• Published 26th May 2020
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Tales from Everfree City - LoyalLiar



Celestia's first student and Princess Platinum conspire to cheat the princess out of an arranged marriage.

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1-1 Princess Platinum and the Seven Deadly Suitors

I

Princess Platinum and The Seven Deadly Suitors

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I - I

To Be the Worst Wingpony

“Sometimes I wonder if I ought to be wearing my mask around you, Morty.” Mage Meadowbrook finished that observation with a wince as she rubbed a soft spot on her cheek. It was quickly swelling into a bruise, where a test of my knee’s reflexes had gone off a bit better than she was expecting.

My wince of sympathy was genuine, but it also wasn’t much of a substitute for a block of ice. “I’m sorry…”

“You seem less infectious than most of my patients, but I’ve never treated somepony who’s actually died before. The other ‘zombies’ were caused by a fungus.” Then she forced enough of a smile to put me at ease, and gently pressed a hoof on top of my hind left leg, a sign I could lower it back to the bed. “Well, you seem to be healing well physically… how about mentally? How much can you remember from the last time you were up and about?”

“My mind’s fine, Meadowbrook. Though if I have to stay in this room one more hour, I suspect there might be permanent damage.”

“Is there something wrong with Celestia’s hospitality?” Meadowbrook asked, casting her gaze around the enormous chamber. I suspect it must have been built by somepony who had Celestia’s unusual proportions described to them, but had never actually met her in person. If they had, perhaps the doors would not have been built so wide that a full royal carriage would have fit comfortably into her closet.

“Oh, it’s a beautiful room the first two weeks, don’t get me wrong, but eventually one does get tired of counting the patterns on the wallpaper. So are we done?”

The blue earth pony mage (the idea of a medical doctorate hadn’t taken off yet in those days, and her skill as a physician made her more than deserving of a title of respect, hence ‘Mage’ without a horn) sighed. “You may feel that way, Morty, but magical duels involving illusions have a well established record of tampering with memory in the long term. Please, humor me.”

I sighed, sitting up on the lush blankets and pegasus-down-stuffed pillows of Celestia’s massive bed.

“Mortal Coil, age eighteen. Wizard. I trained under Archmage Wintershimmer in the Crystal Union until he decided to make himself immortal by stealing Clover the Clever’s body, so he faked his death and framed me for his own murder—all as a means to get me to leave instead of taking over his title. Then he taught me his famous spell: how to sever a living pony’s soul from the body. He wanted me to use it on Clover. I… objected. Unfortunately, that ruined Wintershimmer’s plans; he needed it to look like I killed Clover, so nopony would look too closely at him when he put his soul in Clover’s body and… Actually, I never asked what the plan was after that. I never mentally got past the ‘murder’ part.”

“Understandable,” Meadowbrook agreed with an amused look on her face. I, for my part, was just glad she had enough of a magical education not to interrupt me every two words, like most of my friends did when I tried to explain such a story.

“I wound up on a rather long journey, first to Clover way off in the draconic wastes past River Rock, and then back here to Everfree City. But to summarize, I met some friends along the way—probably most notably Gale. Er, you probably know her better as Princess Platinum the Third—”

“I know who you mean.”

“Right. Well, Gale helped me prove my innocence, and then we and Celestia went and fought Wintershimmer. I died… well, sort of… you probably don’t want me to explain that much necromancy. That’s the difference between a doctor and a necromancer; I define death as when the soul leaves the body—which is what did happen—whereas you would say death occurs when the… I’m going to guess when the brain stops functioning?”

“The heart, actually, but that’s a good guess.” Meadowbrook nodded. “I suppose in your studies it’s natural that you must have learned a few things about practicing medicine, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure there are a couple of other differences between us, though.”

I let myself chuckle before I replied. “Like the fact that I’m allowed to arrive fashionably late?”

“Why wouldn’t I…” Meadowbrook shook her head and then brought a hoof to her mouth, trying miserably to mask her amusement. “That’s horrible, Morty,” she told me between chuckles, before finally bringing her sense of humor under control. “You have to promise not to tell anypony I laughed at that. Especially not Somnambula.”

“If you tell me I can finally get out of bed, we have a deal. I assume that summary satisfied you that I’m mentally fine? Because I’m bored out of my mind in here, and if I don’t get up and do something, I’m worried there will be permanent damage.”

