• 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 23

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 23

Author’s Note #1

By Royal Order 1895, the full name of the pony identified in this narrative as “K”, as well as the names of all of his ancestors and descendants, shall be obscured until the end of time. All identifying descriptions of these ponies shall be expunged from all publicly accessible documents.

Blue Belle awoke to the sight of golden sunlight streaming through the curtains of her apartment.

This meant that she had overslept.

Today would be the day of the first Royal Council session after Celestia’s recovery. Blue Belle had hoped to have a little quiet moment in private with her father before the moment she’d very publically throw him under the carriage of her righteous rage for his reprehensible policies against the griffons. She just wanted him to be absolutely sure where she stood.

“Nothing personal, Daddy. Now which pair of ribs would you like me to insert the stiletto blade between?” You know...like that.

Instead he had left without her. Left without waking her. As if the excuse of accidentally sleeping though his humiliation would be accepted by anypony.

The filly quickly brushed her coat with her magic and carefully planted her periwig on her head before racing out the door.

She’d find time for eating later.

~ ~ ~

She arrived at the Council chamber a full half-hour early. Standing apart from the members of the Council was a tall bright yellow pegasus with an orange mane and the cutie mark of...the most adorable rattlesnake that the unicorn had ever seen. Blue Belle supposed that she was the witness that had been requested for the refugee issue.

For the councilors, the center of attention was Voltaire’s black eye; he had even chosen his ensemble to have the maximum color contrast against it. Every councilmember present wanted to know how he got it, but he stubbornly refused to say.

Only one councilmember was missing: Prince Blueblood. “He hasn’t arrived yet,” said Voltaire quietly, without a trace of resentment in his voice.

Blue Belle nodded, looking away. “I think I know where he is, then,” she said.

The pegasus Pensive Thought stepped forward. “Shall I go with you?” he asked.

“No, I’m fine,” the unicorn said over her shoulder as she walked way.

It was only later that she realized that Pensive Thought had been the only councilmember left to be wearing a robe instead of a wig.

~ ~ ~

There were, as a matter of fact, two different ways to get from the Blueblood apartment to the Council chamber. One of them was much shorter than the other, and that was the route that Blue Belle had taken. But on a day like today, there was every reason to take the longer, more private path, so now she was taking that path back from the Council Chamber, in hopes of finding her father.

As Blue Belle approached an intersection, she picked up the sound of a lone voice, her father’s voice, talking to itself. Blue Belle stopped in her tracks, and listened intently for a few seconds, until she was absolutely sure that her father was carrying on half of a conversation where the other party was inaudible. Then she smiled like a foal and started galloping for the corner.

When she reached it, she used a spell she had recently mastered that spontaneously changed a pony’s positioning and momentum. It wasn’t teleportation (the spell above all that she wished she could master), but it was a pretty good second.

Using that spell meant that she was barreling towards her father at full speed, giving him no time to get out of the way. She saw how his head and eyes were inclined towards his right in the moment before he looked up at her in shock. She continued her trajectory for a direct collision course towards him and then, at the last possible second, cast the Shift Direction spell again, to cause her to crash into the empty space to Blueblood’s right, and to topple an invisible something to the ground.

Blue Belle climbed up the invisible hill and started hopping up and down in excitement. “Uncle K! Uncle K! Uncle K!” she cried out gleefully.

“Uncle is right!” replied a disembodied voice. “Uncle! Uncle!”

Blue Belle hopped down and stood, staring at the nothingness with eager eyes.

There was a slight shimmer in the air, and suddenly an earth pony was lying on the ground who hadn’t been visible a second ago.

“The colors! The colors!” he cried out, looking around him wildly.

Blueblood put a hoof on his shoulder to calm him. “It’s just the visible light spectrum, old friend,” he said. “Do you remember that?”

“I...think so,” Uncle K replied cautiously.

Blue Belle rushed forward and hugged him. “It’s been so long!” she cried out, her muzzle buried in his side. “I started wondering if you were real, or if you were just a pooka or a deer.”

Uncle K laughed. “Silly filly!” he exclaimed. “There’s no such thing as deer!”

