• 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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12-1 A Superb Morty Party


A Superb Morty Party

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Housewarming at the Mausoleum

Through the eternal wit of a newspony at one or another of the early Equestrian newspapers, the morning paper arrived at dawn proclaiming in its social column that there was to be a party at The Mausoleum. Through my continuing efforts studying under Archmage Diadem—whom at the time I still quite disliked, but only quietly to myself so as to not get in the way of my studies—I was able to enjoy the pun under my own power, albeit after a great deal of pain sounding out the letters and failing to get the syllable 'mozz' out of what is clearly pronounced rather akin to the word 'mouse'. Whatever the etymology that produced such a spelling,—and I could tell you, but I simply don't care to waste the ink—the paper was quite correct. After weeks of study with Vow (though not weeks plural for anypony else, owing to Archmage Hourglass' benevolent gift of time compression), he had declared my social education suitable to begin setting our plan into motion. And, like every new introduction or assignment of a new title within the upper echelons of unicorn noble society, my advent was to be announced and celebrated with an elaborate house party—specifically, my house.

I leave it as an exercise to the reader to complete the mental leaps that led to the quite persistent pun—a name that stuck to my home until Luna's decision to grow a whole cursed forest through the middle of town decided not to play nice with Hourglass' time distortion magic. Which I suppose is to say, now the name is even more fitting, because if you go inside, the remains it will contain will be yours.

I won't bore you with a description of the preparations for the party. This isn't a Tale about me. Rather, much like the greater story of those short precious years in Everfree City, the title of our Tale's hero belongs to Gale. Likewise, this particular tale in our grand play begins with Her Majesty's arrival in the royal carriage, a slightly less-than-fashionable hour and seventeen minutes after the party had been scheduled to begin. The venerable Sir Gauntlet offered her a hoof down from the door, and she at least made a show of touching her hoof to his, even if she couldn't bring herself to put her body weight on the grandfatherly stallion's shoulder just to spare her a single long step. The motion brought her electric blue dress, apparently fabricated of tiny metal scales in emulation of the skin of a dragon, into full sparkling daylight.

"Do you need accompaniment for the event, Your Majesty?" Gauntlet asked with a smile, apparently satisfied by at least the show of tradition.

Gale shook her head. "While the offer is appreciated, it's just a house party." With a slight grin, she added "Even if anything did happen, I'm probably safer around Morty than anywhere else in Equestria. But if you're interested in lending a quick hoof before you go, I wouldn't mind a hoof with the gift."

"Certainly, Your Majesty," Gauntlet agreed, taking a single step toward the back of the carriage, and from the trunk strapped behind the rear quarter he telekinetically hefted what was obviously a framed painting, even beneath its wrapping of butcher's parchment and twine (lest I confuse historians, in those days nopony had yet popularized the wrapping of gifts. I'm quite certain the parchment was just to protect the artwork during transit). Moving the painting onto his armored back (and still balancing it with his magic), the stallion extended a hoof to invite Gale to take the lead up the short path to the front door.

The door, as always, opened on its own. Behind it, while there was quite a lot of party to see, Gale's eyes settled first on the familiar and welcome but also very awkward face immediately behind it. Or, one might argue, the head that very pointedly lacked a face.

"Your Majesty! Welcome!" said Vow—emulating the same earth pony accent (and synthetic timbre and pitch) that he had used in our first conversation the morning after I resurrected him.

Gale smiled. "Hello, V—very alive ponyquinn… um, I'm sorry; what do I call you?"

"Oh; Sisters, y' must be forgiv'n me, I forget ponies be so expecting names. I've been called 'the Professor' by Master Coil."

"Professor?" Sir Gauntlet asked with a raised brow. "This 'Coil' pony educated a block of wood?"

