• 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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Amniomorphic

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 SecondLaw and Microshazm (again, they rock!)

Chapter Eight - Amniomorphic

***

“Halt, who goes there?” Two massive stallions in guard uniform blocked the entrance to the unicorn enclave as Clover and Starswirl approached.

Clover replied: “Clover and Starswirl, both unicorns as I am sure you can discern.” The guards didn’t budge. Clover rolled his eyes. “Well, are you going to let us pass, or do I have to call Princess Platinum to come confirm it if you will not believe your own eyes?”

“Sorry, sir! It’s protocol, sir!” replied the guard on the right. “You may pass.” He moved aside and the two scholars entered the enclave proper.

Starswirl raised an eyebrow. “And what is this all about?” he asked, noting the many unicorn guards patrolling the perimeter of the enclave.

Clover’s expression was grim. “The Unicorn King wishes to discourage ordinary unicorns from fraternizing with other ponies, so he has instructed the guards to make entering and leaving the enclave as unpleasant as possible. I’m lucky to have good friends who would put up with it for a good cause, but if not for the guards I might have gotten twice as many to follow me to build three-houses,”

They walked briskly through the area, which was dotted with tents and various habitations, including lean-tos, small houses, and even a few respectable mansions. Clover noticed Starswirl staring at the larger edifices. “It’s amazing what some of the more powerful unicorns were able to bring with them when we left Everfree. Some are already calling this shanty town Canterlot city.”

“Tsk,” replied Starswirl. “And all of this in plain sight of the freezing pegasi and earth ponies.”

Clover sighed. “I tried to convince them to provide shelter for the other tribes, but the King decreed that no unicorn was to do so, as it would be a tacit admission of shared ownership of this area.”

Starswirl looked at the snow heaped high between the habitations, and the ponies circulating in the muddy lanes between them. “And yet the unicorns seem not to have suffered so much from starvation.”

“There are some who can do permanent transformation spells, turning inedible vegetable matter into digestible food. Since we can heat ourselves without firewood, the unicorn tribe has been reserving its firewood as an emergency food supply. But it too is fast running out. Soon enough we’ll all look like those pegasi did today. Your wonderful invention of three-houses came not a minute too soon.” Clover looked sadly at the elaborate buildings around them.

“Even if you cannot trust the Unicorn King, you can trust hunger to motivate ponies to do the right thing. After all, amongst the common folk politics begin after breakfast, lad!” replied Starswirl.

A group of four young unicorns approached. A pretty pale blue mare with a blond mane smiled and nodded briefly to Clover and his teacher. “Well met, Clover. And this must be your teacher, the mysterious Starswirl.”

“Oh, Hydrangea... it’s nice to see you again. And your brothers also.” He nodded to the new arrivals. “Actually, we’re on our way to see the Star and Dawn clans, do you know where we might find them?”

The mare smiled at Clover speculatively. “And why is a handsome and unattached young stallion seeking the Star clan?” Clover blushed beet red and looked down, eliciting a chuckle from Starswirl. Hydrangea pointed with a dainty hoof. “The Star clan owns the third mansion in that direction. I have no idea where the Dawn clan is located.” Her smile became warmer. “My brothers and I are on our way to the pegasi enclave. We wish to find other ponies with which to set up a three-house of our own. In these times we have so few worthy projects to occupy our days. This is one all ponies should support. Perhaps you'll come visit us?” she said with a wink.

Clover nodded and swallowed visibly. "Yes... I'll do that... uh, see you later... and thanks!"

Starswirl nodded to the quartet of young unicorns. “I wish you and your brothers the best of luck, Miss Hydrangea," said Starswirl. "While you’re in the Pegasi enclave look up a mare called Seraph. She might be able to name some reliable pegasi to join you. The same with an earth pony named Peach Pitt."

“Thank you, Starswirl, and Clover.” The mare and her brothers departed at a trot.

Clover was still blushing as he watched them disappear between the habitations.

“Well, she certainly seems like a nice filly!” said Starswirl with a wink.

“Yes, she is isn’t she?” said Clover, still staring in the direction she had disappeared. He gave a sudden start, and his smile turned sheepish.

“Ha, ha! You had better keep a close eye on that mare, lad. I think she has plans for you!” With a spring in his step he took off towards the mansion Hydrangea had pointed out.

Clover had thought he couldn’t blush any harder. He discovered he was wrong, and hurried after his teacher.

***

“In the last hour over one hundred unicorns have left the enclave, your majesty,” reported the Captain of the Unicorn Guard to Princess Platinum. “Several of them were overheard talking about tree-houses, for some reason.”

