• 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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2-9

II - IX

Queen Platinum's Folly

Gale arrived the next day at the Stable clad in a plain burgundy dress that Lark had told her looked business-like, if not just a touch stern. Combined with wearing her mane back, the hoofmaiden had created an effect that forsook complicated imagery in favor of simple efficiency and directness. On the ride to the Stable, Platinum’s only commentary had been a nod after looking the outfit up and down, which was perhaps as close to a compliment as Gale could stomach from her mother on her appearance without feeling ill.

In what the newspapers would call an unusual show from the unicorns’ senior statesmare, Grand Duchess Chrysoprase was waiting outside when the Royal Carriage arrived.

“Aunt Chrysoprase,” Gale greeted, spurning Sir Gauntlet’s offered hoof in favor of leaping down almost into the Grand Duchess’ face. “Good news?”

“I wouldn’t offer anything else to my Queen,” Chrysoprase answered with a practiced smile. “Would Your Majesty and the Queen-Mother care to join me in my office briefly?”

“We’d be honored,” Platinum replied.

Gale shot a stern glance to her mother, and then frowned. “Of course, Grand Duchess. Lead the way.”

As the trio of unicorn mares made their way past the day’s reporters, questions were shouted in furious volume. “Will the mining quota be reduced today?” “Have you spoken to Secretary Gallery?” “Is it true you intend to appoint non-unicorn nobles?”

Gale’s instinct was to stop and answer the questions, but Platinum put a firm hoof on her daughter’s shoulder and encouraged her wordlessly to keep walking.

Only once two sets of doors separated the trio from the crowd outside did anypony speak. “Calling out random questions without acknowledgement like a mob; how do the earth ponies tolerate it?” Chrysoprase asked bitterly.

“It’s not that hard; you just pick the questions you want to answer and shout back.” Gale chuckled. “You’ve been using your gong too long.”

“Perhaps you’re right, Your Majesty.” Chrysoprase shook her head as they progressed through the Stable building. “I’m afraid I haven’t arranged for drinks or breakfast this morning.”

“That’s hardly an obligation,” Platinum answered. “Hurricane always makes quite filling breakfasts, especially now that the house is bursting at the seams. We’ve already had quite a bit to eat.”

“House guests?” Chrysoprase asked.

“Morty’s and his friends are staying with us,” Gale answered swiftly. “Mom gave him Vow’s old house, but all the furniture there is still rotten and musty.”

“Ah, Baron Card’s house, you surely mean?” Chrysoprase corrected, before letting her voice drop to a bit of a whisper. “It is an old custom not to speak the names of traitors. And Solemn Vow was a personal friend to many in the Stable before his treason was revealed, so for some the wounds are still quite brisk.” Then, lifting her tone again, she glanced back curiously toward Platinum. “You don’t think that was a bit on the muzzle, Platinum? Given the colt already wears one of Baron Card’s jackets?”

“I thought that if anypony is going to know how to use all the strange magic in the house, it would be him. I’ve been trying to sell it for nineteen years.” Platinum chuckled. “If anything, it was a liability to the treasury.”

“An excellent solution, then. I shall have to send our new neighbor a houseplant or something.” Chrysoprase did not look at Gale as she spoke her next words, but her tone was plenty stern enough. “I trust Your Majesty won’t be repeating your mother’s mistake and assigning him a barony? Baron Card, at least, wasn’t a half-breed barbarian—I’m afraid the press would eat the poor colt alive, to say nothing of the Stable.”

“I thought you would have preferred him to my other proposals.” When Platinum turned to her daughter with distress in her expression, Gale rolled her eyes. “I’m kidding, Mom. I’ve got more urgent assignments to make, remember?” And with that particular segway hanging in the air, Gale waited until the trio had actually made it the rest of the way down the last hall on the way to their destination and fully into Chrysoprase’s office before continuing “So what’d House and Glass say?”

“Your Majesty is certainly direct,” Chrysoprase noted, glancing to Platinum. “Did she learn it from Hurricane?”

Platinum shrugged. “Him or Typhoon; they’re both that way.”

“Yes, I suppose so—”

“I’m standing right fucking here, in case you two are done debating who taught me how to get shit done.” Despite the strength of her words, Gale refrained from shouting, though she lacked the discipline to keep wrinkles of frustration from her brow. “What. Did. They. Say?

