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[MOONDAY] Infestation Investigation

By Nebulus
Created: 22nd February 2021 05:06:51 PM
Modified: 22nd March 2021 06:49:35 AM

  1. Wanted to write a Luna story, and also wanted to experiment with a shift in perspective and tense. All the stories I've done up until now have been 2nd person present tense, so how about 3rd person past tense for once?
  2.  
  3. Update 22/03/2021: Now on Fimfiction as prose - www.fimfiction.net/story/491252/infestation-investigation
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  5. ---
  6.  
  7. >Princess Luna hummed happily to herself.
  8. >She passed one of the many high-arched windows of one of the many hallways within Canterlot Palace, the elaborate glasswork backlit by the moon that she dutifully raised each night.
  9. >The Princess did not tend to hum very often, and preferred to do so only in her own company.
  10. >Public expressions of joviality from the regents were to be frowned upon, in her opinion.
  11. >This would set her at odds with her sister, but this minor difference was a shrub amidst a forest.
  12. >She and her sister were night and day.
  13. >There were no guards in the hall, and this meant that Luna felt comfortable smiling and even daring to hum.
  14. >Were she feeling so bold, she might even prance, but this would be an unbecoming, nay, frivolous indulgence on her part.
  15. >For now, she trotted, smiled, hummed, and that suited her well.
  16.  
  17. >The Princess arrived at the palace kitchens.
  18. >Any kitchen staff had since retired, given the time of day, and this left Luna alone amidst an impressive display of culinary ordinance.
  19. >Ovens and fryers, fridges and sinks, entire tables dedicated as chopping boards, racks of spices both local and farther afield. It would take one a good minute's walk to navigate its length.
  20. >Luna, however, was not interested in these things.
  21. >She made haste to the far end of the room - clearing it in well under a minute - to the imposing double-doors set into the wall.
  22. >Inside was the pantry, and what a pantry it was.
  23. >Magical enchantments hummed louder than Luna upon entering, the spacious cavern beyond the doors large enough to fit the entire kitchen itself inside twice over. Great luminous spheres hovered silently, filling the space with a soft silver glow.
  24. >The ceiling was as high as a house, and dangling from it were entire plants bearing herbs and fruits, all magically preserved until the moment they were picked by one of the unicorn chefs. Apples would not rot; milk would not spoil; bread would not stale.
  25. >Inside this room, a bounty of food enjoyed immortality.
  26. >Though given Luna's current objective, this immortality would be short-lived for a chosen few.
  27. >As Princess of the Night, Luna was party to a selection of privileges.
  28. >In ages past she might have been bewitched by the seductions of power that came with her office.
  29. >She was an old mare, however. Far older than she felt. A pony of several thousand years, she did not feel a day over a hundred.
  30. >Which is why her smile and her excitement continued to grow as she veered off towards a darkened corner of the pantry not graced with as much light.
  31. >An alcove set into the wall was unremarkable to the casual observer, or the frantic cook looking more at the room's contents than the room itself.
  32. >Yet if one were to look carefully, they would see that one of the mighty stone slabs that made up the wall bore a mason's mark.
  33. >Luna was filled with gleeful anticipation as she pressed her hoof against this sigil, and the rough etching glowed with a midnight blue before the entire slab shuddered.
  34. >Both the slab, and those around it, gave way. The alcove collapsed inward to reveal a hidden room.
  35. >The space was barely large enough for Luna to turn around in, and she had to duck her head to prevent her horn from scraping against the top of the hideaway as she entered.
  36. >A melange of rich smells welcomed her, and the pony chewed her bottom lip as her keen eyes surveyed the delights on display.
  37. >Sweets, fairy cakes, and timeless strawberries to name a few. This was Luna's private stash. A secret she went to great pains to hide from not just the palace staff, but her own sister, whom was known to have an insatiable sweet-tooth.
  38. >No, this humble gathering was hers and hers alone. One of her few truly special privileges as a sovereign of Equestria. It was restocked under cover of darkness by only her most trusted royal guard, each of whom swore themselves to secrecy under threat of exile or worse.
  39. >Thoughts regarding such punishments were coalescing, however.
  40. >The pony's eyes narrowed the further into the room they travelled.
  41. >Food near the entrance to her stash was pristine, but items at the back, and especially near the floor, had been ravaged. Crumbs and smears of jam coated the stone flooring, each chunk of hastily gorged-upon sweet a blasphemy to Luna.
