• Published 19th Mar 2017
  • 1,277 Views, 51 Comments

Respect and Respectability - bookplayer

Princess Platinum is going to throw a party, whether Clover likes it or not.

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1 - The More Things Change

“Mares first.” Smart Cookie stepped aside with a gracious gesture and a friendly smile on his bright beige face. His floppy brown mane, as well as the general unkempt state everypony was in after the night in the cave, rather ruined the image of a gentlecolt, but that made Clover’s smile even more genuine as she passed him.

“Thank you, good sir.” Brushing her purple mane away from her green face with a hoof, Clover stepped onto the steep, narrow path out of the ravine behind Princess Platinum and Chancellor Puddinghead.

“‘Mares first,’ my hoof. You’d just rather have a view of Clover than me.” Puddinghead said with a smirk, glancing back at Cookie.

Clover snorted a laugh considering her social life, or complete lack thereof. “I’ve been wearing these robes for five blessed years, I can pretty well promise that the back of them doesn’t hold much interest for stallions.”

Cookie just chuckled and added, “Though it is true that I’ve seen enough of Puddinghead’s tail for a lifetime.”

The exchange reminded Clover to use her magic to lift her robes as they climbed the rocky path, if only so she didn’t trip on them. They were worn and faded to gray, already frayed at the hem from dragging along stone castle floors and dusty streets. Still, they marked her as the royal mage and had pockets large enough for scrolls.

“We’re loony enough to let you and your ideas loose on this Equestria plan. I’m sure I’ll be instructing you to kiss my tail for quite a while yet.” Puddinghead laughed, setting the massive bun of her mane wobbling. It seemed nearly as large as the small red pony it was attached to, and as far as Clover could tell it defied all laws of magic and physics to stay in place.

Clover smiled. Puddinghead was the last pony she ever might have spoken to, and she’d been told plenty about Cookie’s unpleasant interactions with her. But in the past twelve hours, it seemed like the very world had turned around, and it was easy now to take Puddinghead’s teasing in good humor. The glow from the magical fire still warmed her, a spontaneous bit of spellwork she was itching to try to piece apart, but as she thought of it more practical matters started to sink in.

Blessed darkness, we’re going to be founding a nation.” Clover blinked in wonder at her own words.

“Yes, we are!” Cookie sounded far more excited than awed. “We’ve got to get the rest of our tribes on board, develop a system of government, establish what land we’re claiming, send messengers to other nations and kingdoms, renew and update treaties—”

“Now Cookie, all of that can wait. Look at this day!” Platinum looked over her shoulder, her blonde mane shimmering like the sun in the clear sky above them. She gave a graceful gesture of her white hoof. “This isn’t a day for politics, it’s a day for celebration. We’re alive, we’re bathed in magic and setting hoof on a shining new path. Let us begin the right way.”

“And that is?” Cookie asked cautiously.

Clover glanced back and offered him a cynical smirk, knowing quite well what Platinum had in mind.

“With a festival, of course!” Platinum said brightly. “One joyful enough to assure that the windigos shall tremble at the thought of approaching us again. Our camp shall host it, and your tribes shall be our honored guests.”

As the earth ponies and unicorns breached the top of the ravine they joined the imposing gray form of Commander Hurricane and the entirely unimposing blue one of Private — now Lieutenant — Pansy. The pair had landed at the edge of the lush forest, where not a sign of ice or snow could be seen.

“We don’t know what condition the camps are in,” Hurricane pointed out, eyeing the clouds in the direction of the pegasus camp.

Platinum nodded to the sky. “The sun is up, so the unicorns are there and awaiting word from me. I shall bring that word, tell them of Equestria, and we shall be ready for you all by early afternoon.”

“It won’t take very long, you see, because we have no food to offer anypony,” Clover whispered to Cookie, loud enough to be heard by all. He rolled his eyes in response.

Platinum frowned at Clover. “We have wine.”

