our bedrooms. Or you two can fly up to the palace courtyard later and wait for a pony named Chamomile.”
“That was the name!” Cherry Berry exclaimed, still in Old Equestrian.
“What do you think, Flutters?” Dash asked. “You up for a small flight?”
“Um… I think I would prefer to teleport, if you don’t mind.”
“Yeah, that’s fine.” Turning from Fluttershy to me, Dash said, “Give us a couple minutes to polish this off. Then we’ll catch up to you.”
Alright, that was two more down. All we were missing now was Pinkie Pie, and she should be easy to find. All we had to do was follow the noise. We’d barely taken two steps before Cherry Berry started up again.
“That was driving me crazy. Trying to remember her name, that is. I was more caught up in the fact that you have a cniht of all things. There hasn’t been a cniht in Equestria in centuries. I’d bet Princess Celestia doesn’t even remember how to make them.”
“Sorry, that word isn’t in my vocabulary. What’s a cniht?”
“You know,” Cherry Berry said, switching languages for a moment, “a knight.”
“I have a what?”
“A cniht! A protector! Somepony who dedicates their life to your defense specifically. Most often found in–”
“I know what a knight is,” I interrupted. “What I want to know is why you think I have a subject of four and a half centuries of romantic literature in my…service?”
“Because you do!”
Wait, if I remembered correctly… “You’re not talking about Twinkleshine, are you? Chamomile referred to her as ‘Dame Twinkleshine’ before. It’s probably just a misunderstanding.”
“No.” Cherry Berry stomped her hoof with the word. “Everypony I talked to was very clear that it was a pony named Chamomile. She’s some sort of hybrid assassin slash lady’s companion.”
Oh please, those were two entirely different skill sets. That just made the idea even more ridiculous.
“Why on Equus would somepony want a maid for an assassin?” I asked. “I mean, sure, the first self-defense assassination…” Had I really just said that? “Um… It would be a huge surprise, but after that, nopony in Equestria wouldn’t know about her.”
“A lady’s companion isn’t a maid,” replied Cherry Berry, as if I’d just said a fireball spell was the same as a light spell. “They’re more like paid friends or extended family.”
That definitely deserved an eyebrow raise. I was probably confusing a lady’s companion with a lady’s maid – apparently – but the idea was so weird. Why not just be friends?
“The whole concept is really archaic,” Cherry Berry continued, reading my mind, “from when – wait, that’s not important! How could you not know you have a knight? You had to have accepted her vows.”
I sighed. “Okay, look. If you won’t believe me, why don’t we just go ask Chamomile herself? She’s not my knight, and I don’t want her to be. I’m sure she’ll agree.”
Trotting in front of me, Cherry Berry turned and looked me in the eyes. “Don’t do that. There’s an old story about Princess Celestia dismissing Aurora Shield – one of her knights, of course – who committed suicide a few days later.”
“The knight position was taken very seriously, Twilight.”
I stood still with my mouth half-open. I did not want somepony’s suicide on my conscience, even if it really wouldn’t be my fault. Maybe it was time to take Cherry Berry seriously.
Okay, so I didn’t have a knight, or at least not in the way Cherry Berry had put it. I certainly hadn’t accepted anypony’s knightly vows – whatever they were – but there must have been something going on. If Dash or Pinkie Pie were the one telling me, I would have dismissed it as a prank, but that wasn’t Cherry Berry’s shtick.
What were the possibilities, then? Cherry Berry could be misunderstanding something. Maybe Chamomile was Luna’s knight. That would make a lot of sense. Luna had mentioned a few years ago that she was re-forming the night guard. Then again, maybe Luna had accepted Chamomile’s service on my behalf, considering I was a minor.
No, that couldn’t be it. This sounded an awful lot like something that ignored the age of majority laws. But then Luna was also a diarch, and I wasn’t actually a legally recognized princess, or at least I probably wasn’t. She could just do whatever she wanted, although she’d have to be willing to eschew tradition and not ask me first or tell me anything about Chamomile. Luna wouldn’t do that.
Unless, of course, she’d planned to but had gotten distracted halfway…
Suddenly, my eyes were assaulted with a pink hoof waving widely in front of them.
“Moon to Twilight,” Cherry Berry said.
“Sorry, I got distracted. But seriously, Chamomile isn’t my knight to the best of my knowledge. I’ll talk to Luna, but asking me–”
Cherry Berry gasped. “Princess Luna returned?”
I couldn’t help but smile like a giddy schoolfilly.
“Yes, she has. Speaking of whom, Luna has something up in the palace I bet you’d love to see. Asking me about Chamomile won’t do you any good, so if you’ve still got this much energy to burn off, I’d suggest that as a distraction.”
