The Harem Noses

by Irrespective

Chapter 4: 4. - Promotion

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4. - Promotion

“Lulu?” Celestia called out with a gentle tap on her sister’s bedroom door. “Are you in there? It’s time to lower the moon.”

She’s not being rebellious, Tia, she told herself with several calming breaths. Just relax. She just forgot, nothing more. You need to give her time to adjust.

No reply came from the interior, and Celestia knocked again, with a little more force and a faint flutter of suppressed fear somewhere deep inside. “Lu? I need you to get up and take care of the moon. You can go back to bed when you’re done.”

This statement brought out an unintelligible grunt, which was followed by an odd-sounding giggle. Celestia glanced up and down the hallway, then hesitantly put her ear to the door.

“Mm, you smell like strawberries coated in caramel sauce.” Luna’s voice was faint, mumbling, and beyond delighted. “I could just gobble you up.”

“Mister Bean,” Celestia whispered to herself as relief washed over her. She had forgotten that Luna had absconded with their unexpected husband after raising the moon last night. The concern over an encore performance from Nightmare Moon melted into amusement at the situation, and with a giggle of her own, Celestia gently nudged one of the double doors open.

The sight was quite remarkable. Lying in the middle of the room, and surrounded by a sizable number of empty wine bottles, Luna was asleep but emitting small gurgles of bliss as she nibbled upon the right ear of one Baked Bean. All four dark legs were wrapped around him in a way that reminded the elder sister of a venus flytrap that had snapped, and the expression on Bean’s face matched how any insect thus trapped might look. From what Celestia could see, Bean had pulled himself into the fetal position, and his eyes were wide open in bloodshot horror. To be honest, the stallion did not appear to be really afraid of the nibbling he had been subjected to over the long evening hours, but more how Celestia might react to him being 'shared' in this fashion. The daytime diarch considered his cute expression, trying to hold back her laughter and suspecting that it looked as if she were stifling a sneeze instead.

"Help?" asked Bean with considerable trepidation. “She’s been trying to gobble my backside all night long.”

“She’s working on the wrong end,” Celestia replied with a smirk.

“Please!” he whispered, lowering his voice as Luna's ears twitched in his direction. “I don’t want to be here when she wakes up! After that much wine, she’s going to have a hangover the size of Mount Canter!”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that.” Celestia scoffed and waved a dismissive hoof at him. “From the looks of it, she actually restrained herself. However, I do need to raise the sun, so...”

Celestia pushed the door open, walked across the room, and stopped by the head of her sister. With a sly grin, Celestia then kicked off one of her shoes, stuck the tip of her hoof in her own mouth for a brief moment, and then inserted the dripping appendage into Luna’s exposed ear.

“CELESTIA!” Luna bolted upright, and her magic hauled Bean into the air between them to prevent any more sneaky sisterly attacks. One hoof rubbed the wet part of her ear, and the younger sister groaned in disgust as she did so. “Thou knowest I hate that!”

“You should get up on time, then. I need you to lower the moon.”

“Why did I come back, again?” Luna grumbled. Bean had not made the most of his brief freedom to dash for the door, which left Luna able to sweep forward and tuck him under one wing. With a yawn, she stumbled onto the balcony that was attached to her room, smacked her lips, and glanced upwards. “Oh, right. That whole endless night, sworn vengeance against my sister, and relief from the crushing loneliness thing.”

The moon was lowered with droopy eyes and another deep yawn, and once it was tucked away, Luna pulled her teddy Bean out from under her wing with her magic and rubbed his nose with her own. “And now, dear husband, we shall continue what we started last night. You will need much practice if you ever hope to please all three of us.”

“What? All three of you?” Bean stammered as the color drained from his coat. “That’s not all at once, right?”

“Tia, the next time I force a husband upon us while in the grip of dark powers, please remind me to pick one with a heartier constitution,” Luna murmured as she stumbled back towards her room. “While this one is fun, he protests too much and has no stamina at all.”

“Princess Celestia! Help!” Bean begged, although he did not appear to be struggling.

“Sorry, Mister Bean, you’re on your own for this,” the Princess replied. “You need to work out your relationship with my sister sooner or later. I’ll see you both at lunch.”

* * * *

“You certainly know how to show a girl a good time, Lieutenant,” Cadence whispered into Shining Armor’s ear with several layers of undertone. “I may just have to cancel my appointments for today and ask for more.”

“Hey, I’m all for the idea,” Shining whispered back as he gently shut the door to her private chambers. “But I think your husband might be a bit upset with us if you do.”