Clover raised an eyebrow. “Oh yes, you’ve always got plenty of that, don’t you?”

“Good enough for me!” Puddinghead stomped a hoof with a grin.

Platinum got a sweet smile on her face. “Chancellor Puddinghead, I hope the earth ponies wouldn’t mind providing some food?”

“We haven’t got much ourselves…” Cookie said to Puddinghead with a look of concern.

She waved a hoof at him and said to Platinum, “I’m sure we could scrape something together. I’ll have carts sent soon as we get back.”

Clover nodded. “Oh, good. We can use the last of everypony’s food.”

“Do you have another solution?” Platinum asked with a raised eyebrow.

Frowning, Clover put a hoof to her chin. “This might take some study, but I think my current theory is… we could not have a blessed party right now.

Platinum rolled her eyes at Clover, then smiled at Puddinghead. “Thank you, your support is greatly appreciated.”

Clover stood there with the same frown on her face. Perhaps the idea that the whole world might have changed in last night’s magic was a bit optimistic.

Cookie shook his head at Platinum and Puddinghead. “Ladies, I’m afraid that celebrating Equestria by expending the last of our resources — before we know what Equestria is and can explain to ponies what exactly they’re celebrating — might be putting the cart before the pony.”

Puddinghead gave him a friendly shove with her shoulder. “Pleasure before business, that’s what I always say!”

“I’m well aware, Chancellor.” Cookie sighed. “But—”

“Does he always worry like this?” Platinum asked Puddinghead.

Puddinghead rolled her eyes. “Don’t even ask.”

Hurricane tilted his head with a considering look at Platinum. Then he straightened it and looked around the group. “Our scouts have made note of potential sources of wild food. I believe there should be enough to feed us all until the earth ponies can resume food production.”

Platinum smiled. “You see? I’m sure the food in Equestria is lovely.”

Clover shook her head. “We haven’t got an Equestria yet. We’ve got a name and a blessed mess of ponies.”

“Ponies used to three entirely different forms and styles of government.” Cookie furrowed his brow. “Settling on one isn’t going to be a simple matter.”

Platinum fixed her sappy smile on Cookie. “We shall address all of the technicalities tomorrow. Today, we feast and drink and dance in good fellowship. All of us, all of our tribes, have suffered so much in the past months that to deny them this in order to debate and lecture would be cruelty.”

Cookie walked over next to Clover and tilted his head to her. “I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a situation where the lack of a party might be considered cruelty.”

Clover chuckled. “You aren’t familiar with Princess Platinum. The poor dear has gone a whole three months without a new frock.”

With a soft snort, Platinum shook her head. “And I shan’t have one tonight, either. There’s not much time to get ready and more than enough for poor Nimble Thimble to do in that time.”

Pansy frowned in thought, then looked to Clover and Cookie. “Perhaps we might spend the time at the party talking to ponies, finding out what form of government they might be agreeable to?”

Platinum shook her head. “Absolutely not. There shall be no talk of politics today, at all.” She pursed her lips, then looked hopefully to Hurricane. “Oh, Commander, do you have some ponies who could show off flying tricks? I’ve heard of them, and I’d love so much to see them.”

He nodded. “Our troops have festival drills.”

“They are quite impressive,” Pansy added with a smile.

Hurricane barely glanced at her. “Lieutenant, when we get back I want my troop in parade uniform at the drill clouds to run through the festival drills. You’ll be flying lead.”

Pansy made her expression even and gave a sharp nod, though a small smile played at the corners of her mouth. “Yes, Sir.”

“Thank you both.” Platinum nodded, and then glanced at the woods in the direction of the unicorn camp. “I look forward to seeing you all later and greeting you and your tribes as dear friends. Come along, Clover. We’ll have to hurry back.” She started walking without waiting to see if Clover was following.

