• 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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The Power of Three

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 Microshazm and SecondLaw (thanks y’all!)

Chapter 7 - The Power of Three

***

“If it wasn’t for your return I would say the only future most ponies should expect is starvation and death. There’s barely any food left, the forests are quickly being denuded of forage, and all signs point to winter only getting colder. Maestro, what are we to do?” Starswirl listened to Clover’s assessment of the situation, as well as his plea. The colt’s tone was far more desperate in private. Starswirl looked at his near empty apartment, eyes scanning back and forth.

“Much of my furniture is missing. What happened here?” asked Starswirl.

“As it became much colder the three tribal leaders commandeered all the firewood being produced for their own populations. When the stockpile at the castle ran out they began to burn some of the furniture of lesser officials in the kitchens in order to prepare food for the staff.” Clover smiled sheepishly. “If it’s any consolation, even my bed was broken up before they touched anything in your chambers. And the order to evacuate the castle came before they could take much more than a few chairs and tables. Oh, and they ate all the edible house plants in the process. The tougher ones required cooking.”

Starswirl took a close look at his student. “Lad, I can count your ribs!“ He was appalled, and the youngster flushed in embarrassment. He resolved to speak about this with the Princesses. They needed to know just how bad things had become. This gave him an inspiration. “Have you been able to locate those spells I tasked you with all before my departure?”

“Yes, Maestro. They are documented in this notebook.” Clover extracted the document from his saddle bag. “Are they really so important?”

“Lad, I do not exaggerate when I tell you that these spells hold the key to the survival of two nations!” Starswirl opened the handwritten notebook and studied it quickly. “Excellent work! But I must meet the unicorns who produced these spells. Would you be able to bring me to them?”

Clover scratched behind one ear. “I suppose they must all be with the unicorn tribe gathered near Mount Canterlot. It shouldn’t be difficult to find them. As the groups tend to move about, we will likely have to pass through some earth pony and pegasi enclaves on the way. There won’t be any trouble, as long as we keep our noses down and don’t react to any provocations.”

Starswirl sighed. “So thin is the veneer upon society.” He gave the youngster a reassuring smile. “Fret not, lad! The Princess has plans to fill the breach dividing Equestrians. Have faith in her good judgement. Let us then go without further delay.”

Clover’s expression did not improve. “What’s the matter, Clover? You still seem troubled.”

The young unicorn glanced down. “I... I think I saw too much in our meeting with the Princesses. Starswirl, if I am not mistaken, I have seen a quarrel between them. Ordinary ponies should not be privy to this, and I must admit... I am afraid.”

“Listen to me, Clover. Those who rule must always try to keep a distance with their subjects in order to protect the dignity of their office. But they are nevertheless, ponies as well as rulers, for good or ill. In my life I have had much traffic with rulers, not all of it happy. Perhaps I am too at ease with them, and they in turn with me. In these years discretion has served me well, and though frightening, such a moment is an opportunity for you to prove that you can be trusted with the very thing most important to them: their privacy. Be discrete about such moments, when they occur, and above all never discuss the subject unless they do first.”

Clover’s expression did seem to relax. The whole meeting with the sisters must have given the poor colt quite a scare! thought Starswirl. He levitated a quill, paper, and ink from a drawer, but was prevented from writing when the quill refused to descend into the ink bottle. Looking inside he saw that the ink had frozen solid.

“Maestro, please allow me.” Clover’s horn and the ink bottle glowed a moment. “Several unicorns have come up with warming spells, which are being generally shared.” The glowing stopped. Clover wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. “As you can imagine, even simple heating spells require quite a lot of energy. We take turns in the enclave.”

Starswirl dipped his quill in the ink and this time was rewarded with a black drop clinging to its nib. He wrote quickly, rolled up the scroll and sprinkled some powder on it from another jar in his desk. The scroll was consumed in a flash of green fire. “I have advised Princess Celestia of our intent. Has your ability to teleport improved of late?”

Clover beamed at his teacher and raised a forehoof in the air between them. “Let’s see.” Starswirl raised an eyebrow and placed a hoof on his student’s. There was a flash and they were gone.

***

They reappeared in a valley, with Mount Canterlot looming on their right. “Precisely on target, Maestro. Do you wish to count your hooves?”

Starswirl looked around and saw that they were essentially surrounded with earth ponies. Some immediately came over to investigate the sudden appearance. A large ruby-red pony with a rust colored mane spoke to them first. “Why have you two unicorns appeared in our enclave? What are your names, and what is your intent?”

