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Dreams to Dream Pt. II

By StabbyTheSnowman
Created: 3rd March 2021 08:21:56 PM
Modified: 22nd April 2021 04:00:09 AM

  1. Reading part one (ponepaste.org/590) is highly encouraged, if you don't, everything you read here is going to be very confusing.  Trust me.
  2.  
  3. >Tea Leaf jerked up in her bed, suddenly wide awake.
  4. >Her ears flicked back and forth in the darkness, the room around here was so black in the dark that she could barely make out the silhouette of her doorway.
  5. >She could have sworn that she’d heard something.
  6. >Just as she was ready to lay back down, it came again; the quietest knock on her door.
  7. >”Hello, who is it?”
  8. >There was no response.
  9. >Quickly extricating herself from her warm comforter and sliding her knife into the sheath on her left wing, she made her way cautiously to the door, flicking on the lantern that sat on her desk to give her some light.
  10. >The clock on her desk showed that it was 2:52 AM
  11. >Another knock came, and she thought she heard a gasp of breath along with it.
  12. >Grasping the handle with one wing she opened the door, and was greeted with almost pitch blackness.
  13. >Then she looked down.
  14. >It took a moment for her to comprehend from what little light the lamp in her room gave, but when she did, a shriek of horror tore from her muzzle.
  15. >The crumpled blood-soaked form of Thunder lay directly in front of her door, hoof still outstretched from where he must have been tapping at it with his armored hoof.
  16. >With another horrified cry she hooked her front hooves into the dragstrap on the back of his armor and pulled him into her room and towards the light.
  17. >The more the light shone on him, the more horrified she became.
  18. >”Oh sweet Celestia, no no no this isn’t happening…”
  19. >Finding the source of the blood was easy, and she quickly found herself unlatching the pegasus’ armor as quick as her hooves and wings would allow her.
  20. >Dashing to the foot of her bed, she grabbed her spare medical bag and rushed it back over to the bleeding stallion.
  21. >Not taking any chances with removing it the standard way, she used her medical scissors to cut off his under-armor jerkin, exposing the bleeding holes in his chest.
  22. >”Hold on, please…” She begged tearfully as she began to cut fur off to make room for bandages.
  23. >”T-they’re here… for her…”
  24. >The words were so faint that she could barely hear them.
  25. >”What are you talking about?”  She sobbed, continuing to cut and apply bandages in hopes to stop the bleeding.
  26. >His skin was deathly pale, and his pulse weak.
  27. >”Captain… stabbed me… in danger…”
  28. >”You are not going to die on me Thunder, do you understand!”
  29. >Tea Leaf’s teeth were clenched, and tears flowed freely from her eyes.
  30. >A sudden bang caused Tea Leaf to jerk her head up towards her door, which had been thrown open hard enough to crack it.
  31. >Another Guard stood there, face hidden by the shadows in the hallway.
  32. >Before Tea Leaf could speak he had launched himself at her, a short spear clenched in his hooves.
  33. >Only one though filled Tea Leaf’s mind: protect her stallion.
  34. >With a guttural scream she leapt into the air, throwing herself in front of Thunder and directly at the Guard, an Earth Pony who’s name she couldn’t remember.
  35. >She effortlessly batted the spear aside with one hoof, and the two of them collided and fell to the ground, hooves flailing.
  36. >One of them accidentally hit her desk, causing the lantern to fall and shatter, and what little light that the room held vanished.
  37. >The stallion finally managed to land a blow in the darkness, a hoof catching Tea Leaf in the chest, but she rolled with the blow, snarling in rage and pain as she snapped the feathers of her right wing into her attacker’s eyes in retaliation.
  38. >The pony hissed in pain and jerked his head away.
  39. >It was his fatal mistake.
  40. >With reflexes born from years of practice, her knife leapt into her hooves, and she plunged it into the pony’s un-armored barrel, just behind his left foreleg.
  41. >The pony gave a howl of agony as the knife disappeared all the way to the hilt, but Tea Leaf wasn’t done.
  42. >She slugged him with one hoof as she withdrew her knife, the force of the blow knocking the Guard flat onto his back.
  43. >Quick as a viper, Tea Leaf jumped on the stallion’s chest and slashed her knife across his exposed throat.
  44. >Blood splattered across the floor, on her hooves, and across her face, but she didn’t notice.
  45. >The stallion attempted to scream as one of his hooves blindly flailed to his neck, but only a weak gurgle bubbled from his obliterated trachea.
  46. >With a final scream Tea Leaf brought her knife straight down through the side of the stallion's skull with a sickening thump
  47. >He instantly went limp, and Tea Leaf withdrew her knife, panting.
  48. >”Thunder, oh no…”
  49. >Sliding her blood-soaked knife back into its sheath she galloped back to Thunder.
  50. >His breathing was soft, and his eyes were barely open.
  51. >”I told you you’re not going to die on me, I’ll get you patched up.”
  52. >The words were as much a hopeful inspiration to him as they were a silent pleading from her.
  53. >”The amulet…” Once again her head jerked up, realizing that the amulet that gave her a direct connection to Princess Celestia was still sitting on her bedside table.
  54. >She quickly reached it and pressed the button several times as fast as she could while galloping back to where Thunder lay.
  55. >Tossing the gift aside like trash, she resumed her efforts to try and stop the bleeding from Thunders horrific chest wounds.
  56. >”Your eyes… so beautiful…”
  57. >Tea Leaf began to apply another bandage, tears falling from her eyes like rain.
  58. >”Don’t you dare talk to me like that.  You will get through this, I don’t care what I have to do.”
  59. >A flash of warm, golden light directly in front of Thunder caused her to look up, just in time to see Celestia standing before her, bare of all royal trinkets.
  60. >Even her mane, which had always flowed with wonderful colors, was a still, soft pink.
  61. >”Tea Leaf,” Her regal voice was quiet with exhaustion, “why have yo⎯”
  62. >”Save him Princess, please, he’s been attacked!”
  63. >Princess Celestia’s eyes went wide at the carnage she had just teleported into, before her gaze once again met Tea Leaf’s
  64. >”Of course, I just need a moment to⎯”
  65. >The door, which had swung closed after having been slammed open by the first intruder, exploded inwards again, revealing another member off the Royal Guard.
  66. >In the darkness Tea Leaf couldn’t tell who it was, but the size indicated it was another stallion, and the way he held the sword, which glowed with violent magic, meant he certainly wasn’t here to help.
  67. >Apparently the Guard couldn’t tell who anypony was in the darkness either, and with a wordless cry the stallion leapt at Princess Celestia.
  68. >Tea Leaf opened her mouth to scream a warning, but it was too late.
  69. >The guard’s short sword impacted Celestia’s left shoulder and shattered on impact, sending shards of metal flying all across the room.
  70. >Without a word Celestia stood on her hind legs, turned with speed that would have made the Element Rainbow Dash envious, and hit the stallion directly in the barrel with one of her forelegs.
  71. >One moment the stallion was there, the next he was replaced by a rapidly expanding cloud of bits and dark fluid, which splattered over most of the closest wall.
  72. >For a moment, Tea Leaf sat there, dumbstruck and horrified by what she had just seen.
  73. >Then Celestia turned her gaze back to Thunder, and Tea Leaf knew what real horror was.
  74. >The eyes of the motherly Celestia were gone, the cheer and compassion that was always there had fled, replaced with cold, silent fury.
  75. >Celestia’s magenta eyes glowed a bright, malevolent magenta in the darkness, and her horn lit up with the golden light of her magic, once again illuminating the room.
  76. >Her white fur, normally pristine down to the individual hair, was splattered red with blood, as was most of her muzzle and neck.
  77. >The blood dripped from her lower jaw like the drool of some demonic beast, and Tea Leaf nearly screamed in terror at the visage of her ruler.
  78. >”Hold him still Tea Leaf, this will be painful, but it will save him.”
  79. >The golden glow grew brighter, and a dome of transparent energy appeared, covering the three of them.
  80. >In seconds the light from Celestia’s horn grew too bright to bear, and Tea Leaf squeezed her eyes shut, even as the tears continued to flow.
  81. >Then, just as suddenly as it had come, the light faded back to a warm, comforting level.
  82. >Tea Leaf opened her eyes, looking down at Thunder.
  83. >Where there had been horrific stab wounds, covered with bandages, there was scar tissue and scorched skin.
  84. >”He will live, but he needs care that I cannot provide.”
  85. >Celestia stood, a beautiful pony that had been turned in seconds to a nightmarish figure.
  86. >”I must get my sister.  If there are indeed others attempting to kill your patient, my sister will most certainly be able to help.  Do not leave the shield, and you will be safe.”
  87. >With a flash and crack of power, Celestia once again vanished from view, leaving the two pegasi under the glowing golden dome.
  88. >Pressing one ear to Thunder’s chest, she could hear his heartbeat; faint, weak, but still beating.
  89. >”Hold on, please…”
  90. <>
  91. >Luna felt it the instant it happened, but even she could not travel instantly throughout the wider world of dreams.
  92. >She arrived at the shared dream of the human Anonymous and the alicorn who wished to call herself Nýrmáni, only to find the foreign consciousness attached to theirs, like parasitic leeches.
  93. >Feeling the extra connections that were currently attached to Anonymous conscience, she tried with all of her strength to remove them, but they stuck there, firm as bedrock granite.
  94. >When she attempted to project herself into the now chaotic sphere of consciousness, she yelped in pain as she bounced off of it, her magic fizzling into nothing.
  95. >”Dammit!”  She cursed.
  96. >”The only spell that does this is one that I created… oh buck.”
  97. >She quickly excited the Dream Realm, nearly flying from her bed with the suddenness of her awakening.
  98. >”Sister!”  She called as she teleported to Celestia’s chambers, throwing the doors open as if they were nothing.
  99. >Celestia’s bed was empty, the covers on her bed thrown aside.
  100. >Clearly she had left in a hurry, wherever she had gone.
  101. >Just as Luna began to charge her horn for another teleport, a flash of warm yellow light by the bed caused her to stop.
  102. >”Oh thank goodness sister, we must get to Ponyville…”
  103. >Luna’s words failed her as she beheld the blood-soaked visage of her elder sister.
  104. >”Luna, gather your most trusted and loyal guards and bring them to Twilight’s castle immediately, they are trying to kill Nýrmáni and have nearly killed another Guard.”
  105. >”I know!  I sensed intrusions into her mind but I am powerless to stop them in the Dream Realm!”
  106. >”I will fetch my Guards immediately Celly, now go back, I will catch up!”
  107. >With a nod of her blood-soaked head Celestia once again vanished.
  108. >With her horn charged, Luna again vanished, appearing instantly inside the Royal Night Guard officer’s barracks.
  109. >The officer’s bunks were currently occupied, with the officers not out on rotation enjoying their night off reading or playing cards.
  110. >She was sadly about to ruin that, as she charged her horn for another summoning spell.
  111. >At the sudden appearance of their patron princess, the bat ponies quickly clamored out of their bunks and bowed deeply.
  112. >”What is it that calls you here Mistress?”  One of the senior officers asked, his head bowed low.
  113. >”No time for formalities.  There is currently an assassination attempt occurring in Twilight’s castle.  Gather your gear, we are leaving in one minute.”
  114. >With a flash of blue light armor appeared on Luna’s body, covering her from hoof to horn in grey, spell-covered armor.
  115. >Her battle-axe also appeared, slung on her side the carved spells on it glowing malevolently.
  116. >To her immense joy there was no hesitation even at this display as the batponies threw open their weapon and armor lockers, helping each other put on their armor and equipment.
  117. >Before Luna’s teleport activated, every Night Guard present stood at attention and ready.
  118. >In a bright flash of blue light, the barracks was empty.
  119. <>
  120. >Anonymous tried to stand again, only to be physically knocked down by the guard standing over him
  121. >”I said stop it! We don’t want to hurt you!”
  122. “Fuck you cocksucker!”
  123. >The pegasus’ eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth to reply, but a horrific scream interrupted them both.
  124. >They both looked as the others charged Nýrmáni, who reared up and slammed both of her front hooves into the quickly fading landscape.
  125. >The thunderous impact sent most of the guards sprawling as cracks exploded from around her hooves, the impact sending massive chunks of dirt and rock flying up around the enraged alicorn.
  126. >Nýrmáni grabbed one of them in her front hooves, a chunk of dirt-covered rock the size of a 4-door sedan, and hurled it with no visible effort at the group of traitorous guards.
  127. >They all scattered except one, who was shakily getting back on his hooves.
  128. >The guard didn’t even have a chance to yell before he disappeared under the massive chunk of stone as it slammed directly on top of him.
  129. >The guard standing over Anon was frozen in shock, so he used the opportunity to his advantage.
  130. “Level playing field, no magic?  Well, I can play that game too.”
  131. >From his experience so far in the Dreamscape, he had found that he could only create items for himself if he had great familiarity with the item in question.
  132. >Given Equestria’s idea of simplicity, he only had a few options available to him.
  133. >He focused his mind on what he wanted.
  134. >With a sudden heaviness he felt his creation materialize in his hand, fitting it just as well as it had the day he’d given it and the rest of his collection to his best friend before he’d left for Equestria.
  135. >Too bad he was about to break one of Princess Cadance’s most important rules for the Equestrian Human Immigration Initiative: no advanced human weaponry.
  136. >In his opinion, rules like this were meant to be broken anyway.
  137. >The guard began to turn back to him. “What the buck ar⎯”
  138. >It was too late.
  139. >At this close range, there wasn’t even a need to aim down the sights of the old Colt 1917, so Anonymous simply pointed the revolver at the pegasus’ center of mass and pulled the double action trigger as fast as he could.
  140. >The six rapid shots of .45 ACP tore through the pegasus’ light jerkin as if it wasn’t there, shredding the guard’s innards like wet tissue paper.
  141. >The pegasus flopped over onto his side without uttering a single sound.  He twitched for a moment, but then went still.
  142. >Ears ringing from the brutal concussions, he looked up to see that all of the ponies, including Nýrmáni, had stopped their fighting at the six thunderous reports to look in his direction in curiosity.
  143. >He opened his mouth to say something as he dropped his gun and went for the now dead pegasus’ spear that lay just in front of him.
  144. >Grasping it in his hands he stood, just in time to take a javelin to his right shoulder.
  145. >His whole world suddenly filled with agony as he toppled backwards once again, dropping his recently acquired weapon with a howl of pain.
  146. <>
  147. >When Celestia had teleported into her bedroom, telling her that rogue Royal Guards were attending to assassinate Nýrmáni, she had been frozen in shock at first.
  148. >Twilight Sparkle had never seen her mentor this angry before in her life.
  149. >She’d also never seen her with her mane and tail depowered and in their natural shade of pink.
  150. >She’d also never seen her soaked in blood before.
  151. >That one scared her the most.
  152. >Once she had managed to shake the shock from her system, she had teleported herself and Spike down to the map room, where Spike quickly sent messages to the rest of her friends.
  153. >Charging her horn, she poured a spell into the map table, which activated.
  154. >Glowing representations of all her friends cutie marks appeared above the table, circling the representation of her castle,
  155. >”There Princess; this, combined with those scrolls Spike sent should get the girls here, is there anything else I can do?”
  156. >”Lock down the Castle, nopony goes in or out until my sister or I say so.”
  157. >Her mentor’s low and dangerous tone caused an involuntary shiver to run down her spine.
  158. >”That’s what this spell does.  As soon as the last of my friends crosses the threshold, the castle will close itself off.”
  159. >”Good, in the meantime, you can help my guards search for your pupil, Starlight Glimmer.”
  160. >Luna’s voice came from behind Twilight, and the purple alicorn turned to greet her, only to face an armored monstrosity of grey steel and glowing lines of ancient, powerful magic.
  161. >”My guards have just finished searching her room and she is not there, so she must be in the castle somewhere.  I will be searching for those casting this horrific spell.”
  162. >”W-what kind of spell is it?”  Twilight asked, still slightly intimidated by the heavily armed and armored Luna in front of her.
  163. >”His dream connection to Nýrmáni has been hijacked, apparently by rogue elements of the Royal Guard here, using a spell of my own creation. I do not know how they know of my spell, but they are most likely limited in their ability to cast it.”
  164. >Twilight opened her mouth to talk, but Luna talked right over her.
  165. >”The spell is limited by the power available to the caster.  Considering there are only a few members of the Royal Guard stationed here who have the ability to cast it, they have to be very close, almost certainly still within the castle somewhere.”
  166. >With a flash of blue magic Luna vanished, leaving Celestia and Twilight alone.
  167. >”I will help my sister search, return to us as soon as you find your student.  I pray that she is not dead.”
  168. >Celestia herself then vanished, leaving Twilight alone.
  169. >Thankfully, Luna’s Night Guard was nothing if not efficient.
  170. >Only minutes after joining their search, they had found the rest of the local Royal Guards in the temporary barracks, in a deep, potion induced sleep.
  171. >Twilight ordered them restrained just in case, and resumed her search.
  172. >It was only when she and several guards passed by the doors to the dining room did they hear a muffled cry.
  173. >”Did you both hear that?”  She asked, ears swiveling rapidly.
  174. >The two guards flanking her nodded, and when the muted cry came again Twilight nearly blew the dining room door off its hinges in her haste.
  175. >They heard the cry again, it sounded desperate.  Whoever was crying out must have heard them.
  176. >”Starlight, are you there?”  Twilight called out.
  177. >More muffled cries were her response, followed by soft banging from the kitchen area.
  178. >”Spread out and search it, I don’t care how big a mess you make.”
  179. >It only took them a couple of seconds to find the source of the cries, when one of the guards stuck his nose into the secondary pantry and was nearly brained by a falling shelf.
  180. >”Starlight! Are you alright?”  Twilight helped the batpony guard haul a wildly squirming Starlight from the attention-seeking mess she had made.
  181. >”T-they snuck in weapons, powerful anti-magic ones.”  Starlight blurted out the moment her gag had been removed.
  182. >”I don’t know what they’re planning but it’s bad.”
  183. >”Easy Miss Glimmer,”  One of the guard said as he gently held down the twitchy unicorn, “You took several nasty blows to the head, you need to rest bef⎯”
  184. >”Nope, not doing that.”
  185. >The instant Twilight lifted the restraining ring from around Starlight’s horn it flared a bright turquoise.”
  186. >”No two-bit guard hits me on the back of the head and gets away with it, where are they Twilight?”  Starlight snarled.
  187. >Twilight gulped.  The last time she’d seen Starlight Glimmer this angry, the space-time continuum had nearly been destroyed.
  188. >”We don’t know, that’s the problem.  But the spell they are using is very close range, they have to be in the castle somewhere.”
  189. >”Good enough for me.”
  190. >With a flash of light and sharp crack, Starlight vanished.
  191. >Twilight gulped nervously. ”Well, hopefully it won’t take her too long.”
  192. >”Twilight!  They’re here!”
  193. >An exhausted Spike ran into the kitchen, huffing and puffing.
  194. >”In the map room, huf, waiting for you, huf.”
  195. >”Good work Spike.”  Sparing the time for a quick hug for the young dragon, she teleported him and herself to the Cutie Map.
  196. >Her friends all looked exhausted, but curious as to why they had been called here in the middle of the night.
  197. >”Ther’ yah are Twilight, what the hay is⎯”
  198. >”There’s no time Applejack, some of the Royal Guards have gone rogue, and they’re trying to assassinate Nightmare Moon!”
  199. >She hated using Nýrmáni’s old name, but since her friends had not yet been informed of the alicorn’s decision, she wanted as few questions as possible, especially now.”
  200. >There was a collective gasp from her friends.
  201. >”But the spell they’re using to do it has a very short range; they’re hiding inside the castle somewhere and we need your help searching for them.”
  202. >”Of course we’ll help darling.”  Rarity still had her sleep mask perched above her eyes, but she looked determined.
  203. >Spike stood by her side, picking a loose hair roller out of her mane.
  204. >”Good, Luna’s Night Guard are here as well, find one of them and stay close, these rogue guards have already almost killed one pony, so we need to be careful.”
  205. >Her friends' eyes went wide, but the resolve in their eyes made Twilight’s heart swell with pride.
  206. >”I need to find Celestia and Luna, let us know if any of you finds anything.”
  207. >As one, Spike, and the rest of her friends galloped out of the room and began to spread out, Twilight once again teleported to her mentor.
  208. >She appeared at Celestia’s side, and from her surroundings they appeared to be in Anonymous’ room.
  209. >Celestia stood over the human, who was being gently held down by several of Luna’s Night Guard as he violently jerked and squirmed about in his bed,
  210. >”What’s happening to him?”
  211. >”He is mostly likely fighting for his life.”
  212. >Luna’s tone was grave.
  213. >”Why don’t you just pull him out and wake him up?”
  214. >”We cannot, the interlopers have blocked our connection to them both. I cannot enter or remove the interlopers, nor can I simply force young Anonymous awake.”
  215. >Luna shook her head sadly before turning to Twilight.
  216. >”The consequences of a forcible removal while his mind is already so strained, it would irreparably shatter his consciousness.”
  217. >”If we can find the interloper’s physical bodies and wake them, the spell will break and I will be able to pull him out, but other than that, there is nothing my sister and I can do for him.”
  218. <>
  219. >As the unknown and heavily armed ponies had charged at her, the combat experience from Luna’s memories overwhelmed her.
  220. >Luna’s magic had been restrained many times during her almost three millennia of combat experience. Nýrmáni had retained all of this knowledge and muscle memory, and knew exactly what to do.
  221. >Turn the tables on your attackers, and put them on the defensive.
  222. >She had shattered the ground around herself with her strength, and had crushed one of the offending ponies with a large rock, but as she moved to attack, there were six sharp, loud cracking sounds, as if lightning had struck repeatedly nearby.
  223. >As she had turned, she had watched as the guard that had been holding her Anonymous hostage fall, apparently slain by whatever weapon he held in his hand.
  224. >But just as he had re-armed himself with the fallen guards weapon, a javelin impacted his shoulder, sending him sprawling backwards with a cry of pain.
  225. >”What the buck did you do, he was supposed to be left alone!”
  226. >She barely heard the words as her every sense tunneled in on the writhing, groaning form of Anonymous.
  227. >His falling body  seemed to have happened in slow motion, everything else seemed distant and unimportant to her.
  228. >Suddenly, the spell these mortals had cast that restrained her magic meant nothing.
  229. >They had hurt him.
  230. >They had hurt her beloved Anonymous.
  231. >Her everything...
  232. >With a guttural scream of rage and despair the magic restraint spell was swept away like a rowboat before a tsunami and all her power came rushing back from within her core, her mane and tail exploding into existence once again.
  233. >”YOU’VE HURT HIM!”
  234. >Her words shook the foundations of the Dreamscape, once again garnering her the attention of the ponies who had been stupid enough to come here to challenge her.
  235. >”Oh shit...”  The one in front muttered, eyes growing wide in terror.
  236. >”YOU’VE HURT OUR BELOVED!”
  237. >Tears flowing from her blazing, slitted eyes, Nýrmáni threw herself at the group of interlopers with another vicious scream, her fangs bared, wings outstretched.
  238. >Darkness exploded from behind her, transforming the surrounding landscape into the dark forest where she had been herself tormented to near madness.
  239. >As the interlopers looked around in shock at the sudden change in their surroundings, Nýrmáni slammed into the ground in their midst, the impact sending several of them flying from the epicenter of the crater she now inhabited
  240. >Her writing, star-filled mane wrapped around one of them, and with a horrendous ripping sound tore the screaming mare in two.
  241. >Without hesitating amidst the rain of blood from the now bisected mare, she grabbed the dead mare’s falling sword out of the air and hurled it with one hoof at a stallion who was in the process of throwing a javelin at her.
  242. >The sword hit him with such force that he was lifted off his hooves and thrown against a nearby tree, where he hung like a piece of clothing set out to dry.
  243. >Another sword impacted her neck, only lightly scratching her skin before the magically-reinforced weapon shattered.
  244. >”Impossible!”  The stallion shroud as he retreated backwards, fear emanating from every pore on his body.
  245. >One of the ponies that had been sent flying was attempting to get back on his hooves, but Nýrmáni was there, her mane discarding the two halves of the mare.
  246. >She reared up, then slammed her hooves down onto the stallion’s barrel.
  247. >The explosion of upturned ground nearly hid the remains as the chucks of earth and dead trees fell back to the ground, dead leaves falling like rain.
  248. >She turned to face the final attacker, the stallion who had dared strike her, but found nothing except for rustling bushes and the sounds of fleeing hoofbeats on dry leaves.
  249. >”COWARD! STAND AND DIE!”
  250. >It was then that she noticed a single ray of sunshine, shining down through the dark billowing clouds overhead to light a single area of the dark dead forest.
  251. >”My beloved…”
  252. >With a burst from her wings she landed in the ray of sunlight, finding her Anonymous, still very much alive, and in great pain.
  253. “Holy fuck this hurts!”
  254. >”Do not move Anonymous, it may cut you more internally if you do!”
  255. >He turned to face her, his eyes going wide.
  256. >Nýrmáni suddenly realized that she was covered with filth and gore, and thus was most likely not pleasing to the eye.
  257. “Yeah I know that.”  He panted, blood staining his shirt. “At least it wasn’t a gut wound, that would have been a lot worse.  Aghhh!”
  258. >His cries of pain tore a hole in her heart that nothing else had ever done.
  259. >”We will try to help, but these weapons are enchanted to hurt more than just flesh, your very consciousness is damaged from this..”
  260. “Well… that fucking sucks for me.”
  261. >Nýrmáni choked back a laugh at the sarcastic tone he used, even as the tears still fell from her eyes, her hooves gently holding Anonymous’ chest,
  262. >The sunlight they were both enveloped in slowly expanded and with it, the grass grew green once again, and leaves appeared in the trees, which shone with the brightness of a recent spring rain.
  263. “What can you do to stop it?”
  264. >”We…We do not know.”
  265. <>
  266. >”Wait, something has changed!”
  267. >”What do you mean, sister?”
  268. >The two of them stood in Nýrmáni’s room as several Night Guard held down her thrashing body.
  269. >While they had been shocked momentarily, they had followed Luna’s orders without question or hesitation.
  270. >Luna’s eyes closed as she concentrated on her connection to the Dream Realm.
  271. >While she could not interfere, alter, or pull Anonymous from his connection, she could observe it from afar, how the parasites clung to both his and Nýrmáni’s consciousness.
  272. >She had just one of the foreign consciousness’ simply vanish, quickly followed by another.
  273. >”I believe that the two of them are fighting back, two of the attackers are dead.”  Luna spoke without opening her eyes, her inner vision still focused on the strange fight playing out before her.
  274. >In the span of several seconds, only one of the parasitic interlopers was left, but something else was horribly wrong.
  275. >The mind of Anonymous was writhing around, twitching in visible, silent agony.
  276. >”Young Anonymous is hurt, and all of their attackers are dead but one!  The powers holding me back have weakened greatly, it may be enough for me to force myself through and get him out!”
  277. >Then the consciousness that was Nýrmáni’s rippled, like a sheet blowing in the wind, and with each moment the ripples grew larger and more intense.
  278. >”Oh by the stars above…”  Luna’s heavy voice caused Celestia’s eyes to snap to her sister.
  279. >”What is it Luna, what has happened now?”
  280. >”She is waking up, the influx of foreign magic and stress must have been enough to force her from her own mind!  I must get Anonymous out now!”
  281. >Concentrating with all her strength, Luna broke through enough of the barrier to force  her voice through.
  282. <>
  283. “I am holding still dammit, just ahggg!”
  284. >Using bandages that she had created, Nýrmáni carefully dressed the area around where the javelin’s tip disappeared into his shoulder.
  285. >They had broken the wooden shaft off until only just a few inches stuck out of his shoulder, freeing more room, and lessening the possibility of the shaft’s vibrations doing further internal damage.
  286. >”Please, We are trying, but Our memory of medicine is greatly lacking.”
  287. “T-that's a comforting thought.”  He groaned again.
  288. >Suddenly Nýrmáni lurched back, away from Anonymous, screaming in pain at a sudden pain in her hind leg.
  289. >”What… What is this?”
  290. >Another sudden pain wracked her side, and she screamed with the sharpness of it.
  291. “Are… Are you waking up?”
  292. >Nýrmáni turned her eyes back to Anonymous, expression pained and surprised, but strong.
  293. >”We cannot awake yet, We will not leave you here.”
  294. >”Anonymous…”
  295. >Both of them perked up at the quiet voice,  which seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
  296. >”Anonymous... can you hear me?”
  297. “Is that…”  Anon’s eyes narrowed. “Luna? Princess Luna is that you?”
  298. >”Yes… You must awake, before you become hurt any further!”
  299. >Nýrmáni stood shakily, glaring upwards towards the light.
  300. >”We do not trust you!  We will not let you take him from Us!”
  301. >There was no response.
  302. “Nýrmáni, I trust her.”
  303. >The alicorn looked down, eyes filled with confusion and unshed tears.
  304. >”What do you mean?”
  305. “She never tried to see our dreams, she left... left us alone.  She never lied.”
  306. >He coughed, and Nýrmáni felt her blood run cold at the blood that now stained her beloved’s lips.
  307. >She knelt down on shaky legs as pains continued to grow throughout her body
  308. >”No no no, please, We beg you, do not die, We... I love you…”
  309. >To her surprise, Anon let out a choked laugh, one of his hands found and weakly held onto one of her hooves.
  310. “That might b-be the cheesiest thing y-you’ve ever said, but it doesn’t change anything.  I-I need to go.”
  311. >Nýrmáni could feel his connection to her consciousness grow weaker, just as it had every time before he inevitably awoke in the physical world.
  312. >His grip on her hoof tightened at the tears that now freely fell from her muzzle as she wordlessly nodded at him.
  313. “I’ll be there for you when you wake up, I promise…”
  314. >His form glowed for a moment, before it simply dispersed as a cloud of grey and blue butterflies, which flitted through the sunlight from above.
  315. >Nýrmáni was alone.
  316. >But as she turned her head back to the dark woods, she realized she wasn’t alone.
  317. >Tears still falling from her eyes, her head came upwards in a sinister grin as she growled low in her throat.
  318. >The pillar of sunlight that surrounded her began to fade as thunder rumbled through the darkening clouds.
  319. >The fleeing stallion would pay for bringing this suffering upon her beloved.
  320. <>
  321. >Sharp Lance couldn’t find their entry point.
  322. >He was hopelessly lost in this dark, accursed forest, with no back up, and only a single dagger in his possession.
  323. >He had no idea how long it would take for the abomination to find him as he galloped through the endless trees and dead leaves, but his hopes weren’t high.
  324. >”Did you really think that you could destroy Us?”
  325. >The voice came from directly in front of him, and he backpedaled on his hooves as he slid to a sudden halt.
  326. >Other than his panicked, frantic panting the only thing he could hear was the creaking and rattling of dead, bare branches amidst the slowly rising wind
  327. >”Did you really think that you could escape Us?”
  328. >Sharp Lance shouted in fear, leaping forward as the voice spoke directly into his left ear.
  329. >Turning, he could see that the tree that he’d stopped next too had grown a head, neck, and part of the shoulder of the Nightmare.
  330. >The thing in the tree was covered in the greyish black of dead wood as it swung it’s only hoof at him in vain as it’s mouth opened, insects of all kinds pouring from its mouth as it writhed, seemingly desperate to touch him.
  331. >He screamed in terror and began to run again, only to see mounds of dead leaves rise up in the darkness, forming into ponies that looked familiar.
  332. >”Why did you lead us to die?”  One of them asked as branches shot through its chest, much like the stallion before it.
  333. >Sharp Lance fell on his back in horror as one of the shapes simply came apart, both halves walking towards him.
  334. >”I’ll never get to hug my mother again because of you.”
  335. >The ground beneath his hooves suddenly erupted as dead vines and roots began to wrap and twist around his limbs.
  336. >He shouted again in terror as he flailed, faces forming from the cracks of the dead trees around him, and they too began to wail and howl in ways that made his sanity hurt, splintered, leafless branches reaching for him like the hooves of the damned.
  337. >Then she appeared out of the darkness, the Abomination.
  338. >She was covered in the blood of his companions, and her eyes glowed in savage and vindictive hatred.
  339. >”We swore to ourselves that We would never bring about such horrors to the minds of others again.”
  340. >She slowly trotted closer as Sharp Lance began to feel himself being pulled into the cold and damp earth.
  341. >”But, for what you have done to Our beloved We figured, as the saying Our Anonymous has told of goes…”  
  342. >She stopped over him, sitting at his hooves as she grabbed his muzzle with terrifying strength.
  343. >Twitching with obvious pain, she gave him a fang-filled smile that made him relieve himself in dread.
  344. >Her words were barely above a whisper. “We figured, what the hell, one last time before We wake.”
  345. >The Nightmare pulled his head directly to hers.  Her slitted, alien, glowing eyes were just inches from his, and he couldn’t look away.
  346. >He could see things in them; horrors and glories that were beyond his comprehension, beings that could reshape entire worlds as easily as he could walk on the ground.
  347. >Sharp Lance began to scream incoherently as she dropped his twitching body back to the ground, which eagerly continued to swallow him up.
  348. >He saw the Nightmare Abomination writhing in pain, before simply vanishing with one final, lingering scream.
  349. >Then the ground swallowed his own scream as he fell into blackness.
  350. <>
  351. >Starlight Glimmer was honestly surprised that flames hadn’t erupted from her mane yet
  352. >She’d seen it happen to Twilight once or twice since her time here, it looked equal parts terrifying and really cool.
  353. >After teleporting from the kitchen after being freed by Twilight and Luna’s guards, she’d been looking through every room, every closet, every nook and cranny she could.
  354. >She still couldn’t find that damned traitor and his gang of thugs, but she would.
  355. >Then she’d show them what she could really do.
  356. >After several minutes of fruitless searching, she decided to go to the start of it all.