Clover heaved a sigh. Perhaps there was something about her lot in life that even world-altering magic couldn’t affect; some overlooked aspect of her cutie mark that made it her destiny to be ignored and ordered about by Princess Platinum. She started after Platinum, casting an apologetic look towards their other friends.

Cookie called after them, “Could we at least—”

“Tomorrow!” Platinum shouted cheerfully.

Behind them, Clover heard Cookie say, “She’s a blessed mad pony.”

“They all are,” Hurricane answered. “I think it’s the magic.”

Clover wasn’t sure she disagreed as she easily caught up to Platinum in the thick forest. Platinum was taller than Clover and had a longer stride, but she picked her way between trees and brush with far more care.

At the very least they had a good walk back to the unicorn settlement, and Clover could start considering the miracle of the spell she’d just taken part in. She knew that peace and friendship would drive away windigos, but under any other circumstances the thaumic output of three shouldn’t have sufficed. Something greater must have come through them, a core magical force—

“Clover, can you write as you walk? I need a list,” Platinum said, interrupting the silence where Clover was trying to work.

“I could have sworn I was a royal mage. Have I been promoted to scribe?” Clover said with a dry look at Platinum.

Platinum glanced at her, eyebrows raised. “No, you’ve been promoted to a founder of Equestria. And if you would like for Equestria to be what we dreamed of in that cave, I need a blessed list.”

“Fine.” Clover’s purple magic floated a scroll and quill from the large pockets of her robes. “Go on.”

“First I shall need to talk to the nobles, then the common ponies. I shall need to set a time for the start, as well as for the pegasi’s performance. Then my steward, I need to instruct him on where to place the wine and food the earth ponies shall bring, as well as decorations and where musicians might set up. And Nimble Thimble. I’ll need you present for that—”

“Me?” Clover stopped her quill and tilted her head. “What do I need to talk to your seamstress about?”

Platinum smiled. “We shall need to make you presentable.”

Clover met the smile with a stubborn frown. “I’m a mage. I’m wearing my robes.”

Those robes?” Platinum said, eyeing them. It was true that they were a dusty gray where they used to be blue, and the gold trim had fallen away ages ago, and the hem at the bottom was brown with mud and tattered and frayed from dragging over stone floors and dirt paths.

Still, they were Clover’s robes. She drew herself up. “These robes were given to me by Star Swirl and made the journey from that blasted dungeon in Monoceros to a frozen cave in a new land, keeping me alive long enough to perform a miracle. I assure you they’re worthy of your party.”

Platinum shook her head. “The question isn’t whether they are worthy, it’s whether they are presentable. The ponies of court will be livid—”

“And that would be quite embarrassing for you, wouldn’t it?” Clover snapped. “To have ponies think you might acknowledge a pony who wears ugly clothes and worries about more important things than where to place the blasted wine and banners at your blasted party?”

Platinum glared at Clover. “It would be quite embarrassing for me, yes. And while it seems you enjoy being embarrassed, judging by your career at court, I do not.”

Clover looked down at the scroll and considered ripping the list to pieces. Instead she snorted and narrowed her eyes at it. “There’s nothing about my career at your court I’ve enjoyed, Your Majesty.”

Platinum’s face melted to sympathy. “I know, and I’m sorry. But the world has changed now. I know this is new to you…” She offered a sad smile. “I’m sure the tailor will be able to do something with your robes.”

Clover rolled her eyes with a sigh. Knowing the dresses Platinum’s seamstresses put together for the nobles, Clover had no doubt they’d be able to do something with her robes. As far as she was concerned, it would be nothing good.

Not that her opinion ever mattered in the slightest. She frowned at Platinum. “Believe me, Your Majesty, this is not new to me.”

The first thing Clover noticed when she opened the door to her laboratory in the castle one sunny morning was that the laboratory wasn’t there.

It was the same bright, airy space with large windows looking out over the city, and still held the trace of the rich smell of potions and the dusty smell of books.

