• Published 11th Jul 2013
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The Traveling Tutor and the Diplomats Daughter - Georg

All Princess Sun Shines wants to do is escape from her stuffy room and explore the castle. All Green Grass wants to do is find some distraction to keep him from worrying about Twilight Sparkle’s most recent dangerous mission. Solution: Tour G

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Ch. 2 - Signs of the Times

The Traveling Tutor and the Diplomat’s Daughter
Signs of the Times

What fools these mortals be.
— Buck of the Flutterpony Kingdom

Canterlot Castle - The Meridian Wing, near the Quaternary Formal Dining Hall.

The young Neighponese Ninja Princess slunk silently down the darkened corridor, the Prison of the Gilded Cage far behind her as she descended deeper into the Castle of the Usurper Ponies. Somewhere up ahead, the kitchen slaves of the Evil Warrior Princess labored at their tasks, churning out delicious treats for the fat ponies under her dominion, without a thought for the poor starving griffons. Her tummy rumbled again, attempting to betray her hiding position to a pair of the Warrior Princess’ armored guards, one a creamy white male pegasus and the other a dark batwinged mare, both stationed obstinately in front of the only access to the kitchens. The Ninja Princess was a fearsome fighter, but without her armor and weapons, she would be lucky to subdue one of the ferocious guards, let alone two.

At first, her best approach seemed to be stealth, setting up a lightning-speed ambush on one of the minions bent over heavy loads as they groaned their way back and forth from whatever decadent feast the Evil Warrior Princess had put on for her tubby court sycophants, but upon closer examination, the feast appeared to be long over, and only empty dishes were returning through the well-guarded portal. She slipped to a better observation post and willed her unruly tummy to silence when suddenly her sharp hearing caught a bit of conversation from a nearby room that drew her attention like a magnet.

“I’m sorry, Friday. I just don’t feel like eating.”

The voice sounded just perfect: slow, heavy, not very bright, and best of all, not very hungry.

“I’m terribly sorry, sir. I’m under strict orders from your mother to ensure your nutritional needs are properly being met. It seems your recent weight loss has her rather worried.”

The second voice sounded dangerous. There was a certain air of adult experience about it that boded ill for any attempt at manipulation. Fortunately it also sounded subservient to the first voice, which fluffed her feathers in a surge of happiness.

She had found her patsy.

* * *

This late after the lunch hour, the kitchen staff break room was empty of staff and only slightly filled with Green Grass and Friday, so a certain degree of informality had spread between the employer and employee. Friday had not put up any objection when Green Grass had loosened his tie, and Green Grass had not objected when a certain number of additional pastries had appeared upon the tray his servant had retrieved from the kitchen.

The tempting tarts had little or no magnetic effect on the dieting stallion, despite his long struggle with his last few stubborn excess pounds that had resisted even the most strenuous exercise program. The uncertainty of what Twilight was going through in the Crystal Kingdom had suppressed his appetite rather solidly, much the same way each of the other ‘events’ she had been involved in since they had first met had resulted in a fractional drop in his weight. A rather cynical calculation one day had brought him to the conclusion that his diet was actually a wasted effort. If he ever did get up the nerve to actually use the engagement ring he had been carrying for the last two months to propose marriage, he would simply vanish away long before the two of them were in need of a retirement stable.

A ragged bowl of salad in front of Green Grass had indeed once been greener than the diner’s thick furry coat, but after significant additions of various salad additives, dressings and a period of poking and prodding, it could best be thought of as a brownish-grey trending to yech! His continued weak prodding of the muddy surface caused no tempting delicacy to float to the top, but it did take his mind off what was probably happening inside the Crystal Empire with Twilight and her six friends, one⁽*⁾ of whom was probably treating his crystalline surroundings much as Pinkie Pie in a cake storage facility.
(*) The Crystal Ponies were a very polite society. No mention was ever made of a tiny little bite on the very edge of the Crystal Heart, much as if a small dragon had not been able to resist the temptation to take one nibble, just to see what it tasted like.

The faint scritch, scritch of talons on flagstone outside the room brought Green Grass’ head up in joy with hopes of distraction before the door creaked open and a small feathered head poked in.

