• Published 6th Jul 2018
  • 1,189 Views, 323 Comments

Harmonic Fellowship - Sun Sage



Rarity's made it home, thanks to all the friends she made on Earth. But they weren't the only ones to find Equestria...

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3. Diplomacy

Aiden stared at the grinning alicorn for a moment, then shut his eyes and sighed. I lost this round, be a man and accept it. “Yes, Princess, it’s certainly you. You are a pretty, pink, pony, princess, and there can be no doubt.” His cheeks were burning with embarrassment, but he’d gotten through it without stuttering.

Her grin widened. “Rarity, I like your human.”

Rarity had shown incredible self control to not burst out laughing until that point, but that was the last straw. Aiden could now feel his ears burning as a particularly loud ‘wahahahahah!’ filled the room. He took a breath, and exhaled slowly, attempting to alleviate some of the humiliation of this particular first contact. I mean… first time speaking to an alien princess, and I coo at her because I’m overwhelmed by her presence. There’s rolling a 1 on a diplomacy check… and there’s whatever the Hell that is…

Cadenza was giggling as well. “You know, I’ve read a few science fiction romances and first contact between ponies and aliens never happens like this. I should write some of the authors and let them know they have it all wrong.”

“You do that, err… your highness…”

“Oh please, call me Cadance. It’s the least I can do after such a nice compliment. You must be a master diplomat to be so adept at easing the tension that could have marred this meeting.”

...Not sure if trolling…

Her smile became less 'amused at his expense' and more genuine. She really was quite lovely. “But don’t look so embarrassed. It’s just us, and I won’t tell a soul.”

“I will!” Rarity added brightly.

“Rarity will.” Cadance said, nodding gravely.

Aiden rolled his eyes and gave Rarity a brief glare. “My amateur, but groundbreaking-”

Cadance giggled.

“-diplomacy aside…. How are you doing this? Speaking English, I mean.”

Cadance shook her head. “I’m not. I’m speaking Equish. However…” she looked up to her glowing horn, drawing Aiden’s attention to it. “I am using a translation spell. It’s more like a ‘universal understanding’ spell. You’ll hear me speaking your language; I hear you speaking mine. I had it ready when the messenger who informed us told me Rarity was here with a human.” She chuckled. “He didn’t even know what a human was, but I have a few advantages in education. Anyway, the spell… I’d explain the mechanics of it, but suffice to say it’s difficult to learn and to cast. But communication is an important part of love, so it falls well within my purview, and my particular talent.”

“Huh…” Aiden muttered.

“What I’m far more interested in,” she continued, regaining a grin that Aiden had already come to recognize as trouble, “is knowing how it is you two were communicating without such a spell. I don’t believe Rarity knows it.”

“Afraid not, darling.”

“And yet…”

Aiden cocked an eyebrow at Rarity. “You want to explain it, or shall I?”

“You’re doing a magnificent job communicating so far,” she replied, smiling innocently. “Don’t let me interrupt.”

Oh, you think you have the upper… hoof… eh? “Well… it all started when she stabbed me…”

“Rarity!” Cadance scolded, “...third date.”

“What?!” Rarity exclaimed.

Aiden nodded solemnly. “It’s true. She’d had it with my nonsense and wanted to teach me a lesson. I’m better now.”

“I know where you sleep!” Rarity exclaimed.

“Your bed?” Cadance asked, all innocence.

Aiden burst out laughing while Rarity’s eyes went wide, and her cheeks red.

It was at this moment that another pony appeared at the door. Over all the noise they were making Aiden hadn’t heard hoofsteps approaching, but then again the hallways were plushly carpeted. The owner of said steps was a buff looking unicorn stallion with a white coat, two-toned blue mane, and a tightly controlled aura. Everything about him made Aiden think ‘soldier’, even the calm smile as he trotted through the door. He knew, before arriving, that the situation was under control. Sort of.

“Flurry’s in bed; Sunburst is reading her a story. ...I see you’ve gotten introductions out of the way without me,” he said, nodding to Aiden, who returned said nod while fighting the grin at Cadance’s quip.

