• Published 19th Jul 2012
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The Best of All Possible Worlds - McPoodle



The philosopher Voltaire finds himself in the most-frustrating place imaginable: Equestria

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Chapter 10

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 10


Dear Aunt Celestia, Princess of Equestria, Guider of the Sun, you know the rest,

You said you were worried who else might read this letter, so we’ll be vague in answering your request:

No.

Oh wait, you’d like us to be more specific? Alright, how about this:

Hay no.

This is your problem, you take care of it.

Also, we’ve got a lot better things to do than sit around for a few hundred years wearing your shiny jewelry.

Can’t you use some of your own ponies? You’ve got jillions of them, after all. With all the time you have, you ought to be able to breed yourself six superponies that are so emotionally pure that you can have fun inducing their nervous collapses after you’re done with them.

Or was that too specific for you?

Let us say this again, for the ten thousandth time: We are not Equestrians. We live in our own kingdom, and we want nothing to do with your kingdom.

Got it?

With the usual love and affection,

~~Your Fancy Alicorn Cousins

P.S. Our wizards sort of caused a teeny-tiny catastrophic flood that’s put the entire island under two pony-heights of water. How about you use that sun of yours to dry us out?

Princess Celestia rolled her eyes as her magic rolled up the scroll she had been reading. Family, she thought to herself. Can’t live with them, can’t leave them under two pony-heights of water. She made a quiet announcement of the adjustment to the daily schedule that would be necessary to literally bail her cousins out of their predicament, and a messenger was sent to keep the populace from panicking. They’ll probably panic anyway, Celestia thought darkly, but at least I tried.

The Princess normally requested solitude at sunrise and sunset. She claimed this was to help her concentration, but it was not for the reason the ponies thought. She didn’t need concentration to control the sun, she needed concentration to keep from thinking about Luna while she was raising and lowering her night. However, there were always exceptions, and the knowledge that the human was going to barge in here sooner or later to make sure she could do what she claimed meant that she might as well have company, for however long it took before he thought to do it.

Voltaire was not quite as bright as Celestia had hoped, because he had not shown up for the first sunset after his arrival. However, he did manage to show up fifteen minutes before the first sunrise, so that counted for something.

Celestia caught the human trying to sneak onto the long patio while she was busy greeting the Diamond Dog ambassador while simultaneously keeping Prince Blueblood and Morningstar Sparkle’s petty sniping at each other from getting any worse. Eveningstar was pretending to study the countryside below to keep from getting involved, and she was joined in this endeavor by Morningstar’s son Cognizant. The Princess pretended not to notice Voltaire, in that way that made it abundantly clear that she did notice after all.

~ ~ ~

Voltaire was about to make his way over to Celestia’s company, when his eyes were caught by the setting Moon.

It was enormous.

Furthermore, it glowed a bright white, despite the late hour.

And it had the image of a unicorn’s head on it.

No!” Voltaire whispered to himself in shock. He continued his protestations in his mind: No, no, no, no!

He wasn’t on Earth. All certainties flew out of his head.

He could be on another planet in Earth’s solar system, although that was unlikely.

He could be on a world orbiting a dim star close to Earth’s sun, although that was even less likely.

Perhaps indeed he was in the Fairy Realm. The Irish, for example, had held that the Fae Folk lived on a world entirely separate from Earth, connected by only a few magical caves. That would mean that this was a world made to look like Earth, right down to the constellations in the sky, but it was not Earth at all. A world ruled by magic...did Newton’s physics even apply here?

Voltaire thought back to the rubber ball, the way it had bounced off of the floor. For that matter, every interaction he had had with the physical world where he didn’t see or feel an obvious magical influence matched what he had experienced at home.

Still, moving a ball of light across the sky each day must be an immense magical endeavor, and the Princess had not contradicted him when he told her the size of the Sun.

He had to know for sure.

~ ~ ~

“...well of course I know about the amniomorphic spell!” snapped Morningstar. “Star Swirl the Bearded created all of the forms of magic known to ponykind!”

Prince Blueblood gestured at the figure of the Princess, who was standing behind him with her eyes closed and her horn glowing. “All forms?” he asked with a grin.

