• Published 11th Jun 2013
  • 466 Views, 4 Comments

This Strange Yet Wonderful World - SolvableSphinx

Imagine Equestria as it would have been if firmly rooted in the early 1800s. Where the protagonists live in an age of empire, of steam and gunpowder, of great explorers and undiscovered lands. That is the story I seek to tell.

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Chapter 1: Correspondance With A Queen

Twilight began to pace around the library, uncertain of what she was going to say or to do. For seven years she had been the student of Queen Celestia. Well, at this point she guessed that she was close to earning an apprenticeship under Her Highness, but every time she around the noble alicorn she got butterflies in her stomach.

“Did I do the right thing?” Twilight asked herself. “She had to be warned about the coming of Nightmare Moon.”

“But Nightmare Moon is an old mare’s tale,” Spike replied, clearly exasperated about the whole ordeal. “You said it yourself, every culture on the planet has some tale about the Mare in the Moon.”

“Yes, but they are all too similar for it to not be based in historical fact!” Twilight said in rebuttal. “Besides, the only tale which actually ends up being in the history books are the Equestrian ones. I mean, yeah, we have a semi-mythical past akin to the human histories, but still…”

“But still what?” Spike asked, earning him a glare. “It’s not true because it’s a story. And lets say it is true. This is Queen Celestia we’re talking about here. She would have a plan to deal with that sort of thing. You know, because it’s her job.”

“But what if she’s forgotten?” Twilight asked, worry and dread creeping into her voice. “I mean, records of the alicorns go back to right after the Dream Valley-era of recorded pony history. That’s a long time.”

“So, you’re saying that Queen Celestia is too old for her job?” Spike asked skeptically.

“No,” Twilight replied, before she began to stammer a little bit. “I mean, no, she’s not too old. I’d never say that!”

“But you’re implying it,” Spike said, smiling as he made Twilight squirm. “Twilight, everything will be fine. It’ll be just like last Nightmare Night when you though there would be a zombie uprising.”

“BUT THERE WERE ZOMBIES!” Twilight yelled in frustration.

“There was a zombie, and that was because the body was donated to the necromancer's trade school for training,” Spike said. Twilight grumbled, and Spike coughed flame, causing a small note to appear from the flame. The piece of paper began to slowly float down, and Twilight captured it with her unicorn magic.

“Dearest Twilight,
Please come to my office.
-H.R.M. Celestia”

“So is that good or bad?” Spike asked.

“She used a dash before H.R.M.,” Twilight said.

“So, mildly bad?”

Twilight could only giggle nervously.

The Canterlot Castle had many rooms, and also many faces. That was mostly because the castle was constructed very long ago as both the military and civil center of the Kingdom of Equestria in a time when it feared foreign invasions and internal rebellion from the conquered and subjugated peoples who sided with the Luna Republic in the War of Sun and Moon.

Of course, time has passed. The War of Sun and Moon has faded into history, and Queen Celestia worked hard to ensure that there would be no taint of blood for those who were loyal to her fallen sister. Secure from the inside, it fought external wars, which gave way to mass conscription and forced the old system of overlord and vassal into the dustpan of other such orders. With the rise of the vast noble manors and the sometimes sprawling Equestrian bureaucracy, the castle became less and less cramped as more and more ponies were not needed inside its walls.

So while the castle of today was still inhabited, it was nowhere near as crowded as it once was. There were barracks for a small contingent of royal guards, though most preferred to live in Canterlot with their families. There were those parts of the castle used for public functions, such as the throne room, the ball room, and any other number of places with the word ‘room’ in them. There were the servant’s workrooms and quarters, though in these days the servants were not bound and becoming a servant in one of the many royal estates was seen as a significant career achievement.

And of course there were the various offices, libraries and entertainment rooms. Such as this one, which Twilight reluctantly knocked on.

Queen Celestia maintained several offices. The first was the public office, which was the office most of Equestria associated with their monarch. It was ornate, with very little expense spared to give the appearance that no expense was spared in how the crown goes about the serious business of entertaining minor government officials, unimaginative diplomats, sycophantic courtiers, professional politicians and whoever the current talk of the celebrity world might be. There was also the military office, or ‘War Room’, which Twilight had never visited but which her brother assured her was quite large.

