• Published 22nd May 2012
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Hegira: Option Gamma - Guardian_Gryphon

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Hegira (n.) - "A flight, or journey, to a more desirable place."

"In that country be many griffins, more plenty than in any other country. Some men say that they have the body upward as an eagle and beneath as a lion; and truly they say sooth, that they be of that shape. But one griffin hath the body more great and is more strong than eight lions, of such lions as be on this half, and more great and stronger than an hundred eagles such as we have amongst us."

―Sir John Mandeville

Earth Calendar: 2113
Equestrian Calendar: 11 AC (After Contact)

'Power corrupts,' was one of her favorite human sayings; The belief that it takes an extraordinary amount of restraint, and morals, proportionate to the level of power one could wield, to avoid sinking into a host of evils. Being the unopposed, nearly-universally loved, and immensely powerful co-ruler of a species, the levels of restraint required for the task imbued a kind of patience beyond the mortal ken.

So why, Celestia reflected, did being made to wait still provoke an ever so slight irritation after all these millennia?

Perhaps it was less the passage of time, and more the root cause of the waiting. No matter how many times she liaised with a foreign dignitary, she would always despise that small span of tension before the plunge. The moment when, for all that power, and authority, and gracefulness, she was effectively blind to the limitless possibilities of the moment

She sighed inwardly and sipped her tea, a quiet mellifluous hum accompanying the magic that guided the cup. Everypony in Equestria was used to that distinctive sound, and the characteristic colored glow that would follow. Celestia always found it interesting to observe the reactions of non-Ponies to its presence.

Gryphons didn’t seem to mind. Magic never bothered them, nonetheless it always seemed to interest them if only for a moment.

Zebras were not exposed to it the same way Ponies were growing up, but they were no strangers to it either.

Humans, on the other hoof, would look upon the simplest of daily tasks with abject wonderment. According to the historical files she had read, humanity had tried for centuries to make themselves capable of basic telekinesis with absolutely no success. Even in their modern age of, as they called it, post-singularity technology, only an extremely gifted few could make use of the simplest telekinetic powers, and only with the help of a piece of technology and decades of intensive training from youth up.

Celestia marveled at how much had changed, in both worlds, since first contact eleven years prior. Thanks to the more difficult particulars of the situation, Equestria had not seen such colonization and expansion since its founding, and Humanity...

Humanity had hope again. And on this, the anniversary day of first contact, everything was going to change. Again.

The door to the great hall opened with a muffled clank, and the rat-tat-tat of guardsponies’ armored hooves accompanied a softer click-clack across the tiled floor.
Her guest had arrived.

He was tall, nearly as tall as she was, which made interacting with him interesting from the get-go. Most beings she met had always been much shorter than her, Humans included, which gave her a certain air of authority and control even without the glowing mane and deific features.

As it was, her guards seemed wary of her guest, which in itself was telling.

He was a ruler too, which made them equals. Though his population was smaller than hers they were far more militarily capable. Furthermore, he had no reason to fear her magic, something every other species, save Dragons, had good reason to fear and respect.

He and his kind had a peculiar immunity to magical alteration or direct interaction. While it prevented them from actively wielding magic in any way, or benefiting from things like healing spells, it also protected them from having it directly used on them.

This defense was so primal, so overriding, that even her own unfathomable energies couldn’t breach it. She mused that she could always telekinetically throw the table at him. She had to violently suppress a very undignified grin at the mental image of two rulers heaving the broken pieces of a fully laden breakfast table at each other.

Celestia rose from her set and faced her guest, the King of the Gryphons, head on.
He stepped forward and inclined his head respectfully. One ruler to another, an acknowledgement of power.

“Princess Celestia. I hope you are well as always?”

She inclined her head in a similar manner, “King Siidran. Well indeed, as I hope you and your kind are.”

Celestia had been nervous about the inevitable topic of the meeting from the day Equestria had touched Earth. For Siidran to open the meeting with a traditional diplomatic gesture was promising. He waited to be asked to sit, another good sign.