  42. >By the time her eyes had found the source of her night-time woe, Luna's body shook; her teeth clenched and eyes aflame with rage as she gazed at a small burrow that had burst forth from the corner of the room, the savoury carnage leading into its depths.
  43. "Rats."
  44.  
  45. >Of all the creatures found in Equestria, there were none Princess Luna disliked more than rats.
  46. >She frequently counted her blessings that she did not have to suffer their presence often.
  47. >Canterlot, the crown jewel of the realm was, if not anything else, clean.
  48. >Her streets were free of clutter and muck, and her people practiced good hygiene. The city went to great lengths to properly dispose of refuse, and the general neatness was a point of pride for the residents of the fair city.
  49. >It was not a place for rats.
  50. >Yet as Luna stormed from her secret stash, only just remembering to seal it up again after leaving, her thoughts were consumed by visions of the furry devils.
  51. "Rats!" she growled to herself aloud as she hurried along a hallway, "Horrible, evil, loathsome wretches, one and all!"
  52. >The palace was quiet, as it tended to be at this time of night, but that did not mean that the mechanisms of government slept along with its residents.
  53. >A stalwart few maintained vigil throughout, and it was these noble souls that Luna sought with a vengeance.
  54. >The first of these executors nobly snorted and stalwartly leapt to his hooves as the Princess blew into his office, the door banging against the wall and startling more than a few birds that had been sleeping on the window-ledge outside.
  55. >The young stallion quickly wiped the side of his mouth of drool and attempted to hide the soggy paperwork that had humbly served as a pillow.
  56. >"Princess Luna!" He forced a smile and watched her less-than-serene expression. "Whatever is the matter?"
  57. "Rats, Mister Paper Weight," she declared as she approached. "There are rats in Canterlot Palace."
  58. >Paper Weight gulped, his smile quivering, "Rats?" he repeated ineffectually, "Where did you find rats?"
  59. "In the kitchens. They have been eating our food supplies and no doubt spreading their taint as they do so. I demand that the entire kitchen be fumigated at once, and a team of exterminators be called in to dispose of the vermin."
  60. >Paper Weight collected himself in the face of his princess.
  61. >"Not that I am opposed to such, ah, measures, your highness, but there is a procedure we must follow if we are to rid ourselves of an occurrence like--"
  62. "An infestation, Paper Weight, not an 'occurrence'. Rats never appear alone. Where there is one, there may be a dozen more, and since we do not know how long these particular rats have been among us we must assume the worst. Summon the exterminators."
  63. >The official raised a hoof tentatively, motioning for calm.
  64. >"A moment, Princess; as I said, we have procedures in place for this sort of thing, if you would be willing to sit?"
  65. >He beckoned to a chair across from his own and cast a pleading smile at his regent.
  66. >With a roll of her eyes and an annoyed huff, Luna acquiesced. Paper Weight, now firmly in his comfort zone, produced a stack of papers and spoke earnestly.
  67. >"Now, in order to summon fumigators, exterminators, and any other necessary personnel - health inspectors, insurance companies, the press, catering, musicians, clowns, that sort of thing - to handle this occurrence--"
  68. "Infestation."
  69. >"Infestation; we will need to note a few details." He dipped his quill into a pot and raised it over the first clause on his document. "To begin, what is your full name?"
  70. >Princess Luna regarded the stallion across from her with a troubled expression, and he quickly nodded to himself.
  71. >"Yes, I suppose that was unnecessary," he muttered as he wrote down her name.
  72. >"Date of birth?"
  73. "Mister Paper Weight, do I need to raise my voice?"
  74. >"These are matters of government, Princess; we must follow the guidelines as set out in this official complaint form."
  75. "My birth predates the current calendar format, unless you are willing to put 'year zero'?"
  76. >"I suppose we could, though it would be highly unorthodox. Would you be happy--"
  77. "I haven't the patience for the trivialities of administration, please may we proceed to the heart of the matter? This is urgent."
  78. >He chewed his lip in thought before setting aside his paper. "I shall have the aides mail this to you next week and you can fill it in then."
  79. >The stallion smiled at his Princess, whom was doing her best to resist smashing her head against the table, and prepared his next paper.
  80. >"Alright, so where did you see these rats?"
  81. "Were you not...? They are in the kitchen!"
