• 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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Real History

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

Edited by the right honorable Microshazm

Chapter 6: True History

***

Starswirl the Bearded gazed at the frozen landscape through slitted eyes. He shivered in the cold air making his short fur stand on end. In his last years as a human he had such dread of the cold and the ache in his bones it caused. As a pony it was only marginally unpleasant. "Is it normal in Equestria that winter might come in a single day?" he asked of Princess Celestia.

She stood as if frozen by the icy gales blowing across them. "No, Starswirl, winter does not not come in a day. Not even in Equestria," she replied, "and if my perceptions are correct it has been over one hundred and fifty days since we departed."

He looked at Celestia in shock. "How is that possible? We left your apartments a scant two hours ago!"

"Maestro, it has been my observation that the course of time does not run apace between Equestria and the world of your birth. In both universes it ebbs and flows, and in my travels between them I must exert a great deal of thaumatic energy to compensate for the difference. But in this instance..." She halted her own speech, staring intently at Starswirl.

"In this instance, Princess?" Starswirl felt a movement at his neck and Luna's necklace slipped off. There was a flash of light and Princess Luna stood before them, her face downcast.

"It is my fault," she said in a low voice. "I... I could not bear to be left alone. I disguised myself as an ornament that I might in stealth accompany you in your travels, though you did not wish me to do so. Oh Tia, I have been clumsy!" She looked to her elder sister, regret both sincere and all too familiar on her dark visage. "I amplified your energy to compensate for my presence in your spells and misjudged. That is why they went awry." Luna's ears hung behind her in shame. "I am sorry. This is all my fault," she concluded miserably.

In all this time, Celestia had stood staring at Luna and Starswirl. He watched in embarassment as a sequence of emotions shaded her countenance: surprise, disbelief, hurt, anger, and finally alarm. She disappeared with a pop, leaving him alone with the dejected younger Princess.

"It has been over a thousand years since we were foals together." Luna turned to face Starswirl. "In that span I have dissapointed my sister times beyond counting. Once again, in my selfishness I have hurt her, and worse than ever before." Tears fell onto the snow.

Starswirl hesitated but a moment and wrapped the Princess in a hug. She began to weep in earnest and shook against his chest as she sobbed. They stood thus while the Princess poured out her shame and guilt. After a time Luna looked up and spoke in a husky voice. "I was wrong about you, Maestro, you are part of the herd." She gave him a small, tender kiss on the cheek, disengaged from the hug and wiped the tears from her muzzle. "I thank you for being there for me when I needed you." Her smile was the saddest he had witnessed in both his lives. "Perhaps we should find my sister." She put a hoof on his shoulder and teleported them both away.

***

They rematerialized in the common area of the Royal apartments. Celestia was there with Clover, seated on cushions near the center of the otherwise empty room. She looked up at them, her expression unreadable. "You have arrived. Please join us." Her breath blew plumes of condensation as she spoke.

As the new arrivals made their way to the cushion, Starswirl noticed his own breath, the bone chilling cold, and the lack of flowers, plants or any other decorative living things that had been so prevalent in his previous visits there. A fire in the hearth provided light but no perceptible improvement in the temperature.

Clover rose and bowed to Princess Luna. "Your Majesty, Maestro, you are indeed a sight for sore eyes! We had begun to lose hope that you would return in time." The youngster resumed his seat only after his mentor and the younger Princess had taken theirs. Neither of the royal Princesses looked at the other. Clover's gaze went from one to the other, and finally to Starswirl his eyes wide with concern. The elder mage discouraged his student's unvoiced enquiry with an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

Celestia broke the brief but uncomfortable silence. "When I arrived I found that the castle abandoned. Showing great foresight, our clever Clover had left a message on the apartment door in anticipation of our return. As soon as I entered I read the note and went to fetch him. You are just in time to receive his report on what has happened in Equestria during our absence." She looked pointedly at her sister with a tight smile. "It is indeed a good thing that the leaders of the pony tribes received Princess Luna's advisement of her joining our expedition. Nevertheless, they were expecting us to be away for a few weeks, not almost five months. Clover, please proceed."

The young stallion lowered his gaze and took a deep breath. "I am afraid my news is not very good. Within a few weeks of your departure, the leaders of the three tribes began to squabble. At first the arguments were petty: how much food the earth ponies were to provide for the Unicornia festival, how many days of sunshine the pegasi were to ensure, and such. The squabbling got worse when the earth ponies announced a shortage of cloud-berries due to unusually dry conditions, and that they wanted rain on one of the festival days to salvage what little crop remained. The pegasi decided to comply with the request, as they consider cloud-berries their favorite fruit. Unfortunately, this infuriated the unicorn leadership...