Then there was Celestia’s private office, which Twilight saw once more as she was told to enter. It was about as no-nonsense as one might as expect from a person who has ruled for over a thousand years. A painting was on the left wall, one of a great battle that Twilight did not know the name of from however many years ago. The other wall was a bookshelf, containing a small collection of personal titles which ranged from the trashy romance novels of three hundred years ago (which were frankly pornographic in ways that made Twilight very uncomfortable), to the memoirs of notable ponies, and which even included current discussions in natural philosophy. There was also a cot to one side, and in the window there was a potted cactus plant which tried valiantly to stay alive.

“Ah, Twilight. My favorite student of magic,” Queen Celestia said, only looking up as she signed an envelope and put it to the side. Her desk was not that bad of a mess, but it was hardly immaculate.

“I’m… I’m your only student of magic,” Twilight said, blushing a little bit.

“Therefore I can say that you are my favorite as many times as I want without worrying about the feelings of my other, non-existing magic students,” Celestia said with a knowing smirk. Queen Celestia always tried to lighten the mood, but it often times fell flat with the rather uptight Twilight.

“Okay,” Twilight said mulishly. “Thanks I guess.”

The Queen sighed, before looking back up to her student. “I’ve gathered from your letter that you’re rather excited about the whole ‘Mare in the Moon’ prophecy. Am I wrong?”

Twilight had a million things that she was ready to say, but now she felt like a schoolgirl being chastised by her principal. “Um… no. I just thought that… that you need to know.”

Celestia smiled at Twilight. “I appreciate your courage in sending me that letter, so I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Celestia said, as she waved Twilight a little closer. Twilight leaned in, and Celestia whispered just loud enough for Twilight to hear. “I actually wrote the darn thing.”

“You… you did?” Twilight asked, amazed.

“I used to be in the oracle business back before that human island temple opened up and stole my clients,” Celestia said with a huff. “I knew my spell would not be enough to hold my sister eternally, even if that was my desire. I know that she will not reform and assume the duties of a proper ruler, not without being purified. And I have planned for this coming day for quite some time. Would you care to see how, my most faithful student?”

Twilight felt the knot in her stomach grow stronger. There was something strange about the way she so casually discussed such serious business. And stranger still was the fact that she was being included in it. The royal courts often spoke of how the Queen schemed, and indeed her scheming is part of what keeps Equestria from falling apart. But that she was being included in such a scheme meant that it was either a very good thing for Twilight, or a very bad thing for Equestria.

Twilight nodded her head.

“Come then. Let us look at Canterlot together.”

It was only a few moments of silence as they both walked next to the window and took in the scene below. There was a tourist group in the gardens, as well as guardsmen marching about. The city below expanded, its skies only moderately cloudy from a combination of soot and "natural" clouds, with buildings stretching across a very cramped place until they met the wall.

“What do you see, dearest Twilight,” Queen Celestia asked as Twilight stood beside her at the window.

“I see… Canterlot,” Twilight said.

“Just Canterlot?” Celestia asked. “And what makes up Canterlot?”

“Buildings?” Twilight asked, confused. Celestia smiled a little more, that same smile whenever she was on the right path. “Buildings, but also roads. Markets.”

“Very good. A city is not just an entity unto itself. A city is made up of many smaller things, all becoming greater than the sum of its parts. And what is within the cities? Who lives there?”

“Ponies I guess,” Twilight said. “Griffons too. And zebras!”

“And deer, and elves, and humans. There are even a few dwarves among all of them,” Celestia replied, though at the mention of dwarves her expression became sour. That visible distaste lasted for only a moment as she proceeded to use a foreleg to point up. “And what is above the city?”

“Clouds. The sky,” Twilight said.

Celestia nodded. “Very good. And what do we stand in?”

“Your office, in Canterlot Castle,” Twilight said with a grin.

“You are performing very well my student. But you have been sheltered all your life. It is a luxury that the masses, both the gentle and the simple, have been able to enjoy because of hard decisions made long ago. If one wishes to rule, one must take into account the matter of how one must go about killing another thinking being,” she noticed that Twilight seemed shocked at this. “It must be done without malice, dearest Twilight. But if one wishes to defend their nation, one must be willing to cause harm upon those who would cause them harm.

“Now, let me show you how I see the city, when I am wearing my Dame-of-Generals hat,” Celestia said, closing her eyes. There seemed to a subtle shift in her features, before she opened her eyes again and spoke with a voice of steel.

“I see walls. There are several of them. There are the old walls of the castle, as well as the more modern walls of the Royal District. There are walls separating the other districts as well, and those grew organically with the city. Even though they were unplanned, and for the purpose of catching themes, they have been incorporated in my grand plan. The outermost walls are among the most modern ones by far.

