• 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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2-6

II - VI

Politics, As Usual

“With the recognition of our new queen concluded, we now return to business as usual. Queen Platinum, since you were not present with your mother at the last gathering, owing to your appointment as ambassador to the Crystal Union—”

“It was a cover to hunt down Wintershimmer,” Gale interrupted. “We told Jade to her face, so there’s no point pretending here. And I guess it’s obvious I’m not going back to that job now.”

“Yes,” Chrysoprase replied calmly. “Owing to that, please feel free to stop us if there is any matter of discussion you don’t follow.” The Grand Duchess briefly cleared her throat, and then glanced back to her scribes, one of whom passed her a scroll. After a moment to apply her glasses, she continued “Nobleponies of the Stable, our first item of business is Queen Platinum… the First’s request that we agree to a lowering of the limit on gems mined per annum on domain land to no more than…” the old mare squinted through her lenses as she focused on the text. “…three tenths of one tonne per square league. This amounts to a reduction of twenty percent in the mining output of the lands assigned to noble families, and was requested by the now Queen-Mother on behalf of the earth pony delegation to parliament, as a mechanism to reduce the accrual of inflation. In exchange, the earth pony delegation agrees to their support for… The Statute of Equestrian Claim to, and Division of, Western Lands from Everfree Unto Typhoon Lagoon. Or for a shorter name, the new Bill of Settlement.” Raising her head from the parchment, Chrysoprase fluidly removed her spectacles and—though it was already amplified—lifted her voice. “Since our agreement in helping with the founding of Equestria gave our families absolute rights both to the land granted to us as domain, it is up to the Stable to agree or disagree to this restriction, as it was with prior limits. Hence, the matter will be put to vote. At this time, let anypony who wishes to take the floor step forward and make their voice heard.”

As Chrysoprase craned her neck to get a better look up the tall chamber for anypony wishing to be recognized, Gale leaned over toward her mother, ensuring her voice-raising spell was off before she whispered. “What were you planning on giving them to get this to work?”

“It’s not that simple,” Platinum answered bluntly. “Listen and see if you can figure it out while they debate, or just ask if you feel you need to. There’s no shame in admitting ignorance on your first day.”

Gale scoffed, re-enabled her voice amplification, and leaned back into her seat just as Chrysoprase spoke up. “The floor goes to Marquise Seal of House Club.”

Seal was a particularly sleek mare, naturally a sort of blue-gray color who obviously put considerable effort into maintaining the sheen of her coat. She wore her mane back, sweeping over her neck, and so seemed to always appear as though she had just taken a dive into water. “Fellow nobleponies, I ask once again for your ear in consideration. This is the third time in my tenure as the head of the House Club that the stable has considered bowing our heads to the earth ponies’ coin counters as they ask us to reduce our wealth. Why must we, the unicorns, always bear the yoke of lessening our rights? There are other means to address concerns of inflation, and yet I never seem to hear news of Lübuck having a bad year in the interest of the greater nation. And for what? So their delegation can hold another of our bills hostage? I say we put our hooves down and let them bear the discomfort. I, for one, find that my domain barely sustains my household and my family on the gems that my mines are allowed under our current limit. And I will not stand to see the principles of our nobility trod on by forcing noble-born, true blooded unicorns to take common work in the interest of keeping food on the table. I will not stand for it!”

As the room muttered out a chorus of “Here, here!”s and clip-clopped a round of applause, Gale leaned toward her mother. “Won’t the earth ponies get land out of this too? Not that much of each territory becomes noble land, right? So why are they using this bill for leverage?”

What Gale hadn’t realized is that her voice-amplification spell was still glowing, and so while the whisper didn’t pierce the whole room, it was quite audible.

Chrysoprase sighed, superseding the moment Platinum was taking to formulate an answer. “I would be hesitant to speak for the earth pony delegation to Parliament as a whole. And if Your Majesty is willing to accept a word of advice…” Chrysoprase let the offer sit for just a moment, and it clearly took Gale a few solid seconds to realize she was being asked a question before she shrugged and gave a single curt nod. The Grand Duchess smiled. “It is considered a matter of good manners to be careful not to lump the entirety of the earth pony tribe into the decisions of their elected representatives.”