Hesitating for a second, Cherry Berry finally asked, “What is it?”
“Find out for yourself,” I said, teleporting her into the castle’s entryway. Despite her initial protestations to bring her back, it only took her a moment or two to get distracted by Luna’s art, exactly as planned. I cut off my scrying spells and briefly explained to Berry Punch what had just happened.
As a bonus, Cherry Berry had completely forgot to keep pestering me about being a princess or goddess, too. I’d have to thank Luna for the diversion later.
I jumped on Luna the moment she appeared. It wasn’t much to compensate, but it was a small step toward recovering from a dearth of Luna’s hugs and nuzzles.
“Happy Solstice, Luna!”
“I missed you, too, Twilight.” After we finally broke apart, Luna asked, “I take it you enjoyed the Winter Moon Festival?”
That was sort of an unfair question. There was a whole lot of distracting background noise to really say. There was my totally justified panic attack, Twinkleshine’s song, and Cherry Berry’s nonsense. I hadn’t had much time to enjoy or hate the actual festival just for itself.
The music had been nice, and the food had been great. All the ponies were friendly, but they had also treated me like a princess, which looking back on it, was really a mixed blessing. I’d only been half-joking when I’d told Chamomile that I liked ponies doing things for me. It was really convenient. Twinkleshine was nice and helpful, but I really did need an assistant from time to time.
“Was it really that bad?” Luna asked. She was making an obviously fake sad face.
I shook my head. “Sorry, I was preoccupied by other things that happened. Moon food is pretty great, though!” Exercising my control over my dream, I conjured up some of that butterscotch thing Twinkleshine had brought me. “And they made this…thing! Did you give them the recipe? It was amazing!”
With an absolutely disgusted look, Luna prodded my imaginary treat with a forehoof.
“I did…but please tell me you didn’t eat this much butterscotch toffee.”
I nodded through a mouthful of the stuff. Its siren call was too strong to resist.
“Ugh. Even a filly your age should get sick after eating this. I can eat whatever I want, and I bet I’d still be unable to keep this down.”
Rolling my eyes, I swallowed and then said, “On the topic of you telling the moon ponies things, I think I need to lodge a complaint or two.”
“Oh? And whatever could they be, my little princess?”
“That’s one of them,” I grumbled.
While Luna was constructing an elaborate illusion, she said, “Of course it is. I do know you quite well, but it was for the best. Better your first experience with princesshood is in a warm and welcoming environment with ponies who respect and adore you.”
Finished with her spell, I found myself standing atop a throne with hundreds of ponies looking up at me expectantly.
Everything paused for a moment while Luna asked, “They did respect and adore you, right?”
Bookkeeper had acted pretty scared and jittery, but other than that, the phrase was pretty accurate. I nodded, and everypony returned to life.
Nopony in the room looked quite like they knew what to make of me. A wingful looked contemplative, and a few were openly hostile, but the majority had the kind of single minded focus that was practically a prerequisite to joining the royal guard. I had this ominous feeling that I was going to be judged entirely by the next thing I did.
“It’s a big difference, isn’t it?” Luna asked quietly.
I managed a weak, “Uh-huh.”
“This is one of my earliest memories; it’s from just after I formally ascended to the throne. All it was supposed to be was a little meet and greet.” Luna paused for a sigh. “It turned into a complete disaster. I was too young and too unversed in the ruling arts. I was suited for the field of battle then and little else.”
“What happened?” I asked, only for Luna to wince.
Before I could apologize, Luna said, “It suffices to say that nopony showed up to the night court for some time, myself included. When you spend the first several decades of your life either terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought or fighting for your life, peace is a difficult change. If you want to know the full story, go down the fourth hallway on the left from the main entrance of the castle.”
With a flash of her horn, Luna banished her illusion. In a few moments, it was replaced with an impressive vista of a frozen forest from atop a tower. We were on a balcony without any railing – which wasn’t really an issue in a dream – and behind us was a small room. Judging by the contents, it was a bedroom, but it was hard to be sure. The longer I looked, the harder it was to focus on any particular object inside.
“I’m afraid I don’t really remember what my bedroom looked like.”
I nearly jumped when Luna spoke and broke my concentration.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the view from it, though. Winter in the Everfree was a gorgeous sight.”
That was what it was! We were above the Everfree Forest, and those were the Macintosh Hills off in the distance. Things really had changed a lot in a thousand years. The Everfree actually looked bright and cheery right now. Without the fog and the incredibly dense canopy, it actually managed to be inviting.
Turning to Luna, I asked, “Is this really accurate? I mean, it’s a huge change from the modern version.”
“Well, it might be a bit idealized, but it should be reasonably close.”
“Huh. I never expected the Everfree could be so nice.”
