• Published 20th Feb 2014
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Climbing the Mountain - Talon and Thorn



The story of Baron Mounty Max and his early years as part of the Night Court of Equestria and how his destiny became intertwined with Duchess Fragrant Posey during that momentous time.

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A Province is Born

Canterlot, two years ago

Why, thought Trixie, was she the only sane pony in all of the Equestria? It was a hard burden to carry but, to mix a metaphor, she felt she wore it well.

Take her current situation. Apparently there had been a clerical error of some sort and a whole section of Equestria did not exist, well it was fairly obvious to anypony who actually looked at it that it existed. It had tall pointy mountains in it for Luna’s sake. It was just that due to some quill pushers error it wasn’t actually part of any province, everypony had just assumed it belonged to another province or wasn’t even part of Equestria and ignored it as being somepony else’s problem. There were even ponies in the area, not many as such things were counted, there were probably more ponies in Canterlot than were in the whole area, but still ponies.

This had all come to light when one of these ponies had decided to officially found a town in the non-existent area. Well apparently a town had been there for quite a while it had just not officially existed. Somepony or other had signed off on it (the signature on the document was unreadable, maybe they were drunk, thought Trixie, that would explain a few things) but noted the discrepancy that the town was not technically part of Equestria. That note had slowly made its way through the bureaucracy until after sixty years it had come to Princess Luna’s attention. SIXTY YEARS! That was like three times as long as Trixie had been alive, she shuddered to think how Equestria had managed without her during those pre-Trixie times.

Once the Princess was aware she instantly leapt into action by hoofing it off to her one and only student, and only sane pony, the Great and Powerful Trixie. Luna tended to set such seemingly pointless tasks as tests of her student. Trixie had a sneaking suspicion they were jokes that she didn’t get the punch line of. “It’ll be good for you to learn the ancient art of compromise, Trixie,” Luna had said, “Just get the leaders of the neighbouring provinces in a room and I’m sure you can get them to agree to a mutually beneficial plan. Bring it back and I’ll hoof stamp it and everything will be sorted out.”

Of course that had turned out to be simpler said than done. The non-existent land was on Equestria’s northern border not too far from the Crystal Empire and the Griffin Kingdoms, it was bordered on the south by Rushia. Trixie was not keen on arranging a meeting with Bobbing Fisher, to be honest the stallion scared her, so she found out which of his feudal minions ran the nearest parts of his province and went to them instead. Unfortunately she found out that apparently Baroness Rosemary who administered some of the land adjacent to the disputed territory had once mistaken the husband of Baroness Thornbush, whose lands also bordered it, for a sheep while at a farming competition (and having seen Baron Thornbush Trixie had to agree that it was an easy mistake to make, his coat could do with a cut), now the two of them refused to talk to each other. The third noble whose lands bordered the area, Duke Sands, ruler of the province of Amberlon, at least had no problem with meeting with his peers. Or at least he had said he didn’t, he just seemed to be constantly busy with something else.

It had taken Trixie over two weeks, two weeks she could have used to do something more important, like wash her mane or learn to speak Griffin, to get the three of them into the same room. Even then she’d had to trick the Duke into thinking that Duchess Posey had rescheduled their regular chess game and ‘forgot’ to tell the other two nobles who would actually be in the meeting.

As Trixie had expected the meeting had started off with them yelling at her for a bit. Well not actually yelling because you couldn’t just yell at Luna’s student but talking in a way that suggested they would like to yell, if it were socially acceptable. Finally she managed to steer them towards the actual business at hoof. She had passed out the little booklets that she’d gotten some nameless drone to produce, she was rather proud of them, they were full colour and had all sorts of useful information about the unclaimed land. Maybe she should put in a good word for the drone, she or he might get a promotion out of it, maybe it could afford a name, that would be a real status symbol amongst all the other drones over in Clover Square.