“Alright…” Gale muttered, letting her spell drop and raising her voice mundanely at Chrysoprase, her tone saying ‘whatever’ even if her spoken words didn’t. “So the earth pony delegation wants you all to mine less on domain land, or they’ll… just sit on the bill, even though it’s to their advantage?”

“Yes, that seems an effective summary,” Chrysoprase agreed. “I would suggest either that they have calculated it to hurt us more than it hurts them, or they simply have no better way to exert leverage on the Stable. We rarely answer to their wishes, after all.”

Platinum took a step over to her daughter. “While strictly speaking, nopony can settle the land until it is divided into domains and opened, the Legion is still permitted to build any fortifications or improvements they need to control the land while it’s still unincorporated. That means Legion-employed craftsponies settle the land permanently before anypony else gets a chance. So the longer the bill sits, the more those territories wind up in pegasus hooves, which makes the pegasi stronger in the senate.”

“Which still hurts the earth ponies?” Gale pressed. “I mean, they’re the ones with the plurality to lose…”

Platinum nodded. “Between giving up some votes in the senate to the pegasi, or suffering increased inflation from our gem mining, it seems they prefer the former. Your suitor, Secretary Gallery, is quite calculating that way.”

“Wait, this is Peanut’s idea?” Gale shook her head as she tried to adjust her opinion of the young stallion, her attention pulled away from her mother as Chrysoprase gestured up to another noble seated high in the room.

“The Stable recognizes Baron Zin of House Red.”

Baron Zinfandel, whose nickname was so prevalent that even the normally stiff Grand Duchess used its short form in address, failed to live up to his house name; he was sort of a rose pony, though his pencil moustache and his incredibly short cut mane were both at least red enough to suggest he belonged in his own house.

“Your Majesty, fellow members of the Stable… Has anything of note changed since we last debated this subject? What I heard from Marquise Seal was the same argument that opponents shared when last we spoke. And I for one know that my argument in favor has not changed. In the interest of honoring our new Queen’s wishes that things be handled more…” Zin drew three circles in the air with his hoof before settling on the word “...efficiently, I move that unless anypony believes they have something new to add, we cease with our debates and let the Dukes vote.”

Gale let out a little chuckle, and gave the stallion a small clap.

“You approve, Your Majesty?” asked Chrysoprase.

“Hell yes,” Gale answered. “If you already fought about this, you don’t need to go over it again just for me.”

“Very well. Do my fellows object? Has anything new changed your minds that you feel is worth debating?”

She’s new,” Duchess Fire Power observed, pointing a hoof at Gale. “If the wealth cost doesn’t persuade you lot, maybe pegasus nobles will?”

“Would the House On Fire like the floor? Or must I remind the Stable that there are rules to recognition?” Under Chrysoprase’s blistering glare, the much younger noblemare wilted, but she nevertheless nodded. “Very well. The Stable now recognizes Duchess Fire Power of the House On Fire.”

Fire Power took a moment to draw in a deep breath, and in settling her shoulders she caused the light from her gem-crusted outfit to glitter like a chandelier (if not a disco ball) around her booth. “I already had my issues with this trade of ours with the earth ponies under the former Queen, but now from where I’m sitting, there is no debate to be had! Her Majesty told us not ten minutes ago what she intended to do if we put domains before her to assign! And I will have no part in it! And none of you should either!”

Chrysoprase calmly waited, her eyes watching Gale’s reaction rather than the nearly shouted words of the fiery spirited duchess. And though Gale said nothing, I think the Grand Duchess of the unicorns saw what she was looking for in my dearest friend. A hint of frustration, a wrinkle on her brow, a slight twitch in the hoof she rested on the arm of the throne. And then Gale’s eyes swung left along the row of nobles, and though she didn’t see it, Chrysoprase smiled.

Gale’s gaze came to rest on Star Swirl, who puffed his pipe and raised a brow. “Something you’re hoping for, little one?”