  82. >"Yes, but -where- in the kitchen, your highness."
  83. "In the... pantry."
  84. >"Very good, and how many were there?"
  85. "I beg your pardon?"
  86. >"The rats, your highness, how many did you see?"
  87. "I... didn't see any of them, I saw their burrow and the remnants of my- the food."
  88. >"Interesting." he sat back with a grimace.
  89. "Interesting how?"
  90. >"Well, we cannot rightly assume that it is rats that have stolen into the palace if we cannot confirm a sighting of them."
  91. "The rats themselves were elusive, but I saw their droppings well enough."
  92. >"Ah, but droppings could also be a sign of guinea pigs."
  93. "Guinea pigs." She flatly repeated.
  94. >"Oh yes." He nodded gravely.
  95. "And these guinea pigs burrowed into the pantry?"
  96. >"Guinea pigs are known to burrow, yes."
  97. "And are guinea pigs native to the Canterlot region, Paper Weight?"
  98. >"Perhaps not, but they could have escaped from the local zoo."
  99. "The nearest zoo being in Dewdrop Town, ten miles away."
  100. >"Yes."
  101. "Did they climb Canterlot Mountain?"
  102. >"Certainly not, it is far too steep for their stubby little legs."
  103. "Teleportation, then?" Her eyebrow was firmly cocked and tone terse.
  104. >"Well they -could- have teleported. I should hope not, as teleporting guinea pigs would be problematic."
  105. "I see. So it is more plausible to you that we are dealing with magical guinea pigs that have absconded from Dewdrop Zoo and infiltrated Canterlot, than regular city rats."
  106. >"The plausibility is indeed mounting. In fact, that reminds me, if we are to be certain that it is guinea pigs then we will need a new form, as this one only covers rats and mice--"
  107. "Rats. Paper Weight. We are dealing with -rats- here."
  108. >"But we cannot be a hundred-percent su--"
  109. "Are you calling me a liar?"
  110. >"N-Not at all, your highness, but we have procedures--"
  111. "The procedures be damned, I want action!" She hotly asserted.
  112. >Paper Weight was stunned.
  113. >"Damn the procedures...?" He looked as though Luna had just struck him. "We cannot 'damn' the procedures, this is a bureaucracy!"
  114. "If a bureaucracy cannot perform its function in a timely manner it is hardly worth the resources it is allocated."
  115. >Paper Weight looked appalled and disgusted in equal measure.
  116. >"Princess Luna, the Office of Palace Affairs is a respected and well-oiled machine. It carries out its duties in an orderly, austere manner."
  117. "That may be, but is it cost-effective or useful?"
  118. >"Of course it isn't cost-effective or useful! It's a bureaucracy!" He cried, slamming a hoof on the table at the last word. "I thought you would understand since your sister is the one that invented it!"
  119. "I would advise that you watch your tone with me, Paper Weight. I do not share my sister's love for pointless paperwork and obsessive documentation of the minutiae of government."
  120. >"Pointless...!" He whispered, aghast.
  121. "If you will not help me destroy this plague of vermin then that is your choice. I shall simply look for help elsewhere, though I shall remember this the next time sister and I are reviewing the palace budget."
  122. >She rose from her seat and bid the sweating official good evening as the pony gasped for breath and attempted to ward off an oncoming panic attack at the implication that government was not worth the money that went into it.
  123.  
  124. >Luna descended the castle steps under the gentle glow of the moon.
  125. >Her destination, the barracks, filled her with more confidence than the stuffy office of a jobsworth pencil-pusher.
  126. >Here she would find ponies worthy of praise, she was certain.
  127. >As the Princess approached, the two guards watching the main entrance snapped to synchronised attention, and Luna swelled with the pride and authority she was accustomed to when visiting the many arms of the military.
  128. >She sailed into the tight atrium beyond the entrance and scanned the passageways before her.
  129. >Two doorways off to each side of her would lead to the bunking quarters of the garrison.
  130. >Instead, she proceeded straight ahead to the larger door at the end of it. A curt nod was given to the soldier at the desk, who was shocked to see his Princess arrive unannounced and unsure what to do, leaving him a babbling mess that the Princess considered woefully undisciplined.
  131. >Luna burst through the door to the Brigadier's quarters.