“Err, well...” the mare said in confusion. “Well...yes! Sparkles have been known to raise and lower the Sun in Equestria’s distant past.”

In a corner, Blue Belle silently watched the conversation. She was both trying to stifle a yawn, and keep a running tally of every time her father succeeded in outwitting his rival or vice versa. The Prince was winning the tally, as usual.

“A body at rest, stays at rest,” stated a voice at the other end of the platform from the unicorn filly. She got up to take a closer look. “A body in motion, stays in motion at a constant velocity, following a straight line. Either state of action can only be changed by an application of an external force.”

It was the human who had appeared in the audience chamber and was somehow responsible for Genevieve’s disappearance.

Why do I remember her name? Blue Belle thought to herself. She then positioned herself so she could observe this strange creature without being spotted.

~ ~ ~

Voltaire was deliberately not trying to talk over the other ponies, but as he had predicted, they had all stopped their conversations to hear him talk, including Eveningstar and Cognizant, so he continued reciting Newton’s Laws of Motion.

“The action of a force upon a body will be in the form of an acceleration. This acceleration will be in the direction of the force applied, directly proportional to the amount of force, and inversely proportional to the mass of the body.”

Now to get to the good part. “Gravity is the name of the force that causes all bodies to be attracted to one another. This force is directly proportional to the product of the masses of the two bodies, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between the centers of mass of the two bodies. Between two ponies, this force is negligible, but between a planet and its Sun, it is enough to force one of them into an elliptical orbit around the other.”

“Yes, that sounds about right,” said the Princess, making her way through the small crowd to reach him. “By the way, what took you so long?”

“I wasted the afternoon trying to strike up a conversation with a dog,” Voltaire said with a self-deprecating smirk. He didn’t understand the hurt looks some of the others gave him for this remark.

“I don’t remember the Roman ever expressing such understanding of celestial dynamics,” said the Princess. “Has there been an advance in human understanding of Natural Philosophy?” She was so intent on their conversation that her horn was no longer lit up. Voltaire saw by the glow on the eastern horizon that the Sun was just about to rise. If Celestia was a fraud, then he only needed to distract her for a few more minutes to see for himself if the Sun would rise without her theatrics.

“Yes,” Voltaire said in reply to the Princess’s question, “although it might be more accurate to refer to the modern pursuit of knowledge as Natural Science rather than Natural Philosophy. The latter term is based on the assumption that knowledge can best be obtained through the imagination. Unfortunately, we humans are capable of imagining a great many things that just aren’t so, and it turns out that the true nature of reality sometimes fails to follow purely human notions of what should be or not.

“The method we use now is mathematical. We study how the universe works, measure its properties, and determine a formula that best matches what we see. Expressed in Equine instead of mathematically, these formulae are known as Laws of Nature. This is the method perfected by the great genius Isaac Newton.” He expressed the name in Equine using English puns: Eye-sack New-ton. Rather amusingly to Voltaire, this double pun referenced two of the scientist’s greatest contributions: to optics and to the understanding of weight.

“Your human ‘Laws of Nature’ are flawed,” observed Morningstar. “Objects in motion certainly do not remain in motion. They slow down and halt all on their own.”

“On the contrary,” said Voltaire. “They are slowed down by the friction in the air, or to a greater degree by friction against the ground.”

“And where do you escape either of those?” Morningstar asked.

“In space,” said Celestia. “The atmosphere of this planet fades into nothingness thousands of ponyheights above us. Beyond that is the vacuum.”

The other ponies all looked up nervously at this revelation, imagining running out of air if some magical mishap ever landed them too high above the earth’s surface.

“Your law of gravity is even more flawed,” said Prince Blueblood. “How massive is this world, compared to the Sun?”

“The Sun is about 300,000 times more massive,” answered the Princess.

“By your law, we should be orbiting the Sun, where precisely the opposite is the true situation.”

“That’s because of the powerful magic exerted by Princess Celestia every day,” said Eveningstar, stepping forward to stand beside her monarch. “A magical catastrophe centuries ago caused the Sun to be permanently repelled from the Earth. Only the daily application of magic keeps it in its place. It would require the same amount of magic to put our world around the Sun as it would be to pull the Sun around Equestria. Since the latter is a lot easier to control magically, that is what the first unicorn Sun mages did, and that is what our Princess does now.”