“Sooooo…” Luna trailed off expectantly, poking me with a wing.
I rolled my eyes; this was about as subtle as a hungry dragon. “Fine, being a princess wasn’t so bad. I didn’t have any real responsibilities, though.”
“Perhaps, but it’s still nice to hear.”
It wasn’t like I was going to give up my ascension over a few negative perks. Not that I couldn’t appreciate what it meant for things to be said aloud instead of merely understood.
“Tea?” Luna asked, pulling both the drinks and an extra large cushion out of nowhere.
I cocked my head to the side as Luna sat down. There was obviously plenty of room next to her for me, so I wasn’t going to say no, but Luna had never been the tea type, and I wasn’t either. And this was more of a hot chocolate moment, too.
Although the tea did remind me of my other complaint. It was almost as if–
“Wait a second,” I said, tripping over my own hooves as I tried to jump to them. Cushions were officially being listed under hazardous terrain. Just before I face planted, Luna caught me with her magic and sat me back down.
“Thanks,” I mumbled. “But this is chamomile tea, isn’t it?”
Nodding, Luna added, “Laced with honey for sweet toothed ponies.”
Well…that actually sounded pretty good. Not that I was going to be distracted when I practically had my other complaint put up on a billboard right in front of me, which meant Luna was expecting it.
Oh stars. It finally clicked that if Luna was expecting this, then Chamomile really was my knight. Maybe not in those exact terms, but there was something going on. How badly would Luna be offended if I said I didn’t want or need her? They were probably friends if Luna asked her specifically to protect me.
Wait, if they were friends, maybe I should think about this first. Luna hadn’t introduced me to any of her friends on Equus, if she even had any there, but I certainly wanted to meet them. I’d already met Chamomile, and I supposed I’d like to get to know her better, but I still–
“You know,” Luna began, interrupting my train of thought, “the first time somepony told me the story of Princess Frost and Sir Arrow, I nearly had a conniption. To think that somepony could reduce knighthood to some silly love affair. It was perhaps the biggest insult anypony could have thrown at many of my truest and loyalest friends, many of whom laid down their lives for me.”
Luna paused for a rather long sip of tea, long enough that she actually emptied her cup in one go.
“A week later when I’d calmed down, I was so embarrassed when I realized it was all my fault. I made quite a habit of sleeping with my knights.”
Or better put, spending nights with her knights.
Okay, that was awful. I was so glad I hadn’t said that aloud.
Anyway, what Luna said likely wasn’t completely accurate based on what Cherry Berry and Luna had already said on the subject. She didn’t sleep with her knights; she made knights of ponies she was already willing to sleep with. Not that I thought the reverse implication was true, either. I was sure there were plenty of ponies Luna had been intimate with that weren’t her knights and vice versa.
But I thought I knew what Luna was getting at.
“So what you’re trying to say,” I began, “is that you trusted your knights enough to be at your most vulnerable around them.”
“Partially. As an alicorn, you will need no protection. The only ponies who could truly aid you when you would be unable to aid yourself are other alicorns. Why then do we have a guard?”
“To deal with the rabble,” I said automatically, the answer obvious. “We only get one second per second like everypony else, even if we get more of them in the end. We don’t have time to deal with every little brawl, riot, invasion, or whatever.”
As much as Shining liked to say that his duty was to protect Celestia, it was fairly obvious that his real duty was to keep order around her. Anything strong enough to be an actual threat to her would require her direct attention.
As an afterthought, I added, “Actually, if we study Pinkie Pie, we might be able to figure out how to make that a moot point.”
“Oh, yes. That’s actually near the middle of my list of things to do when I’m free, although it would still be rather tedious to deal with everything personally.”
I looked up at Luna properly and asked, “What’s more important than time magic? I mean, besides the obvious immediate concerns.”
“Well, I primarily planned to start with a culture binge. I’ve tried to stay in touch with the world’s developments, but I mainly have only second hoof experience. I thought I’d start with popcorn and movies.”
“Wait, so you just want to lay around for a few weeks doing nothing but that?”
“I doubt it would be nothing but movies, but yes. It shall be glorious fun.” The inflection in Luna’s voice when she said the word glorious was nothing short of laughable, but I managed to keep my chuckling down. “I’d love it if you’d join me.”
A few weeks relaxing with Luna? “Of course!”
Luna took a moment to smile at me before returning to the topic at hoof.
“Knights, as you said, are trustworthy. You can be at ease around them, but that means more than you said. Yes, you can trust them with your secrets, your hurts, your desires. But they are also the ponies that let us sleep peacefully. They are the ponies that allow us to enjoy life without constantly glancing toward the shadows or preparing for what lurks around a corner.”
