To Befriend the Night

by LucidTech

Chapter 1: Chapter One

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Luna exhaled slowly, shaking her head as she did so. This was her fifth night in a row of holding her Lunar Court where nopony had arrived. The only reason it was only the fifth instead of the twentieth was only because of the visit she had received from Twilight Sparkle those few days ago that had broken the common stillness of the room. It was due to these large gaps between visits of that most of the guards were puzzled as to why the night princess even continued to hold the court every night. They did not understand, partially because Luna did not take the initiative to explain, the royal pride she held for the opportunity to speak with her subjects, even if said subjects did not take advantage of the opportunity.

Of course, Celestia had been quick to reassure her sister after her return that ponies had grown more active during the night hours in the past thousand years, but it didn’t seem to solve the issue of her lonely court. As each night concluded and a deflated Luna passed by her sister as they switched shifts it was hard for Celestia not to see the growing despair in her sister eyes and Celestia would try to bring a smile to her face by regaling the depressed princess with tales from her student's ever upbeat letters. Yet, the only thing it did was cause the lunar princess even more heartache when her attempts to make friends backfired against her or were ignored or misunderstood.

She was just not used to spending time around the so very fragile lives of ponies. Indeed, she had become very introverted during her time on the moon and adjusting to being around ponies who could not handle her... eccentricities... was quite the task. In spite of this Luna held a shard of diamond in her heart, immovable in her continued efforts to reinstate herself as co-ruler of Canterlot and refamiliarize herself with the citizenry of the fair capital.

Luna was brought back to her empty night court as the door to her right creaked opened slowly and an earth pony backed into the room, his gaze locked on the hallway as he did so. The automagic spell on the door faded as he left its vicinity and the door swung closed, leaving the hall in silence as even the guards seemed unsure what to do about the sudden intrusion. Luna waited a moment for the stallion to turn to her, but when he was slow to do so, the princess let loose a polite cough to get his attention. She normally would have allowed him all the time it took him to turn to her before her exile, but now she wanted very much not to let another second pass when she could be engaging with her subjects.

His gaze spun to her and she saw the panic in his eyes while beads of sweat started to form on his forehead, much to her surprise. Had he not come into the room to talk to her? Acting quickly to try and defuse the situation before the stallion broke into a panic, the princess addressed her troubled subject. “Hello, my little pony. Do you have a question to pose to the Lunar Court that I may answer for you?”

The stallion gulped visibly and opened his mouth, though no sound came out. After a pause, he shook his head as if to clear it and then looked back toward Luna, eyes shaking with fear and a lack of understanding. Luna, however, simply waited patiently with a curious, searching gaze. In the serenity of the princess the stallion seemed to gather his nerves and found some words to speak. “What are your opinions on the politics of... this.. place...” His voice faded toward the end and Luna raised an eyebrow at his hesitancy, but passed it off as some form of nervousness from meeting a princess. The question however, raised questions all its own. It was not the sort of question one might expect at the night court, as it posed such a large, undirected query as to seem almost pointless.

Luna, however, had more than enough time and, more directly, an empty night court. “I believe that it may take some time for the ponies of Equestria to get used to a diarchy where before there was only a monarchy,” Luna said as she repeated the thought process that had gone through her head many times over the past few months. “In the meantime, I believe that it is of utmost importance that the citizens realize I am here to help should they need me, regardless of the events of which I have apologized for and feel deeply sorry about.”

The stallion nodded, though he seemed distracted by some other thought. Such distraction however, seemed to do little to stop his mouth from moving. “That is a very aspirational approach. You will make a great leader when they get used to the idea, I am sure.” His eyes wandered to the door that he had entered through as he spoke, but only for a moment before he turned his gaze back to the lunar princess.

“You truly believe so? It means a lot to hear that from someone besides my sister,” Luna said, a small smile on her face as she watched the stallion with a degree of curiosity. She couldn’t quite place it, but something was different about this pony. “Tell me, stallion, what is your name?”

“Uh...” His eyes darted around the room for a moment again before he continued. “Hendrick.”

“That is an unusual name. I do not think I have heard of a similar one before.”

“Yes, well." Hendrick coughed lightly, Lightly enough that Luna was certain that said cough had done absolutely nothing to clear his throat and had been more for the purpose of buying time. "I come from far away.” He finished, lamely.

“I see,” Luna said, her curiosity piqued enough that she tried to make out the shape of the strange stallion's cutie mark was, if only to try and glean some insight into the mystery that stood before her. Meanwhile, Hendrick seemed to be planning a quick escape, eyes darting to doors and windows as his frantic hooves twitched and spasmed. Both were interrupted when the loud growl of his stomach filled the air.

