• 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 31

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 31

“Let me begin by reminding you of that which is before your very eyes,” said the Princess, addressing the mass of griffons before her from the dais she and the Royal Council were standing on. “This is Equestria,” she said, with a sweep of one hoof, “and I am its ruler. My council writes its laws, under my supervision, and all who live here are expected to obey those laws. The lifestyle they protect has been called ‘The Pony Way’. I have tried to make allowances to those non-ponies who choose to live within these borders, but that can only go so far. So by and large, at least in public, those of you who wish to live here will have to live as ponies.

“That means not slaughtering your prey around ponies who do not wish to see such things. That means not engaging in duels with the expectation of not being punished for it. This is a peaceful realm, and I intend for it to remain that way.

“That extends to any plans you might have for invading Griffonia to take back what you think is yours. Whatever you are planning, I don’t want to hear about it. And if any ponies are involved in this plan, they had better be doing so of their own free will.” She turned her head to address the smaller group of ponies who were standing on one side of the griffons. “And as for my ponies, I expect you to stand up against any bad examples they might provide you.” With a slight smirk at the griffons, she added, “And vice versa. If any ponies are interested in trying to repeat history, know this: history never repeats itself exactly. You will be taking the exact risk of the original Forty by forfeiting your citizenship to try your fortune in a foreign land, but know full well that your task would be much harder than the first time.

“The griffons you seek to overthrow are united instead of divided. They have already proven themselves the betters of the Orange Clan, and now they have that strength added to their own. If you are wise, you will see this as the lost cause it is, and choose one of two courses: Stay here, or return to the Griffon Republic, there to integrate yourselves into their society.” She used her magic to raise and shake a small bag of bits hanging around her neck. “If you choose the former, I am willing to provide modest stipends for each one of you, a bag of bits this big, every month for ten years, and not a single day more; you will be expected to find some way to support yourselves by the end of this time. If departure is your choice, then that is a matter outside of my control. I refer you to Citizen Perrygore here.”

“Err...yes,” said the nervous griffon in the high-collared suit with tawny feathers. “The Griffon Republic has magnanimously decided to reverse its opposition to the...um, continued existence of nobility, and is willing to admit them back within Griffonia’s border. As free and equal citizens of our great land.”

From the back of the griffon crowd, Sky Shock’s eyes boggled on seeing the Griffon Republic representative. How is he still alive? she asked herself incredulously.

A different griffon lord stepped forward. “Well, isn’t that convenient,” he observed sarcastically. “I thought you all wanted us dead.”

“The death sentence was repealed by the Legislative Assembly, leaving only the perpetual banishment,” corrected Perrygore weakly. “And as I said—”

“Yes, but why now?” asked the griffon lord. “Could it have anything to do with the three dragon clans which have invaded your lands? Or the fact that your mad leader Maximilian Peter has banished so many commoners that he has nobody left to hunt or farm for him?”

“You are misinformed,” Perrygore said, straightening his lapel. “Maximilian Peter has been banished. He had become somewhat...unstable.”

“I heard that he was banishing everyffony who had called him names in créche school,” commented Lady Whirligig.

“...That too,” answered Perrygore with a roll of the eyes. “The Republic is now ruled by a Directory of five First Citizens. We are currently negotiating with the Equestrian government for official recognition.”

“And will you grant it?” the griffon lord asked Princess Celestia.

“We are still considering the request, Lord Wind Shear,” said the Princess diplomatically.

“Translation: If one of your governments manages to last for a full six months, get back to us,” joked a pony heckler, causing a good deal of laughter from both ponies and griffons, not all of it of the comfortable kind.

Perrygore sighed. “If I may be allowed to return to the point,” he said in a lawyerly fashion. “You will find on returning to Griffonia that yes, your properties have been annexed by the State and equally distributed. You will receive your new land by lot when you apply for citizenship.”

“We will be penniless!” exclaimed Lady Whirligig.

Perrygore sighed yet again. “Please. I have done my research, and I know as well as you do how much of your fortunes you invested in Equestrian trading companies prior to the Revolution. We have settled the inflation issue, and are willing to recognize Equestrian bits at the old rate of exchange. All you lack is land, and the Republic promises a return to private property at the end of the current war, along with a relinquishing of most of its extraordinary powers. You will have your estates again soon enough, obtained fairly this time, might I add.” This remark earned him a great deal of unfriendly eagle-eye glares.

“In addition, you enjoy superior education and experience to most other griffons,” he continued. “We have established laws against discriminating by former class in job hiring, and set up a system involving a written document we’ve invented called a ‘resume’ that will ensure that jobs are filled fairly. I can tell you that this is so because we used it to select our Directors, and one of them is a pony!”

Blue Belle had a fairly good idea which particular pony it was, and scowled as a result.

“I suppose if you want to be cynical about it, you have ten years to decide,” Voltaire remarked.

Many of the griffons looked at each other and nodded.

“I still say we should bring back the good old days,” muttered Lord Whirligig. He thought he had said it softly enough so that he would not be overheard.