She gave her audience a few minutes to digest the information or in Rosemary and Thornbush’s case to stare hatefully at each other. Then she brought out her next secret weapon, the map. She had managed to obtain, at no little effort, a map of the area in question and unrolled it with a flourish over the table. The effect was somewhat spoiled when the map proceeded to roll up again. She ran a hoof over it trying to get it to stay flat but it resisted. Gazing around the spartan meeting room Trixie found a distressing lack of things to keep the map in place. Sighing she used her magic to pin the thing down.

“Now this is the specific area in question,” she began and activated her third secret weapon. Her horn glowed under her star covered hat as she created an illusion covering the map causing the image of the snow-capped peaks of the mountain to rise up and break through the layer of cloud that now covered it. The whole area was set out as in real life, only smaller, even the settlements were present, tiny splodges of brown and grey against the open areas. She was proud of her work, if you looked at it through a magnifying glass you would even see the individual ponies doing ponyish things in the streets. The rooms other occupants seemed to be quite impressed, apart from the Duke who had his muzzle buried in his booklet.

“Now, it’s probably easiest for the whole land to go to one of you, so why don’t you each tell me why you want it and I’ll decide who to recommend to Luna,” announced Trixie swelling with her new power.

“Well,” Rosemary pushed in first, “Unlike some other areas,” she glared at her rival, “My lands are known for their farms, food production was up twenty percent in the last year alone. I’m sure I can make those,” she peered at the map, “Barren rocks bloom?” she looked unsure.

“While Baroness Rosemary’s people will be grubbing around in the dirt I’m sure mine will be industrialising the land, it’s the way of the future. My Lord Fisher certainly thinks so. I’m sure we’ll be able to set up factories,” her hoof hovered over the map, “Somewhere. Maybe near the rail link?” Her hoof hovered across the map to point out where, but she quickly found herself searching in vain.

Trixie turned to the third of the nobles. Sands looked up from his reading, “I’m afraid that there is no way I can top those offers,” he said smirking slightly, “I’m afraid I may have to bow out of this competition, it’s a shame but I think I’ll survive it.”

“Errr.. Ok,” said Trixie staring at the earth pony stallion before turning back to the mares, “I guess it’s down to you two then.”

Rosemary had picked up her copy of the booklet and was flipping through it. “I feel that I should agree with my colleague, industrialisation might be best for the people here and my lands are much more rural. Oh, look,” she pointed out, “The area has quite a lot of sheep in it, I’m sure Lady Thornbush would feel right at home there,” she gave a wicked grin.

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly,” replied Thornbush through gritted teeth, “Lady Rosemary is much better at improving farming, she said so herself, I’m sure she can really turn around the farming on those mountains, even grow grapes. I know her daughter is rather fond of a glass of wine or fifteen of an evening. Didn’t she and her coltfriend-for-the-night make the papers yesterday, something about dancing on tables?”

“So none of you want it?” asked Trixie sounding unsure and trying to ignore the fact that Rosemary looked like she wanted to buck Thornbush through the wall of the meeting room. Maybe she should have read the booklet too. She’d meant to, but it was full of charts and worse graphs, sometimes in multiple colours, she felt tired just looking at it.

“It might be best if we split the land between us, fairer I suppose. How about we divide it this way,” said Sands sweeping a hoof across the map, “I’ll take this bit.”

Trixie peered at her illusion, “I don’t think there are actually any ponies in that bit, just mountains.”

“I’m being generous, the mare’s can keep the people, I’ll just get the ore, I mean mountains.”

“Well if I do take on the area,” said Thornbush, “I’ll need some things to support the population. Maybe I should talk to the Archduke about redrawing the borders like this?” she used her horn to summon a line across the map, “That’ll give me the town of Praris, it should be able to provide for my new citizens.”

“Hey that’s my town, you can’t do that!” exclaimed Rosemary.

“It’s only fair, it’s not like your grandfather didn’t steal it from my family anyway!”

The meeting went downhill from there.


“So how did it go?” asked Princess Luna with a smile as her student entered the alicorn’s private quarters.

“We really made progress,” replied Trixie through gritted teeth.

“Oh? So who agreed to take ownership of it? Duke Sands?”

