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The Dark Army (a love story, Private: Mojo Gerrard)


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ewJVfs.jpgSaddlesore

Saddlesore normally would stay at home with his door locked and his windows sealed up during Nightmare Night. The grumpy blue Earth stallion really wasn't a huge fan of social functions, especially those with lots of screaming fillies and colts! But THIS Nightmare Night was going to be different. A certain unicorn lady acquaintance of his was coming! Saddlesore had first met Asteria Stillheart, a delivery mare whom he had taken out to supper. Though Asteria seemed very emotionless, she still seemed to enjoy his company, one of very few ponies in all of Equestria who actually want to be with him.

So, dressed in a black vampony costume, complete with fake fangs, Saddlesore waited at the gate of the Nightmare Night area. Pacing back and forth, he was looking forward to seeing his lady friend once again. What costume would she wear? Would she actually enjoy the many activities of Nightmare Night?

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Asteria was browbeaten into going to Nightmare Night by her family, the mare even being asked to go with another person for her own safety. Like the parent respecting adult she was, the unicorn reluctantly accepted their demands and soon found herself at the gate in costume. The courier had done research on the event in her own misguided way and formulated a plan to optimize her participation in the event. The traditions seemed to indicate that participants of the events wore scary disguises to stay safe from the glares of Nightmare Moon. Asteria reasoned that she simply had to make the scariest costume she could imagine, and after the seamstress reluctantly agreed to the design, the black mare had the most intimidating costume possible crafted!

The tricky part was reaching her destination in town without being seen by the citizens of the town. While screams were intended for this event, she felt that it was only appropriate to let her date get the first reaction to entrance. The dark mare used her expertise as a courier to dart from shadow to shadow in the night before descending upon a black vampony who vaguely matched the description given to her in advance. Asteria silently trotted up behind Saddlesore and decided to reveal herself to the pony in the most appropriate way possible, in character of course! "Remember this day, little ponies, for it was your last. From this moment forth, the night will last forever," a cold and disinterested voice called out to Saddlesore in accurate homage to Nightmare Moon that lacked all the ill intent that Asteria carried in presence.

A glance at the voice would reveal a tall black alicorn with signature royal regalia from her helmet down to her hooves. Her eyes were a menacing shade of cerulean, accented with foreboding purple eyelashes. Her intimidating presence was further accented by a magnificent pair of black wings and a very convincing mane and tail that mirrored the legend herself! Aside from the expression on her face, this was Nightmare Moon, the pony who devoured others if they didn't appease her with candy!

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A wave of fear struck Saddlesore when he heard an eire but familiar voice nearby. Turning his head slowly, the costumed vampony saw the face of ... NIGHTMARE MOON! Screaming in terror, he ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. But, not looking where he was going, Saddlesore collided with a tree and fell down on his back. It was when he looked up and had a closer look at Nightmare Moon that he realized that it was Asteria Stillheart, wearing a very convincing costume.

"Oh, it's you, Miss Stillheart," the relieved Earth Pony said as he rolled back up to all fours. "I musy say you make a very fine Nightmare Moon! So glad you could come tonight! Is this your first Nightmare Night celebration?"

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Asteria watched in silence as Saddlesore saw her frightful visage, the stallion screaming in terror as he fled for his life. The melancholy mare theorized that he was merely playing along in the facade as he fled for his life in the most terrified manner he could muster. She would have to ask him for acting tips, the mare impressed as he even collided into a tree a to show how scared he was. The heavily disguised mare lightly trotted over to her fallen friend, the nightmare looking down on her friend with cerulean eyes as she examined his condition. "Dear vampony, fear is irrational. While it may be true that I will devour you, maintaining your composure would have allowed you to flee without running into a tree. May I ask for a portion of your candy as offering to sate my hunger for pony please?" she asked in her usual tone, Asteria threatening to eat him in one of the least threatening voices imaginable. The courier was trying to stay in character, but her inability or unwillingness to change the inflection of her voice undermined her presence significantly.

Asteria blinked her now cerulean eyes as she thought over his comments. "If I am to speak out of character, yes, I am Asteria Sir. I was requested to celebrate my first official Nightmare Night and you seemed to be an adequate chaperone. Perhaps you could educate me further in how to celebrate this particular occasion? My familiarity is limited to what I have read in textbooks. Is this an acceptable costume sir?" she remarked in a voice that seemed to indicate she did not seem entirely sure of her ability to understand the event. While she did have all the physical appearance of nightmare moon, her posture and facial expressions did not quite match the menacing mare of darkness.

