• Published 19th Nov 2013
  • 9,776 Views, 90 Comments

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 9: A Spoonful of Smack

“Record highs in the latency of blah blah, give me something I could use.” You shake your head in frustration before tossing the book to the side with the others.

Gilda pulls her paw up just before it smacks her, “You going for a record or what?” She’s likely talking about the small pile you’ve formed at the edge of your coach which she’s promptly splayed across.

“The buffalo ambassador’s meeting is coming up, and I’ve yet to find a single book that could give me an edge.” Their customs have never been kind to the concept of books. You’d be more likely to find it on a cave wall than here in the civilized world.

”You don’t need some book to tell you how to act. Just wing it, I believe in you.”

“I appreciate the support, but laziness leads to more laziness. Ah here we go, thank you… Trumpet Lickingstan? He must’ve been bullied in middle school.”

”You’ve got to be kidding me with that one,” she pulls herself away from her bottle.

“I ain’t shitting you it’s right here on the cover, Trumpet Lickingstan.”

She squints down, “I’ll be damned. His name’s Trumpet Lickingstan.”

“I know!” Who in Tartarus name’s their kid Lickingstan? “I’m not sure I can even take the book seriously now. Lickingstan…”

”You’re making it a bit of a big deal when it really isn’t, don’t you think?” You shrug and pull it open, scanning the pages as swift as your eyes will move. Since you’ve gotten back from Aviaris you’ve been moving Mach 2 without much rest. The sleep part really isn’t your fault though, just an unwanted side effect of certain substances that you can’t talk about. You can’t complain about the pros though. When you’re on it the world just seems to open up and you have all the time to scour its secrets. You’ve already gone through half your collection of books, but they’re getting dull. It’s always the same, 70% fluff, 20% bullshit and 10% content. If you wanted to waste your time you’d rather spend it elsewhere, on more entertaining means. Fucking books.

”Oh, you going to the club with me and Iron tonight?”

“Club, The Trusty Barrel, 8:00, four door, cement foundation, undamaged in the Canterlot riots back in-“

”Is that a yes or a no? You don’t need to give me a history of the damned thing,” she interrupts you with a chuckle. Hmmm, you’re not sure if you’ll be able to attend it, but if memory serves you have a slot open.

“Let me check my schedule real quick,” you whip out your pocketbook. Yep, you were right. How could you be wrong? “I’ll see you two then and…” you glance at the clock, heart plummeting, “Shit I’m going to be late!” You grab your junk and sprint out the door.

”Bye then…” she mutters out of earshot.

~~~

Crap crap crap! 100 feet per hallway, 4 hallways, 60 foot corridor, plug in average speed… You can get there in time if you add a few decimals to your speed and… Got it. The guards outside the door don’t pay you any mind as you come barreling down the hallway. “Did the ambassador arrive?” you try to gather yourself after your little workout.

”Yes sir, he’s waiting inside.”

“Good, very good. Take ten guys.”

”We’re instructed to stand guard in case of emergency sir.”

“And I’m instructing you otherwise Private, or should I cite my authority?” By now you’re almost certain every guard in the castle knows about your tendency to prove them wrong time and time again.

”That will not be necessary sir. We’ll be back in ten minutes time.” You adjust your tie as they turn the corner, your hand searching your pocket. Now that they’re gone you can get a little peace. You wince at the sharp peck of the needle, but it’s immediately replaced by an ungodly warmth that keeps your mind on edge. Thank god you’ve started wearing formal clothes all the time, all your casual stuff had short sleeves. It’s a tad difficult to hide those marks with short sleeves.

You roll your sleeve back, take a deep breath, and open the door with a smile. “Mr. Ambassador, pleasure to meet with you today.”

~~~

Why is it always land with these guys? My land this… Our father’s grazed that… A broken record has more diversity than these toilet-clogging furballs. What shall Anon do? Shall he give in to their requests or shall he reason with them in showing that their request is obscene? That’s a real thinker, but if you had to pick it’d probably be option C.

“And what can you offer in return?”