  132. >The Brigadier, ever the vigilant sentinel of the night, screamed like a filly as he tore his face off his desk and attempted to look like he was working, puncturing a few pieces of parchment with a dry quill and pretending to read from a book that was upside down.
  133. "Brigadier? I have need of you." Luna announced.
  134. >The pegasus stared at her for a moment, his confusion apparent.
  135. >"Is this another dream? Normally you're wearing lace."
  136. >Luna was quick to re-evaluate her previously high expectations of the garrison, lowering them accordingly.
  137. "No, Brigadier, it is not. Now stand to attention, we need to discuss matters of urgency."
  138. >He scrambled to his hooves and saluted until she put him at ease.
  139. "I shall be blunt. There is an infestation of rats in the castle, and I will require your garrison to fan out and exterminate any rats they see."
  140. >Her request did not do much to settle his confusion.
  141. >"With respect, Princess, the garrison isn't suited for that sort of work. It might be better to run this by the Office of Palace Affairs, as they can requisition--"
  142. "I have already visited the Office, Brigadier," Luna interjected, "the idiot on duty insisted the issue was actually magical teleporting guinea pigs, rather than rats."
  143. >The Brigadier tensed, his brow furrowing and face twisting into a grim resolution.
  144. >"He was certain it was guinea pigs, your highness?"
  145. "It seemed so, unfortunately."
  146. >"Stars above." he intoned.
  147. "Yes, it was ridiculous--"
  148. >"They're back."
  149. "...Pardon?"
  150. >The Brigadier's previous sleepiness was dispelled in an instant, and he leapt to action.
  151. >Galloping right past the bewildered princess, he barked orders to the still-befuddled soldier manning the front desk, and within minutes the entire garrison was mustered and armed in a flurry of hectic activity.
  152. >Were this any other situation, Princess Luna would have been proud of the speed and efficiency with which the royal guard prepared themselves even at this late hour.
  153. >The Brigadier paced before his neatly assembled troop, his voice low, and dangerous.
  154. >As Princess Luna ponderously observed him giving a rousing speech regarding freedom, safety, home, and hearth, she suspected that all was not well in Canterlot.
  155. >A part of her wondered if the rats had infected the water supply with some fell malediction.
  156. >Or perhaps the modern pony simply did not function as well in the dark? There was a reason she preferred the presence of her thestral guard to the regulars.
  157. >With a final shout, the Guard broke ranks and surged out into the night. Pegasi took flight and unicorns cast lights high into the air as the entire compound was put on high alert.
  158. >The Brigadier returned to Luna, thanking her for the early warning, before taking his leave without her permission and joining his soldiers in scouring Canterlot.
  159. >Luna watched with muted concern from the battlements of the garrison walls as squad upon squad of airborne pegasi descended into the sleeping city to begin searching every street and alley.
  160. >To her dismay, she saw the entirety of her thestral guard also joining the hunt, thus disproving her theories of their superiority.
  161. >She began to ponder what else she may have missed during her long absence on the moon.
  162.  
  163. >It was not with great enthusiasm that Luna materialised on the top floor of the Canterlot Mage's Guild.
  164. >A battered-looking tower overlooking the city proper atop a rise, it was kept away from the bulk of the populace both because the unicorns within were dangerous to themselves and others, and because they were tremendously poor at socialising.
  165. >Luna might have found them to be kin, were they not so ornery.
  166. >The sparkling residue of her teleportation quickly faded, leaving the room she found herself in dark.
  167. >Her magic ignited, and the assortment of firefly and gas-lit lamps adorning the walls came to life.
  168. >A sleeping form in a spartan bed nestled against the corner twisted, to which Luna hesitantly approached and addressed it coolly.
  169. "Arise, Archmage. Your Princess has need of your services."
  170. >The Archmage of Canterlot was an old, old pony, by the standards of regular folk.
  171. >Time had not been as kind to him as it had been to Luna, though she could not doubt his sharp mind.
  172. >"Wuzzat? I ain't never seen no prince..."
  173. >Then again, she supposed even a butter knife could be considered sharp if it poked something hard enough.
  174. "-Now-, Archmage; time is precious."
  175. >The elder unicorn awoke fully and clambered out of his bed, cursing as he momentarily got caught in his own bedsheet.
  176. >After a period of undignified fumbling, he stood before his Princess, glowering at her.
  177. >"It's early."
  178. "It's a perfectly reasonable time of night, and you are bound to our service no matter the time of day."
