• Published 27th Apr 2015
  • 1,004 Views, 52 Comments

Family - Talon and Thorn

A series of short stories and extended scenes featuring various characters from the Lunaverse all on the general theme of families.

  • ...

Growing up

“And make sure you get everything down, I know how hard it can be to follow their language but everything needs to be recorded exactly!” said Rector Agostino, waving his hooves theatrically.

Luna nodded gripping her quill tightly in her aura. If the functionary had known who she actually was he would no doubt be even more flustered, probably hysterical, but to him, and the rest of the staff she was Celestina, one of the many scribes taking part in the trade talks between Cavallia and Zaldia. The real Celestina had suddenly decided to follow her dreams, literally, with a legionary who had suddenly come into a considerable sum of money after the death of a very distant relative in Equestria, leaving the young couple with enough to buy out his commission, elope, and set up a small farm to raise their future foals in.

“Here she comes!” came a cry from further down the hall.

“Positions everypony, we must all look our best for the Exarch!” cried the Rector as he struggled to straighten his robes. The legionaries and other delegates all quickly froze at attention in two rows at either side of the chamber as between then strolled the Mi Amore Cadenza, Exarch of Cavallia, The Reborn Sun, Lady of the Heart, Beloved of the People, Protector of the Crystal Sea, Marshal of the Heart, and as known to only one individual in the room, Cadence, Luna’s daughter.

Although the method of Cadence’s conception and birth had not been that of mortal ponies, Luna considered her the blood of her own blood, and with that she felt came certain responsibilities. Which was why she was here. It was only a few years since the previous Exarch of Cavallia had passed on and Cadenza had been elected as his successor by the Chamber of Cardinals. The decision not been unanimous, however, and a sizable minority of the Cavallian nobility were hostile to the idea of the alicorn taking the supreme role in their government. Not least as her immortality would make any future hope of themselves or their descendants sitting on the throne moot. It was this issue that made this conference all the more important, Cadence had to prove to her people that she was a strong, capable ruler and the other party in the meeting would not make this easy.

Cavallia and Zaldia had a long history of feuding, and although they currently held a tenuous peace, there was news of Zaldian troops carrying out manoeuvres near the border and other saber rattling exercises. Equestrian intelligence suggested there was a strong possibility of a pre-emptive attack in the next few months and, given the reported relative sizes of their military's' Cavallia would likely come off worse in any exchange. Equestria had made an official position that it would not help any act of aggression on either side but both countries had politely pointed out that this was an internal matter.

All these factors together had made Luna decide to come here today in disguise. It was not unique, she had at times previously felt the urge to send part of herself to visit her daughter incognito, and on an occasion or two actively meddle in her affairs. Now, as then, the actions made her feel slightly dirty; she knew she should not be interfering with her daughter’s life, but the fact Cadence had not asked Equestria for aid felt like a personal slight, which stung a little. She knew how hard the life of a monarch could be, how isolated you could be, how the weight of decisions could weigh down on you. She had not been there for her daughter’s early life, had deliberately cast her away, had even tried to lock away her divinity; nothing could make up for that, but at least she could try to make her daughter’s life a little easier, couldn’t she?

“Celestina!” came a hiss from the pony next to her drawing her out of her introspection. She blinked, wishing she had chosen a persona whose name was less like her sister’s. She straightened just as the Exarch and her elderly consort came to a halt not far from her. The junior alicorn wore the crown of her position on her brow, carefully balanced around her long tapering horn, and a relatively simple white robe with intricate gold threaded edges. Her consort, Cartasole wore a similar but even less ornate outfit, his head and patchy mane were bare. He was clearly in the twilight of his life and Luna wished she could spare her daughter the pain of the curse of mortality that she would no doubt feel within in the next few years.

Still there was no doubting the love between the alicorn and her husband despite how brief its flowering would be. It was a shame that that love could never be fruitful; Luna’s heart dipped at the thought of the night Cadence had come to her, and she had been forced to tell her daughter than no union of alicorn and mortal would produce a child, regardless of the love involved. Her daughter’s solution, adoption, had been one that Luna herself had never considered; in fact, she was a little surprised that her daughter’s adopted daughter, Annunciata, was not present. She was, among other things, one of Cavallia’s top diplomats. Although she had taken many lovers Luna had never formally acknowledged a consort or adopted any children, although she had held some ponies as children of her heart over the centuries.