”Offer? These are our ancestral grounds sir. Certainly Equestria understands how important they are to our people.” Perhaps if this were a hypothetical universe where you could give away vast swatches of land like it were candy, but this is the real world. Hehe, real world. It’s odd how your perceptions of what’s real can change, but back to the point…

“And if it were so important then there must be something you’re willing to trade. These lands you’re discussing… The Breezelands? They too are home to thousands of ponies, many of which were settled by their forefathers. This home is as much yours as it is theirs. Would you force your own people from their homes?”

Deactivate moral dilemma and… The buffalo’s eyes lower, “I guess not.”

“I thank thee for seeing things from our perspective. Is there anything else I can discuss with you today?”

”No, no that’s quite alright. My people thank you for your time Ambassador Anon.”

“Please… Anon’s quite fine.” You hold the door open for him when he’s mentally recovered from his defeat. It was child’s play to be honest. The gryphons had it right in their almost Vulcan behavior towards emotions. At least the higher-ups did, another gryphon you know has more emotion than she’s willing to admit. But she has a reason and you don’t blame her for it.

Those nobles and generals… They put on a pretty face, but their brutality lies deep within them all, save for Rinn. He did what he needed to do, much like you, and he only wants what’s best for his people. That’s the only other gryphon you can trust. He’ll do the right thing. You really need to get going, Petal Peach next or is it lunch with the princess? Lunch, of course, how could you forget? Might need a little more juice… No! You’re meeting the princess for god’s sake. You can’t take the chance of her noticing that you’re… shooting up. Maybe just a teeny tiny- NO! She’s too important for you to fuck up. You won’t let it happen. Well you’re facing north right now so you should head back…

~~~

You lean elbow first over the receptionist’s desk, the mare filing papers in disregard to your presence. You remember just how rude she was the last time you dealt with her directly, and you’re glad to see she hasn’t changed a bit. ”You going to leave your name or stand there?”

“Twenty seconds from arrival. That’s seven above your guidelines isn’t it?”

This manages to get her attention as she finally looks up to you, smile stuck on your face. ”Well then sir,” spite heavy in her tone, “What can I do for you?”

“For me? You can put it down that I’ve arrived for lunch with Celestia.” She grumbles and checks off your name. “But for you? You could always ask me what I’m doing tonight?”

”Are you hitting on me?” You shrug before sitting down across from her.

“Just a question, you sultry little minx.” Her cheeks erupt in scarlet which only makes your smile widen. You’re liking this ‘new you.’ It’s got a desperately needed pair that your old self didn’t. She’s still looking at you isn’t she? Can’t have that now can we? You blow her a kiss and if you thought she couldn’t blush anymore you were mistaken as she looks away. Life is good. Life… is good.

~~~

UGHH… What is taking so long? You’ve been sitting her forever. Waltz up to the desk and… activate charm. “Hey there again sweet cheeks, how much longer do you think we gotta wait here?”

”J-just a few more minutes… Anon.”

You’ve got her hooked better than a fisherman ever could. “Say, do you think you could tell me who she’s seeing as of now? I know it’s not protocol…”

”Oh!” she shoots up, almost waiting for the opportunity, “Right here she’s seeing-“

“Nah it doesn’t matter I can walk in right? A beautiful girl like yourself wouldn’t try to stop me.”

”Go on, it’s fine,” she stutters, “But uh… What- What are you doing tonight?” Shit she actually called your bluff. Ok Anon think- Fuck it, let’s roll with it. “Me and a few friends are heading to The Trusty Barrel at around 8:00. You interested?”

If you didn’t know better you’d say she was positively giddy. Like you’re dad always said, ‘You don’t know nothing ‘bout nothing.’ ”I’ve never been to The Trusty Barrel before. Alright it’s a deal.”

“Right on, just tell them Anon sent you and they’ll sort it out.”

”S-see you then Anon.” You don’t even know her name. Pfft…

You push open the doors and breath in that royal air. There ain’t a substitute in the world. “HELLO Celestia!” you boom, perhaps a little too much focus juice still in your system. What does that stuff really even- Wait a minute… “Reuben?”