The princess was puzzled, but strange as this was, she had more weighty matters to occupy her attention: preparations for the upcoming conclave of the tribes. “Have the delegations from the pegasi and earth ponies arrived?”

“Yes, majesty. They’ve been waiting in the anteroom for almost an hour, as per your instructions.”

“Good! They should have gotten the message by now. Please let them in, Captain.”

“Yes, majesty.” He saluted and left the room. A moment later she heard the hoofbeats of the delegates. They strode forward together and bowed to the princess.

“Welcome Smart Cookie and Private Pansy. I regret that since my assistant Clover is mysteriously absent, I am obliged to finalize these arrangements myself. As to the floor space...”

“Yor ain’t gettin’ half the space for the unicorn delegation. Forget it,” interrupted Smart Cookie. “We is already usin’ part of the caves as an ‘ospital for sick-uns and frostbit earth ponies, and we ain’t movin’ them out!”

“The same goes for we pegasi,” said Private Pansy. “We’ve got the very old and very young residing in the caves. Why should we move them out when you unicorns have warm houses right outside?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” scoffed Princess Platinum. “The earth ponies cannot grow anything in the caves, and why do the pegasi need so much floor space, you can fly can’t you?” She looked at the two with disdain. “And how can we hold a conference of the tribes with foals, sick ponies and old fools bumbling about? Our delegation is largest because we need many unicorns just warm the place up. Our proposal for a 50/25/25 split for space is more than generous.”

“That’s not acceptable ta we earth ponies, especially as the unicorns ain’t even in the cave now, and we ain’t givin’ up what's ours,” said Smart Cookie.

“Nor will the pegasi,” agreed Private Pansy.

“That is a pity. Let me remind you that if you earth ponies want unicorn finished goods to help set up your farms in the spring you will need to show adequate respect to our tribe. And the same goes to the pegasi if you ever wish to realize your Cloudsdale project,” said the princess. She paused to let her statements sink in. “But... the unicorn tribe is ready to be generous. We will accept a one third each split between the three tribes, in the interest of harmony.” She smiled. How easily they had fallen into her trap!

“But we’ll have to move some of the most vulnerable out into the cold!” objected the pegasus.

“Same fer us!” objected the earth pony.

“Then we are agreed!” said the princess. “This is an equitable compromise.” She looked at the two coldly. Their tribes were absolute foals to have sent these dolts to such an important negotiation. They deserved what they got, and she felt no shame in it... almost. “Do we have anything further to discuss?” she arched an eyebrow.

Her two guests looked at each other in consternation.

“I guess not,” she replied for them. “I will see you at the conference tomorrow. Please make sure your leaders are fully aware of our agreement and the cave is prepared for our arrival. Good day to you.”

The pegasus and the earth pony looked at each other again, sighed, bowed and departed.

***

Clover and Starswirl knocked on the ornate door. As far as mansions went this was one of the biggest and finest in the newly minted city. An old servant in livery answered the door. “Greetings. Are you visitors, or seeking... “ he looked at the two stallions dubiously , “... assistance in having a foal?”

“Oh, visitors, most assuredly,” replied Clover somewhat too quickly. He immediately regained his recent blushed complexion.

Starswirl smiled. “Indeed, please tell the head of the Star clan that Clover, assistant to Princess Platinum, and Starswirl, chief magician for their royal highnesses Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, are here for an important discussion.”

“Please wait one moment. I will see if Mistress Onuava is receiving.” The old unicorn gestured for them to sit on the benches lining both sides of the rather large entranceway.

“They must get quite a number of visitors to have so much waiting space,” remarked Starswirl as they sat. “And I’m beginning to think that redish-green colour suits you quite well.”

Clover looked to the ceiling and sighed, but otherwise chose not to respond to his teacher’s gentle ribbing. This set Starswirl to chuckling again.

The servant re-appeared and bowed. “The mistress will see you now.” He retreated into the mansion with the two mages following closely behind. They followed him down a short corridor and were ushered into a large and rather comfortably appointed office. Behind a huge oaken desk sat a very old unicorn mare, with a white mane and a pale yellow coat. To her right sat a young mare, golden brown in both coat and mane. The elder mare rose slowly.

“So these are the famous scholars of magic, Starswirl and Clover.” She indicated the younger mare. “This is my grand-daughter Aknu. Please have a seat.”

The two stallions did as they were bid. “Greetings, Mistress Onuava, Miss Aknu.” Starswirl scanned his surroundings. “You have quite a beautiful office. Business must be very good indeed.”

“We do adequately. Many ponies greatly desire progeny and are willing to undergo significant expense in order to have a foal of their own,” replied the Mistress nonchalantly.