Cadence had done things quite differently. She had formally married, adopted, and even kept links with the descendants of the family Luna had left her with all those years ago. Luna had always feared that such events would lead to civil strife in Equestria, although Cavallia and Cadenza had seemed to have survived so far. Still, the filly was young, so very young compared to Luna; she had not yet lived with the relentless passing of generation after generation.

“Thank you all,” said Cadence with a gracious nod, “for the long hours you all put into organising this meeting, just so I could look organised,” there was a little nervous laughter around the room, “But we must not slack at this last moment,” she slowly trotted in a circle to look all the servants in the eye. “The Zaldian delegation will no doubt try to provoke you. Do not let them, you are all better than that. This is a place for words of peace, not actions of war. Although if it does come to that we will be ready!” she let her words hang in the air for a moment. “Now let’s get in there and show them what we can do!” she cried with a smile. A round of stamping rolled around the chamber, and Luna could not help but smile and join in. She noticed Cadence lean gently against her aged consort as if seeking his support.

At a second nod from the Exarch the door to the meeting chamber was opened and the delegation marched in to take their positions. The chamber was splendid, open at one end to a balcony giving a view out into the ocean beyond sparkling in the early morning sun. A cool breeze flowed into the chamber keeping the temperature tolerable. The table itself was made of polished marble and contained, bowls of fruit and vases of wine for the delegations to refresh themselves with, around it were velvet covered chairs. The walls were covered by exquisite art and were inlaid with gold and silver. The room showed all the wealth of Cavallia; trade with us, it said, and this could be yours. Luna approved of the sentiment and hoped that King Zuzen of Zaldia would as well.

Along with the other scribes Luna was bustled into one of the alcoves around the walls of the chamber; there they would be unobtrusive but still close enough to record all that was said. Luna quickly cast a spell on her quill to ensure it would make its record without her conscious control, no need to have to split her attention or draw attention by not doing her cover persona’s job.

Cadence, Cartasole and the other members of their party took their seats on one side of the table and talked quietly amongst themselves while awaiting the arrival of their Zaldian counterparts. They were late, probably on purpose, thought Luna, already attempting to provoke their hosts. Zuzan would never show such disrespect to her, she didn’t know how Cadenza could stand for it. She glanced over to her daughter and noticed her rhythmically waving a hoof in front of her, which she recognised as a breathing exercise. Apparently this meeting was more stressful to the younger alicorn than she let on. Cartasole turned and kissed his wife on the lips, the exchange between the elderly pony and the alicorn who looked young enough to be his granddaughter might have looked almost obscene, if you did not know her true age. Cadenza sighed and ceased her ritual.

There was a soft knocking from the door and at an unspoken command the delegates stood. A moment later the door was opened by a pair of legionaries and in marched the Zaldian delegation. The contrast to the Cavallians could not be starker. Rather than simple robes the Zaldians were dressed for war, even the scribes wore abbreviated armour like outfits with quills held in sheaths. The king himself wore a full suit of armour, tiny intricate rune covered platinum plates interlocked and coated a felt under layer, which allowed them to flow like fabric while providing protection both physical and magical.

“Introducing King Zuzen of Zaldia,” began a herald in Equestrian, it had been decided to be the least objectionable common language to both sides, “Master of the Platinum Kingdom, Lord...”

“This is an outrage,” bellowed King Zuzan pointing a hoof to the right of Cadence. Guards on both side of the hall tightened their grip on their weapons. “That a slave be allowed to take part in such discussions! This is an insult to Zaldia that I will not allow to stand!”

Luna noticed Cadenza’s nostrils flare and her tail whip from side to side. “My.... Exarch Consort Cartasole is not a slave,” she hissed seeming to barely maintain control.

Luna gritted her teeth, Zuzan obviously knew just where to strike her daughter to get a reaction.

“You deny he was once, as you say in your flowery language, an indentured servant? A slave?” replied Zuzan.

“No, that is public record, but his hard work paid off his servitude long ago, he is a free pony now, and my beloved.”

“In Zaldia once a stallion allows himself to be a slave, he is always a slave, no mere payment can change that! He has no place here, except, maybe to serve at our table. I demand he is removed immediately or these talks will go no further!”

Cadence took a step forwards resting her forelegs on the table she glared angrily at her opposite number. “This is my country, King Zuzan, not yours. You are in no position to...”

Cartasole rested a hoof on his wife’s barrel. “Calm Mi Amore,” he whispered, “If our guest objects so strongly to my presence I am happy to withdraw, you know my place is not at the debating chamber, I am far more useful in the bed chamber,” with a smile he kissed her before slipping off the chair and slowly hobbling towards the door, when he reached it he turned to the King and gave a wide smile before looking to his wife, “Try not to be too long joining me.”