The smile suddenly left the filly’s face. “You are an earth pony, right?”

“That’s right,” Uncle K said with the trace of a grin on his face.

“You’re not hiding your horn?”

The pony responded by kneeling on his front knees. “I dare you to find it if I have it,” he said.

Blue Belle reached forward hesitantly and tapped the earth pony’s forehead with her hoof, eliminating any possibility that there was an invisible horn.

“But...” she protested. She lifted a hoof and gestured a circular path around her. “Walk around me.”

Grinning mysteriously, Uncle K did as he was told. He walked all the way around the filly, lifting his hooves high with each step...and making no sounds whatsoever.

He had hooves. Blue Belle made sure of that by grabbing one and examining it. She then rapped it on the ground, still it didn’t make any sounds.

“That...that...that...that shouldn’t be possible!” she exclaimed. “No earth pony works that way!”

“Not normally...no,” said Blueblood.

Blue Belle was struck by yet another wrenching shift in perspective. Shift Direction, she realized, had something in common with every other spell she was naturally good at: it was an alteration spell. And her father was the best Alteration mage in Equestria. But he wasn’t casting those spells on himself...

Blue Belle gasped as turned on her father. “You made him this way!” she exclaimed.

“That’s only a partial answer,” Blueblood replied. “It would be more accurate to say my whole family made K’s whole family into what they are.”

“The perfect spies,” Blue Belle said in awe. She quoted her father’s words back to him: “Information is the fountainhead of control.”

“And our family has had a hoof in the affairs of Equestria since before there even was an Equestria,” he replied. “When your political rivals get clever enough to outwit every one of your unicorn tricks, it makes good sense to pick the least-regarded of the other breeds of pony, and find out what kind of tricks they are capable of...given more magic than they know what to do with. That reminds me, Daughter: don’t cast any powerful spells around K. He’s so fully charged now that any more magic might make him something other than a pony.”

Blue Belle looked incredulously at Uncle K. He did seem to sort of vibrate subtly in the light, like he was on the verge of rocketing through the stone ceiling and on into the sky. “And what is your opinion?” she asked him out of curiosity. “Do you mind what he has done to you?”

“Are you kidding?” K asked incredulously. “I’m a super-pony! I can do things ordinary ponies can only imagine. There are no secrets, anywhere that anypony can keep that I can’t figure out. And I’ve seen more of the world with my own eyes than the Princess will see in a million years.”

“K’s exaggerating,” said Blueblood. “He can’t read Princess Celestia’s mind.”

Blue Belle blanched. That denial was way too specific for her tastes. She began thinking furiously about math problems.

Blueblood walked in front of his daughter and spy and began walking towards the Council chamber. “K has been scoping out the situation in the Aerie for me.” He gestured towards a thick folder in his saddlebags.

Blue Belle was suddenly brought out of her funk. “What was it like?” she asked hesitantly.

For just a moment, the filly saw a flash of primal terror in the earth pony’s eyes as he thought back. But his final verdict was this: “What a rush!”

Translator Note #1 (replacing the much-longer Author Note #2):

Ponies take trans-breedism very seriously.

Imagine what the first people to read Frankenstein, the first people to see the stage play, and the first generation to watch the original movie, thought of the idea of bringing the dead back to life.

Now multiply that revulsion by a hundred-fold.

That’s what the average pony feels when they imagine taking a pony of one breed and trying to give them traits that belong to another breed.

It is an extremely irrational reaction. Even in the era when this story was set, trans-breed marriages were tolerated, and it was common knowledge that even the purest of pure-breed couples still stood a good chance of giving birth to a different breed of foal. Never mind the fact that not only the author, but virtually every pony in Equestria, knows at least one pony that doesn’t fit the abstract definition of their breed.

Despite all of that, for the vast majority of ponies the breed that they are born into is something sacred, as sacred as the cutie mark.

Pegasus, Earth Pony, and Unicorn foals each have their own unique rituals associated with growing up, and a shared identity as a member of their breed that overlaps with and in some circumstances overrides the loyalties and emotions tied to family.