The Vice General turns from Celestia, “Well if isn’t Anon.” The guards know better than to stop you as you walk up to the princess and her ‘guest.’

”Anon,” Celestia starts, “Were we not meeting later?”

“Past-due for about half an hour, but Reuben, how’re you doing buddy? I hope you’re not still sore from that pounding I gave you.”

He responds with a scowl and looks to Celestia, “Thank you for the update ma’am. We appreciate it.”

”Whatever I can do to help.” With that he departs, but not before bumping rather forcefully into your shoulder. Unfortunately it does nothing to wipe that self-satisfied grin off your face. The air immediately clears with that stinker out and you humph triumphantly.

“So what’s on the menu for today?” you ask unfazed by his intimidating ways.

”I thought we could try some more sample dishes today. It’s not long until the Gala after all.” Oh the wondrous Gala. You’d only glanced it once before and that firework show had your heart in a knot. Of course it was somewhat obscured by the heap of trash you’d been digging through. You’re not sure how you kept up your old job for so long.

~~~

You sit down with her in the privacy of her personal dining quarters, Celestia always the focal point of any room she’s in room. Her presence is magical all in itself. Oh shut up Anon, she’s not a god… Well… ”Long day today I assume.”

“Nothing more than the usual. You’ve always got to keep me busy, the world doesn’t stop for anyone.”

”Indeed. So what was the on the schedule for today?”

“Well I was woken up early because there was a discrepancy with the immigration records which turned out to be a nightmare. That thing hasn’t been organized in a years. Total mess, even I don’t know how I fixed it.”

An attendant brings over some small triangle sandwiches and you help yourself. ”It sounds rough.”

“I had hoped to have used my time for some preliminary research regarding my meeting with the buffalo ambassador,” you take a few bites, “Spinach? Good choice.”

”How did the meeting go?” she asks, nibbling on a slice.

“As good as it could’ve gone. He should be boarding the train in about twelve minutes if memory serves.”

”And what was the exact nature of his visit?”

“Land stuff, you know the type.”

”And…?” she asks hoping for more information.

“We still have it.”

”Which area was it?” You answer in turn quite honestly. “The Breezelands was home to their kind for as long as I can remember. Why did you turn them away?”

You scoff lightly at the absurdity. Who are you, Oprah? “It was a piece of land that I deemed nonnegotiable. If you think I made a mistake I can make it there in six- seven minutes.”

”That isn’t necessary, but I am still curious as to how you came to that decision.”

“War. Plain and simple ma’am.”

She sets down her sandwich, “Quite the jump you made there. Where might be the correlation lie?” It’s not impossible to imagine that she’s unfamiliar with every square foot, or hoof in their case, of land in her domain. She’s got too many things going on for that.

“Natural resources. The Breezelands have been a gold mine since it was first settled.”

”We have gold reserves in many other locations Anon.”

“I didn’t mean… There is a vast quantity and array of resources available there. Not just gold. You’ve got lumber, precious metals, coal and not to mention the fertility of that soil is an agricultural phenomenon.”

”And you plan to go to war with these?”

“No ma’am. I’m simply prepared for the worst.” And speaking of the worst possible scenarios… “Excuse my curiosity Celestia, but what was the Vice General of Gryphonnia doing here?” The two of you didn’t exactly leave on a good note and his presence, while you may not show it, unnerves you. His ferocity is too potent to simply ignore. “He’s the main reason I held onto Breezeland.”

”You have nothing to fear from Reuben. He can be coarse, but he only wants what’s best for his citizens.”

“His citizens were starving! How could-” your fingers begin to tremble before you continue in a mutter, “How could he want what’s best for them?”

She keeps her voice calm despite your small outburst, “Because I believe his actions, not his words.”

“His actions almost started a war,” you try and convince her, but she stays stern.

”Desperation has long since been the downfall of many societies, almost our own, and when his back was forced in the wall he reacted the way he’d been trained.”

“But the ones he’d harm weren’t soldiers. They were civilians, innocents. I hope a soldier would know better.”

”If ours were on the verge of starvation the line between the two begins to blur.” … She knows what’s best. She always has.

“Celestia, I apologize for my temper… It’s just-“

Her smile steals the words from your mouth, “You did not agree, and that is no fault of your own. There is nothing to apologize for.” Always the forgiving one.

She treats you to an array of snack-sized treats in relative silence, both just enjoying the other’s company. For the first time in… well a long time, you find yourself able to relax. A portion of your head wants to keep churning along at high speed, but you don’t need that right now. It’s like you had been running along when the ground simply vanishes beneath you. You want to keep running, but there’s no need. You chew along, admiring how her mane sways without even a… How’s her mane doing that? It just kinda flows against all forms of science that you can think of. ”Anon…” she murmurs bringing an end to the silence, “I have a request for you.”

“Anything,” you clean off your mouth, the stain of vinegar finding its way onto your napkin.

”I take it you remember our time in Aviaris.”

”Vividly.”

”Then you have remember how poor of a condition the king was in.” That too you remember. “That is where I need your help.”

“I don’t know how much of a help I can be. I’m a diplomat, not a doctor.”

”I’m not asking you to cure him,” she responds softly, “I’m asking you to look into his condition.” You ask what exactly that entails and she responds with something you’d rather not do much anymore, “Read.” Why do you have the feeling this entire meeting was to enlist your help? But she is the Princess, and it is your duty to aid her.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