  357. >On the words of one of the Night Guard she had crossed paths with, she teleported into the room of the Nurse Tea Leaf, surveying the carnage.
  358. >Nose wrinkling at the smell of it all, she noticed several Night Guards standing at attention near the nurse’s bed, which held the heavily wounded Royal Guard Thunder.
  359. >Tea Leaf Herself stood at the bedside, holding Thunder’s hoof as a Nightguard medic monitored what looked like a blood transfer.
  360. >”Is… Is he okay?”  Starlight ventured quietly.
  361. >Tea Leaf looked up, eyes distant and still holding tears.
  362. >Her muzzle and chest were splattered with blood.
  363. >”We think so, he’s so weak…”  Her voice held no emotion.
  364. >Starlight swallowed the guilt forming in her.  “Could you tell me how you found him?”
  365. >”H-he was tapping on my door, i-it woke me up, I opened it to find… to find…”
  366. >With a quiet sob, Tea Leaf’s head fell softly onto the bed as she gently began to cry.
  367. >Starlight figured this would be the best time to extricate herself from the situation, and she quickly trotted out into the hallway, carefully stepping over the blood still at the foot of the door.
  368. >Her eyes narrowed as her mind began to race.
  369. >”Why would they come all the way up here, stab him, then leave?”
  370. >Starlight tapped her chin and hisses at the sudden pain.  Stupid head injury.
  371. >Activating her horn, she looked around, eyes narrowed.
  372. >Up the stairs to the rooms that belonged to Anon and Nightmare Moon, where she knew Princesses Celestia and Luna currently were.
  373. >Down the stairs to the rest of the castle.
  374. >Behind her to Tea Leaf’s room.
  375. >In front of her was the door to that boring old supply closet, and she quickly turned to go back down the stairs.
  376. >”Wait a minute.”  Starlight froze mid-trot.
  377. >She looked all around her again.
  378. >Back to Tea Leaf’s room, up and down the stairs, and across the hall, which immediately disinterested her so she tur⎯
  379. >Starlight shook her head vigorously, as she felt the tiniest inkling of magical persuasion enter her mind.
  380. >Looking up at the ceiling, she stared for a moment, her thoughts racing.
  381. >Everything around her was interesting or engaged her in some way, especially after what had just happened.
  382. >Everything except the door to that empty supply room which shouldn’t be looked into because it would be a waste of time an⎯
  383. >Starlight clenched her teeth tight enough to make her head spin as she fought the subtle enchantment she could now sense had been placed on the doorway.
  384. >It even resembled the one she had put on the cave by her old village, where she had stored all those cutie marks….
  385. >”Princesses! Down here! I think I’ve found them!”
  386. >In an instant and with a golden flash of light, Celestia and several guards appeared at her side.
  387. >”Where.”
  388. >”In… In…”  Starlight tried to point to the totally boring door, but her hoof shook as it slowly lifted into the air.
  389. >”Where are they?”
  390. >It suddenly felt much hotter in the hallway.
  391. >”Door… Enchantment…”
  392. >Head pounding, Starlight cried out and fired her magic at the door directly in front of her.
  393. >The door itself and the surrounding frame and wall were vaporized into ash and smoldering chunks of crystal that went flying everywhere.
  394. >Instantly her head went clear and she, Celestia, and the guards now pouring into the hallway rushed into the small room.
  395. >Among the glowing lines of power on the floor were the Royal Guard she had seen before getting knocked out.
  396. >All of them were slumped over or on their sides except for two of them, a unicorn who sat in deep concentration, magic pouring from his horn, and the Earth Pony she remembered as Captain Sharp Lance.
  397. >The unicorn was encased in Celestia’s golden magic and thrown against the far wall.
  398. >There was a sharp crack, and with a flash of light the lines of power on the floor vanished.
  399. >The pony Celestia had thrown began to rise, shaking his head, before he was dogpiled by several members of the Night Guard.
  400. >The stallion Sharp Lance simply sat there, facing away from them.
  401. >Then he began to scream.
  402. >The kind of unbridled, uncontrollable screaming that caused the hair on Starlight’s back to stand as chills went through her body at the sound of it.
  403. >His screams only ended when Celestia delivered a vicious blow to his head, knocking him flat onto the floor.
  404. >Celestia’s head suddenly picked up, ears twitching.
  405. >”My sister needs Miss Tea Leaf and I. We will be upstairs.”
  406. >And with that, Celestia turned and strode from the room to fetch Tea Leaf, leaving Starlight and the Night Guard with the prisoners.
  407. <>
  408. >There was blackness all around her.
  409. >She couldn’t see anything, but she could feel her body.
  410. >It ached terribly, every muscle seemed to weigh her down.
  411. >The last thing she remembered was giving her final punishment to that foolish stallion, then the pain had overtaken her.
  412. >A sudden, strange beeping sound cut through the blackness, and she soon realized it matched the quick beating of her heart.
  413. >"...ink she’s finally stirring, can you hear me?”
  414. >The new voice was faint, echoing, as though she’d heard it from the end of a distant tunnel.
  415. >Nýrmáni tried to respond but found herself too weak to, it was as if all the strength had been drained out of her.
  416. “I know you’re there, I’m here, just like I said I’d be.”
  417. >The speaker sounded just as tired as she did, but this voice she recognized.
  418. >”A-Anonymous?”
  419. >The words barely escaped her lips.
  420. “Yeah, it’s me.  Rise and shine Sweetheart.”
  421. >His voice had grown louder, more clear, and the joking name he called her caused her blood to boil with embarrassment.
  422. >”Do not… Call Us that… Again…”
  423. >There was a quiet chuckle.
  424. “There you are, now come on, open your eyes.”
  425. >It took her several moments to gather the energy to do so, but she managed to open them just a sliver.
  426. >The first thing Nýrmáni could see were the comfortable blankets that covered the most comfortable bed she’d ever slept on.
  427. >Through blurry eyes she could see a brown pegasus standing directly by the bedside, looking at some sort of strange contraption, before turning to look at her.
  428. >”Eyes are open, breathing is steady, I’d say that she’s going to be just fine Anonymous.”
  429. “Thank you so much Miss Tea Leaf.”
  430. >Then he appeared, and her eyes opened wider.
  431. >His arm was in what looked like a sling, despite no physical injury, but his expression was warm, and he smiled warmly at her.
  432. “I told you I’d be waiting for you.”
  433. >Her vision became blurry again, and it took her several moments before she realized that she was crying.
  434. >It hurt terribly, but she lifted one hoof to his face.
  435. >He intercepted it midway, gently holding it.
  436. >Nýrmáni could feel the warmth of his skin on her fur, the way his fingers gently held her thin hoof, and to her it was the greatest feeling in the world.
  437. >Her body gently shook as a quiet sob came from her.
  438. >”We… We are safe?”
  439. >Though still weak and faint, her voice was growing stronger.
  440. “You are, and I promise I’ll do everything in my power to keep it that way.”
  441. >A small smile formed on her muzzle, but she said nothing more for several minutes, content to simply gaze at the one she loved, and experience the waking world fully.
  442. >”You promised Us some of those… those pancakes, it would be wonderful to have some.”
  443. <>
  444. >The stallion lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling of his small room.
  445. >He turned his head to the far corner to look at the clock that sat over his desk.
  446. >5:00 AM.
  447. >The signal of success had not come.
  448. >The stolen dragon fire communications parchment on his desk had remained silent and still.
  449. >With a sad sigh the stallion got up, put on a set of saddlebags, and trotted over to his desk, gently lifting the package and note he had received the evening prior.
  450. >The package contained the stolen medical report, and all other information relating to the currently alive Nightmare Moon that Sharp Lance had been able to copy or steal.
  451. >The instructions on the note had been clear.
  452. >Failure was not an option.
  453. >He looked out over the still slumbering city of Canterlot, bathed in the soft, comforting light of the moon.
  454. >Taking the original package, as well as the multiple, carefully crafted copies he had spent most of the night making, he left his small apartment and made his way down to the ground floor.
  455. >As he trotted down the still and mostly silent streets, he pondered the plan.
  456. >The others had failed, but their sacrifice would not go in vain.
  457. >After several minutes, he found himself at his first destination.
  458. >He looked up to the sign hanging from the building.
  459. >The banner of The Canterlot Daily Times newspaper greeted him, lit by the large lanterns hanging from the sign.
  460. >From what previous observations had shown, they didn’t begin to print their daily newspapers until 6:15 AM.
  461. >A quick glance at the watch on his hoof showed it to be 5:24.
  462. >Plenty of time for a new front page story.
  463. >He knocked on the door several times before setting the package against the door and teleporting around the nearby street corner.
  464. >He waited, watching until a pony he recognized as the chief editor opened the door, noticed the abandoned package, and had retreated back inside with it.
  465. >For the first time that morning, the stallion allowed a smile to grace his features.
  466. >One publication down, three more to go.
  467. <>
  468. >The hot water washed over her coat and mane, filling her body with a warmth that normally would have given her a happiness that normally would help her start her day in a cheerful mood.
  469. >But this morning it was different.
  470. >Celestia sighed, head bowed, the water running off of her muzzle.
  471. >The water came from the shower, pure and sparkling, but left her a dark, angry red.
  472. >Even though she had been scrubbing and shampooing for over twenty minutes at this point, the blood that had coated half of her body had still not completely come out of her coat.
  473. >Just before Nýrmáni had awoken, Celestia had excused herself to set the sun on it’s morning course, and to make herself more presentable.
  474. >But no amount of water or soap would clean her turbulent mind.
  475. >She had killed one of her own Royal Guard.
  476. >Something she had not done in over five hundred years.
  477. >The water running over her body became distant as the memory of the attempted coup made its way to the front of her mind.
  478. >Unicorn supremacists had attempted to kill her, as well as the delegates from several other kingdoms during a private state dinner.
  479. >Jaw clenching in long forgotten sadness, she remembered how she’d tried to talk them down from their genocidal demands, and how they had killed a close pegasus friend of hers to prove to her their dedication to their cause.
  480. >Then they charged at her, and instincts took over.
  481. >After that, things were blurry for her, but the outcome was still as clear as if it had happened yesterday.
  482. >Standing amongst the torn and destroyed bodies of those who had sworn their loyalty to her and to the safety of all Equestria, those who had betrayed everything that their country stood for, she knew what had to be done.
  483. >She had rooted out every last conspirator, and had given them a choice.
  484. >Most had chosen wisely, renouncing their insane ideology in exchange for their lives.
  485. >A small majority, however, had not.
  486. >She had taken no pleasure in the executions that had resulted from this, but it was necessary for the safety of everypony.
  487. >Celestia had done the horrible deeds herself to spare her loyal Guards the pain of having to execute those that they had trained with and became brothers in hooves with.
  488. >That was a burden for her haunches to bear alone.
  489. >And it ate at her like a tumor.
  490. >”Sister, are you alright?”
  491. >Luna’s voice was cautious as Celestia registered the slow hoofsteps entering the bathroom.
  492. >Celestia didn’t answer, only the splashing of running water answered her sister’s question.
  493. >”I understand if you do not wish to talk, I will be here for you when you are ready, you know that right?”
  494. >”I killed him.”
  495. >Luna did not respond, but Celestia did not give her time too.
  496. >”It was pure reflex, complete instinct.  He attacked me.  He surely was going to finish off Miss Tea Leaf and her dearly wounded companion Thunder.”
  497. >”But I was there, between him and his target.”
  498. >The hoofsteps came closer, until the shower curtain was slowly pulled away.
  499. >Celestia couldn’t sense the magical energy of her sister’s armor or weapons, so she must have removed them.
  500. >”I don’t know if he would have attacked if he had been able to see who I was, but we’ll never know now...”
  501. >It took her a moment to realize that the stream of water from the shower had stopped, and that the water currently running off her muzzle were her own tears.
  502. >A pair of wings wrapped around her soaked coat, and she reflexively leaned into the comforting embrace of her younger sister.
  503. >”I’m so sorry that you had to do that, Celly.”
  504. >For the first time in many, many years, Celestia cried softly, wrapped in the gentle embrace of her younger sister, hidden and safe.
  505. >She didn’t know how much time had passed, but Luna eventually raised her head from where it had been sitting on her sister’s neck.
  506. >”Let’s get you cleaned up, you have somepony to meet.”
  507. >”She is awake?”
  508. >Her words were still warbly, but she felt a smile beginning to form on her muzzle.
  509. >”Yes, Nýrmáni woke almost an hour ago.  Her and Anonymous have been talking almost non stop.”
  510. >Luna levitated several towels emblazoned with Twilight Sparkle’s cutie mark over, and began to dry her sister off.
  511. >”I did not enter the room, I was content to let the two of them have some time together before we talked to her, but I did have Spike send Cadance a letter, telling her that Nýrmáni had woken.  She and Shining Armor should be here tomorrow.”
  512. >Celestia hummed in agreement as the comfortable towels embraced her, taking the last vestiges of water and blood away, leaving her as pure as she had been when she had gone to bed the night before.
  513. >At least on the outside.
  514. >”I have also brought your crown and other finery here, I know that you would like to make the best first impression on her.”
  515. >”Thank you Lulu.”  Celestia nuzzled her little sister, her still wet nose garnering a squeak of laughter from the blue alicorn.
  516. >Luna neatly hung the towels up to dry, her crown and other finery appearing on her with a pop of blue magic.
  517. >”What are sisters for Celly?”
  518. >The trip back to Nýrmáni’s room was much more cheerful than Celestia had thought it would be.
  519. >With the first rays of warm, autumn sunlight filtering through the open windows, the interior of the castle sparkled in a warm, friendly manor.
  520. >Luna’s Night Guard was still about, collecting bits of evidence and tidying up.
  521. >The Royal Guards who had been found in spell-induced sleep had been awoken according to Luna.
  522. >They swore that they had no knowledge of the conspirator’s plan, and currently there was no evidence that indicated otherwise, so they were being kept on the rotation but were being accompanied by two of the Night Guard everywhere they went for the moment.
  523. >As they climbed the final set of stairs, the sounds of talking could be heard emanating from Nýrmáni’s room.
  524. >Celestia found a smile forming at the happy and jovial tone of the voices.
  525. >Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she and her sister entered the room.
  526. >Nýrmáni was on her back underneath a warm flannel blanket, sitting up slightly, resting her head and neck on several pillows.
  527. >Her eyes were bright and attentive, focused on the young human sitting next to her bed as he joyfully told her about some kind of food that he liked to cook.
  528. >The smile that graced her features was simple, yet full of the youthful joy of discovery.
  529. >A cleaned-up Tea Leaf was also there, a smaller smile on her face as she calmly watched her patient.
  530. >At her and Luna’s quiet entry, the pegasus turned, her smile growing as she raised a hoof to her lips.
  531. >Apparently she was enjoying the interactions between young Anonymous and Nýrmáni.
  532. “...But besides food, I really wish I could have brought my violin in here, but my arm’s kinda shot for the time being.”
  533. >”It sounded so beautiful in our dreams, We are willing to wait to hear this wondrous instrument with Our own ears.”
  534. >Her voice was weak and quiet, but Celestia could hear strength that hid beneath the surface.
  535. >”Miss Nýrmáni, I believe that you have several ponies who wish to meet you.”  Tea Leaf said as she turned fully towards the two Princesses.
  536. >Anonymous looked up from Nýrmáni, eyes going wide at the appearance of Celestia and Luna.
  537. >He’d apparently been too engrossed in his conversation to notice their entry.
  538. >Nýrmáni turned her head to look at the doorway.
  539. >Her eyes met Celestia’s, and the nearly-black alicorn froze, eyes growing wide.
  540. >”We are sorry to bother the both of you, but it is time that we had a proper talk.”
  541. <>
  542. >The waking world was everything that she had thought it would be.
  543. >Every sense brought more, sounds were more natural, more rich-feeling than ever before in her short life.
  544. >The sound of Anonymous’ voice filled her with happiness and content.
  545. >But Nýrmáni had to fight the tears as joy that grew inside her.
  546. >She was finally free from her own mind, free to experience the waking world for herself.
  547. >As Anonymous had finished talking about the foods he had loved to cook with his father, Celestia and Luna made their entrance, and she felt her blood run cold.
  548. >The moment had finally come.
  549. >”Do you wish for me to leave your highnesses?” The pleasant young pegasus asked the two alicorns as she gave them a respectful bow.
  550. >”That won’t be necessary, Tea Leaf.”  Luna said, her expression warm and inviting.
  551. >She could see Anonymous put his head on his hand, his expression as nervous as hers was.
  552. >The two princesses approached her bed, sitting down next to the bedridden alicorn.
  553. >There was silence for a moment in the room, only the strange devices that were hooked up to her made any sort of sound.
  554. >”We barely remember the forest, and how we escaped it, but We remember seeing you, Celestia.”
  555. >Her voice was low, but Nýrmáni had to know the answer to the question she’d had ever since she’d awoken in her own mind.
  556. >”Why did you let Us live?  Why not simply stuck Us down while We were powerless and defenseless?”
  557. >If the Princess was surprised at her question she hid it well.
  558. >”At first, I considered it.”  Celestia’s words were calm, spoken slowly, as if she were carefully contemplating her words before speaking them.
  559. >”I wanted to know how you had survived being purged from my sister, how you reformed a body for yourself, there were many questions I wished to ask.”
  560. >”And then Cadance got involved, which brought young Anonymous here, and then, well, we all know what’s happened since you two met.”
  561. >Her words were calm, peaceful, Nýrmáni could sense nothing hostile hiding behind Celestia’s intentions.
  562. >”I know this will sound like a pitiful excuse but I must say it.  It was my Royal Guard who broke their sacred oath, not only to me but to all of Equestria when they attacked you, and for that, I apologize.”
  563. >”The last two are in our custody.”  Luna added, the first time she had spoken so far.  “We assure you, they will be held accountable for their heinous actions, against both yourself and Anonymous.”
  564. >Nýrmáni said nothing in return as she pondered the two sisters’ words.
  565. >”Will We be punished for what We did to those who invaded Our mind?”
  566. >Luna shook her head.
  567. >”No, you defended yourself and Anonymous, you will not be held accountable for what resulted from the foolishness of their own actions.”
  568. >”So, what will become of Us now?”
  569. >Celestia smiled, and Nýrmáni couldn’t help feeling put at ease by the genuinely warm gesture.
  570. >”You will experience life; joy, sadness, anger, love, it is all there for you, Nýrmáni.”
  571. >Nýrmáni was frozen in shock, her eyes wide.
  572. >”What my sister is saying is, you will not be punished in any way for what happened all those years ago.”  Luna said as she stood and walked directly up to Nýrmáni’s side.
  573. >”The blame for all of those horrible events rests on me, and on my sister, and as you told young Anonymous, you are Nightmare Moon no longer, but for all of the things that I did to you in my despair and rage, I am truly sorry.”
  574. >Luna placed one hoof onto Nýrmáni’s shoulder
  575. >Despite her best efforts, Nýrmáni could not hide the small tears budding in her eyes.
  576. >Reaching with one weak hoof, she wrapped her hoof around Luna’s, her senses tingling as their magics interacted and mingled.
  577. >”We forgive you, Our Anonymous would not be pleased if We didn’t.”
  578. >Nýrmáni’s smile grew wider as Anonymous’ face went pink.
  579. “Hey, I never said anything like that.”
  580. >”Young Anonymous has been rather easy to fluster, from what my sister and I have seen.”
  581. >Luna’s hoof left Nýrmáni’s shoulder as the blue alicorn giggled.
  582. >”Nýrmáni, I have informed my Night Guard of your presence here, they will not be a problem, I swear it.”
  583. >Luna then turned head to Anon.
  584. >”As for your injury, or physical lack thereof, I would not be too concerned with it.  While the damage was done to your consciousness, it is not permanently damaged, and will heal naturally in time.”
  585. “How?”
  586. >”Simply do things that bring you joy, that uplift your spirit, and it will grow back even more quickly.”
  587. >Nýrmáni’s smile grew even larger as she chuckled quietly.
  588. >”We believe that cuddles will be a good start for his healing then.”
  589. >Even Celestia quietly laughed as Anon mumbled something else, his pink face quickly turning red as he looked away from the two sisters and towards the far wall.
  590. >”He is Our everything, he showed Us who We could become.”
  591. >Just as she began to speak again, there was a strange rumbling sensation from Nýrmáni’s belly.
  592. >Her ears pinned at the audible growling sound, and she looked down to her covered midsection in confusion.
  593. >”What is wrong, what was that?”
  594. >The pegasus Tea Leaf tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention.
  595. >”I’m pretty sure that was your stomach, you’re probably hungry.”
  596. >Hunger.
  597. >For the first time in her existence, she could finally feel it.
  598. >”We… We have never eaten food before…”
  599. >There was silence in the room for a moment, before Anonymous suddenly stood, popping his back.
  600. “Well it sounds like pancakes are due, I’ll make some right now, anyone, eh, anypony else want some?  I don’t know about all of you but I’m starving.”
  601. >Anonymous turned his gaze to her, and her whole world shone just a smidgen brighter.
  602. “I’ll bring some up for you okay? And a couple toppings so you can try them all.”
  603. >Nýrmáni gave a pleased purr as Anon scratched one of her ears before he and the two alicorn sisters made their way out of the room, presumably to get some of those pancakes that Anonymous had told her about.
  604. >”He never would stop talking about you.”
  605. >She looked again to the pegasus mare, who was putting away what looked to be medical instruments, into drawers.
  606. >”Anon has always had this dopey, sappy smile when he talked about you, he really does love you.”
  607. >Blushing despite herself, Nýrmáni looked down, away from the mare’s surprisingly intense blue eyes.
  608. >”We… We love him as well, We owe everything to him, he understood Us, gave Us hope when We had none, he gave Us love…”
  609. >She stopped herself before she began crying, blinking her eyes furiously to stop the forming tears.
  610. >But from her vantage point, she could see Tea Leaf’s expression turn suddenly sad as well.
  611. >”What is wrong?”
  612. >Tea leaf said nothing for a moment, until she finally opened herself up.
  613. >”There was another guard, Thunder, he was nearly killed last night as well, he was guarding your room.”
  614. >Nýrmáni could see the pegasus’ wings began to droop in sadness.
  615. >”He’s at the hospital now, he’s stable, but it’ll be a long road of recovery for him, we had just started to see each other…”
  616. >”We are sorry, we should not have asked, clearly you care for him.”
  617. >Tea Leaf simply nodded as silence again settled over the two of them.
  618. >Again Nýrmáni felt the rumbling, twisting of her insides as her stomach demanded to be filled.
  619. >”We wish to walk, would you be kind enough to help Us?”
  620. >The pegasus trotted to the edge of her bed, a smile forming on her young face as she removed the sheet that covered Nýrmáni.
  621. >”Of course I will, I’m your nurse after all, at least until you’re well enough to function on your own one hundred percent of the time.”
  622. >”The castle is still on lockdown, but since Luna said all of her guards know you’re here, there shouldn’t be any problems with you being seen.”
  623. >Attempting to ignore the aches and pains that plagued her body, Nýrmáni carefully scooted herself to the edge of the bed, her limbs still feeling weak and heavy.
  624. >”Alright, start with your rear hooves, get a feel for your strength, see if you can hold your body up.”
  625. >Slowly and with great care, Nýrmáni slowly slid her rear hooves off of the warm sheets that she had been resting on, and gently lowered them to the floor.
  626. >The crystal floor was slightly cold to the frog of her hoof, and she hissed a but in surprise as her hooves connected with it.
  627. >”We are fine,” Nýrmáni said, seeing Tea Leaf’s worried look, “the floor is cold, and We did not expect it to be so chilling.”
  628. >Gently placing more of her weight onto her back hooves, Nýrmáni sat upright on the side of her bed, hind legs firmly on the floor.
  629. >Her legs felt strong enough.
  630. >”Good job, just keep going slow, and I’ll help you the rest of the way down.”
  631. >With Tea Leaf’s support, Nýrmáni placed her front hooves onto the floor.
  632. >Such a simple act, but she was already tired, her voice coming out in short breaths.
  633. >>I’ll be right here if you need somepony to lean on.”
  634. >A small nudge on her side told her that the dutiful pegasus was there if need be.
  635. >Slowly, Nýrmáni began to move.
  636. >It was a painstaking process, and several times her thin and trembling legs nearly collapsed beneath her.
  637. >”Thank you, We think that We may be able to do this on Our own.”
  638. >”I’m not sure you’re ready for stairs though.”
  639. >”There are stairs?”
  640. >By the time the two of them had made it to the door to her room, Nýrmáni already felt more steady on her legs, and most of the trembling in them had stopped.
  641. >Then she saw the stairs outside, and suddenly she didn’t like her chances very much.
  642. >”Well, bother, We are not sure if We can… wait a moment…”
  643. >Nýrmáni’s voice trailed off as the idea went through her head.
  644. >To the awe of the pegasus still at her side, her mane and tail began to change their form, going from clouds of miasmic star-studded blue to outreaching feelers, which seemed to touch and test the floor beneath her hooves.
  645. >With a simple thought, the feelers gently wrapped around her legs, almost completely covering them.
  646. >”There! Now with the added strength of Our mane, We may have the strength for Our journey for pancakes.”
  647. >”That’s… an interesting idea, do you think it will work?”
  648. >”There is only one way to find out.”
  649. >With Tea Life now in front of her in case she fell, Nýrmáni, took a single, tentative step downward, and when her leg held, she took another.
  650. >Soon, she was at the bottom of the stairs, panting with exertion, but intact.
  651. >Tea Leaf gave her a smile, before coughing into one wing.
  652. >”Good job, Nýrmáni, but unfortunately, there are about five more sets of stairs to go, are you sure you want to keep going?”
  653. >Holding her head up high, the Alicorn glared at the next set of stairs with dangerous intent.
  654. >”We shall not let simple stairs separate us from Our beloved Anonymous, We shall continue till the end.”
  655. >She could hear Tea Leaf chuckle but ignored it, despite her nose going slightly pink.
  656. >The rest of the trip to the dining room went smoothly as Nýrmáni seemed to grow stronger with every hoofstep.
  657. >She still needed a couple breaks to catch her breath and give her still weak legs a rest, but her determination did not falter, especially when the smells of freshly cooked food reached her nostrils.
  658. >The delightful aroma spurred her on, causing her stomach to once again rumble in hunger.
  659. >After reaching the bottom of the final set of stairs, Nýrmáni’s mane and tail gently flowed up from her legs and back to their proper places.
  660. >As they slowly approached the door which Tea Leaf said led to the dining room, Nýrmáni took notice of the two batpony guards standing at attention on either side of the door.
  661. >The two of them had passed several of them on the way down, to wide eyes and whispered words of shock.
  662. >These guards were no exception.  Though Luna had told her that her Night Guards had been briefed about her presence, they most likely hadn’t completely believed it.
  663. >They did now.
  664. >Eyes wide, mouths slightly open in their shock, they bowed low as Nýrmáni and her nurse approached slowly.
  665. >For her part, Nýrmáni was slightly confused.
  666. >”Why do you bow to Us so?  We are not one of your princesses.”
  667. >One of them finally managed to speak past her nerves.
  668. >”The Night Mistress Luna informed us all of your presence, and that we should treat you with the same respect that we give her.”
  669. >Giving a small hum of approval, Nýrmáni returned their bows with a polite tilt of her head and a small smile of gratitude.
  670. >The sounds of laughter, talking, and rattling plates and cutlery emanated from behind the closed doors, and Nýrmáni wanted in.
  671. >”Let me take a peek first.” Tea Leaf said as she cracked open the door just enough to fit her head between the two large crystal doors.
  672. <>
  673. >Anonymous stood next to the dinning room table, a serving pan filled with several pancakes and containers of toppings held in his free hand.
  674. >He’d been standing there for what felt like an hour, listening to Twilight, her friends, and the two princesses talk to him from their seats around the table.
  675. >It felt like he’d been thrown back in time to where his parents would meet someone they knew in public and couldn’t help but chit-chat with them forever.
  676. >Pinkie Pie, the absolute sweetheart that she was, had wanted to throw Nýrmáni a ‘Congratulations You’ve Finally Woken Up And You’re Not A Villain Anymore’ party but he’d quickly vetoed that.
  677. >She had, however, quickly agreed to make Nýrmáni some pancakes, fluffy as could be.
  678. >The name change was something else being discussed at the table, since apparently Twilight hadn’t told her friends about Nýrmáni’s name until just hours ago.
  679. >From what he’d overheard it seemed to have gone over well with them.
  680. >Hopefully it would with other ponies.
  681. >Just as he turned to try and sneak out again, there were two short knocks on the doors that lead out to the hallway before they cracked open, and Tea Leaf stuck her head inside.
  682. >”Hello, I hope I’m not intruding on anything, but I’ve got a very hungry alicorn who wants some pancakes, do you all mind if she comes in?”
  683. >There was silence for several moments, before Anon began to smile.
  684. “Of course she can, both of you come on in, I was about to bring her some food anyways.”
  685. >Tea Leaf opened the doors all the way, and Nýrmáni slowly trotted in.
  686. >She moved with careful steps, her legs trembling slightly beneath her, but her head was held high, and her expression brightened when she saw him.
  687. >”We are sorry Anonymous, but We could not resist the rumbling of Our belly, so We and Miss Tea Leaf ventured forth to seek the foods you have told Us so much about.”
  688. >Smile growing Larger, Anonymous set down the serving platter onto the table in front of an empty chair, and pulled it out for the hungry alicorn.                            
  689. >That was another difference between the Dreamscape and reality that he was still getting used to: Nýrmáni’s voice.
  690. >While in the Dreamscape her voice had sounded the exact same as it had on the TV show she was depicted in, albeit much more subdued most of the time.
  691. >He didn’t know if it was his mind projecting it that way while he slept or what, but it didn’t really matter to him now.
  692. >But here and now, her voice carried a strong northern European accent, like something from Scandinavia, Iceland, or another Baltic Sea country.
  693. >It had been strange the first few times she had spoken, but he rather liked it and it grew on him quickly.
  694. >It went well with her name.
  695. >He thought it sounded cute as a button in all honesty.
  696. >And he wanted to hear more of it.
  697. >As Nýrmáni sat, the silence that she had ushered with her entry slowly faded as the gathered ponies resumed their conversations, but a lot of curious glances were being sent her way.
  698. >Anon did see Rarity’s face light up with sudden glee as she levitated a tape measure from somewhere.
  699. >Thankfully, Twilight saw it and lowered it down with her own magic and a shake of her head, to Rarity’s visible disappointment.
  700. “Well, here are those pancakes I told you about.”
  701. >She didn’t acknowledge his voice or even look at him, her eyes were focused solely on the plate of syrup coated pancakes set before her.
  702. >She leaned forward, taking several long, deep sniffs, as if to reassure herself that they were really there and the source of the wonderful aroma that she had been following.
  703. >Anon could see a grinning Pinkie Pie quietly jumping up and down on her hooves to his left, clearly eager to see what Nýrmáni thought of the food in front of her.
  704. >The other ponies gathered around the table quieted down as well, curious as to what Nýrmáni would do.
  705. >Taking a knife and fork in her mane, she cut off a small piece and raised it to her mouth.
  706. >Anon watched, smiling as Nýrmáni’s eyes went wide with her first , slow bites
  707. >Joy, satisfaction, and delight spread across her features as she swallowed the small portion.
  708. >In an extremely un alicorn-like fashion Nýrmáni again raised her cutlery, and proceeded to tear into her food like a pony possessed.
  709. >There was some laughing from the ponies around the table, including Princess Luna especially.
  710. >In a span of just a few moments, the plate in front of Nýrmáni was picked completely clean.
  711. >”Could We, um, please get some more, they… they were very good, and the taste was most pleasant to Us.”
  712. >Pinkie Pie practically flew into the kitchen, instantly retrieving a large plate that was absolutely stacked with pancakes, a massive grin on her muzzle, large blue eyes shining with happiness.
  713. >”Here you go! One hundred percent Anon-made pancakes!”
  714. >The ravenous alicorn licked her lips at the massive stack of food the pink pony had set down in front of her.
  715. >This time, Nýrmáni took her time, trying different toppings at Anon’s suggestions as he sat down next to her to eat as well.
  716. >Tea Leaf sat on her other side, carefully watching her patient consume the food in front of her, but her own smile showed that enjoyed seeing her patient having fun.
  717. >Anon smiled, watching the simple pleasure the alicorn next to him was getting from such a simple meal.
  718. >He couldn’t wait to cook some other meals for her.
  719. >He was going to knock the stars right out of that mane of hers.
  720. >”Oh Anonymous, these pancakes have proven to be even more delightful than you told Us they would be!”
  721. >He looked at her, finding her slitted eyes glowing with adoration as she gave him another large smile.
  722. “I’m surprised you managed to eat that much so quickly, but I’m glad you like them.”
  723. >Nýrmáni hummed, the rumbling of her stomach finally quenched.
  724. >Rarity’s eyes suddenly narrowed, and before Twilight could stop her, she asked a gentle question.
  725. >”Dear, have you looked at your coat? It’s all disheveled and ungroomed.”
  726. >There was an awkward silence around the table, except for Twilight’s face impacting the table with a groan.
  727. >Nýrmáni turned a flat gaze to the white unicorn, who unconsciously shifted backwards in her seat slightly.
  728. >”What do you mean by that?”
  729. >Rarity coughed into one hoof. “Well, I hope this doesn’t come off as rude, but I’m going to guess that you haven’t groomed or bathed since you woke up, is that correct?”
  730. >Nýrmáni looked away from Rarity, her expression thoughtful.
  731. >”No, We have not…”
  732. >”Then I would suggest a nice, long shower to freshen yourself up.”
  733. >Nýrmáni tilted her head slightly, flicking one ear.
  734. >”Shower? What do you mean by ‘shower’?”
  735. >Rarity’s eyes went wide, but Anon spoke up before the unicorn could begin.
  736. “Well, basically, a shower is like standing in the rain, except the rain is hot and soothing, they’re really nice for calming aches and stuff.”