Celestia nodded. “Magically, you can get away with a great deal of subtlety. I am not breaking that gravity law of Mr. Newton, in fact I’m using it. When I cast my spell, it’s as if I become as massive as a million Suns for just an instant, but because it’s magic, only the Sun can feel that mass.”

Voltaire looked distinctly uncomfortable for a few seconds, before finding a suitable comeback. “So I take it that joking about your weight is off-limits, then?”

Only Celestia dared to laugh at that joke.

~ ~ ~

Blue Belle took careful note of everypony’s reactions. Her father had always told her that he was very nearly the equal of his Princess, but she had never seen him on as familiar a basis with Her as this human was. And they had only just met!

~ ~ ~

“You are truly a human of many talents, Voltaire!” Celestia proclaimed.

“Oh, my knowledge of all things scientific is quite recent,” he replied. “I first became interested in Newton when I learned that the English had made him, a mere commoner, master of their currency.”

“Oh, what did it look like?” asked Cognizant. “I have a denarius that the Roman left behind.”

Voltaire began to search his pockets. “I don’t have any English pounds,” he said, “but I think I have...yes. This is a Prussian Reichsthaler, the currency of the country I came to Equestria from.” And he showed the ponies the very coin this author would gaze upon two and a half centuries later. “As I was saying, the English held this Newton in very high regard, for working out the inner workings of the universe. When he died, they gave him a burial place beside their own royalty. When I heard that, I knew that I had to understand this man’s knowledge if I were ever to understand the world. But I couldn’t wrap my head around the mathematics behind his laws before I met my teacher, Émilie du Châtelet.”

For a moment, Celestia saw a look in Voltaire’s eyes that she had never seen before. Well, she had seen it before, but never from him. It was a look she got a lot from her ponies: the look of one looking rapturously at their goddess.

She saw him shake himself out of his stupor and look around him. “I suppose you can call her Busybee in Her Hive *,” he said. “It’s not an exact translation, but I think it will do.”

* Translator’s Note #1: Just as with “Voltaire” and “Voltige”, “Émilie” was written as “Busybee” throughout the original Equine version of this story, but has been corrected for this translation.

“Well this is interesting,” Morningstar observed. “The Roman was quite convinced that no female human could ever be an intellectual.”

“Growing up, I always suspected that a woman could be just as smart, just as brave, just as worthy as a man,” said Voltaire. “But I never met a woman who was all of those things before I met Émilie.”

“Describe her to us,” said Celestia.

“Émilie was the smartest person I ever met. Any subject she set her mind to, she could learn. Even when the only texts she could find were mangled translations, and the only people she could get to teach her were hopeless incompetents, she somehow always managed to extract the truth and end up an absolute master of the subject. When all of France’s intellectuals united behind a misled French rival of Newton, Émilie not only mastered Newtonism, she wrote the first translation of Newton’s masterpiece into French, and together she and I wrote a popularization of Newton that converted the masses to the side of truth. And she was not just a genius in the sciences: she was also an expert at economics and history. Her concentration was unsurpassed, and so was her ability to bring her brilliant imaginings to life. She was the Scientist writ large, and the world lost its most precious jewel on the day she died.” As he finished the eulogy of his dear wife*, he lowered his head in remembrance.

All of the ponies remained silent, giving the human his moment.

* Translator’s Note #2: I won’t tell the author if you don’t.

“You know,” Princess Celestia said finally, “I think I really would have liked to have met her.”

“She would have made a good Sparkle,” admitted Morningstar grudgingly.

~ ~ ~

Voltaire looked up at the eastern horizon. It hadn’t changed since the last time he had looked, and that had been an awfully long time ago. Nervously, he consulted his watch. “Um, Your Highness...” he began.

“What’s that?” asked Cognizant, peering intently at the timepiece.

“It’s a watch,” Voltaire quickly explained. “Your Royal Highness...”

Celestia smiled at Voltaire. It was a most unsettling smile.

“What does it watch?” asked Cognizant.

“Time. It watches time,” said Voltaire impatiently, his eyes on the Princess. “Your Grand Royal Highness...”