“Fine!” cried Trixie throwing down the map, “No pony wants it. It’s useless, covered in mountains and goats. No roads, no railway, no factories, no useful materials, rien ne va. It’ll cost far more to make it properly habitable than you’d ever get from it in taxes in twenty years. The place is nulle part and totally vain, you couldn’t give it away. You might as well just make it a new province then somepony might take it just for the title.”

The princess picked up the discarded map with her magic and held it up in front of her. “You know that might not be a bad idea,” she mused.

Her student stopped her rant, “Really?” said Trixie in surprise. “Um, I’ve always thought Trixieland would be a good name for a province,” she ventured.

“You know I outlawed punishing a whole province like that a long long time ago, it’s cruel and unusual,” said her mentor with a raised eyebrow.

“Anyway,” said Trixie ignoring the insult, “If you do create a new province I guess you’d need an up and coming courtier to rule it, right?” Her ears pricked up.

“Yes, but who would want such a job?” Luna tapped her muzzle with her hoof, “To run such a tiny province, so far from Canterlot. Whoever got the role would have to send all summer in the mountains and it would be such hard work to administer. It would almost certainly be a dead end job. You know I might just have somepony in mind.” The alicorn stared meaningfully at Trixie.

“Well I’m glad it wouldn't be me. I don’t think I’m ready for that kind of responsibility yet,” said Trixie backtracking rapidly. “Oh, look at the time. I should be off.” With that she turned and rushed past the guards and out of Luna’s quarters.

Luna grinned at her students behaviour for a moment, then her face became more grim, what to do about the land? Maybe Trixie did have a point, as part of another nobles province there would be no reason for them to want to improve it, but maybe if a new province was formed then its ruler would have no choice but to try and make the place better. At the very least she could have it looked into. Equestria’s immortal ruler took a scroll and quill in her aura and began to write.


Canterlot, six months ago

The wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly but they grind inexorably. Feasibility studies were carried out and passed to committees, who thought about them, bounced them between each other, lost them, found them again and eventually with Luna’s support agreed that it was just about possible to form a new province. Monies were appropriated, maps drawn up and arrangements made.

Finally Luna found herself one hoof stamp away from creating a new province, only two tasks still remained. Firstly to name the virgin land, the majority decision seemed to be to name it after the town that was likely to be its capital, Sadlzburg. Luna was not keen on the idea, that sort of thing always made for confusion and she was expected to remember the names of all the provinces and cities in her land, it was a matter of pride, so it should at least be something memorable.

Considering the problem she thought back to Trixie’s original idea, no Trixieland was definitely not a good idea, her student didn’t need her head swollen any more. What else was it she had called it? Nulle Part, it meant nowhere in prench. Nulpar had a ring to it, and the place had been left off the map for so long. Then she considered the other meanings of the term and smiled, well a mare could hope could she not? Particularly one of her age.

So, with a flick of her quill and a stamp of her hoof the province of Nulpar was created at least in potentia. Now only one more thing was needed for the new territory. A noble to run it. After all, thought Luna, a province without a noble is like a village without an idiot, as they say in Rushia. Well some provinces were lacking nobles due to various incidents but she didn’t think she could get around creating a new one without somepony in charge, she’d have to start a search.

Once more the committees were brought to bear and the bureaucracy ground on.


Canterlot, two weeks ago

Luna was more tired than she’d felt in a century, probably longer.

Being banished to her moon had been a situation she never wanted to have to repeat again, mercifully it had been short but once returned she had no time to recover. As soon as the immediate effects of her sister’s return had been dealt with she’d thrown herself into a lightning tour of Equestria’s neighbours. She had to make sure all of her allies were in place for when Corona recovered, while at the same time making sure her enemies knew that she had not been weakened by her sister’s attack.