***

"Oh, well, that's absolutely outrageous!" cried Clover. "Princess, we cannot use the sanction of denying the sun to ponies just because we might get a bit wet on a festival day!" How ironic he thought, gazing at the Princess' private chambers. Pink and platinum bows and ribbons everywhere, with plush animal toys literally stacked into furry pyramids in several corners, as the Princess herself is anything but soft!

Princess Platinum's eyes narrowed. "You overstep the bounds of your priviliges as my assistant, Clover. Remember that you are a member of this tribe and you owe your loyalty to us first, and above all others." She turned her back on the young mage. "You have grown arrogant in your service to that foreigner, and perhaps you are beginning to forget who and what you are." She turned again and strode back towards the entrance where Clover stood.

"My father has made his decision: we will use this opportunity to teach the other tribes the power of the unicorn nation. You will inform the lords and ladies of the House of Magic to convene in three hours in my father's audience chamber for a statement from the crown," she said, gazing intently at a plush Ursa Major doll with a pink and platinum bow-tie.

"And what if the other tribes retaliate? Need I tell you how little of what unicorns need to survive is actualy the product of our own hooves?" countered Clover.

"Our magic will suffice to carry the day, as it always has. Of all ponies, you should know this better than most." Her gaze finally returned to him bearing an expression of grim determination. "Go now, Clover. I will not ask you again."

Clover shook his head and sighed. He knew better than to insist. "Yes, your highness." He bowed and left.

***

Princess Platinum watched Clover depart. How could it have come to this? she thought. She looked at the unhappy visage reflected in the mirror of her dresser and addressed herself: Buck up, Platinum. You have your father's instructions, now go and do your duty. The mare in the mirror gazed back at her in sadness. Then why do you feel so heavy in your heart? The Princess looked down in shame, and left to prepare the meeting of the Unicorn nobles.

***

Clover quickly made his way back to his apartment in the Everfree Castle. Waiting at his door were two guests: an earth-pony and a pegasus. "Greetings, Cookie and Pansy! My thanks for coming on such short notice. Please enter and make yourselves comfortable." He pointed with a hoof to his small but tidy sitting room.

Private Pansy stared at everything around her. "Wow. This is first time I've ever visited with someone who lives in the castle, Commander Hurricane usually comes to visit here alone. We pegasi don't go in for luxury like this!" She chose to recline on the small couch.

Cookie chose a large cusion while Clover took the remaining low chair. "Oy have to tell 'ya Clover, oy'm not sure we three should be meetin' like this without our bosses. If Chancellor Puddin'head ever found out it could mean moy job!"

"I understand. The same is true for me. But for the sake of all Equestrians, I think we have to try to difuse the situation before our bosses escalate it even further. With the Princesses gone, there is no moderating influence on the tribal leadership, and I would like to propose that we three, as the assistants to the tribal leaders, take matters in hoof until their return," said Clover. "This would entail our meeting on a regular basis to at least come up with proposals that might be acceptable to all three tribes, should our respective leaders lack the will to do so. If you do not feel comfortable doing this I understand."

"Granted oy'r tribal leaders are a pretty stiff-necked lot, but why should we trust yah, Clover?" asked Cookie.

Clover paused to gather his courage. "Because I'm going to tell you something important. If the Unicorn leadership ever finds out I told you this it would likely mean my banishment from the tribe, or worse."

"Then are you sure you should?" asked Pansy, concerned.

"Yes, I am," said Clover resolutely. "Unless we can find a compromise to the situation, the Unicorn leadership will refuse to raise the sun."

Cookie rose to his full height, tail and mane bristling in anger. "ARE THEY MAD?" he shouted. "How will we produce any food? Crops 'ave already been damaged by drought an' an oy'rly fall, no thanks to the pegasi," he said, turning to Pansy.

"Hey!" Now the pegasus stood up on her couch, wings unfurling in anger. "It's not our fault - we don't control the seasons. And this drought goes way beyond the land pegasi have explored. We've been having to go further and further away just to find a few rainclouds. The Pegasi tribe have never experienced anything like this before."

Clover rose in turn and motioned the others to calm down with his hooves. "Pipe down, both of you! We're not going to improve the situation if we act just like our dear bosses and point the hoof at each other. Please, sit down." His guests resumed their former positions. "Now Cookie, is there any possibility the chancellor might accept to delay the rain for two days?"

Cookie pondered. "Nope, not an 'ope in Tartarus. Another two days and a big chunk of the current crop will be irreparably damaged."

He turned to Private Pansy. "What about the pegasi moving up the rain by three days to before the festival?"

Pansy looked miserably at the carpet before her. "We're not even sure we can get enough rainclouds together in time as it is. And the ones we have secured are drying up every day we wait. So I don't think we can change anything."

Clover had a sudden inspiration. "What if instead of a full day of rain, you split it up into three mornings' worth of rain?"

"If it don't royn enough in one go the water don't soak inta the soil," complained Cookie.