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Saddlesore was delighted! Sure, Asteria was her usual unemotional self, but he did appreciate how the taller unicorn mare had researched the event and choice of costume. It didn't go unnoticed how very beautiful she looked in her outfit.

"Your choice of costume was both logical and appropriate for this place and time," Saddlesore said with a smile, "And you portray the character of Nightmare Moon very well! Permit me to escort you to the many fine activities there are tonight. I, Count Saddlesore, will be your charming guide!"

The first place he led Asteria to was the pumpkin chucking caterpults.

"Would you like to take a turn at one of these? The idea is the place a pumpkin on the caterpult, aim it for the target over there and then try to hit it! Shall I demonstrate it for you?"

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Asteria patiently listened to her friend, her seemingly ethereal mane lightly flowing in the air as he complimented her. When offered to be her guide, she nodded agreeably, the mare always seeming willing to go along with the requests of her friends and family. "I would be honored to have you as a guide Sir Saddlesore," she politely remarked, quickly finding herself corrected by the earth pony giving himself a title befitting a vampire. The nightmare blinked and looked over to Saddlesore while they marched over to the catapults. "I apologize Count Saddlesore, I was not aware of your nobility. I know that ignorance is not an excuse, but I will work to never mistake your status again Count," Aquaria apologized quickly, the serious mare clearly not getting the really obvious reference as she examined the catapult.

"It is hard to determine the tensile strength of this tool with a mere cursory glance. May I have the schematics for the catapult? Without such a blueprint, the only way to determine the correct angle of attack would be with rough guesses through trial and error. Such an attempt would likely waste many pumpkins. Perhaps you have a strategy of your own for hitting the targets, I must admit that I am not well versed in siege weaponry," she Asteria added in her usual serious and misguided manner. Upon finishing her explanation, the frighteningly dressed courier lowered her head down to further examine the catapult, the lever in particular for it's shape. She gently poked the side of the catapult with her hoof, feeling the material of the catapult, testing it's hardness.

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Though Saddlesore was a bit dumbfounded by Asteria's anwser, he smiled, kind of expecting such a technical response from the emotionless unicorn mare. Of course, she took his character name literally. Rather than trying to explain that he wasn't royalty or a real 'Count', he decided to just go along with it, for now. Undetered, the vampony dressed Earth stallion was still going to show his lovely mare friend a good time.

"Please, Miss Stillheart, I mean, Nightmare Moon. You shouldn't try to overthink having fun. Here, I'll show you how this works!"

Carefully, Saddlesore loaded a pumpkin on one end of the caterpult, took careful aim and then released it. The pumpkin flew through the air in an arc, landing on the wooden target area with a loud SPLAT!! This drew applause from all the others gathered around.

"You see? Nothing to it! Why not give it a try?"

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Asteria blinked as his explanation was simple, overly simple, but enough to get the point across. "I understand sir. You wish for the two of us to remain in character. I will agree to your terms, Count," Asteria replied, seeming to finally get it while he demonstrated the launch. The attack seemed to be successful, landing squarely in the center of the target. She was surprised that he could make such an accurate strike on his first attempt, but that was something that would not impress Nightmare Moon. "Foolish Foals, Nightmare Moon does not need trivial tools to accurately hurl produce. I shall vanquish the pumpkin with extreme prejudice," she declared in a stern manner, her voice remaining as distant as ever though.

To help illustrate her point though, 'Nightmare Moon' decided to give a show of power to the residents of Ponyville. Her cerulean eyes glowed an ominous white while her horn radiated a frightful crimson energy. A fiery red aura enveloped two pumpkins while she glanced back at her count. With one fluid movement, both pumpkins splattered against the target and lifelessly fell to the floor. Asteria moved her wings with a clever usage of her magic while she turned to face the crowd. She had read that one point of this event was to collect candy, and a great opportunity was laid out before her, countless candy wielding ponies. "I have heard that offerings are required to divert the attention of Nightmare Moon. May I ask for an offering of Candy to persuade her not to devour any unfortunate souls?" Asteria vaguely commented in a way that only she could and would.