  179. >"That might be, but it don't mean I have to like it."
  180. >Luna sighed wearily; this night was taking its toll.
  181. "We have a rat problem, Archmage. I was hoping you may know of a quick solution."
  182. >"What, for rats?"
  183. "Yes."
  184. >"What kinda rats?"
  185. "I'm not entirely sure, what sort do you know of?"
  186. >"Plenty of rats in Canterlot. Bankers, Merchants' Guild, noble-borns, celebrity-types, university students and faculty, the upper classes, the middle classes, the lower classes--"
  187. "You understand that encompasses most of Canterlot, yes?"
  188. >"Most'a Canterlot is a rat's nest."
  189. "Quaint. No, I was speaking of the small furry sort. The kind that might burrow into a house and eat the food therein."
  190. >"Oh, them."
  191. >He snorted, making sure Luna heard the phlegm trapped in his sinuses before swallowing it and taking sadistic pleasure in seeing her squirm.
  192. >"Yeah, not my job, take it up with the Office of Palace Affairs."
  193. >Luna had to suppress a sudden surge in emotions - anger, despair, abrupt laughter - all the usual symptoms of a developing psychosis.
  194. "The office is... currently occupied, and the garrison is busy searching for--"
  195. >She stopped herself short of telling the Archmage, suddenly fearful of his reaction should she tell him of the imaginary magical teleporting guinea pigs.
  196. "--Searching for a criminal."
  197. >"Oh. That explains the search parties outside," the Archmage commented nonchalantly, his gaze having drifted from Luna and to the large window overlooking Canterlot.
  198. >In the distance the pair could see specks drifting over the city, shining lights down on the houses below.
  199. >He turned back to the Princess, scrutinising her.
  200. >"So waddya want me to do about it?"
  201. "I was hoping you might know of a way to track rats through a burrow. Perhaps a way to trace them back to their den?"
  202. >"Rats don't live in dens. Live in burrows. Prob'ly hidden away in whatever burrow you found 'em in."
  203. "Is that right?"
  204. >"Not like moles or anything; they'll just dig a long hole, hollow it out a bit, then live there."
  205. "So if I was to find a burrow in, say, a kitchen, the rats are likely still in there?"
  206. >"Prob'ly."
  207. "Ah."
  208. >Luna briefly reflected on the astounding waste of time this night had been, but decided not to react to it yet. She would wait until she was alone, ideally somewhere soundproofed, before she had a good sob.
  209. >"What've you got against rats, anyhow?"
  210. "I'm sorry?"
  211. >"Rats. Nothin' wrong with 'em. Lovely critters; I own several."
  212. "You-- you own -several-?"
  213. >"Yeah. They live here in the tower, I just let 'em run around. Make good companions. Rats don't judge you, they just want food and shelter."
  214. >He sniffed, looking suddenly whimsical.
  215. >"In a way they're just like us." he mused, either oblivious to or not caring of the Princess' darkening expression.
  216. "Ah ha, I assure you, Archmage, that they are -nothing- like us. Rats are dirty animals. They carry diseases, spread filth, and have a dreadful habit of finding their way into places where they ought not to be. They devour all they encounter and leave a horrid mess wherever they tread. They are a blight upon this land."
  217. >The Archmage slyly grinned. "Yeah, kinda like ponies."
  218. >Luna turned away in disgust for a moment, her sensitive nose now noticing the musky scent in the room.
  219. >She wrinkled her face and turned back to the leering magi.
  220. "And you -keep- these creatures?"
  221. >"Sure do."
  222. "How many?"
  223. >"'Bout a dozen. Named 'em all, too. There's Pikey, Misty, Garnish, Buck--"
  224. "Yes yes, I see, and where are those rats now?"
  225. >"Dunno. I know Grim Storm took a few of 'em to the Palace the other day for a presentation, but says he lost 'em on his way back. I weren't mad though; rats are slippery buggers at the best'a times. Happened to me once-er-twice so I ain't gonna judge."
  226. >Luna narrowed her eyes, the pieces falling into place.
  227. "If I were to tell you that I had found those rats, what would you say?"
  228. >"I'd be happy to take 'em off your hooves."
  229. "And if I were to tell you I intend to obliterate the horrid little fiends for defiling my kitchen, what would you say then?"
  230. >"It would convince me further that you're both a banshee and also the less-attractive sister."
