The latest chapter of Monster in the Twilight has now been published, although a little late due to yard work, I'm hoping it still maintains my quality to this point. Sorry for the delay.
As a reward for your patience, I'm including a bit from Monster, and a sneak peek at The Traveling Tutor and the Diplomat's Daughter. TTatDD (which I'm tempted to abbreviate as T2D2) will be completed *before* publication, so I'm not stringing people along one chapter a week (or worse). If you want to help edit, or just peek over my shoulder as I work and throw in comments, I'm including the link here.
The Traveling Tutor and the Librarian is now in the EqD queue, and given its size, may stay there for a while. I find it fascinating that when I google the phrase "Traveling tutor" it shows up in the top 5 hits, even above real companies that do tutoring. If there are any distinguished instructor types who are reading this, totally unaware of the My Little Pony - Friendship is Magic movement, welcome! Stick around and enjoy, we're glad you're here.
As promised, excerpt from this chapter of The Monster in the Twilight:
Celestia soared on wings of flame.
Magnetic vortices swirled all around her, lifting torrents of plasma into the sky as the sun erupted. Other immaterial forms danced with her upon the fiery wave, calling to her to shed what was left of her body and join their celebration. One at a time, they fell away with little piping cries of joy as she climbed. It was getting more difficult with every attempt to resist their siren call, but Celestia held to her purpose with a will of steel.
Hold fast, my sister!
She clung to the updraft, her wings catching every solar particle as it climbed. Up. Up. Up.
Until she struck the wards.
Blackened flames crashed across her ethereal body, magic meeting magic in a clash of power that she had yet to win, but could not stop trying. Her body twisted at the lashing pain, hurtling backwards away from the open sky where her beloved Equestria could be seen and back down into the swirling sea of fire where she floated in pain. The barely-seen forms of others drifted past, calling out to her in happiness as they danced and played before being swirled away by the constant solar wind.
She gathered her corporal form about herself, and spread her fiery wings again, fighting against the little fingers that seemed to pluck about her mind, attempting to steal her self and turn her into one of the mindless beings who danced through the solar plasma. Luna would not have lasted a moment in this place, extinguished as a shadow before the flame. Celestia drew power from the sun, filling her being with might for yet another attempt at escape. If it took a thousand thousand years, she would leave this place, and save her sister from the shadows.
I am Celestia, the Unconquered Sun. Hear me, Nightmare. I am coming for you.
And an excerpt from The Traveling Tutor and the Diplomat's Daughter - Rated G (I'm tempted to put the rating in the title, just because it sounds dirty, and the story is very clean. It even has preening in it, how much more clean can it get?)
Sunny is a fledgling Griffon Princess, the granddaughter of a Griffon King (small kingdom, only about a hundred adults)
Green Grass is Twilight Sparkle's love interest, although with their jobs, they don't get to see each other often.
Friday Haystings is Greenies unicorn valet, an elderly gentlecolt's gentlecolt who enjoys his job.
Princess Celestia has invited the three of them to a very private dinner, due to a certain prank that Greenie and Sunny had been pulling during the day. They should have known better.
All those happy thoughts vanished when the servant placed the first hors d'oeuvre in front of his plate. The anxiety he had been suppressing all day flooded back into his mind, tieing his gut back up in knots and raising the taste of acid in the back of his throat. Whatever Twilight and her friends were doing in that city in the Crystal Empire was most certainly dangerous, and suddenly the bruschetta he had just been about to bite felt like it was going to bite back.
“By the way, Lord Green Grass,” said Celestia’s lilting voice, cutting through his depression like a knife. “I’m quite pleased to tell you I’ve received a letter from Twilight Sparkle. She has successfully completed her little project in the Crystal Empire and should be back in Canterlot by tomorrow evening. She specifically mentioned that I should pass the word on to you, but things have been so hectic around the castle today.”
“That’s wonderful, Your High—” The words finally soaked into his mind, and Green Grass looked up at the smiling Princess Celestia with a sudden urge to ask just when she had received Twilight’s letter, and just why he had not been informed. Said urge was rather rapidly beaten into submission before being thrown into a mental vault with a great number of other beaten and bloody urges who had been properly admonished in the past, while Green Grass composed his features for Sunny. Taking a crunchy bite of the delicious bruschetta and washing it down with what he quickly realized was grape juice, he welcomed the return of his absent appetite even as he resumed his proper place in the conversation.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Of course, Your Highness.”
“Quite correct, Your Highness.”
“That’s a fish?”
