The Dresden Fillies: False Masks
Written by: psychicscubadiver
Edited by: frieD195
Story Image by: wyrmlover
Disclaimer: I don't own The Dresden Files or My Little Pony, that is Jim Butcher and Hasbro, respectively. This is a fanfiction only. This story takes place before Discord's return in MLP and between books six and seven in the Dresden Files.
Despite being its capital, Canterlot wasn't the biggest city in Equestria. While places like Manehatten or Fillydelphia were busy around the clock, the ruling center of Equestria was asleep by midnight.
Sure, some guards still patrolled the castle, a few nobles threw parties until the early hours of the morning, and one Princess had even begun to hold the Court of Night again, otherwise the entire town was silent and still. Bookmark was especially glad for that as he hurried through the deserted streets, his hoofsteps echoing behind him.
The unicorn trotted along keeping an even, if quick, pace, careful not to break into a run. He resisted the urge to glance behind him, instead using the darkened glass of various storefronts as mirrors. Even though he didn't see anypony following him, he still pulled his cloak tight and hunched beneath its cover. At least there was a light drizzle tonight, otherwise a cloak in midsummer would have seemed suspicious.
His destination didn't appear to be much. Just a small, dimly lit storefront squeezed between two much larger and more prosperous shops. A small bell rang as he entered and peered around the tea shop worriedly. His concern was unfounded as the booths and tables were all empty.
The only employee visible didn't seem to be overjoyed at the sight of her latest customer. She was a lovely earth pony, her charcoal gray coat accompanied by a bright red mane and a flank well-curved enough to make any stallion drool. Her expression, though, was such a potent mix of boredom and hostility that it was hardly surprising the small shop was empty. Bookmark ignored her irritated glare and took off his cloak, lying it on the counter rather hanging it up. He was revealed to be a tan pony sporting a dark green mane and closed book as a cutie-mark. He cleared his throat to get her attention, waiting at the counter for service. The look the unicorn gave indicated that her customer mattered about as much to her as the dirt beneath her hooves, but she slowly made her way over to him.
With a heavy sigh she asked, "What can I get for you?"
Bookmark paused for a moment, shooting a look behind him just to be sure, but the door remained closed and the shop's few windows were all made of frosted glass. He turned back and spoke. "Actually, I've got a question if you wouldn't mind."
For a brief instant the mare's eyes brightened, but quickly dimmed, her expression becoming guarded. "Sorry, you're not my type."
Where most stallions would have been crushed by that news, this pony smiled and took it in stride. "No, not that. I just wanted to ask, what's your favorite shape?"
"The triangle, I suppose." She shrugged seemingly uncaring, but he knew she was paying close attention to him now.
"Yes, three lines, three points. A perfect harmony within one shape."
She nodded, and dropped her mask of hostility. Smiling, she bowed and replied, "The Order Triune welcomes you, brother. Pass to the next gate." She pulled a small lever hidden beneath the counter and a section of floor beside her lifted, revealing a winding set of stone stairs. Bookmark grabbed his cloak and hurried down the steps, disappearing from sight. The barista put the lever back to its original position, dropping the false floor back into place, the seam nearly invisible. Then she quickly wiped the floor and counter with a rag, removing the precipitation he'd brought in with him. She resumed her unpleasant expression, boredly flipping through a magazine. Within two minutes of his entrance, there was no evidence that Bookmark had ever been there.
The stallion in question carefully descended the unlit portion of the steps, hurrying once he reached the torch lined lower levels. Bookmark saw numerous doors, some wooden, some metallic, all of them shut and adorned with arcane symbols, as he headed down, but he didn't stop. His instructions had been precise; he was to enter the door at the bottom of the stairs and none other.
The air grew colder as he descended, and he tugged his cloak back on and lifted its hood, grateful for its warmth. As he passed the tenth door, Bookmark couldn't help but be awed. He'd been here once or twice, but had only been allowed into the upper levels. He had never thought the stairs went so deep. He had to be at least a hundred feet beneath the streets he had left behind, the stairs digging deeply into the mountain itself. At last he reached the bottom and stood before an enormous door made of solid stone. It was huge, at least eight feet tall, and covered in runes. The symbols extended outwards from the door to the walls around it, surrounding anypony to approach the door with mystic power. While he'd never been this far down before, he had heard rumors of this door and its brothers. They were made by Clover the Clever, in the earliest days of the order, long ago, when there was no Canterlot above their stronghold. Supposedly they could even hold one of the Princesses at bay for a few minutes.
Bookmark swallowed nervously and stared at the barrier remembering the pass phrase. Unlike the shop above, this ritual wasn't the common greeting between members. This was a code specifically for this occasion. The instructions he'd received had instructed him to memorize it before burning. It should have been foal's play since his talent was perfect recall of anything he'd read, but when faced with the grim portal before him, Bookmark couldn't help feeling unsure.
