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~Princess Luna

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Post in forum #1905 - An ongoing MLP Roleplay Thread, Rated PG-13.

The sound of the back door opening sent tension zinging through Fantasy, Luna’s calming spell notwithstanding. She had to gather her courage before she could turn to face it. She expected to see a pair of police ponies asking her if she would please come with them, in that special tone that said it wasn’t really a request. It was almost a relief, knowing it was all over. No more secrets. No more living in dread of the secrets getting out. There was fear, of course. Being arrested wasn’t going to be fun. Her family would be sad. Or worse, ashamed. At least she didn’t have to be afraid that the city would fall into chaos with Smog’s fall. Somehow she felt sure that Luna would be able to stop that. No evidence, beyond the city-wide glamor and the maybe-duplicate, maybe-illusion Lunas all over the place. It had reminded her of an important fact: very few unicorns could rival an alicorn in magical strength, and no mortal unicorn could ever hope to rival the experience and knowledge of a pony that had lived for thousands of years. Princess Luna was older than Smog, and probably more cunning. Fantasy couldn’t shake a quiet certainty that the princess wouldn’t arrest Smog unless she could stop the dragon’s ‘insurance policies’ from ripping Aura and Shadowville apart.

Finally finding the courage, Fantasy slipped off the stool where she’d been waiting and turned. “No!” The word burst from her mouth like a startled bird out of a kicked bush.

It startled her father too, edging backwards through the doorway levitating a pile of luggage after him. He jumped and it collapsed to the floor. “Hey! What?” He reared up and whirled, looking for danger. All he saw was his daughter staring at him in horror. He turned in place, trying to look at his own rump. “Do I have a spider on me?”

Fantasy tried to speak and squeaked instead. Berry Jam peeked into the back room over the logjam of suitcases in the doorway. “Fantasy? We thought you’d be in bed…which I see is silly of us, you’d want to stay up so you can go hear Her Majesty speak.” Her magic lifted a suitcase and used it to prod her husband. “Be a dear and put these upstairs?”

Tankard gathered up the luggage and headed up the back stairs, floating suitcases jostling for room in the narrow stairwell. Berry stepped inside and closed the door behind her. Fantasy squeaked again. Her mother gave her a glance that turned into a subtle double-take. “What’s wrong, sugar-bee?”

“You…here. Why?”

Removing the saddlebags she wore, Berry set them on the big plain table that dominated the room. She followed it over, coming close to Fantasy. “Nopony wants to miss the big speech, including the ponies who crew airships.” Berry carefully removed her ‘traveling’ hat, as fancy as anything worn to a Canterlot derby. She had to pull out honest-to-goodness hat-pins that secured the thing to the bun underneath. “You looked like you swallowed a mouse. Sounded like it too.” She shoulder-nudged Fantasy, playful. “Did your big-winged beau come back? Did he go bolting out the front when we came in the back?” Fantasy blushed, half from the innuendo and half from the shame of the real reason for her shock.

“You shouldn’t be here.” Fantasy said. To her horror and relief, the truth spilled out in an unstoppable flood. “I set Punchy up to pull that prank so that you and daddy would have to go to his school and not be here today. I didn’t know what was coming but Morhoof warned me something’s coming and that I should be ready to flee the city but I just couldn’t do that and I knew if I told you the truth you and daddy would never agree to leave without me so I set things up so…” Her breath ran out and she gasped in more. “So I manipulated Punctuality and Headmistress Neighsayer to get you and daddy out of the city when it hit the fan so you’d all be safe even if I’m not.”

Berry looked a little dazed. “What?”

Dropping her rump on the hard floor, Fantasy stared down at her fore-hooves. “Luna’s here for Smog, I’m sure of it. What he did in Dust was probably just too much. She’s cast a glamor of calm over the whole city. I think that’s just the start.”

“Here for…oh crap.”

It was anyone’s guess which of the mares looked more shocked to hear Berry say that. Berry won on embarrassment a moment later when she turned red. Fantasy recovered first. “Mom?”

Berry sat down beside her. “It’s…a lot to take in. You’re telling me that Smog caused the Dustan civil war?”

“Yes.”

“I wish I found that hard to believe. Who’s Morhoof?”

“Oh.” Fantasy face-hoofed. “The Wandering Lute.”

“Oh. It’s about time Smog was arrested.”