Chrysoprase frowned. “The Stable reminds Duke Swirl—”

“You’ll have to forgive me, ponies of the Stable, if I find that along with my sense of taste and some of my hearing, my sense of caring is beginning to fade.” Though the joke could have come across quite mean spirited, Star Swirl was a master of turning harsh words into good humor at his own expense. And, indeed, the Stable chuckled at the joke. “I delivered Her Majesty into this world, I personally guaranteed she was free of the Scourge of Kings, and I taught her… well, maybe not everything she knows about magic anymore,” Star Swirl winked. “But would you say most of it, Your Majesty?”

Gale chuckled. “Yeah, geezer. So, you got anything to say?”

“Ah, that’s what you want.” Star Swirl sighed, leaning back. “No.”

“What?”

“Was I unclear? No, Queen Platinum the Third, I do not. Being a grouchy old stallion isn’t an act. For somepony who makes such a big deal about not liking speeches, you’re a lot better at addressing the Stable than I am. I’ll gladly talk if it’s about magic, and I think the Stable knows you have my vote, but I’m not going to fight this battle for you.”

A look of visible relief passed over Lady Fire Power.

Quickly, though, that comfort seemed to vanish when another figure in Star Swirl’s booth spoke up. “If I may, Honorable Nobleponies.”

Archmage Mistmane the Beautiful, then Mother of Illusions, may have been a noblemare, but as her sharply curved horn and slight accent suggested, she was not a noble of the Diamond Kingdoms—and thus at least yet, not a noblemare of Equestria. Hailing from the island of Neighpon, the relatively young archmage (though, having already given up her beauty for her empress in yet another not-quite-true story you might already think you know, she looked more like Star Swirl’s peer than a mare sixty years his younger) of the Shogunate of Uma was not a member of the Stable, but merely Star Swirl’s guest.

“Hmm…” Chrysoprase nodded. “I see no reason to object. The Stable recognizes the guest of Duke Swirl of the House of Zodiac. Though I suspect we all know you, for the record, please introduce yourself.”

“My name is Mistmane… Oh, if I should be formal, my native name is Tategami Kiri, and I suppose my Clan Daikiri is similar to one of your Banner Houses.”

After Chrysoprase’s glance backward revealed a very nervous scribe, she nodded. “Archmage Mistmane will be fine, but the Stable appreciates your sharing.”

“It is my pleasure.” Mistmane nodded. “Unicorns, I have heard a great deal of worry today about whether or not it is right to raise up non-unicorns to a place of honor in your gathering. I know I do not come from your background, and so perhaps my comparison is flawed somehow, I thought that I might share a lesson from my life, if you will allow me.”

After a moment of awkward silence, when it became clear Mistmane actually was asking for permission, Chrysoprase nodded. “When we say ‘you have the floor’, it means you no longer need permission to speak, as long as you show the Stable and Her Majesty proper respect.”

“I see.” Mistmane nodded. “Some years ago, before Master Star Swirl came to Neighpon, I had an apprentice who was not a unicorn. And in our clan’s custom, because we have long been wizards, to take on another as an apprentice involves a ceremony to welcome them into the clan.

“Now, because my apprentice was not a unicorn, I could not teach her magic. Many of my clan felt that she should not have been welcomed into the clan. But I persisted. And surely enough, when we found ourselves arguing with other clans, as we seemed to always be doing, or worrying about the future of our magic, my fellows would often be mad at me because I was said to be our most skilled wizard, and I was not training a unicorn successor.”

Mistmane sighed. “But then we came to war with the kirin.”

Duchess Glass cocked her head and raised a hoof. When Mistmane nodded, the elegant mare cocked her head. “What is a ‘kirin’?”

“They are… the term ‘dragon-unicorns’ is not entirely accurate, but it is also the best explanation I can think to give. They were often at war with the Shogunate, and our clans land bordered on theirs.” Mistmane sighed. “My clan were not warriors; our magic has never been as violent as much of yours…” Mistmane hesitated. “I apologize; I mean no offense.”

