Dec 30th, 2020
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  1. >Sitting on this hill with Celestia, you look upon your landscape.
  2. >Clouds, grey and heavy, march across the sky and bring a thunderous rain down as far as the eye can see.
  3. >Although none of the drops reach either of you.
  4. >There is a low hanging fog creeping through the tall grass below, pooling between the rolling hills out to where land meets sea.
  5. >Away and afar there sits a cold beach, the ocean tossing and turning with a casual frigidity.
  6. >”So this is what your world is like.”
  7. “Well, at least how I remember it.”
  8. >Celestia peers into your eyes, nodding, then she turns away to stare up at the sky.
  9. >”It reminds me of Equestria in the early days. Beautiful, but in a cold and truly primal way.”
  10. >You listen carefully, catching every detail.
  11. >It had been a while since Tia had talked about ancient Equestria, and you were fairly curious.
  12. >”Did I ever tell you that Discord invented weather?”
  13. >Seriously?
  14. “No, that’s… Really? I never imagined Discord to be creative like that. I mean sure, the guy is Chaos, but most often the real dickish sort of chaos where you just fuck with people. Ponies.”
  15. >Princess Celestia sighed and turned her gaze back to you, cracking a little smile.
  16. >Those eyes...
  17. >The eye contact had only lasted a few moments at most, but it made a distinct impression.
  18. >You always felt like you were under an x-ray when Celestia looked you in the eyes.
  19. >Not in a probing, privacy violating way, but in a heartwarming and uplifting one.
  20. >It was like Celestia was seeing the good in you, appreciating it, those purple eyes of hers taking in all the best traits they could find.
  21. >Taking her time, Celestia lied down beside you, her back pressed into your right side with your right arm wrapped around her.
  22. >”The idea may seem odd at first, but Discord was perfect for the job. He had no allegiances and he had no real discernable patterns. The weather would always be random and unpredictable, often giving enough for good crops, but never too much. It allowed for balance of Chaos and Harmony.”
  23. “Random and unpredictable huh? Sounds an awful lot like the weather back on Earth, or a lot like going clubbing in Bangkok.”
  24. >Celestia raised an eyebrow at you, prompting a response.
  25. >You shrugged back at her and returned to watching the weather unfold.
  26. “What?”
  27. >”Well, I don’t think you’ve ever described this Bangkok to me, but the similarity with Earth is what I was getting at. It’s almost as though there is still a Discord on your planet controlling the weather.”
  28. “So he isn’t in charge of the weather anymore?”
  29. >A pause.
  30. >Celestia had a few interesting tics for when she was carefully considering something.
  31. >She only really let them slip when she was at ease though, so you doubted there were many individuals who had seen them beyond you and Luna.
  32. >You’d always found them kind’ve cute, the way the flow of Celestia’s mane seemed to slow like she was powering down, the way her fore hooves fidgeted at that huge gold band around her neck and rubbed at the gem in its center.
  33. >”Discord still possesses the ability to control the weather, but he no longer does so. Not very often anyway, only when he finds it necessary or if he’s in a particularly vile mood.”
  34. “Take it you banned him from doing it?”
  35. >Celesia chuckled.
  36. >”If I had banned him he would only have done it more.”
  37. >Suddenly she stopped laughing and started staring off into the distance.
  38. >”No… Discord stopped on his own. I’ve never mustered up the courage to ask him myself just why, but Luna tells me it has to do with… Well, you know who.”
  39. >Subject change time.
  40. >Drawing Celestia in closer with your right hand, you point at her gold band.
  41. “You’ve never told me the story of that little beauty.”
  42. >Beauty was pushing it really, at least in comparison to all the other things Celestia wore.
  43. >Where her crown and horse shoes were flawless and always clean, even when she was pristine and perfectly groomed.
  44. >Celestia always wore the same scratched, dented, and worn bit of gold around her neck.
  45. >The marks on it were subtle for the most part, at a distance you could hardly tell, but up close like this you could see every last one.
  46. “Why do you wear that? You have plenty of spare crowns and shoes, why not a spare one of those?”
  47. >Celestia smiled softly, eyes lidded and looking down at the gold band with a warm expression of reminiscence.
  48. >”Well, technically you gave it to me Anonymous.”
  49. “Now the story is just begging to be told.”
  52. >Lifting her head to look at you again, Celestia smiled even wider before returning to a more neutral expression, her eyes opening up.
  53. >”I think it would be best if I took this to ‘my neighbourhood’ so to speak. Is that fine with you?”
  54. >You nodded and turned away to the horizon.
  55. >This should…
  56. >Be interesting.
  57. >There came a loud resounding boom like thunder away in the distance, and just like that, time slowed to a halt around you and Celestia.
  58. >Celestia’s eyes began to glow, her Stream becoming apparent and ever brighter as she put it to work, a golden torrent changing into a great flowing spectral rush of color around her.
  59. >All around you, things started to roll back and change.
  60. >The rain climbed back up into the sky, the waves receded instead of coming to crash on the beach.
  61. >This reversal steadily accelerated, the clouds were twisting about and dissipating bit by bit.
  62. >Eventually the entire sky opened up and the fog cleared.
  63. >In that last moment before the switch you saw the sun set on the horizon, tossing out its final jets of orange and red to illuminate the earth.
  64. >Then the switching took place, and with a lurch you felt yourself dissociate, almost losing your ego but just holding onto it.
  65. >Your form disintegrated, passing right into Celestia’s chest.
  66. >For a moment, everything was dark.
  69. >Standing at the peak of this mountain with Anonymous, you look upon your landscape.
  70. >The Sun is rising, clouds tinted various yellows, oranges and reds fanning out on either side of it and across the sky.
  71. >You get an odd feeling in your heart watching it arise like that without your guidance.
  72. >Down below, the great fields of Equestria are clear to see in all their immensity and glory, wildflowers forming magnificent patterns of color and life going on for miles around.
  73. >In the distance, more mountains like yours stand tall, serene and snow-capped with nothing to disturb them.
  74. >”And here we are in Equestria again.”
  75. “My perception of Equestria, yes.
  76. >Anon tilts his head back at you, smiling.
  77. >”I’ve always loved the land here Tia, it’s like being a kid again. Everything is how I always pictured it as a little underage shithead, big and colorful.”
  78. >You made a mental note to ask Anonymous about his childhood later, knowing him he would have quite a few entertaining tales to share.
  79. >The two of you sat in the snow, Anonymous wrapping his arm around you again and pulling you in close.
  80. >For a few minutes the two of you just sat there in silence, clinging to each other and watching the world unravel.
  81. >Then Anon turned to look you in the eyes, smiling casually.
  82. >Everything Anonymous did was so casual, like he had no worries left to care about.