Chrysoprase sighed. “The agreement can still be saved, but they need all the domains.”

“Then we’re done here,” Gale muttered.

“Your Majesty… Gale, wait!” Chrysoprase called out as the young monarch turned to leave. “Please, reconsider. You said as we were leaving yesterday you wanted to do what is best for Equestria; won’t throwing away two years of our work for your subjects be worse than butting your forehead into the Stable and declaring an eternal stalemate?”

“She asked you to call her ‘Gale’?” Platinum asked flatly, before walking over to her daughter and extending a hoof toward Gale’s shoulder. “Daughter, Chrysoprase is right. Your goals aren’t defeated forever just because they aren’t happening this very instant!”

“Your rule is only three days old,” Chrysoprase added. “You’ve taken the throne decades earlier than most of the great kings and queens in our history, and without the Scourge of Kings in your blood, Celestia willing you’ll rule longer than any of them too! You have fifty, sixty maybe seventy years in front of you.”

“Fifty years of kissing the Stable’s ass?” Gale asked. “No. I told them where I stood.”

“This will hurt you more than it hurts them,” Platinum warned. “This won’t make them respect you, Gale; you’re making enemies.”

“Please, Your Majesty, let me help you,” Chrysoprase pleaded.

Gale sighed. “Mom, you win.” As Platinum and Chrysoprase’s faces softened, though, she continued. “You finally got me to do it; I’ll quote Tongue and Horn at you. ‘To beg is to reveal that you have nothing better to offer; to fold and reveal that your hoof of cards is empty; to call your own bluff.’

Had they been outside, I fully suspect a timely wind might have swept between the three ponies gathered, batting at their clothes as they stared in silence, testing their wills where words had failed.

Rarely have I seen such a meeting end without bloodshed, and given what happened in the weeks that followed, perhaps Equestria would have been better had Gale been wearing a sword.

“Permit me one last thought,” Chrysoprase announced at last, mustering the will to cut through the silence. “Your Majesty, if you walk out of this office without an oath for Duke House and Duchess Glass, you will lose three votes to one. Tomorrow, or the next day, the earth ponies spurned by your failure to fulfill the Crown’s promise, will turn on you. The next time you seek to build a coalition in Parliament for any sort of compromise, you will find you are not trusted and the earth ponies will likely demand a steeper compromise to aid you. In the Stable, your intransigence will mean House and Glass—but most especially House, who at the moment is the closest to endorsing your position of the Great Houses—will be quicker to vote against you. My banners may include more of our delegation to Parliament than any of the other Great Houses, but those two, along with Duchess Fire Power, easily outnumber me. And if I am forced to choose between the Stable and the Crown, as Speaker for the Stable my position is quite clear. Understand, Your Majesty: you are choosing a path that will hurt you much more than it will hurt us. I want to be your ally, Gale, but I need you to let me.”

Gale scowled and grabbed the handle of the office door with her magic. “Do your worst; I’m not afraid.”

A moment later, the door clicked shut behind her.

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

Platinum made no further attempt to sway her daughter, nor did the elder statesmare accompany her into the Stable chamber proper. Gale entered alone into the chamber; it had been by her own insistence that Platinum not weaken the firmness of her position by whispering in her ear. So instead, for the first time before a full array of her subjects, she was truly alone.

The room could feel the tension that hung in the air between her and the dukes and duchesses. Where often one would hear the clicking of hooves on railings or the gentle creaking of chairs as nobles all but fell into them, now there was nothing. Ponies moved with all the delicate focus they could manage, for none wanted to become the focus of the floor’s attention.

“Mares and stallions of the Stable of Nobles, all rise in honor of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Platinum the Third,” announced the Stable’s herald. Ponies stood, and though Gale’s hoof moved as if to wave the motion away, she hesitated. She would later confess to me it was the first time, in the middle of a sort of stubborn rage at the density of the nobleponies, that she had realized the ceremony she so hated was useful. It forced the nobles to remember that she was Queen, and more than anything else she wanted that on their minds. So as they rose, she waited. Eyes sharp, she swept her gaze around the booths above her in the Stable, meeting as many eyes as she could find, trying her best not to betray her singular feeling.