“Mom…” Fantasy said. She stopped as she realized that Berry Jam probably had no idea what kinds of things Smog had done to ensure the cost of removing him from power was too high for any moral creature to pay. “Smog has lots of blackmail on lots of important ponies. He has a lot of ponies in his pocket too. Police, government, business. The cloud and rainbow factories. He’s set things up to make as much trouble as possible if he dies, disappears, or gets arrested. All the blackmail goes public. Most of the government and the police are exposed as crooks who work for him, willing or forced. Lots of companies would fail when it gets out they launder money and stuff. Just freezing all his assets would crash the economy. There’s even what happens when all the criminals who behave themselves because of Smog don’t have to play nice anymore. He did it all so nopony would dare arrest him.”

Berry didn’t speak or even move for a long moment. When she did, it was to take a long, slow breath and let it out as an even longer, slower sigh from her nose. “I believe it.”

“I think the princess knows how to stop it. Or…make it not so absolutely horrible.” Smog no longer wanted them to happen but he’d been cunning enough to set them up so even he couldn’t stop them. For all Fantasy knew, Smog had planned this with Luna. If he could face justice without it destroying the city, Fantasy knew Smog would turn himself in. Some things Fantasy didn’t dare say. Not even now. Not even to her mother. Just in case Luna wasn’t here for Smog. “But that only occurred to me after I told you about the prank and you left. I still think it’s safest if you and father aren’t here.”

Berry took Fantasy’s fore-hoof in both of hers, cradling it with one and patting it with the other. Fantasy leaned sideways and Berry did likewise, so their shoulders and heads pressed together. Berry asked the question Fantasy had been expecting. “Why did you stay?”

Fantasy picked one reason to stand for all. “Tradewind might have come back. I didn’t want him to find us all gone. I think if he came back and we were all gone…he wouldn’t handle it well. I’m probably being silly.”

“Ponies in love are often silly. In this case, I think you’re not being silly. I agree with you. Tradewind…that colt has problems. If he came back but you were gone, packed up and cleared out…he might do something silly. Like jump to the conclusion that you abandoned him.”

“Yeah.”

After a somber silence, Berry stirred a little. “How did you set your brother up to get in trouble?”

“Oh, I-”

Tankard’s hooves clattered on the stairs, announcing his arrival. “Okay, the luggage is all in our bedroom, let’s shake a leg and try to get a good spot for the speech.”

“I-” Fantasy said.

A flare of purplish-blue interrupted her. It bloomed near the back door. A sound like a metallic zap mixed with a firecracker bang accompanied it. When the light winked out an instant later, a half-grown unicorn colt stood where it had been. All gangly legs and oversized ears, he was light brown of body, dark brown of hair, but offset by eyes the same vivid color of that flash of light. An hourglass cutie mark without any sand in either bulb.

“Gah!” Tankard said. “Give a guy a heart-attack, why don’t you?”

Punctuality wilted, eyes darting back and forth between his parents. “Er…”

“Why are you here?” Tankard said. “I thought we agreed you stay in school and only come home for official breaks.”

The colt pasted a big bright insincere grin on his face. “Um, it’s actually kind of a funny story…look, it’s totally not Fantasy’s fault, I got her letter asking me not to do it.”

Fantasy had to give her brother that much. Neck-deep in alligators, he still thought to make sure she didn’t have to join him. Tankard’s puzzled frown became a very different breed of frown. “Oh, right. The prank. You’re in trouble, mister.”

“You know about the prank? How? I mean I just…”

“I can answer that.” Berry said. Fantasy closed her eyes. She heard her mother rise to her hooves. “But not yet.” Fantasy’s eyes popped open. Berry offered a hoof. Fantasy accepted it and rose. Berry spoke to Punctuality but kept her eyes on Tankard. “It can wait. You’re here. You might as well come with us to hear the big speech as a family.”

If confusion were a disease, Punctuality would have dropped dead. “Go hear the who with the what, now?”

“Princess Luna’s in town.” Fantasy said. She got perverse enjoyment at how her little brother’s jaw dropped. “Looks like you got here just in time to come listen to her with us. I mean, your talent is being on time.”

“B-but, I didn’t know she was here. I came here for something totally else. This was just a coincidence. I’m only good at being on time for things I know about.”

“Maybe not.” Tankard said. “Maybe your talent extends to being where you need to be, when you need to be there, even if you don’t know before that you’ll need to be there.” Now all three of them were staring at Tankard. “What? I can’t be deep once in a while? Come on. You’re still in trouble, but your mother’s right. It can wait until later. Something like this only happens once in a lifetime.”