• Published 13th Jul 2012
  • 3,636 Views, 96 Comments

Greengrass's Night - GrassAndClouds2



Duke Greengrass schemes to force a vote the way he wants it

  • ...
3
 96
 3,636

Posey, Blueblood, and Mounty

11 PM



“Prince Blueblood!” Greengrass, with Notary trailing him, stepped in front of the unicorn. “A moment of your time!”

“I have no time for you,” said the haughty unicorn. He didn’t even look at Greengrass. “I have a presentation to prepare for.”

“I wanted to talk to you about—“

“I told you, I am busy.”

“It’s a political—“

“I assure you, my political matters are far more weighty than those of your fiefdom,” said Blueblood. “Now, excuse me. You may speak to me after my proposal at 1, Greengrass.” He spoke as if bestowing a great favor. “Good night.” He turned a corner and disappeared into a private room.

Greengrass rolled his eyes. He still needed Blueblood, but it wouldn’t help if he irritated the unicorn by pestering him. He’d have to wait until after the proposal, then. “Okay. Who next?”

“Captain Lightning will not return for several hours yet,” said Notary. “Four members of Posey’s faction, though, are available to talk, or will be within the hour. Posey herself, and Duke Sand, will be playing chess with Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis at midnight. The Baron of—“

“Wait. Sand. He owes me a favor.” Greengrass smiled; the next steps of his plan were appearing in his mind. “Not a big enough favor to vote my way, but… yes, that’s it. Notary, come up with some errand we can ask Sand to take care of for us. Doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as it will take him enough time that he can’t make his chess game.”

“How will his missing the chess game help us, sir?”

“I’ll explain on the way—“

“Because it sounds like you plan to use the opportunity to take his place and convince Posey to support you, in full view of Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis.”

Well, yes. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Fleur de Lis is a gossip who will reveal your plan to Fisher, Fancy Pants is, according to you, quite intelligent and will likely interfere with your plan for his own reasons, and Posey has little reason to want to help you.”

“That’s it?” Greengrass laughed. “I’ve had tougher fights.”

“Yes. The one that landed you unconscious for three days was one such fight.”

The brown stallion winced at the memory. “Be that as it may, flipping Posey isn’t necessarily my intention. I’d like that, but if I can’t, I have another idea in mind.”

“Very well, sir. Will you need me, or would you prefer me to attend to our plans for Lightning?”

“You start those. The bits are in their usual place; three hundred should do it, but take more if you need them.” Greengrass nodded. “I’m counting on you, here.”

“Of course, sir. I won’t let you down.” Notary looked determined. “You can depend on me.”

“Excellent.”



Midnight



“Oh, Duke Greengrass!”

Greengrass turned to see the smiling face of Fragrant Posey. He’d been pacing the corridor for ten minutes, waiting for Posey to show up and bump into him, but he didn’t let that show on his face. “Duchess! Hello! How can I help you?”

“Apparently, you’ve stolen my chess partner,” said Posey, with a reproachful look. “Duke Sand sent me a note that he’s filing a census report you were neglecting?”

“Oh – I am so sorry! When I asked for his help, I had no idea he was to be otherwise occupied.” Greengrass looked abashed and bowed his head. “I deeply apologize, Duchess. Please, allow me to make it up to you.”

“How?”

“Well, as it happens, I’ve played a few games of chess in my time. If you need a partner, I can set aside my plans and aid you.”

Posey smiled. “I suppose that’s fair. But I should warn you, Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis are quite good.”

“Well, I suppose a drubbing at the board is the least I deserve for inconveniencing as noble a pegasus as yourself.”

Posey laughed, and led the way.

The chess venue was a late-night café within the Canterlot courtyard. Posey and Greengrass ordered coffees and went to sit at one of the chess tables on the patio. Fleur de Lis and Fancy Pants were already there, sitting at the neighboring table.

“Greengrass! How good to see you again!” said Fancy Pants. His grin was the broad smile of a child. “Trip back from Trottingham went well, I trust?”

