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

Princess Platinum and Celestia's first student face changelings, a magical curse, the specter of war with the griffons, and the threat of arranged marriage in early Equestria.

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The Macculate Reception

When her time getting dressed had passed, and short goodbyes had been offered to Lark, Gale made her way to the royal carriage waiting in the street outside Hurricane’s home. There, an aged silver-clad unicorn knight stood beside the vehicle’s open door, offering a hoof to aid Gale in the rather small step up. She glanced at the steel-shod support, and moved to make her way up on her own.

The knight, it seemed, was determined to be useful. “Your Majesty, it is an honor. I am Sir Gauntlet. May I offer you my assistance?”

As the offering hoof extended forward further, Gale upgraded her glance to a full-on glare. “I’m eighteen, Sir Gauntlet, not eighty.”

“I… didn’t mean any offense, My Queen.” Gauntlet sighed. “In your family, the Scourge of Kings has meant that many queens and kings have needed some physical aid. It is, thus, the tradition of your knights to always offer our aid—”

Gale actively reached up, set her hoof on top of Gauntlet’s, and perhaps with more force than strictly necessary, forced it to the ground. “And I’m sure Mom and Grandpa Lapis appreciated it a lot. But since I’m half-pegasus, not only is my body fine, but I can also do this.”

With a flare of her horn, Gale vanished. Only a ‘pop’ of magic signalled her passing, and then a moment later a similar sound saw her standing on the roof of the royal carriage. “You can offer your help to Mom all you want, but I’ll pass.”

I should mention at this point that the royal carriage was equipped with a sunroof—a fact which was relevant not for the splendid optimism it filled the rolling wooden box with, but because Gale elected to use it in place of a door. With just a momentary flick of her magic, she slipped into the opening, and landed on her hooves on the carpeted floor, directly between Platinum and Celestia. It took her only a moment more wielding her magic to close the carriage’s open door and the sunroof. Then, a slight look of satisfaction on her face, she hopped onto the only remaining seat beside her mother (Celestia understandably taking up one entire side of the carriage’s seating space).

Platinum had steepled her hooves in front of her muzzle and was focusing on her slow, steady breathing. In the silence, one could notice (and Gale, ever the more observant of such things than I am, certainly did) that the newly retitled Queen-Mother was dressed far more subtly than her usual royal attire. It wasn’t just the lack of the crown; Platinum wore far less jewelry, and while the styling and cut of her outfit was no less regal, it utilized fewer colors and patterns than her usual fur shawls and diamond-patterned accents.

Celestia, as was her custom in those days except on the most special of occasions, went naked.

“So… off to deal with the Stable?” Gale asked, already sounding tired as her day began. “Hopefully this doesn’t take forever.”

Queen Platinum’s brow twitched. Well, perhaps it might be more obvious to say it throbbed, as if some vein had only just managed to break up a blood clot at the last possible second before it gave the mare a fatal stroke. Still, she held her eyes closed, and waited a beat to breathe once more before she spoke. “It was deliberately curt for me, Your Majesty. We were in the midst of evacuating River Rock after Cyclone’s rebellion and eternal winter.” Then another beat, another breath. “You should apologize to Sir Gauntlet.”

“For what? He was the one shoving his hoof in my face.” Gale adjusted herself in her seat, struggling to get comfortable. “And I told you not to call me ‘Your Majesty’, Mom.”

“If that is an order, I shall… regretfully obey. But even if it does not matter to you at the breakfast table, amongst family, it will matter before the nobles. The image of royalty is everything.” Another breath, and another, came before she spoke again. “Sir Gauntlet was only doing his job, carrying on with noble tradition. You did not need to be so blunt in turning away his help, and you especially did not need to be a showoff.”

“A showoff?” Gale slapped an irritated hoof against the wall of the carriage, and then jumped for a moment when it started moving. “I don’t need his help. Why is that so wrong?”