“Actually no, we skipped straight to celebrating Rarity being back… and me teasing them both, of course.”

“Sure did…” Aiden added. “Hey whoever you are, can you do something about her?” he asked, gesturing vaguely at Cadance.

The unicorn pony tilted his head as though considering the question. “I married her. Does that help?”

“Clearly not.”

“Huh…” he shrugged. “Helped me.”

“Aww, Shiny…” Cadance cooed, smiling warmly at him. “But yes… we probably should at least nod at diplomatic introductions, or Celestia will give me that look.” She rolled her eyes, though the smile on her face took the derision out of the gesture. She turned to Aiden, sitting more formally on the rather crowded sofa. He was fairly certain ‘diplomatic introductions’ didn’t take place on a sofa sitting less than two feet from one another. “So! I am Mi Amore Cadenza, Princess of the Crystal Empire, Alicorn of Love, Guardian of the Crystal Heart… and a few other titles nopony really worries about. This is my husband, Prince Shining Armor of same, Commander of the Northern Marches, Seneschal of the Crystal Palace, former Captain of Equestria’s Royal Guard. We welcome you to the Crystal Empire!”

Aiden blinked, and then sat straighter. “Knight Lieutenant Aiden Alexander Windborne, of the Esper Corps, North American Division, Second Company. Honored to be here.”

“Knight Rarity, of same,” Rarity added with a small smile.

Shining Armor raised an eyebrow at Rarity. “You joined a military force?”

“And how,” Aiden muttered, sharing a knowing look with Rarity. “I suppose I should tell you the real story of how we can speak to one another without a spell or device to help out. But first…” he looked at Cadance. “Just how widespread is knowledge of humans here? You seem completely unfazed.”

“Not very. Celestia and Luna know, of course, and they informed me as part of my extended education upon becoming an alicorn. Twily should know as well, especially after the incident involving the mirror.”

“Yes, I really need to talk to her about that,” Rarity muttered.

Cadance chuckled. “That’s not Earth, at least not their Earth,” she said, nodding towards Aiden. “But it seems you know that better than we would.”

“I should say so.”

“Beyond us though… well the knowledge isn’t secret; you can find books on the war and their involvement in the Royal Library here, as well as Canterlot. I’d assume Twily has at least a couple, too. But most ponies don’t exactly study ancient history. You’re bound to meet a few who know of your people, but most will be clueless.”

“I get that; history wasn’t my favorite subject either.”

“So okay, somepony needs to ask. Rarity, what in Tartarus happened?” Shining asked, genuinely concerned. “I’m really happy you’re back, and I’m sure Twilight will be dancing in the streets when she finds out, but… what?!”

Rarity giggled. “I suppose I should get used to telling this story…”

“Hold on a moment,” Cadance said, holding up a hoof. “Somepony promised me ice cream when we got home, and I think it’s only fair we share with our guests. Shall we adjourn to the dining room?”

“I may be overdoing it on sweets today,” Aiden said, pondering briefly before shrugging. “Eh, in the interest of diplomacy…”

------------------------------------------

Cadance’s idea of ‘ice cream’ turned out to be rather extravagant. The four of them sat at what was clearly a table fit for royalty… and Aiden mentally facepalmed at that thought… still though. The dining hall was, naturally, decorated with a crystalline chandelier to match candelabras on the table. The corners each had a pillar that held a bust of what Aiden assumed to be this or that famous ruler or hero. Despite not knowing the historical significance, he could certainly admire the artistry on display.

The chairs were comfortable, even for Aiden, although he did note that for once he was happy to be shorter than an average person. They made requests of the castle’s kitchen staff, who assured Aiden they could produce essentially anything. As such, and with Cadance’s urging that he feel free to test them, he’d ended up asking for an Irish coffee milkshake. Without missing a beat, the staffer had asked how much whisky he wanted in it.