“Excuse me, mithther,” lisped the little griffon fledgeling. “My daddy said to thee if you could show me around the castle. Pleathe?” Little griffon eyes looked up in pleading yellow pools of pure cuteness, only slightly offset in sheer adorableness by her razor-sharp beak. Topping it all off were a pair of feathery fluffs sticking straight forward from the top of her head like little fluffy pom-poms.

The little griffon just looked so cute and adorable with her innocent yellow eyes, trying to twist him around one of her little talons. She was a reminder of his youth, of days spent avoiding any real work or studying, all of the fun and none of the responsibilities of adulthood.

She was trouble. Green Grass liked her instantly.

“Yes!” said Green Grass, hopping up from his seat like it had just bit him. Outthinking a little troublemaker while playing tour-guide was just what he needed to distract himself from his worries about Twilight and her friends in the Crystal Kingdom.

“Of course. Right away. Come on in while I clean up the lunch things and we can get started right away, Miss...?”

“Daddy calls me Sunny!” chirped the little griffon with a hop up to the table. “He says I’m really big now and can go look at all of the castle, but I thought it would be better if took along a smart grown-up.”

“I see,” said Green Grass, scraping a few scattered remnants of his salad back into the brown bowl while considering just where the fledgeling’s lisp had gone. As the tutor placed his abused salad bowl into the dirty dishes basket, a single donut vanished off his tray behind him. And then an eclair.

“Well, Sunny. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Green Grass, and this is Friday Haystings, my valet.”

“Charmed to meet such a well-mannered young miss,” said Friday, watching a third pastry in the form of a cupcake vanish into the little griffon with no signs of her slowing to chew.

There had been quite a few pastries shoved to one side of his tray after Friday had brought their lunch back from the kitchens. While Friday had insisted the staff had snuck them on the tray when he had picked up a few kitchen leftovers for his employer, Green Grass suspected they were added simply so his parents would be mollified at his attempt to get their slimming son beefed back up again.

Now their sugary goodness seemed to be attracting a great deal more attention from Sunny than expected, and the tutor waved with a grin. “I hope your father doesn’t mind if you were to have a few pastries? I’m on a diet, and I’m afraid Friday had an entire hard-boiled egg for lunch.”

“Absolutely stuffed, sir.” Friday Haystings lifted his eggcup and placed it on a spotless plate. If there were a single atom of egg remaining within the neatly bisected eggshell or on the glistening spoon it would have been a great surprise to the both of them.

“So I suppose a few—” Nearly half the pastries on the tray had vanished by the time Green Grass turned back to look at Sunny, but it was horribly obvious where they had vanished to, or into would be more accurate.

“*?” The innocent fledgeling tried to chirp, but splattered a few bits of frosting around the strudel wedged in her beak as she talked.

With a gentle smile harking back to fond memories of his own youth, Green Grass asked, “Doesn’t your father have a rule about not talking with your beak full?”

“Rules are dumb,” scoffed Sunny after a quick gulp, making a grab for a muffin. “They just exist to keep us from having fun. ‘Don’t climb the drapes, Sunny. Don’t eat so many cookies, Sunny.”

“Nonsense!” Green Grass scoffed, displaying a level of maturity which would have made several of his teachers over the years quite justifiably suspicious. “Rules have been created by our betters who have only our best interests in minds. They exist to make the world run smoothly. Enforce the natural order of things. Preventing tummy aches.” He scooted the tray with the last few pastries away from the little fledgeling with a smile, and pointed to a small sign on the wall that read ‘Please take your dishes back to the kitchen.’

“I would be willing to bet I can show you how following the rules can be a great deal of fun.”

* * *

The two guards at the entrance to the Royal Court remained at their perfect balance of alertness and immobility, despite nearly an hour remaining before the afternoon session of court was scheduled to start. Guard duty was a boring job, even when the corridor was filled with royals awaiting their five minutes with Her Royal Highness, but no Royal Guard ever wished for their job to become interesting, because that would mean disaster.

Still, it was a nice break to the tedium to see two staffponies dressed in paint-splattered work smocks carry a sign into the corridor and begin the delicate task of affixing it to the centuries-old walls. And even more interesting was the small griffon who trailed along in their wake, asking questions and generally getting in the way much like the youth of any race. The griffon fledgeling quickly grew tired of watching the green and tan ponies work, wandering over to the guards much as if inspecting several interesting statues. Only statues did not get a non-stop stream of questions and quite the in-depth inspection the young feathered menace gave the annoyed guards, lasting until the workponies began to leave, and the little griffon skittered after them, to the guard’s great relief.