“You want to ‘bring back the good old days’?” said Blue Belle out loud as she stepped forward. (She had, of course, been using her father’s magic to monitor for any backtalk.) “Do you even know anymore what they were? Your royal family were a bunch of monsters, preying upon lords and commons alike in their pathological need to transform themselves into ponies.”

“Perhaps the Nativists were right,” rebutted Lord Wind Shear. “The duchy was a Pony addition to griffon society. Who says that we wouldn’t be better off with a decentralized aristocracy?”

“Have none of you studied your history?” replied Sky Shock from the back. “What the Nativists called ‘true griffon society’ was nothing more than a draconic way of life! If any of you have had the unpleasant experience of visiting one of the clanholds, you will agree with me that their way, that of family plotting against family, and member plotting with member within a family for ultimate control, is to a griffon a form of unbearable torture! Why do you think our ancestors so quickly embraced the ‘Pony Way’ so eagerly?”

“But that’s not the ‘Griffon Way’ either,” protested Lord Whirligig. “We need to get back to the flock.”

“No!” countered Leopold. “We need to correct that error of our language, once and for all. Voltaire over there reminded me of the fact that we are of two natures: eagle and lion. Eagle flocks consist of precisely two birds: father and mother. They raise their children until they are old enough to fly, then kick them out of their nest. But lions don’t live like that. Lions enjoy living in large families, from children to grandparents, all living together and caring for each other, ranked according to age and accomplishments, and as a group ranked equally to all other lion families. This grouping is called a ‘pride’, because that is the emotion that sustains it. If you look at what the commoners have done with Griffonia, especially with their new holidays and celebrations, each successive government has been groping in the dark, but they have been coming closer and closer to the perfect griffon social grouping. And what they have come up with is the pride, with perfect equality outside of the family and in the realm of law. I contend that the Griffon Republic is the true state of griffon society, what it was in the lost days before the dragons moved in to ruin our lives. That is the world I would like to move back to.”

“I will leave you to discuss this matter yourselves,” said Celestia, and she and her Council walked down from the dais.

She was just about to return her prop to Morningstar, the money bag she had used to illustrate the size of the griffon stipend, when she realized that it was gone. “Well!” she exclaimed in amused shock. “It appears that I am the victim of a robbery!”

While the Royal Guard partnered with the local police to find the thief, Citizen Perrygore was converged on both sides, by Sky Shock and Blue Belle.

“I don’t believe it!” exclaimed the griffon ex-countess. “Aren’t you Random Tally?”

Perrygore got a look of panic in his eyes, and tried in vain to find somewhere to flee to.

“Don’t worry!” she assured him. “I don’t hold you responsible for the treason trial of my father. You were clearly acting under orders from Duke Cumulous.”

“...Down to the under-winged practices I was forced to use,” he replied. “I am deeply sorry for the pain I must have caused you.”

“I’m over it,” Sky Shock said with the wave of her claw. “I’m just surprised that you managed to survive the purge of the royal family and their staff, being the Ducal Prosecutor.”

“Erm...yes,” said Perrygore. “I still am, as a matter of fact. Prosecutor for the People, that is. Not Ducal Prosecutor.”

Sky Shock looked calmly into his eyes for several seconds. “Then I guess that means you will be seeing me again in an official capacity, very soon.” She turned and walked away, gesturing idly with one claw. “You can go ahead and ask him your question now, Blue Belle,” she said before walking out of earshot.

“Well!” Perrygore exclaimed, only to find himself being sucked into the pony’s coldly inquisitive stare. “Um...can I help you?”

“Why yes, Perrygore,” Blue Belle said in a cheery but quiet voice, “Prosecutor for the People for the Directory. And private assistant to Maximilian Peter, Treasurer for the Constitutional Convention, Secretary for the Legislative Assembly, and Constitutional Analyst for the National Assembly. Not to mention your work as Random Tally, Ducal Prosecutor under the most paranoid duke in Griffonia’s history. It is an honor to finally meet you in the feathers and fur.”

Perrygore looked at her in shock. “Err...how did—“

“A perk of being the daughter of the Minister of Information,” she told him, giving him a look that he swore belonged on a griffon.

Perrygore started to look around for a means of escape for the second time that day. “Um...” he began to say, “that was all just a series of remarkable—“

Blue Belle shut him up by briefly pressing her hoof to his beak. “Very good,” she remarked quietly as she lowered it. “That ‘um’ and ‘err’ business. Very misleading.”

Perrygore became very still.

The unicorn used her magic to levitate a small rectangle of cardboard out of her satchel and into the griffon’s slightly open beak, all without breaking eye contact. “When you finally get around to a government you’re happy with, I suggest you tell K the little joke on that card. You’ll find that all kinds of doors will open for you after you do that. But do remember who gave you this little piece of advice, hmm?”

The griffon’s eyes crossed looking down at the card before him.

“To the beginning of a beautiful friendship!” she said as she trotted away.