When Gryphons were upset they seldom stood on ceremony. Siidran had come wearing ceremonial armor, but Gryphons always used armor as formal clothing. It was generally some combination of alloy, bronze, and diamonds. They never used malleable substances like gold or silver in armor, not even for ceremonial purposes.

Celestia took a deep breath mentally, even as she spoke, “Please join me for breakfast, and we can discuss the matter at hoof.”

The Gryphon’s expression told her he appreciated the dispensation of formalities.

They always hated beating around the bush. They liked everything done frankly and candidly and immediately; No taste whatsoever for the art of political subtlety. Their Kingdoms were ruled by one High King, whose power was in turn balanced by a council made up of each kingdom's Champion Paladins. The Champions in turn had a council of Paladins within each of their kingdoms who balanced their power. Succession to Kingship depended as much on the opinions of the Paladins, as anything else, and their positions were electoral.

Humans called it a form of ‘Constitutional Monarchy.’ Celestia shuddered to imagine being directly legally bound by the will of a separate council, but she reasoned that for Siidran it must not be a bureaucratic entanglement so much as an immensely helpful structure to take pressure off him.
Gryphons didn’t engage in bureaucracy, ever. Not to say they didn't have their share of internal government issues, they merely solved them quickly and sometimes violently, though rarely to the death.

Siidran sat on his haunches, the position added to the height of the chair putting him at eye level with Celestia. He did not however take any food. Gryphons were obligate carnivores, they needed meat to live. They could eat anything else, and often did for pleasure, but without meat it would give them no nutrition and they would soon starve and die. Another reason Equestria and the Gryphon Kingdoms had always been mildly at odds with each other; Equestrians viewed meat eating as senseless slaughter, even if most of the species the Gryphons hunted were considered monsters and terrors.

Siidran spoke first, “Were it not for the tight control you keep on the comings and goings from Earth, this day would have come far sooner...”
Internally, Celestia cursed. Siidran was going to play this card for all it was worth.
He continued, a slight clacking accompanying a shift in position as his armor reseated itself, “...Now that the bubble has expanded however, we will shortly have our own routes into and out of Earth, and so I presume that is why you have called me here.”

Celestia nodded, “That, and the fact that it is high time your species had a share in this.”

Siidran glanced up, his tone remaining flat, “It is not for you to decide when our species gains a share in anything.”
Anyone else would have seen it as a veiled threat, Celestia knew enough about Gryphons to see it for what it was; A frank statement and nothing more.

She nodded, “Hence this meeting. You could have simply made your own inroads to the human world and left us out of the process entirely, but you didn’t. Despite the fact that I did not initially allow your kind significant access to the human world. Why?”

Siidran took a ripe apple from the table and began methodically peeling it with a talon. His tone was matter-of-fact; Honest, without a hint of subtext.

“Isn’t it obvious? If we cooperate we stand to gain access to the infrastructure you have in place already. We can always do things our way if you don’t agree to mutually beneficial terms.”

Celestia wondered just how much damage ‘their way’ would cause to the already unstable human world. Gryphons couldn’t stand the kind of political manipulations and conniving that Humans needed to keep their government running on a day to day basis.
This was the main reason she had opted to disallow all but a few short duration liaison teams from the Gryphons to Humanity. If the Gryphons ever got too deep into the situation without a neutral mediator, it would be like throwing a match into a powder keg.
And a Human/Gryphon war would mean a bloody conflict at a time when humanity could ill afford the strain it would place on them.

Celestia wanted Ponies to be the neutral mediator. Despite their differences, Gryphons respected her kind enough for this to work. But it would have been disastrous to attempt this before her little Ponies had a hoof-hold on Earth and a cemented place in the hearts and minds of humanity.
Besides giving them a position of respect with the Human government, the constant sight of Ponies had prepared the population to see the unthinkable on their streets as an everyday occurrence. The problem would be convincing Siidran to see things her way.

There was no going back. Celestia considered her words carefully before speaking,
“I am prepared to offer you complete access to the network.... All facilities, logistics chains, and personnel... But starting in stages.”
Siidran intentionally kept all reaction off his face. Celestia recognized it as a tactic to deny her any sort of indication as to where she could stop offering concessions before he would be satisfied.

