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Nothing special here, move along, nothing to see, just ignore the lump under the sheet and the red stuff...

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Sneak Peek - Green Grass and Estee · 1:42am Jul 10th, 2019

Since it looks like Estee might possibly maybe make it to Bronycon2019, I'd like to encourage a few of you to gently tap her Ko-Fi account, not because she's put out a frantic call for cash, but because she's just so darned flustered when she gets unexpected money. (I'm the Supreme Cheapskate, and I just did). In related news (and the sample bit that follows the break), you may be aware that I've been doing an experiment lately to see if I can write... not like Estee, but using some of the same tools out of the toolbox, so to say. I've got two doodling projects: What would Green Grass look like in the Triptych Continuum (The Substitute Librarian), and What would Green Grass' first encounter with Doctor Gentle look like? (Decisions of Life and Death)

To be honest, the following bit is a DRAFT-DRAFT. I wrote up something earlier and sent it to Estee with a "How wildly wrong is this?" and I got the answer of roughly close but no cigar and Gentle is not Mengele. So I re-wrote it to throw the whole "I know what you're doing" bit out and replaced it with "I don't care what you're doing, as long as you save my son" So no, it's not canon in my or Estee's 'verse, but it does make a good thought piece, explains why GG's parents are so touchy about him, and puts Martel right into his slot. GG inherited a lot of that stubbornness. So with no further ado, let me move the curtain aside and you can see this sausage being ground.

Decisions of Life and Death
The Hammer

Martel Chandler, Baron of Chrysanthum, had been named for the hammer of their family seal, and that stubborn determination had served him well through the years. Broad in the shoulders as well as his strong mind, he had graduated top of his class in Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. He was a strong pony, from a line of strong ponies, all the way back eight generations to the first Chrysanthum who had forged their House business out of a pile of scrap metal and a hammer. After the last few months, Martel had new respect for what those pieces of scrap had gone through. Steel did not fear the hammer, but steel required violence to shape it, to form dull ingots into useful objects. Steel had no choice in the matter. The hammer ruled.

Ponies seemed to require the same process. The blows hurt, although with every stroke, Martel had grown stronger. The stallion sitting patiently in the doctor’s office was furlongs distant from the young colt who had to shoulder the burden of the title of Baron far before he was ready, to take a wife he had never seen before when his family had ordered it, to lead when he would have rather followed stronger, older parents.

That choice had been taken away too. The crushing burden was now his own until he could pass it down to his children, and they in turn would pass it to theirs. Curse or blessing, power or powerless, it was his responsibility, and Martel would not buckle under the strain.

“Mama?” The small green foal in the stroller stirred, looking up at his father with dark eyes. “Mama?” he repeated, with a patience that he had demonstrated would last until his question was answered.

“Your mother is fine,” said Martel. “The doctor is with her. She will be here shortly.”

His son nodded, then pawed at the knit cap covering his head. During his nap, it had gotten scrunched up to the point it was starting to come down over his bushy eyebrows. Green Grass was a furry foal, which camouflaged his relative lack of musculature and the way his head was too large for his scrawny body. It took only a few moments for Martel to adjust the warm cap over his son’s hornless head, check the diaper for moisture, and bring out a bottle. That was a word he knew too.

“Bottle,” declared Green Grass. “Up.”

“What do we say?”

Martel hovered the bottle in his magic, feeling marginally better about his situation due to the distraction. His pregnant wife had been examined many times in the last few weeks, with only one answer to his questions. Little Green Grass had been through much the same ever since his troubled birth, holding onto life with a tenacious grip through fevers, shakes, and midnight frights. Only a fool would throw away money on a lost cause, and Martel of House Chrysanthemum was no fool. His wife would live. His children, both born and unborn would live. Death was inevitable for all ponies, great or small, but not today.

“Up,” declared the foal again. He struggled out of his blanket and put both sock-clad forehooves over the edge of the stroller with the firm confidence that his father would not allow him to fall. “Up!”