It was rapidly becoming a very nice evening. Rarity was handling the retelling of their adventures on Earth, and Aiden was a bit surprised at how well she was portraying him. Not that he’d have expected her to be teasing or dismissive, but…

I… didn’t really do much, did I? They’d gone through a fair bit in a very short amount of time but… he didn’t feel much strain from it. Now, was that because he’d been helping her, or simply because he’d been through worse? No, dismiss that second one. ‘Worse’ was subjective, and certainly the raid on Veritech was in his top five ‘closest to dying’ moments, and facing Garken one on one for even a few minutes also made that list, so…

“Darling? Did we lose you again?”

Crap. “Geh. ...Sorry. I blame the aether here. Still getting used to it.”

Cadance looked concerned. “It’s not causing problems, is it? I didn’t want to pry…”

Shining coughed, and she glared at him briefly.

“About that!” she insisted. “But… what I remember of humans in terms of magic was that you didn’t have any use of it.”

Aiden nodded. “It’s a recent development, coinciding with the Oni invading our world fifteen years ago. But to answer your first question… no problems or discomfort. It’s just a little distracting. What did I miss?”

“Nothing really, darling; I had asked if you wanted to add anything to my telling of our time together on Earth.”

He grimaced. “Sorry, don’t guess I’d know what you might have missed. Though from what I heard, not much.”

“It’s fine, Aiden. Judging by the scent from your cup, you had a little extra help getting distracted anyway.”

“It’s quite delicious… but yes they didn’t hold back on the alcohol.”

Rarity giggled. “Am I carrying you to bed, then?”

“Well, it is your turn…”

Cadance was grinning beautifically. Rarity noticed, and her eyes widened. “Ahh! That’s right! We were going to ask you, which of us-”

“Nope!”

Rarity blinked. “You don’t even know what I was going to say.”

Cadance gave her a level look, and Rarity looked away, flushing slightly.

“Of course I know, and you knew I did. You of all ponies don’t need my help, Rarity.”

“Hmph, could’ve fooled me,” Rarity muttered.

“I’m not going to say anything that will lead either of you to any sort of premature conclusions about each other. You’re both taking your time with whatever may be between you, and that’s a good thing. With the emotional roller coaster you’ve both been on, rushing into anything, be it acceptance or denial, would be a poor choice.”

Aiden nodded. “We discussed something similar at one point. ...It might be fun teasing fodder… for one of us, but yeah, I guess we don’t need to know.”

Rarity was smiling, and nodded agreement. “I’ll have you know I would have been magnanimous in victory, darling.”

He grinned. “Same. Consolation massage and everything.”

She blinked, and gave him the doe eyes. “Is it too late to concede?”

“It isn’t.”

She smiled warmly. Cadance chuckled, giving a knowing look to Shining Armor, who returned it.

------------------------------------------

It was sometime later. The fire in their hearth had dimmed, as had the candlelight. Rarity sighed softly as strong hands kneaded massage oil into the fur of her withers. “I definitely lose, darling… I love you more.”

He chuckled. “I dunno, these little reactions are adorable on a level that’s clearly some form of pony cheating. You may pull ahead in 'more beloved' before I’m done.”

"We don’t need to find that out. You could just… never stop.”

“Heh… pretty sure we can’t board the train like this tomorrow.”

“Oh nonsense, darling. Carry me in your magic while your hands keep up this other magic. You’re dressed well enough, other than needing a coat. I’m sure somepony can help with that.”

“Somepony can put on my coat while I’m giving you a rubdown?”

She snorted, and then giggled. “You make it sound so tawdry, darling! This is entirely friendly and in no way some prelude to bawdy behavior.”

“Easy for you to say. Where I come from massaging naked girls when you don’t work at a spa or something has certain connotations.”

She hummed quietly, and turned to look at him through one lidded eye. “Oh? ...What sort of connotations?” she asked huskily. She held a 'come hither' look briefly, before her lips twitched.

He snorted, and began laughing along with her as she quickly lost control of the act. “Dammit, Rarity,” he said after several good moments of mirth. “Yeah I really don’t know. You may have won the bet.”

“Maybe…” she said, settling back down and motioning vaguely for him to continue. He worked down along her spine, running his fingers along the taut muscles looking for knots to work out. “But to both go the spoils.”