"Oh, y' do cut to the quick, sir knight," Vow joked, stepping forward and extending a hoof to take the painting. "I can take that off your back if it should please you." As he transferred the painting with Gauntlet's blessing, Vow turned his head to Gale. "Master Coil has had me pickin' up teaching young master bear a few things about proper speech. And given I'm made of the very same wood and that I'm doin' the instruct-tin, he took to callin' me 'Professor Oak'."

"So you're like Angel, then?" Gale asked purely for Sir Gauntlet's sake (not that I'm sure Sir Gauntlet knew of either Angel or golems in general). "A golem?"

"Aye; well, of a sort. I'm a fair bit less useful when the young master gets his whole self into a magical conflict, or when he's tinkerin' up in his lab… but on the other hoof, I have four of 'em, which is often just a touch more conveni'yent for keepin' house and throwin' parties and so forth. Speakin' of which, here I am, a servant, blabberin' off the ear of Equestria's queen. May I announce Y'er Majesty? And the good sir knight?"

Gauntlet shook his head. "I have to take my leave, if it pleases the Queen."

Gale nodded. "The crown appreciates your aid, Sir Gauntlet,"

Vow stepped away to the side of the door. "H'em," he said, quite loudly. "Fillies and Gentlecolts, Her Royal Majesty Queen Platinum the Third."

Across the room, ponies bowed; Gale took the moment (as she was smiling and slowly twisting a hoof in the air that some might mistakenly call a 'wave') to survey my living room. In the center of the chamber, a series of long tables had been covered in black tablecloths with scarlet trim to match my jacket, though little of the coloration was visible between the veritable smörgåsbord (and here, I endure my hated nemesis the umlaut (and my less-often encountered but no less loathed foe, the kroužek) in the interest of conveying the quantity of food) that covered every available surface. Vow (and a small staff of hired chefs to supplement his directions and talents) had produced every manner of charcuterie, unicorn delicacy, and sampling of more distant cuisines one could reasonably imagine (at least in those days) onto the table. We had crystal berry pies, yak cheeses, and samplings from the cuisines of the pharaonic pegasi to the south and the shogunate of Uma somewhere in the distant east. Tartarus, Vow somehow even managed to wrangle us a platter of Elkish lemon trail-bread despite the elk still largely being considered a fictitious species to the general Equestrian population.

Surrounding the table, and the broader room, were nobleponies and influential players from across Equestria's three breeds (and a few others besides). In premise, the invitations had started with my physical neighbors on Ridgeline Road, and the other suitors whom I knew even if they didn't live close-by, but in his scheming over the weeks of planning that led to the event, Vow had concocted excuse after excuse for me to know just enough about various families and players that I would know enough of their existence to invite them.

As for what value inviting them had for me, most such knowledge was still locked up inside Vow's wooden skull—not because he was keeping secrets, but because when it came to understanding the spider's web of noble intricacies in Equestrian society, I was still rather a novice.

Gale's eye picked out more of the guests than I honestly could say I stood any chance to: immediately, she spotted Grand Duchess Chrysoprase and her grandson High Castle, who had been bantering with a few more minor nobleponies from their own banners near the base of my mirrored staircases. In the corner of the room, my grand piano was being plucked away at by an unusually diminutive earth pony pianist alongside other members of a hired band; the Duchess Glass Menage was entertaining no less than Chancellor Puddinghead himself and his 'least illegitimate son' Peanut Gallery very near the musicians. Gale had more than enough social cunning to realize the locational choice (at least on the savvy Peanut and Glass' parts) was almost certainly chosen to avoid unwanted eavesdroppers. At the top of the stairs, beneath the visible discoloration on the wall where the portrait of Vow, Typhoon, and an infant Tempest had been removed, Archmages Diadem and Grayscale (if one can really call the latter such a title) shared words with yours truly, Dawn Coral (Equestria's foremost criminal power), and Gray Rain. Curiously, the Dawn's successor was nowhere to be found, though Gale at least knew why Gray's mother was absent—owing to her placement on a secret mission to River Rock on behalf of her own father. And, across a small sea of other nobles, Gales' only feminine suitor, Spice Menage, was locked in what seemed from a distance to be a seriously intense debate with the host of the party and owner of the house.