“There’s no weakness in accepting help,” Celestia observed. “Nor in needing it from time to time, Gale.”

“What? Yes there is. That’s, like, the definition of weakness. And it would be one thing if I actually needed the help getting up into the cart, but he’s… what, sixty? I ought to be the one helping him. He looks like he’d break if I leaned on him.”

Gale!” snapped Queen Platinum, opening her eyes. Then, abruptly, all thought on Sir Gauntlet washed off of Platinum’s face; you could even see it happen, just from looking at her. “What are you wearing?!

“Um… a shirt?” Gale shrugged. “I know somepony at the stable would drop dead if I showed up naked, but I’ve been in dresses constantly since I got back, and I thought this would be a nice change of pace.” She extended a foreleg, showing off the sleeves. “I take it from your tone of voice that I’ve committed some kind of war crime? Is a shirt somehow scandalous on a Queen?”

“It…” Platinum furrowed her brow and wrinkled her muzzle. “You understand, Your Majesty, that your wardrobe as Queen isn’t simply defined by a minimum level of formality?”

“More like a minimum level of discomfort.”

“Your attire is a statement,” said the elder royal. “And just as not all words are appropriate for all audiences—even if they might be true—no outfit is appropriate for every event, no matter how regal it may be.”

“Just get to the fucking point, mom.”

Platinum frowned. “Your ascension took the nobles by surprise.”

“Clearly that was your fucking intention, since you didn’t even tell me.”

“They are looking for signs of stability. That things will continue as they are. That I married a pegasus was already beyond some of their approval—”

This?” Gale asked, tapping on her shoulder, where a single Cirran pauldron was crested in her family’s feathers. After visibly biting her cheek for a moment in thought, she let herself suck in a deep breath and leaned back on the cushions of the carriage’s seat. “They can bite me. I’m not losing it.”

“I would encourage you to consider at least showing some flexibility—”

“You mean bending over and being their fucking doormat, like you are every time they decide they want more power? More money?” Gale rolled her eyes and let her head hit the wall of the carriage. “Personally, I’m hoping somepony questions my ‘divine right’—that’ll be fucking hilarious, with you standing right there, Aunt Celestia.”

Celestia frowned openly. “I… Gale, I promised I would support you, but I’m not comfortable forcing myself into politics that way. Please do not use me as a prop.”

“It’s a little late for that, isn’t it?” Gale shrugged. “I’ll try not to drag you into the Stable’s bullshit, but standing behind me with your wings up yesterday was blunt enough of a metaphor, I think even Puddinghead understood it.”


“What? He even admits it himself, he’s as thick as the shit he puts in his hat. Besides, that joke would land great with the nobles; they’re all racist enough.” Gale emulated a stuffy, over-enunciated voice. “Oh, how droll; the earth ponies surely ahh less intelligent than us. They should have stayed in the fields where they belong.

Again, Platinum refrained from swift words in favor of an obviously forced breath in and out. “So that’s how you think of your subjects? Yet you still believe rubbing your pegasus ancestry in their muzzles is the wisest introduction?”

“I think it’s going to come up anyway. Even if I change my shirt, I can’t change my parents. Because, believe me, if I could, you’d be the first to know.” Though Gale delivered that final thought not with a shout, but with the subtler barbs of a calm joke, it struck Platinum truer than her daughter could possibly have known.

Celestia, too, seemed wounded by the callous words. “Gale, I know you don’t mean—”

But before Celestia could finish her admonishment, the carriage lurched to a stop, and what seemed only a moment later, the door was pulled open.

“Your Majesties. Your Holiness.” Sir Gauntlet gave a perfunctory bow, before extending a foreleg toward a wide scarlet carpeted path, laid out over the cobblestones of the street to bridge the path between the carriage and the front doors of the Stable of the Stable of Nobles.

The Stable House, as ponies often called the building due to the mutual understanding of everypony in Equestria except its members that “the Stable of the Stable” was a naming atrocity almost as bad as mine, was built according to the ‘aspirational’ school of architecture.