“Fine,” said Greengrass. “No problems.”

“Trottingham?” asked Posey.

“We were just at the big farm competition out that way,” explained Greengrass. “As the celebrity judges.”

“Splendid competition,” added Fancy Pants. “And the food was delicious. I must say, maybe I’ll do tasting competitions more often!”

Fleur de Lis chuckled. “A lovely idea, dear.”

“It’s just that the food is so sublime! All those plates, just to impress somepony like me. It makes you feel really valued.”

Greengrass managed to not roll his eyes. Ponies as dumb as Fancy Pants appeared to be didn’t last long at the Court; they were chewed up and spit out in very short order. Fancy Pants had been around for years; ergo, he wasn’t as dumb as he acted. Lazy, though. He’d held the same position for years, with seemingly no effort to move up. Greengrass found that incomprehensible.

It’s safe, I suppose, having no ambition, since nopony thinks you’re a threat. But what a wasted life, thought the Duke.

A waiter began setting up the pieces on the two chess boards. Posey explained that they played bughouse chess, in which the white player on one board partnered with the black player on the other. When one player captured a piece, he or she could pass it to their partner, who could play it on their turn instead of moving. Greenhouse himself liked this variety of the game, and he was intrigued to see that Posey did too.

They decided that the teams would be mares versus stallions, with Greengrass (as white) playing Fleur and Posey (as white) against Fancy Pants. Greengrass made his first move. “I see you’re wearing your locket, Posey,” he said.

“Oh, yes.” Posey smiled. “I just got it back.”

“It was stolen, I heard,” said Fancy Pants.

“Yes, by two unicorns. But they were caught in Fillydelphia.” Posey nodded as she moved a piece. “Thank you for your help, Duke.”

“No problem. When I heard what they’d tried I couldn’t do nothing.”

“What did they try?” asked Fleur. Now she, Greengrass thought, was as dumb as a brick. Fancy Pants’ trophy marefriend, probably for his cover as a shallow nitwit. How he could tolerate such a vapid gossip, Greengrass would never know.

“They wrote me a letter from prison,” said Posey. Her voice was sad… but also firm. It was the voice of a mare who would not be cowed. “They told me that, if I didn’t drop the charges, they would drag out the trial and make me look horrible. They even threatened to bring Fluttering Posey into it. Make up stories about her…”

“I couldn’t let that stand,” said Greengrass, in as sanctimonious a tone as he could muster. It was hard, since he’d dictated that letter himself (and gone to considerable trouble to make it look like Flim and Flam had written and sent it), but he managed. “I contacted the warden and the judge and told them what had happened, how those two were using their freedom to communicate to harass and intimidate Posey. Flim and Flam were moved to solitary confinement, their writing implements removed, and their trial will be closed to the public. They won’t be able to hurt the Poseys anymore.”

“I appreciate it,” said Posey. “I knew that if I had acted, it would have looked suspicious… after all, they stole from me, so some might think I’d want to interfere with the trial.”

“It was my pleasure to help,” said the Duke. The real reason he’d gone to all that trouble had been to make sure the unicorns wouldn’t be able to tell anypony that the Duke had hired them (which had turned out to be a rather poor decision in retrospect), but Posey’s gratitude was a useful bonus.

“Quite kind of you,” said Fancy Pants. “An honorable pony through and through, you are.” He captured Posey’s king’s knight’s pawn and passed it to the Duke. “You know, I think I heard about that case. Didn’t those unicorns kidnap a foal?”

“If so, I imagine they’ll be charged with it,” said Greengrass, neutrally.

“I wish there was some way to ask them. If they did, they ought to be made to pay for it,” said Fancy Pants, almost wistfully.

“Well, as they’re charged with treason and now with harassing the victim by mail, it might be difficult to talk to them,” said Greengrass. “I don’t think they can receive visitors or contact the outside world. Still, if you really want, it could perhaps be arranged.”

