• 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 13

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 13


Voltaire arrived at the antechamber of the Royal Council Room to find the council waiting outside, while a children’s chorus was singing inside. Passing him on the way out, he saw the Royal Tailor, Nightingale Needlepoint, talking with a stallion unicorn. This unicorn had a black coat and a gray mane. His cutie mark was a multifaceted diamond. He was showing her some gems, and she was giggling. Was this the same Nightingale Needlepoint, Voltaire asked himself, who had raised his voice three octaves while fitting him for his trousers?

“Well, that was fast,” Eveningstar said to no one in particular. “The Princess only introduced them to each other for the first time last night.”

Voltaire thought back to the sight of the Princess with her genealogical diagrams. He wisely decided not to say anything.

Voltaire then turned to address the closest pony to him, who happened to be Morningstar. Pointing at the closed door and the singers beyond, he asked, “Did something start before I got here?”

Morningstar replied with an angry glare.

As far as angry glares from a female went, it was at the level where you needed to begin thinking seriously about changing all of your locks, but not quite up to the level where you needed to defenestrate yourself to escape from her righteous wrath.

Voltaire had been in this sort of situation before on Earth. Most of the time, the reason for the stare was completely irrelevant, like “because waffles” or “how could you not know she was my sister?” Still, if only for statistical reasons, he made a mental note to discover what Morningstar thought he had done to deserve that stare, as soon as asking the question would no longer lead him to discover what else a unicorn’s horn was capable of doing.

Meanwhile, Eveningstar decided to answer Voltaire’s question. “You’re not the center of the universe, Voltaire,” she said. “Ambassador Botvinnik* of the Orange Dragon Clan woke up yesterday, so the Celestial Foal’s Chorus is serenading him. Considering what we’re about to do to him, we thought to soften him up first.”

* Translator’s Note: “Botvinnik” is the name of a green shrub that only grows in Draconia. The dragons consider it to be a “brain food”—like most such foods, the baby dragons that are forced to eat it hate it with a passion. Ponies have a version of this name that they can actually pronounce, but I’ll be using the dragon version here.

Voltaire took a few seconds to decide what to say in response to what Eveningstar had just said. “But I am the center of the universe!” would probably not be a good first choice.

Morningstar decided to take this moment to speak to him...or perhaps a better phrase to use would be growled at him. “You’re late,” she said, levitating a scroll into the air. From the extra second she spent glaring at him before sending the scroll his way, she made it clear that his tardiness was not the reason she was mad at him.

“I’m sorry,” he said, taking the scroll.

That wasn’t going to be good enough.

“I’m also sorry to say that I can’t read Equine yet, so I’ll have to get to this later,” he said as he tucked the scroll into his coat. It made for a very obvious bulge.

Voltaire made a note to get some sort of traveling bag similar to the ones he just now noticed all the ponies were wearing. Bags that they in fact had probably been wearing since the very first moment he had ever seen them.

Voltaire had a habit of missing the obvious sometimes.

“No,” Morningstar said with an annoyed sigh, “you can’t read it later. That scroll lists everything you need to know before your first Royal Council meeting, but I can boil it down to two points. Point #1: Never remind the Princess of her immediate family.”

Voltaire noticed that all of the ponies in the room nodded at that statement, some grimly, and others with looks of near-terror in their eyes. “I already know that rule from personal experience,” he said.

“Point Numb...wait, from personal experience?” asked Morningstar. “And you still have all of your hair?”

“Well it’s under the wig, but you’ll have to take my word for it when I say ‘yes’.”

“Hmm...” mused Morningstar. With a flash of her horn, she caused a dome of purple light to surround the two of them that completely blocked out all outside sounds. “Point number two is the current political situation,” she told him. “You can have the simple version...or the truth.”

Voltaire tapped idly on the barrier, and noted that rang like a bell when it was struck. It also distorted light passing through, making it impossible to read lips through it. “Well, I’ll take the truth of course. Since when did I rate high enough with you to deserve that?”

“You still have all your hair,” Morningstar replied, before taking a big breath.

