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 Growing Darkness

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PostSubject: Growing Darkness   Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:58 pm

Hollow Shades is a nocturnal town of thestrals, founded by worshippers and admirers of Princess Luna. A dark alicorn lives in the basement of Hollow Shades' orphanage, her existence known to none but five: the orphanage owners Sweet Heart, Sharp Whistle, and Wet Nurse, and two thestral fillies Midnight Rose and Misty. The orphanage owners take care of the alicorn in secret, not wanting Celestia or Luna to take her under their wings and make her wicked like them. Midnight and Misty, both orphans, found the alicorn by accident, and now they regularly send letters to their “imaginary fairy friend”, which the orphanage owners deliver to her themselves.

Right now it was the middle of the night. The sky was clear, the moon full, the town active, and the alicorn, named Nox, was brushing up on Pre- and Early Equestrian history. According to the book, the alicorn sisters, Celestia and Luna, had saved Equestria from eternal chaos at the claws of Discord using magical artifacts called the Elements of Harmony. According to the book, the Elements were very picky and only allowed the most powerful and worthy of ponies to use them. Celestia and Luna turned Discord into stone and from then on ruled over the ponies, bringing them more peace and prosperity than they had ever known while they had been ruling themselves.

Nox had been told a lot about Celestia and Luna, and none of the things she’d been told were good things.

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Mon Jul 25, 2016 10:47 pm

Luna was not travelling with her sister, their visits merely happened to be occurring at the same time. Celestia almost always arranged things that way when she could. Of course, there was no worry she would steal the spotlight here in this place.

The guards of the two princesses moved in a funnel in front of their leader. They were equipped rather differently. Luna’s had the metallic armour of Equestrian tradition and spontoons held against them. Celestia had guards that were with the times their early modern rifles. For them, plate and helm was replaced by cuirass, applying the lessons learned from combat. There was only one place worth making armor for.

The well honoured night princess was happy to demand attention and give a half interested ear to the township, while Celestia had the greater interest in children. Orphans were especially good, as if they showed talent they could be taken away without fuss and then put through the education needed to serve her government. It was for this reason Celestia broke off from the official visit, leaving her own guards to catch up behind her when they noticed she was gone. The princess hardly needed the permission to enter, but knocked at the orphanage door gently, wanting to show the youth and the staff her warmth, when she felt she was in such a mood.
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:04 am

The door was answered by a dull red thestral mare with a wavy pink mane, light pink eyes, and a red, smiling heart for a cutie mark. "P-Princess Celestia!" The mare almost smacked her head into the ground she bowed so quickly. "Your and your sister's visit is an honor to our humble town!" She kept her eyes on the ground and didn't rise from her bow, and wouldn't until told to do so.

Down the hall, two thestral fillies, obviously just barely teenagers, stared at Celestia. They both had letters in their mouths. They glanced at each other, then bowed too.

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:26 pm

“It is wise that you feel that way. It is also necessary that everypony see their ruler at least once. I wish for ponies to understand my nature better than the slanderous tales that spread across some places.” Now that Celestia was finished, she would have called for the mare to rise if something else hadn’t caught her eye. Even the children were quick to bow. Seeing them being taught so well put a smile on her face. She looked back down to the bowed mare at her hooves. “Tell me, how did you free them of childish discontent and the dangerous fantasies that prevent them from being valuable subjects?”
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:32 pm

H-how? the thestral, Sweet Heart, hadn't anticipated this question. "U-u-um, t-they're good l-listeners, Your Majesty! They're very smart fillies!"

Back down the hall, said fillies seemed to be completely frozen in their bows.

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 12:53 pm

“It is a shame to see such promising children be cruelly abandoned.” It had to be neglect, for there was no possibility that their parents were a victim of Celestia’s benevolent policies or wars of liberation. “I’m sure you agree. They are literate enough to be exchanging letters?” This gave the princess even more hope for the young ones. “Rise, miss,” she said after stepping around the mare to get to the fillies. She sat tall in front of the fillies, to lower herself without degrading any authority.  “You two, who is it you write to?” Maybe their parents were just negligent, or even dangerous, or they know a pony who moved out. It was hard for her to deal with not knowing something.
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 6:45 pm

Sweet Heart rose, wiping sweat from her forehead. She watched the fillies anxiously and buried that spark of fury at Celestia's implication their parents had simply neglected and ultimately abandoned them. Almost every orphan was here because their parents couldn't afford to care for them! And that was because this town was both neglected by the Princesses (Celestia, being the Sun Princess, left Luna to care for the nocturnal subjects; Luna, however, only saw them as a large gathering of admirers and fanponies) and shunned by the rest of Equestria.