The rhythm of responses he had been happily working his way through(4) was knocked terribly off-kilter by the sudden appearance of what most certainly looked like a dead fish, even if it had been disguised by a greenish sauce quite close in color to his own coat. Admittedly the plate had been placed in front of Sunny, who was barely restraining herself from diving into it beak first, but it still was a fish, quite dead, and laying there on the plate. Dead. And being a fish. And dead.
Nonplussed, the waiter continued placing plates on the table with a quiet, “Yes, sir. A truite au bleu, chilled poached trout in court bouillon with vinegar, lemon, carrot, celery and onion, garnished with sea salt and black peppercorns. The topping is fresh dill cream, sauteed shallots in butter and deglazed with a fine year of Trottontés wine and pureed with cream and dill fresh from the gardens. Would m’lord care for a portion? There is still a second trout in the kitchen, and the chef would be more than pleased to prepare it for you. Admittedly your grilled tofu has the same topping and preparation, but some diners prefer the natural taste of—”
“No! I mean, no thank you, sir.” Green Grass swallowed hard and regarded his own dish, which did indeed have the distinguishing characteristics of properly prepared tofu, i.e. no eyes looking up, no scales, no tails, and no other fishy attributes.
He had just picked up his fork and was prepared to poke it into his own non-fish dish when Sunny cheerfully chirped, “Did you want a bite? I mean, it’s proper etiquette for Griffons to let the eldest have the first bite of a kill.”
“Oh, no. No, no, no. I couldn’t possibly—” Green Grass caught the benevolent expression on Princess Celestia’s face, which was as unguarded as he had ever seen the immortal alicorn. It became suddenly easy to envision a long procession of ancient royal rulers being brought under a warm and loving wing at a quiet dinner table early in their youthful lives, and forever more thinking of the mighty Princess Celestia as that large, loving alicorn who was more than happy to help trim the crusts off their bread and pull the seeds out of grapes for them while they were perched on a tall cushion by her feathered side. And then many years later, the poor confused ruler would be trying to reconcile the real Royal Princess of Equestria standing with them over the negotiation table against their first childhood memories of her dabbing their lips with a napkin at the dinner table. Sunny would not remain a little chick for many more years. Eventually, if she did not die from the myrid reasons that gave griffons such short life expectancies, she would become Queen of the Misty Mountain Aire, undisputed master of nearly a hundred adult griffons. She would visit other kingdoms, and have other discussions, but she would never again be a little fledgeling having Princess Celestia at her wingtips. All she would have from this night were memories, so they should be good ones.
“—override protocol. After all, Princess Celestia is the eldest here, and should have the first bite.” Green Grass leaned back in his chair with a warm smile on his face, which cooled as Celestia nodded enthusiastically and produced a fork.
“Capital idea, Greenie. May I?” With a nod from Sunny, Celestia scooped up a good forkfull of trout, and chewed with a blissful expression. “Oh, c'est magnifique. It reminds me so much of my first trip to the Griffon Empire when I met Wingmaster Eile. They tried so hard to make everything under the sun for dinner, and I thought I would just burst. I’m afraid I had to turn down the Lapin Rôti à l'Origan though. I just couldn’t think of eating a bunny.”
“Yes, Your Highness,” echoed Green Grass, feeling a teensy bit disconnected from the world. “I couldn’t either.”
“Just where are my manners? Sunny, would it be all right for Greenie to have a taste too? After all, he has often remarked about just how many new and exciting things Twilight has shown him. It would be only fair for him to enjoy this too.”
With a sudden Celestia-driven golden glow around them, both his and Friday’s forks swooped over to the dead fish, picked up a substantial portion, and returned to their owner’s plates. While Green Grass stared in rapt fascinated horror at the hovering fork, he heard chewing coming from Friday’s direction, followed by a swallowing noise and a delighted, “Ahhh. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything like this, Your Highness.”
Leaving Green Grass to stare at the dead fish. Well, the small sauce-covered chunk of dead fish hovering in front of his nose. There was a technique he had used on his parents when faced with distasteful vegetables involving small bites and a large napkin, but with the full knowledge that attempting the same stunt with Princess Celestia would be futile, he leaned forward.
Opened his mouth, while trying not to think of fish.
Bit down, while trying not to think of fish.
Chewed, while trying not to think of fish.
And swallowed, while trying really hard not to think of fish swimming upstream.
After a quick gulp of grape juice, he speared a piece of tofu and repeated the same process, with less trepidation, and less thought of fish. “It’s... different. I think I prefer my tofu, Your Highnesses.”
“More for me.” The little griffon dove into her fish with only minimal attention to knife and fork...