“However, I imagine there has been somewhat of a downturn in business of late, what with the unseasonable weather and food shortages.” Starswirl said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Indeed. Although we are blessed in having a bit more put away for a rainy day than some,” answered the old mare.

Starswirl gazed directly into her eyes. “However, if this situation continues, the prospects for the coming years might be grim indeed, don’t you agree?”

Mistress Onuava gave Starswirl a cold stare. “At my age I have short patience with doomsayers, sir. Please state your business, for as much as we enjoy your company our own business awaits.”

“What would you say to the Star clan being appointed the Royal Equestrian Order of Nurses, of being given the exclusive charter for midwifery for all ponies in Equestria, and of having a guaranteed annual income equal to that of your last year before this calamity befell Equestria? And to have this guarantee for, let us say, one hundred years.”

Aknu, next to her grand-mother became very still, with only her eyes betraying her level of agitation. Onuava, on the other hand was a cooler customer by far. “And what would the Star clan need to give up in order to receive this income?”

“Only the full pony fertility spells your clan have developed over the last two hundred years. My student has attested that they are quite effective indeed,” replied Starswirl with a nod to Clover.

The old mare rose slowly to lean over her desk. “Only that? One hundred years of prosperity for the very heart and future of the Star clan? Please leave this office now!” Her grand-daughter grabbed her foreleg and whispered intently into her ear, which she flicked back in annoyance.

“Oh, but mistress, you have not heard what else we will give you,” said Starswirl.

The ear came back up. “Speak, before I have you thrown out for wasting our time.”

“We will give you back many spells. Spells that will work equally well on all ponies, and that the Star clan will have in exclusivity for two hundred years. Fertility spells, foalbirth spells, spells to protect foals from disease and to heal them when they get sick. Spells that all ponies will receive at birth. ALL ponies. Have I made myself clear?”

The mistress sat slowly down. She looked at Starswirl for a long moment. It was evident to Starswirl she was tallying the value of his proposal against the clan’s current prospects. “Aknu, please take out your quill and ink. Sir Starswirl, let us draw up the details of our agreement now, before I come to my senses.”

“Clover, I would be much obliged if you could do the same for me,”said Starswirl. He smiled at his student.

“Of course, Maestro.” said Clover, smiling back in resigned confusion.

***

Princess Luna was exiting the bedchamber of the ailing Unicorn King when she froze mid-stride. She felt his aura fade and die. She started to turn back, but then halted again, in shock and in shame. He was dying, she thought to herself. You knew this, and still you went and denied him peace in his final moments. Why did you do this Luna? What could you hope to gain by tormenting him? You could have waited to see his daughter, but you didn’t. Why?

Luna faced the cold truth about herself in her mind’s eye, and judged herself wanting. I was angry, and disappointed, and heartbroken. I who am the cool one, the logical one. I who am the sister who does those things needful that Celestia cannot bring herself to do. She took a shuddering breath and hid her face in her hooves.

I who have failed thrice today to do as I should. I who have failed the ponies I love. What have I become?

She wept in shame and never noticed the dark cloud as it approached her from behind. Slowly, without hurry, it was absorbed into her heaving body.

A statue in the abandoned garden of Everfree Castle stopped laughing. It had been there for many hundreds of years. It had learned patience. Now it waited in expectation.

***

Clover and Starswirl approached the edge of the unicorn enclave. Here there were none of the fine mansions or houses, only a few grimy tents and dilapidated shacks. Many of the unicorns about wore hoods or otherwise disguised their features. Some stared at the scholars in speculation, some departed immediately seeing strangers about. It all made Clover very nervous.

“Not the most savoury part of the enclave, is it?” remarked Starswirl.

“I hadn’t expected this, Maestro,” said Clover rather quietly. He watched in alarm as the elder mage approached a disreputable looking shop selling cloaks and hoods and dropped a silver bit on the counter before the merchant.

“My good Stallion. Could you kindly point me and my companion to the abode of the Dawn clan?”

The stallion took the bit and favoured the two with a gap toothed smile. “I’m sure to recall it, if I try hard enough...” He waited expectantly.

Another two bits fell on the table. “And there’s three more waiting when we get to our destination.”

The gap-toothed stallion greedily scooped up the two additional bits, and only noticed a moment later the three daggers doing a complex spinning ballet in the air in front of him, which then all fell points down on his table with a thunk, one blade on either side of his forelegs, the third precisely in between and almost touching his nose.

“I’m sure we won’t have any trouble along the way, will we?” said Starswirl with a smile. The three daggers vanished.

