• 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 36

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 36

The pegasus Celestia and the invisible unicorn Blue Belle made their way beyond the city limits of Upper Canterlot and into the seedier neighborhoods of Lower Canterlot to the southwest. From the buildings that they passed, nervous equines peered out from shuttered windows. There was the sound of fast, nearly out of control carts, but always two or three streets over, never where the two ponies were walking.

Celestia stopped by the side of a dark alley, to read a sign that was posted there:

Curfew Hours

Equines: One hour after sunset

Unicorns: Only allowed outside between
four hours after sunset and four hours before sunrise

Now, assuming that this Equestria has the same sixteen-hour clock as the one I used to be princess in, Celestia thought to herself, that would mean that no unicorn would ever be allowed to go outside during the summer, because during those months “four hours after sunset” would actually be later than “four hours before sunrise”. She also noticed that the words on the sign stating this rule had been defaced repeatedly, most-recently by replacing it with “Only allowed outside when you’re dead, screwheads!

She felt a leg being tapped by a pony who wasn’t there, and looked in the direction indicated, down the alley. She couldn’t see anything but a lot of junk, but eventually she detected the sound of labored breathing. Cautiously, Celestia made her way inside, past piles of trash that had been thrown in here from the surrounding streets. Blue Belle followed, becoming more and more visible as they moved out of the public eye.

Circling around one of these piles, Celestia and Blue Belle discovered a unicorn shivering in place. He had a faint blue coat and equally faint red mane and tail. His cutie mark appeared to be a set of hooves running, but that was hard to make out, because there were lines of scars cutting through and around them. The tip of his horn had been sawed off and, by the clear liquid at its tip, it had been done quite recently. A shocked Celestia considered it a wonder that he wasn’t unconscious from the immense pain he must be feeling. He looked up hopefully at her for a moment, until he saw what breed he was facing. Then with a sigh, he kneeled his front knees and presented his neck...

...A neck that was completely covered with bruises and barely healed cuts in the shapes of an equine’s hooves.

Celestia slowly backed out of the alley, her eyes tearing.

That’s it,” she decided, “I’m not letting Her have Equestria.

~ ~ ~

Blue Belle, though, had not left the alley. She reached out a hoof in compassion. The unicorn looked at it in confusion, his mind trying to reconcile a pony that was there and not there at the same time. Then he looked up at her face.

“YOU!” he roared in sudden recognition, his face contorted with rage.

Blue Belle turned and ran, the colt dashing at her, trying to catch her tail in his teeth. She made it out of the alley, and was jerked to one side by Celestia.

The unicorn colt emerged into the light, and winced. He looked around him in panic, as windows and doors opened. He looked back into the alley, but knew that it was too late. That was until something indescribable stepped in front of him, and his potential persecutors decided that he was somepony else’s problem.

The majestic pegasus stood there and looked down at him, in a way that only unicorns had ever looked at him before. She reached out a hoof to his side. He curled into a ball, but all she did was mess up his fur.

Something changed at that moment, but he could not be sure if it was himself that changed, or the rest of the world.

The pegasus stood up and casually walked away, as if she had never seen him. Doing this revealed the existence of a muscular earth pony, who had come out of one of the doorways.

The unicorn froze. There was no way that he hadn’t been seen.

“What were you just doing?” the earth pony asked the pegasus.

“Nothing,” the pegasus said casually over her shoulder.

The earth pony looked cautiously around him. For a moment, his eyes were about to rest upon the unicorn colt, but then they just skipped past, and kept on looking.

The colt turned his head, to see that another tall pony had suddenly materialized beside him. He immediately noticed the odd trough in the fur of her side, and checked to see that the pegasus had given him an identical mark. He then looked up into the eyes of the Devil herself.

Why?” he asked, utterly stupefied.

Because I stand by my own,” Blue Belle growled back at him in a strange non-voice. Then she turned and followed the departing pegasus. “I trust you to be smart enough to know what to do with your gift.

The colt spent several seconds examining his new mark, and wondering about the way his voice no longer sounded like it was coming from him, or any other pony. He saw the ponies emerging from the houses, and how none of them saw him. He felt something then that he had never felt in his entire life. He tentatively decided to label this new emotion as “hope”.

Celestia walked into the decrepit box office of the theater where Hoofini was scheduled to perform. Walking up to the booth, she asked, “Is there any chance I can get in there early?”

The creature inside shifted its head, revealing himself to be the Diamond Dog magician Woofston. “He’s doing rehearsals right now, ma’am,” he said politely, his eyes trained on a pile of paperwork before him. “It’s exceedingly dangerous. You can go in and watch, if you sign this waiver.”

Celestia leaned down to read the extremely fine print of the waiver. “I the undersigned,” she muttered to herself as she read over it. “...in the case of my complete dismemberment? ...when the knives come to life? ...soul permanently lodged in my left hindhoof??” Her eyes flicked up, and Woofston started back, but at that moment she saw the reason for the ridiculous waiver and its tiny print: it forced an equine to lean forward so that Woofston could examine the horseshoe symbol hanging around her neck.

It was also clear that he recognized her.