  83. >Just good memories and good times to look forward to, he moved as he wanted, often disguising none of his emotions or intent.
  84. >”So, you gonna continue?”
  85. >Ah, you’d almost forgotten.
  86. “Yes. I received this gold band about three thousand years ago as a gift, although there’s a bit more to it than just that. You see, this was at the height of mine and my sisters’ reign. Both of us had wrought a great country in Equestria, we and our subjects were truly reaping the benefits. It was a time of great celebration and bounty, with much for all. And so the two of us often put together events to further entertain the populace.”
  87. >Anonymous tapped at his chin with a finger, before bringing it up, brows raising and lips curling up as he ‘a ha’d’
  88. >”So you sent a brave knight to fetch this ancient and supremely beautiful piece of jewelry from a dragon’s lair then. And now you still wear the band in memory of him after he died of the wounds he received retrieving it. Also his name was Anonymous.”
  89. >You rolled your eyes at him, watching his own eyes follow you, mirth shining in them.
  90. >His gaze was always something you treasured, in Anon’s eyes you could see all that happiness inside him, his trust in you and his playful compassion for others.
  91. >You’d held eye contact with many a being in your lifetime, but Anonymous was quite unlike all of them.
  92. “Neither I nor Luna would ever be so silly as to send a knight directly into danger like that for something as trite as a bit of gold. No, it was a competition Luna put together. Luna herself had worn no crown up till this point and had decided it was time. So she sent a message out to all of Equestria, declaring that the smith who could craft her a crown she truly adored would gain her commission. It was one hefty pile of bits as well, a personal fund Luna had accumulated over her years working the Night Court.”
  93. >”Lulu rolling in the dosh? Sounds about right.”
  94. >Anonymous would know about that, working in the Night Court alongside your sister as he has been.
  95. >Well if you counted eternal rivalry and scheming against each other in minor political scandals as alongside.
  96. >It had always been in good fun though, as Anonymous and Luna had assured you.
  97. >Either way you readied up to continue your story, shifting a little and getting more comfortable in Anon’s embrace.
  98. >Then, lighting up your horn, you swept away the surrounding scenery and replaced it with the memory of that time.
  99. >The two of you were now seated in the sunlit main market square of Canterlot, just ahead of a crowd of ponies.
  100. >Market stalls and carts had all been pushed to the sides to clear up the entire space, offering a vast buffer between the series of tables set in a line at the center and the spectators that surrounded it.
  101. >Set upon each table was a crown, all of varying styles and materials.
  104. >”So this is the judging then?”
  105. >You nodded.
  106. >All the ponies in the crowd milled about, chattering between themselves while they waited for Princess Luna.
  107. >Suddenly, out of the shadows at the edge of the square, Luna emerged smiling and waving to the now cheering crowd.
  108. >Once Luna had taken her place standing at the first crown in line, the memory of you appeared in a gentle and quiet flash of light just behind her with a lit firecracker held aloft in her magic.
  109. >The crowd went wild, some cheering you on, others trying desperately to warn Luna and some just laughing along.
  110. >Luna merely looked about confused, not really catching anything the crowd was saying, while memory Celestia smirked and ever so slowly moved the cracker above her sister’s head.
  111. >The bang almost made Luna face plant as she scrabbled to get away, both the memory and you now laughing heartily at their sister’s distress.
  112. >”Pfft, nice one. Right out in public too.”
  113. >You grinned at Anonymous, nuzzling his cheek.
  114. “Oh she had it coming. That was the week Lulu dumped a bucket of water on my head during my meeting with the seapony ambassador.”
  115. >You had to admit Luna’s delivery had been cleverer, but the reaction you had gotten was priceless, watching her nearly jump out of her fur like that, all the while with the city ponies laughing at her or booing you in jest.
  116. >Luna stood back up and glowered at her sister, who merely stepped aside and motioned her to continue, all with a smirk on her muzzle.
  117. >Still suspicious of further trickery, Luna was careful to stand as far away from you as she could manage.
  118. >”Citizens! We art here today to conduct the judging of these fine fruits of craftsmanship so bestowed upon me by the craftsponies of Equestria. We shalt judge each crown, testing its fit and look, before calling forth the humble maker and passing on our critique. That done, we will move on to the next crown, till all art tested. Once all art so observed by us, we shalt choose the winner and award them their due.”
  119. >Once Luna had started talking, everypony present was enraptured, paying close attention to each word she spoke.
  120. >And once she had finished they remained polite, stomping their hooves momentarily in anticipation.
  121. >All told there were about fifty crowns to judge, and you could see Luna’s expression souring at almost all of them.
  122. >Eventually, after nearly an hour or so of trying on crowns and speaking with their makers, Luna came to the final three.
  123. >She approached the first, hovering it up in her magic.
  124. >It was certainly a magnificent piece, but almost too magnificent.
  125. >A deep blue metal band to match her coat, with pale blue sapphires embedded around its rim to contrast the shady tones.
  126. >The top was in line with most traditional crowns of the time, a large array of expensive cloth all colour coded to match Luna.
  127. >In short, an extremely uncomfortable and impractical piece of headwear of the sort that your advisors would always insist you wear everywhere you went.
  128. >You could see that same look and feel of it in Luna’s eyes as she tried it on.
  129. >Oh how you could sympathize, especially with Twilight’s coronation having been just a short while ago.
  130. >That torturous abomination the attendants had foisted on you…
  131. >”Looks like she hates it, way too heavy and way too big.”
  132. >Anonymous liked to be straight to the point, and he smirked as Luna removed the crown.
  133. >”May the creator of this beauty come forward!”
  134. >Out from the crowd walked a proud and well-groomed pony, blue coat and black mane with a bellows for a cutie mark.
  137. >That horse looked like a real fucking asshole.
  138. >He kept his snout upturned, somehow even as he bowed to Luna.
  139. >Immediately you could tell he was just the type of minor gentry you would fuck over in the Night Court on a corruption scandal or something.
  140. >Even past Luna seemed to agree, her brow furrowing ever so slightly at the sight of him.
  141. >But it was only for a moment, impossible to notice if you hadn’t been looking for it.
  142. >”And how do you name thineself subject?”
  143. >”Your Majesty, I am Gilded Hammer, master jeweler and smith.”
  144. >Luna nodded, her expression neutral.
  145. >”Well, Gilded Hammer. We must say, thine creation is certainly befitting of a princess. Majestic and obviously crafted of the finest materials you could gather. However, as we have said to many another creator here today, perhaps you could have scrimped somewhat to allow for a lighter and more comfortable crown. This does not put you out of the running we assure you, our decision will be taken only after we have judged every piece. Overall, well done Gilded Hammer, a most decadent crown you have made.”
  146. >”Thank you Your Majesty. I shall… Strongly consider your words in the future.”
