The moon rose over Equestria, and the stars followed.
Luna took a moment to consider her work. The moon was low, waxing crescent and the stars were bright and in their proper places. She was pleased with the galactic disc tonight. Its milky glow nicely highlighted the bright quasars at the crown of Megan, The Helper.
"Beautiful," came the voice of her sister Celestia behind her. "I did my best while you were gone, but I could never match your touch. I don't think I've ever seen the constellation of Megan so vivid!"
"It's nothing," Luna said looking down. She hesitated, giving her sister time to collect herself. Even now, weeks after her return the two alicorns often found emotion overtaking them. Finally Luna turned.
Celestia wasn't weeping, but her eyes glistened in the starlight as the Royal Princesses of Equestria faced each other.
"An auspicious beginning for your big night," Celestia said.
"Night Court?" Luna said, raising an eyebrow in skepticism. "Is it really necessary?"
"It is Luna, as you would know if you had read Notes On Equestrian Administration Memo Number Six," Celestia said smiling. "But since you wrote it, I'm sure you already know both the legal--"
"And popular demand for re-establishment of a harmonized two-tier venue for petitions," Luna interrupted. "That was just theory, and putting aside the fact that you haven't acted on memos two, four or five it just seems like... pandering."
"A princess--" Celestia began.
"Serves her people," Luna interrupted again. "And a princess always eats her alfalfa before desert. Are you going to remind me of that as well?"
The two alicorns paused a moment, before erupting in mutual laughter and rushing to embrace.
"Oh Luna," Celestia whispered, hugging her sister tightly. "How I've missed you."
"Me too, Tia," Luna said, eyes closed shut lest she have an emotional moment herself. After all, it was her big night.
Separating, the two walked away from the balcony and its view of the sky. Over Equestria the moon rose, the stars twinkled, and all was right in the night sky.
"You know I can't be there because of the Four Seasons celebration in Manehattan," Celestia said. "But the civil service has selected a pony to help you along and she's very good. I've had my eye on her so I thought she'd be perfect. You are in good hooves. Ready?"
"I've sat in with you how many times?" Luna protested. "And I have done Night Court before. I doubt there is anything I can't handle."
"Times have changed little sister," Celestia said, with a twinkle in her eye. Leaning down to give Luna a quick kiss on the cheek she whispered, "Break a leg!" before taking a left down one of the castle's endless hallways.
Luna sighed, noting that Celestia hadn't addressed her second, fourth or fifth memos. They were perfectly logical suggestions, based off her research in the Royal Library during the quiet nights since the end of her exile. Abacus had confirmed her theories after all. Luna made a mental note to stop thinking of her abacus like a pony, but it had been a reassuring touchstone since her return. Abacus... her abacus, was calming and solid with the click of beads demonstrating that while many things had changed, math was a constant.
The Royal Guards opened up the double doors as she approached the end of the hallway. She gave them an appreciative nod, but expected and got nothing in return. Celestia herself had confessed that she found their stoicism a bit disturbing. Entering the Royal Chambers she saw a gray, female, earth pony giving the quick curtsey that was standard amongst the civil service. You couldn't get the business of government done if everyone was always prostrating themselves before the rulers of Equestria.
"Lovely moonrise tonight Princess Luna," the remarkably young bureaucrat said. "I quite admired your highlighting of Megan's crown. If I may introduce myself? I am Applebee, Acting Night Chamberlain By Royal Appointment, Provisional Personal Secretary and Interim Deputy Constable In Chief."
"Apple... Bee?" Luna asked slowing her stride and craning her neck to view her assistant's cutie mark of three bees. "Do you know an Applejack...and....night what?"
"Applejack? One of the Ponyville Apples?" Applebee said, the earth pony matching Luna's pace as they walked towards the throne room. "Distant cousin I believe. I'm from the Baltimare branch of the Apples myself, but I felt my organizational skills would be better utilized in a less agrarian environment."
Luna nodded. What was that about Deputy Constable, she wondered?
"As Acting Night Chamberlain By Royal Appointment," Applebee continued. "I will serve, at your pleasure, as senior official of the Night Court and oversee its business, including liaising with the other senior officers of the Royal Court. That would include the Royal Chamberlain who is also the current Day Chamberlain and the Palace Chamberlain, though that position is de jure unfilled but de facto occupied by Mrs. Shine, the head of the domestic staff. Needless to say, as your Provisional Private Secretary I have full CASE NIGHTMARE clearance and any and all communications between us will be treated with the utmost confidence."
Luna nodded again. It seemed the right thing to do. She tried to absorb the information Applebee had given her. Celestia was an obsessive planner and CASE NIGHTMARE was both the highest security clearance in the civil service and the code name for any threats to Equestria. A misunderstanding in the histories had given Luna the nickname of Nightmare Moon when her jealousy and madness had ended in exile. Luna didn't feel resentful. There was also a CASE NIGHTMARE SUN in case Celestia fell prey to derangement and a CASE NIGHTMARE DUSK in the event Celestia's faithful student's powers spiraled out of control.
She remembered the Royal Chamberlain, a kindly stallion who administered the agenda during Celestia's court. Now she knew what Applebee was supposed to do tonight. Not that there would be much call for it. Mrs. Shine she also remembered a bit more vividly. Luna wasn't used to modern appliances and had made some mistakes in the kitchen shortly after her return. Mrs. Shine had let her know how vexed she was by the resulting mess and small fire with zero regard for Luna's royal station. It had been oddly comforting to be treated like any other pony, but she turned her attention back to Applebee who was still speaking as they approached the throne room doors.
"...naturally you should have a full staff, but the Civil Service has been in complete disarray adjusting to your return," Applebee said, halting before another pair of poker-faced Royal Guards. "Which is why I strongly suggested candida vestis instead of veste fortuita for your opening court. But your insistence, as relayed by your co-sovereign, that we should quote not make a big deal unquote has of course prevailed. Are you ready your Majesty?"
Luna smiled, she had the measure of Applebee now. The civil service of Equestria was vast and did good work, but tended to be a bit obsessed with protocol and titles. She'd mentioned that in her second memo to Celestia. But Luna also remembered the long, lonely nights holding court a thousand years ago. Nopony but herself and her guards (insisted upon by her subjects) ever showed up. She had tried, fruitlessly, to send her guards to bed early when it was obvious everypony else in Equestria was asleep.
"Let's break a leg Applebee," Luna said, nodding at the guards. "How bad can it be?"
As the doors opened a cacophony of noise came through the gap between the thick oak doors. The throne room was packed with ponies of every breed, station and all manner of dress? Ponies in formal dress. Ponies in uniform. Ponies wearing shackles. Ponies with piercings? It seemed like all of Equestria was assembled and waiting for Luna.