  231. "I-- you-- I am your -Princess-!" Luna stomped her hoof with indignation. "I think I am owed a modicum of respect for letting you stay out here and practice your deranged little experiments!" She fumed at the bemused pony before adding, "Celestia intends to move you back into the city, you know!"
  232. >That was enough to slap the smile off the Archmage's face, and he suddenly appeared paler than usual.
  233. >"The... city?"
  234. "Yes! Last year, I had to stand my ground and vouch for this guild when Celestia first put forward the idea. How many times have you blown a hole in the roof? How many times have your experiments resulted in alchemical fallout? The lily garden!"
  235. >"Always the lily garden..."
  236. "Exactly my point! Celestia is strongly pushing for The Guild to be moved into the city, after I worked so hard to get you moved out in the first place, and--" Luna leaned down and spoke evenly into the Archmage's ear, "--she intends to apply 'regulations' this time."
  237. >The old stallion backpedalled, breathing heavily, his ears flat against his head.
  238. >"Sh-she can't! Reckless experimentation and the tasteless disregard for equine life are the bedrock of science! She can't take that from us! We'd become like... like..." The stallion paced around the room, his fearful expression locked forward as his mind conjured all manner of unthinkable outcomes.
  239. "Like the Office for Palace Affairs, I imagine."
  240. >"Blessed stars! Oh this ain't good, no no no, not good at all!"
  241. >He wheeled around and glared at her.
  242. >"You want those rats back, yeah? If I help you, you'll keep us out of the city? I can't be doing with neighbours again, Luna. None of us can. Archie has fits if he gets within ten hooves of a mare, can't stand the bloody creatures, he can't. Says they smell like crushed dreams, and I've snorted crushed dreams before so I know what he's on about."
  243. >Luna arched an eyebrow, but allowed him to keep speaking.
  244. >"And the students! So many young unicorns want to join The Guild!"
  245. "I would have thought that to be a good thing, no?"
  246. >"And let some snot-nosed -outsider- corrupt our sacred guild culture?! Madness! Absolute madness! No, no new people, no mares, no neighbours, no nothing!"
  247. >He marched right up to Luna and looked her straight in the eye, the fire of youth kindled within him once more.
  248. >"If you want those rats back, then my magic is yours, Princess."
  249. >Luna smiled, savouring her first victory of the night.
  250. "I am thrilled to hear it, Archmage."
  251.  
  252. >Luna trotted into the kitchen, the Archmage trailing behind her.
  253. >She paused to watch him step over the threshold, his curious eyes taking in the scene.
  254. >"Is a kitchen -supposed- to be this tidy?"
  255. "Should one wish to practice proper hygiene, yes."
  256. >The Archmage leaned over one of the many sinks and peered at the spotless porcelain surface.
  257. >"Weird. Ours has a mushroom garden growing in it."
  258. >Luna swallowed before she could start gagging at the thought, and nodded at the end of the room.
  259. "Come along now, the pantry is this way."
  260. >She led the Archmage through the doors, past the racks of colourful foodstuffs and dangling herbs, and finally to her secret store.
  261. >He murmured approvingly at the sigil, and how the room revealed itself at her touch.
  262. >"Impressive stuff. Very impressive. Make that yourself?"
  263. "I did. I have not lived as long as I have without learning a few tricks, Archmage."
  264. >For the first time since they had met following Luna's return from the moon, the Archmage smiled warmly at her.
  265. >"You'll have to teach us some of the things you've learned, Princess."
  266. "Well, that -is- one of the things Celestia set The Guild up for." She winked.
  267. >The two ponies managed to squeeze their way inside, though they were pressed uncomfortably together.
  268. >At the end of the little room, Luna swept the floor clean of crumbs and dirt before they each crouched down to inspect the burrow.
  269. >It was only a small hole, but noticeable between two corner slabs and the floor.
  270. >The Archmage rubbed his chin and squinted at it, assessing the damage and probing it with flickers of magic from his horn.
  271. >"Definitely looks like a rat-hole, but there's a funny feeling about it."
  272. "What do you mean?"
  273. >He shook his head slowly, "Not sure; seems... familiar."
  274. >The old pony squashed himself against the ground, pressing his face closer against the hole as Luna cast a light behind him with her magic to let him see a bit better.
  275. >"Yep, I can see something fuzzy in there, just about. Kinda looks like Mocha, actually."