She returning his smile for a moment before turning back to the King. “Has this removed your objection?” she asked face placid.

“For the moment,” said the king with bad grace, he lifted his helm from his head revealing a flattened white mane before placing it heavily on the table.

Luna fumed where she stood, as her quill started to dance over its parchment. This was not good, Zaldia was making unreasonable demands and Cavallia had just caved in to them. Zuzan was making good use of his country's position of strength to keep Cadence wrong hoofed. She had hoped her daughter would play the game better than this.

“No, that is unacceptable!” exclaimed King Zuzen slamming a hoof on the table, “We reject any tariff on our export of gold; you are trying to stifle our mining industry and favour your own, even though they produce a less pure product!” He reached out for a goblet and took a sip of wine before returning it to the table to be refilled by a passing servant.

“King Zuzen, there are few other nations that seek to import gold given it’s... unfortunate implications, and the tariff is needed to fund road building work in our border provinces,” explained Cadence soothingly, “It favours both of our nations to have better transport in that area. It is the same reason your people have given for the charges on our wine exports, like that vintage you have just sampled. It was made at my parent’s vineyards, it is run by my nephew now.”

The king looked at the goblet thoughtfully for a moment before taking another sip. “Maybe... if we were to remove our tariff would you agree to the same?”

In her alcove Luna could not help but grin, Cadence had apparently studied her opponent well, he was rather overly fond of the fruit of the vine. It had been rather too long since she had sampled some of Cavallia’s most famous export herself, maybe she could pick up a case or two while she was visiting. She shook herself, she knew where that could lead. Her country, and her daughter, needed her head clear right now.

As she had expected the trade negotiations were long and extremely boring. She was glad her quill was on automatic, she would probably have fallen asleep if she’d had to keep up with all the minutia. Still, she was not pleased with what was going on. Zuzen had always been an aggressive fool, but in their meetings he had at least treated her with some respect. Here, however he took every opportunity to belittle Cadenza and her land. It made her blood boil; if this was how Zaldia treated other nations that were on a more equal hoofing to it then maybe it was time for Equestria to step in. An embargo would hurt Zaldia much more than its larger neighbour. She was even more upset by her daughter’s reaction to the insults, she just sat there and took them! Even apologizing on occasion, had the girl no spine? The upstart king was only a mortal whereas she was an alicorn. Luna considered it a personal failing, she had not been there to instruct her daughter and she had fallen into bad habits. How could she train her? Show her what she could truly be? Did she need to take matters more directly in hoof?

She was broken from her thoughts by Cadence. “I believe we have achieved all we can here for the morning, I think a recess is in order, until the noon heat has passed? To give us time to consider the events so far, and to allow heads to cool somewhat?”

The King looked like he was going to argue then nodded and the various functionaries started to pack up their things.

“King Zuzen,” said Cadence, “May we speak in private for a moment before we riposo?”

The king narrowed his eyes suspiciously before nodding. “Very well, as long as it is brief. I have important duties to attend to.”

“Thank you, it will not take long and I think you will find it very educational.” The two of them walked towards the balcony. Intrigued, Luna carefully crafted a spell so that nopony would notice her disappearance before turning invisible and carefully following her fellow monarchs. Outside, the sun was beating down on the sleepy city below and the sea, which stretched as far as the eye could see. In the harbour a significant number of ships sat at dock. “Beautiful is it not?” asked Cadence taking a deep breath. “I do love to come out here when I have the time, it gives one such a wonderful perspective on Roam.”

Unseen, Luna nodded; she loved to look down on Canterlot as well. She cocked her head, Cadenza seemed more confident now than she had at the conference table.

“Yes, I am sure it allows you to oversee your realm, they must seem as ants to you,” mumbled Zuzen staring at the docks.

“No, that is not what I mean. Out here I can see my city and I can see that it is larger than I am, that my people are far more important and numerous than I am. Do you see something of interest King Zuzen?” she asked.

“Those ships,” he pointed out to the sea, “I do not recognise them.” Luna followed his gaze, they were large but with sweeping curves, clearly ships of war from the weapons mounted on them. She had not been informed that Cavallia’s navy was so well equipped. Maybe she should invest more in the Equestian navy; it did seem rather under ponied at present.

“Oh, yes they’re new,” explained Cadenze calmly, “My dear daughter, Annunciata, offered to name the flagship after me, but after she designed them I thought she should have the honour. We have quite a few of them, beautiful aren't they? Fast too, maybe half again the speed of our standard polyremes. They could reach Zaldia in only a few days, despite being rather larger than most of your ships; they mount more ballista as well.”