So therefore you might understand that the tone of this chapter was completely different in the original Equine. It read like nothing so much as an Afterschool Special. Prince Blueblood was a black-hearted villain, K was a quivering victim, and Blue Belle was the outraged voice of the pony reader. It took a great deal of research to prove my gut feeling that not only the Bluebloods, but K himself, had a completely different attitude towards the subject, which I hope I have faithfully portrayed.

When the three ponies (well, two ponies as far as anypony could see) returned to the antechamber, Blueblood stood still for a second to take in the sight of his political rival. Then he calmly strode forward to meet Voltaire, rose on his hind legs, and gently laid a hoof over the black eye. “A perfect match, wouldn’t you say?” he asked snidely, before dropping back down to all fours. “You should think twice about this griffon vote if you don’t want a matched set.” He then walked into the empty chamber.

Pensive Thought tried to join him, but was jostled out of the way by Wig Party ponies.

Voltaire nodded in satisfaction. As he had expected, Blueblood had managed to turn even a haymaker punch from his daughter into a strike against him, without managing to lie. If ponies failed to remember that a bruise was always bigger than the object causing it, well, that was their loss, right?

“Please wait here until you are called,” he said to the yellow pegasus.

“Y...yes sir,” she replied, intimidated, for once in her life, at encountering a creature taller than her.

A few minutes later, Princess Celestia arrived in the chamber.

“I’m afraid we’ll have to make this brief,” she said curtly. “The East Lawn area is currently full to bursting with ponies wishing to see me after my being away for so long, and I wish to use that opportunity to announce the government’s united position on the Griffon question.” She looked down at the surface of the table before her. “You will hear me apologize for my absence, but let me begin by apologizing to you.” She raised her head to look them in the eyes. “I am sorry for dropping the governmental reins during one of its worst crises. I shall endeavor to work night and day to catch up on everything that has been missed.”

Blueblood stepped forward and bowed before his Princess. “You will find, Your Royal Highness, that the vast majority of that business has already been taken care of.”

“I thank you for that, Chancellor Blueblood, but the matter of your actions during my absence brings up a rather unpleasant subject.” Celestia used her magic to produce a small scroll, which she unrolled before her. “I have here your plans to force seven hundred of our subjects to leave our homeland. Physically, they are griffons, but the vast majority of them have been Equestrian for at least two generations. They have shown no inclination that they are opposed to our Equestrian ways and have proved on innumerable occasions that they treasure their pony friends as much as their griffon friends and family. Is there anything, Prince Blueblood, anything at all, that you can say to refute this?”

Prince Blueblood bowed his head. “No, Your Highness.”

“You take full responsibility for the actions of this government in my absence in regards to the griffons?”

“Yes, Your Highness.”

“Very well.” Princess Celestia sighed deeply. “Prince Blueblood, you are hereby dismissed from your position as my chancellor.”

Blueblood bowed even lower, touching his horn to the ground. “Yes, Your Highness,” he said, and backed away.

“Councilor Voltaire, come forward. Do you accept the position as my chancellor, to carry out my wishes as you see fit?”

“I do, Your Highness,” said the human, bowing gracefully.

The Princess leaned forward. “Wh...what happened to your eye?”

“A harmless bit of pony-on-human violence. It’s quite encouraging, actually. I was beginning to think Equestria was too good to be true again.”

Celestia smiled enigmatically. “Chancellor, for your first order of business, I request a resolution to the matter of the griffon nobles seeking sanctuary in Equestria. Do you need to make a presentation?”

“The facts of the matter are well-known to everyone in this room, yourself even more than us, Your Highness,” said Chancellor Voltaire. “I would like, however, to ask the opinion of one who will be directly affected by this decision: Mayor Wheatstraw of Trottingham.”

“A wise move,” said Princess Celestia. “I believe I passed her on the way in. Please admit Mayor Wheatstraw.”

The tall pegasus was ushered into the council chamber. She bowed low before them. “Your Highness. Councilors. How may I be of service?” she asked.