"OYEZ! OYEZ! OYEZ! The Court of Equestria is now in session! Let all bow so that petitioners may stand forth...." bellowed a voice from behind the doors as Luna watched a hundred ponies bow in obedience towards the open throne room doors.
Both of which slammed shut with a resounding CRACK! under Luna's telekinesis, cutting off the cries of the pony announcing her presence. The sudden clap startled the guard ponies that had swept open the doors for her. Surprising them would have been a minor triumph if she hadn't already been so shocked. So many ponies! Wide eyed, she turned to Applebee.
"What the hay was that?" Luna demanded.
"The Night Court your majesty," Applebee said, her attention divided between Luna and the normally-stoic Royal Guards who were rapidly collecting themselves from their initial shock. "Your court. A mixture of petitioners, supplicants, ministers, secretaries and various well-wishers and posturers who wish to see and be seen."
Luna nodded while she tried to calm her racing heart. Nodding was a good thing. It seemed to coax more information out of Applebee and it was a thing to do. It was important to do things instead of thinking about all those ponies inside waiting for her.
"Should you wish to cancel tonight's court at the present time, or at any other time during the proceedings you will of course be excused as having more pressing royal duties which require your immediate attention," Applebee ventured. "While I understand that you may be a bit... hesitant to deal with such a large crowd after your extended absence I have the utmost confidence that, regardless of any decision you may arrive at, now or at any point in the future, it will be a correct one and I shall support you completely."
Luna shook her head and then lifted it up, trying to look as regal as her sister Celestia (who was probably halfway to Manehattan by now) and spoke.
"No. Let's do this," she said.
"Of course your majesty," Applebee said. "We will break their legs."
Before Luna could decide whether to correct her assistant the doors were swept open before her. The throne room had not grown any less crowded, though had gotten a bit quieter since her aborted entrance.
"oyez? oyez?" came the voice from behind the doors, growing in confidence as they stayed open. "OYEZ! The Court of Equestria is now in session! Let all bow so that petitioners may stand forth before the throne and have their grievances addressed! The Princess Luna is now in attendance and court is now in session!"
Luna walked into the room slowly, with Applebee at her side. Whispered instructions came from her chamberlain as she surveyed the room.
"Enter, pause, nod at your subjects to the left, center and now right, turn to your left, approach the throne, sit, a short speech is in order," Applebee whispered.
Luna nodded, pleased that she had kept her head elevated instead of lowering it bashfully and thought about the speech she would give. She was shocked to find she had somehow already made it to the throne and was now confronted by a room full of bowing ponies (one of whom had an eye patch!). She'd already made her entrance somehow. She darted her head to the side to see Applebee confidently sitting next to the throne, well within whispering distance. Applebee gave an almost imperceptible gesture of her muzzle towards the crowd.
A short speech would be in order, Luna thought. She should... what would Celestia do? Thank everypony for being there. That would be a good place to start she could... was she already talking?
"... but since this is veste fortuita instead of candida vestis it would be kind for those without imminent business to clear the way for those with more pressing needs and absent themselves until a later court," Luna said, her heart racing. What the hay was she saying? What had she said? What was candida vestis? Something Applebee said, did she screw that up?
"... thank you again for your devotion to Equestria. Chamberlain, if you would?" Luna said, turning to Applebee. What was she doing? Chamberlain, if you would? Would what? Wait! Tia had said those exact words, Luna thought, during Day Court. It was a thing you said. But what had she said before that? Or even before the part when she'd been speaking in Old Ponyish that she didn't even understand. What did white dress even mean?
"Well done, Your Majesty," Applebee said soto voce with a smile. "Brilliant even, you've clearly prepared for this."
Luna smiled and looked up at the crowd. Nopony looked puzzled or confused, so while it may not have been brilliant her speech had at least been coherent. That was a relief. She kept smiling as Applebee stood and began a polite speech thanking everypony for attending but for those without business to get out. Phrased politely and with far too many words, but that was the general idea. The room emptied out somewhat as various ponies pony bowed and left. Luna kept smiling. Was Tia in Manehattan yet, could she send a messenger to summon her back?
The ponies that stayed behind weren't exactly scowling, but none of them were smiling and all of them had serious expressions. That fellow with the eye patch in the front ranks, he must be important, and all the other ponies. Including a shackled batch of shameless, modern ponies, with wild costumes and wilder manes and ... Midnight Vision? Luna recognized the energetic pegasus from that all-night party called a rave that she'd gone to last week. The princess had drank way too much and barely gotten up in time to raise the moon, but it was still one of the most exhilarating nights since the end of her exile. What was Midnight Vision doing here and under arrest to boot?
"Can we..." cancel this, call Celestia, go back to the library with a big mug of cocoa and a bigger book of trade statistics she could analyze with Abacus, Luna thought, but found herself saying "...proceed with the agenda, Chamberlain?"
"As the princess wishes," Applebee said, opening a thick folder on the short desk in front of her. "The court will hear from Marshall Trail Burr representing the Equestrian Police, Territorial Marshals, And All Other Services And Organizations Devoted To The Peace Of Equestria And Other Realms And Territories Under The Grace Of Their Majesties."
The scary-looking unicorn pony with the eye patch stepped forward, worked his jaw left and right then spat at the floor. The gob of brown goo was intercepted at the last moment by a silver spittoon held in the mouth of one of the court pages darting forward. The page quickly danced backwards away from Trail Burr, who squinted at Luna with his good eye for a moment before speaking.
"Well, that was a purty speech your majesty," he said with a gravelly voice. "Got a purty speech of my own, but I appreciate your saying we are here for business so I'll be entering this into the record." With a glow of his horn he levitated a scroll out of his saddlebag and tossed it aside, where it was caught by the same page, who nimbly walked backwards holding the scroll delicately between her lips.
"Now the jurisdictional rules between us peace officers has been a bit unsettled," Trail Burr continued. "Since it seems I've got seniority when it comes to us law ponies I've been nominated to ask you to settle the question."
"A moment if you would Marshall Burr?" Luna said with a smile. Seeing a nod from Burr she leaned down to Applebee who quickly darted her head in for a private chat. "What?" Luna asked in utter confusion.
"A quirk of Equestrian law your Majesty," Applebee said softly, "It seems all law enforcement agencies in Equestria can trace their existence via direct descent or through reorganization to the original Night Watch, which consisted of the members of your Royal Guard before your extended absence."
"Bright Eyes and Star Dancer?" Luna asked, remembering the two ponies who had insisted on staying up during the night, despite her protests.
"The same your Majesty," Applebee said. "Subsequent to your departure they insisted on continuing their nightly duties, but with the revised goal of watching over all ponies. According to the archives they insisted that they had grown accustomed to sleeping during the day and... they did not wish you to be alone at night."
Luna sat back, staggered. She'd always meant to go through the old histories to find out what had happened after her banishment. But she had kept putting it off, preferring not to relive that terrible time. To suddenly find out that her little ponies had stayed loyal and continued to serve, not just others, but her? Even after she had gone mad?