“We spoil you so.” Allowing himself the smallest of smiles, Martel floated his son up out of the stroller and into the crook of his foreleg, then allowed him to suckle on the bottle of expensive formula, filled with specific vitamins and precise chemical mixtures. It was a far cry from the intravenous feedings and stomach tubes of his birth, and even though the foal only managed to drink half of the bottle before stopping, Martel could not help but feel a surge of joy at that small task. “Are you sure you don’t want any more? Just one more drop?”

Green Grass shook his head. Despite the troubles of his birth, he was brilliant for his age. Those piercing eyes, sunken into hollow eye sockets so the glitter of blue was overwhelmed by their surroundings, never missed anything, and if not watched closely, he would escape from wherever he was placed to explore the world on wobbly legs, just to see what he could see. If only he was not so stubborn.

“Say daddy. Come on, Greenie. Say daddy. Please?”

The foal closed his eyes, or at least looked as if he were going to take another brief nap. He could have been faking it. From the smile, he certainly looked as if he were faking. Martel remained sitting on the cushion with his son tucked into the crook of a foreleg anyway.

Martel refused to cry. He was strong. Green Grass was strong too. The doctors claimed he would not survive the birth. They were wrong. They said he would never grow. In the last year, he had proved them wrong also, even if he did not grow as much as any of them wished. He would not die. He was a Chrysanthemum. He was steel. Someday, he would become a pony that even the pessimistic doctors would look up to. An example. His son.

The faint click of the office door made Martel look up from his musings about his sleeping son, and instead take in the calm face of the nurse who was standing there.

“The doctor has begun your wife’s procedure and will be with you shortly. Do you need anything? I can watch your foal if you want.”

“No, thank you,” said Martel out of reflex, although he felt a need to explain since he was in a surgical center, and the nurse certainly looked like she knew what she was doing. “My son has some rare medical issues. Not that you aren’t trained in that regard, but we are much more familiar with his idiosyncrasies.”

It was a long word to describe over a year of doctor visits and intensive studying of symptoms until Martel felt as if he could teach a class on Pollychan’s Disorder. The rest of his older children had been so easy, until this one. They slept through the night, obeyed, and… Well, Martel would never admit it, but raising an earth pony foal in a family full of unicorns had taken some getting used to. A sick one had been a full-time job. Then Spring had gotten pregnant, and Martel found his time at home monopolized every minute instead of his usual dawn-to-dusk work habits. Eye drops and ear drops and solid pills, cremes for rashes and ointment for lesions, a nearly moment by moment effort split between two subjects to keep the feeble foal fed and his wife cared for.

Thankfully, the young nurse did not look offended by having her offer of assistance turned down.

“Doctor Gentle would like to examine your son privately, if that is acceptable.”

“No.” Without really meaning to, Martel turned to interpose his body between the nurse and his son. “The consultation involves all of us.”

“You are here because Doctor Gentle asked for you,” said the nurse in less of a subservient fashion than Martel wished. “That includes a private examination of your son.”

As much as he wanted to object, the stress and fatigue of the last months dragged on him like an anchor. There had been so many doctors, all of whom had done their best to press his fragile son one tiny increment or another closer to life and away from the grim embrace of death. That fleeting hope dangling in front of Martel had become a torture as each doctor had sounded so optimistic about their treatments at the beginning, only to fade into glum acceptance when the magical pills or tonics failed to improve Green Grass’ condition more than slightly.

The inconspicuous stallion who had answered his invitation last week did not say anything about Green Grass, and Martel had not volunteered any information. The visitor had emphasized his role as a simple conduit, a middle-pony who listened to Martel speak about his wife Spring and the embryonic twins who endangered her life. The fact that the doctor wanted to examine Green Grass today gave his heart the slightest burst of hope. Still, Martel had spent so much effort into getting this exact meeting, so if it had even the slightest chance of improving their chances…

“If I must,” admitted Martel. “Although I will not permit him to be handled by any others. I would prefer the doctor examines him in my presence.”

Time crawled past, proving his decision to keep Green Grass was wise, because the foal kept his spirits up, giggling and entertaining his much larger father with snot bubbles or waves of his tiny green hooves. Through subtle manipulation of his own, Martel had just managed to get the last of the formula into his son when the door thumped again, and the nurse wheeled his wife into the office.

“Hello, Spring,” he ventured. “Did the procedure go well?”

