• Published 4th May 2017
  • 182 Views, 5 Comments

Courtesy Call - Dave Bryant

Colonel Galea, EUPG (retired), Dame Companion of the Order of the Golden Sun, pays a courtesy call on her new liege lord.

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Calling on His Lordship

Colonel Galea, EUPG (retired), Dame Companion of the Order of the Golden Sun and lately captain of the private airship Pride of Equestria, stood at roadside and gazed up at the gray castle perched on a small rocky promontory. The anachronistic pile of stone towered over her, the Honey River curling around its base, the metalled road by which she stood, and indeed everything else around—other than the rugged, thickly forested hills that cradled the Valley of Heart’s Delight. Generations of marquesses and marchionesses had presided over the valley from the small, sturdy citadel, though in this age of airships and breechloading high-velocity cannon its fortifications were sadly out of date.

Some scaffolding clinging to a section of curtain wall off to one side, just visible from the road, suggested the current marquess understood both that obsolescence and the need of a centuries-old structure for constant maintenance. Workponies labored on modernizations and repairs with tools powered by muscle, levitation, or steam; their shouts and toil competed with the rumble and clatter of road traffic on the busy thoroughfare that, after all, merely began at the castle gate before making its way through the bustling town of Bitburg and ultimately to the port city of Gallopston, where the river drained into the ocean to the west.

A summery mélange of scents filled the air as completely as did the noise—road dust, distant redwood and pine, metal and oil, pony sweat, a hundred and one crops and flowers. The elderly unicorn suppressed an undignified sneeze and shook her head with a sniff. Time was wasting. She returned her narrow-eyed regard to the road before her and resumed her trek, stepping carefully to avoid the carts, caravans, and wagons that rolled past in both directions, as well as animated groups of walking, chattering ponies doubtless on lunch breaks or simply enjoying the balmy, breezy weather.

The pair of stallions, unicorn and earth pony, on guard at the castle’s gate wore no more than plumed and ornamented shakos on such a warm peaceful day. Their manner was relaxed but laudably professional as they checked her identity and confirmed her appointment, then nodded respectfully and gestured her through the yawning archway toothed with raised portcullis. The senior guard’s laconic but not unwelcoming directions took her across the half-shadowed grounds, riotous with colorful lawns and gardens, toward the open double doors of the main keep.

The household was scarcely less active than the road and town outside, with passing pony folk of all stations intent on errands or, in the cases of a few younger foals, racing and tumbling in play. Galea nodded courteously to passersby and was greeted in kind, once with a smile and a casual half-salute from another shakoed guard who noticed the small chivalric badge she wore at her throat, framed by her formal ruffed collar and neckcloth.

Rather than another guardspony, a junior majordomo stood, or rather sat, sentry behind a lectern at the tall doorway. The middle-aged earth mare eyed the approaching unicorn over her reading glasses. “Good day, Ma’am. I presume you are here for an audience with Milord?”

“Indeed,” Galea replied with a nod. “I have an appointment to pay my respects—I moved to Ponyford some little time ago, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to call on His Lordship.”

A dry chuckle greeted this explanation. “I can imagine. Any move creates weeks of havoc; even worse when one moves so far. I surmise from your enunciation you are from Canterlot.”

“Just so. Lovely as the city is, I felt the need for a change upon retirement. The valley quite charmed me, I must say.”

The other mare beamed at this compliment to her homeland. “The valley is well-named, I think. Now then, let us check the schedule.” She looked down at a gilt-edged quarto folio filled with neatly penned rows of names, marks, dates, and times. “You would be . . .” This time the majordomo’s glance was marked by a cocked head and slightly craned neck.

Galea turned to show the guard-helm image emblazoned on a haunch and replied politely, “Dame Galea, at your service.”

“Ah!” A hooftip tapped the matching simplified sketch beside the name in question. “Much becomes clear. Most commoners would not be required to make a courtesy call on the lord, but a knight is another matter.” She turned and called out, “Page!”

In a trice a slim but muscular pegasus colt appeared, well-trained enough to halt gracefully despite the hurried trot with which he responded to the call. His pillbox cap and bright sash complemented his neatly groomed appearance. He bowed slightly. “Ma’am?”

“Dame Galea to see His Lordship,” the majordomo replied. “Take her right up.” She turned back to the guest. “Your punctuality should make the wait no more than a moment. Good day, Madame, and may you keep well.”