He probably wants to, but his idiot persona wouldn’t want to go through the work, so…

“Oh, not if it would be a bother,” said Fancy Pants.

Knew it.

They played for a half hour more, with Fancy Pants taking a quick lead over Posey, and Greengrass using the extra pieces to box Fleur in. “I say,” said Fancy Pants, “You’re quite good at this, Greengrass.”

“Thanks.” And then, feeling that it was time that he got on with what he’d shown up to do, he said, “By the way, Posey, I was just talking to Vicereine Puissance. Apparently you lead the swing faction in the vote this morning.”

“Me?” Posey giggled. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. There’s a few of us who got together to do some fact-checking, that’s all.”

“Still, I heard you’re in charge.”

“We all came to our conclusions independently.” Posey frowned. “Wait. Are you trying to get me to change my vote? Because—“

“No!” Greengrass lied as he held up his front hooves. “No, honest. I might be new, but I know better than to try to manipulate you, Duchess.”

Posey smiled. “Flatterer. But my mind’s made up. I really do appreciate helping me deal with those unicorns, Greengrass, and I would like to repay you… but I can’t on this. Fisher needs the grant more than the Vicereine.”

“Understood.” Greengrass placed a captured knight on the board, forking Fleur’s queen and queen’s rook. Surely there’s some way to get through to her… use Fluttering Posey, maybe, or perhaps her husband’s business…

But nothing came to him. He couldn’t think of any way to get Posey to change her mind in one night. It didn’t help that Posey was unusually sensitive to manipulation; she was hard to maneuver into voting a particular way. He wouldn’t be able to get her vote.

On to the next plan, then. “But that’s just what I mean. With a personality like that, I bet none of the ponies in your faction wanted to question you.”

Posey laughed. “That’s not true at all. Even though I knew how I was voting, many of the others took a lot longer to make up their minds.”

Come on, thought the Duke. Tell me what I want to hear.

Posey, at ease, relaxed, and having fun with her friends, did so. “Baron Mounty Max only decided a couple of days ago, after all.”

Aha. Now I know who in her faction took the longest to decide… probably the least sure, the most conflicted about his vote. Excellent. “And he’s for Fisher too?”

“Yes, of course. The evidence really does lead that way.”

“Well… good luck, then.” Greengrass smiled. “I hope it’s the right choice.”

“Ah,” said Fancy Pants, apropos of absolutely nothing. “It’s always so refreshing when we can share camaraderie despite being on opposite sides of some issues.”

“…yes,” said Greengrass. “Yes, it is.”



1 AM



Greengrass had sat through a lot of meetings on the Night Court, but this was, without a doubt, the stupidest one yet.

“Our nation is in peril,” Blueblood said from the podium. He was trying to sound authoritative, but he could only reach the level of ‘blustery’. “Corona, the Tyrant Sun, could return at any time! She could even now be striking at some frontier province.”

She attacked Canterlot directly last time; why wouldn’t she do it again? wondered Greengrass.

“But we wouldn’t notice, as we lack a sophisticated warning system. If some disaster strikes on our borders, such as fire, flood, or Corona herself, it can take hours – days, sometimes – for news to reach the capital. If the Tyrant Sun were to appear at our furthest reaches, how could we know in time to muster a response?”

Night turning to day for no reason. That would be a hint, thought Greengrass. “What’s he going to propose?” he asked Notary.

“He recently invested in a chariot company,” said Notary. “He will probably…”

“The Righteous Wing chariot company has offered to sell the Court one thousand chariots at a substantial discount,” Blueblood said. “These chariots can be positioned strategically all along our border. At the first sign of any trouble, they can be dispatched to Canterlot for assistance.”

“And pegasi alone aren’t enough because?” murmured Greengrass.

“That wouldn’t make him money, sir.”

Greengrass chuckled.

“The chariots can be flown by pegasi and mounted by unicorns, unicorns with sufficient magic to ensure an escape from any conceivable disaster,” Blueblood was saying.