At that, Meadowbrook cracked a more satisfied, far less hesitant grin. “Well, Morty, I’m glad to inform you that by kicking me in the face, you’ve passed your physical. Let me just summarize a few things. You still have a few bruises that will need more time to settle, and the gash on your neck has its stitches in, so try not to be too aggressive with your movements. I’m not sure how you got alchemical quicksilver so deep in an open gash, but it’s going to likely be a few months before it’s fully closed up. In the meantime, since I couldn’t remove all of the liquid from your bloodstream, I had to counteract it with an antitoxin instead. You may experience some mild tremors for the next few weeks; if any motion sickness or shaking lasts longer than a few minutes, come see me right away. Otherwise, just try to get lots of rest, and that should take care of your physical health. But—”

It’s amazing how unsettling those three letters can be, coming from a doctor. Let the record reflect that Meadowbrook may have been a medical genius, but her tendency to pause and carefully select her words occasionally left a patient in a great deal of concern. I shifted upright in Celestia’s bed, getting up to a sitting position, if only so that I could look Meadowbrook in the face more evently. There, I saw concern that I did not want to see. “But...?” I prompted finally, drawing a little circle with my hoof as if reeling in a line.

I watched her throat bob, but finally she found her words. “It’s your body’s magical system that took the worst of it. Your horn most especially.”

I dared to run a hoof up my horn; there were a few unusual bumps on the surface where the cracks from my duel were healing, but otherwise it hardly felt out of the ordinary. Then again, my horn had never quite been ordinary. “You mean my groove? I know it’s spiraled too tight, but it’s actually always been like that. It’s a birth defect. My spells tend to flare up, so I can’t cast as many spells in a day as another wizard, but it does have the benefit of making them stronger.”

“That isn’t what I mean, Morty.” Meadowbrook shook her head, and once again I caught her hesitating. “Usually, overuse of magical energy damages the surface of the horn. You had quite a few cracks when you came in, though you’re probably already familiar with that experience from training as a wizard. As you can likely feel, the surface of your horn is mostly healed. It’s the core that concerns us.”

“Us?” I pressed.

“I’ve treated a few horn injuries in my day, but rarely one from your kind of overuse of magic. I asked Star Swirl to assist me in treating you. Now, normally, the body outright passes in unconsciousness from exhaustion long before you’re able to overuse magic to the point that it damages the core of the horn.”

I swallowed nervously and nodded. “Yes. Like I said, my usual limit is three spells a day. I had to work around that limit fighting Wintershimmer… Is the damage permanent?”

“We don’t know yet.” Meadowbrook knew it wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but she was brave enough a doctor not to look away. I could see the regret in her eyes when she continued. “Which is why, though I’m sure this is a disappointment for you, I have to ask that you not use your horn. At all.” She didn’t move particularly fast when she pressed her hoof on the bedsheets to emphasize that point, but it still found me surprised. My mind was elsewhere, wondering what damage to my horn might mean for my future. “Do you understand, Morty? No magic, not even basic telekinesis, until Star Swirl and I are able to finish a diagnosis.” She waited for a very long moment and then reached up onto the bed and put her hoof on my shoulder. “Do you understand?”

“Hmm? Oh; yes.” I nodded probably too vigorously, to make up for the awkwardness of staring forward into space. “Yes, sorry. I understand.”

“I’m sorry, Morty. But any use, even something slight, could cause further damage. So until we know—”

I shook my head. “You don’t need to apologize. If anything, I should be thanking you. Besides, now that Wintershimmer is gone, it’s not as if there’s anypony trying to kill me, to force me to use my magic. I’m sure I can fill the time studying with Celestia and finally learn to read.”

Meadowbrook cocked a brow. “You’re… illiterate? An illiterate wizard?”

“Wintershimmer had an interesting teaching style…” I gently massaged my temple, where I could feel a vein throbbing. Unlike Luna (may a constant stream of meteor showers grant her ten thousand years of migraines), Meadowbrook hadn’t meant any offense with her question. Still, the wound on my pride that I couldn’t read plain Equiish stung at the memory, and I had to take a few deep breaths to keep from snapping. “But now I have a much nicer teacher. It’s still odd to think I’m supposed to be Celestia’s apprentice…” Wanting nothing more than to change away from that topic, I voiced the last question on my mind. “Do you have any idea how long it will be before you have an answer?”

“Just a few days.” Meadowbrook put on a little smile at that. “Then, one way or another we can plan the rest of your recovery. Unfortunately, Lady Celestia isn’t actually in Everfree City. She travelled to the Crystal Union to help Queen Jade and Smart Cookie rebuild the Union with Wintershimmer gone. I’m afraid she isn’t due back for another day or two.” Then she smiled. “But there is actually somepony here to see you, if that’s any consolation. Since we’re done, I’ll go get her.”

