• 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 24

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 24

“Announcing the ruler of Equestria, Her Royal Highness Princess Celestia!”

As Celestia walked onto the East Balcony, the hundreds of creatures below bowed as one. Besides the ponies, Celestia also saw several griffons and Ambassador Noir.

When they had finished bowing, the majority of the crowd looked right up at her. Looked her in the eye, with a twinkle in their own eyes. They now knew that she was a pony capable of doing anything, even messing up, and yet this revelation made them love her all the more.

The Princess felt like her heart was going to break from happiness.

“My...my subjects,” she told them, a simple spell making her gentle words audible from one end of the lawn to the other. “I have been away from your presence for quite some time now, and for that I wish to apologize. As I believe has become common knowledge, I made a mistake several hundred years ago in regards to the griffons, a mistake that led to generations of misery, that culminated in the loss of lives and the displacement of the griffon ruling class.” She took in a deep breath. “But what is done is done, and now it is time to move forward. In the wake of their revolution, groups of noble griffons have applied for sanctuary in Equestria. It is my decision to grant that sanctuary, to allow these griffons to settle in the Trottingham and Stalliongrad provinces.” She gestured toward Mayor Wheatstraw beside her. “The ponies of these provinces have informed me that they will extend every courtesy to the newcomers, but this will still be an enormous effort. I would therefore like to ask for volunteers, to travel up north and help in the construction of new homes.”

“Princess Celestia?” said the Mayor of Trottingham, stepping forward.

“Yes, Mayor?” replied the Princess.

“Will you be visiting the North yourself?”

“Yes, I intend to oversee the first two days.”

Morningstar cut off the sound magnification spell, and just in time, too.

“Two days?!” protested the Mayor. “Why only two days? Does this crisis not rate more than two days?”

The Princess confirmed the presence of a blue scroll in the Mayor’s satchel. Strange to say, the fact that it led ponies to start shouting in her face was actually considered by her to be a good thing.

“You must understand,” said Morningstar, stepping forward to defend her monarch, “that when the Princess travels for anything longer than a couple of days, she brings the whole court with her. They simply can’t stand to be out of her presence for longer than that. The ponies of the province the Princess visits supports her.”

“Which is a great honor to us!” interposed the Mayor.

“But that means they have to support the court as well. The Princess stopped month-long visits to provinces, because the commoners were driven to ruin supplying the Canterlot nobility with an endless supply of free food and luxuries.”

The Princess turned to her Chancellor. “I don’t suppose you have a solution for this, Voltaire?”

“I’m afraid not, Your Highness,” he replied. “Our royalty do the exact same thing.”

Blue Belle turned the sound system back on before stepping forward where the crowd below could see her. “Then I propose a new solution, for a new era of governance: You go alone, Your Highness, supported by the benevolence of your subjects. Any noble who wishes to follow will have to support themselves. And I volunteer to be the first to do so.” She looked around confidently at the nobleponies that surrounded her and stood below her in roped off areas on the East Lawn.

She saw that they were wavering. The Frog Princess of Fomalhaut had completely redefined what it meant to be a ruler of Equestria, and the Griffish Revolution had raised grave questions as the rights and responsibilities of being a noble. They were clearly thinking over her proposal. All they needed was a goad from the opposite direction.

“Daughter, I forbid you to do this!” declared Prince Blueblood, stepping forward.

Blue Belle thought that she had never loved her father as much as she did at that very moment.

“We nobles are too good to actually have to spend the money we extort from the masses!” Blueblood declared, continuing to stick his metaphorical hoof further and further into his metaphorical mouth. “The north is a land of the utmost savagery, where ponies actually have to pluck their food from dirt-sprung plants, instead of having them magically prepared from dragon-imported caskets of refined ingredients. By insisting that our subjects feed and pamper us at no cost to ourselves, we emphasize again and again how they will never hope to be anything like us, how they should begin to worship the ground we deign to...”

“Father, with all due respect, could you please shut the Tartarus up!

This outburst was met with a chorus of cheers and applause, a good deal of it from the nobles.

“And I do not intend merely to spend my own bits to live idly in some Trottingham inn,” Blue Belle informed them. “I will be there as a true volunteer, to contribute my magical ability, and what physical strength I possess, for the duty of assisting the northern provinces with their burdens. I will not be there to lead, unless my leadership is truly wanted.”