“I’m still a little woozy from the anesthesia spell,” she admitted, shifting positions in the wheelchair with no obvious attempt to stand up on her own. “The doctor did not want to say anything while examining me, but his grunting sounded optimistic.”

“As it should be, M’lady.”

The doctor was only a few steps behind, and swept into the room with the energy of somepony half his age. Martel still did not trust him, although that could be said of most ponies he knew. This one’s bright orange eyes were far too optimistic, too eager to press forward. He had seen that expression too often in applicants for the Chrysanthemum organization, eager young unicorns ready to change the world. Well, the world had enough craters and explosions in his opinion, and far too few magical workings which worked. From the time his ancestor had brought the company into existence and many times over the decades, one circuit, one component, one item at a time, House Chrysanthemum was changing that. No doubt, sensors produced by subsidiaries of his company had been used in the medical examination his wife had just been through, as well as the plebian operations of several other unicorn workings in place around the medical office.

The leading edge of science was sharp, cut deep, and left behind mangled bodies. House Chrysanthemum, and therefore Martel, had been devoted to avoiding those cuts. Over the last year, he had felt himself dragged closer to that razor edge with every doctor’s visit, every bottle of precisely measured chemical formula, every emergency stay in the hospital. He had never felt that keen cutting edge as much as when the otherwise pleasant doctor reached down and picked up a smiling Green Grass in his pale magic.

Instead of complaining, Martel merely stood back and watched Doctor Gentle prod and poke at his son with much the same care as his name. Greenie even enjoyed it, and reached with eager little hooves for the glittering end of the stethoscope whenever it dangled near. The examination took little time, ending when the doctor reluctantly gave Green Grass back to his mother, where he curled up and promptly fell asleep against her chest, most likely exhausted into a welcome nap by all the activity.

There were more small words as the doctor made himself comfortable behind the desk, a large oak structure which had pictures of another stallion’s wife on it, reminding Martel that Gentle was only borrowing this doctor’s office for his temporary use.

“I’m afraid you already know what I’m going to say.” Doctor Gentle touched the tips of his forehooves together, tented above the massive desk’s thick surface. “Your wife does not have the thaumic reserves to carry two foals to term. It is not the same problem that she had with your son, or I would be able to help.”

“So that’s it, then.” Martel let out a breath he had not been aware he was holding as one of the two props that were holding up his world collapsed. “You were our last hope for the twins. We had heard so many good things about your work with prenatal thaumic potential that we had to try before we went through with a reduction.” He swallowed the bile that wanted to crawl up his throat. “One must die so another will live.”

“That’s… yes,” admitted the doctor after a period of silence, obviously uncomfortable with the harsh words. “If you wish, I can provide references to an excellent surgeon who has dealt with the procedure before, with remarkable success rates.”

“And yet, one always dies,” murmured Martel beneath his breath. “That’s not all we wished to discuss with you, Doctor Gentle,” he added in a stronger voice that still felt bitter on his lips. “My wife and I have already discussed this at length. We had hoped you would be able to save both of the twins, but…”

The words did not want to come out of his reluctant mouth, much like a malfunctioning device that refused to perform its function. He, at least, was able to try, although Spring Fresh bent her head over Green Grass and bent to her task of teasing another bottle into his mouth with singular attention. In a relatively short time, the doctor filled the silence with his own words instead.

The tips of Doctor Gentle’s hooves tapped together once, then again. “Your wife is too old to have her essence manipulated,” he stated more slowly. “There is no way to save both of the twins and your wife. Her body has already been pressed to the limit. If left in place, the developing embryos will stress her organs until they fail, long before the foals are viable outside the womb. If she were weaker, the only practical option would be to remove them both and tie her tubes so she would not be able to bear any more foals. The safe approach for her condition at this time is a reduction. Remove one of the embryos, allow the other to develop, and deliver a healthy foal in six months.”