Realizing an opportunity to try and pry some information from her strange acquaintance, Luna spoke. “You are hungry." She asserted. "And it would be rude of me to send you on your way without some food. As such, I would like to extend to you the opportunity to come have dinner with myself, my sister, as well as the Captain and Princess Cadence.” Not only would she get to learn more about this strange pony at dinner, but she would also get to see his cutie mark on the way.

“Oh no, I couldn’t,” Hendrick said, slowly backing away, though slightly clumsy in his attempts to do so.

“You have somewhere else to be?”

“Not... specifically...” His eyes began to dart around again, only stopping to linger on the lowest row of windows at the far end of the room.

“Then I insist on your company,” Luna said once again, stepping down from her elevated platform as she did so.

“I... " He paused as he seemed to reconsider the offer. He seemed uncertain about his course of action until his stomach growled once more and he flinched at the sound. "Alright...” The stallion acquiesced, moving towards the door and waiting for Luna. As she approached, he attempted to push the doors open, only to fall on his face when the magic in them opened them first.

Luna approached and looked down Hendrick, who seemed to be mumbling something under his breath. “Are you alright?”

“Right as rain!” He jolted to his feet, his voice rising with fear and looking toward the princess. “I just tripped.” Luna raised an eyebrow, very much aware that he didn’t trip, but deciding not to question him on the matter.

“Then follow me and we shall join Celestia, Cadence, and Shining Armor for dinner.”

“Erm, yes. You lead the way then, would you, Your Majesty?” The stallion seemed to be waking from a dream as he spoke the words.

Luna looked back at the stallion, “That is what I just said, is it not?”

“Of course. I was just... clarifying it for myself.” Luna nodded, assuming it was a habit that had come into being during her one thousand year absence. Then, she started towards the kitchen, opting not to teleport them both there for the benefit of the shaky earth pony, as she knew not how he might react to a sudden change of surroundings in his current mental state.

They hadn’t gone far, though, when a group of guards rounded the corner and Hendrick ducked behind Luna’s form, trying to hide from them. “I don’t think so!” one of the guards shouted, running faster towards them. With a flash of her horn, Luna stopped the contingent in its collective tracks.

“What seems to be going on? And why are you attacking my guest?” Luna asked, her tone more regal than it had been not moments earlier when she had been talking to Hendrick.

The stallion who had dashed ahead looked shocked for a moment before he bowed his head to the lunar princess. “I apologize, Your Highness. I wasn’t aware that he was your guest. He just walked into the castle and past a group of guards earlier today. When they tried to approach him about his permissions, he ran away. We’ve been trying to track him down ever since. Blank flanks, if you'll pardon the term Princess, tend to cause a lot of trouble. Especially the older ones."

Luna was about to make a rebuttal when she realized what had just been said. With a flick of her mane, the princess looked at the flank of the stallion hiding behind her. It was, indeed, blank. “I see. Well, I assure you that he is with me, so you may halt your search,” the mare said, turning to face the ponies once again.

“Understood, Your Majesty. I will tell the other guards to call it off.” The leader nodded abruptly in recognition to the royal command. With a second flash of Luna's horn, he and his brothers in arms found their legs free, allowing them to back away as a group.

Slowly, the stallion emerged from behind her, shaking like a leaf as he did so, and watched as the guards departed. “Thanks for that,” Hendrick said after he saw no more of the armored ponies.

“'Twas no problem. Though I must say that I find your lack of cutie mark quite odd. Would you mind talking about it?”

“Uh.” The stallion glanced at his flank before looking back at the princess. “I don’t like to talk about it?” The way he raised voice toward the end of his sentence seemed to indicate he wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about, but Luna looked past it once again. At this point, she was only getting more questions than she was answers and she wanted to get to the dinner as soon as possible to pose her questions to Hendrick.

A stressful walk later, and they arrived at the dining room, Luna leading the way past the threshold with Hendrick following meekly after her. As they moved past the doorway, the eyes of the three ponies within turned to see Luna, as well as the stallion following behind her with an unsteady pattern to his steps. Cadence and Shining Armor’s eyes filled with curiosity about the mysterious stallion whom was joining them for dinner. Meanwhile, Celestia merely gave a soft smile before speaking.

“Good of you to join us, Luna. We were beginning to worry you had shut yourself away for the night once again.” The elder sister glanced once more to the stallion and her voice was filled with a poorly concealed feeling of pride. “And I see you brought a guest, as well.”