~~~

You end up cutting your evening short so you can get started. She even cleared your schedule so you can focus on your task. You push the library door open and move immediately to the bookshelves. They feel somewhat foreign to you now that you haven’t seen them in almost a month. Generally you just request a slew of books for your personal library, but this requires a more intimate touch. It’s just too bad that you don’t have a clue where to start.

You work around to the more private section and shoot up, your back falling against the brick wall in leisure. A mix of reds and greens fill your vision before you feel that intense jolt, almost like a jumpstart for your brain. Row twelve, column seven. You stow your little friend away and head off. “Thanks little guy.”

”Who?” You near crap your pants at the sudden appearance of your old friend.

“Dear god Petal Peach,” you have to hold your heart, “You almost gave me a heart attack.”

”Sorry about that. I just saw you come in and you didn’t even say hello. This job’s wearing on you.”

“Crap, really? Damn, you know I didn’t mean anything by it.”

”I know, I know. Now what’re you looking for?”

“Medical journals. Heading there now.”

”Well you’re going the wrong way, we recategorized that entire section. Come on, I’ll show you.” You follow her through the small labyrinth, your hand gracing the many books spines that layer the corridors.

“I was wondering why I felt lost. It’s almost like this place was turned upside.”

”Well it wasn’t an easy job let me tell you,” she explains, “Not only did we recategorize them, but we also had to restock and refurbish a good portion of them.” That sounds like more work than any one pony should have to do.

“You could’ve asked me to help. I’d clear up some room to give you a hand.”

”It just so happens that someone never visits anymore. After you left it’s like you don’t have time for us little ponies anymore.” She should know you better than that. You’d gladly visit if you only had… the time.

“I can’t just stop working. You’d be surprised how much actually goes on up here.”

”I know, it’s just- *sigh* I’ve just been really stressed out lately will all this work. It didn’t use to be this way with you around.” She turns around and looks into your eyes, “You don’t look so good yourself.”

“Me?” you laugh it off, “I’m as pretty as the sun is bright.”

”Those bags under your eyes say a different story, you best get more sleep. You don’t want it catching up with you.” She turns back and you immediately feel the area under your eyes, the soft patches sending your hand reeling back. It’s true you haven’t been getting much sleep, but no one’s said anything to you as of yet. Maybe she’s right.

~~~

”Here we go,” she opens a filing cabinet and flicks through the different tabs, “We haven’t gotten to stocking them, but we’ve got enough here to sink a ship. Anything in particular you’re looking for?”

“Anything dealing with degenerative diseases, mainly of the bone and flesh.”

"That’s pretty specific stuff. Do I need to call you a doctor?” You reassure her that you’re as fit as a fiddle. “Hmmm, well I can’t say that I know much about that, but it’s all cataloged and ready here. I might say start with Hamphsire. She might have something.”

“Thanks Petal. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

She just grins and helps you search for the journals, even sitting down with you once you’d gotten a nice handful. ”It’s just like old times. I remember the first day you came in here.” She giggles at the thought, “And I thought I’d never see a fish out of water.”

“Oh don’t even remind me of those days. I could hardly look at someone without sweating like a pig.”

”Do you remember when I first asked if you wanted help?”

“I wish I didn’t. My head still hurts thinking about it.”

”I still don’t understand how you ‘tripped’ and had to excuse yourself.”

“Well, I’ll tell you a secret,” you beckon her closer, “I didn’t trip.”

”No! Really?” she replies sarcastically, the two of you enjoying a good ol’ laugh.