“But they aren’t any stronger than any other guard,” I protested. “Even if they’re specifically guarding only you, why would that matter?”
“Actually, although this is not terribly important in this context, when somepony becomes a knight for an alicorn, the knight is typically granted a small blessing of power. Do you remember how I promised to give you my blessing to raise the moon?”
I merely gave Luna a look that said everything for me.
“I meant that figuratively then, as you should be an alicorn by the time I could do so, but here I mean it literally. As the Alicorn of Magic, I suspect you will be able to give particularly useful blessings aside from any additional enchantments you choose to cast.”
Huh. Some of the strange things in the oldest knightly romances suddenly made a lot more sense. In the story Luna mentioned in particular – which was a classic, even if it was an offensive classic – Sir Arrow did a lot of things that should have been impossible for an earth pony. I’d just assumed artistic license was in effect at the time, and maybe a little bit of wish fulfillment on the author’s part as well.
“Anyway, if you get a knight, I would not encourage you to abandon all of your own wards and defenses, but neither should you be overly paranoid while they watch over you. Nearly all true threats to you – such as sleeping spells – can be negated by a few seconds of early warning. The job of a knight is to provide that warning, whether or not they are themselves also capable of dealing with whoever is threatening you.”
“But what about all those stories of questing?”
Luna faked a cough. “Well…they vow to obey you in all things, including in epic quests for fetching snacks. Also, if you’re feeling too lazy to lead a campaign into battle because you stayed up all morning reading a book. Or if it’s one of those days when getting out of bed–”
“I get it,” I interrupted. “You’re sort of breaking a lot of illusions I had right now.”
Luna giggling wasn’t helping me get over the minor emotional trauma of hearing dramatic historical and literary moments condensed into ‘because I was tired’ and ‘because I just couldn’t be bothered’.
After a prolonged lull in the conversation, I finally recovered enough from my daze to speak.
“You said if. Cherry Berry said Chamomile is or is supposed to be my knight. And that she’s an assassin maid, but…what’s so funny?”
“No, it’s just, I think I’ll be referring to Chamomile as an assassin maid from now on. The title certainly suits her. I should decree that her work uniform should be a maid outfit, regardless of the impracticality.”
Sighing first, I asked, “Are you going to explain?”
“Yes, yes. Where to begin… Do you know that her special talent is tea making?”
I nodded. She was pretty good at it, too, despite her earlier complaining of never getting put it into practice.
Luna held her own tea forward and gestured toward it. “By the way, this is one of her creations.” After taking another drink she continued, “Anyway, Chamomile expressed interest in what I needed at the time, namely a sparring partner, and she was an agreeable young mare. Seeing that she was struggling to find a job on the moon she would enjoy, I offered her the position. Officially, she was called my lady’s companion, which is no doubt where the maid confusion is coming from.”
“Wouldn’t she have been better called a page?” I asked. That fit the job description much better. She performed small tasks for Luna and helped Luna with combat training, which was effectively what a page did.
Luna merely shrugged at my question. “If you ever decide to spar with her, watch out for small cuts. She is very good with her poisons.”
Ah. So that was where the assassin part came from.
“Oh, and if she ever suggests you enjoy a soothing cup of post-spar ednorog tea, politely decline. It’s unicorn bane, which is unpleasant even for alicorns to drink.”
“Wow, what a dirty trick.” Pretty fitting for an assassin, though.
“Heh. Quite. But I paid her back for it tenfold later. Anyway, about three years ago, I gave her the captaincy of the night guard, however small it is right now. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I played with the idea of asking if she would be willing to be your knight.” Chuckling, Luna added, “She actually swooned when I brought it up.”
“Wait, so she is my knight?”
“No, not at all. I merely asked if she would be open to the idea, which obviously, she was. The decision is entirely up to you, although I wouldn’t suggest making it anytime soon. As much as I will recommend her and as much as it would let me sleep better knowing she’s looking after you, I want to stress that the decision is completely in your and her hooves. If you don’t like each other, if you can’t trust each other, the arrangement would be a disaster.”
“But you think we will,” I commented. Luna wouldn’t have even mentioned it if she hadn’t. Chamomile had been really nice so far, but it was impossible to tell if that was how she normally acted or if she was just trying to make a good impression.
“Yes, I imagine you two will get along very well, although I should warn you that she reads purely for entertainment, not to learn.”
What a deal breaker. It wasn’t like I put up with a pegasus that simply hated reading on a daily basis.
“Well, if I can get Cherry Berry to calm down properly, I don’t see any fundamental problems with it, I suppose. We have enough food to feed her.”
“Not that I’m saying I want a knight, but…I could consider it.”