"And the pegasi have to do the same work three times, when we're already understaffed because we've got all available wings scouting long distances for clouds to herd."

Clover's ears drooped behind his head. "I may have overestimated our ability to come up with ideas." He took a deep breath. "Perhaps it was foalish of me to call you here. I apologize in advance if this meeting causes you any difficulties with your tribes."

As he rose from his chair, Pansy hopped over to him and placed a hoof on his shoulder. "Just because we couldn't figure out something this time doesn't mean we should give up." The little pegasus looked up into his face with earnest determination on hers. "I think for the sake of all ponies, we should continue meeting."

Cookie rose and completed the triangle, placing a hoof on his other shoulder. "Pansy is royght. Oy've got a feelin' that there's a mess a'brewin', an' what we three are doin' might just be oyr best 'ope of gettin' out of it aloyve."

Clover looked at each of them in turn. He nodded. "Thank you. Both me and my fear agree wholeheartedly with you. Maybe this meeting isn't a failure after all, maybe it's the beginning of something even bigger." He smiled and raised a hoof between them. "Friends?" The other two placed their own hooves over his. "Friends!" The three spoke the oath together in a ritual as old as ponykind.

***

"... and so the Unicorn King issued a proclamation that were there any shortage of the originally agreed food provisioning or if it rained during the days of the Unicornia festival, then the Unicorns would refuse to raise the sun until reparations were made." Clover leaned back, daring to look only into the eyes of his mentor. Princess Celestia was as still as a statue. Luna winced and seemed to shrink with every word of the report. By this point she was hiding her face in her hooves.

"That is a most terrible edict indeed," said Starswirl to break the silence. "For a certainty it was ill received by the other pony tribes."

"Yes, each tribe blamed the others. The weather became colder and drier still. The earth tribe delivered less than half of the food that had been promised to the Unicorns for their festival. The pegasi did make it rain on the third festival day and the unicorns then refused to raise the sun."

"How long?" Celestia's voice was barely above a whisper.

"Six days' worth of hours. Then food was placed before the palace of the Unicorn King. Not a lot, but in the end, enough for the unicorns to save face and declare their satisfaction by raising the sun again. Ponies of all three tribes ran into the streets and wept for joy at the sight of it."

Luna jumped up from her cushion. "I can hear no more. I... forgive me!" and she disappeared in a flash.

"Princess, if you must..." Starswirl gestured towards Luna's chambers.

Celestia's voice was soft, and low, and sad. "But I cannot as I must attend to Equestria first. Maestro, I fear I must impose on our friendship and ask you to see to my sister. She will need your help." She looked at him with great sadness in her eyes. "I beg of you, please."

"Yes, of course." He made to go and was stopped short when Clover held him back with a magical tug, a look of stark terror in the youngster's face. "Don't worry, lad. You will be perfectly safe here. I wish I could say the same for myself." He dashed off.

"Please continue your report, good Clover," whispered Celestia.

Clover sighed. "The days of darkness did nothing to improve the weather, and as temperatures plummeted, crops died in the fields. Soon, the accusations of food hoarding began, with all three tribes blaming the others. The Earth Pony food reserves started to run low, so they progressively reduced the amount of tribute they provided. This led to further actions - or rather lack of actions - by the Unicorns and Pegasi, which did yet more damage to Earth Ponies' crops. It also led to one other very unexpected result: winter arrived a full two months early."

Celestia's ears sprang forward. "Clover, could you excuse me a moment?" she asked in a more normal tone of voice as she stood up.

Clover quickly rose and bowed, "Of course your majesty. Should I wait here?"

"Please do. I must verify something by going to my observatory. It should not be more than an hour. Please be at your ease. I shall return shortly." She disappeared in a flash of light.

Clover looked over the now empty room. "Well," he said to no-one in particular, "I've waited five months already. What's another hour[?" He levitated his cushion nearer to the hearth. "Let's see if I can get any heat from this fire."

***

The door to Luna's apartments had been left open. He approached her bedchamber, hearing the sounds of a weeping mare within. He entered, his hooves crackling as he trod on broken glass. Looking up from the floor he saw that all the mirrors in the room had been smashed. "Princess Luna, might I speak with you a moment?" he said and winced at his lame choice of words. The dark Princess lay on her bed.

"Please leave me Maestro." Luna spoke between sobs. "I do not know if... I can bear the shame of company... just... now."

"I can fetch your sister, if you prefer..."

"NO!... I mean, please do not... Starswirl... I can face her least of all... after what I have done."

He slowly approached the weeping mare. "Princess..."

Faster than he could have thought possible, Luna jumped up from her bed, and seeming twice her normal size towered over him as she shouted: "WHAT DOST THOU WANT OF ME? DID I NOT COMMAND THEE TO LEAVE?" Her breath came in gasps, and Starswirl could have sworn her beautiful eyes had momentarily become dark orbs of pure hate.