The phrase ‘a bucket of ice water on the mood’ covered what happened quite nicely, and Cadence snorted. “I hate this. I feel like I’m being punished for something I didn’t do, and I have to pretend I’m happy about the situation on top of it.”

“Is there absolutely no way to get out of this thing?” Shining asked. “No loopholes at all?”

“Auntie Celestia says it’s ironclad, but I’m going to see for myself.” Cadence then quickly stepped in front of her loyal guard, and his concerned love reflected back to him in her eyes as they both stopped. “Shiny, even if there really is no way out, you need to know that Baked Bean will never be able to take your place in my heart, not in a thousand years. He might be my husband on a technicality, but you are the one who has my affections. That is something no convoluted law will ever be able to take away from me, or from you.”

“Even if he brings you chocolate-dipped roses?” Shining asked.

“He could bring me every food under the sun and moon, and it will never be enough.” Cadence kissed his cheek, then tickled the hairs of his ear with her whispered words. “My every thought shall be of you and you alone, Lieutenant Armor. You are the only one who could ever satisfy the hunger which burns inside me.”

The passionate kiss she planted on his lips burned away any lingering doubts the young guard might have held, and it took him a moment to remember how to breathe after she finally released him from her thrall.

“I will see you later, Shiny,” Cadence added with a teasing flick of her tail. The stoic guard did not respond to this, or to her slow wink when she reached the next hallway, but a smile began to appear when he caught the last kiss that she blew him.

He held that kiss in his hooves for several long moments. He studied it carefully, evaluated it with all of the intensity that his younger sister gave to any of her research projects. He wanted to understand it fully, to know every nuance, every line, every detail that it contained.

His smile grew as he saw all of Cadence’s love for him contained in that kiss, and he gently pressed it to his own lips with a stuttering gasp of delight. There was no possible way to refute her words to him; and he knew that she would not let him go for all of the treasure in all the world. He was hers, and she was his. No ancient law or Baked Bean would ever be able to change that, not in a hundred thousand years of trying.

With that happy thought and a fresh surge of determination to show his Cady how much he loved her, he marched himself to the barracks to begin his day.

* * 🛡 * *

“Lieutenant Armor.”

“Captain Daisy Chain, ma’am!” Shining’s salute was crisp, swift, and perfectly precise.

“My office. Now.”

Shining fell in behind his commanding officer, curious and a bit nervous over the sudden summons. He prided himself on being a model soldier, and off the top of his head, he couldn’t think of anything he had done wrong.

Unless she wanted to speak to him about what had happened the previous night. His jaw tightened as he imagined what rebuke she might issue to him because of his threats towards the new prince, or what she might say about him spending the night with Cadence, but he was not going to apologize for either. He had every right to be mad about Baked Bean stealing his mare, and his private life had only enhanced his abilities as a guard.

His mind buzzed with possibilities but he said nothing as they both strode into the Captain’s office. The medals of honor and commendations that lined the walls had always come across as tacky and ostentatious, but he kept his opinion to himself as he came to attention in front of the Captain’s desk. When the time came for this office to be his own, he would keep the adornments simple and tasteful. A few of his favorite military strategy books, a photo or two of his parents, Twilight, and Cadence, and definitely some new drapes for the windows. That shade of green had no right to exist, let alone to stain a fine fabric like that.

“At ease, Lieutenant,” Captain Daisy Chain offered as she groaned into her chair. “Have a seat.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Shining sat while Daisy pulled a stack of papers from a desk drawer.

“Lieutenant, I’ll get right to the point. Except for three obvious exceptions, what I am about to tell you does not leave this room, understand?” Daisy said with a hard gaze emphasizing her tone.

“Yes ma’am,” Shining said with a nod.

“Good. After careful consideration, I have decided to resign my commission effective in ninety days.”

“Resign, ma’am?”

“I’m going to retire, Lieutenant. There’s a beach down in St. Neighvis with my name on it, and I plan on occupying it for a very long time.

“Naturally, this means that there will be an opening for Captain of the Guard, and I have already submitted your name for the position. Princess Celestia is reviewing your credentials, but you and I both know it’s a foregone conclusion. Congratulations on your promotion, Captain Armor. You’ve earned it.”

The rush of excitement nearly overwhelmed his stoic composure, but Shining managed to maintain a straight face while inwardly cheering. A lifetime of hopes, dreams, and hard work had suddenly come to fruition, and far sooner than he had ever expected.

“Thank you, ma’am.” Shining replied evenly while inwardly doing a double backflip. “I greatly appreciate this, and I shall attempt to uphold the traditions and honor of the Royal Guard in the same fashion.”