  737. >Nýrmáni turned to him, eyes brightening. “Then let Us be off, Our belly is satisfied, and We wish to experience this ‘shower’ that both of you speak off.”
  738. >The alicorn slowly stood from her chair, her mane stretching out to and grabbing hold of Anon’s t-shirt, pulling him off of his chair as the alicorn began her slow trotting out of the room.
  739. >”Come with Us Anonymous, and show Us how this ‘shower’ works, please?”
  740. >Face burning at the giggles and smiles he received from the ponies around the table, Anon let himself be guided slowly out of the room by his excited alicorn.
  741. <>
  742. >Thankfully, Twilight Sparkle allowed them to use her personal bathroom.
  743. >Since it was the largest in the castle, it would fit Nýrmáni perfectly, much better than the normal pony-sized showers that most of the other rooms possessed.
  744. >As Tea Leaf warmed up the water, Anon ran back to his room for his swimsuit.
  745. >He was nowhere near ready to be nude around Nýrmáni.
  746. >Not yet at least.
  747. >That would hopefully come later.
  748. >By the time he had returned, steam was in the air, and he could feel the temperature increase from the warmth of the water.
  749. >”And We just stand underneath it?”  He heard Nýrmáni ask Tea Leaf as he opened the door.
  750. >”Yep nothing much more to it, Princess Twilight said that anything in this room is at your disposal if you wish.”
  751. >As he shut the door behind him, he saw Nýrmáni standing just outside of the large space, moisture billowing around her body.
  752. >”Oh good, you’re here Anon, I was just going to help her in, but now you can.”
  753. >The sly smile on Tea Leaf’s muzzle caused his face to heat up again, her intentions clear on that cute face of hers.
  754. >”I’ll be outside if you two need me for anything, showers are private after all.”
  755. >Anon watched, red-faced, as the pegasus happily skipped past him, opened the door, and left, closing it behind her with one final giggle.
  756. >The two of them stood there for a moment, before Anon sighed, walking towards the shower.
  757. >The shower was the largest he had ever seen or been in, and the water came straight from the ceiling, not a head.
  758. >Princesses get the good stuff apparently.
  759. “Alright, the water doesn’t look too hot, just step in slowly, I don’t want you to slip or anything.”
  760. >Slowly, Nýrmáni clambered into the large shower, the water running off of her neck and body in large rivulets.
  761. >He heard her let out a surprised gasp, then a pleased, content sigh as her body visibly relaxed under the stream of hot water.
  762. >Taking his shirt off, he stepped to the counter, eyeing the different types of shampoo that Tea Leaf must have laid out for him.
  763. “Pumpkin Spice? This is what I’m talking about.”
  764. >Stepping back to the shower, he slowly entered, letting the water embrace him in it’s warmth.
  765. >Setting the bottle onto an outcropping in the crystal wall, he turned to Nýrmáni, who stood in the center of the shower, eyes closed, head bowed as the water ran over her body.
  766. >Her fur had been ruffled and puffed before, but now the waterlogged fur clung tightly to her body.
  767. >He could see the lanky form of her legs, and her thin yet attractive flank, with its purplish splotches and cutie marks glistening under the water.
  768. >In a way, the purple splotches almost looked like freckles.
  769. >Taking a deep breath, he tried to contain himself.
  770. “Nýrmáni, how does it feel?”
  771. >His only response was a satisfied hum from the alicorn as her mane and tail writhed happily in the falling water, tickling his bare arms and chest when he got next to her.
  772. >Steeling his resolve, he took the shampoo and opened the container, pouring some into one hand.
  773. “I don’t know if this will sting your eyes or not, so just keep them shut for me okay?”
  774. >”So wonderful…”  Was his only response
  775. >Rubbing the shampoo between his hands, he gently began to lather it onto her back and neck.
  776. >With a coo of contentment Nýrmáni arched her back slightly, pressing against Anon’s fingers as he rubbed the shampoo into her coat.
  777. >Gritting his teeth and trying not to think naughty thoughts, he made his way up her long and graceful neck.
  778. >She giggled as he began to scratch directly where her mane sprouted from the back of her head, and twitched her head slightly as he gently rubbed her ears.
  779. >Apparently she was getting really relaxed, because she hummed again as her hind legs slowly folded, and she sat down on the shower floor with a soft, wet, splattering impact.
  780. >Anon paused as he tried to keep his increasingly hot and trembling body in check as his mind raced.
  781. ‘It’s just a shower it’s just a shower it’s just a shower…’ repeated over and over in his head as he poured more shampoo into his hands, continuing his journey down to her chest.
  782. >Going down onto one knee, he rubbed and lathered the shampoo into her thicker chest tuft and front legs, as Nýrmáni continued to make pleased coos and hums at his ministrations.
  783. >As he washed the shampoo off of her chest, she lowered herself completely to the shower floor, and rolled over onto her back like a puppy.
  784. >Anon was still for a moment as his eyes took in the sight.
  785. >Mere mortals such as himself were eternally blessed to be able to witness views like this.
  786. >Nýrmáni gave a pleased sigh as the water impacted her barrel, and she laid her head back on the ground, neck outstretched.
  787. >She didn’t look like some kind of super-powered demigod of night and darkness to him.
  788. >Nýrmáni looked more like a dog, with her front hooves held against her chest slightly, and with her rear legs outstretched, she appeared to be melting into a puddle of bliss.
  789. >Completely exposed and at ease, defenseless.
  790. >Even as his hands had passed over the white fur that marked the various scars her body had received upon her arrival, she had not flinched at his cleaning.
  791. >A small part of Anon realized that Nýrmáni would probably never act like this for anyone or anypony else but him.
  792. >She trusted him with her life.
  793. >It was deeply humbling.
  794. >But the much larger part of him also saw the pleasant curve of her figure, and the elegant flare of her still somewhat thin hips.
  795. >Gritting his teeth so hard he thought they might break, he began to spread the shampoo across Nýrmáni’s barrel.
  796. >Another low, pleased hum came from her throat, and he could feel the gentle yet strong beating of her heart against his kneading hands.
  797. >Gently washing out the shampoo, he poured himself a bit more, and resumed his gentle scratching and brushing of her soft belly as he too began to relax in the shower’s warm embrace.
  798. >Then one of his hands went a bit too low, and found a small mound on Nýrmáni’s lower body.
  799. >He froze as the alicorn let out a moan completely different from any he’d heard from her before.
  800. >It was lustful, wanton, and her back arched slightly, wings quivering as they began to spread.
  801. >The line in the sand had been drawn.
  802. >Time to make the call.
  803. >He squeezed his hand, fingers finding the small nub on the center of the teat he had accidently found.
  804. >Nýrmáni moaned again, louder, as her head rolled from side to side
  805. >But she didn’t tell him to stop, or squirm uncomfortably under his hands.
  806. >If anything, she arched her back higher, tail and mane wildly thrashing in the water that she lay in.
  807. >His other hand found her other teat, and he gently began to knead both them and the surrounding area, including the inside of her thighs.
  808. >Nýrmáni emitted a hungry whine, her rear legs quivering under his touch as he gently shampooed them as well.
  809. >With that section of her body washed, he poured just enough shampoo into his hands to wash her flank.
  810. >”A...Anonymous…”
  811. >He instantly stopped, looking as Nýrmáni raised her head slightly, enough to look him directly in the eyes.
  812. >The young man gulped nervously as he looked into her glowing slitted eyes.
  813. >She was giving him the same look she’d given her pancakes just before she had devoured them, and her breaths came in deep pants as she licked her lips.
  814. >Faster than he thought possible, Nýrmáni lifted herself off of the floor and threw herself on top of him, pinning him underneath her slightly larger body.
  815. >Before he could say a word, her lips crashed into his in a furious kiss, her wings almost fully outstretched.
  816. >Trying to overcome his shock, he tried to open his eyes, only to immediately close them because of the running water, which poured from the ceiling and from the pony currently sitting on his pelvis.
  817. >With a lustful snarl Nýrmáni forced her longer tongue past his lips, moaning into Anon’s mouth as he brought his hands firmly to her shoulders.
  818. >He didn’t know how long they sat like this, making out like teenagers under the warm, falling water, but there was no way in hell that Nýrmáni couldn't feel his erection pressing against her underbelly.
  819. >With one last lick of his teeth, Nýrmáni pulled her muzzle away from his face, panting heavily.
  820. >”H-how dare you make Us feel so good, and t-touch Us where none have touched before, making Us feel things We never d-dreamed We would...”
  821. >Her voice was low, sensual, and her cyan eyes glowed, reflecting amongst the falling water.
  822. >Anon couldn’t respond, he was still trying to get his breath back.
  823. >But he could definitely feel it as Nýrmáni began to slowly grind her flanks back and forth across his hips and growing hardness.
  824. >”And hiding such a pleasing body underneath such meager clothes? I-it should be a crime for you to do so.”
  825. “W-wait…”
  826. >He barely managed to croak the words out, but thankfully Nýrmáni clearly heard him.
  827. >Her expression and posture went from ‘high impact sexual violence’ to ‘nervous and timid alicorn’ instantly as her eyes widened.
  828. >”Anonymous?  What is wrong?  Are you alright?”
  829. >She slowly stood, allowing Anon to prop himself up on his arms.
  830. >He looked up, still trying to catch his breath and control his base, primal urges, and saw Nýrmáni sitting there under the running water.
  831. >She looked hurt, confused, her eyes wide with worry.
  832. “It’s… Nothing is wrong, but it… it just doesn’t feel like the right time for this yet.  I mean, you haven’t even been awake for a full day yet, and you can barely walk.”
  833. >Nýrmáni’s eyes fell slightly as her ears drooped, causing Anon to stand to meet her eye to eye as he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
  834. “It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have gotten you worked up, and I shouldn't have gone that far myself, but how about this; just because now isn’t the right time for well, going-all-the-way, doesn't mean we can’t kiss each other.  Aggressively.”
  835. >This brought her head back up, and as he looked at the mare before him, nothing was more beautiful than the small smile she gave him.
  836. >”Of course, We wouldn't want to overexert Ourself so short after gaining our freedom, Our nurse would be most displeased with Us, and We still have many things we would like to do and see yet.”
  837. >Anon gently patted her head, right between her ears and on top of her mane, which happily curled around his hand as she hummed happily at the contact.
  838. “That’s the spirit, now for the second best part of a shower; drying off.”
  839. >Turning the water off, he stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel for himself, while the alicorn shook like a dog, water flying everywhere.
  840. “Was that really necessary?”  He asked as Nýrmáni slowly stepped out of the shower, tittering with laughter.
  841. >”Yes it was.”
  842. >Anon shook his head, still smiling, as he began to towel off the alicorn.
  843. “I’m not trying to be lewd, I swear.”
  844. >Nýrmáni simply giggled as Anon dried off her belly, very mindful and careful around what was there.
  845. >Anon was thankful though, Nýrmáni simply seemed simply happy to hum and coo softly as he dried her off, ruffling her fur up as he finally finished trying the back of her head off.
  846. >Finding a brush on the large crystal counter, Anon gently began to brush her disheveled coat.
  847. “So you said you had some other things that you wanted to do, what were they?”
  848. >The alicorn looked at herself in the mirror for a moment, before meeting Anon’s gaze again.
  849. >”We wish to see the sun.”
  850. <>
  851. >With a pop of Twilight Sparkle’s magic, the six of them appeared at the entryway to the roof.
  852. >Celestia and Luna had wished to come, and Nýrmáni would not go anywhere without Anonymous or her Nurse Tea Leaf.
  853. >Nýrmáni smiled again as she looked at Anonymous, who was wearing a fresh set of clothes.
  854. >Her human looked very attractive, even in the longer clothing that he wore, but then she turned her gaze to the door in front of her.
  855. >She stood there, suddenly unsure of this plan of hers.
  856. >”You won’t have to go far, the doors open right at the edge of the castle, so you’ll be able to get a good view without really being spotted by anypony walking below.”
  857. >Twilight’s words were distant in Nýrmáni’s mind as doubts suddenly began to race through her mind.
  858. “Are you okay?”
  859. >Thankfully, she had her beloved at her side, and the wonderfully nice mare Tea Leaf to help her.
  860. >She took a deep breath, and slowly trotted forward.
  861. >Anonymous gently opened the door ahead of her, causing a brilliantly bright light to come through.
  862. >Partially shielding her muzzle with one wing and squinting her eyes, Nýrmáni continued onwards, until she was fully outside.
  863. >The coolness of the air contrasted with the warm confines of the castle, and caused her to ruffle her dried feathers as the fall air impacted them..
  864. >Slowly, the light became more bearable, and she lowered her still-weak wing, opening her eyes fully.
  865. >As the spots in her vision cleared, she could see the outskirts of the town that she assumed was Ponyville, outlined by the early morning sun.
  866. >In the sky that was streaked with all sorts of wonderful colors, gentle, fluffy white clouds floated over their heads, spurred onwards by a chilly wind that ruffled her coat and mane.
  867. >She could see the outskirts of the forest that she had escaped from, and the beautiful golds, yellows, and greens of the leafless trees all around..
  868. >The distant hills shone in their own brilliant colors, the taller hills and mountains already had snow resting on the highest peaks.
  869. >Nýrmáni could also make out a distant city, perched on the side of a far away mountain.
  870. >”This… this is…”
  871. >She couldn't find words to describe what she saw, so she simply sat and looked with childish wonder at the world that surrounded her.
  872. <>
  873. >A light tapping on her window woke her up.
  874. >Raven Inkwell groaned in annoyance, turning over in her bed.
  875. >It was her day off, and considering how few of those she had, she always took the opportunity to sleep in.
  876. >When Celestia had told her two days ago that she was canceling court for this day and spending it in Ponyville with her sister and former student, she had been thrilled for the chance to have a rare day to herself.
  877. >She also hadn’t been able to resist asking if it had been about the special guest currently residing in Princess Twilight’s castle.
  878. >While her knowledge of Nightmare Moon’s presence there was kept to an absolute minimum, there was no pony Princess Celestia trusted in Canterlot more than Raven Inkwell.
  879. >Except for her younger sister, that went without saying.
  880. >But now some accursed knocking was keeping her awake on her first day off in five months.
  881. >She opened her eyes a tiny crack, just enough to see that the sun was already up, the early morning light spilling across the wall across from her bed.
  882. >Still too early.
  883. >”Gooo awaaayys…”  She muttered through the blanket she pulled over her head.
  884. >There was silence for a moment, before she heard her window being opened with a creak, and the rustling of feathers as something flew into her bedroom.
  885. >In a desperate bid to postpone the inevitable, she pretended to be asleep, going stiff as a board.
  886. >Something tapped her rear hoof through her comforter.
  887. >Several times.
  888. >With a frustrated sigh she tossed the blanket off of herself and sat up, glaring at whoever had already ruined her day.
  889. >”Why are you try… Philomena?  What are you doing here?”
  890. >As the mare tried to rub the sleep out of her eyes, the phoenix again pecked lightly at her still covered rear hoof.
  891. >”What is it?”
  892. >The phoenix hopped closer, and suddenly Raven noticed the bundled newspapers clutched in one of her claws.
  893. >Raven smiled, even as she shook her head with a sigh.
  894. >”I know you always fetch the morning newspapers for the Princess, but you don’t hav⎯Owww!”
  895. >The phoenix pecked her harder, and lifted off the bed, hovering just long enough in the air to drop the four bundled newspapers into Raven’s lap.
  896. >”What is it, I’m not reading the newspapers for you, It’s my day off.”
  897. >Philomena ruffled her feathers in a clear sign of irritation, before using her razor sharp beak to cut the tie holding what Raven could see as the rolled-up Canterlot Daily Times.
  898. >As the newspaper unfurled itself in front of her, Raven couldn’t help but glance at the front page headline.
  899. >It took a moment for the massive words emblazoned on the front page to get through her remaining exhaustion, but when it did, her mouth fell open and her eyes went wide with horror.
  900. >’Oh by Celestia’s sun…”
  901. >Exhaustion suddenly forgotten, she quickly opened the other three newspapers, only to find the same general headline on all of them.
  902. >”Oh sweet Celestia this isn’t good.”
  903. >This changed everything.
  904. >Horn bursting into life, she quickly rerolled the newspapers and bound them, before giving them back to Philomena, who took them in one claw.
  905. >”Get those to Celestia as fast as you can, she has to know what’s happened. She and Luna are in Ponyville at Princess Twilight’s castle, you know the way?”
  906. >The phoenix nodded, giving a small nuzzle of apology to Raven’s cheek.
  907. >Philomena turned, and with a blindingly bright light shot out of the room so fast that Raven’s curtains nearly fell from their holders, and several loose papers on her desk were sent flying in the phoenix’s wake.
  908. >Raven Inkwell sat there for a moment before cursing in a completely un-marelike fashion.
  909. >So much for that day off of hers.
  910. <>
  911. >Nýrmáni didn’t know how long she stood on that rooftop, gazing at the world around her.
  912. >With the wind ruffling her coat and sending her mane and tail flying happily in the breeze, she was completely enraptured.
  913. >The fresh air filled her nostrils, and she breathed deeply the fresh, clear fall air.
  914. >It was beautiful.
  915. >Then her eyes narrowed as she once again glanced at the far-away castle on the mountain.
  916. >”What is that light?”
  917. >Her voice caught the other’s attention, and by the time they had all noticed it, a lance of fire stopped on top of the railing just besides where she sat, sending the others behind her reeling and causing her to flail backwards with a squeak of surprise.
  918. >From the flames, a brightly colored bird appeared, shaking the remnants of soot off of its feathers.
  919. >”Philomena?  What are you doing here?”
  920. >Celestia trotted forward towards the phoenix, which was now rapidly hopping up and down on the railing with one claw, while the other held several tightly wrapped papers of some kind.
  921. >The bird was chirping loudly and frantically as it’s chest heaved, seemingly exhausted by it’s extremely fast flight.
  922. >”Raven sent you? And what are these?”
  923. >Taking the tightly bound papers from the wildly gesticulating avian, Celestia opened them in front of herself.
  924. >”Thank you Philomena, but I don’t really need to read…”
  925. >Nýrmáni watched with sudden trepidation as Celestia completely froze.
  926. >It was strange, so wrong to see such an expression on Celestia’s muzzle, even though they had just ‘met’ several hours before.
  927. >Her eyes went wide, and her lower jaw fell in what looked like a mixture of shock and horror as she scanned the document.
  928. >Luna noticed her sister’s expression as well, and quickly trotted to her side, and upon seeing the message that the strange paper bore, immediately turned to look at her sister, her expression almost identical.
  929. >”What is it Celestia?”  Twilight Sparkle asked, taking one step forward.
  930. >Without warning, Celestia’s horn lit up, covering all of them.
  931. >With a loud snap of energy they all instantly appeared into a strange room, apparently within the castle that contained a large round table in the center, and seven thrones around its circumference.
  932. >Anonymous, Nýrmáni, and Tea Leaf all fell to the ground, surprised by the sudden teleport.
  933. >”Twilight, bring all of your friends here, now.”
  934. >The purple alicorn nodded nervously at Celestia’s grim and terse tone, before turning tail and galloping from the room.
  935. >”What is it that brothers you two so?” Nýrmáni asked as she slowly stood, head tilted slightly.
  936. >Even though she had no idea what had just transpired, the friendly, cheerful atmosphere had been completely flipped on its head.
  937. >Her beloved Anonymous, after shaking the last of his post-teleport shock from his head, quickly walked over to Celestia’s side.
  938. “What is it? What does that newspaper say?”
  939. >The Sun Princess seemed to hesitate for a fraction of a second, as if unsure if she could give her beloved the ‘newspaper’ or not.
  940. >”You wont like it.”
  941. >The paper floated into Anonymous’ waiting hands, and Nýrmáni watched his expression go from concerned to furious in an instant.
  942. >”Sister, all the others are pretty much the same.”
  943. >While her Anonymous continued to swear under his breath as he read, Luna had opened up the other ‘newspapers’ and was glancing through them as well.
  944. >”One of them must have leaked it all to the press, this is a catastrophe.”
  945. >Nýrmáni approached cautiously, eyes side and nervous.
  946. >”What is wrong?”
  947. >Celestia looked up from the papers that she was reading, and laid it down on the table for the alicorn to read.
  948. >”What’s wrong, is that the ones who tried to kill you succeeded, in a way.”
  949. >The black alicorn looked down at the massive letters that emblazoned the newspaper.
  950. >She didn’t understand a lot of what the ponies who had written it were implying, but she felt her chest go tight, and her heart began to pound in her chest.
  951. >”Anonymous said that the rest of Equestria did not know of Our presence here, how do these ponies know, and why do they write such horrible lies about Us?”
  952. >”Those damned guards must have connections in Canterlot, and they leaked it all to the public press, most of whom do not care about the privacy or the emotions of others.”
  953. >Celestia’s head shot up from her intense reading as Twilight Sparkle and the rest of the Elements of Harmony entered the room.
  954. >When they saw the headlines and began to read the papers for themselves, their cheerful moods vanished completely as well.
  955. >”My sister and I must return to Canterlot immediately, there will be severe political fallout from this revelation of this knowledge, and we must find the source of these leaks immediately.”
  956. >Then Celestia looked directly at Nýrmáni, who couldn’t help but lower her head slightly in unease at the intense look.
  957. >”Nýrmáni, Anonymous, I am afraid that you both must stay in this castle until further notice.  They have a section of Tea Leaf’s medical report with both his name on it, and the fact that the two of you are currently located here.”
  958. >”It will only be a matter of time until reporters and ponies from all over come to see for themselves, and we cannot risk any more harm coming to either you or your guards if you or Anonymous become trapped in an angry mob.”
  959. >Nýrmáni wanted to argue, to rage that she had just gained her freedom not just hours ago, but in the end she said nothing, other than a sad nod of assent.”
  960. >”We… We understand, if this must be done to keep him safe,” She looked to her beloved, who was sitting, back resting on the crystal table, being comforted by the Element of Kindness, “then We will follow these rules.”
  961. >Celestia’s horn began to glow with magic, but Luna tapped her sister on the shoulder.
  962. >”Just a moment sister, I think that there is something that needs to be done first.”
  963. >The two of them looked at each other for a moment, seemingly coming to a non-spoken agreement.
  964. >As one, they stepped towards Nýrmáni, who shifted uncomfortably as the two alicorns came to a stop directly in front of her.
  965. >”When you first arrived and you were being treated for your injuries, the room you were in was specifically enchanted to block and contain your magic.  We also cast spells on your body that did the same, incase of any failure of the room’s wards.”
  966. >”Since you have proven yourself to young Anonymous, as well as to us that you pose no direct harm to them or anypony else in this castle, we will return your abilities to you.”
  967. >The two sisters lowered their horns’ touching them to Nýrmáni’s forehead.
  968. >Nýrmáni felt a small snap run through her horn and down through her body, like a small electrical jolt, and then the strange feeling passed.
  969. >”Twilight, you will have to monitor her abilities, they will not come back immediately, but over a period of several days to ensure that she does not become overwhelmed by the sudden neurological strain her powers will bring.”
  970. >Twilight stood at attention at Celestia’s words, looking at Nýrmáni with a strange, maniacal smile.
  971. >”Of course I’ll help her learn, I love teaching magic!”
  972. >For some reason Nýrmáni felt a shiver run down her spine.
  973. >”We will be contacting all of you regularly.  Good luck, and stay safe.”
  974. >With a flash of golden magic and a small burst of heat, both Princesses vanished.
  975. >Nýrmáni and the rest of the gathered ponies were silent for a moment.
  976. >”Well, since neither you nor Anon can leave, I’d get comfortable if I were the two of you.  I’m really, really sorry, but we can’t risk anything else happening to either of you.”
  977. >The purple alicorn turned to her remaining friends.
  978. >”From what I’ve read so far in the papers, it doesn’t look like any of you are named or mentioned, so you all should be safe from this for now, I’d get home before the press arrives.”
  979. >The others seemed reluctant to go, but they seemed to realize the truth in Twilight’s words.
  980. >With several goodbyes from them towards Anonymous and herself, the remaining Elements of Harmony left the room.
  981. >Nýrmáni made her way over to Anonymous, who still sat against the large crystal table, seemingly in shock over the news that they had all received.
  982. >”Are you alright?”
  983. >Her tone was low, cautions, as she watched her beloved hold his head in his hands.
  984. >He didn’t respond for several moments, and he only looked up once she had seated herself directly next to him, pressing her side into his.
  985. “Seems that no matter where you are, the media can’t help but talk about stuff that isn’t their damned business.”
  986. >The door opened again, and one of the Night Guard entered and approached Twilight, who was sitting close to Anon as well.
  987. >”Ma’am, the castle is secure, every entrance is currently under surveillance, and two of of my operatives are at the local train station to report on the next arriving train, which will be here in about thirty minutes or so.”
  988. >”Thank you Captain, I’ve already blocked off access to all the windows and the roof area from outside ponies.”
  989. >”In addition,’  The captain continued, “My superior in Canterlot informed me that within the last hour, almost every flying carriage and small airship has been rented out of the local outfitters.  I can only assume that most of them will be coming here.”
  990. >The alicorn sighed, wings drooping slightly.
  991. >”Great, just what we need.”
  992. >Twilight turned back from the captain and towards Tea Leaf, who had been sitting quietly off to the side for all of this, reading one of the discarded newspapers with angry, red eyes.
  993. >”Miss Tea Leaf, I hope you don’t mind if we move Thunder from Ponyville General Hospital back to here.”
  994. >The pegasus’ head perked up at Thunder’s name, and looked towards Twilight with confusion written on her muzzle.
  995. >”Why would you move him from there?”
  996. >”Because it won’t take long at all for the reporters and the others to figure out that the one injured royal guard at the local hospital probably had something to do with Nýrmáni, and I’d much rather have him here in the castle where he’ll be safe.”
  997. >”Would you be willing to continue his treatment here?  I know that’s a lot to ask but…”
  998. >”Of course I’ll do it.”  Tea Leaf’s expression went hard as granite.  ”I’ll need help from a couple of the Night Guard to get him here safely, but there’s enough medical equipment here to ensure his swift and safe recovery.”
  999. >The Night Guard captain nodded at the mare. “I’ll get you half-a-dozen immediately.”
  1000. >With that, both Tea Leaf and the batpony quickly exited the room, leaving Nýrmáni, Anonymous, and Twilight alone.
  1001. >”I’m so sorry this happened Anon.”  Twilight sided, ears lowering in dejection.
  1002. “It’s not your fault, don’t say that….”  He sighed again, and Nýrmáni leaned in closer, lying down so that she could place her head softly on top of his.
  1003. “My dad had a saying that he loved to tell me and my brothers, ‘you have to play life with the cards that you’ve been dealt’.  I’ve just been dealt a really, really bad hand just now, the only thing to do is try to make the most of it.”
  1004. “I mean, how obnoxious are reporters and journalists here anyways?”
  1005. <>
  1006. >As the morning vanished and the sun rose higher, Nýrmáni quickly found out that those who had written such horrible things about her were absolutely relentless in their search for any information they could get their hooves on.
  1007. >Every window she had peeked out of, she could see ponies standing outside of the castle, waving parchments and shouting questions at anything that they thought moved.
  1008. >Others held objects that emitted flashes of light at random, Anonymous had told her that these were ‘cameras’.
  1009. >All in all it was very boring and irritating, and the growing crowd of outsiders did not seem intent on leaving anytime soon.
  1010. >Several of them had already been placed into custody for trying to break into a lower window, according to Twilight Sparkle.
  1011. >Faced with existential boredom and wishing to get those abominable reporters out of her mind, Anonymous, Nýrmáni, and Tea Leaf found themselves in the exercise room of Twilight’s castle.
  1012. >The young man apparently wanted to work on getting her physical strength back, something that she was eager to as well.
  1013. >While using her mane to assist her legs while walking was good, she needed to rely on her own physical body more.
  1014. >But she’d have to start out slow, Miss Tea Leaf would be upset if she hurt herself so soon after waking up.
  1015. >Thankfully her beloved Anonymous had joined her, doing every exercise that she did, no matter how trite it was for him.
  1016. >She felt warmth spread from her chest as he did simple stretching exercises with her at Tea Leaf’s direction, even though it was something that he was clearly beyond.
  1017. >He didn’t want her to feel left out, alone in struggle with her physical body.
  1018. >It made her love him more than ever before.
  1019. >She desired him,
  1020. >She needed to feel his warmth and see his smile.
  1021. >The way he’d reverently cleaned her body in the shower had made her feel things that she had never thought she’d ever be able to feel.
  1022. >She felt loved, treasured, and the way his fingers had held her and scrubbed through her coat made her feel worshiped.
  1023. >The only reason she hadn’t mounted him right then and there was his plea for patience.
  1024. >While disappointed, she understood his reasons, she was also nervous in many ways about going that far this quickly.
  1025. >But she’d waited this long, she could wait a bit longer.
  1026. >Also his promise of kisses helped seal the deal, she was very quickly growing fond of those.
  1027. >”Alright Nýrmáni, you did very well on those stretches, I think we’ll call it good for today.”
  1028. >”As you wish Miss Tea Leaf, We will trust your recommendations on this matter.”
  1029. “How is Thunder doing?”  She heard Anonymous ask.
  1030. >The young pegasus sighed as she wrote several notes down in her small writing board, which she seemed to take with her everywhere.
  1031. >”He’s awake, but very weak.  We got him  to the medical room by the guard quarters here just before the reporters started showing up.  As long as none of his wounds get infected and if the healing salves work as intended he should be right as rain in a couple of weeks.”
  1032. >Anonymous smiled, seemingly pleased by the news.
  1033. “Why aren’t you with him right now? I could have handled these stretching exercises with Nýrmáni myself.”
  1034. >Tea Leaf shook her head, a sad smile gracing her features. “He told me too, he said that since he’s not going anywhere for now I should focus on my first patient, and that he’d be there waiting for me when I was done every day.”
  1035. >She shook her head again, dispelling the tears forming in her eyes “That silly colt, such a romantic...”
  1036. “Well, he's right that he’s waiting for you.  In fact, go ahead and go be with him, I’m sure I can handle Nýrmáni for the rest of the day, and I’ll know where to find you if I do need you.”
  1037. >With a respectful bow and a wave, Tea Leaf gathered her things and left, surly to go visit the one that she too cared so much for.
  1038. >Holding a small towel to her head and neck in her magic, Nýrmáni was careful not to move it too fast, her power was barely able to hold it in the first place, and she didn’t want to overstress and knock herself out through magic burnout.
  1039. >She didn’t want that, the waking world was much too fun to experience.
  1040. “Good job, I’m proud of you Nýrmáni.”  Her human smiled as he wiped some of the sweat off of his own head.
  1041. >For such a simple compliment, it caused her muzzle and neck to blush furiously.
  1042. >”Thank you, We wish to accelerate the healing of Our body, there is much to do that our body cannot yet physically handle.”
  1043. “You planning on going hiking or something?”
  1044. >The alicorn shot a mischievous smile in his direction as she hung her towel next to where he had just put his.
  1045. >”Maybe…”
  1046. ”That’d be awesome, but until all this crap clears up we’re not going anywhere.”
  1047. >Nýrmáni felt a twinge of pain at seeing Anonymous’ souring mood.  
  1048. >”Come, there must be something that We can do with you to stave off this boredom and drive these unpleasant thoughts from both our minds…”
  1049. >Then it clicked in her head.
  1050. >”We know!  You have not worn that sling on your arm since breakfast this morning, does your arm feel any better?”
  1051. >Anon looked down at his right arm, flexing it and spinning it around, his eyes going wide at his own realization.
  1052. “Yeah, I remember taking it off right before I took that shower with you, and I haven’t really felt any significant pain in it since.  I guess Luna was right about it healing quickly, thank God for that.”
  1053. >Nýrmáni suddenly felt nervous for asking such a simple question, but she asked anyway, unconsciously crossing one foreleg across the other as a small blush reappeared on her smiling cheeks.
  1054. >”Would you… be willing to play more songs for Us on your violin?”
  1055. >He gave her the first genuinely happy smile she’d seen in several hours as he gently hugged her around the neck, a gesture which she lovingly returned with one front hoof.
  1056. “I’d love to.”
  1057. >She inhaled his scent deeply as she held him, filling her nose and mind with the scent of Anonymous.
  1058. >Her stallion.
  1059. >The mixture of that pleasant-smelling cleaner he’d used on her earlier in the morning along with the slight tinge of sweat still drying on his arms made her shiver despite her best efforts.
  1060. >Then they both let go of each other, and happily made their way up to his room, Anonymous staying by her side the whole way.
  1061. >As they ascended the final set of stairs, Nýrmáni was leaning against him as he gently helped her up the last couple steps, thoroughly exhausted from her climb.
  1062. >”Going down stairs… is easier... than going up…”
  1063. >Chuckling at her sense of humor, Anon nodded to the two batpony guards who stood in front of the two doors.
  1064. >They smiled and nodded back, moving to the side so that Anonymous could guide his exhausted alicorn into his room and to the safety of his bed.
  1065. >Warm evening light spilled through the open blinds on the windows, casting golden gleams along the crystal, sending light reflecting everywhere.
  1066. >Nýrmáni gazed around, leaning on Anonymous’ side as they slowly approached his bed, which somehow looked even more comfortable than the one that she had been resting in since her arrival.
  1067. >She stood there for a moment at the bedside before turning to look at Anonymous, her slit eyes growing larger as she met his gaze.
  1068. >”We think that We do not have the strength to get up onto your bed.  Help Us up please?”
  1069. >She watched with silent glee as he smiled, shaking his head while mumbling something about ‘silly mares’ as he gently eased her hindquarters onto the mattress as she scrambled up onto the bed with her weak and tired hooves.
  1070. >Soon, she was resting comfortably on the soft comforter that topped his bed, while he had gone over to a shelf to retrieve his instrument.
  1071. >Eyes still roaming about the room, she noticed a small picture frame sitting on the bedside table.