“We know.” Martel allowed the breath he had been holding to escape in a near hiss. “If there were a chance you could do whatever you do to adults, you would. I know your kind. Always asking if something is possible, instead of asking if it should even be attempted. In my business, that attitude kills. And yet…”

He forced himself to take a breath, to damp down the flickering embers of anger that simmered in his gut. “The First Law of Thaumics says magic can neither be created nor destroyed. While others secretly marveled at your ability to restore essence to the foals in troubled births, I could not help but wonder where you found it. At that time, I did not care, not even after the birth of my son. I found myself too busy exploring the world of thaumic nutrition, finding which ninety-nine of a hundred potions or elixirs were useless, which of them solved one problem while creating three more. Scam artists claiming to enhance magical talent, ancient herbs with inconsistent results, powdered gemstones and dangerous amulets.”

Still wrapped in his mother’s arms, Green Grass stirred, and Spring managed to slip the tip of a fresh bottle in between his lips.

“I’m aware of your recent work,” said Doctor Gentle. “That is why I agreed to meet with you today. I still don’t see why you need my services. The reduction is well outside of my regular practice.”

“I want you to save my son,” managed Martel from between clenched teeth. “Use whatever spell you use to restore his essence from another to save Green Grass. I don’t care how you normally acquire the essence you use, whether you dig up graveyards or rob indigents in the alleys of slums, but one of the twins my wife carries should have the essence you need for this. Take the life of one of my children to save the other.”

The doctor stopped tapping his forehooves together and leaned forward in his chair, nearly climbing onto the desktop as he spluttered, “That’s not how… Why do you think… It doesn’t work that way!”

“No. I don’t know what process or spell you wanted to use on my son during the delivery, and I don’t want to know.” Martel continued with growing fury. “Whatever you do with the essence of an unborn foal with his disorder… Nopony I’ve met in the medical field wants to say anything about it, and I knew better than to prod too deeply. I don’t care. You can. That is a fact. In my business, I deal with facts, not wishes.”

Doctor Gentle did not say anything, but remained leaning over the desk with his face a mix of confusion and indignation.

“Pollychan’s Disorder has a spectrum to the symptoms,” continued Martel in words that he had practiced since the birth of his son. “Some cases are just barely detectable, while others kill well before the foal is born. My son is—”

“There are at least seven different names for the disease, all with the same symptoms. All with the same outcome.” Although recovered enough to speak, Doctor Gentle seemed pained beyond his words. “So many of them I could not save. I wish I had been available when your son was born. I thought he was lost forever. Some of the treatments you have used to prolong his life were my own, or those of my compatriots. They helped, and I hoped I was wrong, but after my examination today, I fear the outcome is inevitable. I cannot offer the hope you want.”

“You won’t even try,” growled Martel. There was a hesitation in the doctor’s impassive demeanor, much like Martel had seen in high-stakes business negotiations with far more dangerous individuals, and he pounced on it like a griffon on a fat rat. “You’re afraid. All stuffed full of your reputation and praise from parents who you’ve helped. You can face a mare with that smug doctor face and tell them how you did everything possible to save their dead foal, but you can’t look your failure in the face. Look at him! Look at my son!”

Green Grass took that moment to roll over and nuzzle away the bottle’s nipple, looking up at his father with those indescribable sunken eyes. Lowering his voice to a bare whisper, Martel continued, “He trusts us. Every shot, every needle, every time somepony has drawn blood or given him medicine, he takes. He doesn’t cry, he doesn’t struggle. He takes what the world has given him and just keeps going. That’s the kind of persistence that makes a Chrysanthemum. Look him in the eyes and tell him you won’t save his life.”

“No.” The doctor’s simple answer did not make Martel as angry as he expected. The word did not seem to be malicious, just something that bent his trust in directions he did not like. The doctor settled back into his chair and kept his eyes focused on the surface of the wooden desk. “Baron Chrysanthemum, you don’t know what I’ve gone through to reach this point. The risks I’ve taken. The failures. Even some of the successes which turned out to be less of a success than we originally thought.”

“The only way to succeed is to try,” countered Martel. “Failure is easy. All you have to do to guarantee failure is to give up. Life is hard.” The resulting silence draped across the room like a humid blanket until Martel was forced to speak again, nearly biting off the words. “The great doctor, who we heard so much about, gives us the same answer as all the rest. What good are you, then? What would you say if Green Grass was your own son? What lengths would you go to, what would you dare in order to give him a chance at life?”

