• Published 20th Feb 2014
  • 1,981 Views, 248 Comments

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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The journey from the newly formed province of Nulpar to Canterlot lasted a week. It took almost two days for Max and Mrs Gobhar, loaded down by luggage as they were, to just get to the railhead in the town of Praris in the neighbouring province of Rushia. Once there they still had to change trains numerous times before getting the main line from Stalliongrad to Canterlot. The trip was far further than Max had ever gone before and although he was excited about his new position and intrigued at the changing terrain of Equestria as his train cut its way through the country, by the time he reached the final leg of his journey he was tired of the constant clacking of Mrs G’s knitting needles and felt that he was going stir crazy.

Then it came into sight, haloed by the setting sun, the Canterhorn and with it the ancient city of Canterlot perched on its side seemingly defying gravity. Numerous artificial waterfalls cascaded down the side and glittered in the late afternoon sun. Max’s face lit up with a smile and he felt a tingle in his flank for the first time in many years.

“I have got to climb that!” he announced.

Mrs Gobhar looked up from her knitting and peered out the window. “Well I’m sure you’ll get a chance sometime, dear.”

“No I mean I have to climb it right now! It’s what my cutie mark is telling me!”

“This again? You ponies seem to think with your cìos tatù. I thought you’d gotten this all out of your system when you were a foal. I swear you climbed every peak in Nulpar.”

“We’re not in Nulpar anymore, I need to stretch myself now we’ve moved.”

“It’s not actually that tall is it?” the nanny leant towards the window trying to judge the height of the mountain as they slowly approached it.

“No, it’s actually shorter than most of Nulpar’s peaks, it’s been scaled many times so there are even paths. Still I’ve never done it before. Look the train has to circle it several times to get to the top, I bet I could get there quicker, straight up the side, no problem.”

Mrs G looked at the mountain and then back at Max who was fidgeting in excitement. She chewed for a moment before continuing. “Care to put your money where your mouth is?”

“Fine, ten bits say I can make it to the top before the train does,” he boasted.

The goat nodded, “You’re on.” She spat on her hoof and held it out, Max did the same and they bumped their limbs together.

It was over an hour before the train came to its penultimate stop at the foot of the Canterhorn. Max took the time to unpack his climbing gear and prepare for the assent. By that time the sun had already dropped behind the horizon.

“Are you sure you still want to do this fool thing?” asked Mrs G as Max stepped down onto the platform. “You could just give me your money now and save yourself the effort.”

“Never! I will climb the Canterhorn even if it kills me,” he struck a heroic pose.

The goat gave a gentle smile, “I wouldn’t want it to come to that, then I wouldn’t get my money. Be careful.”

“Don’t worry I will.”

A call came from the stationmaster than the train was about to leave and Mrs G got back on and shut the door. Max waved to the train as it pulled away to start its slow ascent then turned to the mountain itself. Glancing up at the city he noticed numerous lights starting to be lit as it came alive for the night, it was like a second set of stars. He realised that the Princess herself would be in the city, lowering the sun and rising the moon. He was certain that somewhere up there his destiny was waiting for him, he just had to climb to reach it.

Duchess Fragrant Posey stood at the Canterlot train station waiting for a train, to arrive. Around her ponies rushed from place to place greeting each other, saying goodbye and everything in-between. Off to one side she noticed a small group of journalists eyeing her and her companions. Fragrant glared at the parasites, although her job put her in the public eye she did not appreciate how the paparazzi pried into personal lives as well. A group of nobles gathering together was hardly newsworthy by itself in the capital of Equestria, but they were a mismatched group and that might be seen as a story.