“How does it work?”

“Springs expand, gears turn, hands turn. Here!” And with that he took the watch off of its fob and tossed it over his shoulder. Cognizant nearly leapt over the railing to catch it. “Your Highness, aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Am I?” she asked, with that same infuriating smile.

“Your...your primary job function. The reason the ponies let you wear that nice jewelry?”

“Hmm...”

“...the Sun! You need to raise the Sun!”

Celestia looked casually over her shoulder. “I suppose I should...” she mused. “Is it really that important to you?”

Voltaire rushed over to the eastern railing. “What land lies under the Sun right now?”

“The Island of Prance,” answered Morningstar. “Home of the Princess’s ancestral family.” She smiled evilly before continuing. “I wonder if the inhabitants have started igniting yet?”

If Celestia had any doubts that allowing the ponies to start thinking about killing would not have some unpleasant consequences, the spontaneous invention of gallows comedy by the Royal Historian was more than enough proof.

Voltaire dropped to his knees and hugged the Princess’s withers. “Please!” he pleaded. “For the love of ponyanity!”

Morningstar...” warned the Princess.

“Alright, so I may have been exaggerating a little...” the unicorn grudgingly admitted.

Celestia gently brushed Voltaire aside and walked up to the eastern railing. “I believe the flooding problem is now taken care of,” she announced, before closing her eyes and causing her horn to light up.

As Voltaire watched, the horn became brighter and brighter, with an equal amount of light leaking out from under the Princess’s eyelids and from the end of every hair on her body. When she became utterly blinding, there was a sudden indefinable lurch, and the Sun sprang into the sky, stopping nearly ten degrees above the horizon.

~ ~ ~

“Do you believe in my cutie mark now?” Celestia said with a smile as she turned back around...

...only to see everybody else prone on the ground. Including Voltaire.

~ ~ ~

Voltaire heard something that might have been a gasp, and might have been a sob.

He dared a glance up at Her. At Celestia, Princess and Goddess of Equestria. And then he stared at Her quivering eyes. No, she was not a “Her”. She was a “her”, and she deserved to be treated as well as the best “hers” he had ever known.

Voltaire got up, and calmly dusted himself off. “Ha, ha,” he said dryly. “You got me.”

The Princess smiled weakly at him. The other ponies slowly got to their hooves, and looked uncertainly at Voltaire. All except for the unicorn filly that he supposed was Blueblood’s daughter—she was staring at him with a fixed concentration that he had last encountered in the mirror during his childhood. It was the look of a child who was realizing for the first time the depth of the lies he or she had been raised under. He would need to keep an eye on this one, Voltaire told himself.

“With your permission, Princess, I would like to retire to my room and reclaim the two days of sleep that I have missed. Afterwards I will be happy to perform any duties as your adviser that you would wish of me.”

“But of course, Voltaire,” she replied, inclining her head slightly.

“Oh, you are adviser of Princess Celestia?” asked an oddly-accented voice the human had not heard before.

He turned to face a black-coated bipedal creature nearly as tall as he was, unclothed except for an open blue vest and a gem-studded collar around his neck. The creature’s arms and hands were disproportionately large, and used to support its weight like that of a gorilla. Its head was undoubtedly that of a dog.

“This is Noir,” said Morningstar, “ambassador for the Diamond Dogs.”

“Ambassador Noir,” Voltaire said with a bow and a flourish. “It is an honor to be in your noble company. I do apologize most profusely over my earlier remark. I had not been informed about your people.” A talking dog, he meanwhile thought sourly to himself. Captain Hardheart, I’m going to get you for this!

Noir laughed heartily. “That alright,” he replied. “We Diamond Dogs are exception to rule.” Then the smile left his face as he said, “but don’t call Noir noble. Dragons are the only noble we know and thanks to griffons, now we are free. Free and equal.”

“Hmm...” Voltaire mused. “A people without nobility. I do hope your stay in Celestia’s palace is not very short, because I’d like to have a long talk with you sometime about your government, after I’ve had some sleep.”

“Diamond Dogs proud of our government,” Noir said, slapping his chest with one meaty paw. “Noir would like that talk!”