  276. "Mocha?"
  277. >"Yeah, one of the rats--" he ignited his own horn and with a flourish of magic, something small and squirming was plucked from the end of the burrow.
  278. >The creature floated up between the Princess and the Archmage, and Luna could only stare in dumb shock.
  279. >For his part, the Archmage only looked annoyed.
  280. >"Well, that's not a rat now, is it?"
  281. >A guinea pig squirmed within the confines of the Archmage's aura, trying to find purchase on the air around it.
  282. >The old stallion sighed and shook his head.
  283. >"Looks like it was a false alarm. Rats'll be someplace else. Got any other ideas?"
  284. >Luna wouldn't answer him. She was more focused on the guinea pig, and the sinister manner in which its beady black eyes were shifting to an ominous glowing white the longer it watched her.
  285. >As she stared at the fluffy brown and white animal, her skin felt the uncomfortable prickle of rapidly escalating magic.
  286. "Archmage--" she began.
  287. >She didn't manage to finish her sentence as the cavvie screamed, a bellow of arcane might hurling the Princess backwards out from the secret store.
  288. >Luna's frame collided with the far wall after travelling through multiple racks of assorted foods, the stonework cracking where it met her formidable alicorn physiology.
  289. >"Luna's tits!--" was all the Archmage could muster before he too was expelled from the room, though he oriented himself far more elegantly before he landed, all four hooves meeting the stonework floor and sliding, sparks flaring from beneath his bronze horseshoes.
  290. >"A fight, is it?! We'll see about -that- you furry ba--"
  291. "Archmage! NO!" Luna cried before the elder unicorn launched a neon blast of orange magic into her precious stash.
  292. >An explosion rumbled the room, shaking the foundations under the Princess and causing a billow of dust to belch from the doorway.
  293. >The Archmage's posture reflected one of intense readiness; he had been a fighter in his youth, and had seen many conflicts. He would not be caught unaware again, even if his body wasn't what it used to be.
  294. >After several tense heartbeats of silence, a shrill squeak sounded from the pall of dust, the call answered by more.
  295. >"Sweet sisters," the Archmage grunted through gritted teeth, "there's a whole damned family of them."
  296. >On cue, seven guinea pigs emerged from the dust, each one floating in an sickly green magical aura, their eyes a blazing white and fuzzy bodies crackling with pale lightning.
  297. >The Archmage simply huffed, and pawed impatiently at the ground with one of his front hooves, his head low, face forward, and hackles raised.
  298. >Luna came to his side, her own fur bristling in anticipation of the imminent confrontation.
  299. >Her wings unfurled, stretching to their fullest length, and her horn thrummed with power as the Archmage gruffly spoke.
  300. >"Magical Teleporting Guinea Pigs. We meet again. Was your defeat at the hooves of my mentor four decades ago not enough?"
  301. >A question Luna had been mulling over that night was miraculously answered.
  302. >The Pigs all squeaked as one in response, a haunting sound.
  303. >"So it would seem. The Dewdrop Community Zoo shall have to strengthen their security once we have dealt with you. Princess Luna? I would appreciate your support in vanquishing this gravest of threats."
  304. >Luna may once have balked at the idea, but she could feel the raw energies emanating from the Pigs, and knew them to be dangerous.
  305. >Instead, she stepped forth and addressed the floating furballs in the Royal Canterlot Voice.
  306. "Guinea Pigs. You stand before a Princess of Equestria and an Archmage of Canterlot. Return to your confinements peacefully, and we shall yet show mercy."
  307. >The very walls rocked with the strength of her voice, and the Archmage was inwardly glad he'd gone a bit deaf in his left ear over the years.
  308. >The Pigs hovered, menacingly, seeming to consider Luna's words.
  309. >As one, they wheeked a final time, and Luna did not bother to mask the smirk that spread across her face.
  310. "Oh good. I was growing bored of spending my evenings eating cake."
  311.  
  312. >The Battle of Canterlot Pantry was destined for the halls of legend the moment it began.
  313. >As nine beings of phenomenal arcane power collided within the confines of the humble storage, the sheer weight of magical force on display did all manner of wild and unpredictable things after hybridising with the many food-preserving enchantments present.
  314. >Pumpkins came to life in service of the Pigs, sprouting limbs and wielding sharpened leeks as blades.
  315. >Carrots sprouted wings and took flight, divebombing the ponies in defence of their Masters.