The Kings face fell. “I... I did not know... I had heard...”

“You didn’t think they’d been finished? Oh, we perfected them a few years ago now; and look, there are their troops.” She waved a hoof down towards the docks as, before the king's horrified gaze, line after line of armoured ponies marched or flew past in perfect lockstep to form up into blocks around billowing standards.

“What... what units are those?” he asked his throat dry.

“Them? The 26th to 32nd legions I believe; I’d have to ask some of my staff for certain.”

“But... but Cavallia only has twenty five legions!”

“I’m afraid your reports seem to be rather out of date, they completed their training recently under my son in law General Scipio. I do hope my knowledge of your forces is rather better; your troops on our borders are the 2nd, 6th, 18th and 25th cohorts right? Along with part of the 1st magi circle, all under general Esti? I do hope her leg gets better, training accident last month wasn’t it?”

Luna’s mouth dropped, she had not been aware of any of this. Cadence had managed to raise this force without even her closest allies being aware of it. She had underestimated her filly, but what did she intend to do with such strength?

“You do... you do not intimidate me with all this!” said the king trying to drag his eyes away from the sight below.

“I do not want to intimidate you, I want to show you what you are facing. Many of my advisors wanted me to keep all this secret, but then you might attack thinking us an easy target and many many ponies would die proving you wrong. This way you know what the cost will be, and I hope you see it will be too high.”

Regaining some of his fire, the king fumed. “You would not be so calm if you did not think Equestria could save you from our wrath.”

“I am sure Equestria would act to secure its own interests if it came to war, but I have not asked for their aid. Cavallia is capable of standing on its own four legs.” Cadence turned and for a moment Luna thought her magic been penetrated, then her daughters gaze carried on past. “Oh, and if I wanted to intimidate you I would only have to do this,” she continued as her horn glowed for a moment and Zuzan felt the warding on his armour fail almost instantly, the platinum plates starting to bend under the alicorn's magical grip pressing hard against his flesh. Cadence moved closer and whispered in his ear. “In my country it is what a pony makes of his life, not how it starts that is important. My husband has made a great deal of his life.” Then her horn went out and the pressure on his chest was gone. He stood for a moment breathing hard, his heart pounding.

“Now,” continued Cadence in a calmer tone, “Two things can happen here today, you can take my right hoof offered to you in peace and friendship, and we can agree a fair and amicable trade agreement between our nations which will provide prosperity for all,” she held out her hoof, “Or you can take my left and you can return to your people and start a war which will lead to the death of thousands of ponies on both sides,” her face hardened and for a moment she seemed her true age, “and I assure you, you will be one of them.” She relaxed and her tone became lighter, “Think about it, carefully. Now I have important duties to perform with my husband, we will reconvene in two hours.” She turned and trotted back to the main meeting room leaving the king alone and shaking slightly.

Luna stood unseen, blinking in shock for a moment before a wide smile stretched over her face. Her daughter, her daughter had managed all this, had protected her people. There was no way that King Zuzen could continue his aggressive policy now, not after seeing this. The stallion was a brute, but he wasn’t this much of a fool. This would hurt his pride, true, and his standing in his own country. Cadence might be storing up trouble for the future; she was yet to develop the long view her mother had, but Equestria could easily... no, she would lend aid if it was requested, but her daughter had shown that her own people could protect themselves. She did not need her mother’s help. For a moment that thought was a cold weight in her heart, but it was quickly melted by the warmth of her pride. Cadence had performed perfectly, and to act as she had to put him at ease... if she had ever needed proof as to how good a leader, and actress, her daughter was, this was it. With effort, Luna retracted her wings. She wanted to soar, to cry out to the world how proud she was of Cadence, but she should remain hidden; today’s triumph was on her daughters head alone. She had no doubt she would feel the need to make sure her child was safe in future. but this proved that she did not need her hoof held.

Her daughter was truly her own mare.

Author's Note:

The first of my extra bonus chapters and I thought I'd got for Luna and Cadence. I quite like this little historical looking back almost a thousand years to see how Cavallia and Zaldia were back then. Cadences actions might have had some influence on the future relationships between the two countries and maybe not for the better but she did ensure her country remained.

I did have an alternative story for this 'slot' a younger Luna and Celestia playing tag over an entire cotenant. I might write that up somewhen.

Thanks to docontra for editing and Rainbow Double Dash and Grass and Clouds 2 for their suggestions on this story.

Comments are always welcome.