  1072. >Gently encasing it in her magic, she brought it closer, eyes widening as she recognized one face in it, but not the four others.
  1073. “Like the picture?”
  1074. >With a squeak of surprise Nýrmáni dropped the picture onto the bed, where it bounced once before settling upwards.
  1075. >”We are sorry, but We couldn’t help but notice this painting here and⎯”
  1076. “It’s a picture, not a painting.  Remember what those devices that those assholes outside were using?”  Anon asked, voice calm as he set his instrument case down on the bedside table, and the chair he held in his other hand besides the bed.
  1077. >”Those ‘cam-eras’ We believe you called them?”
  1078. “Yup, this is what they do, they create images without the need for painting or drawing, pretty cool stuff.”
  1079. >He sighed, sitting down on the bed next to where she lay, picking up the dropped picture.
  1080. “I’m guessing you probably already figured it out, but this picture is of me and my family, the last one we took together actually.”
  1081. >She could sense the unease in his face, and see the sadness causing his shoulders to slump slightly.
  1082. >”We are sorry, We should not have touched it.”
  1083. “It’s okay, it’s not like any of them are dead, we just live apart, me and my two brothers were grown and living our own lives, our parents couldn't really be prouder of us.”
  1084. >He sighed again, setting the picture back in its place on his bedside table.
  1085. “I miss them a lot, but I made my choice, no take-backs.  My parents raised me, they did the best they could, they made me the person I am today, and I’m eternally grateful to them for it.”
  1086. >She could see the bottoms of his eyes shining, and her heart felt as if it had been wrenched in two.
  1087. >She wrapped one wing around his shoulders as his head fell, gently holding his head to her side with her long, graceful neck.
  1088. >”We are sure that they would be proud of what you have done here so far.”  Her quiet words were interspersed with gentle nuzzles to his neck and head, her mane wrapping around him protectively as well.
  1089. >It was silent between the two of them for several moments, she was willing to give him all the time he needed before he finally spoke again.
  1090. “Thanks, but there’s no use dwelling on the past,  I love the life I had with them, and I’ll do everything I can to honor them.”
  1091. >He took his instrument case, opened it, and pulled out his violin.
  1092. >Examining it for a second, he gently left the bed and Nýrmáni’s embrace, earning a sad whine from the alicorn.
  1093. >Sitting down in the chair he had brought over, he looked at her with a smile as he cleaned his instrument with a small cloth
  1094. “Now that you got me all worked up and emotional, I gotta play some happy songs now to bring my mood back up, you ready?”
  1095. >With a smile growing on her muzzle, Nýrmáni nodded eagerly, her wings ruffling as she made herself comfortable on the already comfortable bed.
  1096. >Anonymous put his instrument to his shoulder, and with a final wink to the alicorn resting on his bed, began to play
  1097. <>
  1098. >Many guards and servants had seen Princess Celestia upset over the years.
  1099. >Often these ranged from a sour mood and downturned ears, to subdued sniffling heard emanating from her chambers at night, particularly in the months leading up to Princess Luna’s return.
  1100. >But none of them had ever seen her this enraged.
  1101. >Her eyes continued a very soft, steady glow, and her face had been a thin, hard line ever since she had appeared at the castle to engage with the packs of nobles and elected officials who had already shown up to protest.
  1102. >As she trotted briskly from the main throne room to her bedchambers she seethed under her breath, her normally lazily flowing mane and tail whipping back and forth like whitewater rapids.
  1103. >They had managed to track down the fool who had leaked all of the information to the press, thanks to rapid investigation by Luna and several select members of Celestia’s Agency.
  1104. >After they had found the physical documents that the pony had left with the newspapers, they’d managed to track down the culprit through trace magic found on the documents.
  1105. >Not only had the pony been taken into custody without a struggle, according to the report she’d read he’d been carried from his apartment laughing his head off.
  1106. >Other ponies were investigating the stolen weapons, and Luna was digging through everything she could to find out how the guards had found the spell they had used.
  1107. >Add to that the massive wave of nobles and congressponies who had spent most of the day yelling questions and demands at her, and she was not in a happy mood.
  1108. >This was a total disaster.
  1109. >Every speech, official announcement, and press release pertaining to Nýrmáni’s presence that she had been planning had gone up in smoke.
  1110. >Celestia had been outplayed.
  1111. >And she hated it.
  1112. >The last speakers in the day court had been a sizable group of congressponies, who told her that there would be a new joint resolution that they’d be putting together for the upcoming session of the Equestrian Congress, which was only one week away.
  1113. >The glares and sneers they’d worn while telling her this meant that whatever they were planning would certainly not be good for Nýrmáni.
  1114. >Fortunately, she still had a couple cards of her own she could play.
  1115. >One of the first things she’d done upon her arrival was to make a note to herself to write a letter to a retired Agent of hers in Ponyville, requesting her immediate reactivation.
  1116. >This pony was skilled, very skilled, and was no stranger to violence herself.
  1117. >She trusted this pony greatly, and knew that she would accept the call of duty.
  1118. >Sweetie Drops was never one to back down from a challenge.
  1119. >Allowing herself a small smile at her one victory this day she entered her room, the red rays of the setting evening sun shining warmly on the whitewashed walls, only to find her sister standing by the large mahogany desk against the wall.
  1120. >”Good evening to you Luna, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
  1121. >Luna yawned, clearly having just woken up, the bags under her eyes showed her lack of sleep, and her hair was a frazzled mess.
  1122. >”I found out how they managed to get that spell; they broke into my personal office and library.  I have already located and detained the culprit in the most secure cells we have.”
  1123. >Celestia’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.
  1124. >”You didn’t harm this pony did you?”
  1125. >Luna’s smile was dangerous.
  1126. >”No, but I have shown him the… error of his judgement.  I have done nothing to sway, force, or break into his mind, but I believe that he will confess wholeheartedly and honestly before a jury of his misdeeds.
  1127. >”Good, I need more positive news.”  Celestia sat by her sister, taking off all of her ornaments and setting them on a hanger by her bed.
  1128. >”I’m guessing that your hastily set up Day Court went about how we thought it would?”
  1129. >”Worse, I believe that the Congress will move to do something drastic in their fear and anger.”
  1130. >”They would need a three-quarter majority to override any of our royal edicts right?”
  1131. >Celestia sighed again, her mane going limp.
  1132. >”They do, and unfortunately I think they’ll be able to get their majority.  We need to make plans in case of the worst.”
  1133. >Luna’s expression went as grim as her sister’s, but she nodded, eyes hard with determination.
  1134. >”I’ll look into some things tonight, you get some rest Celly, I’ll ensure that you get a deep, dreamless sleep tonight.”
  1135. >Celestia gave her younger sister a warm nuzzle, earning a laugh from both of them.
  1136. >”Thank you sister, I have some letters to send to Twilight  and a few others regarding what happened here today, then I’ll get the sun lowered so I can go to bed.”
  1137. >With another sigh Celestia floated over several sheets of parchment and a quill.
  1138. >”Sadly, I’m positive that today was just a preview of what is going to happen over the next week.”
  1139. <>
  1140. >”Honey, did you read the papers today?”
  1141. >Bon Bon looked up from her store inventory book, dropping the quill that she’d been holding in her mouth.
  1142. >”I did in between baking candy batches and watching the counter at the store today, what about them?”
  1143. >”Well, do you believe any of it all?”
  1144. >The Earth Pony sighed as she got up from her work desk and went into her living room, finding her housemate and marefriend Lyra sitting on their couch.
  1145. >The green unicorn was reading one newspaper, while several others were scattered across the floor in front of her hooves.
  1146. >”I mean, almost everypony in town has been talking about it all.  Imagine, Nightmare Moon, just a mile or so away from here, and in Twilight’s castle no less?  I know you could see the reporters from the shop window all day.”
  1147. >Bon Bon felt her face droop as she began to gather the scattered newspapers.
  1148. >”Yeah, imagine that.  It was all leaked deliberately, and with the intent to cause harm, trust me on that.”
  1149. >Lyra lowered the newspaper, one eyebrow raised as she looked at Bon Bon.
  1150. >”What makes you think that?”
  1151. >”Well, for starters, if they didn’t want to do any deliberate damage, why didn’t whoever leaked the information take out any of the names on the medical form they also leaked?”  
  1152. >”Now everypony knows that pegasus mare Tea Leaf has been treating Nightmare Moon for weeks now, and poor Anonymous…”
  1153. >Lyra tapped her chin with one hoof.
  1154. >”Yeah, that’s kinda awkward for him.”
  1155. >”Not awkward, try ‘ostracizing’; from this point on I’ll be surprised if both of them are even looked at from now on by most ponies, and I know that Tea Leaf enjoyed getting flowers and baked goods from Sugarcube Corner.”
  1156. >”Not to mention Anonymous, he seems like such a nice young man, no way in Tartarus does he deserve all the hatred the press is giving him… what did The Canterlot Times say about him again?”
  1157. >Lyra flipped back a page and looked for the quote, expression souring as she found and read it aloud.
  1158. >”In their opinion piece they say that he is “a fool of the highest order and should be expelled from any and all civilized societies with the Nightmare that he ‘cares’ so much for”, I’m going to have to agree with you on this one, this isn’t right.”
  1159. >Bon Bon opened her mouth to reply but suddenly every hair on her body stood up, and in a burst of orange dragonfire a large, string-bound parcel appeared out of the air and hit the floor at her hooves.
  1160. >The Earth Pony froze.
  1161. >She knew what this was, and the fact that it had appeared just now was bad news.
  1162. >Very, very bad news.
  1163. >”Bon Bon, honey, what is that?”
  1164. >Lyra hopped off of the couch and made her way to her marefriend’s side as Bon Bon slowly picked up and began to unwrap the package.
  1165. >The first thing Bon Bon found inside of it was a letter, addressed to her, and in Princess Celestia’s hoof writing.
  1166. >Quickly opening and shielding it from Lyra’s curious eyes, she read through it thoroughly.
  1167. >”Well, what does it say?”
  1168. >Bon Bon sighed, lowering the letter so that Lyra could read it as well.
  1169. >”You’re not going to like it.”
  1170. >Lyra read about three sentences before her head shot back up to meet Bon Bon’s steady gaze.
  1171. >”This is about that super secret monster agency thing isn’t it?”
  1172. >”Yep.”
  1173. >”And Princess Celestia is reactivating your Agent status?”
  1174. >”Apparently.”
  1175. >”Can you just tell Princess Celestia no?  I mean, you told me you retired after that whole ‘bugbear’ incident.”
  1176. >Bon Bon shook her head slowly, folding the letter back up and placing it gently back into its envelope.
  1177. >”I believe Princess Celestia, I trust her, much more than some rag that scrapes the bottom of the barrel scandals as news most of the time, but that’s besides the point.”
  1178. >”I can not and will not let two innocent creatures take the fall for some power hungry, fanatical group of ex-royal guards with a spear of their plot-holes.  I have a duty to Princess Celestia, and I’ll see it through till the end if I have too.”
  1179. >She picked up the package and set it on her back, as she popped her neck.
  1180. >”Hopefully, if this letter and the information Celestia has is accurate, I won’t have to do anything, but if push comes to shove…”
  1181. >Lyra’s eyes went wide at the hardness in Bon Bon’s eyes.
  1182. >”Well, I’m off to bed, I’ve got to look at what else the Princess sent me, good night.”
  1183. >”Good night.”  Bon Bon could hear Lyra’s hesitant and quiet reply as she gathered the package and made her way upstairs to their room.
  1184. >So much for the retirement life.
  1185. <>
  1186. >Anon slowly walked towards the kitchen, his stomach rumbling.
  1187. >He’d been so focused on helping Nýrmáni and worrying about those damned ponies outside that it was nearly 8:00 PM and he still hadn’t eaten a bite of food since breakfast.
  1188. >Hopefully he could throw something together quickly and get to bed.
  1189. >With the hunger came the exhaustion.
  1190. >Finding the dining room and kitchen empty, he set about to make himself some fried potatoes and diced onions.
  1191. >Those were good and filling no matter what.
  1192. >It didn’t take long for his small meal to be ready, and as he exited the kitchen to take a seat at the large table, he found Twilight Sparkle and several sheets of parchment waiting for him.
  1193. >”There you are Anon, I’ve been looking for you, how was your day?”
  1194. >He sat down, picking through his food quietly as he sighed.
  1195. “It was fine, except for the problem outside that is.”
  1196. >Twilight sighed, shuffling through the parchments she had on the table in front of her.
  1197. >”About that, most of them are setting up camp around the castle or checking into the local hotel, they're not leaving until they get more information.”
  1198. >He sighed again, tapping his for against his plate absentmindedly.
  1199. >”Where’s Nýrmáni?  You two have been together all day.”
  1200. >Anon chuckled as he put another forkful of potatoes into his mouth.
  1201. “She’s asleep.  I was playing her some songs on my violin and she was loving them, up until she laid her head down and instantly fell asleep. I couldn’t bear to wake her, she was really tired after everything today.”
  1202. >Twilight smiled again at the news, still looking at the parchments in front of her.
  1203. “What are those?  If you don’t mind me asking of course.”
  1204. >”Celestia just sent me several letters about the current state of affairs in Canterlot, it’s not good.”
  1205. “What does she mean by ‘not good’?”
  1206. >”Well, apparently a large majority of the Equestrian Congress aren’t very happy about this, and some of them told her they were going to make some kind of resolution about it, but we don’t really know what their intention is yet.”
  1207. “Wait, Equestria has a Congress?”
  1208. >He could see her brain flip over from ‘concerned friend’ mode to ‘bookworm’ mode the instant his question left his mouth.
  1209. >”Yes, Equestria has a Congress, composed of elected representatives from each county and city in the nation and its territories, their job is to make the more localized policies that Celestia and Luna are simply too busy to handle themselves.
  1210. >”If us Princesses had to make every single decision on every single little thing in the whole country wide government system we’d have gone crazy long ago, this was a way to help the common ponies take charge of their local municipalities in a way.”
  1211. >Anon nodded.
  1212. “I guess that sounds fair to me, so where’s the problem at?”
  1213. >Twilight’s expression fell as she lifted one of the letters closer to read it again.
  1214. >”Where the problem comes in is that very large and important decisions that affect the whole of Equestria have to go through the Congress before Celestia and Luna can make a royal decree that makes it law.”
  1215. >”They also have three-quarters majority overrule power if they believe the Princesses aren’t acting in Equestria’s best interests.  The Human Immigration Initiative passed with a fifty/fifty split of the Congress, and there was a lot of debate over allowing extra-dimensional beings into the country based on the whims of the Crystal Heart.”
  1216. >”This whole, err, spectacle, could put the Initiative in a very bad light with them and the general public, and if the Congress has enough votes to overturn the royal decree that the Princesses and myself made allowing it to start and continue…”
  1217. >She didn’t voice her fears out loud, but Anon could see what she was implying.
  1218. “Well, this sucks.”
  1219. >”I don’t agree with your choice of words but yes, this does indeed suck.”
  1220. >Anon finished the rest of his meal in silence.
  1221. “Is there anything I can do to help”  He asked quietly, placing his silverware on his empty plate.
  1222. >”As much as I’d love to say that you could, you can’t.  I barely know what I can do myself, I just got into this whole political/princess web of politics a couple years ago myself, but according to her letters Celestia has a few tricks in her feathers that may help.”
  1223. >”The one thing that I’d suggest doing is simply being there for Nýrmáni, and don’t let all this negativity slow down her recovery, we’ll hopefully have all this cleared up in no time.  I’ve got an official statement to write to give in front of the town hall tomorrow.”
  1224. >Anon appreciated her enthusiasm and dedication to helping Nýrmáni and himself against such odds.
  1225. >He just hoped that optimism would actually make a difference.
  1226. “Thanks Twilight, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me so far, but I’m tired, and I need to go to bed before I fall over and hurt myself, good luck on writing that speech.”
  1227. >After putting his dishes away and waving goodnight to the purple alicorn, Anon slowly made his way up to his room.
  1228. >Several times he stopped at windows and peeked through the closed blinds, only to see a couple of the ponies using telescopes and binoculars to try and see through the windows.
  1229. >No matter what universe you were in apparently, some things never truly change.
  1230. >Thankfully, his trip didn’t take long, and soon he found himself outside of his room and the two guards that still stood silently at attention in front of it.
  1231. >He’d shut the door before he’d left to keep it quiet and it thankfully was still shut.
  1232. >One of the guards spoke up, voice respectfully quiet.
  1233. >”She’s still asleep Sir, haven’t heard a twitch from her.”
  1234. “Thanks for the info.”
  1235. >Nodding to the guards, he slipped inside and shut the door behind him as quietly as possible.
  1236. >Nýrmáni lay on her side on top of his bed, barrel gently rising and falling as she slept.
  1237. >She looked so peaceful, so content that it made his heart swell.
  1238. >Quietly deciding that trying to pull the sheets out from underneath her might wake her up, he got one of the spare down comforters from his closet.
  1239. >Satisfied that shorts and a t-shirt would be sufficient for the night, he carefully spread the blanket over the sleeping alicorn.
  1240. >She hummed softly and ruffled her wings slightly, but made no further movement.
  1241. >While still skinny, she was a tad bit bigger than he was, so it might be a tight fit on the bed without personal space being violated.
  1242. >Carefully sliding onto the bed and under the comforter, he was just getting comfortable when Nýrmáni’s mane and tail wrapped around him and slowly pulled him to her chest, like a python encircling it’s prey.
  1243. >He heard her mumble something in her sleep as her hooves wrapped around his body and brought him all the way to her chest, with her chin finding a resting spot on his head with a soft purr.
  1244. >Anon quickly decided that being the little spoon wasn’t so bad when a warm, fluffy alicorn was involved.
  1245. >Closing his eyes, he snuggled against the alicorn he had come to love, and with the relaxing feeling of her gentle but strong heartbeat against his back, he quickly fell asleep.
  1246. <>
  1247. >Despite what almost everypony thought, Princess Luna did not spend the whole night chasing down bad dreams and comforting the thoughts of her sleeping subjects.
  1248. >Her routines were nowhere nearly as regulated as her elder sisters were, few wished to know what the Princess of The Night did, even now that she was somewhat popular with the ponies of this day and age.
  1249. >The only ones who honestly cared were the astronomers who gazed at her wonderful stars, those poor souls who traveled and worked at night, and those afflicted with nightmares.
  1250. >She always tried to make her night skies comforting, soothing, and inspiring.
  1251. >As Luna flew over Equestria to the destination she had on her mind, it gave her time to contemplate what had happened over the last day.
  1252. >Being alone was good for thinking sometimes.
  1253. >But as the Everfree forest passed underneath her, her mind returned to her plan.
  1254. >The Congressponies would most likely try something desperate in their fear and anger to get rid of Nýrmáni.
  1255. >Staying within the confines of Twilight Sparkle’s castle could only protect her for so long, as she and Celestia had sadly just found out the previous night.
  1256. >With Nýrmáni’s magic returned to her she would be a formidable opponent to almost anypony or anything in this modern era, but relying on magic alone was a foolish idea.
  1257. >But she’d seen the hardness in Nýrmáni’s eyes when she spoke of young Anonymous and how much he meant to her.
  1258. >She saw the same hardness and conviction in her own eyes whenever somepony threatened her sister Celestia or her ponies.
  1259. >Nýrmáni was a warrior at heart, much like Luna herself had been and still was to some extent.
  1260. >And one of the most important aspects of a warrior was their weapon.
  1261. >Luna’s hooves touched down softly on the broken and moss-covered cobblestones of The Castle of The Two Sisters, Luna adjusting the two large saddlebags she carried.
  1262. >She had not been here since she had returned from her banishment, and it seemed not to have changed a bit.
  1263. >Luna sighed, stepping inside of the remains of her old castle.
  1264. >Plant life of all kinds flourished within the empty halls and hung from the high arches. It was beautiful in its own, sad way.
  1265. >Once this place was the center of the young Equestrian Empire, with ponies of all kinds and duties bustling back and forth, now reduced to a slow, crumbling ruin.
  1266. >With her bright and beautiful moon shining down through the massive tears and holes in the ceiling above her, Luna trotted towards where the castle garrison armory used to be.
  1267. >Though her battle with Celestia had reduced much of the castle’s outer structures and some of the main hall to nothing more than slag and ash, she still made her way easily through the wreckage, her destination now in sight.
  1268. >As she stopped at the low, bunker-like door in the stone wall, she was happy to see that it had apparently not been messed with by anypony since it’s last use over one thousand years ago.
  1269. >Luna knew that Twilight and her friends had been here several times, mainly to collect what salvageable books they could as well as several other artifacts or treasures, but thankfully it seems as though this unassuming ruin had escaped their notice.
  1270. >It was for the best; some things are better not known by such kind hearted, forgiving ponies.
  1271. >Horn glowing, Luna touched the door with her magic.
  1272. >The ancient enchantments that had protected it from outsiders and the ever invading Everfree Forest opened at a small nudge from her hoof, exactly as it had done since her last visit here.
  1273. >With the rusted hinges flaking metal at their sudden use, the door noisily opened, and Luna trotted inside.
  1274. >For several moments she stood in the doorway, her eyes adjusting to the pitch blackness within, even as her horn lit up brighter, giving her light to see.
  1275. >Racks of swords, long since rusted to simple shafts of red, flaking iron.  Spearheads lay in piles among their stone racks, their wooden handles long since rotten and turned to dust.
  1276. >To her, it felt as if only a few years had passed since she’d come here, but time once again had taken everything familiar to her and changed it into something near unrecognizable.
  1277. >None of this was what she was seeking, and she slowly made her way down row after row of ancient, decaying weapons and armor.
  1278. >”Now, our personal stores should be in this corner here…”
  1279. >With several more sharp hoofsteps in the dust-covered stone floor, Luna came to a stop.
  1280. >A blank wall faced her, with a symbol of a combined moon and sun still etched onto its surface, small remnants of blue and gold paint that had resisted time until now reflected in the light of her gently glowing magic.
  1281. >With a sad smile at the sight, Luna’s horn glowed brighter.
  1282. >The beautifully etched sun and moon began to glow with white light, before the whole stone wall simply melted from existence.
  1283. >Luna entered the large room, and the stone wall re-appeared behind her.
  1284. >She was now truly alone.
  1285. >This room, unlike the rest of the castle, had no plant overgrowth inside of it, and the only signs of age were the dust, cobwebs, and the rotten and collapsed wooden work tables, rusty tools lying where they had fallen centuries before.
  1286. >It appeared that even Celestia had not had the heart to come here since their fight, everything was just as Luna had left it.
  1287. >Gazing around the room with a melancholy smile on her muzzle, memories of long ago still brimming in her mind, she found one of her most constant companions in her loneliness before her fall; a massive anvil of pitch black metal which sat under a thick layer of dust.
  1288. >On the furthest wall a large forge sat, dark and silent, the flames in which she had forged weapons of great and terrible power long since quenched.
  1289. >The room needed a lot of love at first glance, many things would have to be repaired or replaced, but that would come later.
  1290. >Then she spotted what she had come for in the first place.
  1291. >The bars of unassuming metal sat on the floor close to the forge, stacked in a neat pile under their own layer of dust and cobwebs, still stacked as neatly as Luna had left them so long ago.
  1292. >Smiling with satisfaction, she trotted over towards them and sat, picking one of them up in her hooves, blowing away a thousand years of dust as she inspected the silvery metal, which had remained perfectly clean and rust-free under all of the dust.
  1293. >Perfect.
  1294. >The metal in her hooves was the basis for the armor and weapons of both her sister and herself, and there were only a couple ponies in the whole world that knew of this metal’s existence and its remarkable properties.
  1295. >Highly sensitive to magic, able to hold enormous amounts of stored energy, and nigh unbreakable, it could only be created by the unique magic of the true alicorn race.
  1296. >When forged correctly, the weapons made from this metal could reap unimaginable carnage and destruction, as the rival kingdoms that had threatened the newly-formed Equestria had found out.
  1297. >Only Celestia and herself knew how to correctly make it, Celestia having learned how to from their father.
  1298. >Luna sighed, memories of horrific battles and tragedies beyond the comprehension of modern-day ponies came to her mind.
  1299. >Equestria may now be a beacon of peace and harmony, but in days long forgotten it had been forged from fire, blood, and sacrifice.
  1300. >”It is too bad that the history books overlook the tragedies of our past, the ponies of today know little of violence and war… but perhaps it is better that way.”
  1301. >Luna’s echoing words went unanswered in the darkness, echoing softly throughout the empty room and the halls beyond.
  1302. >Setting down the rough ingot of metal back down onto it’s neat stack, Luna stood and went to the forge.
  1303. >”It has been a long time since I used you, hasn’t it?  Equestria is a land of peace now, for the most part.”
  1304. >Moving one hoof tenderly across the stone frame, which she herself had built so long ago, she spied the dragon rocks that were still at the base of it.
  1305. >They were cold now, the magic that kept them burning white hot had faded long ago.
  1306. >With a small wish for luck, Luna’s magic wrapped around them softly, the blue alicorn softly whispering words under her breath.
  1307. >Slowly, the stones began to glow a deep, dark red.
  1308. >The reds grew brighter yellow and gold as flames began to rise from the rocks as they began to radiate heat, matching Luna’s growing smile as her magic continued to clean every surface within the room.
  1309. >”You once helped me create the weapons that made Equestria the land of prosperity that it has become, now you will forge one more weapon, one that will help a pony who will need every advantage she can.”
  1310. >With the warm yellow light now spilling from the open mouth of the forge, Luna lit her horn again, and crystals embedded in the walls and room lit up in response to her magic, lighting the room in a warm, cozy warmth.
  1311. >Lifting all of the rusted tools and broken, rotten tables in her magic, she reopened the door and left them in a pile outside.
  1312. >She had brought some modern replacements with her tonight, the rest she would bring tomorrow, and for the first time in a long while Luna was happy that nopony in Canterlot would ask what their Princess of The Night was doing with her time or with castle resources, as long as bits from the royal treasury did not vanish.
  1313. >Virtually nopony cared to come to this place, and those who did would not be able to enter this armory at all, since it only opened to either her or her sister’s magic.
  1314. >In the meantime, she had a weapon to design, and she guessed that Nýrmáni probably wouldn't want a weapon that matched Celestia’s halberd or her battle axe.
  1315. >Luna chuckled to herself as she lay down on the now clean stone floor, pulling a large sheet of parchment as well as ink and quills from her saddlebags, the warmth from the forge driving out the lingering autumn chill.
  1316. >She had much to do, and little time.
  1317. <>
  1318. >Nýrmáni’s eyes shot open, and she leapt to her hooves, panting heavily.
  1319. >She was in a small clearing amidst a snow-covered forest, her breath fogging as breathed deeply, gazing around herself in curiosity and suspicion.
  1320. >The sun was setting just over the trees in beautiful gold and yellows in the clear sky, and the cold air chilled her coat.
  1321. >Narrowing her eyes, Nýrmáni squinted into the tree line around her.
  1322. >”This… Is a dream.”
  1323. “Yup, pretty sure it is, unless Ponyville got six inches of snow since we went to bed.”
  1324. >Nýrmáni jumped in surprise, whirling around to find her Anonymous exiting the tree line, wearing thicker clothing and a woven cap on his head.
  1325. >”Did you create this place?”
  1326. >”Nope, I don’t think so.”
  1327. >”So where did it come from? The last thing that We recall was listening to your wonderful music, it must have lulled Us to slumber.”
  1328. >Anonymous laughed, a sound that always warmed her heart.
  1329. “You sure did alright, and I’m not offended that you did.  But referring to your previous question, I’m not sure why there is snow everywhere, perhaps I’m ready for fall and winter or something.”
  1330. >He bent down, running one gloved hand through the snow.
  1331. “Man, this snow is perfect.”
  1332. >Nýrmáni tilted her head as Anonymous picked up some snow in his hands, rolling and patting it into a ball.
  1333. >”Perfect for what?”
  1334. “For this.”
  1335. >The ball of snow hit her on the neck, just over her right shoulder, causing Nýrmáni to squeal with surprise at the sudden cold and soft impact.
  1336. >For a moment, the two of them just looked at each other, then Nýrmáni grinned, her fangs showing in a humorous smile.
  1337. >”Is that the game that you wish to play?  We can play this game too.”
  1338. >Anonymous watched, eyes growing wide, as Nýrmáni suddenly began to create dozens of snowballs with her magic, the white orbs circling her like she was a star in the center of a galaxy.
  1339. >He dove to the ground, trying to make another snowball to arm himself, but his attempt was met with playful laughter as Nýrmáni threw all of her creations at him in one single, massive volley of white.
  1340. >The force of all the impacts knocked her beloved flat on his back with a muffled shout of surprise and concealed laughter, nearly burying him in the remains of her attack.
  1341. >Nýrmáni tittered as she trotted over towards him, wings ruffling in the chilly air.
  1342. >”As you can see, you are no match for Us in this game, surrender now or face Our wrath.”
  1343. >Anonymous wiped the snow that covered his face, spluttering, cheeks pink with cold from his sudden burial.
  1344. “Okay, okay, I surrender.”  He laughed, brushing snow off of his chest in an attempt to free himself.
  1345. >Nýrmáni stopped directly next to him, still grinning a happy, toothy smile.
  1346. >”Good, since We are trying to become a more benevolent alicorn, We have decided that not only will We free you from this cold prison, We shall give you warmth.”
  1347. >Her magic flaring, the remaining snow that covered him was blown aside, as if by a strong wind.
  1348. >Anon tried to stand, only for the alicorn to bowl him over, wrapping him up in her wings and hooves.
  1349. >”There, now you do not have to fear the cold.”
  1350. >She could feel him struggle for a few moments in his black, feathery prison, but he quickly gave up, apparently content to lay back against Nýrmáni’s chest and feel her heartbeat against his back.
  1351. >Trying not to quiver with happiness, she nuzzled the top of his head softly, sending his cloth cap askew.
  1352. >”We wish that We could have gone outside when We were awake.”
  1353. >She felt him sigh against her chest, the strange material of his coat tickling her fur slightly.
  1354. “I wish we could have too, but everything's out of the question until all this political stuff is solved.”
  1355. >”What do you mean?”
  1356. >She felt one of his arms reach up to scratch her right shoulder, his gloved fingers  rumpling her fur.
  1357. “Apparently the politicians in Canterlot are scared to death now that they know you’re alive, and according to Twilight they’re probably planning something nasty.”
  1358. >”We do not care about politicians.”  She snorted hotly. “Neither did Luna, from what We recall of her few memories of them.  We just want to be left alone now, We want no political power, it would bring Us little happiness.”
  1359. >She resumed her soft nuzzling of the trapped Anonymous.
  1360. >”There is no desire within Us to rule, We wish to explore this new world, to see all it has to offer, and nothing would please Us more than to do it with you.”
  1361. “Awww, don’t make me blush.”
  1362. >”We do not jest, We would rather be destitute with you, than rule all of the stars above, yet be alone…”
  1363. >The silence that followed was absolute, and Nýrmáni hoped she hadn’t said something wrong.
  1364. >”Are you alright, beloved?”
  1365. >For a split second, she could have sworn she heard him sniffling, but then he spoke up.
  1366. “I’m good, I’m just thinking about what we’re going to do for the next week before the next Congress gets together to propose their stupid legislation against you.”
  1367. >”We do not care what they will say about Us, they will not tear the two of us apart, We will not allow it.”
  1368. “I don’t think the Princesses will either, they were pretty adamant about defending you.  Twilight even said that they had a few things they could do to help.”
  1369. >Nýrmáni chuckled, looking up to see snow beginning to fall silently from the clouds above their heads.
  1370. >”Celestia is nothing if not resourceful, of course she will have plans and options available for her use without anypony else knowing.”
  1371. “Yeah, I just hope it’s enough.”
  1372. >”We hope so as well.”
  1373. >Nýrmáni was silent for a bit, as was Anonymous, the two of them watching the snow gently fall.
  1374. >She could feel it starting to build up on her fur, but thankfully here in her mind her body was completely healthy, so the buildup of cold meant nothing to her.
  1375. >”Tell us something Anonymous, We noticed during Our time awake that the ponies We spoke to spoke differently than Us, much like you do, why is that?”
  1376. “Well, you’re technically speaking in the old fashion of ‘The Royal We’, as far as I know nobody speaks that way here now.”
  1377. >”Hmmm, do you wish Us to change how We speak?  Would it help Us make peace with those who wish Us harm?”
  1378. “Well, It probably wouldn’t, but it might make some of the normal, everyday ponies more willing to listen to you if you talk like they do, no offence of course.”
  1379. >”None has been taken, my dear Anonymous.”
  1380. >A muffled laugh came from within the confines of her wings, making Nýrmáni smile again.
  1381. >”Since the Dreamscape is the realm of our combined minds, and Our mind is strong here, would you be interested in flying with Us?”
  1382. >She felt him shift under her wings, and with a small pang of sadness he stood and faced her, a growing smile on his face.
  1383. “What do you mean ‘fly with you’?”
  1384. >Nýrmáni stood, shaking off the snow that had built up on her back and head.
  1385. >”It is simple is it not?  You shill climb onto Our back, do not worry about falling off, We shall not place you in any danger.”
  1386. >She could see the slight hesitation in Anonymous’ legs as he stepped next to her, placing a strange set of eye-coverings on his head, the solid, rainbow surface seemed odd, she could no longer see his eyes.
  1387. >”What is that thing that you just put over your eyes?  Can you not see?”
  1388. “Oh these?  This is to protect my eyes from the wind.  I don’t really know how fast you’re planning on going and I’ve never really traveled at high speed in the open air before, don’t want to hurt myself.”
  1389. >”Ah, now we see, but come, get onto Our back, We can hold your weight, We are much stronger than we look, especially in this place.”
  1390. >As she bent her legs slightly, Anon took hold of her neck, and threw one leg over her back and sat carefully, his body just in front of her wings.
  1391. >Thankfully Nýrmáni was tall enough so that Anonymous’ feet did not touch the ground.  It was close, but it would do nicely.