If you just had to do a double-take and read back through that block of description because of an apparent contradiction, you aren't alone. In the time Gale's focus shot back across the crowd to verify what she had seen, another pony approached, and at his greeting she jumped nearly her shoulder height into the air.

"Your Majesty!"

"Gah! Morty! What the fuck?!"

I cocked my head and raised a brow, ears folding back. "Um… Good to see you too?"

"You're over there!" she shouted, pointing to the top of the stairs. "And over there!"

"They wax!" announced Graargh, stepping up beside me. "Or maybe this one. I forget. It like a… Morty, what you say game? Clam?" Gale hardly parsed the little grizzly's innocent questions, stuck as she was pondering his freshly groomed coat and his new outfit: a miniature (and somewhat broader) copy of my attire. That is, he wore a black robe with red trim, a red sash, and a cravat which, in battle with a monster, could easily double as a mask to protect ones muzzle from spores or gasses. (Those of you who recollect my hallucination/memory back to my foalhood with Wintershimmer will recall a hat was also part of the attire of the Order of Unhesitating Force, though I had been… shall we say 'less successful' in getting such at thing to play nicely with ursine ears and Graargh's obstinance).

"It's called a shell game," I explained, before properly addressing Gale. "We got the candlecorns working… sort of. As for which one's 'real', well, that seems to have become the game of the evening."

"Is there a prize?"

I winked. "Depends on who wins."

"...so there's a prize for you?"

Graargh made a gagging noise, and pulled the collar of his new black-and-red jacket up across his short broad muzzle, which brought Gale's focus back to the garment. "Morty gave you evil cult robes too?"

"It not robes," said Graargh, warming my heart considerably. "It jacket. I not trip and die!" Then, showing surprising insight for those days, he seemed to sense Gale's pending curiosity. "I learn to imagine up horn, so Morty teach me be wissard."

I gave in to a small sigh and nodded. "A wiz-ard, Graargh. Wih-zzz." Then to Gale I returned my focus. "I guess there's a lot we have to catch up on, but it'd be terribly rude of me as host to keep a guest so delightful, to say nothing of her esteem, all to myself."

Gale rolled her eyes, and glanced over her shoulder to 'the Professor'. "You know I liked him the way he was; don't push him too far off a cliff with this noble talk bullshit."

"F'rgive me, Your Majesty. Has t'be done, I'm a-feared." Then stepping forward, he indicated the painting on his back to me. "Master Coil, she's brought you a gift."

"Oh?" I lit my horn and began unfolding the protective covering. "Why thank you."

"Thank you for making it clear this body isn't the real you," Gale answered with a grin.

I glanced up rather cross-eyed at my casually lit horn, and then shrugged. "We'll see if you can keep track of which me is which. Oh, this is beautiful!"

That latter comment was directed at the painting which I lifted fully from Vow's back to hold in the air. The piece was an oil painting by Erroneous Bash (whom readers may know better for his triptych Dream Valley) depicting Gale, Celestia, and I dueling against Wintershimmer. The piece survives to at least the day of writing in Canterlot, though as part of Celestia's private collection it isn't well known in the art world. Suffice it to say it was a flattering work that rather accurately depicted our side of the conflict, but hilarious cast Wintershimmer as probably fifty years younger, healthier, and less skull-like than reality.

"Shall I mount this a'top of the stairs, sir?"

I gave 'the Professor' a nod. "When you have time; I know you're pulling most of the strings to keep food and whatnot out."

"Oh, y'needn't worry, sir. A party is a bit akin t' rollin' a boulder down a hill; it picks up a bit o' momentum after a bit. 'Specially if you hire professyunals."

Gale frowned. "Okay, I'm sorry; what the fuck accent is that supposed to be?"

