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~Princess Luna

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

Sitting in judgment on yet another expedited hearing, Luna was tired. She hid it very well, but it dragged at her. More a weariness of spirit than mere physical exhaustion. Weaving all of Aura into a shared dream had been a tremendous undertaking, even with the Tantibus doing the magical ‘heavy lifting’ for her.

Luna could spin off ‘mirror’ versions of herself. A certain pool once discovered by Pinkie Pie belonged to Luna; it had always belonged to her. She never visited it in the flesh. Far, far too dangerous. Every night she visited it in her sleep. The resulting Reflections were less than dreamers, more than dreams; all of them a reflection of her but none of them the true essence of her. Direct copies: never copies-of-copies. It was how she normally patrolled the dreams of Equestria, only personally arriving in a dream when a Reflection sent an alert upon discovering something too dangerous or nuanced for it to handle.

But…her Reflections weren’t disposable. Each one contained a fragment of her self, and eventually they must return from whence they came. When they returned, either by choice or destruction, they brought the memories of their brief existence with them. Memories she retained and recalled as if it had been herself experiencing them. Every night she watched over Equestria, and every night she gained a thousand nights worth of memories. Most could safely be allowed to fade, as dreams were wont to do. The secrets that ponies revealed in their dreams were hers to guard, not to hoard. Still, it left her weary in ways other ponies…even her sister…found it difficult to truly comprehend.

For the seventy-two hours that Dreaming Aura existed, Luna created ten thousand Reflections. She had needed to be nearly everywhere at once: invisibly observing various ponies in their actions, reactions, and interactions. Mapping Smog’s foul webs and determining the sequence in which the strands must be snipped in order to disable them all. While the dream only lasted a single night in reality, and only three days had passed for those inside the realistic dream, Luna had experienced those dreamed days in massive parallel. Cross-referencing everything learned from observing Dream Aura had demanded countless meetings among her legions of Reflections before re-absorbing them. Further inflating the experienced hours, though Luna made a point not to try and calculate the final sum total.

Down that road, madness lay.

Luna now knew Aura and its citizens very well. Much remained a mystery. It wasn’t as if every pony in Aura had recited out their autobiography during those dreamed days, or even narrated their current internal thoughts. But much stood revealed. Following every pony at once allowed her to see patterns and dynamics unknown to the ponies involved in them. The memories had mainly faded away and melted together to intuitive-level Knowing. She understood them. She felt love and compassion for most and pity for those who had become lost in darkness.

But she also retained a nigh-overpowering need to go somewhere else, anywhere else. It was as if, after gorging on sweet things, the sweet became sickening and her palate cried out for salt, sour, savory, or bitter: anything but more sweet. Every face she saw was familiar and every location triggered deja vu. It made these expedited hearings draw out interminably in ways purely metaphorical.

Endlessly repeating the formal explanation of the hearing’s purpose and the power of the Scales of Mendacity tested Luna’s patience, but she used her thousands of years of experience to gently set it aside to simmer on its own, allowing her outward calm to be more than a mere pretense. The hearings were painfully predictable. She already knew the guilty and their crimes. However, the law demanded greater proof than merely her word, and this was as it should be, and must be. But their answers and decisions held few surprises.

Tradewind managed to do so, by maintaining absolute deadpan silence. She gave him the repeated opportunities to reconsider that the law required, and he declined to take them. Luna could guess at his reasoning. Most likely simple fear that the more incriminating truths he revealed would end with many of his friends serving a prison sentence. Perhaps he thought he need say nothing to walk from here a free pony. Perhaps he thought he deserved some special consideration for the more active role he had played in the events around Smog. Perhaps he even did deserve it. Perhaps, perhaps. She didn’t know for certain what was in his mind. Luna would have loved to simply pardon him.

With regret, she withheld her personal forgiveness and her royal pardon. Without some sign of contrition or explanation of extenuating circumstances on his part, she had no moral or legal justification to extend it.

“Very well.” Luna said. It pained her heart and twisted her guts, but his silence tied her hooves. “As a foreign national, a citizen of our ally Freeport, and in the interest of easing the tremendous backlog facing Aura’s judicial system in the coming months, I shall not keep you imprisoned until such time as you face a proper trial.”