~~~

You toss the book to the side and put your head in your hands, “No good?”

“No. Not this one, not the last four. Dammit.”

She looks closer to her own book, “How about this: The coastal workers off of Baltimare exhibited signs of muscle loss that-“

“Baltimare isn’t anywhere close to what I’m looking for.”

”If you gave me more information, then perhaps I could help.”

“I can’t. Celestia gave me this assignment in confidence and I can’t… Zebrica.”

”Zebrica? Did you remember something?”

“Maybe umm… Earlier you said something about a merchant band out of Zebrica. What were the symptoms again?”

She searches her pile before finally retrieving it from the mess, “Let’s see here. Some form of psychosis, acute muscle fatigue and…” Bone degeneration.

“What stops did they take? Eastern kingdoms only.”

”They stopped through Cervidas, Oxford, Wingstead and… Aviaris.” You snatch the book away from her and devour every word and phrase.

“Yes yes yes! This is exactly what I needed.” They had traveled to Aviaris during your timeframe but had thought to be unaffected by the plague. Turns out they were wrong. “They had been examined by Canterlot physicians in quarantine, but no treatment seemed to work. No it can’t end there…”

”Sorry Anon. It’s just a dead end.” No no no no, it says here that they had been cleared for release once they were discovered not to transmit the disease. They had taken a route through the Everfree Forest off the outskirts of the newly founded Ponyville. When they returned home there was no sign of the disease whatsoever. “This can’t be right. The physicians were later deemed to have given a false prognosis and stripped of their license.”

”Like I said, it’s a dead end.”

“No, no something happened on their way back. Something that they didn’t document.” You find a map and sprawl it across the table, tracing their supposed route back home. Aviaris, Canterlot, Ponyville, Everfree Forest, Fillypines, Zebrica. Somewhere in that timeline they did or found something. Your eyes center on the vast green stretch of land and you place your finger on it. “This is it. I don’t know how, but I can feel it in my bones.”

”The Everfree Forest? You’ve heard of that place right? It’s not natural. There’s a reason ponies steer clear of it.”

“But if my answer’s in there then I have to find it.” You stand up and check the clock. 7:00. “Good thing I checked. I have to get going Petal Peach. It was nice seeing you again.”

’You too Anon. When you come back, if you come back, be sure to visit okay?” If you come back, pfft… It’s not like you’ll be going alone.

“Hey, Gilda, Iron Will and I are going to The Trusty Barrel in an hour. Three’s a crowd, but four’s a party. What do you say?”

”Tonight? Aww well…” you don’t like where this is going, “Maybe not tonight.” R-rejected? But she’s your friend. Friends always hang out, right?

“Oh come on,” you try and ignore her decline, “It’ll be fun, and I promise I won’t go tripping like a klutz again.”

”Well, it’s just that I’ve got other plans.”

“Don’t tell me your staying late again. I’ll drag you out myself if I have to,” you joke.

”Not tonight Anon. I have a- Well,” she blushes, “I have a date.”

“D-date? W-w-with whom?”

She sways her hooves anxiously just thinking about it, “One of the royal guards. He came by before you left asking for some papers. He was just so sweet, and when he asked if I wanted to go to dinner… How could I say no?” By saying no. She just- How could she abandon you like that, and for a guard no less?

“That’s- That’s okay. I’m happy for you,” you put on that false smile. “Have a good time.” You don’t wait for her reply and walk out the library without another word.