~ ~ ~

Alright, first of all (said Morningstar), know that Equestria is the dominant political power in the known world. The only beings who could possibly challenge our hegemony are the dragons. Luckily for us, they have a general dislike for authority, spend much of their adult lives asleep, and spend most of their waking years accumulating the treasures for their hoards and scheming to steal each other’s treasures. The few times when they have been united behind a decisive leader, they have made for very dangerous foes, thanks to their craftiness and ability to carry out plans for decades before their purposes become clear.

Each dragon owes its allegiance to a clan of between a dozen and several hundred members. The clans are named by colors, but each clan is made up of dragons of different colors, so the names must have some additional meaning. Unfortunately, dragons tend to hoard knowledge as much as possessions, so whatever that meaning was, we ponies would have had to figure it out without getting anything useful from asking the dragons themselves.

I was one of the first ponies to work out a plausible explanation. Most dragons appear to see colors when they hear or say certain words. The largest dragon clan close to the Equestrian border is the Orange Clan, and I believe that the word “courage”, among others, is orange to dragon eyes.

~ ~ ~

Dragons can get quite enormous, and frequently need creatures that are closer to pony-sized for transportation, communication, and spying purposes. Their preferred creature in these cases is the griffon.

Voltaire quickly confirmed at this point that a griffon was indeed the mythological creature he had been thinking of, with the foreparts of an eagle and the hindparts of a lion.

Under dragon domination for centuries, the griffons came to resemble them socially, being made up of multiple feuding clans led by rival members of their extensive royal family.

In 6418, Thunderwing, a member of a younger branch of the griffon royal family, fled from capture and appealed directly to the Princess from the Equestrian border for sanctuary. After much reflection, the Princess granted that sanctuary, thereby changing the course of griffon history. Thunderwing became so respected in his adopted home of Trottingham that forty ponies relinquished their Equestrian citizenship to become his followers when he returned to Griffonia. Over the next few years, Thunderwing raised a griffon army and subdued or allied with every one of the clans, until he ended up as sole ruler of the land. His descendants in the female line have ruled the griffons ever since.

By 6746, the griffons had become powerful enough to interfere successfully with dragon politics, in the matter of the Diamond Dogs.

~ ~ ~

Nopony knows exactly where the Diamond Dogs come from. The dragons claim to have created them, but we know for a fact that they are not capable of that kind of magic. In any case, the Dogs were slaves of the Orange clan for the entirety of their known existence. They were used to mine for gems when this could not be accomplished by dragon brute strength, or when it was highly dangerous.

In the year 6740, a group of Diamond Dogs led by Goliath turned against the dragons and declared their independence. It was a long-fought war, and the Dogs would have been triumphant over the Orange Clan, but then that clan signed a temporary alliance with the neighboring Purple Clan, and all seemed lost.

That was when Duchess Praiseworthy of the Griffons decided to commit her country’s resources to the side of the Diamond Dogs, as a way of revenging herself on the dragons for their centuries of snubs. The griffon army made life so miserable for the Purple Clan that they decided to back out of their alliance, and the Orange Clan was forced to accept the liberation of the Diamond Dogs five years ago, ending the war.

~ ~ ~

“What did Equestria do during this war?” asked Voltaire, as the doors of the council room were finally opened.

“Equestria has a long-standing policy of never interfering with anything that happens outside its borders,” Morningstar replied, as the rest of the councilors made their way into the room. “As the case of Thunderwing’s followers shows, individual ponies have been willing to act internationally, but only after permanently severing their ties with Equestria. Many ponies fought for the Diamond Dogs. The Griffon army included descendants of the Forty. And, I’m ashamed to say, some of the crack pie squads of the Orange Clan were made up of pony mercenaries.”

“So,” Voltaire said after a moment reviewing what he had just learned, “in what way does what you just told me differ from the so-called ‘simple version’?”

“In that version,” Morningstar replied, “dragons are but a laughable threat to Equestria, and no pony has ever fought for the dragons or on the wrong side in any war. Of course, that’s assuming that the Diamond Dogs were the right side.”

“How could fighting for your freedom ever be the wrong side?”

“They’re a race that has no concept of aristocracy,” Morningstar said grimly. “They offer up a terrible example to peasants everywhere.”

Only then did she drop the privacy spell.