“Quite right, sister. Everypony, this is Hendrick. He came to the Lunar Court tonight and he was hungry. When I found out he didn’t have anywhere pressing to be, I insisted on him coming to dinner with me.”

“Hendrick, hmm? What an interesting name. Hendrick.” Cadence seemed to roll the syllables over her tongue to get a feel for the odd semantics behind it. “It is nice of you to join us.”

“What Cadence said, it’s good to see the princess has started to meet with some more ponies. My sister can only swing by to ask her questions once a month or so after all.” Shining said with a glance to Luna who returned it with an apathetic gaze of her own.

“Yes, let me be the last to welcome you to our little dinner and I hope that you enjoy the meal.” Celestia said tersely, following it immediately with a flash of magic from her horn. In the same instant an additional cushion appeared next to the table for him to sit upon while they waited for the food to arrive. As she did so, Luna flashed her own horn and informed the head chef that they had an additional member for dinner.

After he took his place on the cushion, Celestia posed the first question before Luna even had the opportunity to do so. “May I ask where are you from to have such an odd name, Hendrick?”

The stallion’s eyes looked at the table, purposefully avoiding eye contact with any of the ponies present at the table. “Away,” he answered, his gaze settling on a single spot on the furniture in front of him.

“I see, and what might your cutie mark be with such a name?”

“Non-existent.” Luna said as the stallion floundered, apparently unable to answer the question.

The solar princess shot first a look to her sister and then a second to the stallion to confirm the answer before looking back to his face that continued to avoid looking back. “Is there a story behind that?”

“Not... really.” Managed the stallion.

Celestia paused and glared lightly at the stallion, trying to understand him from a look alone. Tension hung heavy in the air, a tension that felt too thick to cut with words, and Luna looked on pensively, wondering as to the answers to the question herself. The silent stares of the dining ponies were interrupted by the arrival of the food though, with Hendrick’s head jerking back as the meal appeared in front of him in a flash of light.

Celestia looked at him for a moment longer as he hesitantly began to eat the salad in front of him before turning to the couple whom were seated across the table from her and her sister. “So, Shining, Cadence. How are things between you two?”

“Things are going perfectly,” Shining said, the two nuzzling into each others necks. “I’ve never been happier.”

“Did I ever tell you that I always knew from the moment I saw you that day, when I first came over to visit Twilight, that you were my soulmate?” Cadence asked, kissing the captain of the guard on the cheek.

“Except that that makes absolutely no sense,” came a soft voice from Hendrick.

“Excuse me?” Cadence questioned, unsure that she had heard him correctly.

“Well, look,” he started, his voice now at a regular volume and his tone almost exactly like that of the few professor's that Luna had met, “assuming that such a thing as a soulmate even existed, the chances that they would be alive at the same time as you is completely against any form of mathematical chance. And when you assume geographical and sexual variables, the chances of finding them become even more rare.”

The couple looked at him in confusion with Celestia joining them after a moment. Luna, meanwhile, was trying to keep up with his speedy explanations. “I mean, what if you hadn’t met? Then, wouldn’t the absence of that event to have meant the advent of a tangential narrative in which you don't meet? An alternate hypothetical dimension, if you will. But I digress.”

Luna nodded once before beginning her own sentence. “But what about fate? Surely, if they were fated to meet, then that would resolve the conundrum?”

“The very idea of fate is unfounded and has no evidence to support it. AND EVEN THEN,” --His gaze rose and he looked at the princess, caught up as he was in his debate-- “there should be no pride felt for the relationship if that were the case as, if it were fated to happen, then nothing could change it and there wouldn’t be a point in putting any effort into it. But, as love is the growing of a symbiotic empathy between a pair of people that grows through continued drama and circumstance, the relationship would wilt.”

As he finished his rant, he realized what he had just done. His gaze moved to each of the ponies who were looking at him, three confused faces and one engaged one. Suddenly, as if reality had collapsed back onto his shoulders, he looked back to the table. “I mean... the soup is good.”


“I’ll just.. be going then...” he said before standing and leaving the room, followed by the gazes of the completely confused equines.

“Wait!” Luna abruptly left the table as well, desperate to find out just what had happened in front of her very eyes.

“He’s right, ya know.” The remaining trio all turned to see the cook standing a short distance away. “The soup is good.”

Author's Notes:

The rant on soulmates was inspired partially by the XKCD what if page for it and was almost heavily inspired by the Tim Minchin song.

If I Didn't Have You

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