The crowd murmured incoherently at her display of magical prowess, the citizens knowing that she wasn't a mere unicorn in disguise. Screams filled the air as ponies around them panicked, a literal shower of candy coming down on the pair of ponies as the crowd fled for the lives from what they saw as the nightmare herself. Asteria looked around in her usual disinterested manner while her eyes stopped glowing. "Count, please collect our bounty. The night is still young and we need to sate the hunger of Nightmare Moon," she commented coldly while she turned her back to her date. While it was clear that Asteria was attempting to stay in character, it was not clear if she was speaking of herself in the third person, or actually referring to Nightmare Moon.

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Saddlesore looked on in stunned amazement. Not only was Asteria staying 'in character', but she was doing so rather convincingly. Not wanting to see a repeat of the chaos that last year's Nightmare Night's visit by Princess Luna caused, the vampony dressed Saddlesore leapt up on a platform and began to shout out to the crowd.

"LET'S HEAR IT FOR ASTERIA STILLHEART AND HER VERY IMPRESSIVE IMITATION OF NIGHTMARE MOON! HOPE ALL YOU FOALS OUT THERE GOT A GOOD SCARE! WE AIM TO PLEASE! EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT, FOLKS! GO BACK TO HAVING FUN!"

Quickly jumping off the platform after calming the crowd's fears, Saddlesore took Asteria aside for a quick conversation.

"Maybe it's not such a good idea for you to stay, in character, Miss Stillheart. You do a terrific job acting the part, please don't get me wrong, but maybe for the rest of the evening, we should just be, ourselves, ok? Look over there! Bobbing for apples! Want to try it?"

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Asteria's voice lacked the ill will of Nightmare Moon, but her word choice was close enough to scare many weary ponies. She listened to him perform damage control for her, the worried earth pony seeming to attempt to undermine her candy collection attempts. The 'nightmare' glanced over the ground and spotted numerous pieces of candy that were left behind as what she could only determine as an offering to her, either for her, or the person she impersonated. Her ears perked up as he identified her, the courier finding something wrong with his words. Asteria glanced over to the bat pony, the black mare blinking her cerulean eyes before deciding to clarify his words. "I do not aim to please Count. My aim was an attempt to gather sustenance while studying this unique ritual. You would be well advised to avoid speaking on my behalf. Nightmare Moon has been reported to devour unfortunate souls for far less egregious infractions," she explained coldly, in her usual manner, undoing some of the mending he had done.

Before she could further undo his work though, the tall mare found herself being pulled away from the crowd as Saddlesore dragged her away. Asteria listened to his plea for her to avoid staying in character for the sake of the townsfolk. He also offered her the chance to go bobbing for apples, a strange ritual, but one that would need to wait, if only for a few moments. "I will agree to bob for apples Sir Saddlesore, but I must protest to your language. I would prefer that you not speak my full name in public sir. I value my privacy highly, and speaking my full name in public will only serve to hinder my private work as a courier. If your words are from ignorance, I apologize for not properly informing you of my current condition," the courier explained calmly in her usual manner. If she wasn't perpetually emotionless, it might have been impressive that she could maintain her composure through such a mistake.

"Please commence with the apple bobbing, I will follow your lead," she added slowly, lowering her tall body close to the water while she examined the location of the apples.

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"I do apologize, Miss Stillheart," Saddlesore said sadly, "I didn't realize you wanted your name kept secret. That subject never came up before. Perhaps you're not aware of what happened here last year. Last Nightmare Night, Princess Luna came unannounced and the ponies of town, not being able to distiguish between herself and the now vanquished Nightmare Moon, became frightened and caused a lot of rioting and fear. It took the wise actions and words of Twilight Sparkle to calm everyone down and save the celebration from cancellation. This is why when you acted so well in character of Nightmare Moon, it nearly caused a repeat of the previous year's chaos. Please don't misunderstand me, you make a very convincing Nightmare Moon, but there's a huge difference between giving children a friendly scare and frightening all of Ponyville into a state of panic. Please keep that in mind for the rest of the evening, ok? Now, I'll show you how to bob for apples, like this."

The stallion in the vampony costume proceeded to walk up to the tub of water, stick his head in and then pulled out an apple by his teeth.

"There, you see, nothing to it," Saddlesore said as he took a bite of the apple, "would you like to give it a try?"

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"I was not aware of that visit sir. I believe that I was in Talonopolis on business last year. Please forgive my ignorance, I should try harder to stay familiar with Equestrian events," the unicorn commented in a frank manner, admitting her personal failings.