  1392. >Her mane wrapped around his waist and legs, holding him close to her body.
  1393. >She felt two sections of her mane get tugged backwards slightly, and she turned her head and neck, finding that Anonymous had taken two handfuls of her mane.
  1394. >”Are you ready?”
  1395. “Yes, just don’t start off fast, let me get used to it first.”
  1396. >With a hum of acknowledgement Nýrmáni spread her wings, her strength building.
  1397. >Using her legs to assist her takeoff, she thrust her wings downward, and in a billowing cloud of snow the two of them shot from the ground like an arrow from a bow.
  1398. >As they climbed through the dark clouds and blowing snow, she felt the arms of her beloved clinging tightly around her neck, and his legs gripped her sides nearly as hard.
  1399. >She thought she could hear him shouting something, but over the rushing wind and the blowing snow she couldn’t understand him.
  1400. >She sped up, her wings pumping harder and harder as the dark clouds grew brighter with each passing second.
  1401. >Then she broke through the clouds, and suddenly the bright sun was shining down on them in the freezing air.
  1402. >The tops of mountains jutted up through the clouds as well, and not too far away were visible valleys, hills, and even a massive lake that appeared to have frozen over, the snow that had fallen on the ice seemed perfectly flat, stretching to the distant horizon.
  1403. >She slowed down to a much slower pace, almost a hover, trying to decide where she should go first.
  1404. >”Anonymous!  What do you think of it?”
  1405. “It’s… It's incredible!  That was so cool!”
  1406. >Nýrmáni was very happy to hear that almost all of the nervousness had left his voice, replaced by wonder and excitement.
  1407. >”Where do you wish to go?”  She called out over the stronger winds that she currently was coasting on.
  1408. “Actually, I take back what I said earlier, how fast can you go?  Without knocking me off or hurting me?  My body isn’t as strong as yours you know.”
  1409. >Her mind raced, then an old memory of Luna’s appeared in her head, and she grinned.  Anonymous would love this.
  1410. >”Of course, We have an idea of what We can do!  Hold on!”
  1411. >With another tremendous flap of her large wings the two of them shot off again, this time towards the break in the clouds where the lake sat below them.
  1412. >Then she angled herself almost straight down, her wings still pumping as fast as she could.
  1413. >The ground, which had seemed so far below them, came closer surprisingly quickly, the wind howling past them as they streaked closer to the ground.
  1414. >She could barely hear the excited and thrilled screams of Anonymous on her back.
  1415. >Seconds before the two of them would have hit the ground, Nýrmáni pulled up and leveled out, just above the flat, frozen lake top.
  1416. >She could have reached her hooves out and touched the snow-covered surface they were so close to it..
  1417. >Teeth gritting in concentration, she willed herself even faster.
  1418. >With snow billowing out behind them from the force of her wings and body, her outstretched hooves began to tingle.
  1419. >This was what she had been waiting for.
  1420. >With one more burst of speed from her wings and with a tremendous thunderclap, Nýrmáni broke through sound itself, a cone of white appearing around her.
  1421. >The thunderclap shattered the ice beneath her, sending snow and chunks of ice flying in their wake as she continued her low-level flight.
  1422. >She could hear Anonymous shouting with exhilaration, his words lost to the howling winds in their speed.
  1423. >His warm body still pressed against hers, his hands still tightly holding onto her neck.
  1424. >Nýrmáni pulled up, bleeding speed, and headed towards the distant shoreline, where a forest of pine trees started.
  1425. >It didn’t take long before the alicorn slowed, then with several large flaps of her wings, came to a landing on her hooves, the snow muting her landing.
  1426. >She withdrew her mane from it’s hold on Anonymous, and to her shock he simply slid off her back and into the snow, sending loose flakes flying.
  1427. >”Anonymous!  Are you alright?”
  1428. >Panic flaring in her mind, she turned to help him, only for him to raise an arm and hand upwards from where he lay in the snow, his one opposable digit standing above his other clenched ones.
  1429. >Nýrmáni tilted her head slightly, eyes still wide with hesitation and worry.  ”That is what you called the ‘thumbs up’ yes?  We didn’t harm you did We?”
  1430. “No, you’re good, I’ve got to catch... my breath is all…”
  1431. >Nýrmáni settled down next to him in the sunlight, and the hand that he’d stuck up fell against her withers, lazily scratching her coat there.
  1432. >She didn't speak, simply happy to look out at the empty but beautiful landscape while enjoying time with her Anonymous.
  1433. >”Did you enjoy that?”
  1434. >She couldn’t hide the small amount of unease that crept into her question.
  1435. >If she’d hurt or scared him in any way she’d never be able to live it down.
  1436. “Yes, yes I did.  I’ve never experienced anything like it before in my life.  Just a little warning next time before you shoot off so fast though.”
  1437. “Can you do that in the real world?”
  1438. >”With time, once Our body has completely healed and with Our full magical strength, the things We will be able to do will leave you speechless.”
  1439. “In that case, I can’t wait then.”
  1440. >Resisting the urge to wriggle in happiness at his upbeat tone, Nýrmáni simply smiled and nuzzled Anonymous in the face.
  1441. >With stifled laughter he halfheartedly batted at her neck with his gloved hands, all while she nuzzled, licked and occasionally nipped at his face and neck as she began to giggle herself.
  1442. >Finally after what seemed like hours of playful slapping, she hovered over him, her lips barely separate from his, her eyes shining with content.
  1443. >She poke, her voice scarcely above a whisper.
  1444. >”We will never leave you, Anonymous, you have given Us a reason to live, to enjoy life.  There is nothing that will separate you from Us.”
  1445. >Focusing on the words carefully, she spoke again, slowly, trying to leave out the traditional royal speech, closing her eyes.
  1446. >”You are my everything, I love you with all my heart.”
  1447. >She closed the gap and kissed him gently, softly.
  1448. >When she pulled back and opened her eyes, she could see his bright blue eyes, wide with surprise.
  1449. >And tears.
  1450. >Quicker than she could react, he had sat up and leaned his head into her chest, arms once again wrapping around her neck as he leaned against her, muffled sobs coming from his buried face.
  1451. >For a moment Nýrmáni was frozen with shock.
  1452. >Then she sat up on her haunches, pulling the still limp and crying Anonymous with her, gently pulling him into her chest again, wrapping both her wings and hooves around him in a gentle, serene embrace.
  1453. >With this kind of reaction from him, she wondered if any other human from his world had ever treated him like this.
  1454. >She recalled some of his first words to her, about how he had been ‘matched’ to her, two lonely souls brought together.
  1455. >It made her heart nearly burst with sadness at the thought of this young man having most probably been denied love and comfort by those in his own world.
  1456. >Not anymore.
  1457. >She gently nuzzled the top of his head, peppering his now cap-less hair with soft kisses.
  1458. >Suddenly, her body began to tingle, and she winced, closing her eyes from the sudden pain.
  1459. >When they opened, she was surrounded by darkness, and with the sudden aching in her whole body she realized that she was now awake and in Anonymous’ bed, a soft and warm blanket covering her to her neck.
  1460. >No light came through the windows; the sun had apparently been lowered, and faint moonlight shone through the closed curtains on the windows.
  1461. >She looked down, finding Anonymous still holding onto her as tightly as he had in their dream, and she could feel the dampness on her chest from his tears as his body gently shook.
  1462. >With a small magical scan, she realized that he was still sleeping, still dreaming.
  1463. >Nearly in tears herself, she gently kissed the top of his head, voice barely a whisper.
  1464. >”My beloved, sleep and rest, I will never leave you…”
  1465. >With a power and intuition she didn’t know she had, she gently touched her softly glowing horn to his head.
  1466. >She felt his shaking and silent sobs begin to subside as he began to relax, his head nuzzling deeper into her embrace in his now peaceful sleep.
  1467. >Holding her precious Anonymous close, Nýrmáni lay her head down protectively over his, and soon she too fell into a dreamless sleep.
  1468. <>
  1469. >Princess Cadance paced the length of the airship’s cabin, her mind racing.
  1470. >She didn’t know how long she’d been doing it but it still wasn’t long enough for her to get her thoughts together about what had happened over the last day and a half.
  1471. >When she had gotten Spike’s message from Luna in yesterday’s very early hours she had thought at first that this was some practical joke and she was being duped.
  1472. >After rereading the short yet horrific message, she realized it was no joke, and had followed Luna’s wish and had woken her husband, quickly packed several things, and had taken their newest royal airship to Canterlot.
  1473. >Unfortunately one of the engines had malfunctioned at take off, forcing them to wait in the Crystal Empire several hours while it was fixed.
  1474. >By the time they had taken off and had been well on their way it was evening.
  1475. >As they had passed by the drifting Cloudsdale and not having received another message from Luna or Celestia, Shining Armor had sent one of their pegasus guards to get several evening-edition newspapers from the floating city.
  1476. >They read the headlines together with shock and horror.
  1477. >Everything about Nightmare Moon, or Nýrmáni as Cadance had been told the alicorn had named herself, was exposed.
  1478. >What had followed was a letter conversation between Cadance, her husband, and Celestia.
  1479. >Celestia had recommended not landing in Canterlot, as the political situation there was rapidly deteriorating, but instead go directly to Ponyville.
  1480. >Cadance had barely slept the entire trip, mind racing about the ramifications of this whole debacle.
  1481. >”Princess, we’re here.”
  1482. >Snapping up towards the pilot, she raced to one of the large windows, looking out into the darkness of the early morning.
  1483. >She could see Canterlot in the distance, the lights of the city shining brightly against the blackness and stars of the night sky.
  1484. >But nearly below them were the small, scattered lights of the slumbering Ponyville, the large shape of Twilight’s castle easily visible in the moonlight.
  1485. >”We sent our two scouts ahead to tell them we were coming in case Princess Twilight missed your letter, they should be back soon.”
  1486. >Like clockwork, one of the hatches in the cockpit opened, and a batpony of Luna’s Night Guard entered, bowing respectfully to Cadance.
  1487. >”Princess, several of my troops will guide your airship in, Princess Twilight is awake and expecting you.”
  1488. >”Good, good, hopefully there isn’t too much of a ruckus with us coming here, it is 4:30 in the morning.”
  1489. >”The guard sighed and looked away from Cadance slightly, his calm, professional expression cracking slightly.
  1490. >”I’m sorry to say Princess that reporters from almost every newspaper in Equestria are here in Ponyville now, they even have a couple of those new motion picture cameras, they’ve been trying to get more evidence of her constantly.”
  1491. >Cadance’s heart leapt into her throat. “Have they gotten any?”
  1492. >”No, Princess Twilight has the castle completely sealed off, nopony goes in or out without her express approval.  We’ve already had to place several ponies into custody for trying to break into the castle’s lower levels.”
  1493. >Cadance sighed, trying to wipe away the bags under her eyes.
  1494. >”This isn’t good, not at all.”
  1495. >As the batponies outside lowered the now silent airship to the roof and began tying it down, Cadance went and woke her husband, who also had been sleeping fitfully next to Flurry Hearts cradle.
  1496. >Careful not to wake their rambunctious child, the two of them and their guards exited the airship and made their way across the roof.
  1497. >”The reporters spotted your airship as soon as it reached the outskirts of Ponyville, this is definitely going to be in the paper this morning.”
  1498. >”I wouldn’t engage with them either, they seem to be afraid that ‘Nightmare Moon’ is here, but that isn’t stopping them from trying to see her.”
  1499. >The batpony shook his head fitfully.
  1500. >”Princess Twilight is just inside, you’re free to go see her, I’ll get your guards briefed on the current situation.”
  1501. >With a nod and small salute from Shining Armor, they entered the castle, finding a drowsy but excited Twilight waiting for them.
  1502. >”Shiny, Cadance, it’s so good to see you both.”
  1503. >Her voice was low and tired, but her smile was warm, and the three of them embraced quietly.
  1504. >”We’ve got to keep it down or Flurry’s going to wake up, and she’ll never get back to sleep.” Cadance whispered as they separated.
  1505. >Nodding to her sister-in-law, Twilight led them down the stairs as quietly as they could.
  1506. >Cadance suddenly stopped at a small hallway, ears flicking back and forth as her horn and cutie mark began to tingle.
  1507. >”What is it honey?”  Shining armor asked quietly.
  1508. >”Twilight, Luna and Celestia told me in their letters yesterday that ‘Nýrmáni’ woke up yesterday?”
  1509. >”She did, but she’s still really weak.”
  1510. >”I can feel it…”  Cadance slowly went up another staircase, one she recognized from her first trip here after being informed about the strange alicorn’s sudden appearance.
  1511. >Slowly trotting up the set of stairs, she found several Night Guard standing at attention in front of two doors.
  1512. >”Is she up here?”  She asked quietly.
  1513. >One of them nodded, his words hushed. “She is, along with the human Anonymous, they’re asleep.”
  1514. >He motioned with his head to the door behind him, which Cadance remembered to be Anonymous’ room.
  1515. >With a thankful nod to the two guards she turned and went back down the stairs to rejoin her husband, her daughter, and Twilight.
  1516. >She’d have time to meet and talk with Nýrmáni once she’d gotten some rest and the sun had risen.
  1517. >The raw emotional output from just being near the two of them nearly made her dizzy.
  1518. >She’d only witnessed a hoof full of man and mare couple’s that had such a strong bond with each other this quickly.
  1519. >Happy to have some good news for once, Princess Cadance followed Twilight downstairs, where she and her husband could hopefully get a couple hours of sleep before the day truly started.
  1520. >They would need it.
  1521. <>
  1522. >A gentle knocking stirred her from her slumber.
  1523. >Nýrmáni slowly opened her eyes, eyes still groggy and fogged with the remains of her peaceful slumber.
  1524. >Faint rays of early morning sunshine snuck through the closed curtains, giving the crystal room a gentle, friendly glow.
  1525. >Her eyes darted downward, where she found Anonymous still curled up against her chest, resting softly in her fur, his breathing low and peaceful in his sleep.
  1526. >The door slowly and quietly opened, revealing the pegasus Tea Leaf and one of the batpony guards peeking in, the guards expression calm but slightly cautious.
  1527. >”Ma’am, breakfast is ready, if you and Anonymous are hungry.”
  1528. >Nýrmáni smiled at the thought of breakfast, suddenly realizing that she hadn’t eaten since the previous morning.
  1529. >”Thank you, We will be down when We are ready.”  Her voice was quiet, and her tone cheerful.
  1530. >The guard nodded and Tea Leaf gave a friendly wave as she slowly closed the door, once again leaving the two of them alone.
  1531. >A small groan once again made her look down, finding Anon slowly stretching with a yawn, his arms finally letting go of her sides as he stretched his arms.
  1532. >His eyes opened, and his head rose to meet hers.
  1533. >Nýrmáni decided from then on that nothing could compare to the warm, happy smile that Anonymous greeted her with.
  1534. >”Good morning, Anonymous.
  1535. “G’morning…”
  1536. >His voice was much like hers had been, as he tried to rub the sleep from his eyes.
  1537. >”One of our guards just informed Us that breakfast is currently being served, and We are feeling hungry, will you join Us?”
  1538. >With another yawn Anonymous sat up, shaking his head and tossing the blanket off of him and the alicorn as he blinked several times.
  1539. “Breakfast does sound good, you think you’ll need any help getting downstairs Nýrmáni?”
  1540. >”We do not believe so, Our hooves and legs do not ache as they did yesterday, but stay with Us just in case, Miss Tea Leaf would be displeased if We hurt Ourself.”
  1541. >Slowly stretching herself, the alicorn slowly stepped off the bed and stretched herself out fully now that she had the room and stable footing to do so.
  1542. >She looked up to see Anon exiting his bathroom, now sporting another shirt and a pair of long pants that fell to his feet.
  1543. “Are you ready?”
  1544. >”Yes, we are.”
  1545. >But instead of walking to the door, he instead approached her, his eyes not meeting hers, his face wearing an expression that was a strange mix, making her narrow her eyes.
  1546. >Shame? Bashfulness? Apprehension?
  1547. “Look, about that dream last night, what you said…”
  1548. >She trotted the rest of the way to him, until her muzzle was just inches away from his blushing face.
  1549. >She couldn’t help but smile as his eyes finally met hers.
  1550. >”We meant every word of what We said there.”
  1551. >She leaned forward and gave a quick kiss to the tip of his nose.
  1552. >Nýrmáni turned and trotted to the door, her star-filled tail gently slapping Anonymous on his side as she looked over her shoulder at him.
  1553. >His face turned an even darker shade of red, but she could see his own lips forming a smile as he made his way to her side.
  1554. >Anonymous opened the door for them both, allowing sunlight to stream in from an open window in the hallway.
  1555. >The two guards stood as one, both of them nodding politely to the duo.
  1556. >”We were instructed to tell you, once you had woken up, that Princess Cadance and her husband arrived early this morning, they are probably eating breakfast at this moment.”
  1557. “Thanks for the info.”
  1558. >As the two of them slowly made their way downstairs, Nýrmáni’s mind pondered the guards words.
  1559. >Princess Cadance?  She’d never heard of this particular princess, and if Anonymous had mentioned her she could recall nothing of the conversation.
  1560. >”Anonymous, who is this Princess Cadance?”
  1561. “Well, she’s the Princess of Love, and the pony who brought me here to Equestria actually.”
  1562. >”Fascinating, what is it that she rules?”
  1563. “Her and her husband are in charge of the Crystal Empire.”
  1564. >Nýrmáni froze mid-stride as the words left Anonymous’ mouth.
  1565. >”The Crystal Empire is here?  How?  When?”
  1566. >Anonymous paused, confusion on his face as he looked at her.
  1567. “You know about the Crystal Empire?”
  1568. >”Yes, From Luna’s memories.  Are they safe?”  The worry in her voice clear as a bell, much to her internal displeasure at herself.
  1569. >But thankfully her worries seemed to be for naught.
  1570. “It apparently just appeared out of nowhere several years ago, but thankfully everything is fine with them as far as I know.”
  1571. >Letting out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, Nýrmáni began her trip anew.
  1572. >”This is indeed curious, do you think this Princess Cadance will be bothered if We ask her questions?”
  1573. “I don’t think she’ll be bothered in the slightest, but I guarantee she’ll have plenty of questions for you though.”
  1574. >“We aren’t afraid of questions.”
  1575. “Alright, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
  1576. >She flicked her ears as Anonymous leaned one hand over and began to scratch her head, and part of her mane wrapped playfully around his arm and hand in response.
  1577. >As she descended down the last set of stairs, she recognized the path to the dining room as a wonderful smell hit her nostrils.
  1578. >”Hmmm… What is that wonderful smell?”
  1579. “Smells like toast and eggs to me. I've gotta say I'm impressed, you made it down those stairs pretty well, you didn’t even stop once.”
  1580. >”Yes, We are feeling much more spry than We were yesterday.”
  1581. >The two of them approached the doors that led to the dining room, and Nýrmáni could hear the voices of a mare she’d never heard before, and the happy reply of Twilight Sparkle.
  1582. >With Anonymous leading the way and opening the door, the two of them entered, and all conversations stopped.
  1583. >Nýrmáni could see Twilight Sparkle sitting at the table, and across from her sat two ponies.
  1584. >One was a large white unicorn stallion with a two-toned blue mane and tail, who’s eyes slightly widened when they saw her.
  1585. >The other was an obnoxiously pink alicorn with even pinker hair.
  1586. >These two must be the Shining Armor and Princess Cadance she’d heard of.
  1587. >Anon continued to walk inside, obviously looking for the source of the smell that caused Nýrmáni’s belly to suddenly rumble with hunger.
  1588. >”Hello, We assume that you two are the Princess Cadance and Shining Armor?”
  1589. >The stallion’s eyes went a bit wider as the pink alicorn got up from her chair and trotted over.
  1590. >A small, prideful part of Nýrmáni noticed and was glad to see that the pony who must be Princess Cadance was shorter than her by at least several hooves.
  1591. >”Please, just call me Cadance.  You must be Nýrmáni?  You look much better than you did the last time I was here, it’s good to see you awake and about.”
  1592. >”Indeed, Our recovery thus far has thankfully been swift and mostly painless thanks to Anonymous.  And you must be Shining Armor We presume?”
  1593. >The stallion nodded, a nervous smile forming on his muzzle.
  1594. >”That’s me, I’m Twilight’s older brother.”
  1595. “Alright here you are, I got you a bit of everything.”
  1596. >Anonymous’ voice snapped her attention back to the human, who’d pulled up a seat next to Twilight, and was patting the empty spot next to him, where a full plate awaited her.
  1597. >A smile growing on her muzzle at the prospect of tasting new kinds of food, she made her over to her beloved and sat down, with a slight wince of pain from her slightly aching rear legs.
  1598. >”Are you okay?”  Princess Cadance asked, obviously having seen the wince.
  1599. >”We are fine, but Our body is still not completely up to strength, with regular exercise of Our limbs We will quickly recover.”
  1600. >Looking down at the plate in front of her, Nýrmáni licked her lips at what Anonymous had provided for her.
  1601. >As she began to eat, she could see both of the ponies across from her constantly sending her curious looks.
  1602. >She would have found it bothering if she wasn’t relaxing from the blissful taste of the toast and egg sandwich that Anon made for her.
  1603. >It was divine.
  1604. >”What do you think about the new headlines Twily?  I know you’ve got that official statement prepared for the 12:00 meeting at town hall, but are you okay?”
  1605. >The purple alicorn sighed, stirring the remains of her food around her plate with her fork.
  1606. >”I’m ready for it, but I just hope the ponies here know that we did the best we could, I’m only going to be taking a few questions and hopefully the rest of Ponyville will back me up after that.”
  1607. >”But now that they found out that you came here even more reporters are showing up, this whole situation is so infuriating, and Celestia said that things In Canterlot aren’t going any better either.”
  1608. >Shining Armor looked to his little sister, concert obvious in his expression
  1609. >”I know you’ll do fine Twilight, just don’t let them manipulate your emotions by asking blatantly bad questions and you’ll do just fine.”
  1610. >Nýrmáni finished her wonderful sandwich and nuzzled Anon in thanks, the happy alicorn receiving several neck scratches in return.
  1611. >”Why do they seem so insistent on causing Us harm?  Do they not believe their princesses that We mean no harm?”
  1612. >Princess Cadance sighed as she finished chewing on her apple.
  1613. >”Well, I think that they’re just nervous and afraid, they know that you must be ‘under control’ but from what I’ve gathered I think they’re just afraid of somepony they don’t understand.”
  1614. >”Like what We told Celestia and Luna yesterday, We do not care for ruling, for anything else of the sort.  We just wish to live Our own life, what is wrong with such a wish?”
  1615. >”There’s nothing wrong with it, but sadly the ponies who have sway in government either think you’re a legitimate threat or they’re just using the opportunity to get more power for themselves.”
  1616. >”Probably both.” Shining Armor interjected. “They’re politicians, I’d wager that almost every one of them isn't going to let a chance for them to influence more things slip by.”
  1617. >A sudden gurgling and babbling interrupted anything else he was going to say, and the head of a unicorn foal popped out from between Cadance’s front hooves, small hooves waving happily as the infant’s large opal eyes saw Nýrmáni.
  1618. >”Flurry, sweetie, I’m trying to eat here…”
  1619. >Nýrmáni watched in shock as the foal’s horn lit up gold and vanished with a snap of magic, appearing on the table directly in front of her plate.
  1620. >To her even greater shock the foal wasn’t a unicorn at all, but an alicorn.
  1621. >”Flurry!” Cadance cried out, her apple falling forgotten to the table while Shining Armor sat up straight, his horn glowing purple with contained magical energy.
  1622. >”Wait!”  Twilight Sparkle cried out, but the words of the other’s had faded from the forefront of Nýrmáni’s mind.
  1623. >With a small tug of her mane the plate in front of her slid off to the side, all her thought’s of food forgotten in an instant.
  1624. >Nýrmáni’s head tilted slightly, eyes narrowing as she studied the foal, Flurry, that sat in front of her, hooves waving happily as she giggled and burbled, her large wings twitching and flapping lightly.
  1625. >Her horn lit up as she studied the foal, a simple spell coming to mind.
  1626. >She had to check.
  1627. >”Fascinating…” Nýrmáni muttered as she let her magic vanish, the foal crawling towards her, still smiling happily.
  1628. >The foal's parents seemed ready to pounce on her, but apparently they trusted Twilight, because they didn’t leave their seats, despite their nervousness.
  1629. >Nýrmáni looked up to Cadance, who looked both confused and slightly worried about her foal.
  1630. >”You are like Twilight Sparkle, you are not a natural born alicorn, are you?”
  1631. >Cadance was silent for several moments before she shook her head.  ”No, I ascended, like Twilight did.”
  1632. >Nýrmáni nodded as the foal got within reach, her little hooves still waving happily as she looked up at the imposing dark alicorn.
  1633. >”She is not like myself, Celestia, or Luna.”  She said as she reached a single, thin hoof towards the foal, who grabbed it with a babble of excitement.
  1634. >The two ponies seemed to relax greatly at this gesture and their child’s continued safety.
  1635. >”What do you mean by that?” Cadance and Twilight both asked.
  1636. >”Celestia and Luna are the last two remaining true alicorns, they possess a magic that is fundamentally different from you two.  Since We were born from Luna’s mind, We share her traits as a true alicorn, but you two and this foal are different from them and Us.”
  1637. >Nýrmáni offered her other hoof to the foal, and with careful grace picked the filly up in her hooves and brought her to her chest, much to the delighted laughter of the infant.
  1638. >”She has a different magical signature, as does Twilight.  We assume that you are the same as well, Cadance.  From what We have seen thus far ascended alicorns aren't as magically strong, nor as physically durable.”
  1639. >From the corner of eyes she could see that Twilight Sparkle had produced a sheet of parchment from who knows where and was writing furiously on it, the quill held in her magic a blur.
  1640. >”You are most likely bound to a certain concept, are you not?  Something to which your ascension is related to?”
  1641. >”I’m the Element of Magic!”  Twilight squealed, eyes wide with excitement. “And Cadance represents Love!  Oh this is so exciting! But what about Flurry Heart?  She never ascended, she was born?”
  1642. >”Indeed she was.”  Nýrmáni said, still looking down at the infant alicorn in her hooves.
  1643. >”However, since she was born from Cadance, who is an ascended alicorn, she shares the alicorn traits of her mother.”
  1644. >Twilight looked up to Nýrmáni again, eyes wide, even as her quill continued to write.
  1645. >”How do you know all this?”
  1646. >”We guessed, for the most part.  Even with just a small trickle of Our power, obtaining a sample of your magic yesterday morning was a simple affair, We noticed the difference between our two magics right away.”
  1647. >”But how did you take a sample of my magic without me noticing?”
  1648. >Despite sounding slightly upset, Twilight Sparkle honestly sounded more curious than angry at the nearly-black alicorn.
  1649. >Nýrmáni looked up the purple alicorn, a small smile gracing her muzzle as the tips of her fangs protruded from her lips.
  1650. >”It is an old spell, but we cannot simply give up all of Our secrets, can We?”
  1651. >Twilight Sparkles eyes went wide and sparkly as she leaned closer, nearly knocking Anonymous off his chair in her haste.
  1652. >”Teach me!”
  1653. >Nýrmáni let out a low chuckle at the alicorn’s pleading while Flurry Heart, seeing her aunt, reached her hooves towards her with a cry of joy.
  1654. >”In time, when Our magic and physical strength are fully restored, We will show you some very useful spells.”
  1655. >Twilight took the young foal from Nýrmáni’s hooves and fell back into her chair, squealing in excitement.
  1656. >Pulling her plate back to herself she resumed her breakfast, just in time for the doors to open again, and Tea Leaf trotted inside.
  1657. >”Oh, good morning your highnesses.”  She gave a polite bow towards the Prince and Princess of the Crystal Empire, who returned her bow with nods and smiles.
  1658. >”Anon, Nýrmáni, how are you both this morning?  Did you make it down the stairs this morning without any trouble?”
  1659. >Nýrmáni swallowed the small slice of apple she had sampled, and smiled happily at the pegasus.
  1660. >”There was no trouble at all.  In fact, We felt much more stable on Our legs than yesterday.”
  1661. >The pegasus beamed back her own smile as she went to retrieve a plate for herself.
  1662. >”Good, good, your physical regeneration must be kicking in, hopefully after a week or two you’ll be one hundred percent healthy.”
  1663. >Selecting several eggs and slices of toast, Tea Leaf sat down, and began to eat.
  1664. >Nýrmáni studied the mare for several, silent moments before speaking.
  1665. >”We hope that you do not take offence to Our asking, but how is that guard who was injured, Thunder, We believe his name was?”
  1666. >Tea Leaf’s smile didn’t completely vanish, but it certainly wasn’t as cheerful as it had been moments before.
  1667. >”He’s still weak, but he’s awake and talking.  He can’t move at all really or he’ll reopen his wounds.  He’s very frustrated by the whole situation.”
  1668. >Nýrmáni’s question was slow, caution.  “Do you think it would be alright if We could see him?  He was hurt while guarding Us, after all.”
  1669. >Tea Leaf froze for a moment, before her smile began to form again.
  1670. >”I think he’d like that, we can do it right after breakfast if you want.”
  1671. >”We think that would be wonderful, then We could continue Our exercises, isn’t that right, Anonymous?”
  1672. >She looked over to the human, finding him cleaning the last of his plate off with his fork.
  1673. “I’m down, whenever you’re ready Nýrmáni.”
  1674. >She looked back to Tea Leaf.
  1675. >”We are ready now, once you are done eating of course.”
  1676. <>
  1677. >Thunder always hated being injured.
  1678. >Not that he wasn’t afraid of the pain or a fight, but he just hated the feeling of helplessness that came with being bed bound.
  1679. >The last time he’d been confined to a bed this long he’d been twelve years old and had accidentally created a massive tornado that spat out lighting like normal clouds dropped rain.
  1680. >The strain on his pegasus magic and the multiple lighting strikes he’d received as a result had nearly killed him, and his parents weren't sure if he would ever fly again as a result of it.
  1681. >It was also how he’d gotten his cutie mark.
  1682. >Now he lay here on this bed in this small room, trying not to breathe too hard or he’d tear open the stab wounds he’d gotten from that miserable excuse of a guard captain.
  1683. >To add insult to injury he couldn’t even feed himself without the risk of opening his wounds again.
  1684. >It sucked honestly.
  1685. >The only positive point he could think of so far was that this whole experience was a way for him to spend lots of time with Tea Leaf.
  1686. >She checked and changed his bandages, and fed him herself every day, she insisted on it.
  1687. >They even got a few kisses in now and then, those moments made the time easier to endure.
  1688. >He couldn’t wait to hold her in his hooves again, and fly with her in the bright blue fall skies that he could see outside of his window.
  1689. >But from what she’d told him, the nobles and political leeches in Canterlot along with the press were crying for Nýrmáni’s blood or something to that extent, so they couldn’t even leave the castle.
  1690. >According to Tea Leaf though the alicorn was finally awake and alright, just physically weak and frustrated by all of these events going on that were outside of her control.
  1691. >Thunder couldn’t really blame her one bit.
  1692. >Tea Leaf had left to go get her own breakfast about a half-hour ago according to the clock next to his bed, and he already missed her smile.
  1693. >It would be another hour or so until the medics came and changed his bandages, so he had nothing to do but twiddle his hooves until then.
  1694. >But to his surprise the door suddenly opened and Tea Leaf stepped back inside, smiling that smile that made him blush despite himself.
  1695. >”I thought you were down getting breakfast?”
  1696. >”I already ate you goofball,” She chuckled, “but I do have somepony who wants to meet you, if you want to meet her that is.”
  1697. >”Sure, who is it though?”
  1698. >The door opened again, and the thin and tall form of Nýrmáni herself stepped slowly inside, mane and tail drifting slowly around her.
  1699. >Anon stepped inside directly behind her, the human’s eyes going wide at Thunder’s bandaged body.
  1700. “Damn, they messed you up didn’t they?”
  1701. >The bedridden pegasus didn’t respond, his wide-eyed gaze still locked onto the alicorn standing next to his bed.
  1702. >Then to his amazement she spoke, her words quiet yet precise. “We were told that you were injured while guarding Us, is this correct?”
  1703. >It took a moment for him to gather the words as he tried to overcome his surprise.
  1704. >”Yes, but as you can see I wasn’t good enough.  Some guard I am, fell for the oldest trick in the book…”
  1705. >To his surprise, he could see the small smile that the alicorn was giving him vanish, replaced with a stern, motherly look that reminded him a lot of Princess Luna.
  1706. >Definitely not a coincidence.
  1707. >”Nay, from what We heard you were the one who alerted Miss Tea Leaf of the attack despite your injuries, and she was able to quickly bring help.  You are to be commended, if Our opinion means anything.”
  1708. >”Actually, I am going to receive some, and when I get out of this dumb bed, I will try to help you train your wings and..”  He began to cough softly, and Tea Leaf immediately appeared at his side, softly holding his head in her hooves.
  1709. >”Don’t try to talk, just rest, please…”
  1710. >He could see Nýrmáni’s expression falter at his weakness, sympathy and sadness appearing in her bright, slitted eyes.
  1711. >”Rest and heal, brave one.  We will accept this training of yours once you are well and fit for duty.”
  1712. >”We thank you, both Anonymous and Ourself, for your courage and your loyalty to your princesses.  We will expect to see you well soon.”
  1713. >The alicorn turned her eyes to Tea Leaf, a hopeful smile forming on her muzzle. “Will you help us again with our stretching exercises? We found them to be most pleasant.”
  1714. >”Of course I will, just let me finish checking up on Thunder here and I’ll be right there.”
  1715. >With a nod to the two of them and with a final, small smile, the alicorn turned and slowly exited the room.
  1716. >He could see Anon give him a confident smile and a thumbs up before he too turned and filled the alicorn out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
  1717. >It was just him and Tea Leaf.