Princess Luna had personally suggested that the group meet the new arrival to the court at the station and show him his duties. Posey suspected that they had been selected to represent a range of the various factions that made up the court. Lady Purity, as the heir to her father, Count Hardup’s, enchanting empire, was currently a minor cog in the faction run with machine like efficiency by Archduke Fisher and his fellow technocrats who spent much of their time pushing from more investment in industry. Baron Rolling Fields represented the older more conservative sections of the court who were well served by the current system and tried to minimise change. Viscount Blueblood despite being from one of the oldest noble houses in Equestria (as he pointed out whenever given the chance) was relatively new to court and could be considered part of the younger, more hungry section of court. Fragrance suspected she had been selected to represent the voting block headed by Vicereina Wallflower who generally tried to put the needs of the common pony first, where possible. They hardly represented every faction in the court but unless every single member were to be present that would not be possible.

“It’s late,” announced Purity, “This just won’t do,” the raven black unicorn fussed tossing her long white mane over her shoulder, “The station manager will hear of this.”

“Now my dear,” said Rolling looking at the young unicorn with tired eyes. The earth pony was one of the oldest members of the court and it showed, his green coat was faded and his brown mane was patchy. “When I was a lad I remember when you were lucky to have a train arrive on the same day it was supposed to, a few minutes or even an hour isn't that bad.”

Behind the two of them stood Buttercup Fields, the Baron’s daughter. The lime green earth pony had a thickly curled orange mane and was talking quietly with Blueblood. Fragrant knew that the white unicorn stallion had acted as the young earth pony’s escort to a formal ball a few months ago. She felt that she should have a talk with the filly in case she had fallen for the Viscount’s insincere charm.

Just as she was about to join in with Purity and Rolling’s conversation Fragrant caught sight of the train as it rose into view, climbing the last part of the mountain into the station itself. “Ah, here it is,” she noted.

“What does this chap look like?” asked Blueblood turning towards the train, his conversation with Buttercup apparently finished.

“Earth Pony, grey coat and a short brown mane,” said Fragrant remembering the details the Princess’s office had provided to her. “He should be travelling in carriage three.”

The small group wandered down the platform as the passengers began to alight on the platform. Out of the corner of her eye Fragrant caught sight of one of the journalists following with a camera, probably eager to get a picture of the new arrival, she tried to keep herself between the train and the camera. She wouldn't want Max’s first experience of Canterlot to be getting blinded by a flash.

The party made it to the relevant part of the train and waited and waited. No pony matching Max’s description could be seen. In fact the only occupant seemed to be an old goat struggling with a pile of luggage.

“Could he have missed his train?” asked Purity looking around.

“Max’ll be here sooner or later, probably later,” said the goat.

“It can talk!” gasped Purity.

Mrs G glared at the unicorn with her slitted eyes. “Chan eil thu fhèin ag ràdh!” she muttered. “You look like a strong young stallion, you can give me a hoof with these,” she continued in perfect Equestrian tossing a case at Blueblood who caught it in surprise and staggered back under the weight.

“Do you mind!” he cried dropping the case, “I am Viscount Prince Blueblood not some common porter.”

“Oh.. Sorry,” she looked abashed, “I’m Mrs Gobhar, Baron Mounty Max’s assistant. I’m sure a stallion of your nobility wouldn't mind helping an old nanny with her bags?” she asked with a waver in her voice.

Blueblood spluttered for a moment all eyes on him, then he let out an exasperated sigh and picked up the bag with his magic.

“Thank you,” said the goat her voice losing all trace of weakness.

“A goat assistant!” spluttered Purity, “Is this a joke? Is he making fun of us?”

Baron Rolling ignored the shocked unicorn and struggled to pick up a piece of luggage, “I am Baron Fields these mares are Duchess Fragrant Posey, Lady Purity and my daughter Buttercup. Luna sent us to show the new Baron the ropes.” Buttercup rushed over and helped him with the case.

“Max should be here soon enough, the silly colt decided to walk,” said the goat with a hint of pride.

“Walk?” asked Fragrant, “All the way from his province?”

“No, just up the mountain, he tends to do that. I think he might have underestimated how big it is. Still I expect he’ll turn up soon enough, with my money.”

“This is the last straw,” exclaimed Purity, “I will not be insulted in this way, Luna will hear of this outrage.” With that she swung around and stalked away muzzle in the air.