“I am Clover and this is Starswirl. We just teleported here from Everfree Castle and did not mean to offend anypony. When we left earlier today this location was between encampments. We’ll go now, by your leave.”

“Well this area is earth pony territory now. Please leave immediately, and don’t return unless you’re invited. Is that understood, unicorns?”

“Yes, of course,” offered Starswirl. As they were leaving the enclave, he noticed several earth ponies trotting in circular patches in the snow. The patches were undeniably greenish brown under the snow.
“Excuse me, but what are these ponies doing?” he asked of the ruby-red pony.

The stallion considered for a moment, then decided the question had been put politely enough. “They’re growing lichens. It’s the only crop that will grow under the snow cover. It’s very arduous, and does not produce much, but it’s all we can do until the weather warms up.”

They had reached the edge of the earth pony enclave. Beyond was an empty space a few pony-lengths wide, followed by a large crowd of pegasi, many of them looking very gaunt.

“The pegasi look even more starved than the earth ponies, Clover.”

“Yes, the pegasi have had a very hard time adjusting to their new circumstance: the snow clouds are too cold to live on, so they have to live on the ground, and they have to fly so far for forage that they can go for days without a meal.”

Starswirl approached the edge of the crowd and noticed groups of pegasi lying together in closely packed groups, while one of two of members of each flew in circles around them. One member of the closest group arose and approached them, a pink coloured mare.

“Hey you two, that’s close enough!”

“Hello!” said Starswirl in response. “Would you mind telling us why you have pegasi flying around each group?”

The mare looked at him in anger. “Because that’s the only way we have to keep out the cold. It creates a mass of still air around the groups so everypony inside can share their body warmth. I gotta go back because it’s my turn next. Don’t enter pegasi territory. About one hundred and fifty yards down the no-pony’s land you’ll find the unicorn enclosure. Get there quickly if you know what’s good for you.” With that the pegasus returned to her group.

Starswirl stared at the retreating mare, with a somewhat distracted gaze.

"Maestro, you have that look on your face," said Clover.

"What look?" replied Starswirl. Only his lips moved.

Clover sighed. "The look you get when you're sitting on an idea and nothing will push you off of it."

"Nonsense, lad. I'm standing, not sitting." He turned and smiled at Clover. "But I do have an idea!" He suddenly trotted off after the pegasus mare. "You! The pink pegasus. Could I have just a moment of your time?" She stopped suddenly, turned and flew back, hovering inches above the unicorn pair and looking very irate.

“I thought I told you to stay away from our enclave, unicorn.” Several other pegasi broke from the group, flying in to investigate. In a moment Clover and Starswirl were in the middle of an angry looking circle.

“You certainly did,” replied Starswirl, “but I could not help reflecting on what you said. Tell me, would you be interested in bringing a bit of warmth and food to your group? It wouldn’t be much, but it’s certainly more than nothing.” Many of the pegasi looked to be in very sorry shape, just skin and bones, several of them shivering visibly. They hadn’t even flown but rather had trotted over to join the circle.

The mare looked at some of her companions, those who were obviously in dire straits. She visibly bit back on her anger. “I’m listening, unicorn. But if you have come here to waste our time and energy...” Her face still held a scowl, but her eyes spoke of desperation.

“In my youth I learned a technique to help ponies survive the longest, bitterest winter,” said Starswirl. He looked around. “It would appear nopony here knows how to build a three-house.”

“A tree-house?!” the mare’s complexion darkened.

“No, a three-house. But, to build one we need at least one pony from each tribe. He pointed back in the direction from which he and Clover had arrived. “I met up with a nice earth pony a few minutes ago. Would you mind terribly waiting for a minute and I’ll go fetch him?”

The pegasus mare looked at him as if he had gone crazy.

“Dear lady, many of your companions are in dire need. I would not jest with you, nor ever risk bringing them harm. I swear.” Starswirl was very earnest. He gave the mare a small smile. “And you can hold my student hostage until my return!”

Clover tried not to panic. “He is quite trustworthy... usually.” He swallowed and tried not to look any of the hostile pegasi directly in the eye.

Starswirl returned a moment later with the earth pony they had spoken to earlier. “This is Peach Pitt.” He introduced the stallion. “I am Starswirl and you are...?” He gazed expectantly at the pink pegasus.

“Seraph,” she answered reluctantly.