“In the modern walls there are tunnels to move through them unmolested, as well as the batteries of cannons which are permanently stationed there. Companies of ponies can move quickly this way to bridge any defensive holes, to counter-tunnel, and so forth. And there are stores, areas to grow food, and even a flowing river. Any invader with half a brain can lay siege to a single city, but can they bring enough material and bodies to successfully execute three sieges, one after the other, in hostile urban territory? This is not even mentioning those other walls which I have mentioned, all of tactical use, as well as the houses.

“The houses, and the ponies inside of them, are all potential military resources. There are many military families in Canterlot, and many who serve in the Watch, as well as the Royal and Civic Militias. Those such as your brother would be my army, but the militia are my irregulars and thus are highly valued. They will not fight honorably, but efficiently. They will fight from their homes, from their business, from the city square and dark allies which they know all too well. They will fight beyond death because there will be no retreat, because these are their homes and their loved ones may well end up being used as fodder. Not just for cannons, but for any carnivorous and depraved occupier. If nothing else, patriotic ponies can be shown how to use a shootstick and pointed in the right direction… though if it came to that, it would be far too late.”

Celestia noticed that Twilight seemed to pale, but she continued. “The roads, even these new railroads with their wondrous trains, can carry civilian passengers and goods. They are guarded by star forts, garrisons, and armories. Did you know that, Twilight Sparkle? Railroads can bring forth soldiers and militias just as well as frumpy tourists and wealthy businessmen, as well as rations, medicines, weapons and powder, so on and so forth. But that is not all, my dearest student.

“For above us, hidden from normal sight, is the cloud-docked 1st Air Fleet. They have cannons, fighting pegasi, battlemages, griffin mercenaries and Earth Pony airborne infantry… an army in a box, as your brother might say. One must not simply assume tactical air superiority, my dearest student. One assures total strategic air supremacy, which is the capstone of my Fortress Canterlot.”

Twilight stood there quietly, trying to take it all in. It was clear, though, that the young unicorn simply could not wrap her mind around the idea of an entire city being used as a weapon.

“Why do all this?” Twilight asked quietly. “Why go to all this trouble? I thought we are a peace loving kingdom.”

“Because the Long Night is coming. Because evil does not simply in the hearts of thinking beings, but is a force unto it,” Queen Celestia replied. “My sister was never the subtle one, and I am sure that she would be infuriated by the fact that I have protected and thus gained the loyalty of the so-called ‘bat-ponies’. But her corruption has spread, and I have no doubt that for every cult and ‘political club’ that I discover there are three to five more that remain hidden.

“And when they reveal themselves and their true purpose, when she finally plays her hand, then she will do so at a place and time of my choosing. And even if I do not immediately succeed, my agents are all nearly in their proper place to combat her and bring harmony back to the kingdom.”

“How?” Twilight asked.

“The Elements of Harmony. Among other things,” Celestia replied softly.

“Does that mean you’ll…” Twilight began quietly, before loosing her thought.

“Order other beings killed?” Celestia said, finishing the thought and receiving a weak nod from Twilight. “I will if I am forced to. Rulership is full of unpleasant necessities. But enough of that. Now is the time to begin preparing you for that, my dearest apprentice.”

“Apprentice?” Twilight asked, confused. Her face then suddenly changed to a smile. “Wait, does that mean that…”

“I believe I have taught you everything I reasonably can about the theory of magic,” Celestia replied with a smile, before sitting back at her desk. Twilight moved in front of the desk. “Now we move on the next stage of your education: application. Which, of course, means an increase in your responsibilities.”

“I’ll do anything you want me to,” Twilight said.

“Just what I wanted to hear,” Celestia replied, using her magic to pull out a map. “For this assignment, you will be acting as my agent. I am planning on visiting one of the villages in my holding, a settlement known as ‘Ponyville’, to help celebrate the Summer Sun Festival. Here’s what I want you to do…”

Queen Celestia smiled as Twilight Sparkle left the room. Although less than pleased by the assignment to honestly make an effort in making new friends, the young unicorn wizard was more than pleased to carry out her other assignments in preparing for the Summer Sun Festival.

The Monarch had plans for her young student. She would never push a pony, or indeed any of her subjects, beyond their intended limits. She had to be a scheming and calculating mare in order to successfully play the quite tedious game of politics for over a millinium, and as a military leader she was willing to use the lives of her soldiers, sailors, marines and militia as coin to buy victory. But she was never so cold as to view her peoples as pawns to be toyed with.