“Yes. All those unicorns we have in reserve that can fend off Corona,” whispered Greengrass. “Brilliant. If only they actually existed.”

Notary smiled. “May I ask what you think?”

Greengrass thought that he didn’t get Blueblood. Like Fancy Pants, Blueblood probably wasn’t as stupid as he acted, if only because any pony that stupid would have wandered off the castle ramparts by this point. So it was an act, at least in part. But it wasn’t an act that worked. Blueblood had been a viscount forever, showed no signs of advancing, and none of his schemes ever quite seemed to get off the ground.

Take this one, for example. It was terrible on the merits – if for no other reason than it seemed to assume that nopony in the government or military had thought of this problem and come up with some kind of frontier warning system -- but Greengrass could probably still have pulled it off. If he’d been proposing it, he would have gotten the others to support it as a PR stunt. Still, even he couldn’t have done it alone.

“He would need an ally to sell it,” said Greengrass. “Somepony to make a big deal about how this is the perfect defense measure and how anypony who disagrees doesn’t care about the safety of the country. If he had a few of those, then he could spin the others as not caring if the country burns, and that might get him enough support to pass the bill. But he can’t do it himself, because he’s obviously biased, and if he can’t get those first few supporters, even the press will know there’s nothing of substance here. This won’t pass.”

Allies seemed to be a perpetual problem for Blueblood. Every now and then he’d make a big deal about having the Baron of somewhere over for tea or investing with Count Suchandsuch, but within a few weeks, his partnerships invariably dissolved. Either Blueblood really was as useless as he looked, or he didn’t know how to keep good allies. Whatever the case, that sank him, like it was doing now.

“You know, sir,” said Notary, “If I may – if you helped him here, he might feel grateful…”

“But if I look as dumb as him, the others won’t listen to me later. His is not the only vote I need,” countered Greengrass.

Pride. The thought blinked into the Duke’s head, and he sighed. Yes, pride was Blueblood’s weak point. He would need to appeal to the unicorn’s pride. Which, at this point, meant keeping this stupid, stupid motion alive. Without looking as dumb as the unicorn.

If I pretend I’m Blueblood’s ally, then I’ll look a bit opportunistic, but then again, aren’t we all? I just need to make it very clear that I don’t believe this nonsense.

“I have to say, I’m pleased that somepony is finally considering the important issue of frontier defense,” said Greengrass. His gaze started on Blueblood, but he allowed it to drift down, to the press gallery. “I think this measure will make it quite clear that, though we live and work in Canterlot, we care about all Equestrians, even those on the furthest reaches of the land.”

Notary nudged Greengrass, who pretended to realize where he was staring and brought his gaze back up to address the rest of the Court. “Blueblood, you’ve my support, and – I would hope – the support of the rest of the Court. We’re all noble ponies, after all, and none of us want be seen – I mean, none of us want to be the sort to let the frontier fall into danger.” There. That should be a pretty strong indicator that my only concern here is PR. They won’t think I believe Blueblood’s nonsense. And now they need to support it too, lest they look like they don’t care about the country and lose favor… or at least…

“I’m not convinced of the economics,” said one Baroness. “Obviously, defense is important, but is this the most efficient way? Blueblood, we’ll need more figures.”

“Yes, I move we table this for a few days while Viscount Blueblood puts together a more detailed proposal,” echoed a Countess.

The chamber dissolved into discussion and whispering. Greengrass smiled to himself as he looked at the murmuring nobles. Tabling for a few days will give them time to try to spin the press the other way. Fine, I don’t care about this bill at all. All I need here is Blueblood. I just stuck my neck out for his bill, even he has to see that.

“I move,” said Vicereine Puissance, “That we table the motion for three days, and revisit it at that time.”

The motion carried.



“You!” said Blueblood, as Greengrass approached him in the hall. “How could you do that? I—“

“Alright,” said the Duke, looking both scared and, somehow, relieved to see Blueblood. “I bought us some time. The rest is up to you.”

“What?”

