• Published 11th Jun 2012
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Renaissance Pony - Dafaddah



In the late middle ages, Celestia foresees trouble for humanity and seeks help

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Harmony and Discord

Renaissance Pony

by

Dafaddah

Based on the The Conversion Bureau by Blaze, as well as other related stories by Chatoyance, Midnightshadow and creative motivation by Krass McWriter

Chapter 5: Harmony and Discord

***

Starswirl the Bearded was shown by a guardpony into the Royals' common dining room. The younger sister had arrived and was already seated, but the elder was apparently late, an unusual occurrence for the habitually punctual senior Princess. Luna beamed joyously as he entered.

"Greetings dear Maestro! Please do come and sit with us," said Luna cheerily. "It has most certainly been at least an entire week since we last supped together, and that is entirely too long to deprive us of your company. We are most disappointed in you." Luna made as if to pout, but the smile in her eyes betrayed her true feelings.

"Greetings Princess Luna." Starswirl swallowed as he bowed. Luna's feelings were exactly why he had been trying to avoid the Royal dinners. "My enthusiasm for the study of magic is perhaps taking a toll on my social obligations." He smiled apologetically. "I do tend to get a bit obsessed over these things." He stopped suddenly just short of the table. "Is her majesty your sister indisposed? She did mention wanting to discuss some important matters," inquired the stallion.

"She will be joining us anon. While we wait please tell me of your progress." Princess Luna levitated a cushion into place next to hers and patted it suggestively with a hoof.

Starswirl smiled sheepishly and gulped as he sat down very close indeed to Princess Luna. She noticed the perspiration breaking out on his brow. "Why my dear Starswirl, you are weary from your labors and in need of refreshment." There was a purple flash and a tall glass appeared on the table before the unicorn mage, full to the brim with some tealike liquid and actual cubes of ice floating in it.

Grateful for the distraction, he magically grasped the glass, brought it to his lips, closed his eyes and took a deep draught of the cool libation. His eyes popped open as wide as dinner plates as the unknown substance burned its way down his gullet and settled like molten lava in his stomach. When he began to cough the Princess moved in closer still, pounding him gently on the back with her foreleg. "Ah, Maestro! I should have warned ye." She whispered into his ear. "There might be a wee dram of something stronger than tea in that glass." He was still sputtering when the voice of salvation called from the doorway.

"Well now. I was about to offer excuses for my tardiness, but perhaps I should leave and come back later." Celestia surveyed the two. Starswirl was practically in Luna's embrace.

"Princess Celestia!" Starswirl rose to bow. "Of course not. If anyone should leave it should be me." He backed away from the table a step, Luna's foreleg still over his withers.

"Nonsense Starswirl. Do sit." She pushed him back down with no little force. It did not help that all the joints in his four legs suddenly seemed devoid of strength. "Why sister, I can see you were not overlong delayed." Luna's smile seemed a touched forced. "Let us get on with our repast, shall we?" She smiled very sweetly.

Celestia cast a skeptical eye on the tableau. "But of course. Where are my manners?" She moved a cushion closer to the table and took her customary place opposite her sister. She gave them a very big smile and said "Bon appétit!", and began serving herself from the food laden platters on the table.

Starswirl's complexion was becoming progressively more ruddy by the second. He cleared his throat. "Uh, Princess Celestia... though it is rude of me to bring up business so early in your majesty's repast, might I... inquire as to the pressing matter mentioned... in your invitation to this meal?" He swayed slightly and was visibly trying hard to enunciate clearly.

"Are you quite well, Starswirl?" Celestia voiced her concern. "Perhaps you should have a sip of iced tea?" The stallion's head swerved unsteadily with the motion of the glass before him as it again began to levitate to his lips.

"NO!" His head jerked backwards in alarm. Luna held him steady as he resumed a more normal posture. "I mean, I thank your Majesty, but I just cannot drink another drop." Luna smiled and winked at her sister. "Yes, I do think he's already had enough." Starswirl sighed as the glass returned to the surface of the table.

"Very well then," said Celestia. "Perhaps we can begin discussing the matter at hand. I wish to make another visit to the human realm."

Princess Luna's countenance suddenly clouded over. "Oh sister, must you?" Starswirl's posture relaxed even more when Luna finally removed her foreleg from his back and leaned closer to her sister. "I so loath your visits to that place. Without your company the days can be so dreary, and I end up having to hold court every day myself without respite. Oh, Celestia! Each of these trips seems to last an eternity." She finished miserably. Starswirl was surprised at the depth of feeling Luna had expressed.

"Dear sister, I would not do so but for a pressing need. Our guest has brought up a major issue for the long term prospects of our nation. An issue which preoccupies almost all my waking thoughts since he first related to me, and that I now cannot leave unresolved." She turned her head to face Starswirl. "To whit, we are not one nation. We are three tribes, living in the same land but apart, and the distances between the three grow daily. We are are not one family. We are not one herd." As the words left her mouth her smile never wavered, but he could see tears appear and begin their twin tracks down the side of her dainty muzzle. There was silence for a moment.