"Since they reported to you directly and founded the first police force? Technically all peace officers of Equestria inherited their obligations and their first loyalty is to you and only secondarily to your current co-sovereign, though that is a legality which was never at issue during your extended absence," Applebee said. "Trail Burr is Chief Marshall of the Northern Territories in case you need a bit of trivia to cover this conference."
Luna frowned and made sure Applebee got the full brunt of it. She knew who Trail Burr was, she'd gone over hundreds of reports while researching Equestrian criminal law. She'd hope to have some recommendation for Celestia soon, but right now it was a work in progress. Somehow the fact that she was... Constable-In-Chief of Equestria? That had eluded her. To think that her personal guard ponies had founded the Night Watch? Turning to the grizzled unicorn in front of her...
... she found herself running to embrace him.
"Thank you," she said, barely keeping her tears at bay. "I thank not only you, but every pony who now or has ever taken up a badge. Your devotion to the peace of Equestria honors me. But your service would also make two of the .. bravest and most devoted ponies I ever knew.. PROUD!"
Looking into the one good eye of the shocked Marshall she was hugging, Luna thought she saw a tear of his own forming. Stepping back she felt his awkward fore limbs loosen themselves as she walked backwards (it wasn't as hard as it looked, she must have picked it up from that page) and gave a short bow before sitting back on her throne.
"Maj! I mean your Maamjesty," Trail Burr said fumbling. He wasn't that scary, Luna thought. Not like Bright Eyes when she first met him, with all of his scars.
"That was.. well I'm here for business and ... " Trail Burr continued trying to collect himself in front of Luna's beaming smile. The Marshall lowered his head for a long moment before looking up again. "I'm just a spokespony, I don't command nothing, cept my district. But on behalf of every peace officer in Equestria? Thanks. We do our best and your appreciation ain't no small thing."
Luna couldn't stop smiling. Somehow the scores of ponies attending Night Court, including more than a few she had found intimidating, no longer bothered her. The two devoted ponies who'd insisted they would be her Royal Guard a thousand years ago had not only remained her friends after her madness, they had founded the Night Watch so that she would never be alone, and had inspired other ponies to stand watch and protect her little ponies.
Night Dancer and Bright Eyes. She'd sent them away, shouted at them to go, back when she had been consumed by jealousy. But they'd remained faithful. It was almost too much to bear. How she missed the two of them. Oh! Night Dancer had a crush on Winter Oats, but Twinkle Dare had always gotten up before dawn so he could walk her home. Had she ever chosen between her two suitors?
"Night..." Luna asked, leaning in to quietly address Applebee, her chamberlain. "I mean, next item on the agenda?" Luna said, making a note to devour the CASE NIGHTMARE MOON file. The pain of that time would be a small price to pay to know what had happened to her devoted royal guard.
"Marshall Trail Burr, representing the Equestrian Police, Territorial Marshals, And All Other Services And Organizations Devoted To The Peace Of Equestria And Other Realms And Territories Under The Grace Of Their Majesties currently holds the floor, your Majesty," Applebee said.
Luna turned back to the grizzled unicorn before her. Clearly moved by her emotional outburst and the sudden embrace by his princess, the stallion coughed, and spoke.
"As I was saying, your Majesty," Burr said, still overwhelmed. The one-eyed unicorn idly pawed at the marble floor beneath him. "We've got a question regarding jurisdiction. The marshals, police, sheriffs and what-not are all supreme in their own territory, and outside lawponies are supposed to present themselves as guests and cooperate with the local authorities. Now that is quite a hindrance to hot pursuit, which is something we marshals specialize in. Likewise everypony gets a bit frustrated when their requests for assistance don't get the priority they would if one outfit were in charge."
Burr seemed to regain his earlier poise while Luna listened intently. It was true that jurisdiction was a bit of a mess, but each organization had been created to serve a specific need and expertise in one area didn't mean a lawpony would know how to operate in another. Some kind of reform would be needed, but picking one group to put in charge would be a recipe for disaster.
"I share your concerns Marshall Burr," Luna said. "My sister and I are aware of the problem and we hope to make some improvements in the near future. I'm afraid it won't be decided tonight though."
"Well we were hoping it would be Your Majesty," Burr said. "You are Constable-In-Chief and we figgered you wouldn't need to check with your sister."
That last bit came in a rush, as the senior peace officer in all of Equestria, a veteran of countless criminal investigations, ponyhunts, and showdowns delivered it all with a blush on his cheeks.
Luna cocked an eyebrow as she deciphered his words. It was a prepared line, one bordering on a challenge to her authority and meant to test her. She was thankful that her emotional outburst had derailed the intended delivery. Burr hadn't seemed happy to be the one challenging Luna, which made her wonder exactly who was the "we" he'd referred to. Night Court was serious business she reminded herself. There were ponies and other nations ready to probe the dual-court for any weakness.
"Check with my sister Marshall?" she asked lightly, just like Celestia would do. "I can see you are a pony of great experience. Though there may be a few in this court with a few more years under their belt."
The court around her erupted in laughter, heavier than the joke was due. Probably not due to her station, Luna thought, she'd made jokes in Day Court but they had mostly fallen flat. Oh wait, tension. Nobody had laughed since court started and that was, her eyes darted up to the clock, WAIT! That was only TEN MINUTES AGO? It felt like forever! How long did Night Court go on?
"But I'm sure that when you were a colt..." Luna continued, inwardly panicking. Only ten minutes? Could she take a break? Would ponies talk? "... you turned to those with greater experience in the field than yourself. Marshal Lucky Star was your superior I believe?"
Trail Burr stood to attention as Luna thanked the stars that she was an obsessive reader and that bit of trivia had come to mind. The work she had put into her research was paying off in unexpected ways.
"And a finer lawpony I have never served with!" Trail Burr barked, his head erect, his flanks straight. He paused, giving the princess an approving look with his one good eye. "I reckon that's a legit reason for talking things over, being as your majesty has been..." Burr frowned as the royal page darted across the floor to whisper in his ear, before retreating. "...as your majesty has been on an extended absence."
"I have Marshal Trail Burr," Luna said. "But I assure you and all of... Equestria's Finest," Luna smiled inwardly, that was a good phrase! "You will have your concerns addressed. Thank you again for your service."
"Thank you kindly Majesty," Trail Burr, once so fearsome, now one of the few familiar faces in the new Equestria Luna found herself in, said before bowing and walking off to the side of the court.
Watching him go, Luna leaned down to her Chamberlain, making a mental note that she was having private conferences far more often than Celestia did.
"Extended absence?" Luna asked quietly. "I was banished you know."
"The civil service has determined that both banishment and exile are non-operative terms that do not accurately reflect the current co-sovereign harmonization agenda," Applebee said. "Accordingly, extended absence is the preferred nomenclature, with of course the greatest of regret for any imprecision the use of said term may cause to historical fidelity."