“High strung thing isn’t she?” said Mrs G as she took a seat on a bench at the edge of the platform and brought out some knitting from somewhere.

Rolling gratefully dropped into the seat next to her, “She thinks she’s better than other ponies because she was born with a horn. I doubt she’s comfortable talking to you.”

The nanny looked up from her knitting, “And you are?”

“I had a Billy in my platoon back in the guard, a damn fine sergeant he was, a credit to his species.” He stared into the distance for a moment, “He was killed in a griffin raid, all burned up.” He scowled. “Wait that doesn’t sound right,” he mused.

“It was a dragon father,” said Buttercup in a small voice.

“Oh, yes that was right, a dragon, a young one as they go, but still a nasty brute. I’m sorry I get a little mixed up sometimes. I’m getting on a bit you see. I don’t know what I’d do without Buttercup here,” he patted his daughter on the hoof fondly and she smiled back.

“I wish my boys would make themselves a bit more useful. Brian’s a good buck but he can be as thick as two short planks, Conn’s always got his head in a book and Sealbhach’s doe crazy. Still I wouldn’t change them for the world and they do care for their old tosd.”

“Buttercup’s always looking out for me, it’s more than I deserve really. She talked me into going to a spa with her. In my day, well, stallions just didn’t go to those places but she made me and it does wonders for my joints, I come out feeling ten years younger.”

The old goat nodded, “Old age never comes alone does it? My hip aches something fierce when there’s rain on the way.”

“No it does not. Maybe you could come along with us one day? It really is a marvel.”

“Oh, I don’t know if they have facilities for goats,” said Buttercup looking nervous and earning herself a glare from the nanny.

This mountain was not as easy as it seemed, thought Max testing a hoofhold which crumbled at his touch. When you looked at it from a distance is seemed easy but up close it was quite a different prospect. It looked like there was a single easy path to his goal but once you got onto the path you found that it actually twisted and turned and you ended up in places you did not expect or intend to be.

He tested another section and this time found it to be solid beneath his hoof. Straining he lifted himself up another meter, he was getting close to one of the waterfalls that ran from the city. He didn’t fancy getting soaked if he could avoid it. Looking down he realised he’d covered about half the distance so far, he would be late for his rendezvous with Mrs G, oh well it wouldn’t be by much and he was quite enjoying himself. He probably should have brought a partner, an ascent was always easier when there were two of you, someone to catch you if you fell or get help if you got into trouble. But at the moment he was alone, maybe he’d meet somepony to join him as he went.

As long as he persevered he was sure he would make the trip in another few hours at most, he’d always found that was the way to deal with most problems you kept on trying until you got to the top. Suddenly his rear hoof slipped and he was thrown off balance. He flailed his foreleg and managed to get a grip in a crack in the rock in front of himself to steady himself.

Yes persistence would get him to the top eventually, as long as he didn’t fall on the way.

Over an hour passed and Fragrant found herself sitting with only Mrs Gobhar for company. One by one the other members of the group had left. Blueblood was first finally losing patience, the Viscount had stormed off claiming that a stallion of his stature could not waste his time waiting for the court’s most junior member to arrive. Eventually the wait proved too much for Baron Fields as well and the ancient pony had fallen asleep in his seat, his daughter fearing he would get a chill woke him up and led him, feebly protesting, back towards their home. The two of them had mostly sat in silence Fragrant wasn’t sure what to say to the goat she did not often interact with them, Cloudsdale being a far cry from the mountainous regions the breed normally called home.

“He’s really climbing the whole mountain to get here isn’t he?” she asked eventually.

The constant clicking of the goats knitting stopped for a second as she looked up. “Yes, once he gets his mind set on something he won’t stop until he gets it done. Regardless of how stupid it is.”

Posey frowned for a moment, “Should you talk about your employer like that?”