“So that means it’s my turn next?”

“Of course it does, but you’re far from done. Don’t be shy about the flanks.”

“...Again, connotations.”

“If it genuinely bothers you, don’t. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

He shook his head, smiling. “Nah, I’m just making a fuss for no reason. I’m going to avoid your tail though…”

She giggled, and said tail swished, running lightly along his forearm. “That tail?”

He flushed. “Yes Rarity, that tail… the one you’re raising...”

“Now now, I’m still holding the coat enchantment, thank you. Nothing exposed.”

“Fair enough… just keep in mind you’re teasing someone with a cultural nudity taboo. ...And your tail is unfairly soft.”

She grinned. “Noted, darling. Given that, I do trust you to say so if I do anything that bothers you.” She took in a long, contented breath and sighed slowly as his fingers began working into the muscles in her flanks.

“Will do. Now, harder or softer? You seemed to like it a bit firm on your shoulders, but…”

“Harder is fine. I don’t mind deep tissue work at the spa back home. I am taking you in when we get there, by the way.”

He chuckled. “I’m okay with that. And I think I’ll leave 'deep tissue' to professionals. I can work a bit harder though.”

“You’re doing wonderfully, darling,” she said, closing her eyes with a serene smile on her lips.

“Glad you’re enjoying. Mind a question or two about earlier?”

“Not at all.”

“What did Cadance mean by a Friendship quest?”

“Ahh," she replied with a small nod. "Twilight’s Castle contains a magical map of Equestria. It occasionally calls us to go handle social matters that tend to impact whole communities." She tilted her head slightly. "...It’s not exactly fighting evil aliens, but-”

“No, I think that’s great. Building positive connections, making the world better. That’s really admirable. ...Feh, I’ve been hiding in my room for half a decade.”

“None of that now. We’ve talked about it.”

He sighed. “...Right. So it calls you guys all over Equestria… I guess we get to surprise Twilight after all?” He worked his way down one hind leg, causing a giggle and twitch when his thumb ran behind her gaskin. At least he thought that was the name for it. Ticklish, eh? He logged that away for later.

“Rarely all of us at once. But I didn’t want Cadance to send them a letter since Spike would naturally find a way to inform Twilight immediately... even if he had to run to where she was. Celestia and Luna know, but that’s all for now. I don’t want to interrupt whatever their friendship mission could be. Whoever they’re out there helping is just as important as I am.”

Aiden smiled, finishing her other leg. He leaned down and kissed her head, behind her horn. “Depends who you ask, I guess.”

“Mmm. Maybe. Which is why, right now, I’m not asking them. We’ll get to Ponyville at the same time either way, after a stop in Canterlot. The Princesses want to meet you, of course, and welcome me back."

"Oh good, another chance to practice my diplomatic skills."

She giggled. "Nowhere to go but up, darling! We can’t pass through Canterlot without seeing them. But it won’t be long, and from there a connecting train to Ponyville. ...I’ll be home in two days!”

“Looking forward to it, too.” He stretched, popping knuckles as well as his back and shoulders as he moved around.

“Hmm, sounds like it’s definitely your turn.” She moved over, stretching luxuriously as she stood on the bed. “Down you go, but lose the shirt first.”

Aiden snorted in amusement, removing his shirt before laying on his stomach. He sighed contentedly as she began gently working across his shoulders. Her hooves were softer and warmer than he’d expected, even when knowing what to expect (it wasn’t like he hadn’t touched them before). There was also a hint of magic, light touches of telekinesis working into the tired muscles. “Heh… more pony cheating…”

“Get used to it, darling.”

------------------------------------------

Garken snarled in anger as he hit the back of the cell. He tried to stay quiet but it was simply no good. His stupid body didn’t even know how to feel pain properly.

Grand Marshal Maegren, hero of the Spire Assault on Earth, looked down at him in disgust. Garken understood. Despite the vaunted Oni-koru war leader beating him for the last several hours, he felt nothing. He was a failure through and through. The interrogation chamber was a mess from his punishment, and he couldn’t even recall all the things his majesty had felt the need to do. He’d never even been asked any questions...

