• Published 19th Nov 2013
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Soft Diplomacy - Bastinator



After arriving in Equestria, Anon was at the mercy of life. He has a crap job, a boring life and he can't even speak up for himself if his life depended on it, but books have always been there for him. What if they got the attention of royalty?

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Chapter 8: Discord's Premonition

”She’s never liked talking about it for as long as I could remember,” Iron Will explains at the table with a handful of eggs. You’d think it weird that gryphons would even eat eggs given their nature, but to each their own. ”She used to be a real beauty once if I’m not mistaken. She could make a noble’s head turn without even trying.”

It’s hard to imagine that given how she is now. “What happened?”

”You wouldn’t happen to have read up on any gryphon illnesses have you?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

”Well, I’m no fancy doctor, but there was an outbreak of something fierce after Gilda was born. Gilda was alright, bless her, but her mother wasn’t so lucky.”

“Why didn’t she get help? There have to be some medical facilities around.”

Iron Will shakes his head, “I’d suffered a nasty fall last I was here, and the only place I could be treated was up here.” And they wouldn’t let him in. ”She never had much after her mate left, but she couldn’t be throwing bits to the wind like she saw so many others do. So she took it, and others stopped turning their heads.” The beauty turned beast… It makes you lose your appetite.

“That’s unseemly. If there was such an outbreak than the authorities should’ve stepped in.”

”It’s not their way. Survival of the fittest rules supreme here. It works that way back home for me as well.” Then fuck their way! How could they let something like this run rampant and not even attempt to aid their own people?

“Celestia would never stand for this.”

”But she doesn’t rule Aviaris now does she?”

No, you guess not… “But Rinn would. He’s exactly the type of person they need right now. He wants to help them, I can feel that. If only they’d let him…”

”I’m not so sure that’s such a good idea.” How can he say that? Didn’t he see how he was, how he is? ”Something about him just rubs me the wrong way. I can’t tell what it is.”

“Rinn is a good gryphon, a true supporter of the people. His goals are noble, how can you say no to that?”

”I just don’t like him.” Minotaurs… They wouldn’t trust the own fur on their chest, let alone a gryphon. Ethnocentric assholes.

”I take it you two are enjoying your stay,” asks that heavenly voice from your rear.

“Celestia!” you get out from your seat and bow.

”Excited to see me then?”

“Just a lot. Oh, this is Iron Will. He’s a new acquaintance of mine.”

”I remember reading about you from one of my subjects. She had quite the experience with you in Ponyville.”

”Oh, I remember that one alright. ‘No means no.’ It doesn’t have a ring to it, but I’ve been trying to put it out there.”

”I’m sure she appreciates it very much.” Is there something you’re missing here or…? ”I do apologize for my delay. There were some pressing matters that I need to attend to.”

“Was it Discord again?”

”Strangely no, though I had thought the same myself. It appears a large quantity of alcohol was missing from the reserves.” Your stomach turns to lead, “But it appears the investigation has reached a dead-end. Perhaps in time we’ll discover the culprit.”

“Only time will tell,” you hide behind a false grin.

”So how was your first day in Aviaris? It’s different than Canterlot to be sure.”

“Where to start?”

~~~

She nibbles on a piece of toast as you finish up your tale, leaving out some of your more personal thoughts on it. ”You appear to be doing well in your relations. Reuben doesn’t hand his friendship easily, one of the consequences of his career, but he seems to have earned a liking for you.” If there’s anyone who rubs you the wrong way it’s him. He’s too… happy. The woes of Aviaris fall deaf upon his ears and he feasts with little conscience.

“What about Rinn?”

Iron Will rolls his eyes. “Ahh yes, Rinn,” Celestia begins, “He is interesting.” Which means? ”I’ve long known the many players of the gryphon kingdoms, but Rinn has always felt the most unique.”

“Just… unique?”

”Yes, unique.” She turns her gaze to the northern wall, “Excuse me, but there is someone I would like to see.”

“Of- course.”

”Thank you Anon,” she stands, “I’m very proud of you.” You blush and nervously rub your hands together as she leaves.

”Just ask her out and get it over with,” Iron Will laughs.

“I would never- How could you even say something like that?”

”Look at Iron Will with a straight face and say you don’t have a crush on your little princess.”

“I- I don’t.”

”Don’t try your hand at poker kid.”