“Stow the praise, Shining,” Daisy said with a grin. “You already got the job.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Now, Princess Celestia is going to announce the change in command next week. For now, carry on as assigned, and once the news is released, you and I will work with the Princesses to ensure a smooth transfer. Any questions?”

Shining Armor nearly said that he had none, but one managed to shout out above his internal party and to stymie his glee. “Captain, why are you retiring now, ma’am? You’ve only been in the position for a year or so.”

“Let’s just say I was given a rather enticing incentive to do so,” Daisy said with a chuckle. “Besides, I’ve given the best years of my life to the Royal Guard. I don’t regret one moment of it, but I would like to have some ‘me’ time. A shakeup at the top would be good for morale, too. I know I haven’t been the easiest commanding officer to get along with. The guards like you, and they’ll follow you to the ends of Equestria and back again.” Daisy’s gaze went distant, and a wistful smile crept onto her face. “Yes, this is for the best. For everypony.”

She then shook herself back into the present with a snort. “You’re to report back here at nineteen hundred hours to meet with Princess Celestia. She’ll discuss her expectations, and you’ll be able to ask her any questions at that time as well.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. You’re dismissed.”

Shining stood, saluted, and moved to leave.

“Oh, and Lieutenant?” Captain Daisy Chain called out while looking over the first page from her stack. “This should go without saying, but you will be responsible for the new prince, too. It would be a shame if your personal feelings were to somehow interfere with your promotion.”

Shining shook his head. “That won’t be a problem, ma’am. My private feelings will remain as such during his time here.”

“Even though he stole your marefriend?” Daisy asked. “Envy and Vengeance are terrible bedmates, Lieutenant. It’s not very hard to imagine that you would want something… unfortunate to happen to him. It would allow you to reclaim what is rightfully yours, after all.”

Daisy’s eyes flicked up to meet his, and the hard glint that they held knocked him off balance for a moment. “No, ma’am. I can see why that is a concern, but I am a Royal Guard. My allegiance has, and will forevermore, be to the Princesses and the Kingdom of Equestria. If Prince Bean is to remain, then he will receive the same treatment that I would give to Celestia herself.”

“And not just Celestia,” Daisy added. “With Luna’s return, the Kingdom of Equestria is a diarchy once more, and I hope you treat it as such.”

“Of course, ma’am. Princess Luna will be given the same veneration and devotion that Princess Celestia has always enjoyed.”

“Very well. Just remember that you will be watched closely in your new position, and it will be quite disappointing if you should not live up to your carefully cultivated reputation. That is all.”

Shining saluted again, strode out of the barracks, and pumped a hoof in the air in jubilation. Shining Armor, Captain of the Royal Guard of Equestria! In one way or another, he had dreamed of becoming the Captain ever since he was a little colt playing pretend with his friends on the kindergarten playground. There was so much to do, and he couldn’t wait to get started. He would be able to going to tell his parents as soon as it was official, with a letter to Twilight via Spike at the same time, and Cadence…

A sour note rang out above the symphony in his soul, but he immediately drowned it out with a blaring blast of joy. Despite her current marital status, she would be overjoyed with this new development, and the two of them were going to celebrate tonight, no matter what.

“Lieutenant?” Luna’s voice intruded on his celebration. He snapped to attention and saluted, grateful for the years of training that made the action automatic.

“Yes, Your Highness?” he offered in his most official voice. “How may I help you?”

Luna did not reply. Instead, she began to circle him with a critical and predatory eye, and Shining could hear a little lifeguard in his head, screaming about sharks. Hungry sharks with sharp teeth.

Once she had completed a full lap around him, she puckered her lips slightly and clicked her tongue. “We see why Princess Cadence was so taken with you. Of a truth, had We not interfered with the natural order of selection, you would have made for a fine mate.”

“Mate, ma’am?” Shining said with a hard swallow.

“Yes, Lieutenant. You know that to marry one alicorn is to marry them all, so your union to Our niece would have been ideal. You appear to be young and strong, of a hearty constitution and healthy vigor. Unlike Our present helpmate, We daresay that you would be able to fulfill the physical needs of all three alicorns with energy to spare, should our present husband falter.”

A jumble of thoughts crashed together in the front of Shining Armor’s mind, although thankfully only one managed to fight loose and lurch for freedom. “Physical needs?”

Shining was cut off by Luna’s dark magic prying his mouth open while she peered inside. “Hm. Straight teeth, but you could stand to floss better. A detail that could have been corrected with some minor persuasions.”

“’err ‘oosians, ’aam?” Shining Armor let his mouth close when Luna released his jaw, although he swore he could still feel a cool breeze circulating into his ears and through his head.