And then, after twenty long seconds, she lowered herself into her seat, and the room breathed.

“Get started,” she ordered.

Chrysoprase stepped to the front of her booth and rang her gong once. “As Your Majesty wishes. When we left yesterday we were in the midst of discussions of the settlement bill. Given where we left yesterday, I bring a motion that we move directly to Her Majesty’s final thoughts, and then our vote. Do the other Great Houses approve?” Though it wasn’t a formal vote, a quick glance from Chrysoprase around the room saw a number of quick nods from the ponies on the ground floor. “Very well. Your Majesty, for the sake of a reminder in your first Stable vote as reigning Queen: it is your right to a last word addressing the Stable.”

Gale shrugged. “Why?”

What followed was a very long, very strange pause, as most of the room stared at the new queen with confusion, and perhaps a hint of pity. Finally, Chrysoprase leaned forward. “I confess, I don’t know when the right of the last word was originally given to the monarch off the top of my head; I would have to study a bit in our histories, and—”

“No, no. I mean ‘why bother’?” Gale leveled her focus heavily across the nobles—though mercifully sparing Star Swirl—as she gestured dismissively into the air with a forehoof. “You know what I’m willing to offer. You know why I hold my position. I challenge you all to do what’s right for Equestria. I’m not changing my mind, and yours are already settled.” Then she shut her eyes and sighed with a dry chuckle. “But feel free to surprise me.”

Chrysoprase sighed. “Thank you, Your Majesty. We now proceed to vote. Duke Swirl, I welcome your vote first on behalf of House Zodiac and your banners.”

Star Swirl nodded, setting the bells on the hem of his robe jingling, though he had omitted both his hat and his pipe for the proceedings. “House Zodiac is in favor.”

“One in favor,” Chrysoprase repeated. “Duchess Glass?”

“Against,” said the sharp-edged mare shortly, ensuring her piercing blue eyes were drilling into Gale’s skull, rather than facing the mare who had, ostensibly, prompted the question.

A few gasps and murmurs slipped into the room, but when Chrysoprase lifted the gong in threat, they were quickly suppressed. “Very well. One in favor, one against. Duchess Power?”

“I am against letting the earth ponies infringe on our domain rights, and granting domains to non-nobles,” said Duchess Power, her ruby coat replaced with a vest of gold and orange threads that, while more muted in the amount of physical light it reflected, was no less extravagant in its implicit price tag. Nopony seemed surprised by her vote.

“One in favor, two against.” Chrysoprase sighed. “And the Stable reminds the Lady of the House On Fire that the last word in argument belongs to Her Majesty, not our houses. Duke House?”

The bland stallion gave only the slightest of nods as he lifted his head to glance over his pince-nez. “Against.”

What had before been slight gasps and murmurs turned to quite audible shows of surprise.

Chrysoprase cut through the noise not with her gong but her uplifted voice. “It is settled. A tie-breaking vote is not needed. The Stable of Nobles rejects the crown’s request, as is within our rights.” Chrysoprase sounded her gong once. “And with our business settled, the Stable is adjourned until our scheduled autumn gathering, pending a sooner summons.”

As the mostly geriatric ponies of the stable rose from their booths and shuffled toward their respective private exits, Gale sat still for a very long moment, watching the room empty. Fire Power and Glass Menage and House Divided saw no need for further words with their monarch; in her own words, why bother? Chrysoprase at least sent Gale a parting glance, filled with a potent blend of disappointment and pity.

The sound of bells approaching snapped Gale from her brief fugue; by the time Star Swirl’s stride had reached her, the room was nearly empty.

“Well, kid, that was something.”

Gale took a short breath, and let it out in a chuckle. “I’m still ‘kid’ to you?”

The old wizard raised a brow. “Platinum Gale Gladioprocellarius… is that right, that last bit? Never really got the hang of Cirran...” Without waiting for Gale to correct him, Star Swirl shook his head and continued. “I’ve had the honor in my life of advising your grandfather, both your parents, and now you. I’m one hundred and two damnable years old. And sure, I’ll call you ‘Your Majesty’ in front of the others. But we both know that’s not me being honest. You’re still a kid to me.” He grinned through his thick whiskers. “I’m sure you’re about to get taken to task by your mother, and the earth ponies, and the unicorn delegation in parliament, and stars know who else. So I just wanted to let you know I’m proud of you for standing up for what you believe in. Your dad probably is too, if you need somepony to talk to who’s been in those shoes before.”