His expression began to change to relief.

“I hereby banish you from Aura and all sovereign territories that lie under the aegis of the Equestrian Empire. If you should ever again enter them, you shall be arrested and held for trial on charges including but not limited to felony smuggling and criminal trespass. If you choose to enter for the purpose of facing judgment, this will be a major point in your favor during your trial. If you are captured in our territory, it will be a further crime; the fact of being captured in our territory will confirm your guilt of it. Only after the determination of your innocence, or the completion of any punishments attached to a guilty verdict, shall you once more be allowed to move freely within Equestria.”

Luna banged her gavel once. His expression wasn’t deadpan anymore, nor was it relief. Instead it seemed to be a kind of stiff, almost wooden dread. The distant stare of one unable to doubt, but also unable to accept, what had happened. Luna sent her magic out seeking through the small warehouse repurposed as a massive evidence locker. She located Tradewind’s possessions, such as they were, and teleported them to the table before him.

He picked up the saddlebags and put them on, moving almost like a sleepwalker. Now, he spoke. Hoarse, and slow.

“How long do I get, to say my goodbyes?”

Luna remained outwardly stern and magisterial. Inside, her heart broke for him, and for a certain unicorn mare. “None. However, you are not forbidden from sending written correspondence to individuals within Equestrian territory. Nor are Equestrian citizens forbidden from interacting with you, provided they do so outside our sovereign territory.”

“…ah.”

“If you have a preferred destination outside of Equestria, please bring it to the front of your mind now. My spell shall send you there. Otherwise my spell shall transport you by default to whatever point in Freeport your heart most considers as your home.”

That thought seemed to alarm him and he frowned in concentration. Luna didn’t get to know where he’d chosen to arrive. She merely wove magic around him to instantly bridge the gap between where he was and where he willed himself to be. In a flash of magic, he vanished. Luna silently wished him well. Outwardly, she sent a magical pulse to chime a bell outside the courtroom and signal for the next defendant.

The royal guard unicorn entered carrying a wicker birdcage in his magic. He had a number of interesting scratches on his face, and an expression of a pony carrying unstable ordinance. Setting the cage on the defendant’s table, he made no attempt to hide the eagerness of his departure.

Luna studied the sugar glider Kirra, and the possum glowered back, giving the most evil stare possible with such an inherently adorable face. Luna had read the report detailing her capture down in Shadowville, and it was like the script for a combination of pratfall comedy and horror film. Inwardly sighing, Luna once more explained the purpose of this hearing and the function of the Scales.

Kirra replied with a long, elaborate, and obscene suggestion for what Luna could do. The part with the moldy apple and the goat came closest to being anatomically possible, but even that assumed Luna was double-jointed. The Scales marked it all as being non-literally true but spoken without intent to deceive. Luna felt considerably less regret in banishing her on the same terms, and using the same methods, she’d used with Tradewind.

Next came Captain ‘Spindrift’ and Luna didn’t even ask him if he had anything he wished to confess. Some potatoes were too hot to try and juggle. “I claim my royal prerogative to seal the details of your identity and crimes as a matter of imperial security. I hereby banish you forever from all sovereign territories of Equestria on pain of death for returning. Several of my assistants will shortly oversee the transportation of your airship to Freeport territory. Its contents shall not be searched or seized, as you are a citizen of a foreign nation. We’ll even return it with a full tank of liquid rainbow.”

Grim-faced, he heard her out before he spoke. “My livelihood is trade and what little trade doesn’t happen in or pass through Equestrian territory is either unlawful, high-risk, or has meager profit margins. That’s before the price markup on fuel from secondary markets.”

“That has no bearing. Equestria has washed its hooves of you. Your future choice among criminality, peril, or lack of prosperity is by definition no longer our concern.”

“That’s not a fair verdict.” he said. The Scales remained dark.

Interesting, that he genuinely believed that. Sadly, it changed nothing. Offering a pardon would demand revealing his crimes for the public record. Whatever the law said about his guilt or innocence, beings both inside and outside Equestria would choose to shun him. Or worse. Luna might have offered him the same ‘work for us in secret’ deal as Smog took, but the Equestrian Empire did not employ assassins, and he would likely refuse such work even if offered. “It’s the mildest punishment that the law allows me to give you, Spindrift.”