"Perhaps I should do some research on Princess Sparkle and her accomplishments. I did not intend to cause unnecessary harm to the residents of this town any harm," she speculated aloud, having to take a moment to think over her actions.

When shown how to bob for apples, Asteria blinked her cerulean eyes as she watched the awkward spectacle. When he asked if she would like a try, Asteria misunderstood and nodded, leaning in as she took a bite of his apple. The nightmare carefully swallowed the apple and peered into the water.

"Allow me an attempt at apple retrieval," she commented simply before lowering her head into the water. After fishing around for a few seconds, the black mare raised her head with a pony skull in her maw. "Success," she garbled awkwardly before glancing over to Saddlesore.

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Saddlesore was amused at Asteria's most recent misunderstanding of his words. He looked shocked when the lanky costumed unicorn took a bite of his apple before bobbing for one herself, but then, after he thought about it, he took it as a compliment. After all, they were technically 'sharing' an apple together, which the blue stallion accepted as a milestone in their relationship.

"Very good!" Saddlesore neighed with delight, "Now, how about we give the spider toss a try?

Saddlesore led Asteria over to the spider toss area.

"The object of this game is to throw one of these fake spiders over to the web, closest spider to the center wins! Allow me to demostrate."

The blue stallion took one of the spiders in his hoof and tossed it towards the target, missing with his first two tries but then landing one on the far left edge of the web.

"Alright now, care to try it for yourself?"

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Her color changed eyes watched on as he tossed fake spiders at a target. The mare was trying to gauge the weight of the spiders and the amount of effort needed to strike at the target. Asteria moved up to the same spot her date was standing at as she prepared her own attempt.

"I wonder how hard this task is to complete," she commented calmly, the nightmare gently tossing her spider at the target. The first one landed on the edge near Saddlesore's. Asteria blinked, the mare hiding her thoughts while she adjusted her tactics with her new experience.

Asteria tossed her second spider and struck the center of the target. Before anyone could comment, she tossed her third spider, the object bouncing off the second one and falling to the ground.

"I am sorry Sir Saddlesore. I failed to compensate for the existing spider and I wasted the final spider," she apologized calmly, not seeming to take any pride in her victory.

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Saddlesore was stunned at Asteria's apology. Apologizing for WINNING the game? Oh well, this was typical behavior for the lovely unicorn mare. The vampony costumed blue stallion decided to just 'roll with the punches' and keep trying to show her a good time on Nightmare Night.

"You won, my dear! You achieved a better score than I! How wonderful for you! There's one more activity we can enjoy tonight and that's the dance in the town square. Look up at the stage at all those costumed musicians. See the other ponies dancing to their music? Shall we give it a try? Do you dance?"

Saddlesore was really hoping Asteria could dance, but even if she said she couldn't. he was determined to show her how.

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Asteria nodded as he explained that she won, the mare clearly aware of that fact. "I understand that I won, but in doing so, I deprived you the opportunity of winning," she explained calmly before being asked to do one final activity for the night. She had been asked to dance with him in front of a stage of musicians. Her crimson eyes examined each musician as they played, the unicorn's ears unable to discern any glaring errors in their music.

"I am trained in the basic forms of dance Sir Saddlesore. Would you like to waltz with me," she offered, leading him onto the stage. "Common practices dictate that the male leads the dance, assuming you know the dance of course. Is this acceptable?" she asked in her usual manner, the black nightmare standing in the middle of the dance floor while a few ponies scattered at her appearance, the remaining ones suspiciously watching her in a critical manner.

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"Yes! Of course I'll lead, gladly, Miss Stillheart!" Saddlesore neighed as the vampony costumed Earth stallion assumed the pose with the Nightmare Moon dressed unicorn and began to waltz. It was as if time stood still for Saddlesore as he got to hold Asteria closer as they danced. This was a feat he had NEVER done before, dance a waltz with a stunningly beautiful mare. Even in his foal days, no filly ever wanted to go to school dances with him. Even though his 'dance partner' showed little or no emotion, Saddlesore was very happy. Who knows? Perhaps, in time, this could be the start of something bigger. But that was for the future. Tonight, Saddlesore considered himself the luckiest stallion on earth!

The two danced into the night. The blue stallion was so happy, he lost all track of time. It was a night he'd never forget.

(Last post in RP, thanks Gerrard!)

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