• 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 4

The Best of All Possible Worlds

Chapter 4

“Are you sure you can’t come in with me?” a nervous Genevieve asked Zody outside the door of Princess Celestia’s daytime audience chamber. “Maybe I should have worn a dress.” Around her neck, she was wearing the gray and frayed satchel she had owned before Zody had given her his present. She had also managed to recover the embroidery patch of the pencil drawing the globe and glued it on, but she made sure to have the satchel turned so that was not visible. No need to make things even worse for herself than they already were, after all.

“Mother and Aunt Morningstar forbid me to get involved, and that includes going in with you,” the colt told her sadly. “Don’t worry, though—everything will be fine. Just tell Princess Celestia the truth. The Princess always knows when she’s being lied to.” He looked over at Blue Belle, who was standing with her father on the other side of the hall. She was wearing a dress so frilly that her face was practically invisible. “And I don’t think you have to worry about the dress, either,” he added with a grin.

“I re-did the drawing from memory,” the jenny said, unrolling a large piece of paper that had been standing next to her. “What do you think? I had to copy the Princess from Chiaroscuro’s official portrait, just like Blue Belle said I would. Should I even bother showing it to the Princess?”

The inanimate details of the new portrait, Zody noticed, were not too different from the drawing that he had seen the day before. The guards, however, looked much more cruel and forbidding than he had remembered them being previously.

“You can give her the drawing once this matter is resolved between you and Blue Belle,” Genevieve’s father told her. He was using his hooves to comb through his daughter’s coat and mane, trying to work out all the snags. “Now I want you to listen to me very closely,” he said, gently drawing his daughter’s face so they were looking eye to eye. “The ponies in there are all doing you a great favor by taking time to decide this matter instead of leaving it to the court system. When we enter the room, you will wait in the back until the herald calls for you. You will speak only when spoken to, and try not to say more than you need to. Be on your best behavior, and this will all turn out all right. Do you understand?”

Genevieve looked up at her father with a worried expression, and nodded once, not saying anything.

At that moment, the doors of the audience chamber opened.

“Genevieve,” her father said, “follow closely after me...”

~ ~ ~

Genevieve found a spot in the back of the enormous room, near the Celestial Chorus. A few minutes later, she was joined by Blue Belle.

“Smile,” the unicorn told her through clenched teeth. “The Princess is watching.”

The donkey looked up and saw Princess Celestia visually scanning the crowd, so she smiled. It wasn’t much more genuine than Blue Belle’s.

“You know I’m going to win this,” Blue Belle told her, her tone utterly contradicting the sweet look on her face as she faced forward. “Nopony’s ever going to believe the word of a donkey against that of a unicorn. And think of what the Princess saw—you struck me first. The penalty for striking a noblepony is banishment for life.” She glanced over to see that her words were having the desired effect on her enemy. “Your father will have no choice but to follow you. So you’ll not only be ruining your own life, but his as well. There’s only one thing you can do—turn around and run away, before the Princess has the chance to question you. I’ll make sure that all that happens is that your father loses his job, and both of you will be able to stay in Canterlot. What do you think?”

Genevieve thought this plan was rotten, because Blue Belle couldn’t be trusted, and because Princess Celestia would still want to punish her for ruining her celebration. She needed to escape, yes, but much further away than she could ever get on her hooves...

~ ~ ~

Princess Celestia looked out over the crowd of officials and petitioners before her, and smiled at seeing the young donkey and Prince Blueblood’s daughter standing side by side, broad grins on both of her faces. Next to them was a roll of paper larger than they were. Ah, to be young! she thought to herself, causing her to smile briefly. Her chancellor, Prince Blueblood, noticed this unscheduled display of affection and scowled.

Behind the foals, a chorus sang a quiet hymn in praise of Princess Celestia’s existence.

The ponies that were speaking to Princess Celestia all spoke on bended knees.

The expression of every pony facing Princess Celestia was beatific, no matter how little sleep they had gotten the night before.

And once again, nopony looked Princess Celestia in the eye, because none of them thought they were worthy.

Princess Celestia hated it. She hated it all. But there simply was no other way of ruling.

Well there was another way that Celestia knew of, but she didn’t like it. The male way of ruling, the way practiced by the dragons and their allies. Rule through conquest. Rule through bullying. Rule through terror.

In Celestia’s court, an official who committed a grievous act, somepony who deliberately acted against the interests of Equestria, could expect at worst a public humiliation before the Princess before being dismissed. In the dragon courts, however, they preferred blood sports to mind games.

So no, the way Celestia was treated as a princess was not the worst way to go. But there had to be a better way.

Celestia at that moment, standing perfectly still except for her flowing mane, her body glowing exactly as much as her subjects expected of her, wished for change, wished for an escape.

And, an instant later, she came to regret that wish, when she realized that there was one more pony watching her than she could see in the room.

After using her magic to seal the doors, Celestia silently started pondering who it might be who could be spying on her, even as she carefully reached out with her magic for more information. It was no longer a challenge for her to do this sort of thing without being noticed by the unicorns in the room. After all, she had to have something to do while being subjected to endless speeches. Nevertheless, whoever was spying on her was managing to do it with a form of magic she had never encountered before. She made a note to congratulate her or him on this feat, after foiling whatever nasty scheme she or he was up to, of course.