“It’s fine,” Star Swirl comforted his guest. “In our history, studying magic was for killing monsters first and building up ponykind second. You aren’t wrong. Especially with Wintershimmer still on everypony’s minds.”

Mistmane nodded. “Well… My point, honorable nobleponies, is that we were sent to negotiate a peace with the kirin. But though we tried and tried, our talks did not get anywhere; the kirin were enraged and were not interested in peace, no matter what wonders of magic we produced to entertain or satisfy them. But my student, who did not know magic and all, but instead followed a warrior’s path, spoke to their leader in a language that she could understand: they fought, not to kill, but to earn each others’ respect. And in the end, it was that work that earned us our peace.”

Fire Power scoffed. “So you’re saying— ah, I’m sorry, Grand Duchess. May I have the floor, Archmage?”

“Go ahead,” Mistmane answered with a nod, making a bit of a show of pulling her hooves away from the edge of Star Swirl’s booth, as if ‘having the floor’ would somehow literally turn it to lava for those not intended to speak.

“We already have legions to pegasi to protect us without giving them noble titles,” Fire Power noted. “And even if I were to hire an earth pony bodyguard like Archmage Mistmane here, I wouldn’t give them a noble title for it.”

“My apprentice was not a pony,” Mistmane corrected, then frowned. “Oh, I’m sorry; may I have the floor?”

“Speak freely,” Chrysoprase muttered, waving her hoof. “What kind of creature was your apprentice?”

“Tsume was a griffon.”

“Holy shit, what?!” Gale leaned forward in her seat, and the entire Stable turned to her shock at the outburst. “You knew about the griffons?” At that point, Gale outright stood up. “Did you know Cirra? Did Emperor Magnus know about you? Why didn’t he attack you like the pegasi?”

Star Swirl sighed. “Mistmane, I tried to warn you: griffons are a sensitive subject. Remember how Flash reacted when you told him?”

“Yes, but these are unicorns, not pegasi.” Then Mistmane’s wrinkled eyes widened. “Ah, yes, your father is the Emperor of the pegasi, Queen Platinum. I should have remembered.” Mistmane shook her head. “The shogunate knew of Cirra at a great distance, but I believe I was two or three when they fled across the sea.” (Given Archmage Mistmane’s appearance of old age was the result of, essentially, a magical curse, this comment caught no small amount of the room off-guard.) “There was never much travel between us regardless. We were separated by the griffons, and the broken kingdoms of the great cats, and some part of the kirin lands. When Master Star Swirl and I traveled here, we did so across the great expanse of the dragon lands; to come more directly would be a very dangerous path for two ponies. So we did not speak to the Cirran pegasi, or rarely even the griffons. Tsume was an orphan of one of the griffon wars with the cats—they detest each other. And I have never met the griffon Emperor.”

“Probably for the best,” Fire Power noted. “Or he might be offered a noble title too.”

Gale actually got through to opening her mouth for a snappy retort, but it was the elder Platinum who claimed the initiative. “Duchess Fire, may I offer you a word of caution?” Despite the question, she did not wait for an answer. “The next time you consider making a joke about Emperor Magnus, and how his griffons slaughtered the pegasi, perhaps consider how you might feel if somepony were to make the same joke about what Warlord Corundum and the crystals did to your grandfather, and the thousands of other unicorns who died at Sapphire Pass.”

The Stable was struck mute as the Queen Mother seemed to loom over the assembly. “No pegasus knows exactly how many died; their census was lost with the rest of the Cirran lands. But my husband tells me it could not be less than half a million lives. So on behalf of our race, I will caution the entire Stable not to make light of these events, or propose diplomacy with the griffons, unless we wish to make enemies of the pegasi.” After a solid silent count to ‘five’, Platinum concluded by nodding to Chrysoprase. “Grand Duchess, my apologies for the interruption.”

“On the contrary, Your Majesty; on behalf of the Stable, thank you for reminding us all of the somber burden of our discussions.” Chrysoprase then nodded to Mistmane. “Archmage, we thank you for your lesson. Now, Your Majesty, while I had intended to call for a vote today, I believe the Stable may need another day before we are ready to vote. I move we postpone settling this issue until tomorrow morning.”