  147. >Gilded Hammer bowed once more before disappearing back into the crowd.
  148. >You felt Celestia twitch under your arm, she was smiling wider as she watched the scene unfold.
  149. >It really was weird having two of her around like this, one wearing a gold band and one not.
  150. >It was also insightful, right now you were seeing the Celestia from three thousand years ago.
  151. >The difference was like night and day, Celestia today had nearly no tics when she was in public, she was an almost perfect figure of grace in any social situation.
  152. >Here you could see a multitude of tics and the occasional expression, for example with Gilded Hammer, her tail had flicked a few times and her brows had furrowed quite noticeably.
  153. >Seemed Luna had always been excellent at concealing her emotions, Celestia had learned how to.
  154. >Celestia’s general attitude was fairly different as well, more cheery and just a very slight touch of naiveté.
  155. >Enough about that though, it was about to hit a real good part.
  156. >You pointed at the second to last crown and tapped Celestia on the shoulder.
  157. “Been waiting for that one for a while now, finally I’ll get to know just why she keeps that thing on her desk.”
  158. >Celestia gave you a smirk, eyes flicking to yours knowingly.
  159. >Then she turned back around to watch, a warm smile on her face now.
  160. >”I’ll always remember what Luna did here.”
  161. >Luna approached the crown, picking it up in her magic.
  162. >One thing could be said about the piece, it wasn’t bulky.
  163. >A black band of iron, obviously worked hard and long into its shape, there was another piece of the same iron crudely attached to it as a sort of front panel, curving up into a point.
  164. >Plastered to the panel was a circle of driftwood cut into a sickle moon.
  165. >Luna simply hovered it over and onto her head, peering up at it seated there in front of her ears.
  166. >Both you and Celestia couldn’t contain yourselves and the two of you started laughing.
  167. >The memory Celestia looked to be simply curious, trying to scour the crowd for the creator of the crown.
  168. >Setting the crown back on its table with a sort of small surprised little smile, Luna turned to the crowd.
  169. >”Would the architect of this simple and heartfelt work please step forward.”
  170. >Silence, then a bit of chatter and a few gasps as the crowd parted.
  171. >Out from the ponies, an earth pony colt strode.
  172. >Just a tiny little colt, with a cutie mark of sea shells in a circle, likely a recent acquisition of his.
  173. >He practically pranced up to Luna, not a care in the world as he grinned up at her.
  174. >”Hello little one, and what might thine name be?”
  175. >”Seaside Shelter!”
  176. >Seaside practically shouted it, hopping up and down before remembering his manners and bowing.
  177. >Luna smiled down at him and lowered her head to his level.
  178. >”Well then Seaside, we must congratulate you on such a work. As I said before, simple, but heartfelt. I can see the hard work you put into this Seaside Shelter. We are particularly fond of how comfortable it is, resting easily on our head. But, there is room for improvement, a truly great craftspony need not fine materials to create a masterwork, only their skill. Yours is budding Seaside Shelter, and there will be those who will not appreciate your work, but eventually you shall rise above that and bloom ever greater.”
  179. >The whole time Luna spoke to him, Seaside kept his eyes locked on hers, widening with each word she spoke.
  180. >Once she was finished, Seaside Shelter bowed again.
  181. >”Thanks! I uh, I don’t really know how to talk all nice but… I just wanted to give a present to you, and have something I could use to practice more. So, I get it and all, everyone else brought all these really really REALLY nice crowns that they made and they’re all super with like gems and stuff. And, and that’s what you need as a princess. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I get it if I don’t win, I just wanted to make you happy, because… well everypony should be happy.”
  182. >Luna looked on in surprise, eyebrows shooting up again before she recovered.
  183. >”Thank you Seaside Shelter, we shalt treasure this gift of yours. Whether thou art the winner of this competition or not.”
  184. >Starting to get flustered now as he realized just how many ponies were watching, Seaside bowed quickly and returned to the smiling and hoof stomping crowd.
  185. >So that’s why Luna kept it huh?
  186. >A reminder that she could always improve.
  187. >Interesting.
  188. >Nothing to abuse in court, but interesting.
  189. >Memory Celestia on her part smiled the whole time, stamping along with the crowd as Seaside bowed out.
  192. “Seaside Shelter went on to become a master of his craft. Made from iron and beachside treasures he scrounged together himself, Seaside’s jewellery and weaponry today is priceless.”
  193. >Anon twisted his head around to look at you in surprise, eyebrows shooting up.
  194. >”Well damn. You’d think he got a pep talk from a goddess or something.”
  195. >You rolled your eyes before turning to watch Luna as she approached the final crown.
  196. >Just as you remembered, this one was covered up in shabby brown paper wrappings, with no distinguishing marks.
  197. >Anonymous was tilting his head, watching closely as the wrapping was removed.
  198. >With a flourish, Luna tore it away, eliciting a collective gasp from the crowd.
  199. >For a moment it was as though night had descended on the square, all sunlight seemed to be sucked away and into the crown, to be reflected like moonlight.
  200. >The air stood still and all beheld the crown that sat there, the same crown Luna wore today.
  201. >Luna herself was dazzled, eyes wide and ears perked before the moonlight effect receded into a much smaller aura surrounding the crown.
  202. >The memory you was equally awed, staring in wonder.
  203. >Taking her time, Luna placed the crown upon her head.
  204. >Everything was perfect, the way the crest stood before the ears, the simple blackness of the metal complemented by the small but complex engravings over the entire crown.
  205. >Subtle and subdued like the night.
  206. >Without even taking it off, Luna looked over at the crowd, smiling wide as they all broke into raucous applause and hoof stomping.
  207. >”May the maker of this… Dare we say it, this masterpiece please step forward.”
  208. >Everyone present stared about, looking around at various ponies with smithing or jewelry related cutie marks expectantly.
  209. >One by one all of them shrugged back and a ripple of whispers passed through the throng of ponies.
  210. >”Huh, so an anonymous benefactor. I think I see where this is going.”
  211. “Indeed.”
  212. >Suddenly a breeze picked up, blowing stiff and taking away the vision of the memory with it in swathes of light.
  214. >The light swirled around you and Anonymous for a moment before settling again to show your living quarters.
  215. >Anon remained relatively calm throughout the entire process, impressive now that you really thought about it, his mental constitution proving itself as unfailing once more.
  216. >Perhaps noticing your lingering gaze, Anonymous looked back into your eyes, confident smile etched on his face.
  217. >”Don’t you worry Tia. My mind remains un-fucked as of now, and it’s got one hell of a vagina dentata just in case yours gets a little frisky.”
  218. >Playfully smacking Anon over the head with a hoof, you return to your story.
  219. “This memory is from a few days after the judging. Luna declared that the final crown had won, of course, and started letting out some feelers to track down its maker. Personally I had no involvement in the search up till this very moment.”