But none of her equipment was there. None of her books were there. A heavily embroidered couch, a set of sitting pillows, and a polished table were there on a plush rug, none of which would be the least bit helpful in magical study.

Somepony shoved her from behind. She stepped aside with a muttered, “Excuse me.”

A porter in a brown tunic edged by her into the room, carrying a large painting of fruit in his magic.

“Um, pardon me,” she said to his back as he walked to the far wall and leaned the picture against it. “This is supposed to be my laboratory.”

He glanced at her and shrugged. “Not any longer. It’s Lady Radiant’s sitting room now. Orders of the Princess.”

“Orders of the…?” Clover blinked. “Why would she order such a thing? Where am I supposed to perform my experiments? I’m the blasted royal mage!”

“Your things were removed to the lower quarters. First door at the bottom of the servants staircase.” He nodded in the general direction.

Clover furrowed her brow. “The lower quarters? Isn’t that where the dungeon is?”

“Right next to there.” The porter nodded.

Her face fell to a flat expression. “You’re joking.”

He shrugged again. “I’m just doing what I was told.”

Clover shook her head. “Of course. I’m sorry. Where is the Princess?”

“Entertaining the Duke and Duchess of Maretonia in the morning parlor.”

Clover nodded, and the porter passed her and headed down the hall. Then she tilted her head.

“Which one is the morning parlor?” she called after him.

He stopped and looked at her suspiciously. “You live here.”

Clover shrugged. “So? There are a dozen blasted parlors and sitting rooms, even before this one.”

The porter rolled his eyes. “East wing, next to the gardens.”

“Thank you,” she called, but he was already walking away again.

Clover took off in the other direction, towards the east wing, her face in an angry line. Her hooves echoed on the white stone of the castle hallways as her purposeful pace became a march that was more forceful than she intended, but much less forceful than she felt.

This side of the castle was only vaguely familiar to her. The castle was the size of a small neighborhood, there were bound to be parts a pony rarely traveled, even if Clover had to admit the only parts she knew well were the corridors between her room, her lab, and the kitchens. These polished halls lined with paintings in gilded frames were well off her path. She had been called on for an entertainment in one of the formal sitting rooms once, and a few times she’d brought potions to the fancy guest quarters upstairs, but usually she was led by a porter.

After only a few wrong guesses which interrupted some very busy maids, she found the door that led to a bright sitting room with a pleasant view of some gardens outside. About a dozen ponies sat sipping tea, and one of those ponies was Princess Platinum herself. Clover marched her way over to the princess.

The princess was talking to an old blue stallion in a cravat and didn’t so much as glance in Clover’s direction. Several of the other ponies there did, however, with looks on their faces as if a particularly mangy stray cat had wandered in.

Clover stood there for a moment, then said crisply, “Your Majesty.”

“Excuse me,” Platinum said to the old stallion. She turned and stared for a moment. “Clover, right?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. I needed to ask—” Clover started, but Platinum held up a hoof.

“I’m afraid now is not a good time,” she said gently. “Won’t you join us for tea?”

Several of the ponies around the room snickered, and a orange mare sniffed and said, “She must change her robes first. Those are filthy.”

Clover glared at the mare, then at Platinum. “I don’t want any blasted tea! I want to know what happened to my laboratory!”

Looking her in the eye, Platinum motioned to a pillow. “If you’ll please sit down and have some tea, I’m sure we can discuss the matter at a more appropriate time.”

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry.” Clover frowned, her eyes narrowed. “Did you accidentally schedule taking away my laboratory and disrupting my work for the same time as your tea party? I’ll just have to be inconvienenced later, at your pleasure.”

“You’re not going to join us, are you?” Platinum said, pursing her lips.

Clover nodded. “Very observant, Your Majesty. And I’m not leaving until I find out what happened to my laboratory.”

Platinum sighed with an apologetic look at the stallion she’d been talking to, then turned back to Clover. “It was relocated.”

“To the dungeons!” Clover said with a sharp gesture.