The stallion hurriedly arose and beckoned them to follow. Clover raised an eyebrow at his mentor. “I have lived in the artists’ quarters of Florence, Milan and Rome. I know how to keep myself unmolested in the less savoury parts of town.” Clover kept silent, even though he wondered if those strange names were cities of the foreign lands in which Starswirl grew up.

They were led in short order to a very dirty but still very large tent. From inside came strange animal noises. Two excessively burly unicorns guarded the entrance, something about them was different, but Clover could not quite figure out what it was.

“I am Starswirl, chief magician for their royal highnesses Celestia and Luna. This is Clover, my student. We wish see the head of the Dawn clan on a potential commercial venture.”

“Let them in,” said a male sounding voice from inside the tent. The curtains over the entrance parted and the two scholars advanced into the dark interior. It took a moment for their eyes to adjust. In a moment they could see that they were in a small enclosure walled off with more curtains. On the floor was a threadbare rug with a few moth-eaten cushions. Sitting on one of them was an old stallion, whip-cord thin, with a faded orange coat and a mane of pure white.

“Welcome,” he said. “Please have a seat.” He waited patiently as they sat. A young filly, grey with a chestnut mane and equally thin, entered and sat by the old stallion. “I am Zinch, Master of the Dawn clan. What brings a pair of royal scholars to my humble establishment?” His smile could only be described as greedy.

“I will start by assuring you that everything we discuss here is entirely between us. No other ponies will be involved and we will not disclose our business dealings to any other party. I imagine that, given your line of work, you find this satisfactory,” said Starswirl. Master Zinch nodded. “Good! Then let us proceed. We have heard much of your work, here. But it is so hard to separate rumour from fact. I need to know for sure, do you have a spell that allows the creation of perfect chimeras?”

“Perhaps it might be better to show you. Oya dear. Please go fetch Minerva,” said Zinch. The filly jumped up and dashed through the curtains. She returned a moment later levitating a small birdcage before her. In it was a snake with wings. Noticing the two unicorns staring intently at it, it fluttered into the air, where it hovered and hissed at them.

Starswirl approached to get a better look. He turned to Clover. “Well lad, have you seen its like before?”

“No Maestro. Such a creature has never been seen before.” He turned to Master Zinch. “What is it?”

Whereas before the old stallion had seemed cold as the the snows outside, at the sight of the small creature his face lit up like the sun itself. “Minerva is my masterpiece. She is a combination of serpent and bird.” His horn glowed and a small drawer extend from the base of the birdcage. From it emerged a lone cricket, glowing purple as it levitated in the air before the cage. Immediately the animal within approached, opened it mouth and began to sing a most beautiful song.

Zinch smiled in satisfaction as the visitor’s jaws dropped at the ethereal melody produced by the snake. He let the snake sing for a minute longer and then flicked the cricket into the cage. There was a sudden sound of wing beats, and snake had the large insect in its mouth. It began the slow process of ingestion as the ponies looked away.

“Very impressive,” said Starswirl. “Tell me, how do you select which traits of the parents are expressed in the offspring? Most of your... product... is destined to fighting rings. It would not be very efficient if you had to produce very many to only obtain one animal with the desired characteristics. I would not want a bird with no legs instead of a snake with wings.”

“These two are not so far apart as you might think,” replied Zinch. “However, my clan has over many years evolved spells that make it possible to provoke the expression of certain traits and discourage that of others. Mind you, the problem is that even so, we must do many tries before we find a combination of traits that is viable. The more similar the animals, the easier this is, and the more different the harder it is. My Minerva is priceless, isn’t she?”

“Yes indeed,” said Starswirl. But we are not here for Minerva, Master Zinch. No, this is a quite different business deal we offer. We offer you an income many times what you have in this shady business. A way to become a legitimate clan with a royal charter for the production of livestock that will benefit all Equestria. We offer you and your family a way out of the shadows.”

“Those are very pretty words for ragged ears, but then what is the Dawn clan’s side of this agreement?”

“What we ask in return is that you disclose your chimera creation and trait selection spells to myself and my student. They will not be disclosed elsewhere. But we are going to create some new spells based on yours and those of others that will be used to help create a new Equestria. Did I mention the charter will be granted for a duration of two hundred years?”

Master Zinch’s expression had not changed, but there was an obvious tremor in his limbs as he arose. Oya jumped up to help her clan leader. “Wait here. I must confer with my family. My daughter Oya will bring you tea. It is all we can offer guests in these hard times.” He left assisted by his daughter.

She returned minutes later, levitating a tea service. “I’m afraid we have no milk and sugar, but the tea is a family recipe of which we are very proud.” She poured three cups, waited as Clover and Starswirl each took a cup. She took the remaining cup and sipped. The two stallions did as well.