The list of possible eavesdroppers included Lunar Republic cultists (unlikely that they could be this subtle), Discordians (she didn’t even want to think about that possibility, remote as it was), and spies from the Orange Dragon Clan (also unlikely, since the Princess already knew who their spy was, and was keeping him quite happy with a steady stream of misinformation). Celestia hoped it wasn’t Janus. Janus was quite a pain, and He couldn’t even be properly disciplined, as the Princess still needed to be on good terms with the boy’s mother. With any luck, He’d get through adolescence in another three hundred years and then stop caring about mortals so much.

She was about to start on the second tier of suspects when her quarry decided to forfeit the game by materializing right next to the little donkey. Celestia stumbled, ever so slightly, as the magical field in the room fluctuated. This meant that a couple of seconds went by before she could focus on the cause of the disturbance.

“A human!” Celestia then exclaimed in surprise, pointing a forehoof in its direction.

By Celestia’s standards, this was quite a minor exclamation, but given how well she had kept her emotions in check in public over the past century of so, even this was enough to cause a full-fledged panic in the crowd. For once, the Princess was thankful of the fact that there was so little empty space in the room that there was no way for them to start a stampede, because she was quite certain they would have if they could. The Royal Guard surged forward, with the twin goals of apprehending the strange visitor and calming the crowd.

Throughout the tumult, Celestia kept her attention focused on a vertical plane of magical energy a pony’s-width away from the back right wall. The human had tumbled out of that plane in a way that strongly suggested a portal of some kind. This was unfortunately confirmed when the donkey leaned in to get a closer look and promptly fell through that plane and out of Equestria altogether, leaving a shocked Blue Belle and her roll of paper behind.

Celestia rushed forward, pushing through her guards like water, to reach for the portal. But alas, she felt it close mere moments before she arrived, and she perceived no way to re-open it. A cry of dismay broke from the lips of Gordon, Celestia’s jester and the jenny’s father.

“My ponies!” Celestia ordered, levitating herself several pony-heights above the crowd. The ponies below immediately froze, then dropped as one into prone positions of terror. Celestia sighed inwardly at the reaction before speaking in her normal kind tone of voice. “My ponies, We need Our magical researchers to be summoned here as soon as possible. Our...visitor needs to be escorted to a secure location until We are ready for him. Gordon can stay. The rest of you need to clear the throne room immediately.” All eyes turned to the double doors leading out, which remained magically closed. “There will be no word of what you have just seen until We have made an official announcement. Is that understood?”

“As you command, Princess!” cried out fifty-eight voices in chorus.

Princess Celestia opened the doors, and the majority of the ponies in the room began to leave.

~ ~ ~

Gordon reached out a forehoof to stop Chancellor Blueblood as he prepared to leave. “Fetch the White Cap from the archives,” the donkey said. “Oh, and you better summon Eveningstar as well.”

“Remove your hoof from the royal person, you knave!” exclaimed the Prince. “I will not be following your advice!”

“Your Excellency,” a smaller yellow pegasus said on bended knees. “Perhaps we should follow his advice.”

Blueblood frowned. “And why is that, Pensive Thought?”

“Because Gordon here dressed up as a human for the Summer Sun Masquerade last year. A very-well researched costume, if I remember correctly.”

“Oh. Right.” Neither pony had even heard of humans before then. “With me, Pensive.” He looked over at where the Princess was casting spells at the spot where the donkey had disappeared. “Perhaps you should stay here,” he said to the jester. He looked fearfully down at the daughter standing by his side, imagining for a moment what it would be like if she had been the one to fall into nothingness instead of the donkey.

Blue Belle looked up curiously at her father’s expression of fear. It was one she had previously only seen on her inferiors, and it was one she was trying very hard to keep from showing herself.

Genevieve the donkey briefly tumbled through a very weird feeling before suddenly arriving in a darkened room. She looked around her in confusion. She could no longer hear the sounds of the ponies, only distant growls and howlings of strange creatures from the other sides of the walls.

She looked down to see the audience chamber through a sort of window in the floor. This window appeared to be made up of several pieces of paper overlapping one another.

It would be a simple matter to jump through that window and go back to the audience chamber. Back to her judgment, which she felt she couldn’t possibly win. Back to her banishment, which her father would have to follow.

Being jester was everything to her father after Mother died. He had told Genevieve, again and again, that he was Equestria’s only hope for real change, because all change came from the Princess, and the jester, alone of all of the Princess’s advisors, was always allowed to tell her the truth without consequences. Equestria needed her father, more than she needed him.

And that is why Genevieve reached down and scattered the pieces of paper below her, causing the window to Equestria to flicker and die.

She was now stuck here in the human’s world, forever. What sort of world was she stuck in?

Well for one thing, it was badly lit—she could barely see a hoof before her face. On a table in the middle of the room she saw a paper crown. It was easily the most-colorful object in the room, and made Genevieve think of her birthday hat from the day before. With a mental shrug, she grabbed the hat and tried it on. It was too big, but with a small adjustment she was able to get it to stay on her head.

If the human world has something as silly as paper crowns, then it can’t be that bad, right? she thought.

Continuing her examination of the room, she turned over one of the pieces of paper to see it was covered with an odd series of squiggles. She was reaching down to pick up a pencil she saw at her hooves when the door before her suddenly opened.

~ ~ ~

Edward the human attendant looked slack-jawed at the animal he found in Voltaire’s cell. He certainly hadn’t expected this when he started searching for the escaped patient from Room 102. Then he saw the paper crown on the creature’s head and the pencil gripped in its mouth.

“Hey Monsieur Jordan!” he cried out. “Ivan’s turned the philosopher into an ass!”