"I would not have spoken those words had I known they would make you weep, dear Princess," said Starswirl, mortified.

"Nevertheless, they are true words, and bravely spoken. Words I... words I needed to hear." Celestia looked at her sister. "Sir stallion, you might be relieved to know that you have merely confirmed ideas which my sister has already more than once tried to get into my thick skull. I must apologize, Luna. You were right." She wept on in silence.

Suddenly Luna arose and quickly went around the table to gently embrace her sister. "My dear sister, dry your tears. Our failure in this is a harsh reminder of our own limitations, but does not blunt our will to do what is best for Equestria. What do you propose to do?" she asked.

"I shall seek advice from the human philosophers, for we have decisions to make on the future shape of the Equestrian nation. I should like the Maestro to come with me, as I will need his wise council in these matters," said the elder Princess.

"What?" Luna released her sister. "You wish me deprived of both of you?! I am left speechless!" She gazed miserably down at the table. Finally she spoke again. "How long, this time?" she asked, seemingly resigned to her fate.

"Two weeks, perhaps a month," replied Celestia.

"Then so be it." said Luna quietly. She nodded to Starswirl, then to her sister. "I will retire now as I find that my appetite has quite deserted me. And in truth you do not need me to finish planning your trip to the human realm." She turned and practically fled through the door leading to her own apartments.

Starswirl wished he was anywhere else but in this place. Celestia looked at him, with her usual smile and a world of hurt in her eyes. "My sister's advice is sound. Let us plan our trip." She ignored the food on her plate thereafter. When their deliberations were complete he bowed and made to exit from the beautiful and decidedly sad dinning room. Before he got to the door Celestia called to him.

"You know that she is becoming rather attached to you, Starswirl. I have seen her fall in love before. All the signs are there," she said.

"Yes." He stood in the doorway.

"And we both know that this love you cannot reciprocate."

"Yes." His smile was bittersweet. "Of course you must have known for years."

"Indeed I have. It was perhaps my error to have never mentioned this to my sister." She took a deep breath. "Maestro, I beg of you, do be careful with my little sister's heart. It already carries such sorrow."

"Of course I will. I have much experience in gently deterring the advances of amorous ladies." He bowed and left.

Celestia watched as the door closed behind him. "As I can honestly attest, Maestro," she whispered into the empty room.

***

Starswirl paced back to his quarters. The door was open and young Clover sat waiting in his parlor, as instructed. He rose when the older mage entered. "Good evening, Maestro." The colt's smile wavered when he saw his mentor's expression. "I take it the meeting with the Princesses did not go well."

"Oh, it went as well as could be expected. But Princess Luna's advances are becoming both more direct and more difficult to deflect. I will have to speak with her directly about this, a task that fills me with dread." He motioned for Clover to follow him as he went to his study. He had instructed his chamberlain to always have some food there, awaiting to sustain him during his periods of obsession. He levitated and filled a plate. "Please serve yourself, lad, if your evening repast was as meager as mine."

"Ho, ho, ho! This does not bode well!" The green unicorn began to fill a plate of his own. "And what of the important matters Princess Celestia wished to discuss?"

"The Princess wishes me to accompany her on another trip to the land of my birth. That reminds me, I have some spells I wish you to investigate during my absence." His appetite came back as the discussion turned to matters of science. "One of the spells you brought me recently is supposed to have enabled infertile mares to conceive. You also mentioned a family of unicorn mages who specialize in breeding chimeras. Please assemble and document everything you can find on these spells. You also have my permission to use the discretionary fund if some frogs need greasing."

Clover was making short work of a dish filled with his namesake. "Understood. Mmph!" he munched. "Will you be gone long?" He slurped and chewed, then tossed some hay and daisies onto his plate, hardly slowing down.

"The Princess said we should return in a fortnight or so. We leave tomorrow," replied Starswirl, trying to keep up with his student's masterful mastication of vegetable mass.

"Oh! Then perhaps I should give you this now." Clover levitated his saddle bag from where it lay near the entrance and produced from within it a midnight blue amulet sporting Luna's crescent moon sigil.

"I can imagine this is a gift from her younger majesty?" Starswirl took telekinetic hold of the bauble, examining it from all sides.

"Yes. She spoke to me but an hour ago and made me vow to present it to you this very eve, as a good-luck charm for your travels. One of her retainers delivered it to me as I sat waiting for you."

The elder mage held the pendant before him. "She likely expects me to wear it on my trip. I suppose I should wear it when we leave tomorrow." He levitated the chain over his poll. It hung quite handsomely around his neck.

"It is indeed most fetching on you, sir!" Clover gave a laugh. "Now as to these spells you are looking for..." The two mages discussed the details of the research far into the night.

***

Shortly after sunrise, Starswirl arrived again at the entrance to the Royal apartments. A guard let him enter. Celestia met him at the door as if she had been waiting for him. "I bid you good morning, sir," said the Princess, looking preoccupied.