Luna nodded, more out of reflex than anything else. She'd handled her first night court challenge, two if you ignored her disastrous entrance, three if you included the opening speech she could barely remember. Her eyes darted about the throne room. While most of the ponies there had affable smiles or were intently waiting their turn, more than a few were carefully watching her while pretending to look at someone else. Probing for weakness, Luna thought. The princess noticed that the shackled ponies that had initially startled her with their ... what was it Rarity had said? Extremely fashion-forward tastes? They looked as nervous as Luna felt.
"Applebee, would it be possible to get a list of who's attending tonight's court and where they are standing?" Luna whispered. "I'd like to do a bit of reading on some of the ponies here."
"Already done your Majesty," Applebee replied. "Daring Whooves, my personal assistant, currently sans title or appointment, has been recording all entries and exits. He's a bit naive and new to the ways of the Civil Service, but indispensable to me."
So, she had a staff of two, Luna thought. That's progress, and it meant she wasn't completely alone up here.
"Chamberlain, if you would?" Luna asked aloud, starting to get the hang of this court thing. Night Court may not have been what she expected, but she was rising to the occasion.
"As the princess wishes," Applebee said. "The court will now hear all those who stand accused of violating Equestrian law and have demanded Royal Justice. Let it be known that all words spoken by the accused will be held against them, that they can withdraw their petition and that there is no appeal to the decision of the throne! Choose your course wisely ponies!"
That sounded ominous, Luna thought. Turning to Applebee for information she watched in horror as her Chamberlain bowed, turned and then walked off, leaving Luna totally alone before her court.
Princess Luna watched as the Night Court rearranged itself around her. It was her first Night Court in a thousand years and while things hadn't gone as smoothly as she had hoped, she had managed to stay on top of things. But that had been with the assistance of Applebee, the Night Chamberlain. Now the gray earth pony was sitting two yards away, far outside of whispering distance.
The reason for the presence of shackled ponies at court was made clear. Shortly after Applebee announced the beginning of Royal Justice they had been ushered forward, closer to the throne. Despite the prisoners being escorted by a number of large ponies wearing badges around their necks, Luna noticed her Royal Guard taking a few steps closer to the throne. Over protective as always, Luna thought, it wasn't like anypony was going to attack her.
She was distracted by a sudden weight dropping on her head with a flumph. Luna looked up to see a powdered wig had been placed on her head by the royal page, who was now draping a black scarf around her neck. Luna turned to Applebee out of habit, but Royal Justice was supposed to be impartial and without outside influence. Luna gulped, realizing that she'd have to handle this next bit by herself and tried to remember as much as she could about Equestrian Law.
The royal page returned, dropping a wooden column with a gavel atop it in front of Luna before dancing backwards again. As the court adjusted itself Luna gave a telekinetic lift to the gavel and rapped it a few times atop the column out of curiosity.
Dead silence fell across the throne room as the hollow column amplified her experimental taps into loud cracks. The court hadn't been noisy before, but the sudden absence of murmured conversations, whispers and even breathing in the packed throne room was almost deafening in its quiet. Luna looked up to see every pony in the room utterly frozen, with their eyes locked on her.
"Uhhh... Royal Justice is now in session?" Luna ventured. How was she supposed to know the gavel was that loud? And how could anyone expect her to do Royal Justice? She'd never done this before. She'd been at Day Court for weeks and nopony had ever asked Celestia for Royal Justice. She was sure of that. She would have definitely remembered the wig.
"Thank you Your Majesty," said a white, black-maned pegasus stallion stepping forward. "Sun Pasture, Prosecutor for the District of Canterlot and my counterpart, Liquorice Stick, an assistant public defender."
Sun Pasture smiled and lowered his eyes, as if to take in Luna's form, which was ridiculous as ponies simply didn't look at a Royal Princess that way. Whatever his intentions, they were quickly derailed as a yellow unicorn pony, apparently Liquorice Stick, darted forwards, shoving Sun Pasture aside.
"Thank you Sun," Liquorice said giving the pegasus a death-glare. "Or should I say Assistant District Attorney Pasture?"
"Prosecutor will be fine, Ms. Stick," Sun replied, giving the public defender a smirk.
"Get a room!" shouted one of the prisoners, bringing a round of laughter from around the court. Luna tried to hide a smile herself and wondered if she should bang her gavel again when a loud clop echoed through the throne room.
An enormous blue earth pony, wearing the badge of a court bailiff moved his way through the crowd of prisoners, the echoing sound of his hooves announcing his presence. With a dark, blue mane cut so short it seemed to blend into his coat, he towered over the prisoners. They quickly parted as he made his way to the heckler.
"I'm sorry, I didn't quite hear that," the bailiff said with a stern expression, leaning over the heckler. "Would you mind repeating it?"
"Get...get a broom?" the heckler, a yellow unicorn stallion ventured.
"Ohh-kay!" the bailiff said, breaking into a gigantic smile. "Good idea! We wouldn't want it to get dirty in here. Would we?"
"No, no sir," the heckler quickly agreed, clearly relieved as the bailiff turned his attention to the throne.
"Shall I go get a broom Your Highness?" the bailiff asked cheerfully.
"Um, no. I don't think we have to worry about dirt at the moment," Luna said, getting a round of chuckles for herself. "Thank you. Officer?"
"Toro, Your Majesty," the bailiff replied. "And don't worry about a thing, I'll just be in the back in case we have any other problems."
Luna watched and listened as Toro walked his way back to guarding the prisoners. Her Royal Guards were always at attention on duty, but she noticed a few of them relax slightly as the distance between them and the giant stallion grew. She had no doubt about their courage, but it was interesting to note that even they were thinking twice about tangling with the bailiff.
"In any event Your Majesty, I must object to these entire proceedings," Liquorice, the public defender said. "As head of the Equestrian police and after publicly embracing their senior officer your ability to render an impartial judgement is clearly in question."
A collective gasp erupted from the court. Luna looked up, as if to think, but mostly as an excuse to scan the balcony where most of the Equestrian nobles with intent gazes were assembled. They seemed equally shocked by the challenge to her authority, except for that red unicorn with the fleur-de-lis cutie mark who looked just as pleasant as ever. That one was either really dumb, or one to watch, Luna thought.
"A valid concern..." Luna began, and stopped. It was a valid concern. Could she skip this entirely? Say that she had to research it and go back to her books? She looked over to the empty place where Applebee no longer was. Annoying but proper, Luna thought, Royal Justice was an ancient right and as a Princess she was supposed to be above any other concerns besides justice.
This must have come up before, Luna thought, mentally kicking herself for putting her study of Equestrian tax law ahead of criminal law. It wasn't her fault that she found the tax code far more interesting and in much greater need of reform. Tia could be so neglectful sometimes, Luna thought.
