• Published 19th Jul 2012
  • 26,811 Views, 1,799 Comments

The Best of All Possible Worlds - McPoodle

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

  • ...

Chapter 12

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 12

Voltaire was dreaming, and for once it was a good dream.

He was sitting in his box at the Comédie-Française and basking in the applause of a thousand rapturous Parisians over the successful premiere of his new play, A Citizen of Canterlot.

In the play, Sparkle, rebellious daughter of Queen Celestia, fell in love with the British dragon Hornpipe, despite the fact that such a love was the only thing imaginable that the Queen had expressly forbidden. Hornpipe attempted to elope with Sparkle, but they were interrupted by Blueblood, the High Priest, who secretly wanted Princess Sparkle for his very own. Unfortunately, the battle between Blueblood and Hornpipe ended up revealing the reason for Queen Celestia’s ban: Sparkle was in fact nothing more than an enchanted yew tree, brought to life when the Queen learned that she could not have foals of her own. And wouldn’t you know it, Celestia arrived to tearfully lift the ban just as her adopted daughter went up in smoke before her very eyes...

It is the height of madness to expect a dream to make sense, but may I offer up a few notes: First, all the characters were played by humans in pantomime horse costumes, and yet by some miracle the audience was crying at the end instead of rolling on the floors. Second, the character of Sparkle was quite literally an amalgamation of Morningstar and Eveningstar Sparkle, being Morningstar on her right side and Eveningstar on her left side. Third, Celestia was a queen in this play and not a princess, because French drama of the time demanded that the love interest always be a princess. Fourth, if you think the plot is ridiculous, Voltaire thought so too, but of all the different kinds of plays he had tried to write in his career, doomed love stories always worked best at the Comédie-Française. Fifth, Voltaire had a bad habit of thinking he was being subtle every time he added a dig at organized religion to one of his works. And finally, an adult British dragon named Hornpipe, who is somehow small enough to romance a pony...did I mention that this was a dream?

Voltaire probably would have allowed the cries of “Author! Author!” in his head to go on for hours, but gradually he came to notice that the sounds of the audience were accompanied by an odd sort of “bwop!” sound, at first one at a time, but soon building to a virtual chorus of “bwop!”s.

The human realized that he was dreaming, that the sound was coming from outside of the dream, and woke up. Cautiously, he opened his eyes...

...only to see dozens, if not hundreds, of disembodied pairs of pony eyes floating above his bed. As he watched, yet another pair of eyes sprang into existence, accompanied by another “bwop!” sound.

~ ~ ~

The philosopher might have died of a heart attack right then and there, if he did not happen to remember a passing remark Eveningstar had made to him when she was originally showing him the features of his rooms: “Legally, we can’t prevent any curious pony with the ability from scrying you remotely, but this suite has been enchanted with an illusion spell so you will know when you are being watched.” It turned out to be the creepiest illusion spell ever, sure, but it did its job.

Voltaire leapt out of bed, slapped the white cap haphazardly on his head, and started waving his arms wildly through the illusory eyes.

“Get out! Get out! Get out!” he ordered. It took a few repetitions, but eventually he got all of his watchers to leave him alone.

And that was how Voltaire knew that the Princess had officially released word of his existence while he had been asleep.

Voltaire checked the door to see if he got another present, and found the rudimentary shaving kit he had asked Rossignol for before turning in a day ago. One top of that was his watch. It took a moment for Voltaire to even remember that he had lent the object to Morningstar’s son at their last meeting. Checking it, Voltaire saw that he had plenty of time to get to the council room before the start of the meeting he had a standing invitation to. Of course, that was assuming that Cognizant had not allowed the watch to run down, but that didn’t seem to be the case: not only was the watch wound, but it appeared to have been well-oiled.

Voltaire failed to note the fact that he had never lent the watch key to Cognizant.

Voltaire wondered a bit about Cognizant while he shaved himself. He wondered how often unicorns had earth pony children, and whether there was any sense of shame attached to that occurrence. Of course, with the power wielded by the Sparkle family, it was possible that no pony dared express their disapproval. And then there was the matter of the earth pony’s lack of a cutie mark. This fact could be seen as a form of rebellion by Cognizant, a refusal to take up the family business of political domination (or magic—in this world, they were evidently one and the same). If so, then he and Voltaire already had a lot in common.

After trading his nightgown for a suit, Voltaire began to make his way down the halls and up the stairs that led to the Princess’s council room. The suit he had chosen was a bright orange in color. Among humans, it was reminiscent of some of the more desperate courtiers at Versailles, but among ponies, it seemed slightly drab. Even Voltaire’s wig was slightly orange, thanks to a jar of tinted talcum powder that the Royal Taylor had included with his clothes earlier. For a pony who knew nothing of modern human fashion a couple of days ago, Rossignol was a remarkably quick and imaginative study. (Voltaire considered that he should probably start calling her “Nightingale”, since the French version of the name made him think of Émilie too much.)

My little ponies, my little ponies, hm, hm, hm, hm, hm...

Voltaire stopped in his tracks at hearing the faint singing of Princess Celestia. He cautiously backed up and took a peek into the small room where she was standing. The Princess had her back to him, and was studying a large unrolled scroll of paper, which consisted of multiple genealogical tables. She was using her magic to wield a feather pen to add new entries to the table, with an amused look on her face.

Voltaire stepped away from the doorway and sighed. He had been trying to think of a way to accomplish the goal that he believed she and he shared, to bring her metaphorically down out of the clouds so she could be treated as a deserving mortal instead of as an implacable force of nature. Well and good for an enlightened monarch, but she certainly wasn’t helping things any on her end by referring to her subjects as “my little ponies” and maintaining breeding charts of them where anypony could see.

If he was going to get through to these ponies, if he was going to get through to the Princess, he needed a way to bypass their emotions and appeal straight to their reason. He needed something clever. He needed something imaginative. He needed something...theatrical.

With a snap of his fingers, the human significantly hurried his pace.