“I’ve known Max all his life, his grandfather took me on when I was just a doe and I worked for his father as well. I helped change Max’s nappies when he was a colt. He’s a great stallion and he’s due a lot of respect, but he can get some fool ideas in his head. He needs someone to keep him on track.” She looked Fragrant up and down thoughtfully before returning to her knitting.

The pegasus sat deep in thought. There were so many other, more important, things she could be spending her time on but she did want to see what type of pony could so casually do something so... single minded. She had read Max’s file, he had apparently modernised his newly formed province more in the last five years more than it had in the last hundred. Arranged for miles of road to be built over terrain others had said could not be covered. He’d even personally saved a group of foals during the longest day. There was a lot to admire about him. She supposed she could at least give him another hour or so, she had cleared her schedule until morning in order to show him around.

Canterlot! Finally he had made it! Max tried to get a look around as he galloped through the streets. It had taken far longer than he’d hoped to get to even the lowest levels of the city and longer to find his way to the train station that it had to climb the mountain. It had to be closing in on midnight by now. The first few ponies he’d tried to stop had been too busy to talk to him and he must have misunderstood the third because her directions seemed to lead him the wrong way. However, eventually, with the help of a guard, he had the train station in sight. Mrs G must have been waiting for almost two hours by now, he hoped she was alright, he’d have to find a way to make it up to her, on top of the money he now owed her.

He dashed into the station itself, admiring the architecture while avoiding the crowd milling around even at this time of night. Maybe one day they could have something like this back in Nulpar, probably a bit smaller. There were more ponies in the building than in all of Sadlzburg. Rushing onto the platform he swerved to avoid a packed trolley, shouted an apology to the porter pushing it and swivelled his head to look for his assistant.

There she was sitting on a bench surrounded by their combined luggage, he slowed to a trot panting slightly and approached her. “Ah, sorry Mrs G it took me...” suddenly Max lost control of his jaw as he caught sight of at the most beautiful mare he had ever seen. Her mane was a waterfall of shimmering pink flowing down the side of her face highlighting her huge aqua eyes, the colour of the ocean and he felt he could down in them forever. She wore a flowing scarlet dress over her svelte form, contrasting perfectly with her pale yellow, almost cream, coat. Her long legs placed her at his height or maybe a touch higher. Perfectly preened wings were folded over her back while a long tail gently swayed in the air.

As if in slow motion the vision of loveliness turned towards him and her perfect lips enunciated a message to him, “Mount me Max!” she sighed.

Max’s brain short circuited for a moment and he was surprised he stayed on his hooves. Almost every part of his body cried ‘yes’ at this tempting offer, the chorus led by certain organs but a few scraps of his brain cried at him to stop. In his, admittedly not too wide, experience mares didn’t just say things like that in public, when you had just met them, apart from one or two mentioned in yellowing magazines now stored in Piste’s house. He particularly doubted that a goddesses like the one before him would act like that. He forced himself to check before he did anything rash.

“Pardon?” he mumbled his grey coat blazing red.

“I said Mounty Max? Baron of Nupar?” said Fragrant. “I am Duchess Fragrant Posey, of Cloudsdale.”

“Yes... well, um, Max, yes. Er Mounty Baron,” stuttered Max. “I mean I’m Mounty Max, Baron. It’s my name which means that, err I’m me.” He floundered around wishing the ground would open up and swallow him, or time would roll back so he could try this again.

Fragrant stopped for a moment and stared at him while he sweated. Mrs Gobhar broke the tension. “So where’s my money then?” she asked.

“Oh, err, right.” Max tore his gaze away from Posey long enough to take out his bits and passed them to the goat. She counted them out.

“Good,” she said with a smile, “Now help me with the luggage. I hope our hotel will still be open.”

Max started to load himself up with the bags and Fragrant looked on trying to decide which of the pair was supposed to be the noble and which was the servant. “There will be no problem with your hotel still accepting guests, all of them are open all night in this city. Where are you staying?”

Max paused in swinging bags onto his back, “The Welcoming Stable. One of my friends Arctic Breeze recommended the place, she was stationed in Canterlot when she was in the guard.”