~~~

You hang around the courtyard with Iron Will for most of the day, allowing Gilda off your leash so to speak. She needs some time alone, and you’ll not be the one to take that away from her. The city’s as dead as your previous experience and even from the height of its being you feel its pain. “We need to do something about this, Iron Will. We can’t let something like this go on.”

”That’s on your shoulders, not mine. I’m no politician.” What could you do? You hold no power here. Hell you didn’t power back home, merely privilege. There has to be something you can do…

Celestia comes out behind you, “Iron Will, I hoped you might allow me to steal Anon from you for a while.”

’As you wish Princess. See you at lunch?”

“Only if you’re buying.”

”Buying?” the princess asks in confusion.

”A joke, princess.”

”I see, shall we?” she leads you back inside.

~~~

”Are you ready?” Celestia asks frankly.

“Ready? For what?”

”To put your knowledge to the test.” She turns to you, “Did you think this was just a social visit?” Of course you knew something was up. “The gryphons have been massing forces along the borders around Pranceylvania. I take it you’ve been reading the paper?”

“I chalked it up to crude journalism, was their actual truth to it?”

She nods, “I’m afraid so. It appears that your little incident all those months ago has not rested easy on their heads. If they cannot acquire the lands peacefully… I’m afraid they may try to take it by force.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? If I knew this was so important…”

”Because you may not always be offered the leisure of time. When Discord burst free from his prison there was no time to plan. When the changelings had taken control of the castle I was not given the comfort of time. You must be quick on your feet and not falter when events turn for the worse.” You… think you understand. Gathered knowledge is one thing, but to retrieve that knowledge timely is of equal importance.

“What would you have me do?”

”Be by my side for this. I will take the reins, but you must be there to assist me.” This is really it… Everything she’s trained you for. This is your chance to prove yourself. No. This is her show. It’s too important for Equestria, and for her. ”Reuben. Give me his credentials.”

“What?”

”What do you know of him, quickly?”

“Umm, ok. I know he serves as the Vice General and-“

”How many tours did he serve in Cervidas?” How are you- “In which battle did he lose his eye?” She’s firing these questions faster than you can react and she knows it. ”These are the types of things that you need to know. Who the players are, what their background is, who they spend their time with, everything.”

“And I need to know it well enough to not have to think about it.”

”Exactly right Anon.” She pauses before the doorway and looks to you, “Reuben and Rinn will be meeting us inside. They’re known well for their teamwork, and our model is based off of that.”

“How so?”

”Reuben is the voice. He makes the game plan and takes the initiative. He’s well known for getting his opponent’s riled up, and that only feeds his strength.” You can guess what Rinn is.

“Rinn is the brain. He uses his knowledge of political doctrines and historical policies to assist Reuben. He’s me.”

”I know this is asking you to dismiss what you’ve learned, but you need to keep silent. Reuben is trained to tear apart his opponents in both the field and in negotiations. Do you understand?”

“I’ll do my best ma’am.”

She rests a hoof on your shoulder, “I’m glad you’re here…”

~~~

The doors open revealing the chamber’s interior, Reuben and Rinn both already seated at the opposite end of the table. Rinn nods to you as you enter while Reuben’s seemingly cheerful demeanor has been but an illusion for the cold stare he now presents. You pull at your collar, the door closing behind you effectively sealing you in. It feels just like yesterday you had first entered that conference, and that same bubbling in your intestines seems to rise in your gut. A crystal decanter sits on either side of the table and you can almost taste the liquor within. ”Sit,” Rinn smiles innocently. He sees you eyeing the glass, “Go ahead and help yourself Anon. It helps take the edge off.”

He has you read like a book, but you don’t care right now, pouring yourself a glass and delicately gulping it down. Celestia guides you into your seat, one of your hands still grasped tight around your cup, eagerly filling it once more. ”Calm your heart,” Celestia whispers to you, “They can hear it beating in your chest.” You try and take deep relaxing breaths, but they do little to comfort you. Not even Celestia herself can relieve the clotted air in which you breathe.

”Perhaps you would prefer to call another student for this meeting,” Reuben states with callous, “Would Twilight be a more suitable choice?”