Suddenly her thoughts collided. Tia, ancient right, come up before... of course!
"A valid concern," Luna said again. "Counselor." she added. That should make her sound wise, now it was time to gamble.
"But this must have come up before, during my... extended absence," Luna said. "And my co-sovereign would have faced the same objections. Since appeal to Royal Justice is an ancient right held by all ponies and not a mere legal formality I know she did not recuse herself. I can do no less, and will likewise do my best to render my decisions fairly and impartially for all my little ponies."
Liquorice Stick frowned and slumped, while her prosecuting counterpart whispered "Snowflake v. Celestia, check the case law." and snickered at Liquorice.
Success! Luna thought as her heart raced. Also, some great acoustics in this room, she thought as her eyes gave a quick scan of the balcony. Fleur-de-lis now had the same concerned expression as the other nobles, but she had his number. She made a note to ask Applebee who he was when Royal Justice was finished. In fact there were a lot of things she wanted to go over. Like that candida vestis and veste fortuita stuff. Luna was pretty sure it had to do with levels of protocol and her request not to make a big deal over her first court had been interpreted as one a few steps above anarchy.
The court fell silent while Luna thought, the quiet breaking into her reverie. Looking around she wondered what to do next, and remembered her gavel. She gave it a quick bang and her eyes widened at how loud the podium rang. Fortunately it seemed to set things back on course as the black-maned prosecutor stepped forward and spoke.
"Our first defendant, who has demanded Royal Justice in lieu of the Equestrian court system, and has been advised of all consequences of same, is one Strawberry, who is hereby charged before the throne with Treason! Sedition! And Criminal Mischief." Sun Pasture said. One of the shackled stallions was led forward. A pink earth pony with a strawberry cutie mark, he gazed at Luna defiantly, his pierced (PIERCED!) ear dangling a golden hoop, like a pirate.
"Those charges... don't seem to fit together counselor," Luna said to the prosecutor, reminding herself that the modern age had all sorts of ponies in it and you should never judge a pony by how they look. Not without getting all the facts first.
"Nevertheless, they are all of a piece Your Majesty," Sun Pasture said. "The accused is..."
"Let me guess?" Luna said, interrupting him. "A New Lunar Republic revolutionary or a Nightmare Moon cultist?"
The court exploded... slowly. It began with the massed ponies gasping in astonishment and then erupting in a cacophony of whispered conversations, that rapidly rose in volume as everypony tried to make themselves heard, until a hundred ponies were shouting in equal volume if not in unison. Amidst it all, Liquorice Stick could be heard shouting "Objection! Objection!"
Luna stared, her eyes wide at her chaotic court. Her eyes darted about the room (catching Fleur-de-lis actually astonished for once) before her eyes finally caught upon the gavel and podium before her. Using her telekinesis she lifted the gavel up and began pounding it. The hollow podium echoed the sound across the room, but also dislodged the powder in her wig, enveloping her in a pale white cloud. Luna sneezed, again, and again, and again.
Looking up, blinking after her final achoo, she found her court silent, all eyes focused on her. Again. Luna hoped it was because of Gavel and not her sneezing fit. Her gavel, she reminded herself. She needed to stop ponyifing inanimate objects like Abacus. Luna took a moment to collect herself, letting out a final sneeze and despite all protocol, beckoned Applebee over.
"In the future? Less powder on the wig," she said loudly so that there would be no accusations of bias. A low chuckle emerged from the crowd as Applebee went back to her position.
"Your objection is noted and sustained, question withdrawn." Luna said to Liquorice Stick, the public defender. Meanwhile her mind raced.
Luna had encountered both the New Lunar Republic and the Nightmare Moon Cult just two weeks ago. A panicked letter from Twilight Sparkle, Celestia's favorite pupil, had alleged kidnapping, secret plotting and evil ahoof. Celestia had dispatched Luna, who had arrived at a very confusing scene in Ponyville.
Twilight's friends, Rainbow Dash and Rarity, had not been kidnapped at all. Instead they had joined the New Lunar Republic and Nightmare Moon Cult to learn their secrets. Before they could report back that the mysterious ponies meeting at night were eccentric but harmless, the meeting had been crashed by their other friends. Between the darkness, the dark robes worn by the participants and the general excitement, none of the friends knew they were talking to each other when the accusations, counter-accusations and denials began flying. The loud arguing made it easy for Luna to find the meeting.
Fortunately Luna arrived before things got out of hand. When it had all been settled and Twilight Sparkle learned she'd been arguing with her own friends she grew very contrite. She immediately dictated a friendship report about how important it was not to judge other ponies until you got to know them and learned all the facts. Twilight even asked if Luna would deliver it to Celestia personally. A touching gesture from Twilight since the two had last met in battle.
Luna was happy to deliver the message. She wasn't used to being surrounded by adoring followers and the whole thing seemed a bit silly to her. The Nightmare Moon Cultists (who Rarity had defended as having fashion-forward tastes) seemed happy to dress in dark colors, hang out at night and act mysterious. The New Lunar Republic wanted a new government, but Luna was skeptical that they could convince anypony else. They spent most of her brief time with them arguing about what kind of constitution the New Lunar Republic should have.
The two groups had spread across Equestria, finding popularity amongst young ponies who wanted to shock their parents and saw in Luna a symbol of... well whatever they wanted her to symbolize. After all, nobody had asked her if she wanted to head a New Lunar Republic. Now, unless she missed her guess, they had come to Canterlot and gotten into mischief of some kind.
Luna gave Gavel a few gentle taps, hoping not to dislodge any more powder from her wig, and gestured to Sun Pasture, the prosecutor.
"The defendant, Strawberry, is accused of defacing the side of the Sunrise Fresh dairy, which can be attested to in this court by both supporting witnesses and the arresting officers," Pasture began. "Specifically he painted quote DA MOON RULEZ unquote which leads into the greater charges--"
"Oh dear," Luna interrupted. "Was that spelled like it sounds?"
"I'm afraid so, Your Majesty," the prosecutor replied, nonplussed as he clearly had a lot of speech to go.
"Is this true?" Luna asked, turning to the pink stallion defendant.
"Yes!" the earth pony said in defiance. A quick kick and a glare from Liquorice Stick, the public defender, interrupted him for only a moment.
"Yes! And I'd do it again!" Strawberry said, almost shouting. "For too long the parasprites of Equestria have robbed the workers of their natural due and lorded over us with their unearned influence! We look to you as a symbol Luna, but only as a symbol! If you will not embrace the ideals of the New Lunar Republic the ponies of Equestria will still make their voices heard!"
Strawberry went on, and on. It was rambling and repetitive and full of adolescent rage. Embarrassingly, he sounded a lot like Luna. Or how she had sounded once, a thousand years ago when she had confronted Celestia. She remembered herself saying some of the exact same lines Strawberry was saying now when she had protested that it was unfair that ponies didn't appreciate her night skies.