Voltaire stepped forward. “I have made an unexpected profit from ponies insisting on remunerating me for that silly little fable I penned,” he said, “so I believe I shall be able to accompany you as well, Your Highness. As a human, I suppose there are some physical duties I might be suited for, although I am considered rather worthless in that realm by my own people’s standards. All I can offer other than that are stories, both real and fictional, from my world to entertain the tired workers as they eat their evening meals.”

“The Sparkles shall be there,” said Morningstar. “Ready and willing to submit our talents to whoever shall be leading this mission.”

“I believe I shall be putting you and your sister in charge of the mission, as a matter of fact,” said the Princess. “I trust you to divide your duties without acrimony.”

The Sparkle sisters bowed in unison. “It shall be done,” said Eveningstar. Looking out over the crowd, she added, “anypony wishing to join our expedition, please approach me at the Observatory with a list of ways you can be of service. Know now that this trip will be open to any ponies able to pay their way, regardless of class or breed.”

Morningstar stepped forward. “Do remember to make arrangements to take care of your business in Canterlot before we go. I will not be held responsible for a magical stove left on for however long this is going to take!”

Princess Celestia sighed in satisfaction. “Once again, I’d like to thank you all for being the glowing example that leads my course. Good day, my little ponies.”

“Pardon me for asking,” Princess Celestia asked the Mayor afterwards, “but do you by any chance know of a weather pegasus named Butterbold? I ask because...”

“Princess,” the Mayor interrupted, “don’t you recognize me? I am Butterbold.”

“Oh!” exclaimed the Princess. “I’m sorry. It’s just, your family name has changed.”

“I have taken the name of my husband,” Butterbold explained.

“Then you did marry Harvest,” replied Celestia. “You made for a cute couple the last time you visited the capital.”

“I believe you are the first married mare I have encountered who has taken your husband’s name,” observed Voltaire. “I am curious as to the reason.”

“This is Voltaire,” interjected the Princess, “a visitor to our fair lands, and our new Chancellor.”

“Well!” exclaimed Mayor Wheatstraw. “For the sake of your curiosity, I will say that I did it because his family was of a higher standing than my own, and because of my immense respect for earth ponies in general.”

“Of course!” exclaimed Voltaire. “Very good reasons, very good reasons indeed! And what, purely for curiosity sake, was your maiden name?”

“Ah,” said Butterbold Wheatstraw, suddenly getting antsy. “As a matter of fact, my birth name was...Fluffykins.

Voltaire’s raised eyebrow said volumes.

An hour later, the Council met for a second time, drawn together by a dragonfire-sent message.

“Ambassador Botvinnik would like to address the Council,” the Princess told them. “But before we do, I think we have some unfinished business to settle.” She turned to Voltaire. “Chancellor,” she said, “we ended our last session with you giving yourself the duties of the Finance Minister.”

“Have you an objection with this, Your Highness?” Voltaire asked.

“I do not,” Celestia replied. “It is a position to which I believe you are uniquely suited. However, I would like to know: how will you configure the rest of your cabinet?”

“I had planned for the vast majority of Chancellor Blueblood’s positions to be retained, if their holders are willing to work under me.”

“Are there any objections?” the Princess asked the councilors.

Nopony raised a voice in protest.

“And what about Prince Blueblood?” Celestia asked. “Do you have a place for him in your cabinet?”

“Well, he had no place for me in his...” Voltaire began.

“You never asked,” said Blueblood.

“That’s right...I didn’t.” The human looked over at the folder Blueblood had placed on the table, stuffed with notes and drawings. “How does Minister of Information sound?” he asked.

“I would be honored to accept the position,” Blueblood said, inclining his head slightly. “Shall I begin fulfilling that post with a report on what’s been happening in Griffonia?”

Blueblood stepped to the front of the room and began organizing his notes.

Blue Belle took this moment to look around her. In the room were Princess Celestia and nine councilors, with Blue Belle herself as the newest of these, and Eveningstar absent to organize the volunteers for the “Northern Expedition”.

If you asked anypony in the room, they would list the ten creatures in the room.

And yet if you asked how many total creatures were in the room, they would answer “eleven”.

The reason for this was a lesser form of K’s invisibility, one that was completely impossible for a unicorn to detect.

It wasn’t even magic. K simply knew the trick of not being interesting enough to notice.