The disguised alicorn signed the document with a flourish. “Celestia,” she wrote, without the “P.” in front because she wasn’t currently a reigning princess of anywhere. However, she was cheeky enough to add a comma and “Solar Mechanic” afterwards, to distinguish herself from all the other Celestias out there.

Woofston left the booth, and used a key around his neck to lock the front doors of the theater. “Follow me,” he said, bypassing the doors to the auditorium for a smaller locked door that led into a badly-lit hallway. “There is no way I’m giving up a dramatic opportunity like this!”

The unseen Blue Belle quickly followed.

~ ~ ~

The hallway appeared to lead towards the backstage area. As they walked, the diamond dog and two followers were able to hear more and more of what was going on onstage and in the auditorium: Hoofdini and the small number of ponies in the audience were calling out to each other, one at a time.

She uses her sun to make our crops grow,” a voice said.

She listens to our complaints, and makes sure that her justice is carried out throughout Equestria,” said another.

She is kind and she is sweet and she loves us all like we were her own foals,” said a rather young voice.

Celestia and Blue Belle turned a corner, and were able to look out on the audience from the darkness offstage. The earth pony magician was standing at one side of the stage, and next to him was an illusory version of Princess Celestia. Both of them were facing the audience. The illusion’s appearance was altering slightly with every statement made by the small crowd in the audience, but it appeared to be becoming more and more solid.

This is like the spell I used to recover Genevieve’s drawing,” the curtains whispered excitedly. “Only they’ve figured out how to do it without unicorn magic. They’re combining their fractured memories into a whole! Using the power of the herd to resist losing who they were.

“She is fair to all of her ponies,” Hoofdini announced to the ponies in the seats below very deliberately. “Earth pony, pegasus, unicorn, or any of the other sapient races—all are treated equally.”

Celestia nodded to herself as she recognized what he was doing: not only recreating the world as it was, but improving it as well. Well, two could play at the game of rejiggering reality.

Seeing the rather large backside of the phantom princess, Celestia grinned mischievously. Projecting her voice out into the crowd, she announced, “And no matter how much she ate, Princess Celestia never ever gained any weight.” And as she said this she strode forward, taking the place of her image.

The crowd erupted into applause, thinking this was part of Hoofdini’s magic. At least until they saw him fall prostrate at her hooves, at which point they did the same.

“Rise,” she said proudly to him and the other prone ponies, “Your princess has returned to you.”

After individually greeting each of the couple dozen ponies in the audience, Celestia was ushered backstage by the two magicians. “There’s somepony who wants to see you,” Hoofdini told her. “The pony responsible for anypony remembering you.”

He opened the door, to reveal a very surprised Prince Blueblood. He was mostly surprised because nopony should have been able to see him: he had instructed an earth pony in how to apply the “Somepony Else’s Problem” mark to his own coat.

Daddy!” Blue Belle cried in her phantom voice, springing forward to embrace him.

Oh Belle, oh Belle!” the Prince said rapturously in a similar tone. “I missed you so much. But you shouldn’t have come. You have no idea how much danger you are in.

I had to come,” she told him, tears of joy streaming down her face. “Both to talk Genevieve down, and because I had to know what happened to you.

“What did happen to you?” Celestia asked. “Your memories should have been rewritten along with everypony else’s.”

Luck, Your Royal Highness, pure luck,” Blueblood answered her, rubbing the furrows out of his and his daughter’s sides so they could more comfortably converse. “I had Hoofdini over at my apartment for a private audience that night. The crowds baying every day for my blood had gotten a bit much, and I asked him to help me remember the Canterlot of my childhood. I think it was that experience, that earth pony spell, that protected us at the precise moment when Geneveive arrived. We left my apartment to find everypony racing to do homage to their new and perpetual goddess.”

“And I am thankful that the Prince knew instantly what had happened,” added Hoofdini. “Without him, I would have lost my concentration trying to find out what was going on, and we both would have been lost.”

“How did you know what was going on?” Blue Belle asked.

“I remembered a fairy tale,” answered Blueblood, “‘The Village of Topsy-Turvy,’ which covered this exact circumstance, a fairy tale that you read to me as a foal, Princess.”

Celestia nodded. “Yes, I always like to prepare as much as possible for the once-per-generation disasters; I find that it saves time. I’ll definitely need to remember to tell that particular fairy tale much more in future, having seen this beneficial side effect.”

“How has the resistance been going?” Celestia asked.

“Not very well,” Blueblood said with a sigh. “Genevieve can most definitely see through earth pony illusions. We have been slowly recruiting non-unicorns, but the fact that there is no government makes it hard: the only person to overthrow is the goddess Herself, or her human adviser. ‘The Archbishop of Canterlot’, he calls himself. He lives in the Cathedral of the Sacred Steed.”

“Then we must have been lucky not to have met him yet,” Celestia told him. “I can only hope that Voltaire hasn’t been captured there—we left him at the Cathedral to collect information. He thinks he knows who this archbishop is. Our next course of action should be to return there, learn what Voltaire knows, and then confront the adviser.”

“I’ll gather my forces,” Blueblood said, walking towards the door.