Ever so slowly, the doctor nodded. “I understand far more than you realize. Every patient I’ve treated, every foal who has been brought back from the shadowlands, they all hold a special place in my heart. I have not one child, but dozens.”

“And I have four.” Martel found himself running one hoof gently down his wife’s mane. “What kind of father would I be to cast away one of them to save another? And yet I must, even before their birth. The doctors all say Green Grass will die,” said Martel flatly. “They said it during his birth, and they’ve said it every time I meet with one since. The only doctor who said anything else is you, and now we are supposed to ignore even that thread of hope?”

“Hope is one thing,” said Doctor Gentle. “Wishing for something that cannot be is another.”

“Again, I don’t care!” snapped Martel. Fighting to hold his voice steady and his temper in check, he growled, “You, and only you, can take the life from one of my unborn children, and give it to my son. Kill the one, save the other, through whatever secret process you have discovered. I’ve heard many stories about you doing this before and I have no reason to doubt your reputation.”

The doctor settled back into his chair and his uncomfortable expression turned grim. “So it has come to this. Blackmail.”

“No.” Martel took a difficult breath and rested one hoof on Spring Fresh’s shoulder. “Never. I will not cross that line, and neither will my wife. We are honorable ponies. As I said, we have discussed this at length. What we have spoken of shall remain strictly between us, no matter the decision. Even if you refuse to help, and my son…”

Doctor Gentle thought for a time while Martel kept his face impassive. He did not like being played like a fool, particularly with the life of his wife and son at stake. The advantage of being deeply involved in the business world was a lifetime of facing talented liars, each willing to spin or warp their words into pretzels to gain advantage over their opponents. The respected doctor had a way of speaking similar to many of the ponies Martel faced daily, with cautious use of phrases and always a subtle dance of meaning. It itched at his mind and bothered his business sense. Far better would be some sort of agreement with all the conditions laid out in detailed paragraphs, agreed to by both parties and enforceable by law. He knew medicine did not work that way, but still wished it did. Holding his tongue until the doctor had finished was the most difficult thing he had done in his life, short of keeping his voice calm and level once it was his time to speak in response.

The doctor took up a piece of loose paper on the desk and began folding it with his hooves, a very earth pony habit that Martel had not expected. Still, it was a chink in the dam, a weakness that Martel was determined to exploit if it would save his son. Spring made as if she wanted to fill that hollow silence, but Martel stopped her with a glance, and she went back to the slow and reluctant feeding of Green Grass. Eventually, a paper crane was placed upon the desk, and the doctor let out his breath in a long, deep acknowledgement of defeat. “Yes. I will try.”

“That is all I can ask,” admitted Martel. “Whatever you need, be it funding or access to any of my company, it is yours.”

“I will prepare a list. Arrangements will need to be made. Quickly.” The doctor touched the paper crane, making it rock back and forth. “I hope we both do not eventually regret this decision.”

“The three of us,” admitted Martel. He brushed a hoof against his wife’s shoulder, a bare touch which scarcely stirred her yellow coat. “My son will live. I will have it no other way.”

“Which son?” asked Doctor Gentle very quietly. He picked up a second piece of loose paper from the desk and began folding. “The unborn foals are fraternal unicorns, one male and one female, with two distinct placentas or a reduction would be nearly impossible. You can still have a son, even if Green Grass passes away.”

Martel could not breathe. It was a temptation beyond all others. A unicorn son to carry on the family business. His first son was already promised to another family, a union between unicorn Houses that was needed to maintain the constant tenuous grasp of power. His second son was a frivolous child who was fascinated by the intricate dance of language and had no interest in magic. The tension only grew while the doctor continued to fold, eventually placing a second paper swan next to the first.

“Mama?” The bottle’s nipple had slipped out of the infant’s mouth, and he pawed ineffectually at it to encourage its return. Spring Fresh quickly returned the nipple to Green Grass’ lips, although she felt as tense as a coiled spring when Martel rested a hoof on her shoulder. There was a possibility Martel had not really wanted to consider over the last few months, one that made it more difficult to breathe than ever.

One that he dared not speak, even to himself.

“We should leave,” said Martel bluntly, despite the way Spring looked up from her wheelchair with wide eyes at his words. “If I had the smallest amount of sense, I would take my wife and child far away from you. But…”

The doctor started to speak, then thought better of it, although he never took those eyes off him.