Meadowbrook’s departure left me alone for about seven seconds of peace, which ended in much the same way an era of peace does in a more academic history book. Seven envelopes landed atop Celestia’s bedsheets and my life changed forever.

Perhaps ‘landed’ doesn’t do the motion justice; they were hurled like feline throwing stars in a magical rage that, had they flown a little closer to my face, would surely have put an eye out.

Not that the thought is as frightening now, all these years later, thanks to Luna… Then again, in my youth I could neither walk off missing most of my head, nor regrow a damaged eye in a vat. Sometimes, context is everything.

“Meadowbrook says you’re healthy enough to walk around,” Gale announced as she entered the room after her violent introduction, wearing a scowl that could have melted the gold leaf off of a noblepony’s birthday cake. Her lavender coat was wrinkled on a furrowed brow, though I knew the mare well enough to know that her done up blonde mane and earrings were probably better indicators of her anger than any facial expression. “Get up. We don’t have all day.” Though her vibrant yellow sundress had to be a sight more comfortable than the formal gowns she so despised, it still swished in imitation of her simmering rage as she failed to stand still.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “I’m guessing ‘go out for dinner when I’m healthy enough to walk again’ is cancelled?”

Gale’s nostrils flared with a huff. “I have to spend today delivering those.”

“Which are…?”

“It says right on the fucking front!”

“Gale… I still can’t read.”

Though I know Gale knew my humiliating secret, two weeks of bedrest must have been enough for her to forget; she reacted as if I’d slapped her across the face with an eel, snapping her out of her fuming funk with the power of surprise. “Oh shit! Right, sorry Morty.”

“It’s fine.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at the way her mood changed, and the little hint of red that tinged the tips of her ears as they folded back in embarrassment. “Really. What are they, though?”

Repeating the question, alas, undid my work, and Gale’s milk-curdling brow-furrow reappeared below her mane. “Invitations to a birthday party.”

“Ah. Your mother’s…?”

It needs to be understood that Gale, as the third Princess Platinum, had been brought up in a home with not just two accents, but two completely different languages. Furthermore, her youth was just as often spent on the streets of Everfree City as in the halls of its palace. Apart from her probably excessive preference for profanity, Gale’s word choice, diction, and preferred accent would rarely if ever give away her identity as the heir to the unicorn throne. While she was perfectly capable of respectfully wielding the more ‘elevated’ speech of unicorn nobility, when she did don that voice, she usually affected it as an act of bitter, spiteful parody, taking special care to pronounce the ‘ch’ in all of her ‘hayches’, and avoiding even the subtlest hint of an ‘r’ into the flow of her speech.

Thus, when Gale snapped “Mine,” in response to my question, I knew immediately by her voice that it was really the elder Platinum, the reigning Queen of Equestria, making the decisions surrounding the affair. A unicorn princess does not have the luxury of frivolity; a birthday party, much like a ball or a holiday, is a chance to strengthen your alliances and practice the art of diplomacy. It is not a time for drunken revelry, or adventure, or Sisters forbid, skullduggery. Besides, you’ve only just returned from rampaging across the continent with that… necromancer. Isn’t your appetite for rebellion satisfied? Isn’t your ‘thirst for adventure’ quenched?’” She concluded the imitation of her mother by sucking in a rather snort-sounding breath through her nostrils, and then spitting directly onto Celestia’s bedroom floor.

“I... see,” I said, staring at the ‘loogy’ and trying my best not to actually see it soaking into the carpet. Finally, my eyes escaped its sheer disgusting gravity, and I looked back to Gale. “So who are the invitations for?”

“My suitors,” Gale replied, picking up the invitations with her magic and flicking through them, showing me the names written on the faces of the cards as if the runes scrawled there meant anything to me. “Spice Ménage, of the House of Three. Secretary Peanut Gallery. Archmage Grayscale. Duke High Castle—he’s my second cousin or some shit, which is apparently ‘enough distance’ according to mom—of the House of Gullion. Caporegime Coral, whose grandmother runs the fucking mob, if you can believe that shit. Prefect Gray Rain. Oh, and joy… His Eminence, Count Halo, Knight of the Church of Celestia.” She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, and I watched her hoof dig at the floor as if she was going to lower her horn and charge somepony.

“He’s the worst somehow, I take it?”

“He’s forty-five, Morty,” said the soon-to-be-eighteen-year-old princess.