“Did you see them? They were going to dismiss your idea without even listening! And then, if Corona returned, well, you’d be right, but it’d be too late!”

“Yes, but—“

“The best I could do was to get you three days to build your case. Go to the press. Make it clear that Equestria’s very fate is at stake!” Look like an idiot! “Make it so they have to support you!”

“I – uh –“

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more. I’m still a political neophyte, I guess.” He doesn’t think much of me. If I act dumb, he won’t worry about his helping me coming back to bite him. “But I hope I was able to give you enough help to, well, save the country.”

“Help save the country?” Blueblood, who was probably unused to actually being praised or told he did something right, smiled a little. “Well. I suppose your speech was quite acceptable. You performed admirably for one as new to the Court as yourself.” He paused, thinking. “I’d like to know, though, why you supported the bill. National defense was never your strong suit.”

“You’re a pony to know around here,” lied Greengrass. “With your family connections, influence, skill… well, I’d like to work with you. Consider this a token of what I could offer.

Blueblood smiled. “Hmm. Well, I think that… if you keep acting as you did… we could be useful allies.”

Greengrass nodded. “Thank you.” When I get enough power, I’m going to banish you, and auction off the right to pick where. It will be the greatest fundraiser in the Court’s history “Now – you did say I could have a moment of your time?”

“Oh, yes, well, what is it?”

“I’d like to ask you to vote for Puissance over Fisher in the vote at six, for the big grant. It would mean a lot to me.” Greengrass tried to look pleading and hopeful. “Obviously, you’re too noble to care that it was Fisher that was leading the chorus of ‘dismiss!’ motions, but—“

“He was?” He hadn’t been, but Blueblood wouldn’t know that. “That rat!”

Is he acting, or is he just that dumb? Well… I suppose it doesn’t much matter now. “But I do hope that you’ll show some of that Blueblood generosity I’ve heard praised so highly in all quarters and, though it’s far more than I deserve, aid me by supporting Puissance.”

Blueblood considered. “Alright,” he said. “I should show Fisher what he can expect from betraying me. And I will reward your support.” He sounded like a king giving a vassal some huge boon. “But I expect your loyalty again when this motion is brought back to the floor, Greengrass.”

“Oh, certainly!” By then, the papers will have spoken so poorly of this that even you won’t be dumb enough to bring it back to a vote.

Blueblood left, and Greengrass smiled. One down. Two to go.



2 AM



“Baron Mounty! Thank the stars and moon I found you!”

Mounty blinked blearily at the Duke. “Was trying to nap,” Mounty muttered. “What’s goin’ on?”

Mounty Max was in charge of a very small domain up in the northern mountains. His family had held political positions for centuries, but Mounty had looked to be the first to buck the tradition… at least until he’d heroically saved a group of foals from a rockslide. With his heritage and his heroism, Mounty’s subsequent ascension to the Court had been more or less guaranteed, even though the pony would probably rather be climbing mountains than sitting and voting on measures he barely understood. Even younger than Greengrass, and somehow still a bit naïve despite serving for a few months as a voting member of the Court, he was still much more at home on the mountains than in a council room. Greengrass had been pleased to learn that his was one of the votes that he could try for – the neophyte Mounty would never see him coming.

“Urgent new information. I’ve been sent to you directly to make sure you know it!” said the Duke. He pushed his way into the baron’s rooms, which had a bunch of mountaineering gear and souvenirs from mountains that he’d climbed. “I overcame great obstacles to bring you these tidings of such great import!”

Mounty could only stare. “For the vote in a few hours?”

“Exactly the one!”

“Mind’s made up. I’m voting Fisher. Go away,” muttered Mounty.

“You made up your mind based on the information Fisher presented. But it’s all false!” Greengrass took a bunch of papers out of his saddlebag – his statistician had just finished with them. “Every thing he said to support his proposal was a complete lie! I did my own surveys of his land, just got the results.”

“Why’re you here? Go talk to Posey. She’s leading our faction.”