For those unfamiliar, that meant the building really wanted to be a castle when it grew up.

Stone walls surrounded a diamond-shaped building (its awful shape guaranteeing it a monopoly on its block near the palace), each point capped with a tower which would prove utterly vital in defending the building in the event of a protracted siege from a threat on the order of a newborn foal, or perhaps some moderate to heavy rainfall. For anything greater, the huge number of elaborate windows on the ground floor made it clear any military aspirations the structure might possess were an architect’s equivalent of a game of ‘dress up’.

Ponies' relationship with royalty has not changed in one thousand years, it should be noted: as Gale hopped out of the carriage (again refusing Sir Gauntlet’s offered hoof), she found her red carpeted path swarmed on both sides with the ‘common rabble’ of the civilization. Two lines of armored unicorn knights kept the masses from rushing up to engulf Gale.

Now, I could (through the practice of necromancy) elaborate in considerable detail about Gale’s reception to her first gathering of the Stable of Nobles; however, given that I have loved her longer than lifespan of most dragons, I know that even in my best efforts I am not the most reliably neutral source of commentary on the subject of her, in general.

This is the first of several cases where, thankfully, I don’t have to be. In my youth, I made a habit of stashing away a few copies of The Everfree Gazette from days of particular interest to me. Newspapers were only a few decades old in those days, one of the most notable cultural contributions the earth ponies brought to Equestria. As the capital of Equine civilization, Everfree had four or five running presses around the time of Gale’s ascension—though one, The Pudding Enquirer, was already recognized as a sordid tabloid full of hearsay and rumor-mongering, financed entirely by the earth pony chancellor’s loins.

It is quite the grim commentary on our species that it outsold the other papers for the entire duration of Puddinghead’s tenure as Chancellor.

Tabloids aside, The Everfree Gazette was my personal favorite paper, for reasons that are a story for another Tale. My personal collection, mercifully moved to Canterlot before Nightmare Moon’s rampage, I shall share with you to let you see just how the city viewed Gale from less biased eyes.

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

Surprise Succession: Unicorn Nobility Caught Flat-Hoofed
By Editorial Bored

In the wake of Queen Platinum I’s surprise abdication, Equestria’s unicorns find themselves represented by an unknown and untested leader. Some fear Queen Platinum III’s reputation for small scandals will cost the unicorns influence in parliament; others praise her mixed heritage as an opportunity to weaken the barriers between the tribes.

Platinum III took her first official act today by heading a session of the Stable of Nobles, the gathering of heads of the landed unicorn noble families. Notable members of the Stable include Archmage Star Swirl the Bearded, whose return to public life as the head of House Zodiac caused some stir after his extended absence in the company of the informally named ‘Pillars of Equestria’. Lady Glass Menage, leader of the Equestrian Alchemist’s Guild and the head of the House of Three, also saw some commotion regarding the string of break-ins at Lighten Heights (see Alchemist Crime Spree Baffles Legion, pg. 3). However, Equestria’s eyes were all on the last ponies to arrive at the event, and most especially on the new Queen.

Without a single spoken word, Platinum III’s choice of outfit reinforced both the fears and hopes of the nation. Clad in a slimming shirt, devoid of cape or trail or the ornate jewelry that has come to represent Platinum I as an icon of the unicorns, she wore only two accessories. The first was the Royal Crown; the second, a single Cirran Legion pauldron, decorated with black and brown feathers. The symbolism of her father, Commander emeritus Hurricane, and her half-sister, the sitting Commander Typhoon, was obvious to the crowd immediately.

The first questions to the new Queen were about the day’s session of the Stable, and her expectations. “Besides wasting time on ceremony, we’re dealing with the Settlement Bill,” she said. Asked about the proposed compromise between the Stable and the earth pony delegation in parliament, Platinum III showed none of the hesitation or diplomatic vagueness this paper has usually received from the prior Queen Platinum or her representatives. “I’m going to get the Stable to take the hit [to mining limits]. I’m done with ponies using tribalism as a cover for corruption. If Equestria is really supposed to be somewhere anypony can thrive, regardless of wings or horn, it has to start from the top.”