“That reminds me, I need to find my Paddle of Persuasion,” Luna muttered as she leaned to her right and glanced over his left side. “Good body length, with proper musculature and balanced bone structure, too. You appear to be very well endowed, Lieutenant.”

Shining’s short-cropped tail clamped down over his rear the best it could, and he coughed nervously. “Uh, thank you?”

Luna nodded. “Indeed, it is a shame that We have forced your fiance into a loveless marriage. We can only hope that you will forgive Us for our grave transgression, in time, and that we may come to an arrangement more pleasant for all parties involved.”

“Well, to be honest, Cadence wasn’t my fiance. She was just my marefriend.”

Luna retreated a step. “You mean to tell Us that Princess Cadence was not your betrothed?”

“No. Er, not yet, at least.”

“There is something gravely wrong with this modern generation,” Luna muttered in frustration. “Why, praytell, did you hesitate to plight thy troth with Our niece?”

“I was, um…” he trailed off, his mind unable to come up with a reasonable reason other than troths probably needed a lot of planning before plighting. “I was just waiting for the right time, I guess.”

“The right time.” Luna blinked once, then snorted as her gaze went to her hooves. “Stars above, first Baked Bean tells Us that he wants to move slowly in Our relationship with him, and now We are told that ponies wait for some mythical, favorable ‘time’ to express their desires. This modern world will be the end of Us. Passions should be acted upon with haste, striking while the iron is hot and the blood boiling with desire. Such foundations laid in sweat and lust make firm support for later years when foals begin to intrude on a relationship, and time for love is found only in smaller fractions.”

Shining wasn’t sure how to respond to that. He did know that his heart deeply ached when he saw the frustrated tears in the corners of the Princess’ eyes, but she banished them with a casual flick of her hoof and another snort.

“Bah. Lieutenant, We have sought you out to discuss a matter of great import. My sister, Princess Celestia, tells Us that We must speak with you regarding the royal guards who will be assigned to protect Us from this point forward.”

Shining stood a bit straighter, and he smiled. He might not be able to help the newly returned Princess with the modern mess that was Equestria, but he knew everything there was to know about guards and guarding, both inside and out. And this was a topic he was more than happy to turn the conversation into. “Of course, Your Highness. I would be pleased to discuss anything you like about your guards.”

“Good. Praytell, who did you have in mind to provide protection to Our royal self?”

“Well, I have a dozen or so ponies that I could name right off,” he replied, and he rubbed his chin in thought. “It would be best to keep a balance of earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns for excursions, but while you are within the palace, we could cut back to just the Household Regiment.”

Luna shook her head. “No, Lieutenant. While We are sure that the current complement of soldiers is competent and beyond reproach, the night has many unique circumstances that cannot be adequately covered by your day guards.”

Shining bristled at her insinuation, and his tail lashed at his haunches. “Princess, I can assure you that the Royal Guard is more than capable of performing their duties, day or night. I trust every last one of them with my life, at any time and in any place.”

“And that is most admirable, Lieutenant,” Luna said flatly, her own annoyance showing in her face. “As We said, We do not doubt the capabilities of your fellows. But for example, do any in your present company possess the capacity to have the night illuminated to their eyes as if it was day?”

“Of course we do. All unicorns are taught a focused illumination spell during their basic training.”

“But without that spell they would be blind, would they not?” she countered. “The spell would also give away their position to any potential enemies, true?”

“Yes, but that’s the idea. No pony in their right mind is going to attempt an attack when they can see how well guarded we are.”

“In Our experience, there are many ponies and other creatures of the night who are not in their right mind,” Luna said. “A show of force should not be your only line of defense, Lieutenant. Unless you have one guard for one square foot of the palace, there will be gaps that can be exploited. Our night has always proven to be the greatest ally to those who wish to have their nefarious deeds concealed by Our darkness.”

“All right,” Shining huffed. “So what do you recommend? Is there some sort of see-in-the-dark spell that I’m not aware of?”

Luna’s grin was positively predatory, and Shining swallowed hard as he realized how the Princess had gotten him to take her bait. “No, Lieutenant. While such a spell does exist, We have an alternative option, one that will not require Our guards to learn such a taxing option.”

* * * *

“Ah, Lieutenant,” Celestia cheerfully greeted Shining Armor, and she motioned with one hoof to the interior of Captain Daisy Chain’s office. “Please, come in. I’ve been expecting you.”

