• Published 26th Nov 2014
  • 5,243 Views, 170 Comments

Collaborators - Baal Bunny

Ahuizotl threatens to sue A. K. Yearling for libel unless she stops writing the Daring Do books. She makes him a counter-offer.

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"So." Ahuizotl's grin split his face like a machete slash across a watermelon. "Once again, Daring Do, it comes down to you, and it comes down to me." He patted the papers on the table between us. "And my cease and desist order, of course."

I stared out through A. K. Yearling's glasses, and even though I was in my publisher's office—bigger than my whole house but still somehow cozy, the floors carpeted, the walls book-lined, the view of the Manehattan skyline breathtaking—the air suddenly seemed hotter and stickier than any jungle I'd ever slogged through as Daring Do. Wearing the bonnet and shawl I always donned for these trips into the civilized parts of the world didn't help, either.

"No games, Ahuizotl," I said, well aware of the two earth pony stallions shifting nervously beside me: Red Pencil, the editor I'd worked with since the beginning of my writing career, and Dust Jacket, president and publisher of Random Horse Books. At the end of the table sat a frowning unicorn stallion in a suit and tie, a briefcase open in front of him, but I'd never seen him before. I'd only been expecting to meet Jacket and Red for our annual luncheon celebrating the success of the series, but to find two strange unicorns and Daring's arch-nemesis here as well?

Focusing completely on Ahuizotl again, I managed to squeeze the words past my gritted teeth: "What's this all about?"

Ahuizotl leaned back in his chair and waved his tail hand at the pony sharing his side of the table. "I shall allow my lawyer to explain."

"Codicil's the name, Ms. Yearling," the unicorn said. "With the firm of Render, Trocar, and Wheedle." Yellowish light wavered from his horn and pushed a manila folder toward me. "This is a copy of all the relevant paperwork. You might want to have your legal representative look it over, but I'll be happy to summarize." The flash of his thin smile made me think of a dagger unsheathing. "You are to cease and desist immediately from all activity related to the Daring Do series until such time as my client's suit against you has been settled."

Daring's first impulse would've been to buck the folder back into his smug little face, but I was being A. K. Yearling right now. So instead, I turned to my publisher and asked, "Jacket? What's this all about?"

His gray eyes not meeting mine, Dust Jacket cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, Kay," he started.

But a louder clearing of throat interrupted him. "Forgive me, Ms. Yearling," the unicorn at the end of the table said. "I'm First Part, head of the legal affairs department here at Random Horse. I've advised Mr. Jacket to have no communications with you at all until such time as we've considered whether we'll be bringing a suit of our own against you."

"What?" I cried out, leaping to my hooves.

"For breach of contract." First Part took a folder from his briefcase and opened it as calmly as if he hadn't just figuratively stabbed me in the back. "Specifically article three, section one of your publishing agreement with us." He adjusted his glasses along his muzzle and read the clause aloud: "'To the best of the Author's knowledge, said Work contains no material which is libelous and infringes no right of privacy.'" Looking up, he wrinkled his brow. "Imagine our shock, Ms. Yearling, when we learned that the Ahuizotl you write about so frequently is in fact a real person and not a product of your imagination."

A chill rattled me this time, and my ears folded at Ahuizotl's snicker. "I am quite real, I assure you, Mr. Part." I looked over at the monster, smiling broadly from his perch on the cushion of a chair several sizes too small for him. "And imagine my own shock when a chance trip to a book store yesterday during my first visit to your fair city led me to discover the horrible and libelous things 'Ms. Yearling'—" I could hear the quotes he put around the name. "—has been writing about me for all these years."

"Horrible? Libelous?" As much as the Kay part of me wanted to remain professional, I couldn't keep from yelling. "If anything, I downplayed your crimes! I had to, or the stories never would've passed muster for a young adult readership!"

"Crimes?" His smile vanished. "Show me a single Equestrian court of law where I've been convicted of anything! Detail for me what charges have ever even been brought against me!"

I picked the first thing that sprang from Daring's memories. "Three years ago last August!" I pointed a shaking hoof at Dust Jacket's picture window. "Not two blocks north of here! You and your minions broke into the Manehattan Natural History Museum and stole—!"

"Lies!" Ahuizotl barked. "The police never found enough evidence to make any arrests in that case! It's still listed as unsolved unless I'm greatly mistaken!"

"Phillydelphia, then! The home of the wealthy industrialist Countertops was robbed of—!"