Reviewing his lines, Bookmark approached the door, trying not to think about what some of the runes surrounding him could do. He knocked three times slowly, letting the echoes die away each time before striking again. There was movement on the other side of the door, and two lines etched into its center shifted, changing into a pair of eyes. They stared at him, their gaze far more penetrating than he would ever have thought stone eyes could be. A pony's voice, muffled by the stone between them, called out. "Where does the sun go when the night comes?"
"Over the mountains and beyond the sea, waiting to rise again." The voice beyond the door hesitated on the next line and Bookmark felt a trickle of sweat run down the back of his neck.
At last the guard responded. "And what of the moon when day reigns?"
Bookmark covered up his sigh of relief and gave the answer. "She plays with her children, the stars, patient until twilight falls."
There was another moment of harsh silence, just long enough to make Bookmark consider running, when the carved eyes turned back into flat lines. The door groaned as it swung inward, slowly giving a glimpse of the room beyond. The unicorn guarding it was hooded as well, but he would recognize that two colored mane anywhere.
Bookmark's jaw dropped. "Romana?" He hissed. "You're a member of the order?"
"And I thought you had a funny expression at the door. You're priceless, Mark." She chuckled at his shock, and gave him a smile. "I've been one since our university days. C'mon the meeting is about to start, you're the last one here."
Bookmark stepped through the portal, and Romana shut the heavy door, her horn glowing brightly. The stone slid back into place, the enchantments binding it reactivating while a heavy bar settled over it. Light came from strange green crystals; they weren't very bright but their soft glow was enough to make out the rest of the room which was impressive to say the least. Carved out of the solid stone of the mountain, it had a vaulted ceiling and numerous twisting columns. There were two more doors, twins to the one he had entered through lining two other walls and several trapdoors descending further into the mountain. The focus of the room, though, was the table in the middle. It was a large circle made of three pieces: one was cold iron, strong and stubborn, the next was silver, shining brightly even in the dim light, and the last was aluminum, the metal of lightning and flight. Seven ponies were already waiting at the table, leaving two spots on the silver side empty. Bookmark and Romana took them.
"Three races and three ponies of each, all united by one purpose. I call this meeting of the Order Triune to business. May we protect our world's fragile harmony," said a voice from the iron side of the table.
With that everypony removed their hoods revealing a collection of serious, middle aged ponies. Bookmark and Romana were the youngest ones there by at least a decade. The wizened earth pony who'd started the meeting turned her eyes onto Bookmark, and he struggled to keep a calm face.
"I believe you were the pony to call this meeting. You said important information had come to light." The eyes of the door were nothing compared to the gaze of the mare before him now. He'd suspected that a pony doesn't become a senior member of the order without being formidable, but this was something else.
One of the Pegasi laughed, "Give the poor lad a break, Hawkeye. Anymore of that glare of yours, and he won't speak for the rest of the night." The earth pony turned her attention on the pegasi who'd spoken, but she seemed to be made of sterner stuff than Bookmark.
Still he cleared his throat and began. "I was privileged to be delivering some reports to Her Highness when a sealed letter from her student arrived. I waited while she read it, but before she could get rid of it a fortuitous crash," he grinned at that and let his horn glow slightly, "from outside the hall distracted her. I was able to get a brief look. The letter was vague on some points, but it still had relevant information. He is coming back within the next week, and the ceremony the Princess is organizing is to award him a medal."
Bookmark couldn't have gotten a bigger response if he'd told them he was one of the Princesses in disguise. He had their complete attention and one of the Pegasi who hadn't spoken simply gaped at him.
"Surely, the Princesses know his true nature. They can't be that dense." snorted a large earth pony standing to Hawkeye's right.
"Of course they do. They're nopony's foals. The question is why they act this way when they know." Hawkeye returned. As the Senior-most pony at this meeting, she considered her next words carefully. "You are certain there is no mistake in this. It truly referred to him?"
This time Bookmark withstood her piercing stare slightly better. "Y-yes, as sure as I can be. The Princess's protégé suggested he use the pseudonym 'Blackstone' for the ceremony."
The discussion devolved into anarchy at that news, wild speculation and urgent questions taking the place of reasonable communication. It took Hawkeye several minutes before the table was calm enough to continue. "Romana, are all of our members in Ponyville ready? I don't want this to slip through your hooves like his rumored first visit."
Romana grimaced at the reminder, but still saluted the older pony. "Of course. We will keep close tabs on all of the Elements. I won't fail again."
Hawkeye nodded, turning to stare into space. "Then we must prepare and do so quickly. Romana, if possible examine him yourself. Perhaps we are worrying over nothing, but I fear not."
She sighed, seeming to show her true age for the first time. "I declare this meeting over, but I wish to say one last thing before we leave. Be vigilant my brothers and sisters; the Order Triune will not sit idle if Obsidian truly means to return."