Luna promised herself she wasn't going to facehoove, after all Tia had always said "When you are doing a public event? Give them a show. A little neck strain, some sparkles. There are ponies there who traveled far and sacrificed a lot to be there with you. For example, when I'm doing a Summer Sun Celebration..."
Oh no! That wasn't the advice she wanted to remember at all! And she was facehooving! Jerking her hoof away from her forehead she found the edge of the wig caught under her hoof. Quickly grabbing the wig before it flew off she plopped it back down on her head, only to dislodge another cloud of powder around her head.
Luna looked up from another bout of sneezing, her eyes blinking. Fortunately Strawberry had stopped his speech to stare at her. Unfortunately all the other ponies in the court were doing the same.
"I was referring to... achooo.... excuse me, the spelling." Luna said. Why did this wig have powder in it anyway? Didn't they have dyes nowadays?
"Oh," Strawberry said, taken aback. "Well, I was pressed for time."
"But you admit you did... ah... ah... do it?" Luna asked, stifling a last sneeze.
"Uhhhh, yeah," Strawberry admitted, a bit confused. This clearly was not going the way he had expected, Luna thought.
"I'd like to point out that the defendant comes from a broken village and lacks education and therefore should be judged accordingly," Liquorice Stick said, finally finding an opportunity to defend her reckless client.
"And I would like to point out that the graffitti, previously admitted by the accused's own testimony, is prima facie evidence of sedition and treason!" Sun Pasture replied, a note of triumph in his voice. A hush fell over the court. Seconds passed, and then the prosecuting stallion's eyes grew wide.
"Are you suggesting counselor that the moon does not, in fact, rule?" Luna asked coldly.
"Uhhh, as such... being as we are currently in Night Court before Your Majesty any such implication is the furthest thing from my mind, Your Majesty," Sun Pasture began babbling. Luna let him babble. The New Lunar Republic was something Celestia had clearly dropped in her lap, if not tonight then some other night. She looked over to Marshall Trail Burr who was giving it all away with his smile, though maybe he was just amused by Sun Pasture's babbling.
It didn't matter. She'd already run the numbers. It didn't even require Abacus. It was a simple 2x2 game theory problem with two reputation outcomes in each cell. Except that it was time dependent, so the outcomes doubled from 8 to 16 depending on whether Player C or Player L moved first. A pretty basic piece of game theory. It was clearly advantageous to move second as you could minimize negative payoffs by simply copying the first player. You could plot it on a simple XYZ grid and see the dented, deformed volleyball shape quite easily. Except Celestia probably hadn't done ANY math, she just KNEW stuff like this.
"... and I must also say, again perhaps but it bears repeating, that the night sky has been much more vivid of late?" Sun Pasture said, cringing as if he was about to run out the back of the throne room.
Luna opened up with a smile. Give the ponies a show, she thought.
"Thank you counselor, very well said," Luna said. "The charges of treason and sedition are of course dismissed. Equestria is a strong country with a proud tradition of love, tolerance and progress. We don't fear new ideas, we welcome them. So long as such ideas are expressed within the law." Luna let that sink in. If Celestia wanted Luna to settle the fallout from her return it was now settled. And nicely done, Luna thought, in accordance with the finest traditions of Equestrian law. Though it probably could have been done with less sneezing.
"As for the charge of criminal mischief," she continued, watching as Sun Pasture desperately waved a hoof at his attending clerks, who were busily crossing out charges in the folders before them. "Did you ask Sunrise Fresh if you could paint on her wall, Strawberry?"
Strawberry looked down and pawed at the ground. Luna noticed that while his fetlocks were lush and wild, they didn't quite cover his hooves which were chipped and worn. "No," he said, only to be kicked again by Liquorice Stick, causing him to add, "Your Majesty."
"Well you won't find much support for your New Lunar Republic if you go around painting on other people's walls without their permission," Luna said, taking a moment to bang Gavel, gently, lest it send more powder up her nose.
"I find you guilty of criminal mischief," she continued. "First, you must apologize to Sunrise Fresh. Then you must clean her wall. Then, so that you learn your lesson, you must clean the rest of Canterlot under the supervision of the Department of Public Works for..." she paused looking to the two attorneys in front of her.
"Two weeks," said Sun Pasture, quickly back in the game after his babbling.
"Three days," shot back Liquorice Stick.
"One week," Luna decided. Would that work? Nopony had gasped so it seemed reasonable. "And fourth, your spelling was terrible. You need to finish your education if you want to be a revolutionary. That means report cards will be forwarded to the throne so we..." Luna cheered inwardly. She'd just done a Royal We while referring to herself! Tia did it all the time and never got mixed up with when it was appropriate or not, and this was totally appropriate. ".. may monitor your progress. And we will be watching most closely, is that understood Strawberry?"
"Yes ma'am," the pink stallion said, still looking down. Chastened by either his punishment, Luna herself pronouncing judgement, or being called out for being a bad revolutionary, it didn't matter to her.
"Case closed," Luna said with a smile, banging Gavel with enthusiasm, only to watch in horror as the amplified sound sent yet another fine cloud of dust falling towards her nose.
"The eggs on your land belong to you, the chickens still belong to Dusty Shins," Luna said, wondering when Royal Justice would end.
The two feuding ponies smirked at each other. It was ridiculous. Each thought they had got the better of what was clearly an equitable distribution, just because a Royal Princess said it. It had been a tiring hour, or was it three? After dealing with Strawberry, she had heard the case against Midnight Vision and her friends. A simple noise complaint, or at least it was after the prosecutor hastily withdrew the same treason and sedition charges that Luna had dismissed earlier.
Whether it was a meeting of the Nightmare Moon cult or just a rowdy party, Luna had been forced to find her former dance partner and her friends guilty. Luna had given them a very small fine, but to make up for that leniency had given a speech chastising the party goers for their thoughtlessness. It bought back more memories of a thousand years ago. This time she found herself giving the same speech about ponies sleeping at night that Celestia had given her. Nopony else seemed to notice the irony.
After that a lot of the ponies petitioning for Royal Justice decided to withdraw and try their luck in the regular courts. Luna wondered if Celestia had set up anything at all? Had the accused just gambled that Luna would be a soft touch? Enough had stuck around to make her time on the throne a busy one, though no cases with the consequence of her first two came before her.
"The State thanks you for your time, Your Majesty," Sun Pasture, prosecutor said, giving a low bow and walking backwards, as if to keep Luna in his sight.
"Likewise for The Ponies, Your Majesty," said Liquorice Stick, the public defender who also bowed but exited to the side after a few short steps back.
Luna looked around, surprised. Was that it? She gave Gavel a few gentle taps to see what would happen next. She quickly found out. The powdered wig that had caused her so many sneezes was quickly lifted from her head, without a hint of fallout. The black scarf she had worn was quickly removed as well by the royal page who speedily returned to take the podium and Gavel away.