“I’ll take care of it,” said Woofston. “You need to spend some time with your daughter.”

Celestia made her way to the door. “I’m afraid we can’t wait too much longer—I’d much rather that we were all caught together rather than separately. I’ll come back to this room in a half hour, to give you two time to say whatever you need to say in private. And as for those forces, Blueblood, realize that this will be a mental confrontation, not a physical one.”

“Understood,” the Prince replied. “And perhaps you need to realize that you sometimes need to get through a physical confrontation to get to the mental one.”

The pegasus Celestia was walking back to the Cathedral of the Sacred Steed, with pegasi comfortably spaced on either side for her to talk to. But that was only for show. In reality, she was talking with Invisible Blueblood and his invisible daughter, who were walking between the pegasi and herself.

She had already explained to Blueblood how it was only Genevieve who had the power to fix things.

Assuming that she’ll listen to reason—of which I have my doubts—then that means She’ll also be able to impose any additional changes that we can convince Her to make,” he said.

“Yes, I suppose,” Celestia said cautiously.

We could implement better representation of breeds into the Royal Guard,” he suggested.

“I already started that on the Expedition,” Celestia replied. “And I didn’t need to alter reality to do it.”

Well, we could implement better representation of breeds in the Royal Council,” said Blueblood. “Something like a Minister of Earth Pony Affairs, or perhaps an earth pony Minister of Agriculture?

Already done,” said Blue Belle. “And again, didn’t need a goddess to pull it off.

Let’s see...how about a better mix of breeds and species in Canterlot? What we have right now under Genevieve isn’t too bad—it’s one of the few good points of this reality.

Celestia said nothing for a second as she looked at the supposed unicorn breedist beside her. “Well, I can ask,” she finally said. “But the fact of the matter is, all of these equines came from somewhere, probably ripped from their homelands by divine order. There are strong historical reasons why Canterlot is so highly unicorn in nature. If you don’t intend to rip out that history, then you’re sort of stuck with the consequences.”

I know!” suggested Blue Belle. “You should take a student every generation or three, to teach your wisdom to. Then let them out into the world as your own personal envoy for change.

“Actually,” said Celestia, “that already happens to me, through no deliberate action of my own. My last one, Turquoise, died while Blueblood was still a young colt.”

Oh, I remember him!” the Prince exclaimed. “Best jester you ever had, Your Highness.

“Yes, that was back when you were...more like you are now. I noticed the way those other ponies looked at you as you made your way through the theater.”

The situation required a different Blueblood,” the unicorn explained simply.

“Perhaps we should work on devising a form of Equestrian government that does not require that other Blueblood,” Celestia said delicately as they crossed the threshold of the empty cathedral and stopped to remove their shoes. Night was falling, and the interior was poorly illuminated by flickering candlelight.

Blueblood was silent throughout this process. “Yes,” he finally said as the group began to walk down the aisle. “That would be a good suggestion.

How about rotating the location of the Summer Sun Celebration so it isn’t in Canterlot every year?” asked Blue Belle. “That way you would be aware of abuses in government much more easily.

“That would be easy enough to do,” said Celestia.

But it wouldn’t need a goddess,” added Blueblood.


What if we supplement the Council with one of those parlements that Voltaire keeps talking about?” asked Blueblood. “Make the government more responsive to the popular will.

“Ah, now that is the sort of change that would only be supported with centuries of precedent, the perfect request for a goddess. Hello, Voltaire.” They had stopped at the bench where he was sitting.

“How many houses are you thinking of?” the human asked, getting up. “I got a crash course in comparative government just from studying a couple weeks of recent griffon history. I can tell you this right off: one doesn’t work. It tends to react wildly to surges of popular opinion, leading to bad laws that then have to be cancelled by later laws.”

Well the griffons started off with two houses because of their basic split in political philosophy,” said Blue Belle.

“Wait a second,” realized Voltaire. “How many invisible ponies am I conversing with?”

“Two,” said Celestia. “The other is Blueblood.”

“Blueblood!” exclaimed Voltaire in surprise. “Well...welcome to the good fight and all that. Now to return to our discussion, the English Parliament has two houses: one for the lords, and one for everyone else. And the French, on the rare occasions of their parlement, have three houses: one for lords, one for priests, and one for everyone else. Perhaps you should also have three houses, for your three breeds of pony. I mean it’s well and good to think of the zebra and the buffalo, but if your latest census was correct, they just don’t have big enough numbers in Equestria to deserve their own house.”

We want to avoid conflict between the breeds, not encourage it by setting up antagonistic houses of government,” said Blue Belle. “Perhaps we could use the traditional governments of the breeds, but open each up to all inhabitants of Equestria. From the unicorns, a House of Lords, with the Princess encouraged to give out titles to deserving members regardless of breed or race. From the earth ponies, a House of Commons, with representation based on the city or village you live in. And from the pegasi, a House of Elders, pulled from the retired members of the Royal Guard, the Mayoralties, and several other worthy posts.

Very good!” exclaimed Archbishop Algarotti as he emerged from the shadows. “I’ll be sure to offer up that suggestion—after Our Lady has erased you all from existence.”