She continued to elaborate on her proposition, “We would start by allowing envoys from your government to meet with Human leaders at a summit which we would mediate. We will back your interests, and ideally within a year the scientists can have the first test-able batches of potion ready.”

Siidran nodded, “And how do you propose to handle distribution?”

Celestia smiled, “That will be for you to decide.” There she calculated that she had an advantage.

Gryphons had an incredibly strict ingrained moral code. They would have no desire to add anyone to their species who wasn’t already a person of the highest caliber, despite the fact that the change would likely ingrain those morals on even the most hardened coward or traitor, or kill them in the process of trying.

These strict criteria would keep the numbers of Gryphon converts artificially low, allowing their species to maintain a similar numbers ratio to the present. Status Quo would be maintained well into the future, for both of them.
And they needed status quo.
Neither side could afford a war, not with the speed at which the world was expanding and the need for unity against the hordes of Diamond Dogs, Changelings, and other monsters that lurked in the lands they would both need to colonize.

Equestria had always relied informally,on the Gryphons to fend off the wilder things of the world, since Ponies had no stomach for killing. As Celestia’s population increased, so too did the need for protection. Her motives in bringing the Gryphon King to the table had not been entirely altruistic.

Siidran stared at a point above Celestia’s head, quietly summing up everything she had said and processing it, before responding in a calm, sure, unshakably set tone.

“I have three conditions.” This was where things would turn fractious, if they were going to. “Firstly, we will be allowed unopposed access to the human media. You will not oppose the way we present ourselves and we will not oppose the way you present yourselves.”

Celestia inwardly sighed in relief. That was an acceptable compromise.

“Secondly, we will provide our own guards for the portions of the process related to our species.”
Another good sign, this could even turn out to be to their mutual advantage. Potion always needed the best protection that could be had, given that so many people wanted to get their collective hands and hooves on it.

“Lastly, while you may mediate between us and the Humans, you will have no access to, or part in the training, evaluating, converting, transporting, or settling of new converts to our species.”

That was going to be a problem.

Celestia had hoped to keep doors open for a more cooperative initiative. Their species needed to forge bonds of true friendship if they were going to face the future with any kind of security.

She shook her head, “We have a vested interest in the conversion process itself. No matter the results. We must, by necessity, be involved.”

Siidran raised an eyebrow, “You’re in no position to deny me a reasonable concession. A less patient King would have had his entire army pouring through your defenses at the first sign you had denied him access to something so important as the Human world and conversion. Be grateful I don’t stipulate numeric ratio controls.”

Of all the concessions he could have suggested Celestia feared that one most; The Gryphons would never accept the kind of influx that would be needed to keep total conversion numbers stable, if the ratio stilted in their favor. But she still needed Siidran to allow Ponies to remain, at least tertiarily, a part of the conversion process.

“I will accept with one revision. Since the procedures take place in our facilities, we will devise, in concert with your chosen delegates, a primer course for all Humans seeking conversion. It will honestly enumerate the qualities of both species, and at the same time allow you to evaluate the candidates in one smooth simple process. After that Humans who choose ponification will be taken on to our introductory courses as they are now, and those who choose your kind, and who pass your criteria, will be taken to a course of your own construction, and from then on how much or little we are involved is up to you.”

Siidran only needed to consider briefly before nodding sharply, “Done.”
He bit into the now peeled apple, his razor sharp beak slicing a perfect segment out of it.
The rest of the fruit followed swiftly, then he smiled ever so slightly, “I can see why you like to eat these raw. They have a very refreshing quality in the juice.”

From there, the talk turned to other, thankfully simpler matters.
Celestia smiled behind her second cup of tea.
She had managed to guide things into increasingly stable outcomes thus far, hopefully this was a good start to another successful year.

If she had anything to say about it, Humanity and their achievements would not go quietly into the void.
She had already offered them the best escape from their collapsing world that the combined achievements of their species could devise. So she resolved to put aside personal pride in her kind and arbitrate a new evolution of humanity’s future.
A new option.