“Mayor Wheatstraw, the nobles of neighboring Griffonia wish to apply for sanctuary. If accepted, they would need to be housed in your province, as well as the neighboring province of Stalliongrad. Do you have any reservations to note for the official record before we render our decision?”

The Mayor was taken aback. “Well,” she replied after a moment’s thought, “I would like to have it put on the record that we welcome anyffony who is in need of our hospitality. Our region has a major part in the special relationship you have with the griffons, and we will not repudiate that legendary friendship, not now when it will be tested the most!”

The others in the room applauded briefly at the passion exhibited by this speech.

~ ~ ~

The Mayor was sent to the East Balcony, there to await the arrival of the Princess. Afterwards, the matter of accepting the refugees was raised to a vote and passed.

“It is well and good for you to decide to help these nobles,” Prince Blueblood said acidly, “but how will you pay for it?”

“I’m glad you asked,” replied Voltaire, pulling a scroll out of his handbag and unrolling it for the new Leader of the Opposition. “I performed a thorough investigation of the royal finances over the past few days, and have discovered quite a few irregularities. For instance, did you know that every one of your ancestors’ assistants siphoned funds out of the royal treasury?” He put a hand to his chin in thought, saying, “Not Pensive Thought, however—either he’s the first honest assistant your family has ever employed, or he discovered that there simply wasn’t anything left to steal.”

“Hey, I’m right here!” protested Pensive Thought.

Nopony noticed him.

Voltaire unrolled the scroll a little further, saying, “I have here a list of twenty-three estates built with stolen funds that will revert to the crown as soon as I get the necessary paperwork put through. That will easily double our annual income. And here are my proposals for taking better care of the ponies’ money going forward.” Voltaire was completely unaware that he had unconsciously assumed the attitude of his father as he was giving this report.

“Give me that,” Blueblood said with some annoyance as he levitated the scroll towards himself and started examining it. “I suppose this means you’ve assumed the duties of Finance Minister on top of being Chancellor. Now here, right here! What sort of human chicanery is this? You’re going to begin charging ‘compound interest’ on all government loans. What in Tartarus is compound interest?!

Voltaire’s answering grin was one of the most chilling things ever seen in the council chamber’s history.

The Princess stepped around the table to confront them. “Well, gentleman and gentlepony, if we have settled matters to your mutual satisfaction, I need to greet my subjects.”

The members of the Council bowed, and then followed the Princess out the door, in strict order of precedence: Chancellor Voltaire was the first after the Princess, while Leader of the Opposition Blueblood was last.

As he was leaving, the Prince looked briefly at a seemingly empty corner of the room, as if he were listening to a voice only he could hear. “Stay here,” he then muttered under his breath, before finally leaving the not-so-empty room.

Translator Note #2 (replacing another sanctimonious Author Note):

Royal Order 1895 was the direct result of the article “Who Guards the Guardians?”, written by ace reporter Firefly II in the Year 6926. The article did not name the unicorn and earth pony families tied together by a “dark legacy of transbreeding,” but it didn’t take a genius to identify the unicorns as the Bluebloods.

Unsurprisingly, they were far too politically entrenched to be given more than a slap on the pastern.

The treatment afforded the “victims” of this crime, the “J” family, demonstrates in full the dangers of even a benevolent autocracy. Every trace of the family, as mentioned above, was removed from the public record. And I do mean every trace. Novels with characters based on them were bought up and removed from existence. Bribes and...more persuasive means...were used to ensure that any who knew of this family’s existence forgot all about them. And the members of the “J” family were plucked out of Canterlot and relocated to who-knows-where. Once again, I am being literal. Nobody knows where they went to, not even Celestia. Especially Celestia. She could encounter ”J”s on a daily basis, and she wouldn’t know it. I’ve heard rumors that she performed psychic surgery on herself. And all of this, because the members of this family, at least those born earth ponies, are not, in the strictest sense, pure earth ponies at all.

This is one of the reasons why I smile wryly whenever I encounter humans convinced that Equestria is a perfect paradise compared to Earth.

Author's Note:

The gap in time between Chapters 22 and 23 was filled by a brief in-character excuse here.