A few of the other nobles on the ground floor nodded, but Gale’s focus was quickly stolen by a slight glow on Chrysoprase’s horn. Though the older mare’s lips barely moved, her whispering voice magically reached Gale’s ears. “Your Majesty, we should speak privately, if you will make the time. Will you join me in my office?”

Then, her voice rising again to its magically amplified level, she again addressed Gale. “Does Your Majesty agree?”

Gale blinked briefly in shock at the double question, but then nodded.

“Then the Stable is adjourned until tomorrow morning.”

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

Grand Duchess Chrysoprase’s office in the Stable (building) could easily have belonged to a barrister, or in more modern parlance, a lawyer. Her sizeable C-shaped desk, with its ornate corners and magical lamps, was lightly decorated with well-organized paperwork in both scrolls and loose leaves, accentuated by a heavy copy of some ancient text on unicorn monarchic history. Rather than a set of two or three chairs, the other side of the desk had a small space for some unfortunate target of the Grand Duchess’ focus to stand, and then behind that a pair of sizeable couches flanking an oval coffee table (though it was called a ‘tea table’ in those days; coffee had just reached Equestria). A massive circular window behind Chrysoprase’s seat gave her a beautiful view of the streets of Everfree three stories below, flanked by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with thick records of the Stable’s goings on, nearly every one filled during the seated Grand Duchess’ extended rule. Most of the other walls were likewise filled, though a few gaps gave spaces for elaborate portraits of Chrysoprase’s family and an enormous hearth that kept the chamber warm in Everfree’s harsh winters.

If I didn’t know the mare as well as I learned to, I might have thought that its slight oppressive weight was an unintentional byproduct of its sheer dedication to purpose. But Chrysoprase was not a mare who left such things unconsidered.

The Chair of the Stable of Nobles led a small team of servants into the quarters, and promptly ignored them as they placed a pair of pitchers—ice water and a bottle’s worth of precious vintage 352 Bon Sang, decanted in an open-topped pitcher because nopony had invented the hoof-blender yet.

“Nice office,” Gale noted, walking inside as the servants began to exit. “You’re going to spoil me with all this good wine. First you try to give me Romorantin, and now Bon Sang?”

“I forget you have not been here with me to discuss the Stable business before,” Chrysoprase replied, gesturing for Gale to take a seat on one of the two couches, before letting herself gracefully fall onto the other. “Your mother won’t be joining us?”

“I can rule without her over my shoulder,” Gale answered; the feathers of her pauldron fluttering as she cleared the air symbolically with a hoof.

“Perhaps that’s for the best,” Chrysoprase nodded. “I imagine we will be meeting here often, so I welcome you to make yourself comfortable. I know your mother prefers to separate her private writing space from meeting rooms, but I’ve found I can get more done in a day if I keep my work here.”

“So the books are all, what, records?” Gale nodded to the numerous bookshelves as she poured two glasses of wine and slid one toward her great aunt.

“Oh, no; our records go to the archives below… at least, the ones we rescued from River Rock. Most of the minutiae of our history are probably frozen shut now in the old Stable. These are histories of the noble families. Peerages and genealogies, stretching back to the Wise Five Kings—supposedly back to Lady Celestia’s youth. Do you think she would be offended if I asked her about whether or not they’re true?”

Gale leaned back into the couch and chuckled, enjoying the first sip of her wine; just slightly sour, the Bon Sang’s refined, distinguished set of flavors was interesting enough to the new queen that she almost missed the question. “Hmm? I don’t think she’ll care, but she’s not gonna answer the question either. Mom tried.”

“I should have guessed as much,” Chrysoprase nodded. “I was surprised to see her in attendance today.”

“I don’t know what Mom did to twist her ear and get her to keep standing behind me. But I doubt she’ll keep coming; she’s supposed to be teaching Morty magic.”

“Morty? Meaning your friend Coil? I had thought he was already trained.”

