• Published 26th May 2020
  • 2,335 Views, 297 Comments

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.

  • ...

PreviousChapters Next
13-1 One Egg, al Détente


One Egg, al Détente

⚜ ⚜ ⚜


A Full House: Emperors Full of Lords

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

Tsar Cyclone Stormblade sat on the broken Diamond Throne, staring at a ledger he held in the flat of his good wing, and the act made him want to cry. It wasn't that he was bored; it was that he was functionally talentless with the wall of inscrutable numbers and dates and tiny sputtering bits of words, and that Maelstrom hadn't been. Every moment of failure, every passing struggle, made him long for the son he'd lost.

With his other wing lame, he was forced to raise a hoof to his face to adjust his reading glasses—he hadn't even known he needed the things while Maelstrom was alive, he spent so little time on reports that weren't delivered aloud. The pair in question had even been Maelstrom's, albeit refitted to accommodate the massive difference in size of skull between father and son.

When the misshapen iron doors of his conquered throne room groaned open, he looked up and then had to re-crane his neck in order not to have the more distant part of his vision distorted into oblivions by the glass.

Sudden pain. Breathlessness. Before he had more than a moment to adjust himself, he was assaulted. Blissfully, a six year old earth pony colt can't do much damage with a headbutt, even aimed poorly enough to briefly steal the breath from the bulky behemoth that Cyclone was. After the dent in his solar plexus popped back from the blow, he sucked in a deep breath.
"Good morning, Dad!"

The foal in question was the very same colt Artorius had rescued from the fenrir that attacked River Rock in Cyclone's absence. Cyclone had named him Dewpoint. The colt still had no memory of his former name or family, and he needed to be called something. And if Gale could be a Stormblade and have a weather name as a unicorn, why not this earth pony colt?

"Good morning, Dew," said Cyclone, setting down his paperwork and patting the colt on the head with a hoof. "What are you doing up here? Not interested in playing with your brothers and sisters?"

"Ah, I am afraid I am responsible for that…" That second voice belonged to the second, much slower entrant: the old, bespectacled griffon who seemed to go only by his occupation as 'the apothecary'. "This little one, he came to me complaining about his knee. And I… well, you understand I would not want to take any action without consulting you, of course." It didn't take an especially cunning ability to read expressions to tell that the griffon was nervous about being in Cyclone's presence.

Cyclone raised a brow, and then looked down at his newest foal. "You know we have Legion medici, don't you, Dewpoint?"

"I, um… well, Sandstorm said we weren't supposed to bother the soldier ponies. And I heard this griffon was a doctor…"

Cyclone's stoic face held for a very long moment before he let out a single snort that suggested amusement. "So what is wrong with your leg?"

"It hurts when I bend it," said Dewpoint. "Not a lot, but—"

"If I may," cut in the Apothecary, and then painfully waited for a very long moment until Cyclone realized the interruption wasn't rhetorical, at which point he nodded. The apothecary gave a small, awkward smile. "Dewpoint's right rear femur was fractured during the battle with the fenrir." The old griffon adjusted his own spectacles. Slowly, he approached the Diamond Throne. "And it fused misaligned. Being honest, I do not know how it was not causing him pain sooner. It has been nearly three weeks."

Cyclone winced; an early start on a lifetime of war had taught him the pain of such wounds many times. "How do you know this, griffon?"

"I…" The apothecary hesitated visibly. "I have lived a very long life, Emperor Zyklon." (I never learned why the griffon's accent came across so strongly in Cyclone's name, but it was overpowering there). "In some part of that life, I confess, I served Emperor Magnus. And in that duty, I learned… rather a great deal about medicine not only for my kind, but for pegasi as well."

It would have been very smart for the Apothecary not to smile in that moment, but he did. He thought he was being friendly.

Cyclone had never felt quite so threatened, so off put, as he did by the griffon's grin.

"I imagine it would be very bad if I re-set the colt's leg without having, you would say 'consulted' his father, yes? A very bad look, I would think, if you first heard of the trouble when he was screaming. And Artorius tells me your fire is quite hot."

"I appreciate you bringing the issue to my attention," Cyclone agreed. "I will arrange for one of our own to treat him."

"Of course," agreed the apothecary. "I would not want to impose."

The old griffon moved to leave, but froze when Cyclone uttered a single syllable. "Wait."

"Emperor?" the apothecary asked, his side still turned to Cyclone as he had frozen midway through turning toward the door.

"I am curious. Why don't you use a name?"

"I…" The apothecary winced. "I… Well, you are hosting us, there is no point playing secrets." This was a lie of staggering proportions. Turning fully back to Cyclone, the doctor pressed forward. "Do you know what it is to be 'Oathsworn'?"

Cyclone nodded, frowning slightly behind his beard, wrongly thinking it hadn't been noticed. "Emperor Magnus' elites. The griffon equivalent of the Praetorian Guard."

The apothecary nodded. "That is what Magnus allowed to be known across Gryphus. The truth is that, but also as Cirra would say, the other face of a coin… that is the idiom, yes?" Cyclone gave another small nod, and the Apothecary pressed on. "Your gods and goddesses judge you when you die based on a code of good and evil, yes? Morals are what carry your… what remains after death—up to the Great Skies? For griffons, Magnus judges us by our honor. And the honor he values most is honor in battle. Valhalla is hard to earn when you are small, and of middling health, and a runt. And even harder to earn when you are kind."

"Kind?" Dewpoint asked.