Her words echo Commander Hurricane’s now famous final address to Equestria at the announcement of his retirement, and suggest the new Universalist Party may have found a sorely-needed ally in the new unicorn sovereign.

At the same time, the comments almost immediately produced some natural ire from traditionalists in the crowd. Upon inquiring about how she intended to balance preserving the distinct cultures of the tribes with her ‘erasurist’ agenda, the Queen replied “If you still want to live in the Diamond Kingdoms, there’s plenty of cheap real estate in River Rock.” Just before disappearing into the private confines of the Stable House, she added “Don’t forget to pack warm.”

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

The Stable House’s interior smelled like the elderly and was one thin coating of dust shy of looking like a particularly haunted sanitarium. The walls were wainscoted in antiqued fir, topped with a green wallpaper that alternated dark and dull pale stripes. Portraits hundreds of years older than the building, carried away by the unicorn nobles as they abandoned their ancient homes in River Rock and its surrounding cities to the last windigo and its eternal winter, glared down at their new monarch with undisguised contempt.

Gale didn’t care about the dead unicorns any more than she seemed to care about her mother, following after her in the moments since she had entered the building but increasingly struggling to keep up. Celestia too lagged behind, though I know with certainty that in her case it was a deliberate choice to support the elder Platinum, rather than a lack of agility on her part.

Though the Stable House had dozens of passageways and sitting rooms, as well as bedchambers for nobles who normally lived outside the walls of Everfree City, the monarch’s path was both straight and short. Even from the entry doors, Gale could see the two knights ahead of her on opposite sides of the doors that led into the Stable’s gathering chamber (also sometimes referred to as the Stable, because of course it was). They bowed and lit their horns in tandem—an obviously practiced motion, and in tandem the doors swung open, revealing the Stable of Nobles (the group of ponies) sitting in the middle of the Stable of Nobles (the gathering chamber), which was itself the central room of the Stable of Nobles (the building).

The room was constructed much like an opera house’s stage chamber: seven rows of shoe-shaped galleries rose up from the carpeted floor, divided into dozens, if not hundreds of what were essentially theatre booths. Each such booth had a few seats; some three, some as many as seven, nearly all filled with the representative nobleponies of the booth’s corresponding family. If you knew anything about heraldic banners and crests, the symbols hanging from the front of each booth and the colored stripes on the cloth awnings covering each booth would tell you exactly what families each booth belonged to. If not, it was still quite a dizzying sight of colors and patterns. At the front of each booth, sticking out from under its awning, was a small podium where a pony who wished to addressed the room could be seen even from those above them, without worry of being blocked from view by copious clothwork.

High overhead, an enormous oval skylight filled the chamber with natural sunlight, though a few dozen chandeliers, set with glass baubles in place of candles, offered magical lighting in the short days of winter and the long nights of the practice of equine kind’s most dangerous game: politics.

As with all opera houses and stages, the ground floor was the most notable setting for the action that took place. Five booths built in the same style, but in far more grandiose size and decoration, lined the curved wall. Each, of course, faced the grandest and most overblown of all the booths, decorated in the silver, gold, and purple of the royal family. It alone had no awning, offering nowhere for Gale to retreat from view for as long as she sat in what was for all intents and purposes another throne. This one, she would often tell me, was at least mercifully not made of metal as the famously platinum ‘Platinum Throne’ was, and so not prone to being entirely frigid on her back and flanks.

As Gale stepped into view, the court herald spoke up in his bellowing, practiced voice. “Mares and stallions of the Stable of Nobles, all rise in honor of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Platinum the Third.”

And then, as was almost inevitable, all Tartarus broke loose.

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