It would probably appease Cherry Berry, too, if we took a living part of the moon with us, and Twinkleshine would be thrilled. And Chamomile might be able to help turn some of Dash’s energy away from pranks and toward…flying competitions or something. Anything other than making a mess in my library would be great.
“I didn’t mean for you to take her with,” Luna said. “You’re welcome to ask her, of course, but I intended for you to put the decision off for another six to seven years. After all, you don’t really need a space knight.”
No, I certainly did not. The ship was so overprotected against accidents that the only really bad thing that could happen would be Celestia appearing out of nowhere.
“But,” Luna continued, “whether or not you accept her as a knight, if you took her with, Chamomile would have a chance to be immersed in modern culture before she first arrives on Equus. It would also give her the opportunity to learn Modern Equestrian as well, a task I was not looking forward to performing. You don’t have to, but if she’s willing, I think it would be good for everypony if you took her with.”
Well, like I’d said, we had enough food. As long as Chamomile didn’t expect anything beyond the invitation, it would work out fine. Finding space for her was actually the biggest problem. I didn’t expect her to have too much luggage, but we’d have to make a new bed, and somepony would have to share their room.
We could always shove Dash and Fluttershy into the same space; they share a room often enough already. Now wasn’t really an appropriate time to invite Twinkleshine into mine, although I could share with Chamomile. I spent most of my time in the library after all. But then I already shared a room with Spike. But his bed was small, and he crawled into mine more often than not.
Pinkie Pie wouldn’t mind sharing at all, but that was a surefire way to make Chamomile regret leaving the moon. Then again, we could always commandeer some of the open space on the bridge for a new room, or I could melt off some of the outer glass on the Nebulous and simply make a new room. It shouldn’t compromise the hull anywhere if I take evenly from everywhere.
“I’m sure I could make it work,” I began. “We don’t really need the help, but I guess it would let the others take days off more often with an extra set of hooves and wings around.”
Well, sort of. Chamomile could do manual labor and pegasus work, which unfortunately meant Dash could procrastinate even more than ever. Sigh. Whatever. As long as the work got done and I had food, it didn’t really matter to me who did it.
But then again, I was sort of wishing for an assistant lately. Chamomile could fill that role nicely. Even if she’d just keep the library organized for me, that would be enough. Still, that was a matter for later.
I hopped off the cushion and walked in front of Luna. Seeing as I didn’t have anything else to complain about, it was time for a change of pace.
“Want to reenact the Battle of Crystal Plains?” I asked, although I was using the word ‘reenact’ rather loosely. The fine details of the actual battle were lost to time. We didn’t even know who won or why they were fighting. All we really knew for sure was it was one of the largest scale military engagements just prior to the founding of Equestria.
“Wouldn’t you rather have a nice, quiet solstice? We can do that again tomorrow.”
“Well…we could.” But then I might not have a chance to use the excellent cheap move that popped into my mind a few minutes ago.
Actually wavering under the pressure of my frown and fake tears, Luna begrudgingly said, “All right.”
“Yes!” My sad face was getting better!
“But only if I get the combined forces of Earth and Pegasopolis,” Luna added. “I’m not in the mood to micromanage hundreds of unicorns right now.”
I sent a quick questioning glance Luna’s way but didn’t comment. Luna usually took Unicornia because she greatly preferred their tactical flexibility. And because it forced me to work with and learn earth pony and pegasus magic, but mostly because of the former.
“I’ll get started on the landscape,” I said. “Would you build the structures?”
Anyway, if Luna didn’t want to force me to play with unfamiliar abilities, so much the better. All I had to do was bide my time to launch a surprise attack when Luna was distracted. At the opportune moment, when Luna had dropped her guard, assured in her victory, I’d tell her that Twinkleshine had kissed me. Then my victory would be assured.
I woke up with Spike snoring in my hooves, still pretty disappointed that my trick hadn’t worked. Luna had just smirked as her forces rolled over mine. Sigh. Maybe I should reread The Art of War. Ooh, actually, I should talk to that Bookkeeper mare and ask for books on military strategy. I’d probably be able to find more here than back in modern Equestria. Maybe.
Oh well. I could just lay here for hours; this was an exceptionally good cloud bed. Dash, for all her other prodigious talents and as ironic as it was, was terrible at making soft clouds. For some unimaginable reason, she liked hard beds, and that was all she could really make. And Fluttershy…didn’t really do pegasus magic. Maybe I should ask Chamomile to come along solely for whatever bed-making prowess she possessed.
Heh. Chamomile the bed knight. Eh, the dream knight? No! The pillow knight! ‘I vow to defend the pillow fort from the dread advances of the evil Princess Cadance at the behest of Princess Twilight.’ Perfect. The next time I had a pillow fight with Cadance, I’d have proper backup instead of that two-faced brother of mine. Betraying me for his marefriend at the end. What a jerk.