  220. >With a shimmer of your horn, the memory began to play out.
  221. >Memory you walked out of your bathroom and into the main chamber, suds and bubbles slipping down your coat as you rubbed a towel all over your wet mane.
  222. >Anon perked up at that, predictably.
  223. >Humming, you trotted sedately about your bedchamber, getting drier as papers and mail floated over from the door to your pillow by the hearth.
  224. >After a few minutes of this you lied yourself down before the fire, taking the time to close your window to keep out the frigid night air.
  225. >Still serene, you extinguished every light source but the flames in your hearth before getting to work opening your mail.
  226. >The first package you hovered up to yourself was wrapped in cheap looking brown paper, and you eyed it curiously, brows raised.
  227. >It was quite large in comparison to the others, and shaped vaguely like an ellipse.
  228. >Still curious, memory you spun the parcel slowly on itself, examining every inch trying to find postage.
  229. >Quickly, you discovered there was none and opted to just open it, shrugging.
  230. >Anonymous chuckled.
  231. >As soon as the wrapping had been removed, the nightlight coming from outside shifted, flooding into the gold band you held and returning as sunlight.
  232. >For a few seconds it was as bright as high noon in your quarters, the fire paling in comparison.
  233. >Just like it had done with Luna’s crown, the light receded back to the jewelry, forming a much more compact aura of sunlight around it.
  234. >Now smiling ear to ear, memory Celestia put on the gold band and stood up to look at it in her mirror.
  235. >Giggling, memory you brought a hoof to her mouth before whispering.
  236. >”Well now, I guess I’m in the same boat as Lulu.”
  237. >You stood there a moment, feeling at the gold before starting a speedy trot to the door.
  238. >”Sunstar! I need to speak with the guardspony who delivered my mail tonight.”
  239. >With memory you midstride out of her room, the memory froze up again.
  240. “And that is how I got this gold band of mine.”
  241. >Anon gave you a scratch behind the ears while he wiggled the index on his free hand at you.
  242. >”Ah, but I also asked why you don’t have a spare.”
  243. >Sighing and closing your eyes at his touch, you opened your wings and wrapped Anonymous up in them.
  244. >For a few minutes the two of you cuddled there, Anonymous petting your mane while you nuzzled against his chest.
  245. >You always loved pushing your head to his chest, the feel of him pushing back and holding you up.
  246. >Hearing Anon’s heart, constant and comforting, like he was telling you just how alive he was with every beat.
  247. >Slowly, the two of you pulled back off of each other, smiling.
  248. >You took a moment to regain your composure before continuing.
  249. “Well, apparently nopony had seen anyone drop off the gold band, and the package hadn’t even been seen up until it was in my room. General Firechaser was less than pleased of course. But I got him to laugh it off eventually. For the next five years or so, Luna and I both hounded this anonymous smith as hard as we could. Luna brought out every connection she had, practically dug out her entire underground in the search while I worked the more open game. Putting up rewards for information and scouring every smithy I could find in every city and town I put in the time to visit.”
  252. >Celestia paused, looking up for a moment with a hint of concentration.
  253. >Her Stream rose around her in a circle, tendrils of gold laced with rainbows twirling up into the air before disappearing.
  254. “Raising the Sun?”
  255. >Slowly but surely, the magic receded and Celestia looked back at you with a quick smile.
  256. >”Yes, seems we’ll have to wake up soon. I should be able to finish the story at least.”
  257. >A sparkle of Celestia’s horn later and the two of you were watching her and Luna fly over the Badlands.
  258. >The sun was shining down overhead, throwing everything into a sharp contrast of black shadows and red rock.
  259. >Down on the ground below the sisters, a pony shrouded in some sort of cloak was dashing away.
  260. >It took you a moment to realise just what was happening, but you laughed when you caught on.
  261. >They were chasing the smith.
  262. “Seriously? A chase through the dessert?”
  263. >”Luna and I were quite eager.”
  264. >And indeed they were, Luna was shouting ancient obscenities at the smith while Celestia just hooted and hollered, sometimes laughing and always smiling wide.
  265. >”We commandeth thou to cease thine attempt at escape! We art sick and tired of trying and failing to hunt you down! JUST ACCEPT OUR GIFT THOU… THOU FOPDOODLE.”
  266. >Whoa jeez Luna, no need to just go and steal a man’s sides like that.
  267. >Stopping her over joyous ruckus a moment, memory Celestia spoke up as well.
  268. >”Come now Lulu, don’t be such a klazomaniac! Sir! Would you please let us talk to you at least?”
  269. >Huffing loudly, Luna sped up, flashing as a black bolt straight in front of the running pony.
  270. >Celestia soon followed, appearing beside her sister with an earnest smile in contrast Luna’s scowl.
  271. >The smith turned his head ever so slightly to take them both in, face still obscured by the hood over his head.
  272. >Considering relative sizes, he was no joke, standing as tall as Luna.
  273. >”Remove thine covering whiffle-whaffle, waste not our time.”
  274. >The pony stood stock still when he spoke and his voice had more grit to it than the ground beneath his hooves.
  275. >”Funny. Coming from the muck spout.”
  276. >Both memory and real Celestia were laughing once more at their sister’s expense.
  277. >Luna’s face contorted into rage for just a second.
  278. >Then you saw the expression you were used to seeing from Luna.
  279. >Confident curiosity, an interest but all while understanding that this was something she, Luna, could handle.
  280. >”We like thine tongue smith. Ever more the reason thou should let us reward you proper.”
  281. >”I will take no prize or payment for what I gave the two of you. It was only necessary.”
  282. >The smith unfastened a clasp by his side, letting the cloak slip off and onto the ground.
  283. >As you’d noticed before, he was pretty fucking big for a regular earth pony, but other than that he was startlingly generic looking.
  284. >Brown coat, black mane and tail both cut short, his cutie mark was a hammer.
  285. >Celestia stepped up to him, frowning.
  286. >”Please, the beauty of this gold band and the sublelty of Luna’s crown… It’s extraordinary. You deserve a considerable sum of bits for both and we would be honored if you would come work at the palace. Your name would likely wind up engraved alongside the very best!”
  287. >The smith scoffed, ears twitching down while he smirked at memory Celestia.
  288. >”I have no name to be engraved. Now go, you’ve met me, you’ve had your fun. I have no more work to do for either of you.”
  289. >Luna was affronted, snorting and kicking at the dust, while Celestia seemed a little off put by his response.
  290. >”Your Highness!”
  291. >And here came the Royal Leash, night and day.
  292. >Celestia and Luna both rolled their eyes as the six Lunar and Solar guards landed around them, all exclaiming multiple variations of “Are you okay?” and using every conceivable polite nothing to ask them to “not run off like that”.