  1718. >”Like I told you yesterday, she’s doing just fine.”
  1719. >”Good… I’d hate to go through all this… for nothing…”
  1720. >Tea Leaf shook her head slowly, trying to hide the smile slowly growing on her muzzle.
  1721. >”Stop being so silly and get healed up, I actually have some special physical training planned for you when you're better.”
  1722. >With the pegasus giggling cheerfully above him, Thunder swallowed nervously, blood suddenly running cold in his veins.
  1723. >”What kind of physical training?”
  1724. >She leaned down, kissing the tip of his nose.
  1725. >”I wouldn’t worry about it.”
  1726. <>
  1727. >Princess Cadance intercepted the alicorn/human duo in one of the many hallways as they were making their way to the castle’s exercise room, her expression worried.
  1728. >”I’m very sorry, but my husband and I have to go.”
  1729. >Anon could see Nýrmáni tilt her head in confusion, his expression was probably the same as hers.
  1730. “What’s wrong?”
  1731. >She sighed. “The nobles and politicians are demanding my presence there, they just arranged an inquiry about the Human Immigration Initiative today, in less than two hours actually, and I need to get there now so they won't be able to smear my work without me there to defend it.”
  1732. >The alicorn’s expression was so downcast that he was surprised that she wasn’t crying.
  1733. >”I worked so hard to get it set up, to bring those willing here, getting Discord’s help for the portals to your world, the use of the Crystal Heart to find matches for you all…”
  1734. >Anon held a hand up to cut her off, several words in her statement throwing him completely off his rocker.
  1735. “Wait, you said Discord was making those portals?  Why can’t he just fix all of these problems happening right now, and why haven’t I seen him at all?”
  1736. >”That was part of our deal; he makes the portals and gets whatever chaotic occurrences that the humans make when they live here, since your species isn’t magical in nature, and in return he doesn’t interfere in any human’s life here.”
  1737. “I thought he would be the kind of person who’d be all sorts of meddlesome, if we’re as chaotic as we apparently are.”
  1738. >Cadance activated her horn as Shining Armor trotted from down a hallway, a baby carrier and several luggage bags held in his magic.’
  1739. >”He normally would be, but Fluttershy made him swear to my conditions under a Pinkie Promise, and even he’s too scared to break one of those.”
  1740. >”But back to what I was saying, we have to leave now, I’m so sorry that I didn’t really have time to talk to either of you.  You both seem to be very happy with each other.”
  1741. >Nýrmáni nodded, wrapping a wing around Anon, pulling him to her side with a squeak of protest.
  1742. >”We are, he is… precious to Us.  We will never let him go.”
  1743. >Cadance smiled, some of the cheer returning to her eyes.
  1744. >”Good, keep it up, both of you.  I can feel the love you both hold for each other; hold it close, and wonderful things will come of it, I know that to be true.”
  1745. >With a polite nod nod from the princess and her husband, the two of them began to climb upwards towards where their airship was currently docked.
  1746. >The two of them stood there for a moment before Nýrmáni spoke.
  1747. >”Pity, We wished to say goodbye to their child.”
  1748. “Flurry Heart?”
  1749. >”Yes, We have never held a foal before, but it felt… right, We aren’t sure how else to say it.”
  1750. >Anon smiled as they resumed their walk to the exercise room.
  1751. >It must have been latent, buried maternal instincts or something.
  1752. “Come on, we have some exercises to do, and while I hate to try and make their departure a positive, hopefully some of those reporters still camped outside follower her and leave us alone.”
  1753. >”True, but We would have liked to talk to Cadance a bit more, she might have given Us advice on how to further win your heart, since she is apparently the princess of, and the alicorn representation of love.”
  1754. “Well, uh…” He coughed into his hand as Nýrmáni shot him a mischievous smile. “I’m not really sure how you could make me fall for you anymore, but I’m sure she could help us with other things.”
  1755. >Nýrmáni suddenly turned mid-stride, her wings unfurling from her sides as she pushed Anon into the wall, pinning him there with her chest.
  1756. >”What ‘other things’ do you speak of, Beloved?”  Her voice was low, almost a purr.
  1757. >He swallowed as she licked her lips, her smile growing larger with every passing moment as her head drew closer and closer to his.
  1758. “Well, you know, like normal relationship stuff, and well⎯”
  1759. >”We think that We are becoming familiar with the basics, but if you are so unsure…”
  1760. >She closed the remaining distance between them, pressed her lips into his with a hungry moan.
  1761. >Instantly all thoughts of escape left his mind as her impossibly soft lips caressed his, his hands rising to her neck and cheeks.
  1762. >Feeling a hand on her withers and another holding her left cheek she pushed into his lips harder, stomping the crystal floor with a hoof as her mane and tail began to flick rapidly back and forth.
  1763. >A high pitched squeak brought them back to reality, both of them jerking to their left, where Twilight Sparkle stood, eyes impossibly wide, cheeks a dark crimson, wings flared in surprise.
  1764. >”I just heard from Spike that Cadance and my brother were leaving and I was going to wish them good luck.  Yep, that’s what I was doing.”
  1765. >Anon could see one of Twilight’s eyelids twitch erratically as she let out a nervous giggle.
  1766. >”Yup, hehe, I think I’m just going to teleport the rest of the way, gottagobye!”
  1767. >The flustered purple alicorn disappeared in a flash and crack of magic, once again leaving him and his alicorn alone.
  1768. ”Well, that ruined the mood.”
  1769. >”Indeed.”  Nýrmáni snorted irritatedly. “We need to get Our physical exercises done, before Twilight Sparkle demands to learn more about Our magical abilities.
  1770. “She apparently has that speech in a couple hours, I think we’ll have plenty of time.”
  1771. >”True, do you think Miss Tea Leaf will be able to help Us as she did yesterday?  She has been most pleasant to be with thus far.”
  1772. >Anon nudged her shoulder playfully as they found themselves in front of the door that led to their destination.
  1773. “Am I not good enough anymore?  What was that kiss back there about again?”
  1774. >They entered, Nýrmáni slapping the back of his head with her mane.
  1775. >”We remembered what you said several nights ago, about how our marking of you in the Dreamscape would not mean anything here in the physical world, We were just rectifying that oversight.”
  1776. >She shoved her nose into the crook of his neck, inhaling deeply as she softly nipped him with the tips of her fangs.
  1777. >”While you were close to Us in your sleep during the night it helped, but We aren’t sure now if it was enough, perhaps more exposure is necessary.”
  1778. >”Oh my goodness you two are so cute together!”
  1779. >Once again the two of them lurched around, only to see that Tea Leaf had quietly slipped inside the room and was gazing at them with unbridled joy, her eyes large and flashing with delight.
  1780. >For the first time he could recall since she had woken up, Nýrmáni blushed, her nearly-black cheeks turning a bright red as she took several steps from Anon, her ears flattening to her neck.
  1781. >”W-We are not cute as you claim, We just w-wish to show Our affection to Anonymous is all.”
  1782. >Anon laughed quietly as he began to stretch himself out, while Nýrmáni still stood quietly, spluttering and mumbling as her blush continued to spread.
  1783. “Common, what happened to the aggressive mare back in the hall?  Where did she go?”
  1784. >”We… I…”
  1785. >Nýrmáni sat back on her haunches, covering her head with her forelegs as she did her best to hide herself from his prying eyes, her whole body trembling slightly.
  1786. >He walked over to the alicorn and stood next to her, and gently tapped one of her hooves.
  1787. “Hey, we’re just messing with you, Tea Leaf and I that is, we’re not trying to be mean to you at all.”
  1788. >His voice was quiet, and his tone gentle.
  1789. >The hoof he had tapped moved slightly, just enough for the alicorn to peak at him with one eye.
  1790. >Tears were budding in it, and the sight made his chest tight with distress.
  1791. “You know we’re not seriously being mean to you, right?”  He quietly asked again.
  1792. >Nýrmáni gave several short nods as Tea Leaf also came closer, the sly smile that she had been sporting replaced with wide-eyed concern.
  1793. >”I… I do, but I… We are still not used to such feelings…”
  1794. >Gently prying off one of the thin forelegs covering her muzzle, Anon looked directly into her one visible eye.
  1795. “I would never deride you like that seriously, and if I ever do, feel free to call me out on it.  But for now, do you think a hug will help?”
  1796. >Not waiting for him to respond, she leaned forwards and nearly bowled him over as she wrapped her front hooves around his torso, burying her muzzle into his chest and shoulder.
  1797. >Tea Leaf gently stroked the alicorn’s barrel, her own expression melancholy as she spoke up.
  1798. >”I am sorry for saying that, but it is very nice to see the two of you connecting so well.  From what I can feel just on your back you also seem to be recovering muscle mass very quickly, I might have to move my recovery timetable forward by a couple days.”
  1799. >Anon gently rubbed circles in the soft coat behind and around her ears, her miasmic mane nearly smothering him, as if it too was embracing him.
  1800. “Hear that?  You’re going to be able to do a lot more stuff soon, we’re probably going to have to make a list of everything you want to do once we can get out of this castle.”
  1801. >”That… That would be nice.”  Came Nýrmáni’s muffled reply, her muzzle still buried against his chest.
  1802. “Feeling better?”
  1803. >Slowly the alicorn unwrapped herself from him, her expression much more cheerful than it had been moments before.
  1804. >”Yes, We are.  Thank you both.  Now, Miss Tea Leaf, could you help Us with Our physical exercises?  We wish to be healed even faster than you think.”
  1805. <>
  1806. >To Celestia’s great internal satisfaction the day hadn’t gone as badly as yesterday had gone.
  1807. >Not that the bar had been high in that regard, but she’d take whatever victories she could at the moment.
  1808. >The reason the day had not been nearly as chaotic was mainly because of the presence of Cadance and her husband Shining Armor.
  1809. >Having more heads to bounce thoughts and ideas off of was very helpful, considering what she’d heard the congressponies and nobles were planning on.
  1810. >Her source of this information had been sharing whatever information he could about what the others had been planning, despite the great personal risk involved.
  1811. >Having her own inside pony during times like this was very gratifying, especially one that nopony would ever suspect of ‘sharing’ information with her.
  1812. >Unfortunately she’d been so busy since she’d woken to raise the sun that she hadn’t even been able to greet Luna before the blue alicorn had collapsed in her chambers.
  1813. >But now she would be able to, as she slowly lowered the sun below the horizon, she could hear her younger sister approaching her from behind.
  1814. >”Good evening Luna, I hope you slept well?
  1815. >”I did, thank you.”
  1816. >Luna came up to her side, and the two of them stood shoulder to shoulder as the sun disappeared, and the moon slowly rose to take its place.
  1817. >”Cadance and Shining Armor arrived here at midday, and with their help we were able to keep things under much better control than yesterday.”
  1818. >Luna looked up to her older sister.  “Weren’t they supposed to arrive much earlier than that?”
  1819. >”They did, but I told them to go to Ponyville, hoping to alleviate the political pressure here in Canterlot, but the media picked up on their early-morning arrival and informed their superiors in Canterlot.  It only made the royalty and the Congress more enraged then they had been.”
  1820. >”The Congressponies held a very impromptu session about the Human Immigration Initiative, hoping that Cadance wouldn’t be able to make it there in time to defend her work.  Thankfully she did, much to the silent anger of those involved.”
  1821. >Luna spoke up, expression downcast at the less-than-positive news.
  1822. >”It is sad that they seem so set on getting at Nýrmáni, but I will not allow them to get to her so easily.
  1823. >Celestia looked down, her sudden ominous statement causing her hair to stand on end,
  1824. >She raised an eyebrow at the bulging saddlebags that her younger sister wore.
  1825. >”Are you going somewhere?”
  1826. >”Indeed I am, I have begun work on my project Celly, and I think you will approve of it.”
  1827. >A sheet of rectangular parchment appeared in Luna’s magic, which she held before her sister’s eyes.
  1828. >It took Celestia several moments for her to recognize the design of what was sketched out, but when she did, she raised another eyebrow.
  1829. >”The old stores?  Your old smithy?”
  1830. >”Cleaned and working perfectly, just like the old days, and with the last of these replacement tools,”  She tapped the packed saddlebags she wore with her wings, “I will have every tool I’ll need to make it.”
  1831. >Celestia looked at the designs that her sister must have sketched out the previous night.
  1832. >”It will be hard, you haven’t made anything like this in over a thousand years.”
  1833. >”For you maybe, it’s only been about a decade or so for me.”
  1834. >Celestia sighed, head falling slightly. “Yes, it has.”
  1835. >A sad silence hung between them for a moment, before Celestia spoke again, all traces of sadness gone from her tone.
  1836. >”It will be very hard to make something like this in such a hurry.”
  1837. >”You of all ponies should know that I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge.”
  1838. >”The nobles and politicians are going to throw a fit when they find out about this.”
  1839. >Luna snorted. “They don’t have to know.  In fact, they won’t know, and even if they did find out, I would like to see them try and stop me.”
  1840. >Celestia couldn’t help but chuckle as she carefully rolled up the design parchment and gave it back to her sister, who carefully placed it back into her saddlebags.
  1841. >”Just be careful Lulu, I love you, and good luck.”
  1842. >Celestia leaned down and wrapped her younger sister in a soft hug, which the younger alicorn happily returned, before spreading her wings to prepare for her moon-lit flight.
  1843. >”Thank you sister, sleep well, Hopefully the Day Court will be less crazy tomorrow.”
  1844. >Yes,” Celestia sighed as she turned to make her way back to her chambers for some much needed sleep, “I hope so as well.”
  1845. <>
  1846. >Nýrmáni sat next to the large windows in Anonymous’ room, watching the moon rise slowly into the fresh night sky.
  1847. >Head slowly bobbing to the tune that the young human was currently playing on his instrument, her gaze left the rising moon and went to the simple yet attractive houses and buildings that made up Ponyville.
  1848. >She tried to ignore the small flashes of cameras from the ground, and the eager photographers, as Anonymous had called them, yelling pointless questions at her despite the distance between them.
  1849. >With one final smile at the rising moon, she closed the window and lowered the blinds, blocking everything outside from her view.
  1850. “Tired of all those camera flashes?”
  1851. >The music from his violin stopped as he spoke, a small smile gracing his features.
  1852. >”We believe that We gave them enough time to get a decent picture of Us, not that We care.”
  1853. “It’ll at least give them something to splash on the front page of every newspaper in Equestria tomorrow morning. I personally can’t wait to see what they have to say about it.”
  1854. >Nýrmáni sighed, sitting down next Anonymous and placing her head on his shoulder.
  1855. >”We just hope that Twilight Sparkle’s plan for slightly more publicity will help our image with the rest of the ponies.”
  1856. >Carefully setting his violin down on the table next to him, he reached one hand up and began to gently scratch her neck.
  1857. “I think it has, most of Ponyville doesn’t seem overly concerned about your presence here, the only ones who made a big fuss at her meeting earlier were the ones who traveled here to try and get a glimpse of you.”
  1858. “And she said that all of her friends are going to try and help us as well, they’ve got some pull here at least.”
  1859. >Nýrmáni sighed in reply ”Some help is better than nothing, We suppose…”
  1860. “That’s the spirit.” He replied, scratching the alicorn’s neck with a bit more force than he had before.
  1861. >Nýrmáni hummed happily at the contact, one of her hind legs tapping the floor softly despite the fact that she was currently sitting down on them.
  1862. >She could hear him chuckle at this foalish behavior but chose to ignore it.
  1863. >Now matter how she would try to explain it, he would never understand the pleasure and calming nature that his simple gesture gave her.
  1864. >She figured it was just one of the differences in their species.
  1865. “Twilight even told me that Applejack said that she’d make you an apple pie tomorrow morning.”
  1866. >”Apple… Pie?  What sort of food is that?”
  1867. >Anonymous simply chuckled as he stood, the alicorn’s head falling off of his shoulder as she gave a small whine of protest.
  1868. “If you don’t know what pie is I’m not going to spoil the surprise then, but I’ll tell you this; I’m not a pie person myself and I thought it was one of the best things I’ve eaten in years.”
  1869. >Nýrmáni watched as he slowly stretched his arms out, then took his violin from the table, wiped it down gently, and put it back into its case.
  1870. “I’m pretty tired, and I know you must be as well, especially after eating that whole plate of tater tots and carrots for dinner.”
  1871. >”We couldn’t help Ourself We swear, they were so delicious, especially with that bowl of cheese to dip them in.”
  1872. >She watched as he went to the closet in the corner of his room, and took out what appeared to be a separate set of clothes.
  1873. >”What are you doing with those?”
  1874. “I need a spare shirt and a pair of shorts after my shower you silly pony.”  He chuckled as she made his way to his bathroom.
  1875. >”Oh, are you doing the shower thing again?”  Nýrmáni quickly sat up and trotted over to Anon, a smile gracing her muzzle as her tail began to wave faster. “Can We join you as We did yesterday?”
  1876. >He paused for a moment before entering his bathroom, she could see his eyes narrowing in thought.
  1877. “You can, but I’m not turning this one into another make-out session, okay?  Let's keep that kind of stuff limited to the bed for now.”
  1878. >Resisting the urge to squeal with excitement, Nýrmáni happily nuzzled his cheek and followed him inside his bathroom.
  1879. >While not as large as Twilight Sparkle’s, it seemed more than big enough to fit the two of them.
  1880. “That’s strange…”  Anon said as he turned on the water for the shower.
  1881. >”What is it?
  1882. >”My shower wasn’t as roomy this morning, I swear it wasn’t, unless those ponies also somehow made my shower bigger when they brought the new bed in…”
  1883. >He glanced back out into the room, where their bed sat, in the same place the old one had been.
  1884. >It truly was their bed now; the larger bed was roomy enough for both of them to cuddle as closely as possible if they wanted, or to have enough room to wriggle around to their heart's content.
  1885. >She just loved how comfortable it was to lay on, especially with Anonymous’ violin also soothing her mind and body.
  1886. “It’s probably part of Twilight’s castle or something, since you’re staying in my room now, I’ll have to ask her about it tomorrow.”
  1887. >He placed his spare clothes on the bathroom counter as steam began to seep from the top of the shower.
  1888. “I think I’ve got shampoo in here…”  He took a peek inside. “Yup, it must be the castle that did this; the shampoo I used on you yesterday is in here.  You ready?”
  1889. >This time Nýrmáni failed to contain herself, and with a happy whinny she practically jumped inside the hot falling water.
  1890. >She could see Anon through the curtain of falling water as he took his shirt off, setting it on the counter as well.
  1891. >Closing her eyes, she let the warmth and comfort of the water envelope her.
  1892. >Nýrmáni didn’t know how long she stood still under the warm, rushing water, but suddenly she felt hands lathering shampoo onto her fur.
  1893. >Cooing in relaxation, she gently arched herself wherever his hands kneaded and rubbed her coat.
  1894. >This was what true bliss felt like.
  1895. >As he washed her hind legs her mind suddenly began to race, a question appearing in her head.
  1896. >After several silent moments of deliberation, she cautiously ventured forth.
  1897. >”Anonymous?”
  1898. “Yes?”
  1899. >”Is there a reason why you wear those ‘swim trunks’ you called them?  Are you afraid of showing all of yourself to Us?”
  1900. >There was a small thump as the shampoo bottle fell from Anonymous’ hand and hit the crystal floor.
  1901. “Well, umm… You see, humanity has some… different social norms than ponies here, and nudity is one of them.”
  1902. >”Really?  How so?”
  1903. “Being completely uncovered around others, especially if they’re the opposite sex, is usually reserved for couples.”  She heard him pick up the bottle, set it back down, and resume his cleaning of her and himself.
  1904. >Nýrmáni was silent for several moments before she spoke again, her question quiet. “What are we then?”
  1905. >There was silence between them, only the falling water made any noise.
  1906. “I’m… I’m just nervous, I guess.  I’ve never really had any sort of relationship like this before and I⎯”
  1907. >Turning her body around to face him, she gently put one hoof on his chest as she leaned her head closer to his, her words slow and clear despite the falling water around them.
  1908. >”We… I do not care.  I will not belittle you in any way, why would I?  You have given Us.. Me everything I never knew I wanted.”
  1909. >She kissed the stunned and furiously blushing human quickly before backing up.
  1910. >”We promise upon Our name not to judge you if you choose to show yourself to Us fully, We will always love you.”
  1911. >He didn’t respond, but as she let the water wash away the shampoo he had lathered into her coat, she heard him sigh as he began to fumble with something.
  1912. >A sound of impact reached her ears, and as she turned her head to see his soaked swim trunks land in the corner of the shower, away from them both.
  1913. >Suddenly nervous herself, she slowly turned to face him.
  1914. >The alicorn studied him for a moment, eyes studying the features she’d certainly felt but had never seen before till now.
  1915. >”So, this is what your species looks like?”
  1916. “Yup.”
  1917. >”It is different from a pony’s that is for certain.”
  1918. “I knew that, silly.”
  1919. >Nýrmáni studied Anonymous for another few moments before giving him an honest smile, her bright slitted eyes sparkling in the falling water.
  1920. >”We think it suits you, Beloved, you are perfect in Our eyes, and We do not care what anypony says to the contrary.”
  1921. >This was apparently just what he needed.
  1922. >She could see his nervousness disappear, and what looked like relief replaced it as he knelt down to gently rub more shampoo into her chest.
  1923. >Content with helping him with his own hidden insecurities, she said nothing as he finished washing her down completely.
  1924. >He shut off the water, and stepped out to get a towel as Nýrmáni shook herself.
  1925. >She said nothing as he dried her off, even as the towel went over areas that should have gotten her blood flowing with excitement.
  1926. >As he hung the now wet towel to dry and moved to get another, she beat him to it, taking one in her magic she levitated it over to herself.
  1927. >”Anonymous, We shall return the favor that you have given Us twice now, and We shall hear no arguments about it.”
  1928. >To her immense relief he simply chuckled as she carefully dried him off, towel quickly flying back and forth in her magical grasp.
  1929. “I see that your control over your magic is getting better.”
  1930. >”Yes, Our strength is returning to Us quicker and quicker by the hour, Our regenerative abilities are almost fully awakened.  We will most likely be completely healed in a couple of nights time.”
  1931. “Well that’s good to hear.”  He said as he dressed, a yawn escaping him as he slipped his shirt on.  “I’m really tired, I think it’s the whole changing-seasons thing, it’s been getting colder every day and I’m still getting used to this place in general.”
  1932. >Nýrmáni followed him out of the bathroom and to their bed, smiling the whole way.
  1933. >”We are excited for the different seasons, We have never experienced them before.”
  1934. >”We also greatly enjoy the opportunity the cold gave Us to hold you close beneath these soft sheets the night before.”
  1935. >Anonymous blushed again as she gracefully climbed onto the bed and deftly wormed her way under the several layers of sheets as Anonymous turned off the lights, leaving them in darkness.
  1936. >He made his way back to the bed, taking his shirt off as he walked and, when he reached the bed, his shorts joined his shirt on the floor.
  1937. >Nýrmáni watched with a smile as Anonymous climbed in under the covers, wearing only a small covering for his privates, joining her in the warm secrecy of the bed.
  1938. >Before her mane and tail could grab him though, he took the initiative and grabbed her first, pulling her to him as she gave a quiet squeal of surprise and happiness, his arms holding her close like a precious, fragile treasure.
  1939. >She could feel the heat of his skin on her coat, from his legs to arms, which softly pulled her even closer to him.
  1940. >Her head and one wing came to a rest on his solid chest, and with his heart beating slowly yet strongly below her she looked up at him, eyes filled with adoration.
  1941. >”Goodnight, my beloved.”
  1942. >His arms tightened slightly around her, filling her with a sense of security and safety that she never knew she wanted.
  1943. “G’night.”
  1944. >She watched as he lay his head back onto his pillow and closed his eyes, she was only seconds behind him.
  1945. >Both of them were asleep in seconds.
  1946. <>
  1947. >Nýrmáni opened her eyes, finding herself not in her personal Dreamscape that she had expected, but an endless black expanse filled with stars.
  1948. >It was strange, some were as small as a marble, while others seemed to be as large as a mountain, but without scale it was very strange to see.
  1949. >Gazing about herself in curiosity and hesitation, one of the stars floated closer, and suddenly she could see moving pictures contained within the clear, glowing sphere.
  1950. >”Wait…”  She muttered aloud as she floated about the stars, examining several in turn. “These are dreams.”
  1951. >She could feel several of the stars that felt familiar somehow, she wasn't sure how she knew, but she could feel it.
  1952. >She glided effortlessly to the closest one that felt familiar, and looked closely at it.
  1953. >The guard Thunder stood there, in a simple uniform along with dozens of other ponies as they tried to remain emotionless while another, larger stallion in a sharp, crisp uniform stood before them, yelling insults at them at the top of his lungs.
  1954. >”Always the soldier.” Nýrmáni chuckled before drifting away from Thunder’s dream and towards the next closest one.
  1955. >Her smile grew and she pranced excitedly in the air as she heard the voice of Anonymous coming from the slightly larger bubble.
  1956. >She prepared to enter it fully, but stopped herself.
  1957. >He was not alone in his dream.
  1958. >As the moving pictures became clearer, she could see him there, dressed in shorts and one of his ‘t-shirts’, standing on what looked like a strange, small boat of some kind, the boat rocking gently in the water.
  1959. >He held a familiar fishing rod held in his hands as he cast his line towards a shoreline covered with pine trees and rocks, making a seemingly joking comment to the other human standing in the boat with him.
  1960. >The sun shone brightly on the still water, and she could see the floppy hat that Anonymous wore to shade his eyes, the same hat she’d seen on his bookshelf before she had fallen asleep.
  1961. >The boat wasn’t made of wood, but appeared to be made of metal of all things, but that wasn’t what garnered her attention.
  1962. >The figure that also stood in the boat with her beloved caused her to squint into the moving pictures.
  1963. >He was smaller, and seemed older, but his expression was just as warm and cheerful as Anonymous’ was.
  1964. >A small gasp escaped her as she recognized him; she’d seen this older human before.
  1965. >In Anonymous’ family picture, one of the few things he’d been able to bring with him to Equestria.
  1966. >Nýrmáni remembered Anonymous telling her, when he’d been teaching her to fish in that seemingly long-ago shared dream that he had always loved to go fishing with his father.
  1967. >She also remembered his sad admission that he would never be able to do so again.
  1968. >Nýrmáni smiled again and pulled herself back from his dream as Anonymous began to cheer as his father hooked what appeared to be a massive fish, both of them soon yelling and laughing with excitement as water splashed from the fish’s fight.
  1969. >Some dreams did not need to be interfered with.
  1970. >Suddenly a reddish, pulsing light tore her eyes away from the dream of her beloved.
  1971. >Nýrmáni could see a small bubble, no bigger than both of her hooves put together, pulsing with red light, the bubble flexing in all directions.
  1972. >She didn’t know how she knew what was happening, but she did.
  1973. >This was a nightmare.
  1974. >She quickly floated over towards it and peered at it, her slitted eyes narrowed in concentration.
  1975. >A filly with a yellow coat and a red mane and tail was sitting down, a look of utter defeat on her muzzle as she looked upwards towards s circle of other fillies and colts as they taunted and berated her ceaselessly.
  1976. >All of their words weren't clear to her, but then one of her tormentors shoved her flat to the ground, his sneer much too mature for a foal his age as he snarled a phrase that came to her loud and clear.
  1977. >”You dumb filly, Nightmare Moon can’t be friends with anypony, much less you.”
  1978. >”B-but mah sister met her, an’ she said that she’s real nice!”
  1979. >Nýrmáni didn’t need to hear anymore.
  1980. >With a small effort of will as she touched her horn to the bubble, instantly appearing behind the small filly and her accusers.
  1981. >She appeared to be outside of Ponyville, and with a sudden realization she recognized the large barn that stood off to her side.
  1982. >This was where Anonymous had danced with the Element of Honesty, Applejack.
  1983. >This must be their home.
  1984. >The small filly began to cry as the others gathered around her jeered at her, pawing aggressively at the ground with their small hooves.
  1985. >”That is enough of this.” Nýrmáni’s tone was flat and deadly serious.
  1986. >With a single stomp of her hoof the filly’s accusers vanished, the harmful specters of the filly’s subconscious vaporized by Nýrmáni’s willpower.
  1987. >The filly uncovered her eyes, looking around, surprised at suddenly being alone.
  1988. >”Am... Am I dreamin’?  Princess Luna?  Are yah there?”
  1989. >”We do not wish to frighten you, child, but We are not Luna.”
  1990. >The filly’s ears shot straight up, and she slowly turned around to find the towering form of Nýrmáni standing behind her.
  1991. >The filly’s eyes went wide with surprise, but she did not yell in terror and run, instead she spoke..
  1992. >”Y-yer Neyr-Manni, ain’t yah?”
  1993. >Wincing internally at the butchering of her noble and ancient language, the alicorn nevertheless nodded, giving the filly a gentle smile.
  1994. >”Yes, We are Nýrmáni.  We couldn’t help but see your… troubling dream.”
  1995. >”Yeah…”  The filly sat, rubbing the back of her head with one hoof, adjusting the bow that sat in her mane. “A lotta ponies were panickin’ after everything the papers said ‘bout yah and Mr. Anon.”
  1996. >”Do you believe what they said about Us?”
  1997. >”Not anymore Ah don’t.”  The filly stood just a bit taller, her head held high. “Us Apples don’ like tah judge ponies like that, an’ mah sister said ya were alright by her, and Ah trust her.”
  1998. >”Your sister said We were ‘alright’, are you perhaps related to the Element of Honesty, Applejack?”  Nýrmáni asked, curious.
  1999. >”Yup, she’ mah older sister, but mah name’s Apple Bloom, it’s nice ta meet’cha.”
  2000. >Nýrmáni watched, almost in shock as the young filly trotted directly up to her and held out one small hoof in greeting.
  2001. >Tapping it lightly with her own, Nýrmáni decided to sit, the gentle grass beneath her was cool and comforting to the touch.
  2002. >The dream began to respond to the filly’s calmed mood, large apple trees silently springing up in rows all around them, bright green leaves gently waving in the calming wind that now filled the air around them.
  2003. >”We must ask you, how are you this comfortable with Us being here in your dream?”
  2004. >The filly sat down as well, now sporting her own large smile. “Well Ah’ve had Princess Luna in Mah dreams a couple’a times before, helpin’ me with stuff, so this ain’t much different, right?”
  2005. >Nýrmáni chuckled, slowly laying down in the grass to bring herself closer to the filly.
  2006. >“No, We suppose it isn’t much different when you explain it like that, but back to the business at hoof, why were those other foals making fun of you?”
  2007. >Apple Bloom looked down, her smile slowly fading.
  2008. >”Well, when Twilight did that talk at the Town Hall durrin’ tha day, Mayor Mare made everypony in Ponyville come ta listen, an’ some of tha ponies didn’ believe Twilight when she said you wasn’t evil no more, even when mah sister stood up for yah.”
  2009. >The filly stomped a hoof into the ground letting out a foalish snort of anger.
  2010. >”Those outta town newsponies didn’ help either, askin’ alla them dumb questions and such.”
  2011. >The filly lay down herself, her smile now completely replaced with sadness.
  2012. >”Mosta of tha other fillies and colts at school believed them, ‘cept fer a couple of mah friends, lotta their parents are scared of yah still.”
  2013. >Nýrmáni watched Applebloom nearly start to cry, the alicorn’s smile also having vanished.
  2014. >”And what do you think of Us, young Applebloom?”
  2015. >The filly looked up. “Well, mah sister said that yah don’t seem bad tah her, and Twilight said that Mr. Anon was takin’ care of yah’, and ah’ve met him a coupl’a times and he seems nice tah me.”
  2016. >Nýrmáni’s smile returned after hearing the young filly’s positive words.
  2017. >”He is very nice indeed.  We were told that your sister Applejack was going to make an ‘apple pie’ for Us tomorrow, would you like to come with her to meet Us?”
  2018. >Apple Bloom’s frown vanished and was instantly replaced with one of excitement and joy, the filly running up to and nuzzling Nýrmáni’s neck, much to the alicorn’s surprise.
  2019. >”Ah course Ah’d like to, Ah could even get mah friends ta come too!”
  2020. >”Hmm… Who are these friends of yours?”
  2021. >The filly sat down next to Nýrmáni, smiling up to the alicorn with absolutely no fear in her eyes.
  2022. >”Well, there’s Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, we’re tha Cutie Mark Crusaders, an’ we all got our cutie marks together at tha’ same time!”
  2023. >Nýrmáni’s eyes widened, even as she let out a chuckle at Apple bloom’s excitement.
  2024. >”Really?  Tell Us how this came to be?  We have never heard of such a wondrous occurrence before.”
  2025. <>
  2026. >Luna quietly pulled herself out of the dream, leaving Applebloom and Nýrmáni alone as they began to cheerfully talk.
  2027. >As she floated there in the endless dream-filled expanse, the alicorn’s mind raced as she considered the implications of the events she’d just witnessed taking place.
  2028. >While she had been waiting for her forge to heat up to the required temperature, she had allowed her mind to slip into the Dream Realm, in case there were any problems that she could quickly fix before beginning her work.
  2029. >She’d sensed the young filly’s distress almost immediately and had been making her way towards her, but to her complete surprise Nýrmáni had come and entered the dream first.
  2030. >While the rate at which Nýrmáni was regaining her magical power was almost frightening in its speed, Luna had not interfered in her eradication of Apple bloom’s nightmare.
  2031. >Luna had followed close behind, still hidden by enchantments that Nýrmáni had seemed unable to sense.
  2032. >As she had watched the interaction between the two of them, Luna had felt herself smiling.
  2033. >Nýrmáni was already making a new friend.
  2034. >This was what Celestia and herself had been hoping for with Nýrmáni; there was no malice, no rage, no lust for revenge or hunger for power present in the other alicorn.
  2035. >Simply an urge to help and an insatiable curiosity about the new world she had found herself in.