Fragrant frowned, “That’s a rather shabby place for someone of your position, still I suppose it should do for the day. We can take my carriage.”

She led Max and his assistant out of the station. Her personal sky carriage was where she had left it, despite the long wait the chauffeurs still stood at attention. Max helped Mrs G into the carriage before helping the chauffeurs load their luggage.

The Duchess whispered instructions to her staff and the carriage took off into the sky. Both Max and his assistant looked down at the city in astonishment, neither of them was used to this type of transport. Fragrant smiled at their looks of awe, Max seemed to be splitting his attention between the ground and herself and was sweating slightly despite the chill, she would not have thought the leader of a mountainous province would have a problem with heights especially since he had just climbed a mountain. But she knew some ground dwelling ponies had difficulties with flying.

The trip was short, the hotel did not have rooftop landing like some of the higher class establishments so the carriage landed near the main entrance. Several staff spilled out of the hotel apparently having sensed an important guest had arrived and began to busy themselves with the luggage.

“I’m sorry to have kept you up so late Duchess,” said Max as he checked in.

She looked confused for a moment, “This is not late. The Night Court is nocturnal you know.”

“Oh,” blushed Max at his stupidity.

“I had not risen long before I was due to meet you at the station and I had cleared my evening to show you around the city. I will need to return to court in an hour or so, your late arrival has made rather a mess of my schedule. Still I suppose you are hungry?”

Max suddenly realised that despite the lateness of the hour he hadn’t eaten for quite some time. “Yes, I am rather.”

“Good, I would normally eat at this time. We can discuss when we can meet again over a meal. I know just the place.”

“Do I have time for a shower?” he was acutely aware that his recent exertions meant he wasn’t exactly in pristine condition.

“No, I don’t think so,” Posey inhaled, “I like.. I mean, I think you look acceptable.”

“Would you like to come with us Mrs Gobhar?” asked Max as the goat supervised the last of the luggage.

She looked between the two ponies and gave a little smile. “I’m sure the two of you young ‘uns don’t need me around. I’ll order something from room service and get some sleep. Try not to stay out too late,” she said with a wink.

Max flushed slightly at the old goats insinuation but Posey didn’t seem to notice. “Good,” she said, “I think I know just the place.”

The restaurant was not far, the trip only took a few minutes by carriage, and Fragrant dismissed her drivers once they arrived, it was only a short walk to the castle once she had finished her meal. To Max the restaurant looked very exotic decorated as it was with pillars and with a domed roof.

“What sort of food do they serve?” asked Max somewhat nervously, he didn’t want to be seen totally out of touch with Canterlot cuisine, even though he was.

“It’s food from Maredras, I was on a trade mission there many years ago and I got a taste for it.”

“I am sorry madam but the restaurant is totally full,” explained the maître d' not even looking up as they entered.

“I think you might be able to make room for me and my companion,” said Posey regally.

The maître d' looked up and an embarrassed smile quickly passed over his face, “Duchess. I am so very sorry I did not recognise you there, of course we can seat you. Just wait here for a moment.”

The stallion rushed off and started to talk to another pair of ponies who had just taken their seats.

“I don’t mind going somewhere else if there isn’t any room,” pointed out Max as the ponies started to stand throwing dirty looks towards himself and Posey.

“Don’t worry I’m sure they will be well compensated for their trouble,” said Posey. Max gave an awkward smile to the couple as they trotted past scowling.

The maître d' showed Max and Posey to the new vacated table, “Allow me to offer you a bottle of the house special as recompense for your delay,” he said pouring two glasses of wine and leaving the bottle on the table.

Max picked up the menu, none of the dishes were familiar to him. Posy picked up on his discomfort, “Shall I order for both of us?” she asked as a waitress wrapped in a dress made out of a single piece of fabric appeared next to them.

“Yes please,” said Max taking a mouthful of his drink, it was very sweet.