  293. “Well, some things never change.”
  294. >Tia flapped her wings a bit and adjusted herself so she would be leaning into your chest.
  295. >”Yes. Even today my guards can be annoying nags, but it just shows that they care all the more.”
  296. >You noted that one thing had certainly changed though, the armor they were wearing looked nothing like what they wore today.
  297. >It seemed to have some bulk to it, actually weighing them down and restricting their movement.
  298. >The smith had most certainly noticed, brows furrowing and frown deepening as he stepped up to a pair of Solar and Lunar guards, taking both of them in hoof to look closer.
  299. >”Uhhh, sir…”
  300. >The two of them tried to pull away, but with no luck, the smith held fast.
  301. >You swore you saw the reflection of a red hot anvil in that earth ponies’ eyes.
  302. >The smith’s gaze was so penetrating, you’d never seen anyone look so focused on something before.
  303. >”This armor is some of the most cleverly disguised garbage I’ve ever seen.”
  304. >All present turned their heads to look at the smith in surprise as his own head came snapping up to stare at Luna dead in the eyes.
  305. >”Take me to your castle, I’ll be making all of your armor from now on.”
  307. >The memory froze.
  308. “So that’s it then? He came to work for the two of you and made the kickass armor your guards wear today? Still doesn’t explain why he never made you a spare one of these Sun Buns.”
  309. >You raised your left eyebrow and frowned, tapping at the purple jewel embedded in Celestia’s band.
  310. >Celestia just smiled back at you and pushed your hand down with a hoof.
  311. >”He hated the idea of recognition or fame and whenever I asked about duplicates he said that they would never match the original enough to be worth it. Essentially, he wanted to avoid leaving behind anything that could be considered a legacy. He failed miserably of course. Eventually ponies came to refer to him as Hammer and Tongs. Guardsponies still tell the tales of him forging legendary armor and weapons and smiths now say things such as ‘Well it ain’t no Hammer and Tongs, but it’ll do’. I’d always told him he would be famous no matter what he did. Although, this band he made me never got recognized as his work at least. Old Hammer would like that, an anonymous piece, seen and used but not drooled over throughout history.”
  312. >Damn, you had heard his name tossed about before.
  313. >Never figured he was an ACTUAL smith, just thought he was some character from an old story or something.
  314. >That was what always kept you enraptured with these ponies, the fact that most of the tall tales you hear are real accounts of what happened, every little meadow is the birthplace of a legendary innovator, the mountains home to dragons miles long.
  315. >Speaking of stories…
  316. “Tell me your story golden band. I shall listen.”
  317. >Celestia giggled as you pressed your ear up to the gold.
  318. >It felt real nice, the cold metal contrasting with the bristly yet forgiving and warm fur on Celestia’s chest.
  319. >You could hear her heartbeat, flowing life and power through her veins like the hot core of the Sun.
  320. >”Well, I suppose we have a few minutes before we wake up.”
  321. >So Celestia regaled you, dents became adventures in Diamond Dog dens, scratches were generations of attendants dropping her things and begging for forgiveness, a scorch mark the product of a battle with no less than twelve ancient dragons.
  322. >Eventually though, one must wake up.
  324. >The melody of a phoenix caught in your ears.
  325. >Slowly, you opened your eyes to look upon that phoenix of yours.
  326. >Philomena was perched up on top of the four poster bed, looking down at you with her head cocked.
  327. >You smiled back at her, it felt odd though, like different muscles were at use.
  328. >Bah, probably just morning drowsiness.
  329. >On instinct you closed your eyes again and reached out to Luna, bidding her good morning.
  330. >Once more, you noticed something was off.
  331. >It was as though you were magically numb, your spell had a delay to it and you could barely hear Lulu’s response.
  332. >”You’re coming in a little quiet this morning Tia. Maybe you need some more rest?”
  333. >You shook your head, it wasn’t that you were tired.
  334. >There was something else.
  335. “No, I’m just a little off right now. Give me a moment.”
  336. >Focusing, you drew in a deep breath and held it.
  337. >Ah, it was your Stream.
  338. >You’d never seen it do this before, just up and separate from you like that.
  339. >All around you it flowed, never touching you directly, just hovering in a spherical shell about you.
  340. >It was like a nullification field was holding it at bay, exactly like the natural one Anonymous-
  341. >Your eyes shot open and you sat up.
  342. >A quick look down confirmed your suspicions.
  343. >You were in Anon’s body.
  344. >Flicking your eyes to your right, you saw…
  345. >Well, “you” lying there in bed.
  346. >This was certainly an interesting development, it’d been what?
  347. >Three thousand years since you’d accidentally switched bodies with someone?
  348. “Luna, it seems your mind sharing spell has caused me and Anonymous to switch bodies.”
  349. >…
  350. “Luna?”
  351. >”Shit. Well I can get it fixed, but it’s going to take all day for me to put together the correct counter spell. Anonymous is going to freak out, so I recommend you try to ease him into the fact.”
  352. “Alright. Don’t feel too bad about it by the way, I’ve done far worse with simpler spells before. Remember that debacle with that griffonian mob boss and the Minotaur priest? It took decades to really clean up that mess.”
  353. >”We never did find that poor eunuch. Good luck sis.”
  354. >Sighing, you stood up and out of bed, then immediately fell flat on your face.
  355. “Ouch.”
  356. >How did Anonymous just walk around like that?
  357. >Hell, how did he RUN?
  358. >You took your time getting up again, pushing yourself back up with your new arms.
  359. >For a second you just stood like that, on all fours.
  360. >I mean seriously.
  361. >If Anonymous could stand on all four of his appendages like this, why didn’t he?
  362. >His monkey ancestors certainly got around like this most of the time.
  363. >Whatever.
  364. >Out of habit, you tried to blow your mane out of your eyes, to no avail.
  365. >Gingerly, you pushed yourself back onto your feet and up again.
  366. >A bit of arm waving aaaannnnddd…
  367. >Success.
  368. >You’d found your balance, standing up straight with no wobbling.
  369. >Now to wake up Anonymous.
  370. >With an awkward and stumbling gait, you walked around to the other side of your bed and crouched down.
  371. >Your, well, his head was dangling out over the side with his muzzle nearly touching the ground.
  372. >You reached out with a hand and gently brushed Anon’s mane, whispering.
  373. “It’s time to wake up Anonymous.”
  374. >It was so odd hearing that voice of his coming out when you spoke.
  375. >”Mhgmmgh. Five more minutes.”
  376. >You stifled a laugh, and started to scratch him behind the ear.
  377. >So much for easing him into it.
  378. >With the mental fortitude he’d shown during that shared dream though, you were sure he could handle it anyway.
  381. “Why the hell does that feel so good? What the heck are you doing Tia?”