Now almost a month since the longest day, as the press were calling it, she could finally return to her home. However, even here she couldn’t find any rest, a month away from court meant a month’s uncompleted paperwork, it covered almost every free surface of her private chambers. For a single delirious moment she considered surrendering to Corona just so she wouldn’t have to deal with all of it, the older alicorn had always been keener on bureaucracy than her younger sister. Even so she was sure Corona would be begging to be returned to the peace of the sun after only a few weeks of dealing with then tangle Equestria had become since she left it.

Sighing she used her telekinesis to clear a chair and slumped into it. She plonked her reading glasses on her snout and started work. They were an affectation, there was nothing wrong with her eyes, but she thought they made her look ‘cute’.

Luna had completed about half of her work before being forced to take a break. She decided to try and relax by catching up on the newspapers she’d missed while on tour, she was flipping through the pile when a particularly striking front page caught her eye, it showed a stallion clutching two foals in his mouth and with a third on his back barely avoiding being crushed by a large boulder. The headline above simply read ‘HEROES’. Intrigued Luna scanned the rest of the article.

‘Yesterday I met a stallion who risked his life to save three foals from a rockslide, he was a hero. I met a mare who kept herself and a dozen foals alive under a snowdrift for six hours, she was a hero. Over fifty villagers climbed a mountain and worked tirelessly to save their neighbours, they were all heroes. All across Equestria normal ponies carried out small acts of kindness to help and reassure their friends, neighbours and total strangers, they were all heroes. During the longest day when Corona returned, we were all heroes. But only if we tried.

Some ponies not only try, and succeed, at being heroes but they can also make others around them better ponies than they thought they could be. Mounty Max, Lord Mayor of Sadlzburg, is one such pony. Upon hearing that an avalanche had buried a nearby village Max personally led a group of rescue ponies along a dangerous route to reach the stricken village as quickly as possible. Once there he and his people worked tirelessly for many hours to save the villagers.

One of the first things my mentor Ink Blot taught me was that a journalist must never get personally involved in a story, they should remain detached. It was good advice but all rules are made to be broken and in this case it was Max who showed me that when lives are on the line we must all step up and become heroes, even jaded journalists such as myself.’

Mounty Max, the name seemed familiar to the princess. She used her magic to search through a pile of paperwork and withdrew a long list, the possible appointments for Baron of the new province of Nulpar, as drawn up by the Night Court. She scanned it, there he was about three quarters of the way down. She checked the notes on him, Lord Mayor for the last twelve years, native of the province, had overseen an explosive growth in road building, quite the stallion of the people, but no experience in politics above the town level and no connections in court.

She examined the rest of the list, it was depressingly familiar, there one of Vicereine Puissance’s grandfoals, here the usual cronies, the first name on the list was Counterfact, one of Archduchess Nobility’s nieces. From what she knew of Counterfact she was a decent enough pony but she couldn’t think of a single memorable deed she had done. Did she really deserve to be put in charge of so many ponies? And she couldn’t help think of the deals Nobility must have made to get her mare in place. It seemed every appointment became more and more murky these days, and she’d seen what that led to in the past. She hoped she had some time before she had to ‘clean house’ again, that there were still some decent ponies in court who had gotten their positions through their own merits.

Maybe it was time for a change, even if only in a small way. She doubted this Mounty Max would thank her in the long term for such a promotion. She was throwing him into the deep end, but he might just be the sort of thing the Night Court needed. A shot in the arm as it were. Nopony could blame her for electing such a hero to the position, even if he was inexperienced, who knew, he might be destined for great things.

Yes, she would do it, she drew her quill around the name circling it in red. She would keep an eye on Mounty Max, who knew where he might end up?

Author's Note:

So here it is I've talked about it for a while but finally got around to writing it.

Here is a map of the Lunaverse Equestria showing Nulpar and it's neighbours.

The first chapter is a bit different from the rest of it, more jokey and not actually containing any of the major characters. Trixie won't be appearing much although Luna will make a few appearances.

I did have a sort of cover but I chickened out if anyone has a decent picture of Canterlot where you can see the whole mountain I could use it would be appreciated.

As always comments are much appreciated, as this is my first real on going story I'd like to hear what you all think of it and where it should go.