“अपने विशेष के दो कृपया. एक पर कम मसाले, मैं वह एक कुंवारी है.” said Fragrant to the waitress who gave a little giggle, nodded and walked away. “I picked up some of the language while I was there,” she explained.

“Mi abair iomadaidh cainnt cuidechd,” said Max.

“What language is that?” she asked.

“Goat, close to it anyway, I’m told I have a terrible accent but I can usually get my meaning across. Sibh baileach alainn,” he blushed slightly and raising his glass, Posey bumped her glass into his before sipping her drink.

“What is your province like?” she asked, “Cloudsdale is a nice place but we don’t host many non-ponies, the population is mostly pegasus of course, and a few expatriate Griffin and Hippogriff.”

“Oh we have a few Griffin in Nulpar as well. We aren't that far from the kingdoms you know, but they mostly keep to themselves. Donkey, Hippogriff and Shiney’s, I mean Crystal Ponies as well. I suppose the province is quite varied but it’s mostly mountains, and valleys, there are a few large lakes here and there and a few flat areas to the south. You know I can’t imagine what it’s like living on a cloud city, being able to move from place to place as you feel like it.”

“It’s not quite that simple, Cloudsdale’s movements are planned out years in advance, it’s not like I can just choose to visit Neigh Orleans on a whim. Well,” she leaned forwards slightly, “When I was young my brother, Thunderous, decided he wanted to visit Rushia so he snuck into my mother’s study and changed the itinerary. We were over a hundred miles off course before she found out. She was so angry, both at the pilots and Thunderous, not only had he changed it with crayon and the pilot’s didn’t figure it out but he’d spelt ‘Rushia’ wrong. She made him spend so much extra time with our tutors.” Max laughed and she found herself following him, she was surprised how relaxed she was around him, there was something about him that just made her feel at ease, she would have to be careful.

The waitress glided up with their meal and laid the plates of curried vegetables in front of them. “I hope you enjoy them,” she said with a bow.

Max looked slightly apprehensive at his meal but seeing that Posey had started to delicately graze on hers he leant forwards and took a mouthful. His taste buds were overwhelmed by a mix of flavours, “This is good..” he started before the spices hit him and he almost gagged. Hot! Hot! He thought, grabbing his glass he emptied the wine into his mouth to try and ward off the taste.

“Are you alright?” asked Posey looking concerned.

“Fine,” he gasped filling his glass again, “Just a bit spicier than I’m used to.” He took a smaller bite this time and managed to blink back the tears in his eyes.

“Well it was hard work,” said Max gesticulating with his hooves, “But we just about got the last section of road finished in time for the opening ceremony. I was worried that Piste might fall asleep but he held it together long enough for his sister and her foals to arrive. You know, having roads for trade and official business is good and all, but allowing families to visit in an hour, rather than six, just makes it all worthwhile.” He smiled in recollection.

The two nobles had finished their meal and drink (the majority had ended up in Max, Posey had only sipped her wine) and the Duchess still had a short time until she had to carry out her duties so they had ended up talking about their work.

Fragrant sat head in hooves looking at her companion as he told his story, he was just so enthusiastic. He almost seemed to glow with repressed energy, she knew he was somewhat younger than her but he seemed almost like an excited foal at hearth’s warming, it was very... endearing.

“Duchess?” asked Max.

Posey shook herself, she had been staring, “Sorry?” she asked, “And you can call me Fragrant.”

Max smiled widely, “I said what are you working on at the moment, Fragrant?”

“Oh, just the usual things, a bill to allow the export of clouds to the mild west, relief monies for areas affected by the longest day. Nothing very exciting.”

“That sounds very interesting those monies could make the lives of a lot pony’s better, I know Nulpar suffered some avalanches, other places must have had it worse. Just to think you could be helping so many,” he enthused.

“I suppose so,” she mused, “It’s been a while since I really thought about it that way, as more than just dull debate. It can be so difficult to get some of the court to move quickly sometimes.”

“I’m sure that if some of the court actually visited the affected areas they could see the real equine face of the disaster.”