  316. >The thick outer wall of the pantry was broken like glass in short order, and in minutes the battle had spilled out of the palace and into the grounds of the castle.
  317. >One frightfully cruel blast of magic saw Luna hurled through a stonework wall ten hooves deep, but her ascendant body shrugged the blow off, her coat saturated in the blistering magics of an alicorn unleashed.
  318. >Members of the Royal Guard would speak afterwards of the manic grin she wore throughout, the Princess seemingly delighted that she was able to exercise her considerable powers in defence of the realm once more.
  319. >As for the Guard themselves, it did not take long for them to rally back at the garrison and charge into the battle alongside their beloved Princess and the honourable Archmage.
  320. >Though lesser ponies such as they could scarcely touch the Guinea Pigs, whom were teleporting about, throwing fireballs at anything they could see and generally being a nuisance, the Guard happily contended themselves with the army of produce that had been animated against them.
  321. >Earth ponies hurled themselves with gusto into the waiting claws of giant potato golems, whilst thestrals and pegasi were locked in vicious aerial combat versus flying cabbage monsters, their enlarged green leaves acting as wings and barbed vines lashing out at their opponents.
  322. >Unicorns split their efforts, blasting apart wailing tomato suicide-bombers before assisting wherever possible with the flying Pigs, and a spectacular lightshow of prismatic energy beams and fiery explosions lit up the skies over Canterlot.
  323. >At first the residents mistook this for an impromptu party at the palace, and were halfway through drafting their letters of complaint to the city council until the seemingly endless horde of living fruits and vegetables appeared on the streets, engaged in a brutal running battle against the city guard.
  324. >As Luna and the Archmage fought alongside one another, the Princess could only howl with zealous glee as she expressed the fullest extent of her power, culminating in an awe-inspiring climax where she used the very power of the Moon as a thundering superweapon, outright disintegrating one of the Guinea Pigs in a blinding roar of moonlight and leaving a dark circular hole in the courtyard outside the palace, where it would remain for many years as a marker of what had happened.
  325. >The Archmage had never been so terrified.
  326. >It was one of the best nights of Luna's life.
  327.  
  328. >Princess Celestia stared open-mouthed at the utter carnage before her.
  329. >Atop a balcony overlooking the courtyard before the palace, as well as the city proper, she could only stare at the scenes of flames being extinguished by beleaguered firefighters, and the mountains of rotting produce being hauled onto great pyres all around.
  330. >Exhausted members of the Guard hauled their wounded comrades back to impromptu field hospitals that had been erected during the fighting, and all around there was the muted silence of a city recovering from violence.
  331. >Princess Luna, stood beside her sister, surveyed all that she saw with pride, and was keen to point out newly created landmarks to her cherished sibling.
  332. "You see the hole in that wall over there, sister? I got thrown through the whole thing. The whole thing! But I didn't let that stop me!"
  333. >Celestia turned and dumbly regarded her beaming sister.
  334. >"...Did you not think to wake me?"
  335. "You'd had a rough day with those discourteous ambassadors from the Cinder Isles, Celestia, and I did not want to disturb you with something I was capable of settling on my own. And even if I did, you sleep like the dead, so unless I lit a firework in your room you wouldn't have noticed, and you told me never to do that again. Everything was under control."
  336. >"Control," she echoed.
  337. >Her eyes drifted back to her wounded, shell-shocked city. She did not utter a word for the rest of the day, which Luna took as a sign that she had done a good job, as it left dear sister speechless.
  338. >It would take a long time to repair the damage, and Luna would need to go through the arduous process of fashioning another secret stash for her favourite treats, but she looked forward to the task.
  339. >So happy was she, that she even decided to smile and hum openly around the public, something that was a welcome surprise and did wonders to lift the shaken spirits of those she encountered.
  340. >Luna was sure not to get ahead of herself however, and stopped short of doing something as scandalous as prancing.
  341. >Despite her largely contented mood, inner voices of doubt still whispered behind the curtain.
  342. >As she trotted through the castle grounds, inspecting the Guard and congratulating them on a battle bravely fought, she privately conceded two things.
  343. >The first; they never did find those rats.
  344. >The second; Paper Weight was right.
  345.  
  346. >Luna wasn't sure which was worse.
  347.  
  348. The End.
Moonday Princess Luna Comedy

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