  382. >”Oh just a little something you like to do every morning.”
  383. >What.
  384. >Celestia always did like to be cryptic in the early hours.
  385. >You opened your eyes.
  386. >Jesus fuck what was up with your vision, you felt like you had way more than just 20/20.
  387. >Slowly you lifted up your head, a tedious affair, it felt so much heavier than usual.
  388. >”Now you’re awake.”
  389. >The fuck?
  390. >Why was Celestia holding up a mirror to your face?
  391. >What was up with her voice?
  392. ”Celestia what are you-“
  393. >Your “reflection” didn’t move with you.
  394. >Smiling wide, Tia reached out and booped you on the nose with your hand.
  395. >With a twitch, you nearly knocked yourself out trying to bring your hand to it.
  396. >You didn’t have any hands now.
  397. >Hooves, you had hooves.
  398. >You are now a pretty sun horse.
  399. >With sudden alacrity, you jumped out of bed and stood with your head raised high, muzzle scrunched.
  400. >Then you fell onto your side.
  401. “I am become the little mare.”
  402. >Tia smirked at you, poking your back with her foot.
  403. >”You’re a big mare though.”
  404. “For you.”
  405. >Celestia stared down at you, brows perked with a distinct look of confusion.
  406. >”What?”
  407. “I’m just being an idiot again. Do you have a counter spell by the way?”
  408. >”Nope. This was caused by Luna’s dream sharing spell, and she just told me that it’ll take all day to reverse it.”
  409. >Sighing, Celestia leaned down and helped you up, putting you on all four hooves with a little finagling.
  410. >”I’m afraid we’ll just have to trade schedules, warning everyone about a body switch tends to cause a lot of legal problems and in general is a lot more trouble than the two involved taking on each other’s roles. Trust me, this is my third time.”
  411. >You shrugged and started taking test steps, getting used to the whole four legged deal.
  412. >With some trepidation, you trotted over to the bathroom.
  413. >If you were going to do this, you were going to do it with a warm shower in the morning.
  414. “Alright, let’s brief each other while we get dressed.”
  415. >You’d be lying if you said you weren’t at least a little turned on by this.
  416. >I mean fuck, you had the mare pussy right there waiting to be ravaged.
  417. >Sure you were in a great relationship with Celestia, with a VERY healthy sex life, but this was pretty damn hot.
  418. >Back turned to Celestia to hide your face, you pushed open the bathroom door.
  419. “I-I’ll be just a moment.”
  420. >She cocked an eyebrow at you and as inopportune as the timing was…
  421. >You winked back.
  422. >After some heavy blushing and stammering excuses, you retreated into the washroom away from that stare of hers…
  423. >Well, yours.
  424. >You’re going to need all the therapy after this shit.
  427. >One rather steamy shower later, Celestia was helping you into your regalia.
  428. >”Now then. Lucky for you I’m not scheduled to meet with the public today, rather, you’ll be meeting with the head of the Solar Guard to receive a few security reports. That shouldn’t be-”
  429. >A pause as she shoved on the last horseshoe and walked over to retrieve your peytral and crown.
  430. >”Too difficult, Gleaming Star is both reasonable and experienced. Two millennia of service tends to make for that. The real meat of your day today is going to be the talk with the governing ponies of Baltimare.”
  431. >Gleaming Star was pretty fucking hardcore from what you remembered, basically set the standard for a by-the-books veteran who’s seen every damn thing you’ve ever seen and worse.
  432. >You lowered your head to let Celestia adorn you with the final pieces.
  433. >”They’re getting on in their years-“
  434. “Like the rest of the Day Court.”
  435. >Tia rolled her eyes.
  436. >”They’re getting on in their years and they’ve been in office for quite a while. You’ll need some patience, recently they’ve been trying to ‘update’ their way of doing things. Bless them, but they’re a bit confused.”
  437. “What do you mean? Are we talking corruption?”
  438. >Sighing, Celestia stood back up and walked over to the bathroom.
  439. >”You’ll find out. Just be… Nice. After you talk with them there’ll be the court itself, it’s likely they’ll be presenting a new budget of some kind for Baltimare. I’m certain you have the insight to decide whether it should pass or not.”
  440. “Alright. Get showered then, we’re starting to run short on time and I still need to learn how to levitate things.”
  441. >”Sure thing little miss tail lifter.”
  442. >Celestia slapped you on the ass before heading into the shower, throwing you a wink.
  443. “Y-you too.”
  446. >Anon really lacked self-control.
  447. >You could understand his arousal, and frankly it was kind’ve flattering, but still.
  448. >…You weren’t entirely innocent either, considering how hard your member was.
  449. >Shaking your head, you twisted the water knob to cold, shivering a moment till the feelings had dissipated.
  450. >Now wasn’t the time.
  451. >Stumbling a little as you took the first step out of the shower, you grabbed a towel and dried yourself off.
  452. >You stare at the towel in your hands for a moment.
  453. >Would going out naked right now make Anonymous feel awkward?
  454. >Yes.
  455. >Yes it would.
  456. >Well that settled that then, you tossed aside the towel and flung open the door with gusto, your arms spread wide.
  457. “Dress me.”
  458. >”Dude.”
  459. >Anon blushed furiously till your underwear was on, not speaking a word till he started on the pants.
  460. >”Today I’m working to stop Bluebood from passing a new bylaw.”
  461. >More confident now, he guided you with his forehooves, pulling up the slacks and getting you to zip and button the fly.
  462. >”He wants to change the testing procedure for getting an ice cream vending license. Bastard wants to take over the entire industry, has a ton of unlicensed ice cream ponies in his back pocket ready to flood the streets with their product.”
  463. “What’s the problem exactly? It may be for personal gain, but that doesn’t sound particularly malicious.”
  464. >Anon scoffed, shaking his head.
  465. >He trotted over to the dresser and pushed it open with a hoof.
  466. >”Mind teaching me how to do this telekinesis stuff real quick?”
  467. >You nodded and lifted a hand to point at one of Anons dinner jackets.
  468. “Focus your mind on the item in question and imagine it lifting into the air. Imagine the exact way in which you want it to be manipulated, then apply it to what you’re seeing.”
  469. >Anonymous looked back at you with eyes wide in surprise.
  470. >”Is it really that easy?”
  471. “Nope. But that is how you do it.”
  472. >Rolling his shoulders as though in preparation, Anon turned back to the dinner jacket and squinted his eyes, scrunching his muzzle.
  473. >A few seconds passed in silence, then a flare of light flitted up Anon’s horn and the dinner jacket burst into flames, disintegrating into ash moments later.
  474. >He was still better than Sunspot back in the first millennia.
  475. >Ever the optimist, Anonymous pulled out another dinner jacket to try.