  2036. >However, she would be sending Twilight Sparkle a letter in the morning, asking that Nýrmáni not expose herself to too many ponies through the Dreamscape.
  2037. >No need to create more problems than they were already dealing with at the moment, even if they were accidental.
  2038. >Luna also made another mental note to herself.
  2039. >She needed to talk to Nýrmáni in the Dream Realm, there was a wrong that the newly-awakened alicorn would have to right.
  2040. >Luna knew that Nýrmáni would hate to do it, but it must be done for her own good.
  2041. >Forgiveness was something that she needed to learn now, or else the festering anger deep inside of her could spell disaster for her later.
  2042. >Withdrawing her mind from the dreamscape, Luna opened her eyes to find herself back in the ruins of her old castle, in her old smithy, the forge burning a bright yellow with heat billowing around her from the small opening on it.
  2043. >She looked over her designs one last time, the parchment on which it was drawn hung on the wall above a brand new worktable.
  2044. >A glance over towards the simple shape mold that she’d created, and the bars of ore that she’d collected and placed in a solid rock bowl next to it.
  2045. >The amount of ore would just be enough for what she wanted to make.
  2046. >It was time to begin.
  2047. >With a moment's concentration, her mane and tail fell limp, the ethereal effect in them gone, leaving the simple, natural sky blue behind.
  2048. >Quickly tying her mane and tail into buns to keep them out of her eyes and away from the blazing fire, she slipped on a pair of heat-resistant gloves on her front hooves and lifted up a pair of heavy-duty steel tongs.
  2049. >There could be no magical interaction in the forging process, that was crucial in this tool’s creation.
  2050. >It had to be made by hoof throughout the entire process, from start to finish, or it would be completely ruined, and with the metal magically contaminated in the forging process there would be no second chances or do-overs.
  2051. >Even magic as simple as levitation, or Luna coming into physical contact with her skin or hooves would contaminate the metal at this stage.
  2052. >The once piece that she had held the night before was laid off to the side, since she had held it, it carried trace amounts of her magic.  She would add it to the work the next night, when the last traces of her magic had deteriorated from it.
  2053. >Luna took the solid rock bowl in the tongs that she held and placed it in the center of the blazing furnace.
  2054. >It wouldn’t take long for the metal to liquify in the intense heat.
  2055. >Thanks to the wonderous nature of the dragonfire stones, she only had to wait a couple of minutes before they had all completely liquified.
  2056. >Carefully taking the rock bowl and it’s molten contents in her set of tongs, she lifted it from the fire and began to pour it into the rough mold that she had created from pure clay.
  2057. >After several intense seconds, the last bit of metal had been poured and Luna set the rock bowl back into its similar stone cradle.
  2058. >”I have missed this…”  She said to herself, using a scrap of cloth to wipe the sweat that already was flowing from her brow while she waited for the metal to cool somewhat.
  2059. >She had always been the kind of pony to get her hooves dirty, it’s just who she was.
  2060. >Her sister Celestia had always been extremely competent at debate, at reading the emotions, moods, and thoughts of others, both in the court and on the battlefield.
  2061. >But Luna had always been the undisputed master of the forge and crafting of weapons enchantments, and she alone had created the tools that eventually she and her sister would use to secure the young Equestria its own place in the world.
  2062. >Luna looked back to the mold, a smile forming as she watched the metal slowly grow darker as it bleed off heat.
  2063. >The metal had soon cooled enough to be knocked from it’s mold, and with a single blow of a hammer the clay mold shattered, leaving the rough metal bar behind, still glowing red hot in places.
  2064. >Just as it was supposed to be.
  2065. >As she carefully placed the rough bar of metal into her forge to heat up again, she found herself smiling even larger.
  2066. >She had missed the thrill such simple activities had given her in years long since past.
  2067. >Taking it out of the forge just seconds later, the metal glowed and fizzled eagerly, as if it knew what it would hopefully soon become.
  2068. >Again taking up her hammer, she placed the rough bar of super-heated metal onto the pitch black anvil that she herself had crafted over a thousand years before, and lifted her hammer high above her head.
  2069. >As she swung it downward, the resulting ring of metal on metal was music to her ears, a glorious tune she hadn’t heard in what felt like an eternity.
  2070. >Several swings later she found herself softly laughing, even through the intense heat of the nearby forge, the glare from the forge in her eyes, and the sweat that now freely ran off most of her body.
  2071. >It was as if she’d gone back in time, back to when there had been no troubles between herself and her sister, and when the great unsung heroes of Equestria still walked the land.
  2072. >As the minutes turned into hours, time seemed to fly by for Luna as she kept hammering and forming what would soon become a blade, but even as her limbs ached with strain her smile never left her.
  2073. >There would be several more nights worth of hard, sweat-filled physical work ahead of her to finish and perfect what she was making, but by her reckoning she was off to a very good start.
  2074. >Luna just hoped that this would all be worth it in the end.
  2075. <>
  2076. >The large white stallion made his way down the torch-lit stone stairs, descending into the bowels of the mountain beneath Canterlot, his destination quickly approaching him.
  2077. >It was the middle of the night, but the amount of guards in this place would never change.
  2078. >He could see the checkpoint and entryway into the most secure holding facility in Canterlot get clearer as he slowly trotted closer, hooves ringing loudly in the narrow stone hallway.
  2079. >He stopped, checking his small messenger bag to see if his necessary papers were still there.
  2080. >They were.
  2081. >He nodded to himself, closing the bag with his magic and continuing on.
  2082. >As he reached the checkpoint, several guards approached him, their weapons not quite held at the ready, but they were displayed in such a way that he couldn’t help but notice them.
  2083. >”What is your business here Prince Blueblood?”  One of them asked, his helmet identifying him as a squad leader.
  2084. >The guard’s tone certainly didn’t seem pleased, and the other guards seemed just as unhappy.
  2085. >”I’m here on authority of the Congress.”  He opened his bag and produced his papers, levitating them over to the head guard in charge of this place. “As you can see, it has been signed by the majority leaders and is valid.  I wish to see the prisoners, the Congress wishes to have somepony they trust ask them questions.’
  2086. >“We’ve already done a very in-depth questioning.”  The head guard glowered as her eyes scanned the document.
  2087. >”The Congress wants their own questions answered, they don’t believe that your questions were adequate.” He replied calmly.
  2088. >The guard’s expression didn’t waver as she slowly read over the document.
  2089. >Blueblood wasn’t lying, it was a real document, and the Congress did want answers to questions, there was no need to sneak around  and lie while trying to get in a place like this.
  2090. >Despite the glares from the rest of the guards, Blueblood don't flinch or waver.
  2091. >Instead he tried to appear as bored as possible by the whole affair.
  2092. >”Alright, it checks out.”  The guard wore a look of utter disdain as she hooved over the documents, which Blueblood took in his magic and returned to his bag.
  2093. >”You’ve got thirty minutes, I’d get moving if I were you.”
  2094. >Blueblood trotted past the guards without acknowledging them and continued on his way.
  2095. >He was used to the hateful glares and sneers of other ponies at this point, it came with his position and his profession.
  2096. >There were very few occupied cells in this particular prison, but the beings held here were the worst of the worst.
  2097. >He knew which cells held the ponies he wanted, their cell numbers were on his signed documents.
  2098. >Finally out of earshot of the guards and any other visible guards, Blueblood allowed himself a single sigh as the first cell came into view.
  2099. >He really hated having to play the stuck-up snobbish prince type, but ponies like him had to have public faces, appearances which had to be maintained at all times in front of virtually everypony.
  2100. >Especially those self-righteous Canterlot Congressponies, since he had spent almost ten years working himself into their most trusted, secretive fold, he couldn’t ever blow his cover, not anymore.
  2101. >A small number of them were simply curious of Nightmare Moon, or Nýrmáni’s current and possible future status, but the very large majority of them simply wanted her gone no matter what it took.
  2102. >They’d already tried to ruin the reputation of Princess Cadence’s Human Immigration Initiative when Celestia had refused their first set of demands, but thankfully the princess and her husband had arrived in time to negate most of the damage.
  2103. >He reached the first cell on his list, looking passively through the perfectly clear glass door which covered the entire front part of the cell.
  2104. >The unicorn inside, according to information he had received from both Celestia and the Congressponies, was the one who had cast the spell that had allowed the rogue guards to invade Nýrmáni’s mind while in the Dreamscape.
  2105. >Knocking politely on the glass, Blueblood cleared his throat to announce his presence.
  2106. >The unicorn turned, careful not to move quickly due to the bandages that wrapped around his barrel.
  2107. >He’d suffered several broken ribs and a cracked right shoulder when Celestia had thrown him against the wall of Twilight’s castle, and he looked absolutely miserable.
  2108. >’What do you want with me?”
  2109. >”I have questions for you.”
  2110. >The unicorn looked frustrated as he raised one hoof, almost in a pleading way.
  2111. >”Not even going to ask me my name? All the others did.”
  2112. >”I already know your name, and frankly I don’t care what it is, you’re going to answer my questions.”
  2113. >Fine.”  The unicorn gave an irritated snort, turning fully to face the prince through the glass. “What do you want to know this time?  Was the first round of questioning not enough?”
  2114. >Blueblood pulled out a small notebook and a self-contained ink pen, a human invention which one enterprising human and his mare had been recently producing in small numbers.
  2115. >”That questioning was for the Royal Guard records, this will be for the official Congressional records, and since whatever you say will be used in your trial, I’d be truthful if I were you.  How did you get that spell.”
  2116. >The unicorn gave a short chuckle before wincing in pain.
  2117. >”Sharp Lance’s contact in the guard here at the castle.  I never met him myself, nor knew his name, but he was apparently in the right place in the Royal Guard hierarchy to sneak it out of Luna’s private rooms and library without raising suspicion.”
  2118. >The unicorn allowed himself a small smile. “I watched them bring him in here a while ago, time’s hard to tell here, but he was laughing up a storm when they threw him in the cell right behind you, at least until Princess Luna arrived.”
  2119. >Blueblood turned his head to glance at the cell directly behind him; its occupant appeared to be asleep, curled up in the far corner of the cell.
  2120. >He turned back, just in time to watch as the unicorn shivered uncontrollably, his small smile vanishing completely.
  2121. >”I don’t know what went on in that cell, but it took less than a minute before he started blabbering and sobbing like a foal as he apparently told her what he’d done and how he’d done it, I couldn't hear him, but I could see the tears in his eyes easily enough.”
  2122. >”I’m happy that you’re being this forthcoming,”  Blueblood said as he finished writing down what the pony had said, “It’s good that you’re being honest.”
  2123. >The unicorn shrugged. “I don’t really have anything else left for me at this point; my career in the guard is over, my betrayal of the Royal Oath will haunt my family for years to come, and I’m most likely not seeing the outside of this cell for the rest of my life.”
  2124. >Internally Blueblood winced at the frank and emotionless delivery of this truth, but he pressed on.
  2125. >”How many others were involved in this plot?”
  2126. >”Everypony that was found in that room in Princess Twilight’s castle, and Sharp Lance’s contact, that’s all the ponies that I know of.  There may have been others but if there were any, I didn’t know about them.”
  2127. >Nodding, Blueblood flipped to the next page in his small notebook, it was time to deal the final emotional blow.
  2128. >”How do you feel about what you’ve done?”
  2129. >The unicorn was silent for several moments before he responded, his voice barely audible despite the spells built into the cell designed to pick them up.
  2130. >”If I had the chance to do it over again I wouldn’t.  My parents and my sister were given the chance to visit yesterday.  I thought that they’d be proud to know that I’d tried to stop Nightmare Moon’s inevitable rise, but I was wrong.”
  2131. >He lowered his head, and Blueblood could see a tear fall from the tip of the unicorn’s muzzle.
  2132. >”My dad disowned me, so did my mom. My younger sister, the pony who looked up to me the most, and the one I wanted to inspire over anypony else called me a failure.  My family has been in the Royal Guard for nine generations, and I’m the only one out of all of them to have broken their sacred vow.”
  2133. >”He didn’t give a damn about Nightmare Moon, he said that she didn’t matter, only the Royal Oath.  Do you know what it’s like to have your father and mother, the ones who raised you and taught you everything look you in the eye and say that you’re no son of theirs, turn, and trot away?”
  2134. >In fact Blueblood sadly did know what that felt like in a way, since he had been the only unicorn born to a Earth Pony supremacist convent in the middle of the uncharted wilderness.
  2135. >They had thrown him out as a newborn foal, and only through luck and the ultimate kindness of an older couple from Canterlot that were on an expedition to find ancient ruins did he live.
  2136. >The couple found him, crying amongst the mud pit his birth parents had thrown him into. They raised him, loved him as their own foal, it was only years later did Blueblood learn that his adopted mother was barren, and the truth of his origins.
  2137. >His adoptive parents had both served Princess Celestia in many secret ways, and he had been introduced to her while quite young, and the Princess had quickly grown to like the young, fearless colt.
  2138. >He’d always wanted to be as good and kind and as helpful to others as she was, and she had allowed him to do so, serving as her source of information in the darkest, nastiest, most corrupt circles and groups in Canterlot.
  2139. >The only cost had been his public image and his conscience, but this was a price he was willing to pay for the continued safety of all Equestrians.
  2140. >Even the safety of former villains like Discord and now apparently Nightmare Moon.
  2141. >Jerking his mind from the past, he could see that the unicorn was sobbing quietly, his head held in his hooves as his body gently shook.
  2142. >Blueblood hated himself as he continued on, but his face remained just as bored and uncaring as it had been moments before.
  2143. >”So will you testify against all of those responsible for this plot?”
  2144. >The unicorn nodded, not raising his head as his tears continued to flow.
  2145. >His face didn’t change, but Blueblood was cheering on the inside.
  2146. >Those fools in the Congress were going to hate this turn of events, this put a large dent in their current plans.
  2147. >”Last question; what do you think of Sharp Lance’s plan and its results?”
  2148. >The unicorn finally looked up, eyes red and wet with tears as he lifted his one un-injured foreleg and pointed it further down the hall.
  2149. >”H-hes two cells down, see for y-yourself.”
  2150. >Blueblood turned without another word, genuinely curious as he checked his official document to see if the cell number was right.
  2151. >It appeared to be.
  2152. >As he looked inside the cell, his eyes grew slightly wider in worry and apprehension.
  2153. >The entire cell was lined with soft padding, from floor to ceiling, and from what he could feel with his horn the glass was also enchanted to be soft on his side of the cell.
  2154. >Sharp Lance himself was wearing a straightjacket as he leaned against one wall of his cell, eyes wide, staring into nothing as he softly tapped his head into the wall.
  2155. >Blueblood shivered involuntarily as he tapped the glass, announcing his presence.
  2156. >”Sharp Lance, I have several questions for you.”
  2157. >The pony tilted his head slightly, one ear flicking upward.
  2158. >”The night is coming the darkness approaches the night is coming the darkness approaches the night is coming…”
  2159. >Blueblood felt his calm, uncaring façade break slightly at the pitiful and terrifying sight.
  2160. >”Hello, did you hear me?”
  2161. >”She is here you can’t fight you can’t run you can’t hide from her the dirt rises the world bends to her will…”
  2162. >The stallion leaned over and fell flat on his back, tears flowing from his vacant, staring eyes as he began to sob softly in his cell, wiggling about like some kind of large, unhatched insect.
  2163. >”Congratulations, you got as much out of him as we did, which means nothing at all.”
  2164. >The strong Trottingham accent of the head guard in charge surprised Blueblood, the stallion whirling around to give the armored mare a glare.
  2165. >The mare was grinning at Blueblood’s obvious surprise as she stepped up to look at the stallion, who was now wailing in fear at something only he could see.
  2166. >Her expression was angry, but Blueblood could see in her eyes that she held some amount of pity for the former Royal Guard.
  2167. >”We don’t know what Nightmare Moon did to him or what she made him see, but Princess Luna took one look at him and said that we should give him as much comfort as we could for his stay here; he’s being moved to a dedicated mental health facility tomorrow.”
  2168. >”So you and your royalty and Congress cronies can forget about using him.  He’s not fit to stand trial or testify in any means, so you can stop with your questions.  Oh look at the time, your thirty minutes are up, get out of my prison.”
  2169. >The mare’s glare of hatred and deathly serious tone invited no debate, so Blueblood turned without another word, putting his notebook back into his bag as he trotted past her towards the exit.
  2170. >Only when he had left the entrance and was trotting up the stairs alone did he allow himself to tremble with foreboding, his legs nearly collapsing beneath him.
  2171. >He was definitely asking for a vacation after all of this was over.
  2172. <>
  2173. >Celestia slowly trotted out onto her large balcony, coffee cup gently held in her magic, steam wafting from the surface.
  2174. >She hadn’t been this exhausted by court politics and maneuvering since her sister’s return.
  2175. >Taking a sip of the warm, wondrous, energy giving liquid, she tried to blink the remaining sleep from her eyes.
  2176. >Today was a new day, and her sun hung just beneath the horizon, warm yellows and golds coloring the early morning sky.
  2177. >It waited for Celestia’s call, her beckoning to rise fully.
  2178. >Just as she began the process, she spotted a quickly approaching dark blob in the colorful morning sky..
  2179. >She allowed herself a small smile as the form of her sister Luna came closer into view.
  2180. >Luna landed with a rush of air from her beating wings, a large smile on her face despite the exhaustion in her own eyes and smell of sweat, smoke, and metal that hung around her.
  2181. >Her mane and tail hung in their natural sky blue, and both were frazzled and unkempt, Celestia could see small glinting pieces of metal stuck throughout them and the rest of her coat.
  2182. >”I assume your night was productive?”  Celestia asked as she took another sip of her coffee.
  2183. >”Indeed it was Sister, it was very productive indeed.”  Luna held her wings open for a hug.
  2184. >Celestia giggled slightly at the gesture. “I am sorry sis, but I can’t give you a hug until you get those metal flakes out of your mane and wash your coat, you smell like sweat and forge smoke.”
  2185. >Luna snapped her wings to her sides, a sheepish blush forming on her cheeks.
  2186. >”I am sorry sister, but I cannot help but be in a good mood from the progress I made this night.”
  2187. >Celestia gave her sister a large, honest smile as her horn lit up, the sun slowly beginning to rise over the distant mountain horizon.
  2188. >”I wish to hear all about it.  And I’ll give you that hug once you get washed and presentable.”
  2189. >”Of course sister.”  Luna’s horn lit up as well, and the bright, shining moon began to sink lower in the sky, replaced by the warmth of the morning sun.
  2190. >A few moments later, Celestia was finishing her cup of coffee as Luna went inside to clean up.
  2191. >Celestia stood for a moment, thinking about the past.
  2192. >She hadn’t seen Luna this happy and excited since after her first public appearance after her return, when she had decided to go to Ponyville to celebrate Nightmare Night.
  2193. >The last time her sister had been this excited and focused on one of her projects had been when she was creating a new suit of armor for herself over one thousand years ago.
  2194. >Sadly, the first time Celestia had seen that set of armor was when Nightmare Moon had claimed the armor for herself and had attempted to kill her while wearing it.
  2195. >Ever since then Celestia hadn’t had the heart to see what was left of her old sister’s workshop, and had left it abandoned like the rest of the castle.
  2196. >She hadn’t even been sure if it had survived the destruction that their terrible fight had wrought on their castle and surrounding landscape, the memories had been too painful for her to even check over the years.
  2197. >Celestia wasn’t sure how long she stood there, watching the sun slowly rise over the now bustling city of Canterlot, but the surprise hug from her sister jolted her from her sad memories.
  2198. >”Do you wish to hear about my project now sister?”  Luna’s joyful voice came over her shoulder as the younger alicorn snuggled next to her larger sister.
  2199. >”Of course, was there enough of the ore left to make it?”
  2200. >”Just barely, there wasn’t enough for a full suit of armor, and I would rather Nýrmáni have a weapon than a shield.”
  2201. >”I just hope that she doesn’t reject this gift.  It will be a wondrous sword, I can feel it.”
  2202. >Celestia sat, bringing the still slightly damp Luna down with her with a giggle.
  2203. >”You always could tell if it would be, and your skill at smithing is still unmatched to this day, why do you think I still use the armor and halberd you made for me all those years ago?”
  2204. >Luna gave a happy sigh, leaning against the larger white alicorn as she watched the sun rise.
  2205. >”I am still happy that you kept my old armor and weapons safe and free from harm while I was... gone.”
  2206. >”I could not simply throw them out, they were one of the few remaining reminders of you that I had my whole time alone.  I spent a countless amount of nights sitting in front of your armor, trying to think of ways I could have changed what I’d done.”
  2207. >”No more of such talk.”
  2208. >Luna gently slapped her sister in the back of her head with one wing as she gave her sister a serious gaze.
  2209. >”I must meet with young Anonymous and Nýrmáni this evening after I have rested, there is something that I must help her correct.”
  2210. >Celestia listened with slight concern and a small dash of happiness as her younger sister told her what she’d seen in the Dream Realm.
  2211. >”It is good that Nýrmáni is venturing forth and making friends on her own, but I agree with you that she must not reveal herself too much before the Congress gathers this weekend, any action she might make could sway them further from any line of logical thinking.”
  2212. >”That is not the only thing I must tell her, Sister; there is something else, something worse.  It pertains to former Captain Sharp Lance, something I only found out after I scanned all of the traitor’s dreams for information the day before.”
  2213. >Celestia listened, mood rapidly dwindling as Luna told her what she had learned.
  2214. >”I harbor no pity for my former guard captain after what he has done,”  Celestia said, her tone flat, “but if what you say has happened did indeed happen, then she must be told about it.”
  2215. >”I know sister,”  Luna sighed, “But I am… nervous about confronting her with this information.  I do not want anything to potentially happen to Nýrmáni and Anon’s relationship because of my actions.”
  2216. >Celestia was silent as she pulled her sister closer with one wing, the sun both covering them in it’s morning warmth.
  2217. >”I cannot simply let this anger and hatred fester in her Celly, it could be catastrophic for her in the future if it isn’t taken care of now.”
  2218. >Celestia watched the sunrise for several moments, eyes closed in thought, before she sighed and leaned down to nuzzle her younger sister.
  2219. >”I trust your judgement in these matters, good luck.”
  2220. >She stood, shaking slightly to regain the feeling in her legs and wings.
  2221. >”Unfortunately I have delayed long enough, I have to go run the inevitable circus that the Day Court will probably turn into.  Get some rest Luna.”
  2222. >Luna smiled up to her sister before letting out a yawn.
  2223. >”Have a good day sister.”
  2224. >A few minutes later and Luna found herself opening the door to her chambers, the exhaustion of her night’s work finally catching up to her.
  2225. >As the door shut behind her, Luna spotted a small bundle of parchment sitting on her bed.
  2226. >Approaching the mysterious bundle of papers cautiously, she saw a smaller, loose note sitting atop the bundle, and she levitated it to her in her magic.
  2227. >While reading it, her face broke into a small, grim smile, the rest of the bundled-up papers levitating over to her massive writing desk.
  2228. >”Good job Blueblood, this information will be very helpful in the upcoming hearings.”
  2229. >Then she read his follow up findings on former guard captain Sharp Lance, and her smile faded.
  2230. >He was getting worse.
  2231. >Luna had to talk to Nýrmáni now.
  2232. >Gathering a quill, ink, and a loose sheet of parchment, she jotted down a quick note to Twilight, and with a burst of magic sent it on its way.
  2233. >Luna looked at her large bed and the warm, inviting sheets and comforters that rested on it.
  2234. >She sighed, turning to leave the comfort of her room.
  2235. >Exiting her room, she made sure that it was physically and magically secure before she began her trip to the castle’s kitchens.
  2236. >If Luna was going to confront Nýrmáni about what the alicorn had done to Sharp Lance, she wasn’t going to do it on an empty stomach.
  2237. <>
  2238. >From where he was sitting in Twilight’s library, Anon heard a pop of teleportation magic and the purple alicorn’s excited voice as she appeared in her castle’s entryway.
  2239. >Leaning forward in the comfortable chair slightly and folding the newspaper he held up, he could hear several other voices talking with her as the sounds of hooves on crystal floors reached him.
  2240. >He recognized the voices of Applejack and her little sister Apple Bloom, and he could hear the voices of two other young fillies as well.
  2241. >”Oh, they are here!”
  2242. >Nýrmáni sat up from the couch that she had been reclining on, a book detailing the last three hundred years of Equestria’s history still held in her forehooves.
  2243. “Are you talking about that apple pie you’ve been waiting for?”
  2244. >Nýrmáni lifted her book onto the table between them, carefully marking the page before closing it, her eyes bright with excitement and a growing smile.
  2245. >”Yes!  But also the young filly Apple Bloom and her two friends, We told you this already.”
  2246. “You did, but I just hope they don’t panic when they actually see you.”
  2247. >The door to the library opened, and Twilight, Applejack, Apple Bloom, and the rest of the Cutie Mark Crusaders entered.
  2248. >When the three fillies’ eyes saw Nýrmáni sitting there, there was a collective gasp as their eyes went wider than Anon thought a living creature's eyes could.
  2249. >”Hello again, young Apple Bloom, are these two the friends that you told me about?”
  2250. >For a moment the fillies didn’t move, neither did Twilight or Applejack, who had two pies balanced on her back.
  2251. >Then the three fillies rushed forwards, questions spewing from their mouths as they crowded around the now very surprise alicorn.
  2252. >”How fast can you fly with those wings?  They’re huge!”
  2253. >”Are ya ready tah try mah sister’s apple pie?”
  2254. >”You aren’t as scary as you were the last time I saw you.”
  2255. >Anon and the other two ponies breathed a small sigh of relief when Nýrmáni simply chuckled, her smile growing even larger.
  2256. >”Yes Apple Bloom, We are quite famished, and We believe that apple pie would be most delightful, but We have not properly introduced Ourself to your two friends yet.”
  2257. >Anon watched with a suppressed chuckle as the alicorn got up off her couch and sat upright on the floor, towering over the three wide-eyed fillies standing before her.
  2258. >”We are Nýrmáni, and it is a pleasure to meet both of you, Apple Bloom has told me of some of your many adventures together.”
  2259. >As the three fillies and the alicorn began to cheerfully introduce themselves, Applejack slid the three large pies off of her back and onto the small table next to where Anon sat.
  2260. >Twilight sat down in another chair that she levitated over to the table, her eyes still fixed on the larger alicorn and the three fillies as they talked excitedly amongst themselves.
  2261. >”It’s incredible to see this actually happening.”  She said quietly.
  2262. >”Ah know, Ah had mah doubts at first but look at’m.”  Applejack smiled as Apple Bloom cheerfully led the larger Nýrmáni over to the table to where the still steaming pies sat.
  2263. >With another pop of her magic Twilight teleported plates and utensils for everyone in attendance, as Nýrmáni sat down in the same large chair that Anon was sitting in, their hips touching.
  2264. >”Ah, are these the ‘apple pies’ We were told of?”
  2265. >Applejack smiled at Nýrmáni’s ravenous expression. ”They sure are, Ah pulled’m out’a tha oven right when Twilight came tah get us.”
  2266. >”Excellent.” Nýrmáni carefully cut out a slice for herself, placed it onto her plate, and held it in front of her nose.
  2267. >Taking several inquisitive sniffs, she carefully nibbled one corner of it.
  2268. >Her eyes went wide with surprise and delight, and she quickly cut off a large portion and began to rapidly empty her plate of all traces of apple pie.
  2269. >The gathered ponies chuckled and laughed at the sight of the large imposing alicorn scarfing down her food like a hungry foal.
  2270. >”This ‘apple pie’ is most enjoyable Miss Applejack.” Nýrmáni nodded graciously to the Earth Pony.  “We see that your skills in cooking have not been exaggerated.”
  2271. >Applejack smiled at the complement and glanced at Anon, who was also busy eating some of the offered food.
  2272. >”Were yah talkin’ up mah food tah her Anon?”
  2273. >He swallowed his mouthful of pie before speaking.
  2274. “Well yeah, your cooking is really, really good, of course I’m going to talk it up to her.  I mean, look how much Nýrmáni enjoys it.”
  2275. >Anon pointed with his fork to Nýrmáni, who was in the process of levitating another two large slices of pie onto her plate, a large, content smile on her muzzle.
  2276. >The three fillies still surrounded her with their own share of food, and between mouthfuls of pie they continued to ask the alicorn excited questions.
  2277. “I just wish that the rest of the ponies could see that this is who she is, even though I know they won’t.”
  2278. >Twilight nodded, her happy expression falling slightly.
  2279. >”It’s an uphill battle all the way, and I doubt it’s going to get any easier for you two.”
  2280. >Anon began to reply, but before the words had left his mouth Spike came jogging in, a scroll held in one of his claws.
  2281. >”Twilight, Princess Luna just sent this!”
  2282. >All conversation in the room ceased as Twilight took the scroll in her magic and read it.
  2283. >”Princess Luna is coming here within the hour; she wants to talk to you Nýrmáni.”
  2284. >Nýrmáni’s eyes went wide as Twilight levitated the letter over to her, and the other alicorn quickly held it up to her own eyes.
  2285. >”It must be urgent, if she wishes to speak with Us so soon.”
  2286. “What did she say?”  Anon leaned closer in a futile attempt to see what was written on the letter.
  2287. >”That is the strange thing, she does not explicitly say, she just wishes to talk to Us about ‘a wrong that must be righted’.  We are as confused as you are Anonymous.”
  2288. >Nýrmáni’s eyes narrowed as she levitated the letter back to Twilight.
  2289. >”She is being deliberately vague, and this does worry Us some… As far as We know We have done nothing wrong.”
  2290. “Well, good thing she’s coming then, you can ask her yourself what the issue is.
  2291. >”That is Our plan.” Nýrmáni said quietly.
  2292. >The cheerful mood in the room had almost vanished, even the three fillies seemed to be upset by this mysterious news, even though they had no idea what it could possibly mean.
  2293. >”However,” Nýrmáni spoke up, “Since Luna is not due for a short while, We can continue to eat this wonderful food, yes?”
  2294. “I’d say that’s a great idea, unless Twilight thinks otherwise, it is her castle after all.”
  2295. >”No complaints from me.”  Twilight said as she finished off her slice. “This is a nice break from the stress of everything going on outside, I’ve been helping Celestia with a lot of paperwork and other issues because of it all.”
  2296. >Even though she tried to hide it, Anon still noticed as Nýrmáni’s eyes fell downwards slightly in dejection at Twilight’s words.
  2297. >She probably blamed herself for all of the chaos and the public outcry that her reappearance had caused.
  2298. >He’d already told her several times that it wasn’t her fault, but in some ways it was; that fact that she even existed seemed to have driven some ponies completely mad.
  2299. >In that morning’s edition of the Canterlot Daily times they had splashed her image over the entire front page, the faint, slightly grainy image of her smiling down from Anon’s window had caused a seemingly unending series of opinions on what her smile meant.
  2300. >What was she smiling about?  What was this vile, sneering alicorn planning?  Was her plan succeeding?
  2301. >Half of the entire newspaper was dedicated to it, and there were opinions and comments by many ponies, some of which were named as members of the Equestrian Congress.
  2302. >All of them but one were negative, the only somewhat positive opinion was by a newer, lesser known congresspony from a smaller, more rural district.
  2303. >When he’d asked Twilight about it, she read the name and recognized the pony as the congressional representative for the area that included Ponyville.
  2304. >According to her he wasn’t a resident of Ponyville but had been in the crowd when she had made her public statement about Nýrmáni in front of the town hall.
  2305. >It was good to have some allies, no matter where or who they might be.
  2306. >But overall the newspapers were a good inclination of the press and most politically-inclined ponies' opinions towards Nýrmáni, and unfortunately a large percentage of them were negative, almost violently so.
  2307. >He personally didn’t care what others thought about him or Nýrmáni, but what he was afraid of were the ones who hated them and were willing to do more than simply write angry opinion articles about the two of them.
  2308. >”Well, sharin’ these pies with yall was nice an’ all, but we should probably git goin before Princess Luna arrives, Ah don’t wanna get in her way or anythin’.”
  2309. >Strangely, it was Sweetie Belle’s voice cut through Anon’s thought, bringing him back to the conversation and away from his brooding thoughts.
  2310. >”Um, Princess Nýrmáni, can I ask you a question?”
  2311. >Nýrmáni’s head spun so fast that Sweetie Bell rocked backward slightly in shock, eyes wide with surprise as the large alicorn peered at her with her brilliant, intense slit eyes.
  2312. >The alicorn noted the young filly’s surprise and rising fear immediately, and Nýrmáni closed her eyes.
  2313. >She took a deep breath as if to calm herself before letting out a long sigh, then spoke, her voice much softer than her previous expression had been.
  2314. >”Why do you address Us as a princess, young Sweetie Belle?”
  2315. >Well,”  The young unicorn squirmed in her seat, suddenly unsure, her eyes losing some of their cheerful shine. “You’re an alicorn, and all alicorns are princesses right?  I mean, Flurry Heart is a princess and she’s only a baby.”
  2316. >Nýrmáni’s expression softened even more as she reached out with one wing to pet the small unicorn on the back.
  2317. >”We are sorry for that… unpleasant expression We gave you, none have addressed Us with that particular title before.  But as to the answer of your question, no, We are not a princess.  In fact, We do not wish to be a Princess of Equestria at all.”
  2318. >All three of the Cutie Mark Crusaders gasped in shock, while Anon just smiled to himself.
  2319. >He knew where this was going, but he’d let her say it for herself.
  2320. >”We had a… change of heart you all might say.  While We were still hurt and locked within Our own mind, We looked within at Ourself and what We had originally strived to achieve, and found they they only led to ruin and misery.”
  2321. >”And thanks to the efforts of my beloved Anonymous,”  One large nearly-black wing wrapped around Anon’s shoulder and pulled him so that they were held against each other. “We have chosen a new destiny for Ourself; to be with him”
  2322. >With his head partially sideways and resting against Nýrmáni’s graceful neck he could see the brightness return to Sweetie Belle’s eyes as they grew wider, a grin beginning  to form on the filly’s muzzle.