“Thank you, Your Highness.” Shining’s thoughts were clipped and filled with confusion at the sight of his Divine Sovereign—well, one of them—in the office he was about to inherit, but he kept his demeanor impassive as he moved in and came to attention.

“At ease, Shining,” Celestia said as she moved behind the desk and sat down in his future chair, which groaned and creaked, but remained intact. “Please, have a seat. You and I have much to discuss, informally. Would you care for some tea?”

“No, thank you,” Shining replied as Celestia’s magic began to prepare a cup for herself without any apparent effort, not even a passing glance at the dance of saucers, strainer and cups.

“Very well. I have been told that you have met with my sister and discussed her plans to reinstate her night guards. I am of the opinion that the sooner the office is reestablished, the better. Do you have any questions regarding her proposition?”

“With all due respect, Your Highness, your sister is trying to send me on a snipe hunt.”


“Thestrals!” Shining’s words burst out at the opportunity to be expressed. “Princess Luna wants me to find thestrals for the royal guard!”

“Why is this a problem, Lieutenant?” Celestia asked in a serious tone.

“They don’t exist! They’re just an old myth! I might as well be looking for kirin while I’m at it!” The absurdity of Luna’s request forced him to his hooves, and he began to pace in front of the desk that was soon to be his. “She insists there are some enclaves deep in the Everfree Forest, and wants me to bring them back to serve as her personal night guards.”

“She is right, you know.” Celestia’s magic gently lifted the steaming teapot and filled the empty teacup with her preferred Deerjeeling blend.

Shining wanted to argue the absurdity of such a notion, but the gleam in Celestia’s eye made him pause. “Wait. Are you telling me they’re real?”

Celestia nodded as she slowly poured a few drops of milk into her tea. “They are very real, though their numbers have greatly diminished over the past few centuries. The enclave that Luna has told you about is all that remains of them.”

“Batponies are real.” Shining slumped into the seat he had vacated with a sharp exhale. “Why hasn’t anypony seen or heard from them, except in rumors?”

Celestia swiftly added two lumps of sugar, and a spoon appeared to stir her concoction. “That is a long story, and it would probably be best if Luna explained the particulars. For now, I will say that thestrals were once an honored and dedicated division of our military forces, but they were forced into hiding because of Nightmare Moon. You will find them to be quite capable, with a little training. When are you scheduled to depart?”

“Tomorrow evening. Luna thinks the thestrals may still harbor some memories of Nightmare Moon, so she wants Baked Bean and myself to be the ones to invite them back.”

“Good. Our husband will be able to act in Luna’s name, although you will officially be in charge of the mission. It will be an excellent start to your position, and show all the nattering nitwits at court that their foolish objections are rubbish. You have my full confidence, Captain Shining Armor.”

Shining inhaled deeply. Celestia’s words had emboldened him, and a smug grin tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Thank you, Princess. I won’t let you down.”

Celestia nodded. “Since you mentioned him, I would like to discuss the details regarding Baked Bean. I would first like to offer my most sincere apologies for this whole dilemma, and I greatly regret the exquisite agony this has put you through. I may not be able to reverse the damage that I have caused, but I will do everything in my power to make what amends I can.”

Shining Armor could feel the weight of sincerity in Celestia’s words, and he shook his head. “No apology is needed, Your Highness. This whole thing is just one big knot of confusion, and I don’t think we can really blame any single pony for what happened.”

“My apology remains all the same, but thank you. I will also do whatever I can to help you and my niece remain together. Your relationship… meets with Our approval, provided Luna and I can find some way to make it legal. Time will tell. I’m afraid this may take quite some time to work out, and I hope you do not become frustrated in the meanwhile.

“Now, about Baked Bean. While I anticipate most of his time will be spent here, there will be times when I will ask him to accompany me on official business. Who would you recommend for his security detail?”

Shining rubbed his chin in thought. “I can think of a couple of names right off the top of my head. Sergeants Hokey Pokey and Clover Leaf would be excellent choices, if I had to throw two at him right now. I’ll get a list together for you to look over.”

Celestia nodded. “No need to ask for my approval, Shining. Place them on Baked Bean’s guard detail immediately, and see about filling out the roster when you get back. The Everfree Forest is still a wild and dangerous place, although we don’t want to send too large of a force for fear of it looking like an invasion of the few remaining thestral areas. Two guards will balance out your group just fine.”

“Don’t be concerned, Your Highness,” said Shining Armor. “Your husband will be perfectly safe with us, and I’m confident we’ll be able to talk Princess Luna’s lost ponies into returning. Nothing will go wrong.”

Next Chapter: 5. - Everfree Estimated time remaining: 1 Hour, 9 Minutes
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