He looked at the Scales, which remained dark. After a moment to chew on the implications of that and find them bitter, he cleared his throat. “Am I being banished because of my cutie mark?” He wore his coat, which covered it. The stains from the immobilization foam had been cleaned from it, as had the dyed stripes and glued sparkles on his body.

Luna didn’t relax, but her well-hidden tension dropped by several degrees. Of the questions he might have asked, this one had a non-explosive answer. “Not in the least. Only past actions by you of which I possess certain knowledge. Some of them were to your favor, and so you are merely banished.”

“Would apologizing for my past actions change the verdict?”

Luna wished he had framed that differently. An apology would have changed many things. The verdict? “…no.”

He nodded. “What about my crew? Kirra, Baz, Tradewind?”

“Kirra and Tradewind have also been banished as well, though they have a way to see it ended.” He winced. “Baz truthfully declared he had no awareness of having broken Equestrian law in Equestrian territory; I let him go free.”

His expression went…odd. Then twisted into a kind of rueful smile. “Oh, I see.” His smile faded. “Would it be possible for you to offer Baz transport to Freeport? Maybe aboard my ship when you send it. Stranding him here alone would be punishing him for things that aren’t his fault.”

“I shall send a pony to locate him and make this exact offer. I cannot guarantee he will accept it.”

“Thank you…for that, Princess.”

It stung, that implied lack of thanks for showing him the maximum mercy she lawfully could. Dark emotions stirred in their unquiet graves, and for one terrible instant she wanted to show him just how Nightmarish his fate could have been, to give him perspective on how grateful he should feel.

But it passed, and she teleported him away. Disabling the monitoring mirrors, she slumped and rubbed her closed eyelids with her hooves. Only for a few moments. She had to keep going, plowing through this onerous and heart-wrenching work. She could rest once it was done. Not her fault, this mess in Aura. Not her fault…

…but her responsibility.

She would see it done.

Tradewind told me he needed time to work on his next post. I gave him over a year. When I finally mentioned how long he was taking, he revealed that he had forgotten it was his turn and assumed the RP had died. I assured him this wasn’t the case. He re-confirmed his desire and intent to see the RP through to the end. He asked me to handle the next post from his character Tradewind’s POV. I agreed. After refreshing my memory regarding the RP, I sent him a request to consult with me before I wrote it. I wanted his approval of the direction I planned to take in the post. He didn’t answer. I waited. He continued not to answer, for multiple weeks and therefore presumably multiple instances of periodic free time.

Actions speak louder than words. The RP probably still means something to Trade. However. It no longer means enough to outweigh the minor inconvenience of taking two minutes per week to check to see if I’ve left him any messages. More depressing, our friendship no longer means enough to him for even this token effort of maintaining contact with me.

Perhaps he’s just been extremely busy with urgent RL matters. If so, I wish him good luck and happy endings for them. I’ll be happy to resume our friendship at any future point where he once more has free time for it. But while I’m a very patient person, my patience isn’t infinite. I’m going to finish this tale without further delays of more than a week between posts at absolute maximum. Tradewind’s unable to keep to that, either from inability or disinterest, and so I’m moving this RP forward without him.

It’s not the post I planned to write. It’s not the post I wanted to write. I had Plans for the Captain, and for Kirra being overlooked when Luna cleared the time-frozen common room of the Brass Hoof. But since I’m unable to make reliable contact with him to get his feedback, I can’t in good conscience continue to use his characters, even as NPCs. They’re not dead or in prison, they’re free and healthy. Just banished, which effectively removes all the characters under his past control from having a meaningful impact on the following events. I suppose that revealing that all future events will unfold inside Equestrian territory is a bit of a spoiler, but there we are.

I wish you good fortune and happiness, Tradewind. May your life be filled with good friends, prosperity, and laughter even if I’m not a part of it. You deserve nothing less. I’m glad we met. Our paths converged, but then it seems our paths diverged. It happens. I’ll focus on the good times we did share, rather than mourn the good times that might have been. And I’m here if you want to re-connect, though the ship has sailed as far as being involved in this RP. If your absence wasn’t by choice, I apologize, but I HAVE to move forward with the RP.