“So you found the perfect place for her,” one of the other mares said. Clover wasn’t sure which, so she glared at them all.

“A room in the lower quarters,” Platinum said to Clover.

Clover fixed her with a hard stare. “Why?”

Platinum frowned and took a sip of tea from a delicate porcelain cup. “Because the space you occupied was a lovely and central room, and nopony got to enjoy it but you.”

“Yes, but I got to enjoy it because I was working in it!” Clover stomped her hoof. “Your Majesty, my job is to credit you by making your court as an important center of magical study. Moving that study to the blasted dungeons makes it seem rather less an important center and more a slum.”

“Of course study of magic is important to this court, we are unicorns. We’ve always had a royal mage, and dedicated resources and support to their studies.” Platinum looked around the room, then back at Clover. “But magic is not our only concern, and you can work just as well in the lower quarters.”

“Right.” Clover nodded, frowning. “Of course, Star Swirl couldn’t. You never moved the laboratory when he was here.”

Platinum raised an eyebrow. “Well he isn’t here now, is he?”

From somewhere behind Clover a mare’s voice muttered, “Now there was a royal mage. He was always so amusing.”

Another voice answered the first, “Can’t imagine why he might have left such pleasant company.”

Clover bit her tongue to keep her face from cringing, and ignored the stab in her chest. She couldn’t even glare at whoever said it for fear of giving herself away.

“Really Clover, this is very rude. I have guests to attend to and I’m sure you have very important magical…” Platinum waved a hoof. “Things to do.”

She narrowed her eyes at the princess. “As a matter of fact, I do have important magical things to do. Things that might explain how the world or the universe work, and how destiny affects us, and why ponies even exist. And you interrupted my magical things so that one of your ridiculous friends had a prettier place to entertain you, which is a bit more imposing than me interrupting your blasted tea party!

Platinum just regarded her with an infuriatingly calm expression. “Clover, if you are not going to have any tea, please go and continue your magical things until we have need of a mage.”

Clover snorted. “Did you listen to a blessed word I said?”

“Consider carefully. Would you really wish that I had?” Platinum raised an eyebrow at her.

“Right then.” Clover nodded and turned around, walking to the door. “I’ll just retire to my dungeon. Perhaps there are some rats there I can train up as assistants.”

Somepony laughed and said, “I suppose we all must learn to be sociable somehow.”

“Better company than you lot.” Clover slammed the door behind her as hard as she could.

The unicorn camp, officially called “Unicornia” because the nobles obviously had a rather limited vocabulary, sat in a lightly wooded space beside a river, where tents both bright and magical and dull and ordinary had been arranged with temporary wooden shanties scattered among them. Towards the outskirts of the settlement, Clover and Platinum were met by two white guards in polished gray armor who had been stationed to await Princess Platinum’s return.

Platinum didn’t so much as pause, allowing the guards to fall into step beside her as she assured them that she was fine and knew exactly what was going on. Clover just trotted behind, wondering what that might be like.

It wasn’t long before they came to Platinum’s tent; a huge yellow and silver magical affair that always put Clover in mind of a festival tent. Because of the size and color, of course. Nothing to do with idle ponies who’d had too much to drink, certainly.

The guards waited at stations outside while Platinum motioned for Clover to follow her in. The front room was a large sitting room, already occupied by several mares wearing brightly colored dresses and bored expressions. Their expressions changed when they saw Platinum, to smiles, and again when they noticed Clover, to distasteful confusion.

“What is she doing here?” asked Lady Something-to-do-with-sweets. At least Clover was pretty sure that was who this one was.

Platinum smiled at the peach colored pony. “Clover is quite the hero, Lady Sorbet. She saved us from that dreadful ice, along with some friends she made.”

“You saved us?” a blue one with a purple and white mane asked, but Clover hadn’t a clue who she was.