But once his king had finished with him and the Grand Marshal had taken over his chastisement things had gotten… better, somehow. The pain and misery were replaced by anger, resentment, and derision. He wasn’t allowed to feel those things, but he was already being punished so what did it matter?

Oh, his body bled. His limbs were broken, his teeth smashed. Oddly though, his eyes were safe behind the glasses that stayed upon his head despite everything. They were the mark of his shame, after all. They would forever hide the color of his eyes, the favored mark of the old kings. Only the elites of his people had such eyes… elites and this pitiful slave. Fate mocked him, but his king, in his infinite wisdom, hid them by properly displaying his Earth obsession instead. It was fitting. The war he’d been unworthy to join in, even as a warslave.

He sighed deeply, and worked himself into a sitting position against the wall. The cell was large, and dark. He’d once had a room, even he. After all, a warslave only served as the lowest of the low; he still served and was allowed to live, and die. But now, he was just a prisoner. He would not die for this final failure; his king would not permit him to seek rebirth in the beyond. He would stay here as his body rotted away and he was kept alive and useless. He shuddered in disgust at the thought.

“Heh. You look worse than I feel.”

Garken turned slowly. He couldn’t do otherwise with so much broken. Nonetheless he was quite surprised to find himself sharing the cell. Bright green eyes looked at him, slightly tilted. A mare? Yes. An Equestrian, their ancient foes. Their king’s ancient foes… not Garken’s.

“I am a warslave; how I look and feel do not matter. You are a prisoner, and so the same is true of you.”

The pony chuckled. It was difficult to tell much about her in the darkness, beyond her eyes which seemed almost to glow. On her head… a horn? No… that was... Had his king destroyed her means of defense? Unfortunate, to take power and leave her alive. His king was cruel… No! He could not think such-

“So what’s a ‘warslave’? How’s that different from… just slave?”

“The Oni-koru abhor slavery.”

“Clearly.”

“Better to kill those who cannot or will not obtain strength, that they may be reborn. Enslavement is to prevent a being from growth, so as to merely serve like a tool. It is abominable.”

“Well, aren’t you just pillars of goodness?”

“But in times of war… deserters and traitors are made an example of… in such a manner. A warslave is one who must be enslaved to be of use in the war effort. It is a shame beyond any we would wish upon our most hated foes. I am a warslave, in that my failure was such and my punishment is such.”

“So you deserted?”

“I did not.”

“...You betrayed?”

“I did not.”

“...”

“...”

“...” the pony facehoofed, and then growled. She was actually a bit intimidating. “Of course I get the cellmate who’s taken too many headshots. What. Did. You. Do?”

Garken pondered this a moment. “I… had a deep fascination with our previous enemies, the humans.”

“Humans?” She spoke the word oddly, sounding perplexed. “Haven’t heard of them, and I’ve traveled a lot.”

“Their world is far from here. When we fought them, I was not permitted to participate in any way. It led to my obsession. I was too weak, and foolish, and-”

She held up a hoof, actually placing it firmly over his mouth to silence him. “Wait… You just said ‘warslave’ meant ‘slave only during time of war’ but if you didn’t participate… then you were just a slave. No point in some other term, and no truth to your people’s ‘abhorrence’.”

Garken stopped, and not just for the hoof over his mouth. She… was right. When had he been branded warslave? During what war had he deserted, or betrayed? The humans… but he hadn’t fought them, had he? So how could he…?

“Ugh… snap out of it!” She punched him in the side of the head, knocking away his glasses. Maegren, in all his fury, hadn’t removed them, and yet…

...Wait…

Garken sighed deeply as his mind returned to him. “Thank you, little pony… can I have another?”

She snorted derisively. “Sure.” Another competent left cross connected, and he chuckled.

“I’ll need to put those back on, or we’ll both be dead before the day ends. But before that… we can begin planning our escape.”

The pony smiled darkly. “I’m listening.” She put a hoof to her chest. “Tempest Shadow. ...What’s your name?”

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