“I can see you’re not foals,” she said. “Had you drunk first I would have advised my father to forget this deal.” She smiled and took another sip from the cup. “What you offer is my father’s dream. To have our clan become engaged in a legitimate business, and to walk in the sun with all the other unicorn clans. Why should we trust you?”

“You may not disclose this to anypony, but the Royal Princesses have returned. Tomorrow I will come to fetch your father and he will meet with the Princesses. Then I am sure he will have no doubts. Until then we should document our agreement to be sure there are no last minute misunderstandings.”

Oya put down her teacup. “I agree. Let’s.” She pulled aside a curtain and levitated in a writing stand with all the necessaries. Clover put down his teacup and took out his own writing implements.

***

Clover and Starswirl were walking briskly back towards the center of the unicorn enclave.

"So that’s why you asked me to research these spells," said Clover. "This is absolutely brilliant, Maestro! The Dawn clan spells allow a single pony to carry the heritages all all three tribes. The Star clan spells ensure that such a mixed tribe foal can grow safely in its mother’s womb. All ponies will be able to interbreed. You are in effect turning the tribes into nothing more than professional associations! So what will you call this spell that will make it possible for a mare of any tribe to safely give birth to foal of any tribe, and did I tell you this was simply brilliant?" He paused and looked at his teacher in awe.

"Breathe once in awhile, lad," said Starswirl with a laugh. "I favour the name amniomorphic as essentially it controls the shape of ponies in the womb.”

Clover seemed lost in thought for a moment. "I do have one question though. Why have the spell restrict the expression of features to only one of the three usual pony types. Why not have all ponies become alicorns?"

"When I discussed this with Princess Celestia and she provided some very interesting information. It would appears that most alicorns are magically quite unstable. Either they are so powerful as to be a mortal danger to all those around them, or become much weaker in magic than any member of a single tribe. Having a large number of them in the general population would not likely be conducive to harmony. She also told me that when Equestria was created, the three tribes were created along with it and Equestria itself would become imbalanced without a sufficient number of each type of pony present. One of the main functions of the amniomorphic spell will be to maintain this balance over the entire pony population."

"Are you sure this will work?"

"Nothing is certain, lad. But we have to try. Speaking of which I have to get back to Everfree Castle. I have some business with the princesses before the meeting tomorrow," said Starswirl.

"Just as well, we have arrived at the unicorn tribe headquarters." Clover motioned towards the most elaborate building Starswirl had seen in the enclave. "I had better go take my medicine for having gone absent the day before the big conference."

Starswirl placed a hoof on his shoulder. "Clover, before I go, I must tell you something. You were very clever indeed during our absence. What we have achieved today would not have been possible without your diligence for all these months. This has not gone unnoticed and unappreciated, not by me and not by the royal Princesses. We all thank you lad."

"Thank you, Maestro," said Clover, pleased but embarrassed at the praise.

"And you should go see how Miss Hydrangea is progressing with her three-house. I think she likes you, maybe even as much as you like her! Farewell!"

Clover blushed bright red again and had raised a hoof to make a point when Starswirl laughed, winked and teleported away with a loud pop. Farewell? How odd! thought Clover, as if we won’t be seeing each other a few hours hence. He sighed and approached the unicorn headquarters.

He climbed the steps with a certain degree of trepidation. He had a feeling Princess Platinum had most certainly noticed his absence and that she would most certainly not appreciate it. Time to take my lumps. He swallowed and opened the door... only to crash head-on into the Captain of the Unicorn Guard. Clover ended up on his back, mere inches away from the edge of the steps he had just climbed, with the Captain sprawled over him in a most intimate fashion.

"If you're waiting for me to blush, Captain, you'll have a long wait. I've already had my full quota of embarrassment for the day, thank you!" said Clover, as the much larger stallion extricated himself from the supine scholar.

"Sir! Excuse me, but I have been looking for you everywhere!" cried the Captain. The expression on his face was most upset.

However it seems I have not yet exceeded my quota of bad news, thought Clover. "What is the matter, Captain?" he asked, finally able to get up and dust off his coat.

“It’s the Unicorn King, sir. I’m...” He looked away and his ears drooped low. “I have the sad duty to inform you that his majesty, the Unicorn King, has passed away.”

“Oh.” Clover was not the type of pony who revelled in another pony’s death. In the case of the Unicorn King, to his shame, he was almost glad. But then he thought of Princess Platinum. Poor filly! Her beloved father is dead. “Has the princess been informed?”

“Not yet sir. As her assistant, we thought it best you be the one to deliver the sad news.”

“Oh,” said Clover again. He nodded to the Captain, took a deep breath, and strode inside.