Clover offered her a modest smile. “Well, I can’t take too much responsibility for saving us. It was a spontaneous magical anomaly, you see. I think it was the three of us together, possibly our magics combined into some kind of thaumic magnifier of an emotional force—”

The blue pony interrupted her, “You made friends?”

With a sigh, Clover’s face fell to a dry glare. “I made friends so well it saved your blasted tails.”

“And I hope she includes me among those friends,” Platinum said, walking over next to her and placing a hoof on her shoulder. “And we’ve determined a path to safety to ensure this never happens again, which is what we shall be celebrating this evening!

“What is this path to safety?” Lady Sorbet asked, eyeing Clover.

“Oh, we shall dissolve Monoceros and form a nation of ponies of all three tribes.” Platinum waved a hoof and went on, “But politics is for tomorrow—”

“Dissolve Monoceros?” Lady Radiant’s face wore a shocked expression not unlike Clover’s when she found that very mare had usurped her laboratory. Clover smirked in her new, personal illustration of schadenfreude.

“Of course.” Platinum offered a sympathetic smile. “We can’t expect the earth ponies and pegasi to kneel to me, that would hardly be fair. And I didn’t think you should like to become part of Girthshire or Hippocampus.”

“They’re going to be part of the same country as us?” Lady Sorbet asked, seeming thoroughly bewildered. “What kind of nation is this?

“It would be nice if we had a blessed clue, wouldn’t it?” Clover muttered, rolling her eyes.

“Quiet, Clover,” Platinum said with a firm look, then she turned back to the others. “Politics is for tomorrow, and I shall answer all of your concerns then. As I was saying, today we celebrate our fortune, and I’ve invited our fellow ponies of both tribes to a festival to do so.”

“Mud ponies and featherbrains!” Lady Radiant gasped.

Clover frowned and raised her eyebrows at her. “Yes, we thought we might invite them over so we could insult them all at once. Much more efficient that way.”

Platinum ignored Clover. “I hope to never hear those filthy old words again. The earth ponies and pegasi shall be our guests, and we shall show them the grace and hospitality for which Monoceros is— was famous, and which we intend to bring to our new land, Equestria.”

The bright grin Platinum wore as she finished was met by silent shock on the faces of her ladies. But Platinum just tossed her head and trotted towards the back room of the tent, calling cheerfully, “Now, I must freshen up. There’s much to do!”

Not having any other directions, Clover leaned against an end table. If the force they’d summoned was that powerful, it had to be a core magic. Most likely destiny or harmony. She’d heard a pony had worked out destiny, though she’d never met her, but perhaps she could—

Behind her, Lady Sorbet said, “You know, you can always tell when a place is on fire when the rats come out of the woodwork. Or the dungeons, as it were.”

Clover sighed and rolled her eyes, both at the interruption and at the dragon’s ass in a dress she had to speak to. “That’s because rats know well enough to find safer ground, something ponies would do well to learn.”

“Why should we trust the rats?” Lady Sorbet asked.

Clover tilted her head in confusion. “Because the rats aren’t going to come out unless they know the blasted place is on fire. That’s the whole point of the bit you said.” Lady Sorbet glared at her, and Clover straightened and glared back. “What? You’re the one who started this metaphor.”

“I was just saying you’re filthy and ought to stay out of sight.”

Clover raised her eyebrows. “And I was just saying that you could try not being such a pain in the tail, since our blessed lives might depend on it. But I’m beginning to wonder if being frozen to death isn’t about what you lot deserve.”

“Clover!” Platinum called as she emerged from the back of the tent, the smile on her face suggesting she hadn’t heard the previous exchange.

“Yes, Your Majesty?” Clover asked, glad for any excuse to leave the tent.

“I must speak to the common ponies now,” Platinum said, walking to the door. “It might be best if you stay out of sight for the time being.”

Clover stared at her, not daring to glance at the smirks on the faces of the noble mares. Her shoulders fell, and she leaned against the table again with a sigh. “Right.”