“That... that is not a bad idea actually. I might suggest it to the committee.” She was a little taken aback, when had she really become so jaded she had stopped thinking of the citizens of Equestria in these matter? She looked up at the clock on the wall. “I’m afraid we will have to continue this conversation at another time I must return to the court now. I believe I have some free time tomorrow evening, I will meet you at your offices at seven, we can talk about your new duties,” announced Fragrant pushing back her chair and standing.

Max joined her. “I’ll see you then,” he said leaning towards her.

Even looking back on the moment from years later Max would never be sure how it happened. Maybe it was the wine, that always made him rather tactile. Maybe he was just intoxicated by her presence. Whatever it was, the bow that he had originally planned to make morphed into something more and he slumped against the yellow pegasus, throwing a hoof over her back and drawing her into a hug.

Fragrant stiffened in shock for a moment then to both Max and her surprise she relaxed into his grasp melting against him. Her mane brushed against his muzzle and he found that she lived up to her name, his nose was invaded by a multitude of flowery scents, roses, lilacs, lemon and Lavender all fought for his attention. At the same time she inhaled his more earthy scent from his efforts climbing the Canterhorn, it smelt.. honest. Slowly their heads turned towards each other until they were separated by only an inch or so of space, they hovered there for a seemingly endless eternity eyes locked, his green staring into her blue and vice versa.

Then Fragrant returned to herself and stiffened in shock before gently, and with surprising regret, pushed Max away from herself. The earth pony slumped back, his hind legs folding beneath him, his face glowing like the sun. “Errr, umm, sorry, I didn’t I...”

Fragrance’s face was also glowing slightly, her tail flicking in what Max thought must be barely contained annoyance. “Mr Max, that sort of informality might be the norm out in the sticks but here in Canterlot, such behaviour is not acceptable.”

“Sorry, I’m sorry, errr sorry,” stuttered Max looking horrified and crushed.

The pegasus nodded slightly, “No harm done, a simple hoofshake should suffice in the future. I will see you at court tomorrow night.” With that she turned and with, Max’s treacherous brain noted, a significant swing in her tail and fabric covered flanks strode from the restaurant.

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! thought Max as he slammed his head into the table, his meal threatened to make a return performance. What had he done? Had he no self-control at all? He was just lucky that she was so perfectly understanding.

A waiter looked down sympathetically. “How would you like to pay, sir?” he asked.

Fragrance only just made it out of the door before her composure cracked and her wobbly legs gave out, dropping her rump to the floor. She felt light headed, her heart was beating a mile a minute and her stomach was packed with butterflies. A series of giggles threatened to escape her mouth. A wide smile cracked her face and her wings spread as pleasant shudders passed up and down them. That had been... that had felt... she didn’t know. A hug made her feel like this, just a hug, what would... She fought to control herself, she was a grown mare not some besotted schoolfilly.

This was dangerous, he was new to the court but this could still be a trap, an attempt to get inside her guard... and inside something else, which wouldn’t be so bad, whispered a sly part of her mind. She struggled to force it down and forget the feeling of his hard body pressed against her softer more pliant one.

Maybe she should give him the benefit of the doubt, he might not know the effect he had had on her. He seemed to be a noble stallion and maybe they could..... No she had no time for that sort of thing, and even if they did it only led to getting hurt. The pain from the wound caused so long ago but never fully healed flared in her for a moment, bring her back to Equestria. Yes, she would have to keep an eye on Mounty Max but there could only be a professional relationship between them, she would control herself better in future. With those thoughts running through her she turned towards her duties at the castle but was unable to suppress the unconscious skip in her step as she went.

Author's Note:

And that's how I met your mother!

Now all my major characters are in place I'm going to leave you in the lurch for a while. This is the first section of the story completed from now on I'm planning to have 2-3 chapters completed a month probably in a block covering a general theme. The next are going to be based around Max being introduced to the Night Court itself and some of it's players, as well as being formally ennobled.

As always comments are very much encouraged.