The fillies rose. One was dull purple with a vibrant and wavy red mane, and the other was light grey with a straight, white mane. The purple one took the letter out of her mouth and said, "O-our friend, Fairy." The grey one gave a small nod of confirmation, her wide eyes seeming to stare right into Celestia.

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 7:59 pm

“Friends are always good to have, as long as you can trust them. Did they move far away?” Celestia spoke to the child like they were just that, with a form of disinterested, patronising interest that would be beyond them to detect, unless they were really smart fillies. That was the kind she was interested in grooming for duty. She turned her head to their caretaker. “Can you gather all the children for me, so that they may share in the honor?” The honor, of course, being her presence and time.
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 8:28 pm

"Yeah." the grey thestral, Misty, answered simply in a soft, almost daydreamy voice which contrasted strongly with her intense eyes.

"Of course, Princess Celestia, Your Majesty!" Sweet Heart rushed off, being extremely careful not to bump into or step on any part of the Sun Princess. She took the letters from the fillies on her way. "I'll deliver these to Fairy as always." she told them. About a minute later, she and a number of about twenty, ranging from almost toddlers to almost adults, were standing before the Princess, all with various expressions but a consensus of nerves and curiosity.

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 9:34 pm

“You were close?” Celestia smiled as an idea came to her to win over the child like she felt the need to.“What do they look like? I want to be able to say I met their friends.”

Celestia paced in front of the group of lonely children once they had gathered. She frowned, her age showing slightly. Why did they not seem as enthusiastic as other ponies? That must have been her sister's influence at work. She could forgive that. They would learn that she was not bad if not pushed to it through disrespect. If they had the equipment she considered the possibility of letting them have a photo, such was the whimsy of her world. “It is unfortunate that circumstances have led you to this, but please know the start to your life does not mean the future shall be as disadvantaged. Equestria rewards hard work, loyalty, and potential in the few it shows up in. You seem to have excellent teachers, that give you skills that will make your superior's most happy, one day.”
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Tue Jul 26, 2016 11:43 pm

Both fillies knew Celestia wasn't actually interested in little fillies' friendships. Still, they certainly weren't going to point that out. Celestia was known for her temper... and ability to incinerate entire cities.

"She's a ghost." Misty said. The other filly jumped a bit and gave her friend an alarmed glance. "Mrs. Sweet Heart sends the letters down the stream at sunset where Death picks them up for her. She resides in the Asphodel Fields."

The purple thestral took a few steps toward Celestia and gestured for her to get closer. She obviously wanted to tell her something secret. When Celestia bent down she whispered in her ear, "Please don't ruin this for her, she loves to do this."

The filly moved back next to her friend.

The orphans nodded at everything Celestia said, though most still looking solemn and only a few offering grateful smiles (that weren't at all just there so Celestia didn't punish them for taking her presence and word for granted).

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Wed Jul 27, 2016 8:58 pm

Celestia saw the lack of effect she had on the crowd, and came up with her own explanation for why she could not feel their love radiating. “I am sure some of you would rather meet with my sister, but you should know that I am the stronger of the two.”

Like a deep breath she focused on taking in the magic around her, no need to bother wearing herself out on a bunch near hopeless children. The evil in the air was obvious to her, more than could be expected from this place. She made a note to bring something after her show. A fire burned in the air in front of her, she put on a small show with it, before letting it go off like a roman candle, completely safe but the heat was easily felt.
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Wed Jul 27, 2016 9:07 pm

The orphans finally caught on/let go of their pride and smiled, clapped, ooh'd and ahh'd at Celestia's display. Some of them felt something odd in air, but dismissed it.

Misty, however, knew exactly what that was, and deeply resented Celestia for stealing the area's magic. She had enough of her own! She was an alicorn, for crying out loud! Besides, the nocturnal town's magic didn't even suit the Day Princess. Regardless, she played along and clapped politely, watching the display with frightening focus for a pony her age.

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Thu Jul 28, 2016 8:55 pm

If she could kill ponies for insincerity Celestia might have. It would cause her to lose her truly dear followers who saw her benevolent side. The guards Celestia had brought finally caught up with her wandering off and rushed to be by her. If they were ever considered to have failed the princess... “I believe this is a signal I am needed in more important places. You can disperse now, except for miss Sweet Heart.”
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 3:08 pm

The orphans bowed and left, Misty and Midnight Rose (the thestral with the red mane) being the last out of the room.