Blue Belle noticed him, because she was specifically looking for him. He was standing next to the door and also next to the dragon panel. This was a smart move because it was not known if the trick of not being interesting worked on dragons, and he was in one of the few positions that a dragon using the panel could not see.

Also, K’s trick failed when the number of ponies around him dropped to less than around six or so. That was why he had to employ his full invisibility power when he was alone with Blueblood, just in case another pony should happen to drop in on them.

He and Celestia had nodded to each other when she entered, so that was another exception.

Minister of Information Blueblood cast a simple spell on an upraised hoof, which caused objects placed underneath it to be projected as images on the wall behind him. The first such image was taken from a griffon newspaper.

“These are the griffons responsible for the deaths of the Royal Family,” reported Blueblood in a clinical tone. “They also burned down the Bakery after liberating the griffons being kept inside.”

The next image showed a large crowd of griffons watching a sinister-looking tall object in the distance. “And this is their public execution after a mock trial.” He did not allow the image to stay up long enough for anypony to identify the object.

The third image showed a new Bakery on the grounds of the old one. A large crowd was watching a stream of griffons being led into it “And here is the public imprisonment of the griffons responsible for the mock trial. Their trial was, to all appearances, a legitimate if unreasonably rushed affair.”

The fourth image was made up of three stick-figure diagrams of various griffons. “The first government of the Griffons after the overthrow of the Duchess was a National Assembly, charged with creating a constitution under which a general election could be held. The Assembly disenfranchised the nobility, and declared responsibility for the deaths of the Royal Family in order to prevent a riot.

“The riot happened anyway. The Assembly was overthrown and replaced by the second revolutionary government of Griffonia, the Legislative Assembly, which tried and executed the regicides. The populace of the Aerie turned against the Assembly, and forced an election. Before the results of the election were announced, the faction claiming to be the Constitutional Convention took over (Government #3) and, by their fair trial of their predecessors, proved their right to rule in the eyes of the griffons. They wrote up a constitution, arranged another general election, and then dismissed themselves. Thus ended the first week of the revolution.”

“Well!” declared Princess Celestia, at a loss. “These griffons appear to be short on patience at the moment.”

“Indeed,” replied Blueblood. The next image he put up showed a particularly wild-eyed griffon in a robe. “This is Maximilian Peter. He is the head of the government that has just been voted into office, the Griffon Republic, who are in fact controlled by the Sub-committee for Wise Governance. Maximilian started his term by producing a list of every griffon he believes to be too ‘pony’ to be considered loyal to the Griffon Republic. The list runs to thirty-five hundred names. Seven hundred of those griffons have already been imprisoned or exiled from the republic, a process which Maximilian has self-consciously called ‘The Culling’. There are now as many griffon commoners as nobles applying for Equestrian sanctuary.”

“I don’t anticipate that the two groups will get along very well,” said Voltaire dryly.

“What do you know of the nobles who have applied for sanctuary to the Diamond Dogs and the Dragon clans?” asked the Princess.

“The Diamond Dogs were having trouble turning away the nobility, but then they became the first state to recognize the Griffon Republic, which led the griffon nobles to leave en masse. A good thing, because they had nearly succeeded in eating their hosts out of house and home. The griffon commoners are willing to work for their food, and so have been welcomed.

“Of the dragon clans, only the Orange accepted refugees, and only nobles. They have armed them with cake and pie, and allowed them to cross the border with these weapons to attempt to take their land back.”

“What happened?” asked Princess Celestia.

“The griffon peasantry have taken the radical position that getting hit by conventional weaponry is not actually debilitating,” Blueblood said guardedly.

The Council gasped in unison. Well except for Voltaire, whose opinion of being hit by a pie was similar to a griffon peasant’s.

“What about the situation outside of the Aerie?” asked the Princess.

Blueblood projected a map of Griffonia. “The area to the south, on the border with the Orange Clan, is more conservative than the capital. There have been several attempts to put a dubious claimant forward to restore the Dukedom. He has been defeated four times, but has not yet been captured.

“There have been numerous conflicting claims to the land owned by the griffon nobility. Each of the governments have granted the land to their supporters and taken it away from their enemies. As a result, there are constant fights over every hoof of land in the entire realm.

“In short, the Griffish Revolution has turned in on itself.”