  476. >It met the same fate as the last.
  477. >Two singed jackets later and he had succeeded, prancing around the room with it floating in front of him in a sort of victory lap.
  478. >”Wizard status: Regained.”
  479. “There should be a bit of magic left in my horn, enough to last you the day for sure.”
  480. >Setting down the jacket to hover over a white button up shirt, Anonymous tilted his head and peered at you.
  481. >”How much magic is ‘a bit’ exactly?”
  482. >You closed your eyes and focused your Stream around the horn to feel it out, it was so much more difficult with this nullifier.
  483. >Opening your eyes, you replied matter of factly.
  484. “Enough to burn down, reconstruct and then burn down Canterlot again.”
  485. >”Oh. Well I’ll just stick to telekinesis then.”
  486. >With your arms slipped into the sleeves, Anonymous started buttoning you up.
  487. >”Anyway, the problem with Blueblood’s plan is that his ice cream ponies are sub-par at best. The rigorous testing procedure is the one thing that’s kept them from working, can you imagine all the terrible ice cream? And that’s just counting his ponies, there’ll be plenty of others taking advantage if it gets out.”
  488. >That did sound quite terrible.
  489. >You frowned, thinking on the problem.
  490. >Anonymous floated over a tie and slowly wrapped it around your neck, taking his time to tie it properly.
  493. >”That’s pretty much the only responsibility you’ll have. Get as much evidence to discredit Blueblood as possible, dig up all the dirt on him and flaunt it in the Night Court when he tries to pass the bylaw. You got all day today of course. Shining Armor and his crew are here today for training so you can get heavies from him to back you up on the physical details. Look to Fancy Pants for everything else.”
  494. >With a flourish, you pulled on Anon’s dinner jacket, doing up the cuffs before shaking your arms to get the crinkles in the sleeves out.
  495. “Why would I need help for ‘physical details’ exactly?”
  496. >Anon’s ears flopped down and he averted your gaze.
  497. “Anonymous.”
  498. >”You remember that fractured leg and the bruise on my face last week?”
  499. >Your frown grew deeper.
  500. “Yes?”
  501. >”Well. I didn’t fall down the stairs.”
  502. “Were you were attacked?! That is completely unacceptable! Who was it? Where are they?”
  503. >Anonymous set a forehoof onto your shoulder, quick to pacify you with words.
  504. >”It was Fleur de Lis, Fancypants’ bodyguard. She is likely with Fancypants right now. BUT.”
  505. >You tried to rush out of the room, but he held you back with a spread wing.
  506. >”But, I was totally asking for it. I intruded on Fancypants’ turf and I got burned for it. Also, I said a few choice words about his mother. Either way, they’ve apologized for it, I’ve apologized for it and we’ve since made up. No bad blood left between the two of us.”
  507. >Thoughts of assassination and coups ran through your mind.
  508. “You’re getting your own personal guard. Take it up with Gleaming Star today and pick out the team. I leave you anyone but Gleaming Star himself and anypony from the First Company.”
  509. >”Celestia-“
  510. >You gripped him by the shoulders and stared him in the eyes, there was that happiness again, but you could see the worry there now.
  511. >You wouldn’t miss that again.
  512. “Anonymous. You are getting your own personal guard and that is final. Once we’re married you’ll officially become a prince, and a prince needs a guard.”
  515. >You sighed, letting your shoulders drop.
  516. ”And so the prince receives his Royal Leash.”
  517. >Ah whatever, Celestia was right.
  518. >It wouldn’t be all that bad anyway, just a little inconvenience every now and then, the whole golden cage deal.
  519. >“May it ever be pulling you back at the most annoying of moments.”
  520. >The two of you had a good laugh before pulling into a hug, the mood brightening right back up.
  521. >As Celestia scratched you behind the ear, sweet Jesus that felt like all the cocaine, you thought about the day ahead.
  522. >You were lucky enough to get the easiest day in Celestia’s week, and Celestia was taking a crack at your simple powder keg of a case.
  523. >This would be easy.
  526. >You craned out your long neck and gave Tia a quick smooch on the lips before walking over to the door.
  527. “Let’s go run a country.”
  528. >It was kind of odd seeing your own face so serene and smiling like that as Celestia adjusted her suit, getting her tie nice and tight, flattening out creases.
  529. >Somehow, she managed to still look like “Celestia” in your body.
  530. >Maybe it had to do with the sunbeams all landing on her, no matter where she stood.
  531. >”Gleaming Star should be just down the hallway, waiting for… well, me.”
  532. >You nodded and used your magic to open the door.
  533. “And Shining Armor should be in the practice yard.”
  534. >With all the pride a royal and a noble should have, you and Celestia strode out into the palace hallway together, your hooves clopping and her shoes tapping on the bright white marble floor.
  535. >There were wondrous tapestries hanging in the hall this morning, all individual sections of a single panorama depicting the path the Mirror River took from the Crystal Mountains down into the Horse Shoe Bay to the East.
  536. >Just a few steps from Princess Celestia’s royal chamber hung the most celebrated tapestry in the set, a stunning display of Neighagra Falls.
  537. >Celestia walked over to it and casually pushed up a corner of the tapestry to reveal a hidden staircase.
  538. >You saw her nod and smile at you once more before vanishing down the secret passage.
  539. >You smiled and giggled softly.
  540. >With an idle twitch of your tail, you moved the tapestry back into place as you turned left down the hall.
  541. >Just like Tia had said, Gleaming Star was waiting at the end of it, alert with his eyes trained on you.
  542. >He looked the same as he always did, like he was cut from stone.
  543. >The armor Gleaming Star wore threw off an otherworldly golden gleam to rival even Celestia’s finery, it was the product of years of constant burnishing and flawless upkeep.
  544. >With no helmet on he had less protection but much more visibility.
  545. >Gleaming Star’s white coat was extensively groomed and his pale blue mane and tail were cut close to stay out of the way.
  546. >Even Gleaming Star’s wing feathers were perfectly sorted, optimal for quick liftoff so that he could act instantaneously and defend against any ambush.
  547. >You took nice easy breaths, focusing on being calm and collected, no one could find out that you and Celestia had switched bodies.
  548. >Fooling Gleaming Star was definitely the hardest thing you had to do today, and you had to start right now.
  549. >…
  550. >You stopped in the hallway for a moment and stared wistfully out of a window at Canterlot to try and stall for time.
  551. >Huh, the sunrise this morning looked just like the one you’d seen right at the start of Celestia’s dream.
  552. >The clouds were all stained stunning shades of red and arched out from the Sun symmetrically like a burning halo.
  553. >You could use that… somehow.
  554. >For starters though, you had to get the core aspects of Tia’s character down.
  555. >Perfect grace, you’d have to walk just as beautifully as Celestia did on her best days.