They never even noticed the contents of the sign the workponies left behind.

* * *

There was just something ever so slightly off about Afternoon Court that tickled at Princess Celestia’s senses, and it took until the fifth petitioner was introduced until she realized just what it was. The wife of Baron Hoffenstrotter was wearing the most beautiful hat in a soft shade of yellow with pink flowers in the brim. It would not have caught her attention, if it were not exactly the same hat worn by the Landgravess of Vellia not more than a half-hour ago.

After dismissing the Baron with a sincere promise to read his petition and return an opinion, she directed the guards to hold off allowing any more attendees into the throne room for a few minutes. It was not an unusual request, as the Princess frequently had other business to attend to between granting private audiences. What was unusual was for the Princess of the Sun to sneak to the throne room doors and peek through the crack between them at the corridor outside.

The normal afternoon routine of highly stuffy ponies trying to ignore each other while waiting their turn to present highly stuffy requests to their Princess was absent from the corridor outside the throne room. In its place was a nearly carnival atmosphere where the normally touchy aristocracy were gleefully trying on each other’s hats, comparing them with each other’s outfits and attempting to make a good match. Hats had been going out of the formal style for several years now, and only a scattered few ponies still wore them to court, so the sudden popularity of them puzzled her until she managed to see a sign pegged against the corridor wall.

All attendees must wear a hat.

Suppressing a snort of laughter, Celestia returned to her throne and called for a courier. For a pony who seemed to complain about being used as a game piece, Green Grass certainly seemed to enjoy the Game. That was unmistakably his precise writing on the sign, and it would be a shame if she did not take her turn.

If nothing else, it would take both of their minds off what Twilight Sparkle was going through in the Crystal Empire.

* * *

There was a firm rapping at the door to the staff changing room, followed by a brawny pegasus, poking his head inside without waiting for a response. The Royal Guard was dressed in traditional golden armor, only with a certain powerful glow to it that indicated many hours of intense concentrated polishing. He took the sight of two ponies changing clothes on the other side of a partition away from a rather amused griffon fledgeling entirely in stride without a single blink of surprise or curiosity.

“Pardon me. Is Lord Green Grass here?”

“Terribly sorry,” said Green Grass, struggling to get into his last shoe. “His Lordship is presently unavailable.” With a bit of prying and wedging, and significant smacking against a low bench, he finally got the shoe properly seated, looking up to see the same guard still poised at the door with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Would His Lordship be available now?”

With a final kick against the changing bench, Green Grass nodded with considerable trepidation.

“Her Most Royal And Serene Highness, Princess Celestia, Ruler of the Daytime Sky, and Co-Regent of Equestria, hereby requires and requests your presence at Her table this evening, for dinner.”

A brief mental image of Green Grass stuffed, baked, and served with an apple in his mouth to the Griffon Ambassadors as an apology for whatever diplomatic slight they could manufacture flashed through his mind before rationality set in. They probably ate ponies raw, anyway.

“Busted,” giggled Sunny, rolling around on her back and kicking all four limbs in the air in joy.

“Her Most Royal and Serene Highness expressed the sincere hope that you might provide escort for Her Royal Highness, pardon me for a moment, my Griffon is a bit rusty.” The guard coughed into one hoof before launching into a series of screeches and chirps that Green Grass could barely follow as ‘Princess Sun Shines on the Misty Mountains at Dawn Through Early Morning Hazy Skies’

“—as her guest of honor at a private dinner. Would you happen to know where the Princess in question is staying so I might deliver the invitation, M’Lord?”

The little fledgling stopped her giggling to look at the three very serious ponies in the room. “Oops?”

“Busted,” whispered Friday with as close to a smile as Green Grass had ever seen. Extending a hoof, he bent in a half-bow to Sunny. “If Her Highness would permit my assistance at rising from the ground, it shall be my pleasure to see you and the young lad off for your dinner invitation with Princess Celestia. As I understand, Master Green Grass has some small experience escorting royalty, and should make a marvelous companion for you. I so look forward to his recitation of the events of this evening.”

The taciturn servant and the Royal Guard exchanged glances, the growing happy glow on the guard’s face giving an indication his job had not yet run its course. “Friday Haystings, I presume?”

“Yes, sir?”

“I am quite pleased to say the invitation is for three guests.”

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