Gale shrugged. “I don’t get it either. And every time I ask, I wind up more confused, so I think I’m going to give up trying. I’ll just ask Star Swirl if it ever matters.”

“A wise use of delegation,” Chrysoprase noted. “I think I’m in much the same position.” Red stained Chrysoprase’s lips. “As a foal, I was a terrible magic student. I preferred arguing with my teacher over listening to him… I suppose in some way the practice paid off.”

Gale answered with a sip of her own, and then lowered the glass. “I don’t mean to be an ass, but I know you didn’t ask to talk to me so you could tell me stories of ‘the good old days’.”

“Ah, no. You’re correct. I wanted to offer you my assistance.” Chrysoprase waited for Gale’s response, and when the younger mare’s eyes narrowed skeptically, she continued. “I take it you don’t trust me?”

“You don’t want me to name pegasi to the Stable,” Gale explained dryly.

Chrysoprase sighed. “You’re correct. I don’t.”

“So you don’t actually want to help,” Gale continued. “Are you proposing a trade?:

Green wrinkles tugged back into a scoffing chuckle. “So transactional… Platinum—may I call you Platinum?”

“If you want to use my name, it’s Gale.”

Chrysoprase nodded. “Truly your father’s daughter.”

“Is that a problem?”

“It could be,” Chrysoprase warned. Then, lifting her wine toward her lips again, she spoke over the lip of the glass. “It isn’t to me; not here, at least. Not yet.” And then she took the pending sip.

“Not yet? It will be?” Gale asked.

“I do not want to be your enemy, Gale. We will be on opposite sides of issues at times… we may be on opposite sides of the one you’ve set before us. But to no small extent, what remains to be written of my legacy is in your hooves. And what remains of my ambition certainly is as well. I want you to succeed. I want you to raise up the Stable, and the unicorns, and if necessary, the rest of Equestria with them. I am willing to accept that you believe unifying the tribes further is what is good for Equestria. Because I don’t think it will destroy us, if you are willing to temper your efforts, and listen to my advice, I don’t need a trade. I am willing to support you. I tell you now, I will not move as fast it seems you would like. But you’ll find treading over me is far harder than moving with me.”

“You’ve got to want something.”

Chrysoprase nodded. “I want you to marry my son.” Then, when Gale’s face flashed with rage, she spoke quickly. “But that does not mean I am asking you to make that the terms of a trade. I am telling you because you are a smart enough young mare to know that if I told you I won’t want anything except to see you succeed, that I would be lying. From my perspective, I hope that if we work together as allies, over time you will see High Castle as a favorable suitor.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then one of my grandfoals will be Chair of the Stable, instead of King or Queen. But the strength I have built for the House of Gullion will persist, and my legacy will be secure regardless.” Chrysoprase offered a nearly grandmotherly smile—though unlike so many of the older mares of Equestria, it was more evocative of words like ‘hag’ and ‘witch’ and ‘cauldron’ than ‘chocolate-chip cookies’ or ‘those weird little strawberry candies with the gum inside’.

“Alright.” Gale nodded slowly. “So you don’t want anything from me right now. What are you proposing?”

“If I had held our vote today, you would have lost three to one, with only Star Swirl’s vote in favor, and the negotiations your mother and I have been perfecting for the last two years would go to waste. You would lose face for no benefit, and the pegasi will continue to deepen their hoofhold on the new territories without any unicorn influence. We need this bill to go through, and l have a solution, but I need your assistance to make it work.”

“Go on.”

Chrysoprase nodded. “While your mother hadn’t publicly guaranteed which noble families the new domains’ lands would be given to, there was a certain unspoken understanding that those lands would be divided up among the great houses, to be given to our banners instead of the banners of your house, or to the unaffiliated lesser nobles. At the end of the day, however, we both know that Star Swirl is a lock regardless and Duchess Fire Power is a lost cause. We have to win Duke House and Duchess Glass.”