The door slammed open and Spike jumped awake, nearly cutting me with his claws. I really needed to remember to file the points off of those sometime soon.
“Twilight! It’s morning! Er, it’s afternoon! It’s time to look at the stars before it’s too late!”
I groaned before I could help myself.
“Oh, um, sorry. Were you not awake?”
“No!” shouted Spike.
Giggling to myself first, I said, “Yes, but not for long enough. Go ahead and set up. I’ll just cocoon myself in a blanket.” With Spike diving back under the covers and holding tight to my barrel, I added, “Spike, too.”
“Alright,” Twinkleshine replied, much more subdued than earlier. “I’ll have everything ready in a minute or so. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to look this time.”
Casting my voice with a spell so I didn’t have to shout through my cocoon, I said, “You really don’t have anything to apologize for, you know.”
Twinkleshine made no response, so I poked a scrying spell outside my blankets. She had this unpleasantly neutral frown, but at least she wasn’t crying or anything. I really wished I had a magical instant fix for everything, but that was life, I supposed.
“Twilight, yesterday, I – I didn’t mean everything I said. I wanted to…apologize.”
Ugh, that last word was rather reluctantly given life.
When Twinkleshine didn’t continue, I said, “I’m still pretty new at this, so please bear with me. First, I forgave you after every word for what little was necessary to. It’s obvious you needed to say each and every last word that came out of your mouth yesterday.” At this point, I managed to stick my head out of the bottom side of my blanket. “And by the way, that song still was really sweet.”
“T-thanks,” Twinkleshine stammered, her blush obvious against her coat.
“Second, I really appreciate this and that you’re trying, but please don’t sweep our problems under the rug. I really should have talked with you sooner, but I kept putting it off.” I felt like I should have had more to say, but all I managed to come up with was a simple, “Sorry.”
After a short whimper, Twinkleshine asked, “You’re really not going to let me take the easy way out, are you?”
“Uh-uh.” I slipped my head back under the covers and tried to properly snuggle back in with Spike, who had somehow managed to get back to sleep already. “Let me know when you’re ready.”
“It’ll only take a second or two. I just need to – that can’t be right. Hang on, let me just try again with a better spell.”
“Take your time,” I said through a yawn.
Some time later, I finally felt Twinkleshine finish her casting, the only flow of magic leaving her coming from her continued hold on the spell.
“Um…Twilight? Did Princess Luna ever tell you what we should expect to see?”
“No. Why?” I asked, struggling back out from under my blankets.
“Because we’re really close to a whole lot of things I don’t want to be close to.”
Oh my. Twinkleshine’s spell had just about everything spacey in it. There were several nebulas, all with distinct shapes, and there were at least hundreds of thousands of visible stars, but I could be off by an order of magnitude or two. I thought I could even see a quasar, but surely that wasn’t possible. Right?
“How close did you say we were?”
“Too close,” Twinkleshine squeaked.
“Huh. Well, unless we’re astronomically unlucky, nothing terrible is going to happen in a single night.” Twinkleshine didn’t say anything until after I added, “By the way, lovingly rendered as usual. Good work.”
“Right. Thanks. I – I guess you’re right.”
Hmm… Looking at the image again, the configuration it depicted really shouldn’t be a natural formation. Gravitational forces should have ripped this arrangement of stars and dust to pieces a long time ago, so this was probably some of Luna’s recent – er, astronomically recent work, but it didn’t really have any apparent rhyme or reason. It was all just sort of clumped together, like looking at…
“Twinkleshine, we might be looking at Luna’s doodles. Or rough drafts or something. Stellar engineering probably isn’t as easy as simply putting stars somewhere and sending them on their merry way.”
“Oh. Oh! Wow! I – it’s one thing when you told me she can move the stars, but I guess it never really sunk in.” Twinkleshine took a step toward her illusion and gazed at it with a newfound awe. “You don’t think this is a stable system, do you?”
I gave a quick once-over over the nearby universe, picking out all of the large chunks that I might call subsystems. I stopped once I’d reached the double digits, since there really wasn’t a point in counting higher.
“If Luna solved the general n-body problem a thousand years ago, she needs, like, a weekly celebration of her unrivaled genius.”
A moment of silence passed as the obvious occurred to both of us.
“Twilight, isn’t the first day of the week named after Princess Luna?”
“No, no, no. That etymology is totally unrelated.”
Seriously, it was. Luna’s name just happened to mean ‘moon’ in the language the calender was originally developed in. It was just a coincidence.
Twinkleshine’s horn lit up, and a giant pile of paper flew over to her from inside her saddlebags she’d left by the doorway. It only took her a few seconds to get a spell going on a quill to copy down her illusion onto the paper. I really needed to dig up a book on camera magic for Twinkleshine at some point, because this was an awfully slow and sloppy spell. It got the job done, but not much more than that.