  2323. >Apple Bloom and Scootaloo both grew smiles of their own, but then Sweetie Belle topped it all off.
  2324. >”Mr. Anon, Nýrmáni, you two love each other, and you’re both sitting in a loveseat!”
  2325. >Anon could feel his face instantly heat up as he quickly looked away from the three fillies as he tried to think of some sort of rebuttal to Sweetie Belle’s observation.
  2326. >He could feel it when Nýrmáni went stiff as a board and with the sudden tightening and stiffness in her side and the wing that still held him close, he assumed she was just as flustered as he was.
  2327. >Her ethereal mane and tail, which had been happily flowing this whole time, suddenly froze like water turned to ice.
  2328. >With one large ‘awwww’ of excitement the three fillies began to cheerfully laugh as  Nýrmáni began to mumble and splutter incoherently.
  2329. >She was blushing so hard he could feel her neck heating up next to his head, and with one eye he could see Applejack rolling her eyes at the whole display, but she too was smiling.
  2330. >”We… I… Of course We love him, and no simple seat will change that.” The alicorn huffed.
  2331. “It’s not meant to do anything like that.”  Anon awkwardly laughed as he tried to calm himself down. “It’s just that couches like this are called ‘loveseats’ because they were usually used by couples.”
  2332. >”Oh.”
  2333. >She glanced downward at him, her eyes wide and her cheeks still furiously scarlet.
  2334. >The CMC were still gushing and awing over how cute they were, so Nýrmáni’s quiet voice escaped their ears as she leaned her head down closer to his.
  2335. >”What do We do? How do We get them to stop?”
  2336. “I’ve got an idea.”
  2337. >”Whatever it is please do it, We cannot take much more of this.”
  2338. “Alrighty then.”
  2339. >He set his plate down, reached up with both hands to cradle Nýrmáni’s cheeks, and pulled her down for a kiss.
  2340. >With his eyes closed, he couldn’t see them, but he did hear a sudden chorus of ‘ewws’ and ‘yucks’ from the three children.
  2341. >When he pulled away, he could see that Nýrmáni’s eyes were still open wide, and her blush had extended from her face and had almost gone down her neck to her chest; she seemed beyond speech.
  2342. “I’d say that worked.”  Anon laughed, still blushing even as he watched the formally cheering fillies recoiling from his and Nýrmáni’s mushy behavior.
  2343. >“I… I did have one favor to ask, it’s from my sister.”  Sweetie Belle said again, when her composure had returned.
  2344. >”She wants some measurements from you Nýrmáni, if that’s okay with you?”
  2345. >Anon watched as the alicorns blush began to fade, while the filly seemed to unconsciously lower herself closer to the floor as Nýrmáni once again held her head high, ethereal mane once again flowing and undulating about.
  2346. >”What would these measurements be for?”
  2347. >”Um, for some clothing ideas.  My sister makes clothing and dresses for a living and she just wanted to see if yo⎯”
  2348. >”We see no harm in this, she will have her measurements.”
  2349. >”⎯u would like some… Wait, she can have them?”  The filly seemed greatly surprised that Nýrmáni had so readily agreed.
  2350. >”Yes, she can.  She was nice enough when We first met her, We see no reason to deny her.” Nýrmáni withdrew her wing from around Anon and climbed off her perch to stand tall.
  2351. >With a giddy cry Sweetie Belle stood up off her chair and to where Nýrmáni stood, and with a length of sewing tape measure produced from God knows where held in her green magic, she began to take several quick measurements.
  2352. >”I didn’t know you were interested that much in fashion design.”  Twilight said as her head tilted slightly, her second slice of pie forgotten on her plate.
  2353. >”Oh, I’m not really, but when I told Rarity I was coming here this morning she promised me some homemade cookies if I got these measurements for her.”  The filly said as the tape flew back and forth across Nýrmáni’s whole body.
  2354. >”I should have figured.”  Twilight sighed as she lifted her plate and began to eat again, the rest of the ponies resuming their eating as well.
  2355. >”You are writing nothing down young Sweetie Belle, do you remember each measurement?” Nýrmáni asked as the filly scampered about tape flying about in her magic.
  2356. >”Nope, this tape is enchanted so that it remembers the measurement for each part of the body measured.  All Rarity has to do is simply say the body part and it will display the measurement for her by itself.’
  2357. >”Fascinating, We have not heard of such a spell before.”
  2358. >Twilight spoke up again as she began to smile. “I taught it to her, I knew that it would come in handy considering what she does and how much more business she’s been getting these last few years.”
  2359. >With one final flourish Sweetie Belle rolled up the flexible tape and lodged it behind her ear.
  2360. >”There, that’s all she needed, thank you Miss Nýrmáni.”
  2361. >Nýrmáni chuckled at the sight of the filly’s honest smile, and she gave a polite nod of her head to them all.
  2362. >”It was very enjoyable to meet all of you, though We wish that our conversation could have continued longer, We must have our talk with Luna.”
  2363. >”It’s about that time for me too.”  Applejack got off of her chair and began to stretch her legs.  “Ah’ve still got some work to be done before it gets too cold, don’t wanna delay it any more than Ah have to.”
  2364. >”Thank you for the wondrous food Miss Applejack, We greatly enjoyed it.”
  2365. >”Glad tah hear it.” The orange Earth Pony tipped her hat to the smiling alicorn.  “Alright you three, gather ‘round so Twilight can get us outta here.”
  2366. >Anon watched, smiling, as the three fillies waved cheerfully at Nýrmáni before gathering around Applejack and Twilight, who’s horn was glowing steadily.
  2367. >”Farewell, young ones.”  Nýrmáni waved goodbye as the two mares and their three passengers disappeared with a crack of Twilight Sparkle’s magic.
  2368. >Looking back to the table, Anon realized that there was still one more slice of pie left, and he happily placed it on his plate.
  2369. >”We will make you pay for embarrassing Us in such a manner in front of Our new friends.”
  2370. >The playful yet threatening tone in her voice jerked his head upwards, only for Anon to find her sitting directly across the table from him, a toothy smile gracing her features.
  2371. >He swallowed nervously as she licked her lips, her slitted, teal eyes glowing merrily as she gazed deeply into his.
  2372. “Umm… how?”
  2373. >”You will find out tonight, Beloved.”
  2374. >Nýrmáni lifted her plate, and before Anon could stop her she had cut the last slice of pie in two and had placed the larger half onto her plate.
  2375. “Hey, that's mine…”
  2376. >”Couples should share, right?”
  2377. >With a parting giggle Nýrmáni happily trotted from the room, her ethereal tale slapping him on the legs as she passed him.
  2378. >The doors closed behind the large alicorn, leaving Anon alone in the library with his much smaller pie slice.
  2379. >He shivered for a moment when he pondered what Nýrmáni meant by ‘making him pay’.
  2380. >It had just been a kiss, and it had indeed worked in getting the CMC to stop their mushy romantic talk.
  2381. >But now that it was over, it had been kinda cute to see her blush like that, then for her to defend her love for him.
  2382. >It was nice to have someone feel that way about him
  2383. >He suppressed a laugh as he shook his head, and he reached for his fork once again.
  2384. >There was pie to be finished after all.
  2385. <>
  2386. >Nýrmáni paced a section of hallway near the exercise room, deep in thought.
  2387. >Her spirits were high, she had met the young filly Apple Bloom and her two friends, and had been able to eat some very delicious food while doing so.
  2388. >But then Luna’s letter had arrived.
  2389. >Now here she was, an Alicorn, a being of ancient breed, scared like a misbehaved foal.
  2390. >What did the Lunar Princess want with her?
  2391. >What had she done wrong?
  2392. >Would they take Anonymous away from her?
  2393. >”No.”
  2394. >The rage that filled her snarl shocked her out of her thoughts, and the alicorn came to a dead stop.
  2395. >She took several deep breaths as she realized that her heart was racing, and her horn glowing faintly, even though she was casting no magic.
  2396. >Emotional bleed-off was dangerous, she had to stop this.
  2397. >”No, they would not take him from Us, why are We thinking such thoughts?  They told Us themselves that they wish for both of us to be happy together.”
  2398. >Several more deep breaths later, her heart had slowed considerably, and her unconscious magical leakage had stopped.
  2399. >”That is… better, We cannot act in such a manner, Anonymous would be most disappointed in Us.”
  2400. >Nýrmáni’s ears flicked as she picked up the sound of approaching hoofsteps.
  2401. >Louder than most, so it must have been a larger pony.  No metallic sounds, so it couldn’t be one of the guards.
  2402. >She would have heard Twilight Sparkle talking by now so that only left one other pony.
  2403. >”Luna, is that you?”
  2404. >”Yes, it is.”
  2405. >The blue alicorn stepped around the corner, and gave Nýrmáni a small smile.  “How have you been doing?”
  2406. >”We have been doing well considering the… unfortunate circumstances We are in.”
  2407. >Luna nodded sadly. “Once again I must say that my sister and I are working as hard as we can to ensure that you and young Anonymous are welcomed here.”
  2408. >Luna glanced up and down at her for a moment.
  2409. >”You look much more healthy than the last time we met.”
  2410. >”Indeed, We are almost fully healed, it can only be another night or so before We are at full strength, both physically and magically.”
  2411. >Luna nodded, her smile growing slightly larger.
  2412. >”I am sorry to say this but I heard what you were yelling about just moments ago.
  2413. >Luna held up a hoof when Nýrmáni’s eyes went wide and her mouth opened to speak.
  2414. >“I understand how you feel.  Rest assured, Celestia and I will never separate the two of you, we promise you that.”
  2415. >Nýrmáni let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding.
  2416. >”Thank you for that, We… I was scared, I love him, he is everything to me.”
  2417. >As her head fell in shame, she heard Luna trotting closer, until the other alicorn had lifted her head up to meet her gaze.
  2418. >”Do not be so worried yet Nýrmáni, we have several plans in motion, and my sister, Cadence, and I hope that they will be enough.”
  2419. >The sight of the other alicorn's smile brought life back to Nýrmáni’s own gaze and she again stood fully upright.
  2420. >A tiny bit of pride flickered through her again as she noticed that she was also taller than Luna.  Not by much, but by her own estimates she must have been closer to Celestia’s height now that her legs were stronger and more sturdy under her.
  2421. >”We got your letter, and We were confused as to what you were talking about in it?”
  2422. >”I shall explain, but I believe that we should first find a room, this will take time.”
  2423. >”Alright then, We will go to Anonymous’ room.”
  2424. >As Nýrmáni led Luna up the stairs to her and Anon’s room her mind was filled with questions, but she did not say a word.
  2425. >Luna had said that she would explain, and she hoped it would be a good explanation.
  2426. >After exchanging nods with the guards at the top of the stairs, Nýrmáni and Luna entered the room, the former shutting the door behind them.
  2427. >”So, what is this all about?” Nýrmáni asked.
  2428. >Luna sighed, her horn glowing.
  2429. >Nýrmáni could sense the spells that she was casting: silence, sound prevention, and other charms of defense.
  2430. >”I am sorry for these spells, but none must know of what we speak of here, except Anonymous.  He was in the restroom when we arrived and will be up here shortly, then we can begin.”
  2431. >”But to answer your question, the three of us are going on a trip together, into the Dream Realm.  There is somepony you must see.”
  2432. >”Who?”
  2433. >Behind Luna the door opened, and Anonymous stepped inside, shutting the door behind him.
  2434. >The instant that it had closed, Luna’s horn glowed again and a magical lock appeared on it.
  2435. >Nopony was leaving or entering until it was gone, Nýrmáni could sense that from it.
  2436. “Sorry about that Princess Luna, I didn’t miss anything did I?”
  2437. >”No. In fact, you’re here just in time.”
  2438. “So, what’s with the problem she has to fix?”
  2439. >”It will be easier to show you rather than tell you.  As I just told Nýrmáni, the three of us are going into the Dream Realm.
  2440. “Really?”
  2441. >”Yes, and for that, you must sleep.  I’d prefer you lay down so you’re more comfortable.
  2442. >Nýrmáni watched as Anonymous climbed onto his bed, looking both very curious and slightly nervous.
  2443. >”Nýrmáni, do you know how to enter the Dream Realm?”
  2444. >”We… no, We do not, We have only done so accidentally in our sleep.”
  2445. >”Very well, I suggest you sit, I will pull both of you in, then we shall continue on from there.”
  2446. >Nýrmáni sat down on her haunches, her body thankfully did not complain.
  2447. >She was strong.
  2448. >Luna closed her eyes, as two tendrils of white light emerged from her horn.  One came to her, and the other flowed through the air towards Anonymous, who lay on his bed with his eyes closed and his breathing even.
  2449. >The tendril of light hit her between the eyes, and for a moment there was nothing but blackness.
  2450. >Then the next thing she knew Nýrmáni was standing in the star-filled void that she had been in the previous night, Anon standing next to her, eyes wide at his surroundings.
  2451. “Wow…”
  2452. >Nýrmáni smiled as Anonymous gazed about in awe, and then Luna materialized in front of them, her face calm and neutral.
  2453. >”Nýrmáni, in your rage you did something you shouldn’t have done, and now, it is time for you to correct your mistake.”
  2454. >The stars that represented the dreams of others suddenly began to flow past them, as if borne on a ferocious wind, until one came to rest between them.
  2455. >In contrast to the peacefully white dreams of the others that had flowed past them, this one was a sickly, dark red, with veins of black surrounding it like the vines of some invasive plant.
  2456. >Nýrmáni’s blood went hot when she saw the stallion in the floating bubble.
  2457. “That’s the guard captain, the one who invaded our dream with that group that night.”
  2458. >Anon cautiously leaned closer to the malevolent looking orb and the moving pictures within.
  2459. >”He has suffered irreparable mental trauma because of you, Nýrmáni.”  Luna’s eyes locked onto hers, and she couldn’t help but narrow her eyes in response.
  2460. >”We… We did no such thing.”  Her voice could help but sound like a snarl. “We just frightened him before we awoke, that is all…”
  2461. >”No. Intentionally or not, you poured all of your rage and your sadness at Anon’s injury at their hooves into this stallion’s mind when you ’scared him’.  A mind can only handle so much bef⎯”
  2462. >”He deserved it!” She didn’t even realize she was screaming until the words had left her.
  2463. >Nýrmáni’s eyes stung, and she quietly realized that she was crying.
  2464. >”They hurt him, and We could not stop them from doing it!”
  2465. >She looked up, jaws clenched, nearly trembling in her rage, only to find Luna staring impassively at her, unshaken by her outburst, while Anon looked stunned by it.
  2466. >His eyes were wide, and he looked into the floating dream between them with fear and hesitation at what he was witnessing.
  2467. >Luna sighed, shaking her head slowly.
  2468. >”I understand your anger towards him, but you are doing the same thing that I once did; holding onto my rage, my dejection, my loneliness.  This is a fatal path to tread on.”
  2469. >Luna’s horn glowed, and the orb grew bigger slightly, and the sounds from within it became easily audible.
  2470. >Nýrmáni’s toothy snarl faded slightly at the manic, horrific screams of the pony inside as he was menaced by a pony that seemed to be pure black; no features, no mouth, no ears, only a pair of bright, murderous balls of white light where the eyes would be.
  2471. >”He is trapped within his own mind, his nightmare unending.  His mind has already been broken; he is almost like you in a way, but there is nopony coming to help him.”
  2472. >Luna looked directly into Nýrmáni’s eyes, the soft cyan eyes holding a hardness that she did not expect to see.
  2473. >Nýrmáni broke the gaze first, turning her head just enough to avoid meeting the alicorn’s piercing gaze.
  2474. >”I cannot help him, the spell that keeps his mind in its current state is yours, and only you can remove it.”
  2475. >”We will never forgive him for what he has done.” Nýrmáni’s voice was low, even as the tears still flowed down her cheeks.
  2476. >”I am not asking you to forgive him, whatever time you choose to do so is up to you, I will not force you to do it.  All that I ask is for you to relieve him of his torment, let go of your festering rage; you and I know that is how terrible things come to pass.”
  2477. >Like a blow to the back of her head Nýrmáni’s eyes widened as Lua’s words finally made their way through the crying alicorn’s mind.
  2478. >A hand came to rest on her neck, and the alicorn suddenly realized that she had fallen back onto her haunches as the tears continued to fall.
  2479. “She’s right.”
  2480. >Turning her head, she saw the face of Anonymous.
  2481. >He didn’t look angry, or disappointed, only sad, whether for her or for the stallion that she had tormented, she had no idea.
  2482. “I don’t like him any more than you do, but he’s suffering the same torture you did, and if the way you described it to me was any way what he’s feeling, I’d never wish that on anyone.”  He looked back to the dream, to where the stallion lay curled up in a ball, wailing like a foal.
  2483. “He’s already lost everything, right?”
  2484. >”Correct.”  Luna said, her gaze still not leaving Nýrmáni’s.  “He has been moved to a mental health facility that can keep him comfortable.  He has no family to care for him, he is truly alone in his nightmare.”
  2485. >”If this hatred continues to reside within you, it could affect young Anonymous as well, though you may not intend for it to do so.”
  2486. >Nýrmáni wanted to object, to scream that she would never do anything to hurt him, but then she remembered the hallway just minutes ago, and how rage had consumed her at the mere thought of the possibility of her beloved being taken from her.
  2487. >Thinking back on the moment, where had all that rage come from?
  2488. >Nýrmáni didn’t know how long she sat there, taking deep breath after deep breath, hiding her eyes from Luna, Anonymous, and the horror that she finally, truly realized she had wrought.
  2489. >But the hand of her Anonymous never left her neck.
  2490. >Finally she stood, slowly, as if having just awoken.
  2491. >She took the several trots necessary for her to reach the orb, and the silently screaming stallion held within it.
  2492. >”We… cannot forgive you now, the time of your crime is too recent…” Nýrmáni gritted her teeth as more tears began to flow despite her best efforts.
  2493. >”But We will not let you suffer as We did.  For that, We are sorry.”
  2494. >Lowering her horn, Nýrmáni’s magic burst into life, and the black, strangling vines that surrounded the dream drifted away, like smoke in the wind.
  2495. >The red, undulating aura diminished, until the stallion was alone in a field of bright green grass, the sun shining brightly above him as a breeze rustled the leaves of the trees that now surrounded him.
  2496. “Will he be alright?”
  2497. >Anonymous stepped next to her, eyes locked on the stallion now sleeping peacefully in the sun.
  2498. >”A good as a pony in his state can be.  He has still suffered irreparable mental damage, but now, he can rest and live in peace.  He will not be participating in the political upheaval that is now transpiring.”
  2499. >Luna’s horn began to glow, and when Nýrmáni worked up the courage to look at her, the alicorn gave her a faint smile.
  2500. >”I know it was hard, but you have taken a good trot forwards.  Remember, we were once one, a long time ago.”
  2501. >Luna’s horn flashed as bright as the sun.
  2502. >When the brightness had cleared from her eyes, Nýrmáni found herself back in the waking world, Anon was sitting up on his bed, rubbing his eyes as well.
  2503. >She couldn’t contain it any more, and she lowered herself to the floor completely as she began to cry, her ethereal mane and tail falling limp with her.
  2504. >She faintly heard Anon climb down off his bed, and soon his hands held her softly, gently.
  2505. >Nearly throwing herself onto his lap she began to cry even harder as she spluttered and sobbed.
  2506. “You don’t have to say anything, I forgive you.”
  2507. >”H-how could y-you?  I’m a-a monster.”
  2508. “You were, but not anymore, you said so yourself.  You chose your own destiny.”
  2509. >Nýrmáni buried her head against Anonymous’ chest, she could feel her tears staining his shirt.
  2510. >”B-but what if We make the s-same mistake again?”
  2511. “It’s a good thing you have a guy like me to help you then, isn’t it?”
  2512. >Though muffled, she still emitted a small laugh through her tears.
  2513. >”Yes, it is good.”
  2514. >For several minutes she just lay there, crying out the rest of her stress and self-loathing.
  2515. >Finally bringing her head out from its hiding spot, she could see Luna gazing down at her with a small smile.
  2516. >”I must also apologize, I did not want to be as blatant and forward as I was, but I could not dodge the issue, you had to know.”
  2517. >She stepped forward, placing one hoof on the trembling alicorn’s shoulder.
  2518. >”Trust Anonymous with your insecurities, your fears, your doubts.  Do not hide them within, do not let your anger and rage control you, and you will not stray into the dark.”
  2519. >Luna stepped away from the two.
  2520. >”Oh, one more thing,”  The Lunar Princess suddenly sported a large grin as she leaned back down closer to Nýrmáni. “I have been working on something, a project that I think you will find very pleasing.”
  2521. >”What is it?” Nýrmáni asked quietly, blinking the last of her tears from her eyes.
  2522. >”If everything goes as planned, you will find out in a couple days time.  But now, I must rest.”
  2523. >The blue alicorn sighed, and for the first time Nýrmáni could see the exhaustion in Luna’s eyes..
  2524. >”I have been working nonstop every night on it.  I fare thee well Nýrmáni, young Anonymous.
  2525. >Slowly, Luna turned from the duo and made her way to the door, the magical spells she had cast on them fading as she exited the room.
  2526. >Nýrmáni slowly got to her hooves, and Anon stood up along with her.
  2527. “Well this has been an interesting start to the day.”
  2528. >We agree with you on that point, Anonymous.”
  2529. <>
  2530. >Tea Leaf trotted out of Thunder’s room, cheerfully humming under her breath.
  2531. >His recovery was speeding up from the recovery and healing spells, and his injuries were responding well to the treatments.
  2532. >At this rate he would be fully healed in about a week.
  2533. >Turning a corner, she nearly ran headfirst into Princess Twilight, and only thanks to her flight instincts did she avoid hitting the alicorn.
  2534. >”Oh, I’m sorry Princess I didn’t mean-”
  2535. >”It’s alright Tea Leaf.”  The alicorn gave her a happy smile. “It’s good actually, I’ve been looking for you.”
  2536. >Tea Leaf tilted her head quizzically as she sat. “What for?”
  2537. >”For this.” A package held in Princess Twilight’s magic was levitated to her and fell into her waiting hooves.
  2538. >”Rarity said you needed to get it first, and that you would know what to do with it.”
  2539. >Tea Leaf squinted at the note attached to the top of the small box, trying to discern the fancy calligraphy inscribed on it.
  2540. >”It’s from Rarity and it’s for… Nýrmáni, but it’s addressed to me?”
  2541. >Twilight sighed.
  2542. >”I don’t know what’s in there but it probably had something to do with Sweetie Belle taking Nýrmáni’s measurements this morning.”
  2543. >”Wait, Rarity made something for her in just one afternoon?”
  2544. >”She’s good at what she does, though it’s probably not something too terribly complex.”  Twilight replied.
  2545. >”Well, I guess I’ll run this up to her then, I think she’s messing around in Anon’s room.  Thank you Princess.”
  2546. >With a small bow and goodbye wave Tea Leaf began her trip, while the light of the evening sun came through the windows, bathing the crystal walls in countless sparkling colors.
  2547. >As she trotted upwards, curiosity swirled in her head about what could be in the small parcel she currently held under one wing
  2548. >It was too small to be a complete dress or any other type of large clothing, that left only a few options.
  2549. >Those options that popped up in her head were the kind that made Tea Leaf’s smile grow the closer she got to her destination.
  2550. >Before long she found herself knocking on the closed door of Anon’s room.
  2551. >A faint trotting of hooves reached her and the door opened, revealing a smiling Nýrmáni.
  2552. >”Hello Miss Tea Leaf, how do you fair this day?”
  2553. >”Not too bad at all honestly.”  She replied, stepping inside as Nýrmáni shut the door behind her. “How are you doing?”
  2554. >”Physically, We are well, our regeneration has kicked in fully, and our body feels better than ever.”
  2555. >Tea Leaf looked over the alicorn and realized that she was right; her legs were strong and lean, any sign of her previous trauma had vanished from her chest and barrel, and her coat had a healthy sheen to it.
  2556. >Other than the streaks of white fur that hid her horrific scars she seemed to be completely healthy.
  2557. >”Our mind, however, is in turmoil.  To keep it simple, We made… a grievous mistake, one that could have cost Us dearly.  It has been rectified the best We could, but We are unsure of Ourself at the moment.”
  2558. >Tea Leaf’s smile faded at Nýrmáni’s downcast voice.
  2559. >”I’m sorry to hear that, but I do have something here that I think will take your mind off your troubles.”
  2560. >”Nýrmáni perked up, seeming eager to change the topic. “Really, what is it?”
  2561. >”This.”  Tea Leaf pulled the package out from under her wing and set it down on the floor in front of her.  “But before you open it I have to ask, where’s Anon at?”
  2562. >”We believe he was relaxing on the roof or something like that.  He did tell Us that he enjoys watching the sunsets.  Why do you ask?”
  2563. >”Well… Rarity sent this for you, and if what I think is in there is in there, you won’t want Anon to see you while you try it on.”
  2564. >”What could it be?” Nýrmáni’s eyes narrowed suspiciously as she picked up the package in her magic and began to open in carefully.
  2565. >She lifted the lid of the small box, and levitated out a small note that must have been sitting on the top.
  2566. >Tea Leaf watched as the alicorn’s eyes darted from the note, to the contents of the box, and back again several times, a blush growing on her cheeks the more she read.
  2567. >Without a word the alicorn took the note and levitated it to Tea Leaf, who took it in one wing with a growing grin on her muzzle.
  2568. >Her grin got bigger with every word she read.
  2569. >”Oh that sneaky unicorn, she just couldn’t help herself could she?”  Tea Leaf giggled as Nýrmáni lifted the articles of clothing out of the box, her face more red than black at this point.
  2570. >”Are… Are these what We think they are?  We know that We do not know much about fashion, but the meaning of these haven’t changed have they?”
  2571. >”Oh yes they are, and no their meaning hasn’t changed.”  Tea Leaf giggled as she stood up and trotted over to the blushing alicorn. “With these, Anon will be putty in your hooves.  Here, I’ll help you get them on.”
  2572. <>
  2573. >Anon watched as the sun finally descended past the distant, snow-covered mountains.
  2574. >The chilly air made fog with every exhaled breath, but he didn’t move from his spot, he was wrapped comfortably in a jacket and good pants.
  2575. >In some ways he figured he was getting used to living in Equestria, seeing ponies instead of people was starting to feel normal in more ways than not.
  2576. >The views, the cleaner air, the tastier food, it was starting to feel regular to him.
  2577. >He sighed, standing up and stretching slowly as the light began to fade from the sky, the silver moon rising to replace the golden sun.
  2578. >Gathering his violin case, he slowly made his way to the roof entry door.
  2579. >He’d been up here for several hours simply enjoying the sunlight and playing random songs on his violin.
  2580. >When he’d asked Nýrmáni if she wanted to join him she’d said she wasn’t feeling particularly well at the moment and so she declined.
  2581. >It was probably from what she had done that morning, and the conversation with Luna that she’d had.
  2582. >If she wanted some personal time to think he wasn’t going to deny her that, so he’d left her alone.
  2583. >Hopefully she wouldn’t get more depressed because of it.
  2584. >Making his way inside, he began the short trip, only to find Tea Leaf at the base of the stairs that led to his room.
  2585. >”Oh hi Anon, you’re back!”
  2586. “Yup, it’s getting a bit chilly…”
  2587. >His words trailed off as he noted the mischievous grin on the pegasus’ muzzle.
  2588. “What did you do.”
  2589. >”Nothing.”
  2590. “That’s a fib and you know it; you’re up to something. The last time I saw you with a grin like this was when me and Nýrmáni took a shower together for the first time.”
  2591. >”That was fun, but no, I haven’t done anything.  Rarity sent them, and Nýrmáni agreed to it all once I showed her.”
  2592. “What.”
  2593. >”Yup!  She’s waiting for you in your room, I wouldn’t keep her waiting though, she’s nervous enough as it is already.”
  2594. >Before he could get another word in the pegasus had spread her wings and shot off down the stairs, squealing with barely-suppressed laughter.
  2595. >Looking slowly up towards where his room sat, his imagination began to run wild with what that pegasus and his alicorn could have been getting up to.
  2596. >Walking up the stairs slowly, he tried to listen for any sounds, anything that would help him figure out what was behind that closed door.
  2597. >The guards that stood at attention at the top of the stairs expressed no emotion as usual, but as he passed, one of them turned and looked up at him.
  2598. >”Good luck.”
  2599. “Thanks, I guess…”
  2600. >With trepidation he finally reached his closed door and grasped the handle.
  2601. >Taking several deep breaths and popping his neck, he turned the knob and opened the door, and suddenly he could hear Nýrmáni’s worried voice.
  2602. >”...Oh, why did We agree to this?  We do not think he will like this look, but what do We do?  Tea Leaf said he would love it, but…”
  2603. >Anon shut the door behind him and squinted his eyes as he looked around his room.
  2604. >The lights were off, and the last rays of sunlight and the fresh cool light of the rising moon filtered in through the open windows, bathing the room in a strange yet welcoming array of colors.
  2605. >The closing of the door must have jerked Nýrmáni from her talking as her voice went immediately silent.
  2606. >”Anonymous?”
  2607. “Yeah it’s me, where are you?”
  2608. >”We have rendered Ourself invisible, We cannot bear to have you looking at Us right now.”
  2609. “Does this have anything to do with what Tea Leaf told me the two of you were getting into?”
  2610. >”Most likely…”  The alicorn’s reply was barely audible.
  2611. >He walked over to his writing table and put his violin case down, then took off his jacket and shoes, hanging the former over the backrest.
  2612. “Well, go on then, lets get it over with, I wanna see.”
  2613. >”...Are you sure?”
  2614. “Yes, I won’t be upset or laugh, I promise.”
  2615. >There was silence for a moment before he heard a sigh from near where his bed sat, and with a rippling of the air Nýrmáni suddenly came into view.
  2616. >Anon’s eyes went wide at the sight of the alicorn as she stood at the foot of his bed, a small frown gracing her features.
  2617. >”Yes, We do not like them.  Even Luna never saw the appeal in them from what We can recall and… Anonymous, are you okay?”
  2618. >Nýrmáni stood there, tall and elegant, wearing a set of dark pink stockings.
  2619. >They must have had small gems sewn into the soft fabric, since they sparkled in what little light came in from the windows.
  2620. >The sparkling scattered on their surface almost seemed to match that of her mane and tail, both of which seemed to be hugging closer to the alicorn’s body, as if nervous to extend themselves further.
  2621. >As if he was witnessing her beauty for the first time, Anon could see how they framed Nýrmáni’s long, lean legs, and as his eyes followed them upwards they led him to her chest, which was hidden underneath a layer of healthy, thicker fur.
  2622. >And her flank.
  2623. >Sweet God almighty that flank of hers.
  2624. >Her hips were perfectly framed by them, and they showed that her stifles were solid with healthy muscle, flesh, and bone under her luscious black coat.
  2625. >Her cutie marks seemed to glow in the faint light, the purple fur surrounding the crescent moons surely hiding all sorts of wonderful treasures.
  2626. >”Anonymous, are you alright?”
  2627. >Her concerned voice jerked him out of his contemplation, and he abruptly realized that his mouth had been hanging open since she had revealed herself to him.
  2628. >His pants were also much tighter than he remembered them being.
  2629. “Yeah I’m… I’m fine.  More than fine actually.”
  2630. >”Really?  And what do you think of this… ridiculous wear that Tea Leaf and that unicorn Rarity have hoisted upon Us?”
  2631. >He took several steps closer, until he was standing almost directly in front of the blushing, frowning alicorn.
  2632. “I’m going to be completely honest with you; I think that you're the most beautiful, cute, and sexy thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
  2633. >He saw Nýrmáni’s eyes go wide, and her mouth open and close several times before she spoke.
  2634. >”You… you think We're... that I am beautiful?  Even with these… stockings on Us?”
  2635. >He held out both of his hands and took her head in them, her eyes growing even wider at his calm and soothing touch.
  2636. “You already were, but these do make you look much-mmmph!”
  2637. >Before he could finish his sentence Nýrmáni had jumped forwards and latched her lips to his in a furious kiss.
  2638. >Surprised at her forwardness and aggressive gesture, he was pushed backwards by her until his back hit the wall.
  2639. >Pinned between to immovable objects, Anon pushed his lips back against hers as Nýrmáni pressed against him with her chest, the alicorn letting out a deep moan of satisfaction as he deepened their kiss.
  2640. >Holding her head with both hands Anon refused to back down, as if letting go of her would be the worst thing in the world he could do.
  2641. >Suddenly he could feel one of her forelegs pawing at his pants, and he knew what she wanted.
  2642. >He realized that he wanted it too, more than anything he’d ever wanted in his whole life.
  2643. >Heart racing, Anon pulled back from her lips with a soft smack as he opened his eyes.
  2644. >Nýrmáni was panting with need, her eyes were half closed in lust, and her teal, slitted irises glowed slightly in the fading light.
  2645. “Are you ready?  Because I think I am.”
  2646. >He saw the corners of her lips turn upwards as she began to smile.
  2647. >It might have been the lack of light but he could have sworn the bottoms of her eyes were wet.
  2648. >”Yes, yes We are, make Us feel as beautiful as you say We are.”
  2649. >She turned from Anon and with a flap of her large, graceful wings she splashed down on his bed, her smile growing larger.
  2650. >Her horn glowed brightly and the walls, ceiling, and floor flashed with the color of her magic for a moment.
  2651. >As if in a trance, he threw off his shirt as he walked to her, and when he reached the bed he tugged his remaining clothes off as well, much to the giggling delight of Nýrmáni, who still watched him with glowing, mirthful eyes.
  2652. >”Now, my Beloved, you have given Us everything, now it is time for Us to give you the last thing that We have saved; Ourself.”
Anon Nightmare Moon NMP Romance Slice of Life Violence NSFW Adventure

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