There were a million questions that Voltaire would have asked at this point if he was the ruler of Equestria. The last question he would have asked, however, was the question the Princess asked instead, with a level of earnestness that utterly baffled the human:

“What’s the weather been like?”

Blueblood put up a maretesian graph that he was particularly proud of, showing the daily high temperature in the Aerie since the days of the Bakery Crisis. The graph sloped sharply downward, and was now a dozen degrees below freezing.

“That graph says everything that needs to be said,” commented the Princess sadly. “There is no need for our intervention whatsoever. It appears that the griffons are not the only ones that are taking matters at an accelerated rate.”

The ponies all nodded grimly at this pronouncement.

Voltaire, meanwhile, looked at the Council and its wise ruler like they had all just taken leave of their senses.

True, the griffons will all be frozen solid in another week if you project the trend into the future, Voltaire thought to himself. But Equestrian weather doesn’t work that way, right? Right? “If, um, that is the opinion of the Council,” he said in confusion, “I believe we are finally ready for the Orange Clan ambassador.”

Prince Blueblood silently levitated a piece of parchment over for Princess Celestia to examine. It did nothing to improve her mood. “Very well,” she said in reply to Voltaire, waving a hoof over the control panel. “Ambassador, are you available?”

“I am,” said Botvinnik, with a somber look on his face. His periwig was conspicuously absent. “I wish to protest Equestria’s inaction in the wake of this crisis.”

The Princess leaned forward. “And I wish to protest, on the strongest terms, your arming of the griffon nobility. The Non-Intervention Pact of 6703 prohibits unilateral intervention in any of the three governments of Equestria, Draconia or Griffonia.”

“Yes,” the Ambassador replied, “but one of those three states no longer exists, thereby obligating the two survivors to take any means necessary to bring Griffonia back into existence.”

“That clause was designed for the case of foreign invasion,” said the Princess. “This is an internal matter.”

“This is an abomination!” cried out the dragon. “Putting the base-born over the refined classes is a violation of the Natural Order, and must be crushed immediately! As a matter of fact, the Orange Clan has done far more than equip the griffon nobles with pies and cakes. Our cloaked army of dragons has already crossed the border, armed not only with magic, but with sticks and stones as well!”

The reactions of the pony councilors to the revelation of this armament escalation rather resembled eight simultaneous heart attacks. Voltaire, on the other hand, remained as impassive as Celestia.

“Our secret army will enter the Aerie in a matter of hours!” bragged Botvinnik. “We plan to topple the false government of the rabble, and re-order matters to our satisfaction.” He smirked in satisfaction. “If you are quick in bringing in your own army, we might consider giving you a piece in the inevitable partitioning of Griffonia!”

“This is intolerable!” the Princess yelled. “You cannot just take the role of arbiter of nations into your claws without a clear precedent!”

“All of Griffonia was once part of Draconia! How’s that for precedent!”

Celestia snorted. “By those same grandiose claims, so is Equestria.”

“So it is,” observed Botvinnik with a superior air. “So it is.”

“I cannot allow you to get away with this,” Celestia warned him.

“And what precisely are you going to do?” Botvinnik replied. “By the time you fly to the Aerie, it will already be in Dragon hands! And we know your limitations—you cannot teleport that far, and in the wake of your collapse, you lack the strength to hop-teleport there any faster than you can fly. Your most powerful unicorns were using up their magical reserves by raising the sun for you, so they will also be utterly worthless under the circumstances. Admit it, Celestia, I've finally made a move even you cannot counter! Not without endangering the lives of thousands!”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Celestia replied.

Voltaire saw the Princess put on a smile, a smile that he was sure haunted the dreams of all of those who tried and failed to pull one over on the Sun Princess of Equestria.

“You are correct that neither I nor my unicorns can teleport straight to the Aerie,” said the Princess. “But these are not the only ponies who are capable of warning the griffons of the conquering army. I merely need to promote one of my pawns, like so.

And with that, she fired a blinding beam of magical energy at the corner of the room, a corner that to all but three individuals in the room, seemed utterly devoid of ponies.

Woo-hoo!” cried out a mysterious voice, a voice that seemed to distort at the end, like it was being pulled out of the normal realm of space and time.

Prince Blueblood face-hoofed. “You are taking full responsibility for doing that, Princess.”

Author's Note:

Chapters 23 and 24 (which were released on the same day) were accompanied by the blog post "Today's Panic Attack is Sponsored by the Letter 'K'".