“Good day, and may the sun and moon watch over you,” Galea answered before following the pagecolt through the doorway.

As promised, the wait was brief before Galea was ushered into the presence of the Marquess Schmiede­eisen. Wrought Iron, as most of his liegeponies translated his name, sat behind a writing-table that looked nearly as old as the room in which it stood. Lovingly maintained as it was, the furnishing seemed altogether less grand than might be expected of an exalted member of the nobility. On the other hoof, it was quite high, and its user sat on a peculiarly mechanical-looking contraption bearing only the vaguest resemblance to a chair.

The page announced her with practiced formality. “Dame Galea, Milord.”

The earth stallion looked up from his paperwork. “Danke, mein’ Jugend.” As the pegasus pulled the door closed, Wrought Iron turned his attention to his newest visitor.

“Good day, My Lord.” Galea genuflected with a wince; joints crackled as she bent and stood.

“Dear me. If that was half so painful as it sounded, I shall excuse you from doing it again.” The gutteral voice was droll and concerned all at once, and lively emerald eyes twinkled just a bit.

Galea waved a dismissive hoof. “Nothing to speak of, My Lord.”

The green eyes widened and the marquess sat back in his imposingly industrial seat. “I beg to differ.” He gestured to a folder at one side of his tabletop. “Invalided out of the EUP Guard after a long career, with a retirement promotion and a knighthood for gallantry. Such serious injuries and their consequences, good or ill, are hardly nothing.”

“I see your staff is quite competent . . . and thorough,” she congratulated him in place of responding to his observations. “I would expect no less preparation for an interview of this sort.”

“Ah, but this—” The folder was indicated again. “—is not so new as that. Nein, this file was opened the very first time you visited our fair valley . . . Captain Galea. It was merely added to when you purchased that lovely little townhouse in Ponyford.”

A small crook of a smile conceded him the match. “I suppose I have become a more public figure than I am accustomed to—or comfortable—being.”

Jawohl,” Wrought Iron agreed with a nod. “Captaincy of the largest airship yet built in this country will do that for a pony, especially when said airship has created such a stir in my march.”

“It was quite an exciting billet, I must say.” Galea sighed. “More than I expected, truth to tell, and too much so, in the end. Plainly it was a post for a younger pony, and so I decided to retire—again—to someplace agreeably warm and tranquil.”

“And so you are here.”

“And so I am here.”

“Well!” Wrought Iron blew out a breath. “Let us proceed with the formalities, then.”

They gavotted through the archaic protocols and courtesies with grave politesse, though a lurking hint of humor in Wrought Iron’s expression undermined the solemnity of the occasion just a little. Still, respect for one another and for the duties those formalities represented prevented either from yielding to any temptation toward shortcuts or liberties.

At last the marquess was able to stamp his seal on the oath of fealty submitted by his newest knight-resident, and the deed quite literally was done. Galea permitted herself no outward sign, but privately agreed wholeheartedly with Wrought Iron’s just slightly theatrical sigh of relief.

“It would be discourteous of your new lord to send you summarily on your way after so long a trip and such a grueling ordeal,” he observed with good-humored cordiality. “Please, Dame Galea, do join my wife and me for lunch.”

“You are most gracious, Mein Herr,” Galea responded, earning a nod and cheerful grin for her polite use of his vernacular.

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Comments ( 5 )

Well, this should be interesting. I look forward to seeing where you go with this.

To be honest, so am I. It’ll be pretty low-key, though—mostly a character study of Galea, Wrought Iron, and Grapevine, along with a little background on the Valley.

Interessant. I have to applaud you on your descriptions, they are done very neatly, with a sense for detail. Overall it's nothing worldbreaking, but you still have a fair share of lore here. It's great to see more of this late middle ages Equestria. Also, playful Deutsch noble seems like a great carrier of more worldbuilding. I'm looking forward to the next chapter, whenever it appears.

Thanks very much for the kind words! The story is set during the series. As I describe elsewhere, I base my writing on Lauren Faust’s original world-building—which placed Equestria squarely in the equivalent of the late nineteenth century (around the 1860s to 1880s)—rather than the anachronistic hodgepodge mandated by Hasbro. The story takes place in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, a setting I created for a pony role-playing game I wrote a few years ago.

I see. Thank you for clarification!

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