Starswirl was frozen in shock. He had never seen this aspect of the Princess and trembled in fear. Finally he found his tongue. "Forgive me, Princess. I meant not to offend."

One moment he was before a monster and the next he was looking into the weeping countenance of a distraught Princess Luna. She reached over and placed her forelegs around him in a hug. "Please forgive me, Starswirl. Please... I... I don't know what happened... I'm so sorry..." she held on to him as if her very life depended on it. He could not help but think that perhaps his own did.

"Princess Luna. Please you must not blame yourself. The conditions for this..."

"... were the very thing that prompted your trip to your world. This I knew full well, and still, I selfishly left Equestria ungoverned for five months."

"You could not know it would be so long. Please come back with me, and we will all face this together, Majesty."

Luna laid her head on his chest. "How can you call me by that word, Majesty? Celestia rules and deserves it fully. I merely fill-in periodically and try to not to ruin things." He felt her tears wet his fur.

They stayed that way for many minutes until finally she spoke again. "Starswirl?"

"Yes, Princess?"

"Please call me Luna." This getting into dangerous territory again, an untimely reminder of his unfinished business with the Princess.

"Yes, Luna. I... I do not want to keep secrets from you, so there is something I must tell you."

"I like hearing you say my name." She looked up into his face, their muzzles inches apart.

"Well, I... this is most awkward." He hesitated as words abandonned him. "Luna I..."

She kissed him. At first lightly, then passionately, and then desperately. At first he felt terror, and then, so sharp were the need and loneliness within Luna's kiss, deep sadness. Slowly she disengaged and looked into his eyes, seeing his tears. The light of passion died in her eyes, leaving only a tired soul and infinite sadness.

"Oh," she said. It was enough. She still held tightly onto him and he hugged her back just as fiercely. "Please, just stay with me for a while." He nodded. Together they mourned what could not be.

***

Clover woke as Princess Celestia gently prodded him from slumber. His first thought was shame for having drifted off. His second was She touched me!

"Come now Clover, it is time to finish your report. I have been able to confirm my suspicion as to what has been causing the inclement weather: windigos." Instead of the earlier guarded expression, her face was now sported a very determined grin. He levitated his cushion back to the circle. Just as they were getting resettled Starswirl and Princess Luna returned. The two Princesses hugged as if they had been apart for years, not merely an hour. Starswirl gave him a wink to indicate that all was going well as they resumed their places.

At Celestia's nod Clover summarized what Starswirl and Luna had missed, and then continued his report. "When the weather took this disastrous turn many ponies of all three tribes asked their leaders why all of this was happenning. Because of the pressure from the population a conference of all three tribes was called. It ended disastrously as all three leaders blamed the others for the situation.

"They all stormed out, and as if in reaction to their cold-heartedness, the winter grew even more bitter. Since the effect seemed centered around Everfree Castle, all three tribal leaders decided to relocate their settlements in warmer climes. Unfortunately all three have laid claim to the same territory near the base of Mount Canterlot. The Castle was made ready for winter, and then everypony was ordered to leave." He looked down at his hooves. "And that is how things stand today. There is to be another meeting of the tribal leadership tomorrow to decide on apportioning the land. I am so relieved that you have returned and can set Equestria back on course. Should I announce your participation in the conference to the leaders?"

"You will do nothing of the sort," said Celestia firmly, to the utter surprise of everypony in the room. She looked into their questioning faces one at a time. "In fact, Clover, you will tell nopony of our return and will keep the matter confidential until we advise you otherwise."

"But Majesty, why?" Clover knew he was going dangerously beyond convention by directly questioning his sovereign, but judging by the looks on Starswirl and Luna's faces he was not the only one surprised by the sudden ban.

Celestia reassured him with a smile. "Because, my little ponies, many ideas are born from the experience of struggle. Two such ideas are identity and harmony. And what is true for a pony is also true for an entire nation." She looked at her sister. "In my discussions with the Human philosophers this idea was made clear to me. If we wish to build a unified nation then every pony must have common cause with every other. This crisis, caused by an invasion of windigos, is the crucible in which a new Equestria itself will be forged, an Equestria to which all ponies will feel allegiance and belonging because they have created it with their own hooves."

"So we do nothing?" asked Luna, not quite sure if her sister was still in her right mind.

"We do nothing openly." Celestia winked. "But we can help Clover the Clever nudge things in the right direction, can we not, Clover?"

"Uh, yes, Majesty." He smiled sheepishly.

Starswirl exploded in laughter. "So lad, you thought working for me was getting you into trouble? Indeed! Welcome to the frying pan, then." He laughed deeply. He looked at Luna, and saw relief in her face, relief and perhaps the shadow of something else, something dark. He knew then that the younger Princess' troubles were not at an end, and that all of Equestria might have to pay the price.