Vow let his mask slip just slightly, dropping his volume to be sure he couldn't be heard over the crowd, and in an enunciation more formal that Gale's own, answered "The kind stuffy unicorn nobles assume belongs to a backwater earth pony village that isn't worth knowing the name of, so they won't stoop to asking that question." And then, with a 'wink' (emulated mostly by a ripple in his brow, since he lacked distinct eyes), Vow returned to his accented tone. "M'ster Coil, I should encourage you ta spurn Her Majesty's affections fer now; spend some time workin' your charms on somepony else, eh?"

"You make a fair point," I agreed, before taking Gale's hoof and depositing a perfectly respectful kiss on her fetlock. "I'm sure you'll see me around, My Queen. Graargh, come on; against my better judgment, I'm going to introduce you to some important ponies."

As Graargh and I wandered off, Gale approached the spread of the buffet, idly snatched up a full carrot from what was obviously supposed to be a decorative part of the spread rather than the actual food (obvious in that all the food was roughly coin-sized and, in some way, actually cooked). Biting off the end with a harsh crack, she glanced around the room and chose seemingly at random to wander over toward Duchess Glass Menage, and the father-son dysfunctional duo of Chancellor Puddinghead and Secretary Peanut Gallery.

"Oh, it's Gale!" Puddinghead exclaimed quite loudly as she approached, grinning and adjusting the undulating, pudding-filled "bowl-er" hat that always seemed a bit odd given he was (contrary to most modern depictions) a fairly tall earth pony who loomed over most unicorns even without it. "Peanut, look; she's come to see you first at the party. Maybe you're doing something right after all."

Hot pink Peanut defied his coat by managing to blush, and offered an earth pony bow (that is, one forehoof curled back at his side instead of just crouching both forelegs). "Queen Platinum… It's nice to see you here."

"Likewise, Peanut. Chancellor." Making a point to introduce herself, she smiled at the last pony present. "Duchess Menage."

"Your Majesty." Menage dipped her head—a small token of respect, but one more than reasonable for one of the five unicorn Dukes. Then she fixed her monarch with the focused gaze of her piercingly blue eyes. "I'm sorry I haven't been able to host you since your ascension; Guild business has kept me unusually busy these past few weeks. But I congratulate you on your masterful handling of the… unfortunate events outside the Stable. This Royal Guard you're building sounds like quite the solution to the city's problems."

Peanut heavily coughed into his hoof. "Actually, about that, Your Majesty—"

"Oh, for the love of Celestia, Peanut!" Puddinghead cut in. "You don't talk politics to a mare at a party. Have I taught you nothing about game?"

Gale groaned and massaged her temple with a hoof. "It's fine; that's what hob-knobbing at this kind of thing is actually for, right? Why pretend. What were you going to say, Pean—er, Secretary?"

"You can call me by my name," Peanut answered. "I'm not that stiff. But yes. Um, we still need to talk about gem mining limits, Your Majesty. I know we kind of side-stepped that issue for the sake of getting a noble title to Miss Grainwood, but it really does need to be addressed."

Gale nodded. "I'll bring it up at the next Stable meeting, Peanut. And I'll try to find something my esteemed, uh…" The seated queen donned a sour face. "Does 'subjects' seem rude to anypony else?"

"It is the objectively correct term," Lady Glass replied. "But your compassion is admirable, Your Majesty."

Gratefully, Gale returned her attention to Peanut, whom she was surprised to find wearing a tight-lipped frown. "Does that work?"

"I'd, uh… it'd really help if…" Peanut hesitated. "Look, in Lubuck we're seeing reports of six and seven-twelfths year-over-year—mmph!"

The last syllable was because Puddinghead had actually reached over to smush his son's muzzle with a massive brown forehoof. "I take back what I said earlier; you can discuss politics with a mare; fine. But economics? Are you insane?"

Wriggling away from his father's hoof, Peanut muttered "Somepony has to convince her to fix it!"

"And you're going to do that by quoting numbers at her?"