Gale sighed. “How long do you think it’ll take before I get the Stable’s support?”

Star Swirl raised his bushy brow. “If you carry on like you just did? Never.” The old wizard chuckled. “I never said I thought your plan was going to work. But in my experience, it’s a lot easier to teach a skill like diplomacy or magic than it is to teach morality.”

“I’m that bad?”

“Do you want me to be honest or comforting?” Star Swirl asked back. When Gale winced, Equestria’s senior wizard let out another small laugh. “I told you I was no good at diplomacy. Just wanted you to know somepony appreciates what you’re trying to do before you head out of here.” Star Swirl concluded the thought by lighting up his horn, and then he was simply gone.

Gale lingered there, in the tall empty Stable chambers. It wasn’t that she was afraid—she hadn’t been when she stood up to her mother and Chrysoprase before the vote, and nothing had changed since then. The future she had chosen had come to pass. But Star Swirl’s warning hung in the air. Would it work? Would the nobles really hold out forever to stop her?

Finally, the new queen turned to her doors on the back of the Stable floor and with a push of her horn, made her way toward the exit.

Platinum I waited calmly in the middle of the hall. “Are you interested in my advice?” the silver mare asked bluntly.

Gale sighed. “Go ahead.”

“You should make arrangements for you to take Peanut Gallery out to lunch, and offer him your apologies for the failure of the compromise.”

Gale sighed. “Alright. I can do that.”

“Good,” Platinum agreed. “See if he is willing to arrange some sort of a meeting for the major leaders of his delegation, and make the same apology to them. If Secretary Gallery is reluctant, Chancellor Puddinghead may be another way to speak to them. I encourage you not to make any promises whatsoever regarding the Settlement Bill, even if they press you. The Great Houses will want to punish you for standing up to them, so any deal they offer you will be worse than the one you rejected today. It’s better to let the legislators sort that out without interfering now.”

“Sure,” Gale nodded. “I thought you were going to tell me to apologize to the Stable or something.”

“No, I know a lost cause when I see one,” Platinum answered sternly. “Until we are able to find an issue that they truly need your support on, or you are able to offer some kind of material apology, I would give up on having the Stable’s support, or by proxy, any easy passage of bills through Parliament.”

“If that’s the only way to make them listen—”

“Queen Platinum the Third, I am not going to waste my breath explaining to you the damage you did today. The reason I am not advising you to throw yourself on the Grand Duchess’ mercy and offer to marry her son as a way to undo what you did today is that I know you won’t listen. It seems the only way you are going to learn is to experience the pain of your mistakes first hoof. So for the time being, my advice regarding the Stable is to interact with them as little as possible. Do not play this game of brinksmareship again and lose even more ground, do not attempt to persuade any of them in private. Wait. And until then, we will focus your education on how to interact with your half-sister and Chancellor Puddinghead.”

“I’m not afraid of pain!”

“No?” Platinum asked. “Very well.” As the mother and daughter neared the exit to the Stable, they found two knights waiting. Sir Gauntlet and the other armored unicorn both bowed to the approaching mares, and Platinum answered them with a nod. “Since you don’t seem to value Sir Gauntlet’s assistance, I’ll be having him walk me to the carriage alone, daughter.”

Hearing the barbs in Platinum’s voice, Gauntlet stiffened. “Um… Your Majesty, I don’t mean to contradict you, but we serve at the Queen’s pleasure, not the Queen-Mother; by oath, I cannot abandon her—”

“Go,” Gale interrupted. “Do it.”

Gauntlet nervously glanced at his fellow knight, and then nodded. “As Your Majesty commands. We shall wait for you by the carriage.”

Gale was left alone again after that, as Platinum and the two knights made their way out of the Stable. Between the doors, Gale caught a faint glimpse of a crowd gathered around the walkway between the Stable’s doors and the waiting carriage. In addition to knights, a few pegasus legionaries could be seen controlling the masses.