“Excellent. Miss Seraph and Mr. Pitt. This is how we build a three-house. A pegasus creates a circular wind wall, capped at the top. Inside, the unicorn uses a heating spell to raise the temperature and keep it above freezing. The earth pony goes about and encourages the lichens and grasses to grow. This way all three get food, warmth and shelter. This is why it is called a three-house. Of course usually it works better if there are at least three ponies of each tribe so they can take shifts, which technically would be a nine-house, but we just call it a three-house anyway.”

The circle of faces looked at him as if he was a pony gone mad.

Seraph moved in close and spoke in a low voice so only he could hear. “Why? Why do you come and give us false hope just to make a sick joke?” Her previous bravado had left her. She seemed near to tears.

“I am quite serious, Miss Seraph. The only thing you risk losing is a few minutes of your time. Is that too much to ask to give them hope?” He looked to the ring of desperate faces around them. When she didn’t reply he invited her and the earth pony to follow him, which they did in silence. He led them a few pony lengths away from the group.

“We will start with a small three-house so that the effects can be visible in a shorter time. Seraph, can you build your wall so as to have a diameter three times my length and to come together at twice my height?”

“Yes. This had better work, Starswirl. We have so little reserves left.” She began flying in a tight circle around the unicorn and the earth pony.

“Now, Mr. Pitt. Please give me a moment, and then begin inviting the growing things of the meadow to spring forth from under the snow as I make it melt.”

Peach Pitt raised a skeptical eyebrow. Nevertheless he answered: “Ayup.”

Starswirl’s horn glowed first dimly, and then brighter and brighter. In a few moments its glow was so bright that it was painful to look at. Peach Pitt began pacing around in the circle, concentrating on the snow which had already turned to mush. In less than a minute patches of moss and grass were exposed. The earth pony went to one larger patch. He whispered encouragements to the exposed plant life, which quickly began to grow at an exponential rate.

Outside the circle, the pegasi who had previously surrounded Clover and Starswirl were looking at the exposed greenery in awe and and in longing. Other pegasi and even some earth ponies nearby galloped up when they heard the word “food” exclaimed by members of the growing throng.

Seraph, still flying around Starswirl and Peach Pitt could not believe her eyes. “Dust Devil, take over for me”, she shouted to one of the pegasi, who immediately took her place.

The crowd parted and she entered the space of the three-house. There were patches of grass everywhere, and even a few flowers had pushed their fragrant blooms above the grass. She walked up to Starswirl, visibly sweating with effort.

“Have a mouthful, Seraph. You’ve earned it,” said Starswirl.

“Those who need it most will eat first,” she said. Then she went to him and enfolded him in a hug. “Thank you, Starswirl. We were... some of us, well... How can we ever thank you?”

“Dear Seraph, I have already thanks enough. But promise me one thing, that you will share freely what I have shown you with all ponies, no matter their tribe. Tell as many as you can about the three-house, and allow others to visit here and learn. I will send unicorns here so more three-houses can be built. Will you do that for me?” He felt her nod.

Seraph took a step back. She looked at the eager, hungry muzzles surrounding them. “Okay, we’ve got work to do. Midnight Rain, set up a triage and get the weakest ponies here first for a few mouthfuls. We’ll let in two ponies at a time. Each pony gets one minute to graze, then they have to leave.” She looked at Peach Pitt and Starswirl. “Any pony contributing to a three-house will of course be able to eat at least one square meal a day.”

A round of cheers went up at the mention of meals. Already some of the pegasi and earth ponies were starting to team up.

“Clover!” called Starswirl. His student trotted over, awe still written all over his face. “Quickly now, lad. Go fetch some of your closest unicorn colleagues, those who are relatively powerful, and whom you can trust to learn and spread the three-house technique quickly. Time is short, but we may still avert a disaster.”

“Yes, Maestro! Immediately!” He disappeared, choosing to teleport in his haste.

Where does that lad get all the energy? he thought. He locked his legs in place, reserving his own considerable energies to making this three-house a success and an inspiration.

***

An hour later Clover and Starswirl were walking slowly to the unicorn enclave. Already several other three-houses had been assembled, and he expected the idea to spread like wildfire over the next few days.

“But Maestro, why did you never tell me about this three-house idea before?” asked Clover.

“Mostly because I only thought of it an hour ago,” replied Starswirl with a smirk and a wink.

“WHAT! You risked an untried idea on a mob of starving hippocidal pegasi? If it hadn’t worked they would have stomped us into the very ground!”