  556. >Perfect manners, that meant no stuttering and you had to match Tia’s speaking habits down to the last word.
  557. >You couldn’t help but swear under your breath just thinking about it.
  558. ”Fuck…”
  559. >”A beautiful morning your Highness. Dreamlike.”
  560. >Gleaming Star had made the first move.
  561. >Somehow he was already standing next to you, his eyes fixed on the city below.
  562. >There was no way you could have stopped yourself from turning your head to look at him, but you at least managed to slow down and do it gracefully instead of wrenching your neck and gasping like a fish out of water.
  563. >You passed off your quiet surprise as meaningful silence, letting it stand for an extra second before speaking.
  565. >And in that second, you thought yourself to death and back.
  566. >Fuck caffeine.
  567. >Two more seconds with this guy and you’ll be running in circles till midnight.
  568. >The most shocking thing was how pinpointed Gleaming’s phrasing had been.
  569. >Just two words, but they hinted that Gleaming Star already knew everything, back to you and Celestia dream sharing, hell, it suggested that he had somehow been privy to the very act.
  570. >But, you had no intention of simply giving in.
  571. >It was difficult to keep your delicate smile from twisting into a grin.
  572. >With Celestia’s body and your acumen, you couldn’t be toppled.
  573. “A dream, yes. I made this same sunrise before, whilst dreaming with Anonymous.”
  574. >Truth.
  575. >That was Celestia, as you knew her, so long as you told the truth, you could hold up the act.
  576. >You smiled softly at Gleaming, and he stared back attentively.
  577. >The barest crack of a smile showed on his face before he spoke and turned to face the city again.
  578. >”I see, it is beautiful your Highness. As sweet as summer wine and alive as only lovers can be.”
  579. >A soldier and a poet, Celly really knew how to pick’em
  580. >You smiled in a not altogether feigned surprise, speaking evenly.
  581. “Perhaps you should write poetry, Gleaming, I can testify that your words have touched my spirit.”
  582. >Gleaming Star chuckled, CHUCKLED, and grinned at you.
  583. >”Yes, Anonymous… Princess Celestia said something so very similar a millennia ago. You see, I already am a poet, I have shared a new poem with her Highness at the Summer Solstice every year since that day.”
  584. >Shivers crawled up and down your back, it was like a record playing in your head had scratched, right when Gleaming Star said your name.
  585. >That hardboiled hunk of a horse smiled coyly.
  586. >”Of course, you wouldn’t have known, the poems have only ever been seen by myself and her Highness. The product of my fore-sight into just this kind of situation.”
  588. >Yeah, it sounded like something he would do, all right.
  589. >Still, you stood tall, towering over the guardsman.
  590. >Gleaming Star was just too clever to be fooled in the end, too perceptive.
  591. >But with Celestia’s body came the authority, of course.
  592. >You could simply have him tossed in the dungeon if it came right down to it, write Gleaming Star off as having careened from the edge after so many centuries of duty.
  593. >With a voice that commanded respect, lest your flame be unleashed on this world, to quench any would-be infernos that dared to oppose you, you spoke.
  594. “So you know. Know this:”
  595. >Here you craned your neck out to be face to face with the royal guard, staring him down eye to eye with burning, intractable, passion.
  596. “You will tell no one that I am not the real Princess Celestia.”
  597. >Gleaming Star stared back, with an expression that was just as implacable as he was.
  598. >Finally, he kneeled at your hooves and answered obediently.
  599. >”But of course, your Highness. Your fire has refreshed me, I shall serve you as I would Celestia.’’
  600. “Good answer.”
  601. >Yes, your heart beat with the kind of vivacity of life that could only be Princess Celestia’s.
  602. >You smiled and spread your wings, walking with poise and majestic purpose over to the window.
  603. >The wind seemed to pick up almost in response, blowing open the shutters and letting you walk free out into the open sky.
  604. >You stepped through the window as though it were a door and Gleaming Star followed you dilligently.
  606. >Darkness… and dripping rock.
  607. >This passageway cut straight through the mountain Canterlot rested on, then turned back to open inside the Solar Guards’ Barracks.
  608. >It ended in the colts’ changing room by the sparring circles, to be exact.
  609. >You stepped seamlessly from the dark tunnel and into a brightly lit stall.
  610. >A grin spread on your face, walking out of the stall and into the changing room itself.
  611. >You had built that passageway yourself of course, with magic and illusions to keep it hidden.
  612. >Ahhh…
  613. >You breathed deep with Anonymous’ lungs and flexed with his body, feeling out the new dexterity you had with his hands.
  614. >The few guards that were milling about in various stages of dress spared only a glance at you.
  615. >Anonymous was a common sight around here after all.
  616. >You grinned and gave your suit a once over, correcting all the little imperfections and brushing away bits of rocky debris from the tunnel.
  617. >Perhaps you were being influenced by Anon’s brain chemistry, you thought.
  618. >Right from the beginning you’d felt the adrenaline pumping through you, and it made the past few centuries seem rather lukewarm all of a sudden.
  619. >It made you want to go a little nuts right now.
  620. >So you began by striding over to the basin of chalk the guards kept around for sweaty hooves.
  621. >You stuck your index finger inside and began inscribing a rune on the breast pocket of your suit.
  622. >It felt… Primal, performing illusions without your horn.
  623. >You weren’t even sure it would work with Anonymous’ magic negation field.
  624. >Nonetheless, you gave it a shot and pressed your thumb against the completed rune.
  625. >Your coat lapels burst into flame, to the shock and awe of the guards around you.
  626. >One of them actually came running with a bucket of water, but your smile and your outstretched hand stopped him.
  627. >The flame on your lapels spread around your coat in a myriad of interlocking patterns, drawing scorching figures of the sun and its rays out of everlasting embers.
  629. >And that was how they remained, smoldering constantly.
  630. >The whole illusion had gone off without a hitch.
  631. “How pleasantly surprising…”
  632. >You muttered.
  633. >Suddenly though, you heard a familiar voice call out from behind you.
  634. >”Feeling fancy this morning, huh, Flatfoot?”
  635. >You grinned and turned around to face Shining Armor.
  636. >”Sure am, Bonehead.”
  637. >With matching grins, you clasped Shining’s hoof as he pushed it into your hand.
  638. >This was a good start, it was fortunate that you’d seen Anon and Shining Armor perform this very same greeting a few days prior.
  639. “So…”
  640. >You began.
  641. >Shining Armor laughed, peering around behind you as he spoke.
  642. >”Business. Right? Where to?”
  643. >You didn’t have to turn around to know there were already two Crystal Empire Guards standing there.
  644. >Instead you turned your grin up a few more notches, just like you’d seen Anonymous do, countless times before.
  645. “We’re going to go have a chat with Blueblood.”
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