"Yes, Your Majesty?" Sweet Heart asked once they were alone (relatively).

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:13 pm

Celestia stayed in silence for a moment before speaking. ”That was everypony that was gathered there, was it not?” She offered the mare a way out. “There is no pony that is sick? A unicorn perhaps suffering symptoms of uncontrollable discharge of magic? Such can happen.” The princess did not claim to know anything she did not. It was just an honest questions, it came from nowhere, really.
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:22 pm

"Nopony's bedridden tonight, Your Majesty." Sweet Heart answered, feeling her mouth dry up like a puddle in the Badlands. Celestia didn't know. She couldn't know. There was no way she could know. Right? "You met every orphan in this orphanage."

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:30 pm

”Of course. Do not think that I do not believe you, but would you object to my guards verifying your claim?” She looked at the mare warmly. She was a kind princess, not one that wished wrath on anypony that followed her exactly. “I just wish to make an impression on everypony, but you can refuse if you think it will disturb the children.”
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:33 pm

Sweet Heart paled at Celestia's suggestion, and almost jumped at her permission to refuse too quickly. She tried not to stutter as she said, "I think it might disturb the children, actually. They're extremely distrusting, they've had things stolen from this orphanage before and if anything's misplaced there'll be fights."

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 4:44 pm

Celestia opened her mouth for a moment, just to taste the air. She turned back to her guards. “Do so carefully,” she ordered them, turning her attention back to the caretaker while the guards began their search. The guards would scour with the utmost seriousness, as it was an order from the princess. “My guards are well compensated, they will take nothing from children who do not have wealth worth seizing. There will also be no fights in my presence.”
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 5:23 pm

Sweet Heart's insides turned to ice, hit with a pang of sadness. She hoped to all the benevolent forces in the universe that the guards wouldn't find the door hidden under the desk in the orphanage office. It was unlikely, as it was hidden under a rug and the wood wasn't cut into an even square like a door would be, but rather matched the layout of the floorboard. Still, a clop on that door was just slightly creakier than the rest of the floor and there was a slight nick in one of the boards just big enough for a sharp, slender hoof to fit into and pull the door open if they managed to keep their hoof in that nick.

However, Sweet Heart knew either way a few of the orphans would lose valuable sentimental items, and she wasn't sure if she could console the foals who inevitably lost the last or most precious gift their relatives had ever given them, whether she was still around to comfort them or not.

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:17 pm

Celestia remained silent also as she waited for her guards to finish their work.

The guards were not too quick, some did steal anything that could be considered to have worth, whilst others worked to earn the princesses favour by waiting little time, checking the rooms quickly, searching under beds and moving furniture that may conceal doors. The rug in the office was turned up when furniture was moved. Among the bustle of the moment any noise made by the floor was covered by louder noises...
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Fri Jul 29, 2016 7:37 pm

Some foals were wise enough to collect their valuables and keep them on their person, and some of those foals were generous enough to collect and keep safe the belongings of those who were naive enough to not think to do so. A few of the foals who couldn't or didn't collect their belongings tried to stop the guards from taking them.

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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Sun Jul 31, 2016 8:17 pm

The guards reported their empty findings. Celestia sighed and ordered them to check again. She was sure and they could hardly tell her she was wrong. She gave an authoritative stamp with the order. The guards now had bigger priorities than bullying children, when the future of their own was at risk. A lucky few were saved from having their possessions taken, but the second search was more invasive of the children and gave the office greater scrutiny. Records were checked then tossed in a pile on the floor. When it came to putting the books back, the guards bent down and noted the unusual stress the floor made.

Of course, being the guards of the princess and therefore the height of physical perfection, it could hardly be their fault. The stallions lifted the floorboard that had made assumptions about their health and weight with the intent of breaking it for catharsis before reporting their second failure.
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PostSubject: Re: Growing Darkness   Sun Jul 31, 2016 9:19 pm

It would take a few tries before the stallions would actually get the floorboard up. What they would find is a staircase descending into total darkness. Should they choose to go downstairs and illuminate the room, they would find a very earthy basement, mostly used for storage but behind a wall of storage (one would have to fly over it) was basically the second half of the basement, which contained a fireplace, a bed, a rug, and a door which would lead into an empty bathroom. However, one of the boxes in the storage wall was sideways, the opening facing the half of the basement obviously meant to be occupied.

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