"And a good morning to you as well, Majesty." He looked around and saw nopony else. "Will her Majesty your sister be seeing us depart?"

"It would appear not, Maestro. In truth I have yet to see her since she retired after dinner last night. It troubles me to leave without giving her a proper farewell." She noticed the pendant around Starswirl's neck. "How pretty! Did my sister give you this, and have you seen her today?"

"This is indeed a gift from Princess Luna, but it was waiting for me in my apartments late yester-eve. I did not see her myself, but she did speak with my student Clover not long after she left the dining hall. I suspect she is still unhappy with our departure, although not enough to prevent her from giving me a talisman for protection."

"Well, I suppose that is some comfort. Still..." She looked in the direction of Luna's apartments, hesitating.

"A journey never started is sure never to see its end," said Starswirl. "And nothing raises the spirit as does the beginning of a new enterprise, don't you agree, Majesty?"

The Princess smiled warmly at him. "You are indeed a most congenial fellow pilgrim. Let us be off then!" She encircled them both in her wings and there was a purple flash.

***

Starswirl opened his eyes to see within a stone's throw a building that was either a monastery or some other institution dedicated to study or contemplation. He and Princess Celestia were next to some low bushes. Looking down at his legs he noticed he was also still in pony form.

"My Princess, I suspect the folks about are not very accustomed to unicorns, let alone winged ones." Her delightful bell-like laughter rang out in reply.

"Be at ease, Maestro. None about can see us, however do remember your first lesson in invisibility during your carriage ride to Equestria." She sounded much less jovial a moment later. "We have emerged much closer to our destination than we should have. This is fortunate, but quite... unusual." A moment later he felt himself being levitated onto Celestia's back. "I will convey us to our destination," she said, still sounding troubled, and took to the air.

Flying was still a great pleasure for Starswirl and he reveled in its thrill as they gained altitude. Looking down, he saw the city becoming smaller. "Princess! I know where we are." He pointed a hoof at the buildings below them. "That is the University at Louvain is it not?"

"Yes, it is." Despite the rustling of the wind in his ears, he could hear the dismay in Celestia's voice. "We should not have been able to come so far in the transposition."

"There is a scholar here I've wanted to meet. In his writings he's shown that he is above all an apostle of Harmony and Truth. His name is..."

"... Desidarius Erasmus." The Princess finished for him. "He is indeed the philosopher I wish to consult." The Princess seemed to have found her intended destination, and glided down to land in the middle of a small alley behind some houses. There was a flash. Starswirl found himself back on his own four legs, and the Princess standing before him in her human form.

"I had forgotten how tall you are - or perhaps how short my pony self is!" he observed, looking up into her worried countenance.

"I regret that we must change our plans. Something feels... off. I want to make all due haste and return to Equestria," said the Princess. "Please stay here and avoid any contact with the locals. I shall return within the hour." With that the Princess moved off in a greater hurry than he ever witnessed her display.

In less than an hour she reappeared, accompanied by a man not much beyond his fiftieth year, wearing priestly garb. It was obvious by the way she held onto his arm that they were not of recent acquaintance.

"...because in this way the truth, which is often lost amidst too much wrangling may be more surely perceived. The truth is furthered by a more harmonious relationship between interlocutors," said the man.

"So to create unity of the provinces, I must ensure both the freedom of all to discuss any issue they so choose, in a forum that ensures the harmonious exchange of opinions," replied Celestia. "But will they abide by the decisions of the majority?"

"My dear girl, in all things under heaven and earth, the essential point is that people have the freedom of choice. If they chose freely to enter into such an arrangement, then will they truly embrace it and abide by its decisions. If you try to force an alliance of these three provinces against their will, at the first sign of dispute their solidarity will dissipate. Believe me, I have of late seen too many important scholarly discussions become intractable when the parties involved shunned reason in favor of sordid insults, calumny and the pleasing of the mob. Even here, in this place of erudition, I am persecuted for refusing to join the growing discord in the church. So much so that I am even thinking of leaving Leuven."

"It saddens me so to see such a great and learned scholar unhappy in his circumstances," said Celestia.

"Well then, I count this day a joyous one, if only for the brief visit of my favorite foreign Princess. Au revoir, your highness." He bowed and shambled back onto the street, disappearing between the buildings.

Celestia ran to Starswirl's bush, quite a feat in the long puffy dress she was wearing. On the way she transformed back into her Alicorn form, and practically fell on him, again wrapping her wings around them both. There was a violet flash.

Starswirl stood in knee-deep snow. A cold wind blew and whistled across the deep snow drifts. Celestia stood stock-still and surveyed the land.

"Were you expecting this, your Majesty?" asked the mage.

"No, Starswirl. I did not expect this. Not at all." They looked out over the frozen wasteland. There was not a single sign of life or movement to be seen.

Starswirl the Bearded began to tremble in the cold.