That mother- “That will not be necessary. Shall we begin?”

~~~

”Gryphons and ponies have long held animosity towards the other. Our kingdoms have clashed many times over my lifetime, many more for you own. How much blood has been shed under your rule princess?”

”Equestria has only ever wished to exist in harmony with its neighbors. You should know that more than most Reuben.”

”I should know? Then how do you explain the complete disregard for our customs, and even worse the aggressions you would impose upon us?” Aggresions? What is he talking about?

Rinn stands up, effectively double-teaming the Princess, “Several months ago we discovered a contingent of guards scouring the mountainside only a few miles from Ornithol. This was in direct violation to the Neutrality Clause passed as of the last arms treaty.”

”Those soldiers were aiding in the search of changeling stragglers that had retreated from Canterlot. Our representatives had communicated as much before we began the search. Would you have not reacted the same way yourself General, if the changelings has attacked Aviaris?”

Reuben eagerly fires back, “But they did not attack Aviaris did they? Your disregard for our treaty was long held with contempt, and it’s about time your kind pay their dues.” Pay their dues? Is he off his rocker? ”The land you know as Pranceylvania has been a key point in our agricultural production, or until we had lent it to your kind in a feat of weakness.” Reuben spits venomously.

”Your gift was an act of friendship, and one that we have taken to heart. You do not take back a gift.”

Reuben’s cheeks flush with anger, “And when the famine comes in, wiping out what little crops we had, what gift came from Equestria?”

”We- We were just as equally affected by the famine as you. I had to think of my loyal subjects.”

”Oh! Her loyal subjects, here we go,” the general plays fun.

”My subjects succumbed to the same woes as yours. If we could have aided you…”

Rinn quickly flips through his notes before him and clears his throat, “According to the sample researched, it was concluded that you had enough grain to make it through the famine. More than enough,” he fixates on her.

Celestia looks to you. Why is she- She wants help. Ok you can do this. Agriculture sample during the Famine of- ”Do you rely on this, boy, to help you?” Reuben jokes, nudging Rinn with his elbow.

”I have faith in him,” she replies in turn.

Crop Yields: A History of Agricultural Influences in the World. Chapter Five. “Grain produced during this time was ill-fit to travel,” you whisper back, “We did not treat the grain for such lengths until after the epidemic.”

She closes her eyes with a smile, “I knew I could count on you.” She fires back with calm determination, Reuben’s attempts at irritation falling flat against her shield of impenetrability. You find yourself almost intimidated by the dispute, slinking further into your chair and drinking some more. Before you know it half of its gone and you feel a little light-headed.

”We are well within our rights… Gone is the time of… Our soldiers are ready…”

”I cannot allow this… Without the proper documentation… I am willing to defend…”

”Ackleborn once said… To cite the Thensburg Papers… Are you still arguing facts…?” Back and forth they keep at it, for hours it feels like. She calls on your aid when she’s in a pinch, you doing your best to cite a source that can help her fight back an accusation, but it’s beginning to wear on her and they can tell. Rinn is just as strong mentally as you and with Reuben’s stamina they continually wear her down. You’ve never seen Celestia sweat, but those droplets on her neck most certainly aren’t tears. She’s going to pass out from the relentless beating they’re dishing out at this rate. There has to be something you can do. A break, perfect. You place your hand on Celestia before she can speak and stand.

“I would like to call a recess.”

You pull Celestia out of the room, the mare maintaining an even pace despite the stress you know she’s feeling. ”What did I tell you about speaking up?”

“You were getting killed out there Princess. I had to get you out.”

She scolds you as you use the sleeve if your shirt to dry her off, “They’re gathering strength as we speak.”

“And you were losing it every second.” She keeps her head turned defiantly away from you, almost like a child. “Why are you acting like this? Where’s the fiercely determined mare I’ve looked up to?”

”They want me to break, but I will not have it.”

“Look at yourself princess. They see you getting weaker every second, you have to fight back.”

”I am not like them!” she snaps violently, her hoof covering her mouth immediately after. So that’s how it is. “I’m- I’m sorry Anon. I didn’t mean to speak to you like that.”

“No apology necessary,” you move away, eyes cast down the hall.

”I can’t let them bring me down to their level. I must defend my country, not attack theirs.”

“Maybe that’s why they were the stronger.”

”What?” she asks, unable to understand your muttering.

“Nothing princess. It’s just the alcohol.”

”You might want to slow it down. Don’t let it go to your head, I need it.” You join her laughter before looking back to the door. ”Are you ready to go again?”

“Are you?”

She sighs, eyelids heavy, “We’ll see.”

~~~

”…Despite the hiccup regarding our negotiations in Canterlot, we are fully prepared to take back our homestead by force if need be.”

”There is no need for that, we can come to an understanding,” Celestia pleads, but Reuben is not having any of it.”