“Take the colt,” managed Martel. “Let my unborn son save my son who is born.”

“And if I fail?” asked Doctor Gentle.

“You will not.” Martel reached down and arranged the knit cap over his son’s green head, then gently tousled his exposed mane. “You will succeed, and my son will live. I will consider nothing else.”

--End chapter 1

— Chapter 2

Decisions of Life and Death
The Life We Make

Hospitals still gave Martel a cutting sensation deep in his gut, places of death where he had watched his own grandfather die, and then his father. His own near-miss had been only a few months ago, a tightness in the chest that had been examined and pondered by several wise minds with concerned expressions and formal lab coats before being passed off as perhaps a ‘minor’ heart attack, much as one might consider having a boulder dropped on your head a minor mountain attack.

Pills every morning. Pills every evening. Pills he had to surreptitiously carry in a small pocket sewn into his suit jacket, just in case.

Thankfully, Green Grass no longer needed pills of any sort. He ate like he had been starved for his first two years of life, and could wheedle the nurse into extra applesauce or bits of banana with one plaintive look from his deep blue eyes. The burning curiosity of his previous existence only grew also, until Martel had to bring an earth pony locksmith into the house in order to get every openable door or cabinet a proper latch. (editing point, expansion in process)

Comments ( 16 )

Donation done; waiting for the flustered blog post :rainbowlaugh:

5086675 Heh. Best case, we get to hear it in person at Bronycon :pinkiehappy:

Assuming Estee doesn’t go totally incognito. But . . . I know a couple dozen people by their faces, so it’ll be simple process of elimination . . . .

Wow. That was one of the most intense stories I've read in a long while.
Very well done, Georg!

frankly I don’t think ANYONE can write like estee, mostly because estee has amung the worst life luck I have seen (actually around 3rd worst so I actually can see the stuff that happens to them actually happening) so their cynicism and misfortune bleeds into the stories they write and it actually makes the stories better for it (and let’s be honest the quality of their work is worth tipping for)

Donation given. Would be interesting to see just how flustered she gets.

5086682 Estee is a good influence, but George RR Martin edges ahead by a bit. The first five seasons or so of Game of Thrones were awesome. The way he does dialogue with family is like a knife, and every scene with these two in it drips blood. Amazing bunch of actors and great writing.

TIL Estee is a girl. Not that that changes anything, but still.

Bits deployed.

I've seen both male and female pronouns for them, actually, as I recall within their sight, too. My leading hypothesis is that, as part of their noted desire for anonymity, they're deliberately not specifying.
Of course, I may have missed something.

Dang. I can see the edges where it doesn't quite mesh with the Triptych Continuum, but this is some marvelously intense prose. Eagerly looking forward to the expansion.

Also, I appreciate how, even at this young age, Green Grass still had his hat.

Well, I think Estee is trying to stay as anonymous as possible, so, uh, maybe keep that under your hat.

5086802 I understand the feeling well. I'd be more than a little uncomfortable if my boss's boss knew I was a pony writer. That's why I write and comment under an alias, after all.
5086789 The interesting part of it is I had *no* idea what GG's life as a foal was when I wrote Tutor, just that his parents babied him more than his unicorn siblings (mostly because of his 'disability' ) and his father pushed him like a bulldozer. By the time I hit Royal Exam, I had expanded it out to 'he was sick a lot as a foal' and then when he got his cameo in Triptych, the little light in the back of the fridge came on. "Hey, that fits perfectly."

Look, I’m gonna be straight with you: I haven’t read either Traveling Tutor or Triptych, but this is freaking metal. More please! :pinkiehappy:

5087079 I've found it comforting to be able to write pedal to the metal, no holds barred. It's hard to do that with a romance. :) And it's hard to keep it up for multiple pages.

While the essence-transfusion bits of this might not be canon, I see no reason to not adopt the rest as headcanon for GG's infancy. I am kinda curious how Martel and Spring would turn into the characters we see in Travelling Tutor, though, there's a very distinct shift in personality and mannerism. I could see that being partly due to overexposure to the laugh, at least...

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