“Hey, has Princess Luna named any of these things yet?” Twinkleshine asked. She had the same half-mad smile she’d had when I’d told her about the moon ponies.
“Not to my knowledge. Feel free to name your name into history–”
Yelling dangerously close to the level required to wake Spike, Twinkleshine jumped into the air. “On it!”
“–unless told otherwise later.”
I wasn’t sure if Twinkleshine heard me or not. She was already on an endless ramble describing the cosmic formations in front of her. Every ten seconds or so, she’d write something down. Usually it was a name with some coordinates, but occasionally she’d make a longer note.
Yawning, I settled down into as comfortable a position as I could find with my head still poking out and mostly right-side up.
It was at least an hour later, maybe more. Even with a window, there was no moon in the sky – at least not one I could see with the naked eye – which made it incredibly difficult to tell time, but I had a feeling I was right. Considering it was winter back on Equus, we were probably only an hour or two off from moonrise, and Twinkleshine knew it. She’d given up naming literally everything in the sky a little while ago in favor of trying to make pictures of the entire sky instead.
Both were, in my opinion, rather ambitious and tedious tasks. Sure, there was a lot of spellcasting to be done, but it was repetitive spellcasting with the only variation being the part of the sky you got to see next. Twinkleshine fortunately hadn’t asked me for help after she’d stopped the naming phase of her efforts, for which I was eternally grateful.
“And then he met He – Heph – Hefa…”
“Hephaestus?” I finished for Spike.
“Yeah! Him! Orion met him! And there was a big battle! Whoosh!” Spike swung an imaginary sword.
If I wasn’t wrong, he was reenacting a battle against Hephaestus’s servant, Cedalion. It wasn’t exactly an accurate recounting of the myth of Orion, but it was always nice when Luna made time for Spike. Besides, the original version was pretty bloody and disturbing, which was far from appropriate for him.
I nudged Spike back onto the bed with my magic when he nearly fell off. He probably didn’t even notice, considering how involved with his performance he was.
“And then Orion went, ‘Roar! I’ve won!’”
Suppressing my fit of giggles, I said, “That was a pretty good battle cry, Spike. You can color me impressed.”
A knock came at the door as Spike reprised his performance. It was shortly followed by Chamomile asking permission to enter.
“Good afternoon, Chamomile,” I said.
“Good afternoon” – there was only the slightest hesitation before Chamomile continued – “Twilight. Breakfast is ready whenever you and your companions are.”
Nodding, I prodded Twinkleshine with my magic. She still hadn’t noticed that we had company.
“Huh? What is it, Twilight?”
“Yes!” Spike answered for her. “I’m hungry.”
“Well, I suppose that’s that,” I said. “Are you coming with?”
“Um…” Twinkleshine looked between me, her current illusion, and her gigantic stack of parchment. I honestly thought she had enough to keep her preoccupied for a decade or more, but I could understand the compulsion for completeness.
“You can bring everything with you, you know.”
It took a while and a little coaxing, but Twinkleshine finally agreed to come eat. I couldn’t help noticing that she didn’t look like she was regretting how much she ate yesterday as she’d claimed she would. Hopefully she hadn’t left an unpleasant surprise in her room for whoever had to clean it.
“We’ll be along in a minute,” I said to Chamomile. “Could you wake up everypony else?”
“Of course. I’ll meet you right outside in the hallway with the rest of your companions.”
Chamomile excused herself with a small bow, leaving the three of us to prepare for the day. Spike, as annoying as it was, never had any morning problems to deal with, but my mane was still a mess. My tail wasn’t faring much better, and Twinkleshine looked like she hadn’t even tried taming her mess of hair before she’d left her room.
A frustratingly long process of unknotting my mane later and I was ready to go. I vaporized the hairs I lost, just in case: I didn’t want to come back here years later to find somepony thought they needed to be enshrined or something. I wanted to destroy the brush I’d borrowed, too, but that would have been pretty rude. It also might have been a historical artifact, considering how old it looked. I’d assume it were a royal brush if it were more elaborate and if Luna’s bedroom weren’t locked.
Anyway, I stepped out into the hallway where everypony except for Fluttershy and our heaviest sleeper, Dash, was waiting for us. Chamomile was missing, too. No doubt she was still busy trying to get Dash up.
“Good afternoon, everypony. How–”
I hadn’t noticed before, but Crescent was standing off to the side with the rest of the crew. After exchanging greetings amongst ourselves, I turned to Crescent and repeated my greeting.
“Good afternoon indeed, Lady Twilight. Have you found everything satisfactory during your stay so far?”