But she could guide them, and help them develop to their full potential. And although of simple birth, being born to parents of the merchant class, her brother Shining Armor and herself showed great magical potential. It seemed almost as though Providence had provided the ruler with a great gift: a military leader and a potentially great civil administrator.

It was then that Celestia felt something strange. It was though a veil of magic was dampening the senses. Everything turned gray for a moment, and time seemed to go more slowly. She felt the source, and turned to confront it, before everything turned white.

The room filled with the scented of gunpowder.

“Mwahahahahahahaha!” A feminine voice laughed out as Celestia fell on the floor. It was a peculiar sensation, this sense of detachment she had.

“What an elegant little killing device your little ponies have created, dear Cellie,” the voice said again. “Put some firework powder at the bottom, put a lead ball in on top of it, let it strike some flint or a cap and put a hole in the thing you do not like very much. What an equalizer you’ve commissioned! I’ve never realized that you were so altruistic.”

Celestia’s eyes looked at the source of the voice. It was her sister Luna, just as corrupted as when Celestia banished her to the moon. But still, it seemed as though there was something different. Something she could not place. She held within her telekenitic grip a shoot stick, the more compact pistol version that were often given to unicorn combat mages. Unlike the normal ones, which were made of brass, steel and local wood, she used silver and ebony, complete with ivory inlay.

“You shot me,” Celestia said quietly.

“Yes, I did indeed shoot you,” Nightmare Moon said, rather smugly. “That’s what one does with a shoot stick, is it not?”

“You shot me,” Celestia said again, only now beginning to discover the place where her sister attacked her. “You shot me in the barrel.”

“I had to have a little help, of course. Remember the Godkiller? That sword we used against Discord?” Nightmare Moon said, using her telekinesis to juggle a few silver balls. “Well, it’s mostly intact. I just took enough to make a few shots. Three, in fact, though now they’re two.”

“You shot me.”

Nightmare Moon rolled her eyes. “Yes, Celestia, I shot you.”

“You shot me.”

Nightmare Moon sighed. “I come all this way. I go out of my way to assassinate you, I make so that you can hear me in my triumph… and you go into shock. How typical.”

“You shot me.”

“I’LL SHOOT YOU AGAIN!” Nightmare Moon screamed, pressing the muzzle of her pistol against Celestia’s face. She pulled back the action, squeezed the trigger with her magic and… nothing but a click.

“You shot me.”

“I can’t… I can’t even…” Nightmare Moon sighed. “I suppose I’ll just dump you on the sun. It’s a good thing I watched you all these years. It’ll make replacing you much easier.”

Using a spell she had been preparing for a long time, Nightmare Moon teleported Celestia to her beloved sun. Blood stained the floor, quite a bit of it, and under normal circumstances Celestia would have a died a slow death if left untreated, either from blood loss or infection caused by the magic bullet removing her god-like immunities. As it was, the sun would preserve Celestia, allowing Nightmare Moon to deal with her at a time and place of her own choosing.

There was a knock on the door. Without a second thought, Nightmare Moon began casting another spell.

Shining Armor lightly knocked on the door again, expecting an answer. To his surprise, it was opened by his Queen.

“Good morning, Captain,” Celestia said, walking out of the office. “I hope you’re not here to discuss anything of too delicate a nature, are you?”

“Umm… no, Your Majesty,” Shining Armor replied.

“Good! Walk with me then,” Celestia replied.

Something seemed a little strange to Shining Armor, but he quickly followed, keeping a respectful step behind his sovereign as they discussed the minor business of the day.

Comments ( 4 )

Huh. Well. You definitely have my interest. I'm looking forward to more, the changes both big and small. Especially the reason why Celestia doesn't like dwarves.

Also... she shot her. :rainbowhuh:

Well, in the emergency response field we use the five colors of alertness. Celestia's in a condition black: her brain is so overwhelmed with information that she might as well not be there, and her response is defaulting to something instinctual, trained, or repetitive. In this case, repeating the last bit of information she successfully processed over and over again.

Edit: Unless it's my decision this go around to have NMM injure Celestia to get her out of the way that you're commenting on.

No, I just liked the shocked repetition. All those carefully laid machinations, and Nightmare just shoots her. What kind of villain is she?

Because evil does not simply in the hearts of thinking beings,
I quite agree. Evil does not simply what, though?

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