She waited long enough for her mother’s slower gait to reach the carriage, then steeled herself and opened the door.

A chorus of “Boo!”s greeted her. The crowd surged and shouted and pushed against the line of guards. “Race traitor!” someponies shouted. Another voice asked “What’s Typhoon giving you for the land?” More screamed incoherently, trying to reach the young Queen’s ears.

A reporter near the front of the mass leaned over a legionary’s blade-crested wing, risking a painful cut for the chance to be heard. “Your Majesty, I’m Held Presses, Ridgeline Review—What makes your demand for pegasus representation in the Stable worth destroying the settlement bill compromise?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do!” Gale answered. “We need to tear down walls—”

“Aren’t you putting pegasus interests above your subjects, though? Without a settlement bill, Legion control will become even more entrenched in the new lands.”

“The Stable could have solved that—!” Gale was cut off by the shouts and the rushed questions of the reporters.

“Some would say the common unicorn cares more about new homes and places to do business than who has a presence in the Stable; what do you say of accusations that your refusal to compromise is elitist?”

“I wasn’t refusing to compromise; I offered Glass and House more domains—!”


“We heard from other nobles from inside the Stable that you did away with dozens of Stable traditions; why?”

“Because—”

“Your Majesty, do you—”

“Do you fuckers want your questions answered or not?!” Gale’s curse would have been heard around the crowd with how heavily she shouted, but when her horn surged to amplify her tone, the young queen’s fury instead echoed around the entire block.

The crowd answered with murmurs, but they did not especially grow quiet, and Gale briefly found herself wonder how Chrysoprase’s gong was so powerful. “I offered those assholes a compromise; Chrys… Grand Duchess Chrysoprase was willing to give up her domains to satisfy them; I only wanted one. But apparently the idea of implementing a shared government the way Equestria was supposed to work from square one is some kind of war crime, because even that wasn’t good enough.”

Somepony in the back of the crowd, obscured by the mass of bodies, shouted toward Gale “Who cares about the Stable? Give us our new lands!”

“What?” Gale asked.

“Down with noble games!” somepony else shouted. “Give us the lands!”

“Lands!” the crowd shouted, one voice and then two and the a dozen. “New lands now!”

“But—” Gale winced when the chanting overrode her protests. Desperately, her eyes searched the crowd for the well dressed nobles of the Stable. But the masses surrounding her were no well-funded elites glad in finest fineries and decorated with precious jewels. The mass was full of the naked bodies of the common folk, most of them not even unicorns, who had simply come to hear the good news of new lands and new opportunities.

Somepony in the crowd lunged forward. Maybe they were shoved, maybe they really were taking a swing at Gale; even my magic can’t tell me, let alone give a name. History forgot who moved first. But the knights and the Legion took it as a threat, and as the knights abandoned their lines to wrap tightly around their Queen, and the masses began surrounding the remaining legionaries, inevitable chaos erupted.

Gale tried to shout “Stop”, to use her magic to warn them off, but there comes a point when words, even magically heightened, are no more use. A point when ears hear, but hearts refuse to listen. Her knights pressed her into the Royal Carriage, though surrounded by a now broken crowd the roads were too blocked to take it anywhere. Inside, Gale pressed her face against the window, helpless to do anything but watch what followed.

The next day’s newspapers would call it Queen Platinum’s Folly. History books, conflating those first three fateful days, took to calling it the Regency Day Massacre. As Gale watched the crowds shouting and dispersing and cursing her name, six civilian ponies were injured by Legion blades.

One mare, an earth pony named Satchel, bled to death on the Stable’s red carpet. It was a slow death, and when the crowd began to disperse enough that Gale was sure it would be safe to try, she teleported out of the Royal Carriage.

No reporters were left behind to write the story of how she held that poor mare in her dying moments. They only told the story of the stubborn queen and her bloodstained pride.

And so began the rule of Queen Platinum the Third.

Author's Note:

If you want to chat with me and other readers, feel free to join us on The 24th Pegasus' Discord. I discovered that, although we've had a channel there for some time, the last time I provided a link was a blog post 2 years ago.

Im very glad that this chapter did not fall next week (for future readers: the 2020 US election).

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