"Why not?" Peanut demanded. "It's the most factual, equitable—"

"Nopony in the history of pony civilization has ever gotten what they wanted with math!" Puddinghead very-well nearly snapped at his son, brows dropped. "I know you know better, because I know you sometimes get what you want out of Parliament, but I have no idea how you actually manage that if you thought what you just started saying was ever going to work! And you're sure-as-sugar never going to get with Morty if that's your idea of seduction either!'

At that, Peanut's blush reappeared with a vengeance. "Dad!"

Lady Menage chuckled, glanced around the room to see where I was (or perhaps where I 'were' given my curious plurality) and then offered "You fancy the young hero, Secretary? If you were to end up capturing his heart, and you were so inclined to start a family, the House of Three would be more than willing to enable such a thing."

Gale and Peanut both blushed at that, albeit for very different reasons, and Puddinghead burst out into a healthy chuckle. "Trying to eliminate Peanut from the running as Gale's suitor, Lady Glass?"

"Oh, come on; it's obvious Her Majesty isn't the young secretary's type… Secretary, with the utmost respect for your subtlety in the field of politics, you must understand you aren't what one would call a discreet admirer." Then, with a shrug, the brilliantly sapphire coated noblemare offered a gestured hoof in the direction of one of me. "If your admiration for the Hero of Platinum's Landing happens to serve my line's political end, why not indulge a bit of playing matchmaker?"

"I'd be careful if I were you," threatened Puddinghead, albeit fairly jovially. "Two can play at that game, Lady Glass. And I'm very good at it."

Gale quirked a brow at that. "Good enough to overcome Spicy being a huge asshole to every stallion in the world?"

Puddinghead barked out a laugh, while it was Lady Glass' turn to sour—though, notably, not toward Gale but instead almost inward. "I… admit Spice has taken the unique lessons of our lineage to a further logical conclusion than I would like, Your Majesty. But I have to ask: whom did she mistreat so directly?"

"Morty, as it happens. Ask him about the hole in his neck, if you want to know more."

"I beg your pardon, what? Spice might be sharp tongued, but my daughter would never have injured somepony—"

Gale briefly winced, and then ferociously shook her head. "I took him with me to meet all of my suitors before my birthday, and one of the wounds from his battle wasn't quite as healed as we thought. It opened up while we were walking, and I figured Spice would be able to help faster than dragging him all the way back to the palace to meet with Meadowbrook. She gave him some potion to close the wound, but I guess because there was still something in the wound it made the potion work funny. I'm sure he can explain it. Or Spicy; whichever. It's all wizard stuff to me. All I meant was that she was dismissive of him as a wizard and he took it kind of personally."

Lady Glass clicked her tongue even as she smiled. "Alchemy has only the most tangential relationship to the wizard's craft, but then a queen isn't expected to master either, so I can hardly fault the confusion. Thank you for putting my mind at ease that at least it wasn't a matter of violence; I'll speak to Spice regarding how… forward she is about the strength of her convictions."

"You know," said Puddinghead with a chuckle. "I've always wondered how that worked with your family. Can I—?"

"There exists no ending to that sentence where I reply with 'yes', Chancellor," Glass interrupted curtly; then she turned to Gale with a soft smile. "Before I lose the thought or you're pulled away by the handsome host, I wanted to extend the assistance of the House of Glass on your 'Royal Guard' project; if there is anything we can do to be of service, please do not hesitate to ask."

Gale offered a rather sheepish smile of her own. "I appreciate the offer, Duchess, and I'll keep it in my pocket—but for the time being, it sounds like Secretary Peanut can help me get all the votes I need for funding in Parliament."

"Yes, well… actually, Your Majesty, that and the inflation topic are rather linked…" Nopony needed to cut off Peanut this time; a disbelieving raised brow from his father was sufficient to put an end to any further discussion of Equestrian macroeconomics. "Um… yes, I imagine you'll want to get back to Morty, Your Majesty; don't let us keep you."

"Well, thank you." Gale smiled, nodded her head, and took the exit provided to her on a silver platter.

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