Seeing the expression on Clover’s muzzle made Starswirl chuckle. “But it did work, and those ponies needed hope even more than they needed food.” He grew serious. “I’m under no illusion that most other unicorns will be able to do a full melt like I did, but the combination of the insulating wind and the growing power of earth ponies should make it work even for less magically potent ponies, don’t you agree?”

Clover gazed at his teacher ruefully. “I guess so. But then couldn’t you have chosen a better sounding name than three-house?”

“You might have noticed I was under a certain degree of pressure, lad. But if you think of a better name I’ll change it officially. Oh, that reminds me,” said Starswirl, “we need to add a new chapter to our book of magic: Combinational Magic - which integrates unicorn magic with that of pegasi and earth ponies."

“But Maestro. We don’t have such spells, er, other than the three-house, that is.”

“Well then, we’ll just have to invent some now, won’t we? Perhaps the Princesses might have some suggestions. Let’s see if we can think some up now.”

The two eagerly and happily discussed the possibilities on the way to the unicorn enclave.

***

The Unicorn King lay in his bed, waiting for his end to come. It would not be long now, he felt it in his bones. He still had a small staff to tend to his needs. Everypony else had left Everfree for the warmer climes near Mount Canterlot.

At the very least, he had lived to see his dream realized: the ascendancy of the Unicorn Tribe over those other lesser ponies. A few more months would seal the new order. The earth ponies were led by an imbecile and incapable of any organized response. The pegasi were starving and would soon agree to anything in exchange for food and shelter, and Celestia and Luna were still nowhere to be found. Things could not have been going better.

There was a flash, and Princess Luna stood next to his bed. Cold anger bit into his heart. As was inevitable, they had returned. He should have expected as much.

“I did not recall inviting you here, Princess Luna. How rude of you to barge in on a dying old stallion.”

“I came to let you know of our return, Unicorn King. And to tell you that we shall be reversing some of the policy changes made in our absence.”

“That saddens me. I cannot help but think that things had improved in the interval.” He coughed and hacked for a moment.

“Your health fails you. Perhaps you have something on your conscience, King.”

“Enough!” the shout brought yet another hacking fit.

“I came to ask you why you are doing this. Why are you setting pony against pony?”

“I seek only to restore the natural order of things, nothing more,” said the King.

“You consider having the unicorn tribe rule over the two others as natural?” Luna’s ears bent to the back of her head, as if trying to escape her words.

“Yes, the natural order.” He coughed. “Tell me, who among ponies educates their foals? Who has raised ponykind from the mud with our magic? Who makes all the finest and most beautiful artifacts of Equestria? Who created the craft guilds, and who creates arts that are the summit our civilization?” He stopped, his breath shallow and quick. “You know... as well as I... that unicorns have... done all of these. It is our... manifest destiny... to rule over those lesser ponies. And they will be... the better for our rule. Soon...” the King coughed again, “... soon, the unicorn tribe’s place... as the aristocracy of ponies... shall be enshrined, and there is nothing... you and your...” more coughing, “... sister can do about it.”

“Yes, there is. The ponies of Equestria will be brought back to the path of harmony, King. You do not know them the way I and my sister do, we who have been with them since the beginning of things. You do not know the pegasi. You do not see their resolve and the courage that runs swift in their veins. Nor have you any idea of the power of earth ponies, whose will moves mountains and shapes the very land itself. And most of all, you do not even know the unicorns of your own tribe. I know them. They will not betray and enslave their fellow ponies. Mark my words!”

The unicorn King felt pain in his barrel. “Leave! Leave now!” cough, “You disturb my rest.”

Luna stared of the frail old unicorn for a moment. “As you wish, but I will be back soon to speak with your daughter.”

“Don’t you dare... put your hooves on her! Leave her... out of this, do you hear? Or I will find... a way to show you... my wrath.” His voice was becoming weaker by the moment. “I will... I swear it....” his voice dropped to a whisper.

In her long life Luna had had her fill of threats. Without a word she turned and left.

The Unicorn King tried to call out and curse Luna and Celestia, but his voice had left him. Mute, the fierce stallion, who had by force of his own personality raised the lot of unicorns to dominance over the other tribes, felt his heart stop beating. He had time for one last spell. His eyes closed and he expired.

From his bed a dark mist arose, leaving the now useless corpse to pursue the departing Princess.

In the garden of Everfree Castle, if anypony had been there to listen, they would have heard sinister, mocking laughter coming from a statue.