“Oh…” I swallowed, picturing in my mind a heavy-set middle aged noble from my own very limited experiences with Equestria’s upper class. I could practically smell the folds of fat on the back of his neck as he tilted his head back to make sure his nose stayed in the air, where it wouldn’t be subjected to the stink of the common rabble.

“Yeah,” Gale answered. “It’s fucking disgusting. So here’s the deal. I don’t know if it’ll be them or me, but if I have to spend my whole day talking to these assholes alone, somepony is going to get killed. So you’re coming with me, to try and help keep me sane.”

Shrugging, I nodded, and then swung myself out of bed. My legs ached as they picked up my weight, just like they had in the past few days when I got up to use the bathroom or wash myself—my only reprieves from constant bedrest. Thankfully, at least this time, I could stretch them. “So do I get an invitation? Assuming I’m still in the running since we talked in the garden…”

“Okay, stop. Look at me.” Gale accompanied that demand by grabbing my shoulder, proving that despite my considerable height advantage, she was by far the stronger of the two of us (as even before two weeks of bedrest, I had always been svelte). “I am not a hugely shitty marefriend, and I am not an asshole politician. If we’re done, I’ve got the balls to tell you to your face. Got it?”

“Sure. Sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

“That means you don’t get to back out of this shit, though, Morty. I’m relying on you. If you get scared off by my mom’s bullshit or the other suitors, you’re going to leave me up shit creek. Understand?”

“We fought the most dangerous wizard in the world together; you think I’m going to run away from some stuffy nobleponies?” I had to chuckle as I considered the implicit threat in Gale’s words. “Oh no, it’s Princess Platinum from the Hearth’s Warming Eve pageant. What’s she going to do, whine at me?”

Gale looked at me like I’d proposed copulating with a nest of murder wasps. “Morty, I don’t think you understand how much of a petty asshole my mom is. She’d exile you from Equestria in a heartbeat if she thought you and I had a chance of ending up together. So we can’t let her know until you’ve got enough momentum that she can’t just exile you anymore.”

I raised a brow. “Alright… I’ll trust you know more about this than I do. How do I ‘build up momentum’?”

“Time,” Gale answered. “You need to spend as much time as you possibly can with me, around all these assholes.” To emphasize her point, she picked up her birthday invitations in her magic and waved them between us, fanned out, like a hoof of cards. “If you can, you need to get them to like you, though I can’t blame you if that’s just not gonna happen. What matters is ponies start to see you as part of the court.”

I quirked a brow. “You want me to fight Star Swirl?

Gale’s mouth hung open as her brain failed to follow. “I… what? No! Star Swirl is like, the least insufferable pony in court. Why the fuck would you want to fight him?”

“I don’t,” I answered. “But if you want me to have a position ‘in court’, the only one I’m really eligible for is Court Mage. And since Star Swirl is Equestria’s Court Mage, the only way I can take that away from him is to fight him in a duel.”

“Ah.” Gale slapped a hoof to her forehead. “No, Morty, I don’t mean you need a position with a title. Being ‘part of court’ just means ponies need to get used to seeing you around. Once you’re part of the fucking ‘social circles’ of all the nobles, even if they don’t actually like you, Mom won’t be able to just get rid of you, because it will look like she’s trying to take out a political enemy by brute force. She can’t afford to look that much like an outright fucking tyrant.”

“Ah.” I nodded. “Alright. I think I understand.”

“Good. Basically, just be my wingpony and stay out of trouble, and we’ll wait for the opportune moment. Aunt Celestia likes you, and you’re her student; that’s our ace-in-the-hole. That gives you a damn good excuse to hang around, since nopony wants to get on her bad side. When we know Mom can’t do anything to get rid of you, we’ll get Aunt Celestia to sponsor you, that puts way more weight behind you than any of the other suitors. But we have to wait for the right moment, or Mom might just do something desperate anyway. So don’t tell her. As far as my parents are concerned, we’re just fucking on the side or something.”

“Um… Can we pretend to just be friends then?” I asked. “I don’t want to get on your father’s bad side, and Commander Hurricane was pretty clear about what he would do to me if we…”

“Danced the horizontal tango? Had a roll in the hay?” Gale rolled her eyes. “Just say ‘fucked’, don’t be a chickenshit. And for the fiftieth time, don’t be afraid of my dad. He hasn’t been scary since before either of us were born. And he’s not Commander anything anymore. He’s just ‘Hurricane’ on a good day.”

Gale slipped the envelopes from her magical grip into a little saddlebag pouch she wore against her right side. “Might as well get this over with as quickly as possible… High Castle’s closest. Get up, we’re going.”