Posey, the thought popped into his mind – this wasn’t political intuition, he was pretty sure it was his special talent kicking in. He wants to help Posey. Probably feels he owes her; I know she helped show him the ropes. Okay. I can use this. But not yet. First I have to make him think that voting for Puissance is the ‘correct’ choice.

“Already have! But she’s committed and you know how seriously she takes her word. She wouldn’t even consider switching.” Greengrass paused. “Can’t you just look at the information? If you don’t find it persuasive, all you’ve lost is a few minutes. But if it is, you’ll have been saved from voting the wrong way and sending a large grant project to a district that doesn’t need it in any way.”

Mounty made his way to an easy chair and sat down. “Well… I mean, well, okay, if you’ve got really important information…”

Greengrass began to talk, chaining together strings of statistics for twenty minutes. Each one sounded more urgent and devastating than the last. Tax rates, salt-level rates, the price of tea in Shanghoof, everything was used, and the picture Greengrass painted was not good at all for Fisher. “His domain doesn’t need this grant, and couldn’t use it if they got it,” he said. “You need to vote for Puissance.”

“But I looked at all this already, and I decided—“

“Why?” Greengrass wouldn’t give him a chance to gather his thoughts. “What did you decide?”

“Based on the construction needed in both domains, Fisher needs it more.”

So Greengrass began to tell all kinds of lies about Fisher’s domain, about how he had more buildings than he knew what to do with, about rampant corruption in Fisher’s masonry groups, about how his castle was already the largest around. Puissance’s, he said, was small and falling apart – after all, look at her age, she couldn’t have the stamina to fight for the budget to fix it up. “Fisher swindled you,” lied Greengrass. “You don’t want to be swindled, do you?”

“But – but hang on, how can I trust you?”

That was an unsurprising objection, so Greengrass was prepared. “Every single thing I’ve told you, you can check for yourself,” he said. Provided Mounty remembered it; in his sleep-addled state, he’d be lucky to remember his own name. Still, it was at least theoretically true. “I know that we’ve had our differences, and I really do appreciate you being noble enough to overlook them and listen to me.”

“Huh? Uh, thanks…”

“So please, trust me a little more. Look at the numbers yourself if you have to, but you’ll come to the same conclusion – Fisher was lying. Puissance needs the grant more, and she can do more with it. And if that’s the case, you’ll vote for her, right?”

“Sure, if that’s the case,” managed Mounty. Greengrass held back a smile – that admission meant he was halfway home. “Lemme see those…”

So Greengrass passed him the falsified papers, which Mounty then examined. The numbers were changed just slightly from the ones Fisher had provided the Court, but all the changes together made it clear that Puissance was preferable to Fisher. The conclusion was just obvious enough that even a tired stallion could see it; the forgery, by contrast, was good enough that most awake ponies would have missed it. “Why me?” asked Mounty at last.

Bring it around to Posey, now. “Because the others all gave their word weeks ago to vote for Fisher, Posey included. She’d want to vote for Puissance if she had this information, but you know her; she’d feel dreadful about breaking her word to Fisher, even though he’d swindled it out of her. But you – I know you haven’t promised Fisher anything.” This wasn’t true, but as usual, Greengrass didn’t let that stop him. “Besides, if the grant goes to Puissance despite Posey’s vote, then she both keeps her word and gets the outcome she wants. Wouldn’t that be best?”

“Well… yes, but…”

“I know I can count on you to do the right thing.” And looking at the conflicted Mounty, Greengrass was sure that he’d vote just like the Duke wanted. His eyes were scanning the paper, like he was hoping to find something that would release him from his choice – but there was nothing there; all the evidence on the pages showed that Puissance was the better option. Mounty would think it over, would weigh making this decision against breaking his word to Fisher, and if that wasn’t enough, he’d also consider that he might be able to rescue Posey from a bad choice. He’d flip.

Greengrass smiled at Mounty. “Sorry to wake you. Pleasant dreams, and I’ll see you at six.” And he was gone.

Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!
Join our Patreon to remove these adverts!