”There are two outcomes here Princess and only two. One: You return the land that was once ours and there will be no more bloodshed.” Or two… He’ll raze the city to the ground, slaughtering any who would resist him. He’ll follow the heroes of old and will not stop until his goal is complete. ”Those are your choices princess. My army stands ready for war, yours… these Equestrian soldiers have never faced the hardened steel of the gryphons. Are you willing to take that chance?”

Of course we are. Celestia knows full well what we’re capable of and would never think to- “No.”

“P-princess?”

Celestia stands exhausted but determined, “We will not risk bloodshed with our neighbors to the east. We will… evacuate the realm of Pranceylvania.”

“Celestia what are you doing?” you whisper.

”What is best for my subjects,” she replies weakly.

Reuben heckles at her answer, “Truly? Well this is a day to celebrate then. It just goes to show Rinn, don’t send a boy to do a man’s job.”

”I’m sorry Anon. We can’t always win.” Like hell you can’t!

“We will do no such thing!”

”Anon what are you doing?” you slam your fist on the table, Celestia silenced by your anger. You won’t let your land, your home, be taken by some feathery bully.

”Well you see kid, the princess just sealed the deal,” Reuben teases you, “Why don’t you run home and play with your toys.”

“All international affairs dealing in an exchange of land or property that transcends the cost in the tens of thousands must be sealed by a contract. I don’t see a contract anywhere, or is your vision hazy?”

His eye patch quivers at his anger, “How dare you, you insolent brat! Do you have any idea who I am?”

Rinn tries to calm him down only to be smacked back down, “I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class in the Flight Academy, and I’ve been involved in numerous-“

“Blah blah blah, let me guess you also have over 300 confirmed kills. Tell me something I haven’t heard every piss-ant boast about. We will not back off because you think you have a big dick. Trust me, I read the Anatomical Study of Species on my way over here, I know better.” Did you just insult the size of his… Oh Anon you just did didn’t you? You might need Iron Will just in case.

”You think because you’re sitting next to a princess means you’re hot stuff? Let me clue you in, you’re not!”

“I don’t need to be hot stuff. I know what’s happened when we appease people like you. I won’t let another Hitler on the loose because I no one would stand up to him.”

”Reuben sit down,” Rinn states calmly.

”I’ve got this. Listen here you-“

”REUBEN!” he barks with a fire you didn’t know he had, “I said, sit down.” To your honest surprise the Vice General listens, though he keeps his eye on you.

“Good boy, does he roll over too?”

Rinn keeps his colleague down with a glare, “Anon. You’re a talented young man, more so than your predecessors, but believe me when I ask for you to step back. We wish no more violence than you.” He sighs and looks down, “You once said that you’d wish to help me restore life to this place. Now is the time that I ask for your help. Will you help me?” He should know better than to ask you this.

“My duty is to my homeland first,” you look to Celestia, “And Equestria is mine.”

”I was hoping you’d see reason, but it appears you will not. Reuben, second to last page, the silver lined one please.” He slides the note over to you, “This is a declaration of war, should we not receive what it is we wish.” This can’t be. It’s a bluff, it has to be. ”If I recall you once proved this invalid by the lack of the king’s seal. Well, there’s Reuben’s the Vice General’s. Stormguard’s, our beloved king. And mine… The Senate Overseer’s. I’m sorry Anon.”

“Y-Yershall.”

”Say again Anon?” he asks in confusion.

“Yershall. I don’t believe you.”

”What game are you playing at? I have the proper documents and sigils. There’s nothing more I am required to present.”

Except for Yershall. “Yershall was a guardsman at the Battle of Canterlot, the very battle that forced our hand into sending troops over your borders. He was in charge of the train route that runs into the city. What no one knew is that he was a changeling.” Celestia seems to know where you’re going with this and tries to stop you. “He managed to slip in a transport of his kin before Shining Armor placed his barrier. He used his position, his signature, to sabotage our city. As a result, any official can call Yershall to revoke the authenticity of a claim.”

”Anon please stop…”

“I have not met your king. I have not seen your king. I have not heard your king. So… Bring me the king.”

”That’s enough Anon,” Celestia finally puts her hoof down, “You’re going too far.”

”The child doesn’t know what he’s getting into.”

”Anon we made it clear he could not see you…”

“Then your declaration is forfeit, and your government as legitimate as the hair on a changeling’s head.”

”Not quite,” a weakened voice calls from behind you.

”Stormguard!” Rinn pronounces, bowing before him, “You should be resting.”