“I have. Chamomile has been very helpful. Is there anything in particular that you needed?”
Crescent nodded slowly. It might have been a bow until he remembered that I’d asked him not to do that.
“You mentioned before that you would be willing to provide a few tips to our enchanters. We would like to bring Luminance as close to its former glory as possible for Princess Luna’s return if you could find the time.”
I’d completely forgotten about that, although I had taken a look at the enchantments woven into the land here after Spike had fallen asleep. They were all rather embarrassingly patchwork, which wasn’t terribly surprising after several dozen generations of unicorns had all worked on them.
“I actually looked at what you have here already, and I can write up a list of suggestions over breakfast.”
Crescent’s jaw hung half-open for a second. “But there was no record of you entering – never mind. I should expect such proficiency from the Princess of Magic herself.”
Ooh, that sounded like there was a magical core to Luminance. I definitely needed to take a look at that before I left.
“Honestly,” I began, “your biggest problem is that you haven’t recast the enchantments. It should be a lot easier to work with a brand new spell than to keep the mess you have going. If you send…um…Astral, was it?” Getting a nod from Crescent, I continued, “If you send him to me later, I can give him a quick overview on what needs to happen. I could suggest some books, too, but my knowledge of the titles in your library here is pretty limited.”
“Bookkeeper knows the library by heart. If you merely provide a summary of what to look for, she should be able to locate a relevant title if we possess it.”
Very impressive if true, but I rather doubted she had every passage of every book memorized. Still, there was no harm in providing the references.
“As for the enchantments that have already faded,” I said, “I can probably write up instructions for them, but I won’t have the time to teach them or to cast a lasting version of the spells.”
“That’s more than enough. We truly appreciate your aid in this matter.”
Yeah, yeah, whatever. I wished I knew if he was asking for Luna’s sake or if it was just to impress Luna. But I wasn’t going to refuse to help even if it were the latter, so it didn’t really matter much.
Crescent made his excuses and went off to find Astral, wishing all of us a good breakfast.
And by all of us, I meant all of us. Chamomile had returned at some point with Fluttershy and Dash. With Chamomile leading, we made our way through the palace toward the dining room. I made note of several paintings I wanted to take a closer look at as we walked, including one that depicted the founding of Luminance.
Just as we arrived at our destination, I pulled Chamomile to the side and away from Cherry Berry in particular. I’d deal with her later, preferably after we’d left the moon.
“Can I have a word?”
“Of course,” Chamomile replied. “Is there anything you need?”
It was one thing to tell Luna I’d ask Chamomile to come with us, but it was pretty awkward to actually bring it up with the mare in question. If she were just some random pony I’d taken an interest in, it wouldn’t be a big deal. The whole knight issue, however, was unbearably troublesome.
I sighed. Might as well just get it over with.
“Chamomile, I – First, I want to be perfectly clear that I’m not promising anything else. When we leave tonight, do you want to come with?”
Chamomile’s squee managed to be of a high enough pitch to leave my ears ringing for a couple seconds. Maybe being a bat pony let her hit higher pitches. Maybe she could even use echo – wait, I needed to stay on topic.
“Assuming that’s a yes–”
“Yes, of course it’s a yes! Thank you! Thank you so much!”
I opened my mouth to try and clamp down on this outburst but ended up saying nothing. I’d already said that I wasn’t promising anything else, so Chamomile could react however she wanted.
Besides…it was a nice, fuzzy feeling being on the opposite side of this kind of happiness, and I didn’t want to let it go. Maybe this was how Luna felt right after she asked me to be her apprentice.
I crushed the idle thought that dared suggest being a princess would be worth it for just this. A few seconds of warm fuzzies – as nice as they were – every couple decades was not commensurate with the amount of tedium that occurred in-between. Not that there weren’t other benefits to balance out the bad. Just, this alone wasn’t worth it.
“Be packed and ready to go by midnight. Luna can carry messages here if she has to, but you won’t be back for years. Be sure to say your goodbyes.”
Chamomile’s eyes widened. “Oh, oh stars, you’re right. I need to go talk to–” Halfway to flying away, Chamomile touched back on the ground and asked, “Please excuse my – do you need me for anything? May I go–”
I gestured for Chamomile to leave with a hoof, adding, “We can take care of ourselves. You don’t have much time left here, so go make the best use of it that you can.”
“Thank you,” Chamomile called back as she flew through the halls. She probably should slow down, but then again, she grew up here. She likely knew the halls well enough to avoid face-planting into them.
Once Chamomile had disappeared around a corner and the faint sound of her wings had died down, I turned back toward the dining room. I likely had a long night ahead of me, and I knew I had a long flight back to the Nebulous in the near future. I was going to need a good breakfast before the day was done.