The Court rearranged itself around her again. The room seemed a lot emptier now, the prisoners had left as had the visiting ponies who had gotten their fill of Luna's first solo appearance in a thousand years. Luna wished she could join them. Modern Night Court was much different than she had expected, but there was still an element of loneliness. Despite being surrounded by her little ponies, she was still apart from them, forced to judge and decide with nobody else to lean upon.
"Masterfully done as always Your Majesty," came a familiar voice whispering in her ear. "Your expertise in matters of jurisprudence would make you an excellent candidate for the position of Chief Magistrate, were you not already occupied with your present position."
"Applebee!" Luna exclaimed, whipping around to find her assistant back in her usual place alongside the throne. "It's good to have you back!"
"I was never away Your Majesty," Applebee replied, a bit confused. "I was right over there."
"Well yes, but..." Luna tried to find some way of explaining the vast difference between being right over there and being right here, and finally just smiled. "It's good to have your counsel Applebee."
"Thank you Your Majesty, as Night Chamberlain I do my best," Applebee replied, a bit unsure as to how to deal with the princess's good cheer. "You could have called on me at any time though. I had several judges ready for you to consult with if you were uncertain about any matters of law or precedent. Clearly you were more than ready to handle it by yourself, but the impartiality of Royal Justice emanates from your person, not from the traditional appearances."
Luna sighed. She couldn't blame Applebee for not telling her that beforehand. Since her return she had met many ponies who wanted to befriend and help her, but in her heart she kept thinking of herself as that lonely princess on the moon. Always charging forward and never asking others for advice. So far she had done OK, but maybe it was time for her to reach out more?
"I do have to apologize though," Applebee continued. "I consulted with the Royal Steward vis a vis the powdered wig situation? He was unaware it would be required tonight and sends his apologies, which I of course share. Apparently the wig in question normally has only a small amount of powder on it, but has been on a shelf for several years and while in storage it collected a great deal of dust and cobwebs."
"Cobwebs?" Luna asked.
"Cobwebs were mentioned Your Majesty," Applebee admitted, biting her lower lip. "I of course apologize for not thoroughly checking beforehand and hope that any oversight on my part will be ... are you feeling all right Your Majesty?"
Luna stood absolutely still on the throne, keeping her eyes from widening by sheer force of will. Her jaw was tense as steel and she had no idea why her tongue had suddenly swollen to three times its normal size. Inhaling deeply through her nostrils, Luna forced herself to be calm and looked directly at Applebee.
"Were spiders mentioned?" Luna asked, not trembling. Perhaps holding herself absolutely still in open court wasn't her best move, but she certainly wasn't trembling.
"Absolutely not Your Majesty," Applebee said, returning Luna's gaze with equal intensity. "Absolutely not. There were no spiders anywhere near your wig. Just some old dusty cobwebs, probably blown from somewhere else in the archives. I checked with the royal page personally and she inspected the wig thoroughly. Thoroughly. Nobody would ever let a spider anywhere near you."
Luna relaxed with a sigh. She wasn't afraid of spiders. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were wonderful helpers who killed noxious insects that would otherwise bother ponykind. They were also fascinating creatures in their own right if you could look past the way they skittered around everywhere with their many, hairy legs. Luna could look past that, she most certainly could. Especially since there were absolutely none in her mane right now. Applebee had said so and she could trust Applebee, who was watching her attentively.
"You are checking my mane for spiders, aren't you?" Luna asked.
"It never hurts to triple-check these things, Your Majesty." Applebee said. "And your mane is completely free of any arachnid presence."
"Good, that would probably give a bad impression," Luna said stifling a giggle. She could only imagine what her Royal Guard would do if she screamed out in surprise after finding a spider in her mane. "What else is on the agenda?"
"Nothing pressing Your Majesty," Applebee said. "Though as always the Night Court agenda is at your discretion, barring any executive action memos, privileged petitions, ambassadorial presentations and/or urgent matters relayed by the Civil Service, all of which would require your immediate attention. However there are none on the present agenda so adjournment is at your discretion."
"I think," Luna looked up to the clock, two hours had passed. Celestia should be back shortly and judging by her day courts that was an average length of time to hold court. "I think one more item shall suffice, don't you Applebee?"
"Of course Your Majesty, I'll just reschedule these other items for you," the gray earth pony replied.
"Reschedule?" Luna asked. She'd have to do this all over again, wouldn't she? Hopefully with less door slamming and sneezing, but she saw a long line of nights string before her, packed with protocol and demanding ponies with very little library time. Luna gulped.
"Well of course," Applebee replied. "There are your future Night Courts, plus Joint or Royal Court (we are still working on the nomenclature there) with your co-sovereign during both day and night. There are also your personal and joint Privy Court appearances, though we do need to get you some more advisers for those, and of course various and sundry scheduled and unscheduled appearances which are not strictly court but during which an administrative aside would not be impermissible."
"And how often do those happen?" Luna asked, wanting to hang her head in despair. What had she gotten herself into?
"Purely at your discretion, Your Majesty." Applebee said. "Naturally your extended absence has left you with a backlog of duties to attend to. Pending your desire for increased public exposure we have announced no further engagements, but I have tentatively scheduled you for two Night Courts a week?"
Two nights? Luna looked up at Applebee in astonishment? Two nights? She could do two nights a week on her head! She'd have plenty of time for the library or exploring Equestria or spending time with her new friends! She wanted to hug Applebee for being so understanding.
"Two nights will be fine Applebee," Luna said beaming. "Thank you."
"We in the Civil Service live to anticipate your wishes," Applebee replied, hiding a smile of her own. "Shall we proceed to the final item on tonight's agenda?"
"You may proceed to the final item on tonight's agenda Night Chamberlain," Luna said happily.
"The throne will now recognize Baron Clover Lily," Applebee announced as the red unicorn with the fleur-de-lis cutie mark stepped forward and bowed. Luna was shocked and mentally kicked herself for losing track of him. She'd last seen him on the balcony and never noticed him getting so close. Celestia would never have done that.
"I thank Your Highness for her work here tonight, as tiring as it must have been after your extended absence," Baron Clover Lily began smoothly. "Let me be the first to thank you on behalf of both the nobility and all other ponies for your service during what must be a trying adjustment."
Hardly the first and I've been doing good so far, Luna thought as the baron continued. The pony nobility were mostly a holdover from the wild days of Equestria's history, during the first 500 years after her exile. Celestia had limited the power they inherited from their families and diluted their ranks by awarding noble titles as a reward for service to Equestria, but the old families still had influence.