"Again, 'Ms. Yearling,' insufficient evidence led to no charges being filed against anypony in that particular instance."

About to rattle off another, I stopped. For the first time, it occurred to me that no official action had ever resulted from any of Ahuizotl's various capers. "Well, then, what about the destruction of the Hippodrome in—?"

"I can hardly be blamed for the collapse of a three thousand year old ruin when an earthquake strikes!"

"You caused the earthquake!"

"I?" He pressed the fingers of his right hand to his chest. "Do I look like a unicorn? Or are you claiming now that I possess some sort of magical powers?"

It was all I could do to restrain the Daring Do in me from leaping across the table and smacking him. "You had the Amulet of Enceladus! You could've made every rock in that valley start dancing if you'd wanted to!"

He spread his arms. "And where is this amulet now? Produce it as evidence, 'Ms. A. K. Yearling,' and bring the full power of the law against me!"

I just glared at him. He knew as well as I did that Daring had shattered the amulet before kicking its pieces into Titans' Gorge.

"No?" His smile was back. "Of course not. For there was no Amulet of Enceladus, no Griffon's Goblet, no Rings of Scorchero. Nor am I the villain you paint me to be in your series of potboiler novels." He folded his arms. "After all, if I were truly as much of a threat to Equestria as you seem to think me, surely one or another of your four princesses would step in as they did against Discord or Tirek. Surely they would deal with me once and for all rather than allow the same insignificant little pony to continue failing and flailing against me. Would they not?"

Had I been facing him out in the wild, I would've happily let Daring answer him the way he deserved. But in Kay's domain, all I could do was glare at him some more.

"No." He said it more quietly this time, but I could hear the malice in his voice. "For I am but a private citizen of foreign birth upon whom some hack novelist has focused her irrational fears and hatreds for what has apparently been more than a decade. And I will not continue being libeled for the sake of this company's bottom line."

First Part cleared his throat again. "As I was explaining to your counsel, Mr. Ahuizotl, the representations clause of Ms. Yearling's contract clearly indemnifies Random Horse from any liability in this case."

"And yet?" Ahuizotl pointed his toothy snout at the lawyer. "I will sue you for damages: every last bit you've made despoiling my good name to line your pockets."

I sat forward. There was the Ahuizotl Daring knew, laying out his threats before getting to the point. "Or what, Ahuizotl?" I asked. "What is it you really want out of all this?"

His grin got even toothier. "I want A. K. Yearling to disappear. Forever."

That made me blink. The Kay part of me had been expecting him to spit out a number with six or seven zeroes attached to the end of it. "Disappear?" I managed not to stammer.

"Completely." He was getting that glint in his eye, the glint I recognized from all the times Daring had seen him perched atop some ancient plinth or other in an attempt to summon whatever fiendish power he was after. "I want her every title dropped from Random Horse's catalog. I want all the library copies gathered up and burned. I want the printing plates melted to slag and dumped into the sea!" He leaped onto his hind legs, all three of his hands bunching into fists, the tips of his ears nearly brushing the ceiling. "I want her name erased, her typewriter smashed, and legally-binding contracts formulated that will forbid this foul pony—" He crooked a finger out to point directly at me. "—from ever besmirching my reputation again!"

Red, Jacket, First Part, and Codicil were quivering, their eyes rimmed with white, but I didn't spare them more than a glance. A tingle had started at the base of my spine, the same tingle I got every time Ahuizotl tried to kill Daring. "Wow," I said with a grin. "I'm flattered."

Ahuizotl's face twitched. "You're finished!" he shouted. "That's what you are!"

Shaking my head slowly, I made a clicking noise with my tongue. "You've finally realized that you'll never beat Daring Do. So you're trying to beat A. K. Yearling instead."

"Trying?" He flung an arm out. "Look around! Your ostensible allies have turned upon you! This false veneer you have wrapped yourself in has shattered irreparably! Your livelihood, the source of the wherewithal you need to support your adventuresome meddling, is draining away around you never to return!" His chest heaved, and his snout curled into an absolute ripsaw of a smile. "This is the end, Daring Do. You've interfered with my plans for the last time."

"Okay." I crossed my front legs over the table. After more than a decade, the Daring Do in me knew pretty well what made Ahuizotl tick. This sort of revenge thing was one of his big buttons, sure, but he had plenty of others. I just needed to bring out Kay's negotiating skills and start pressing those buttons. "Here's my counter-offer."