“Not or?” Gale asked. “With just one of them, and Star Swirl, the vote will tie two for and two against. Then you cast the deciding vote in favor—”

“Gale, it is one thing for me to support you in private, and quite another for me to vote for you that way on the record in front of the whole Stable.” Chrysoprase sighed. “You made yourself represent incredible change with your speech today. That comes with bold new opportunities, but it also comes with a threat to those in power. In some ways, I have to represent the opposite, as a way to maintain my support and my influence.”

“What good is your ‘alliance’ if you aren’t going to vote when it counts?”

“While I cannot stand on your side, there will be times when I can allow myself to ‘lose’. Just as there will be times when you must do the same. Consider, for example: Duke House and Duchess Glass likely believe that they cannot vote in favor if you are going to assign even one domain and title to a pegasus family. Therefore, if we hope for their votes, we must give the appearance of promising away all our votes. But what if I tell you that you do not need to buy my vote with the promise of domains for my banners?”

Gale frowned for a moment in deep thought, and then cocked her head. “Won’t that hurt your reputation worse? If they catch on that you’re going behind their backs?”

“Oh, you misunderstand me. I intend to tell them both bluntly that I’m willing to forgo domains for my banners to make this pass.”

“Then what’s stopping them from demanding all the domains, and blocking me completely?”

Chrysoprase sighed. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

“Then why—”

“Because that is simply not how business is done,” Chrysoprase interrupted tersely. She and Gale stared at each other for a rather long moment, the younger mare only barely suppressing a glare. “I will not lie to them, Your Majesty. That would be damage I would never recover from. And the same is true for you. Your words today made you a good number of enemies in the Stable, but that is damage that can be healed with time. But if you promise them these domains and then you do not follow through, there will be nothing you can do in your entire life to earn that trust back fully. Some scars are forever.”

Chrysoprase finished her glass then, and set it down on the table. With a final, punctuated swallow, she once more collected her expression. “Do you agree?”

Gale took her glass—still far more full than Chrysoprase’s had been—and threw it back in a single gulp, before likewise setting the empty vessel on the table. “It’s not that complicated. You’re powerful enough that you can afford to pass on a round of domains for your banners. You’re going to go argue on my behalf with House and Glass so that they’ll let one banner go for my plan with the pegasi. But ultimately, we’re hoping they’re both going to play along with my plan, even though they both obviously don’t like it.”

“It isn’t just hope. I do have some political capital with my fellow Dukes and Duchesses. It isn’t a guarantee, but our odds are better than you fear.”

“And I’m assuming you want me to take whatever deal they offer, regardless?”

Chrysoprase nodded grimly. “You understand that whether you like it or not, the success or failure of this bill will carry your reputation with it? Your mother all-but promised the earth pony delegation she would see it passed, in exchange for lightening their demands about how much we would reduce mining, And since you now wear the crown, the onus of that obligation passes to you.”

“I’m not my mom,” Gale answered coldly.

Chrysoprase was quiet for a moment at that, then nodded. “Certainly not. I imagine you are more concerned with the impact of your actions on Equestria than your own personal reputation? Very well. This bill is vitally important to the unicorns. To Equestria, even. Your mother and I have been fighting for this compromise for years. It is… I don’t mean to make light of your goals, but to the ponies we pass on the streets, opening those lands to settlement will have a far bigger impact than any ideological debate about our tribal divisions.”

Gale sighed. “It’s not just some ideological debate. Believe me; somewhere out there, there’s some earth pony colt wishing he could make some change to the domains, or a pegasus whose mark is for banking or economics… or a unicorn filly who wants to lead the Legion.”

Chrysoprase cocked her head, completely able to see through every one of Gale’s political thoughts and yet utterly blind when the younger mare all but screamed at her. After the momentary display of confusion, she gave a slow nod. “You may be right, but I think we can both agree those dreams aren’t as practical a concern—at least, they won’t be for another few decades. This bill is now.”

Gale nodded, pushing herself up off the couch. “Those dreams aren’t as far away for those ponies as you think. I’m not making any promises, Grand Duchess; you can tell them that too. Let them decide if they want to do what’s best for Equestria, or if they want to be stubborn just to spite me.”

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