”I- I should be here!” he calls, “Where my nation needs me.” You turn to see the ruler himself drabbed in robes, masking most of his body. His eyes are sunken and cloudy while his skins sags from his cheeks. The brace on his arm trembles beneath his weight, and you can’t help but feel you’ve seen this before. It’s not until you recall your previous encounter with Gilda that you make the connection. He’s sick, beyond sick perhaps. A gryphon unfit for leadership, as their culture would say. ”And you,” he points to you, “Do you not bow before the Gryphon King?”

“A gryphon in your condition would consider formalities an insult.”

”Good,” he nods, “At least there is one who sees me for who I am.” The withered gryphon looks to his disciples, “So… did you retrieve your lands?”

“No sir,” you reply before they can speak, “I will not let them. Should you want one…”

”We will want more,” the smile on his face grows, “Let it be then… There is no need for violence.”

Reuben nearly falls out of his chair, “Your highness you can’t possibly be serious!”

”I worked weeks on this plan sire,” Rinn explains, “you can’t just walk away.”

”Walking away… is just what I will do. Celestia… Thank you for your company. It’s been too long.” The King limps out from the doorway with the assistance of his guard.

You’re left dumbfounded next to Celestia, “What just happened?”

~~~

”YEEEAAAAH!!!” the soldier’s cheer and scream when your return to their encampment. The party’s already in full swing by the time you’d gotten there, but you weren’t complaining.

”There he is!” you hear Gilda ramble over to you, “The man of the hour! How’s my little dweeb doing?”

“About as good as your ruffled ass,” you reply still tipsy from your binging during the conference.

”Oh you… Say, I have something for you, but you have to keep it on the down low,” she whispers passing you a parcel. You open the container, Gilda holding herself up by your shoulder.

“You know this stuff is illegal right?”

”But- but… Only in Equestria, and guess what?” she asks you before tipping away, “We’re in GRYPHONNIA BITCHES! WOOHOO!”

Iron Will rolls his eyes and excuses himself, “I should probably make sure she doesn’t do something stupid.”

”Who’s into a little flank play?!” she calls out giggling all the while.

“Iron Will is!” you call back, Gilda locking eyes with him.

”You! I knew you were into some messed up stuff, and that’s the way I like ‘em.”

”You’ve had a bit much to drink, don’t you think?”

”And you’ve had a bit much- *hiccup* not to drink. Open wide!” You laugh as the two roll off into the crowd disappearing amongst the bonfire the party circles.

~~~

”You were reckless,” Celestia scolds you after your third ale, “Do you realize how that could’ve gone?” To say that you didn’t would be a lie, but to say that you did would be reckless. ”I only needed you to keep quiet, but instead you did something I never suspected. You took charge.”

“Ma’am?”

She sits on the log next to you, the drunken soldiers caring more about their spirits than their duty at this point. ”I was weak in there. With age comes wisdom, I remember being told once, but they never said it came with complacency.”

“Celestia, it’s not your fault. Anyone would’ve caved in.”

”You didn’t.”

“That’s different. I’m… I’m young and inexperienced. I don’t grasp the bigger picture.”

”There comes a point, Anon, where age works against you. I’ve seen enough that the events are starting to blend together, old patterns repeating over and over. There comes a time when someone new must take my place.” Her smile could turn you to jelly, “I’m hoping that could be you one day.”

“M-me? I don’t think I could… I could never…” she silences you with a hoof.

”Don’t trouble yourself with your future. For now, enjoy the time you have here. I’ll be there when the time comes.”

And with that she left, another body amongst the crowd. You, the Prince of Equestria, King… That’s quite the advancement. From a Janitor to a King: A True Account by Anon Y. Mous. It’d be a best seller, but besides the book sales you’d be important, for once in your life. Ponies would swan over you in affectation, each hoping you felt the same way about them. The same ponies who had ridiculed you since you’d first arrived. The ones who kicked dust in your eyes and…

You would be a benevolent King, one who wished the best for his subjects, one who brushed aside the humiliation they forced him through. You sip at your ale. That future is far ahead of you though. Today was only a test of your skill, and it only gets tougher from here. Except hopefully you won’t be dealing in warlike consequences, so you guess it’ll only be easier here on out.

Though a lingering doubt resides in your gut and weighs your mind. What if you mess up? What if something happens? Then you remember that parcel in your pocket, that silver case that’s so tantalizing in the fire’s glow. Discord said it could help you focus… You retrieve the syringe from within and find yourself a nice private area away from the party. From here on out? You need every gram of help you could get.