”You too…”

~~~

Finishing off the last of your Lion’s Tail you slam the mug back into the bar. “And then she said, ‘How could I say no?’ I’ll tell you, you think you know a girl, guess again. Another round please.” The bartender swaps your mug and you finish off half before he can take your bits.

”That’s hard,” Iron Will consoles you, “Maybe it’s for the best.”

“I’m not mad at her, but- *hic* I’d like a little warning next time you shoot me down. You know what I mean?”

”Can’t say that I do.”

You lean against his shoulder and continue to droll on. “Oooh I’m sure the big bad Iron Will never has girl troubles. You’ve got Gilda in the bag don’t you?”

He tries hushing you down, “Not so loud man.” Loud? You can be loud. “Iron Will’s got the hots for-!” he muffles you with his huge hand.

”That’s enough of that. You’ve had one too many to drink tonight.”

“Your mom’s had one too many to drink tonight,” you sneer nursing your mug.

He pats you on the shoulder and looks around, “I’m going to do a few rounds, make sure the clientele’s happy and all that buzz. Can I trust you not to make trouble?”

“Trust your mom…” you sink lower in your stool, cheek rubbing against the smooth wooden top.

”You’ll be alright, I’ll be back in a jiffy.” You crawl back up and finish off your drink.

“You walk away…”

~~~

Paying for one last mug you stumble out to the back, fingers fumbling with your tiny box. “Come on you little fucker,” you curse it before finally pulling it open, “Ahh there we are gorgeous.” Your eyes roll back as you take a sweet sweet dose of glory, the vial slipping out of your hands and shattering on the floor. You don’t care though, all that matters is that smooth feeling and that crave it sates so well. Pushing the door open back inside you feel completely rejuvenated like the alcohol was lifted from your veins. Of course that’d be ludicrous as it breaks the foundation of logical thinking all on it’s own.

Petal Peach found herself a stallion, that’s cool. Good for her, but you won’t be the only one alone. Scanning room for potential targets. Nope nope, not her, ewww definitely not her, maybe, naww- *beep beep beep* Target locked. Sexy secretary + Booze + Potential Role-play = One hell of a time. You wipe your hand through your hair and untuck your lame looking shirt. It’s charm time. She sees you on approach and alerts her marefriend too, “Hey Anon. Thanks for the invite.”

“What can I say? I’m a sucker for beauty,” your smarmy smile just the trick for them. “So how’s the party treating you two?”

”Good enough,” her friend says coldly, “Could be better.” Someone’s not having a very good time now are they?

“Now what’s with Oscar the Grouch over here? Liven up a little.”

”Shouldn’t you be setting a better example?” She’s gotta be kidding you. At a nightclub? Really?

“I could, but what’s the fun in that? Hey, how about a dance, my treat.” Her friend keeps quiet, a grin sporting its way on her face while the secretary, whatever her name is, looks almost scared. “Oh, let me guess. I’m not the first one to hit on you tonight.”

”That’d be a little more than right Mr. Suit,” a stallion remarks behind you. You sigh and look him over. Typical Pegasus, trimmed hair, flared wings, awful case of B.O.

“We’re just having a little talk here. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”

”Sounded like a bit more than that from where I’m standing. How about you talk a hike and let me get back to my girls.”

“Girls?” You look back before raising a brow, “I’m sorry I didn’t realize you had ownership over these two fine mares behind me. Do you have the proper paperwork?”

”You know what I mean. Take a walk while you still have the legs to do it with.”

“Ooooh,” you shiver, “Threatening an arm of the law. Did you replace your brain with an Etch A Sketch or are you just that dumb?” He stammers back some witless comeback or another, but you just wave your hand. “Listen here small fry. You’re a little fish in a big pond, and I don’t mean just the height difference. I can destroy every vestige of your existence until the very definition of dipshit is wiped from history. Now, would you like to clean up that mess between your legs or should you swim home like a good little fish?” You give him a second to gather his things before he skedaddles. “So, where were we ladies?”


And that is how you seal the deal.

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