"There are a few niggling matters that would normally be beneath your concern that I am hoping you will retire for further study, as you so ably decided during your discussion with Marshall Burr earlier," Clover Lily went on. "A paltry matter. Normally I wouldn't dream of hindering you from any other duties you may have, but it has been inadvisedly pressed by certain uninformed bureaucrats. A simple word from you will set matters to rest."
Luna listened in amazement as Clover Lily continued. Never before had she heard so much from a single pony who said so little. Her assistant Applebee said a lot, but even when she wound up saying nothing it was always a very specific kind of nothing. Clover Lily used words to avoid saying anything. Fortunately all Luna needed was the name, the Diamond Lily mining fortune had come up again and again during her long nights in the library.
"This is about the mining tariffs, isn't it?" Luna asked.
"Your perspicacity does you credit Your Majesty," Clover Lily said with a smile, though Luna picked up a hint of surprise in his eyes. Never go up against a bookworm when facts are on the line, she thought.
"But it's a mere administrative matter, beneath your attention," Clover Lily continued. "It simply requires further study and a word from you will ensure Equestria's continued harmony."
"Actually Baron, I've already devoted some study to the matter," Luna replied. It had been some of her best work. Notes On Equestrian Administration Memo Number Four had dealt with the tax and environmental impacts of mining. She'd spent many busy nights with Abacus crunching numbers to come up with an updated regulatory system. One was badly needed, but Celestia hadn't acted on her memo yet.
"Memo Number Four I believe it was Your Majesty?" Applebee said, pulling a copy from the folder in front of her.
"Where did you get that?" Luna asked in surprise.
"It's been in limited circulation since you submitted it, Your Majesty," Applebee replied. "Senior members of the Civil Service have reviewed it and found it mostly in agreement with our own recommendations, though with a few innovative twists. Shall I submit it for implementation?"
Luna hesitated. She'd never done something this big before. But she had settled the New Lunar Republic matter during Royal Justice. She had been trusted to decide the fate of ponies asking her for judgement. She was technically co-sovereign, wasn't she?
"Let's not make any hasty decisions Your Highness!" Baron Clover Lily protested. "You have only recently returned from your extended absence and the hour is late. Surely you wouldn't want to ruin your exemplary track record by acting rashly so late at night!"
A hush fell over the court as Luna considered her next move.
"Late at night Baron?" she asked. "Perhaps you were not aware. I am Luna, sister to Celestia, ruler of Equestria. I am the Night!"
She took a small moment to enjoy the look of defeat on Clover Lily's face before turning to Applebee.
"Instruct the civil service to implement Memo Number Four, Night Chamberlain." Luna said.
"Of course Your Majesty," Applebee replied. "Pending the traditional thirty day review period."
Luna raised an eyebrow in confusion while Applebee continued.
"That gives time for any interested members of the public and members of the Civil Service with relevant expertise to comment upon the proposed regulations, submitting it back to the sovereign for action on any proposed amendments. After resubmission of the finalized version it will be published for thirty days prior to enforcement," the gray earth pony said. "Unless of course you direct such adoption as a Royal Decree in which case effect is to take place immediately, but while always an option such enactment is seldom used in matters traditionally handled by officials of Their Majesties Government."
"Noooo," Luna said blinking. "I think that review period will be fine."
"Thank you Your Majesty," Applebee replied. "Then with your permission shall I declare Night Court adjourned?"
Luna nodded in agreement.
"OYEZ! OYEZ! OYEZ!" shouted the pony who had announced her entrance, almost instantly. "The Court of Equestria is now adjourned! Let all bow in thanks to Princess Luna! Hail to our princess and may she watch over Equestria!"
Luna sat in her room, Applebee at her side. Luna thought that a bit odd, nobody but Tia had ever been in her room before. But after what her and Applebee had been through together it seemed right somehow.
She remembered her exit from court, surrounded by cheering ponies shouting thanks, congratulations and compliments. Well not so much Baron Clover Lily, but the rest of the crowd seemed to appreciate her. Even Marshall Trail Burr had given her a courtly bow as she exited. She had gone through three sets of doors on the way to her room before the cheers had finally faded away.
"What were your titles again Applebee?" Luna asked speaking for the first time since Night Court had ended.
"Acting Night Chamberlain By Royal Appointment, Provisional Personal Secretary and Interim..." Applebee began.
"Confirm all of those," Luna interrupted.
"Are you sure Your Majesty?" Applebee asked, her eyes wide. "We've only worked together one night."
"And you were there for me," Luna said. "That's all anyone can ask of an assistant, or a friend."
"We did leave no legs unbroken, didn't we?" Applebee said after a pause. "Are you absolutely sure though?"
"I am," Luna said, reaching over to give the gray earth pony a hug.
"I don't know what to say," Applebee said, embracing her princess back. "Night Chamberlain by Royal Acclaim? Or simply Night Chamberlain? The latter I think. I'll need new business cards and stationery of course. And a new sign for my office. Perhaps even a bigger office? Pending Your Majesty's approval of course?"
"We can discuss that tomorrow," Luna said with a smile. "For now I'd like to be alone."
"As you wish, Your Majesty." Applebee walked towards the door, before darting back to give Luna a hug in return before exiting, leaving Luna alone in her chambers.
The hard part was over, Luna thought. Now comes the harder part. She didn't have to wait long. A short series of knocks came at her door, three fast and two long. Tia's special code.
"Come in," Luna said, as her sister entered. The regal alicorn looked down on her little sister and smiled.
"So how did it go?" Celestia asked. Luna focused herself and inhaled deeply.
"I tabled Equestrian police organization, decided the New Lunar Republic and Nightmare Moon cult posed no threat, and implemented the mining tariffs I outlined in Notes on Equestrian Administration Memo Number Four," Luna said in a gasp. Celestia, taken aback stood for a moment, giving Luna time to get her breath back.
"Good ideas," Celestia said, raising her eyebrows in appreciation. "Especially that mining thing, I always meant to get around to that. But it was your best work so I'm glad you got to take full credit. But Luna? That's not what really what I was asking about."
Luna looked at her sister in confusion.
"Luna, you are my sister," Celestia said. "I know you. I love you. I trust you. You are kind and smart, smarter than me to be honest. I already know that any decisions you make are going to be good ones. My staff will fill me in on them in the morning. I just want to know how your night went."
"They made me wear a wig!" Luna blurted out after a long pause. Finding herself overcome with emotion, she rushed to her sister and embraced her.
"The powdered one?" Celestia said, laughing and holding her sister close. "I haven't worn that in years! Tell me, did you get powder up your nose when you banged the gavel?"
Equestria's Royal Guard are noted for their stoicism. They are famous for their devotion to duty and never showing emotion. But two guards stood outside the quarters of Princess Luna. And if one were not distracted by the sound of the muted laughter of the two royal sisters, a careful observer might have noticed what looked suspiciously like a smile on their faces.
(Thanks to everyone for their support and patience. My apologies for the delay in getting part two finished. - ElGrande)