The apothecary took a deep breath, and then hesitantly approached the Diamond Throne as he answered the question. "When I was young, I was apprenticed to another apothecary. He taught me that there are two kinds of pain. Some pain is useful—such as, I am sorry to say, you will have to experience soon to heal your leg, little one. And some pain is not. So when there was a battle with the Cirrans near our village—and Emperor, this was more than two hundred years ago, not anything like your father's war—I went out to help to heal the wounded." Here, the apothecary hesitated. "I… had never seen death before. It made me… you would say 'noxious', I think? Queasy? I was not brave. But I had my little herb pouch, and schnapps and poppy milk to take off the pain. I went from warrior to warrior, and I helped them. Until I came to a soldier who had wingblades through his belly. He would not recover. The little blades, you know, they cut so much more cruelly than a sword."

The apothecary took off his glasses, then took a deep breath, and began to polish them on the end of his leading feathers. "I know that Cirrans give mercy to their hopeless with a steel spike, but Magnus… he prefers that a soldier who knows they are doomed to death put the last of their breaths to use. I had my schnapps and my poppy milk to dull his pain… but to what end? He had half a chance-measure to die before he even reached the battle lines again."

"Half a chance-measure?" Dewpoint asked, but Cyclone silenced the foal with a heavy hoof on his shoulder, unburdening the griffon's story.

"You gave him a merciful death?" The red pegasus asked in his harsh, almost ursine tone.

The apothecary nodded. "And it was noticed. One of Magnus' heralds came to me a few months later. On pain of death, I followed him to Angenholt. I climbed the mount of the gods. I met Magnus. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was barred from the great glory of Valhalla. But he also gave me hope. I could give up my name, and all the glory I would ever bring to my family by my life. I could become Oathsworn. All the glory of my deeds would go to Magnus' fame, his power. But if I won enough, I might yet see the great hall."

"Emperor Magnus' magic took away your name?"

The apothecary chuckled. "No, no. I still honor my oaths."

"Even though you're in rebellion against him?" Cyclone pressed.

"You… I think will not be happy to hear this, but what you are in need of understanding is that Magnus does not judge the dead by their loyalty to him." The griffon's Equiish, it seemed, was strained by his hesitance to deliver his thought to Cyclone; the words that he normally paused between to phrase in passable grammar instead spilled out in fits and spurts. "Emperor Ottgam Magnus of Gryphus is a… he would say a different essence than the Magnus, the God of the Winds. I have no doubt he will let Artorius into Valhalla when his day comes, for one easy example. Nor do I doubt he would have taken your father or Iron Rain or Cirra's other great heroes, when they passed—were they griffons. So I live, and I continue my work such as it is. And though in my old age, I have no hope of winning glory in battle again, I keep my oath. I have a few names I am permitted to use, but they are not the name of my birth. 'Fear of Death' would be the Equiish, I think, and the like. Mocking names. The sort of name you would not curse your children with. So I prefer to be called for my work."

"I see." Cyclone answered in an almost sagely tone.

Dewpoint looked up at his newly adoptive father. "Can he help my leg?"

Cyclone shifted uneasily for a moment, but then shrugged. "I… suppose one of the griffons already saved you." Then he fixed the apothecary with a stern, though not unduly cruel, look. "I trust you understand that there will be consequences if he comes to harm."

The griffon nodded. "Setting a bone in one so small is not a life-threatening procedure. I will give him something for pain—milk of the poppy would be risky for one so young, but I have other, gentler methods. We will talk, little Dewpoint, and you will focus on talking to me so that you do not think about what I am doing. Then I will bind the leg and you will remain in bed for some days while it heals." Something ominous crept into the apothecary's voice at the proposal that they talk, but it blended into his curious broken Equiish and his accent enough that Cyclone (who had only met the curious old griffon in passing whilst talking to Aela) passed it off as just an eccentricity.

The old griffon then looked once more up from the child to meet Cyclone's gaze. "Emperor, may I ask you one other thing?"


"I am told your magic is very strong. Artorius told me that you burned the traitor Legate so hot that even her bones were turned to ash. Is that true? And, if I may ask, how did you learn such fire?"

Cyclone's general frown developed in the direction of a scowl, though it didn't quite go all the way. "You understand how that question sounds, coming from a griffon?"

Weathered feathers were raised in a placative gesture. "Of course. If you do not trust me to speak on it, I will not pry; it is only curiosity. There were not many ponies who ever learned what we would call aeromancy. In Dioda, at least among ponies, I had thought it was a closely kept secret by the mercenaries of Nyx—and I know that was why Magnus saw to that city's razing personally."

Cyclone let out a short snort, and gave a small shrug. "Father and a unicorn named 'Star Swirl' re-discovered our magic. As for me, I learned from another pony; just like everypony else in the Legion. My teacher was a mare named Summer Celsus."

"Summer lived?!" Cyclone had, at the very edge of his imagination, been prepared for such a response. He knew, if only academically, that Summer had come from a well-known family in Cirra, and that she had a (perhaps well-deserved) reputation of ignominy during the Red Cloud War for the slaughter of a group of griffon prisoners. But he had never, not in a thousand years, considered the possibility of the griffon replying with glee. "Did Lady Rain also survive? Or…" Almost immediately, shame flickered over the old griffon's expression, and with considerable effort, he tamped down his glee. "Forgive me my emotions."

With a wave of his red wing, Cyclone dispensed the requested mercy. "I will. Provided you never utter Summer's name on Cirra's soil again." The apothecary winced, but nodded. "You may take your leave."

And so he did, with Dewpoint following closely after.

⚜ ⚜ ⚜

Had the apothecary dallied for perhaps a few minutes more, or had Cyclone humored his question about Iron Rain's survival, he might have stumbled into a rather more direct answer. As it stood, however, fate (or the random divergence of timelines) had other plans.

Not five minutes after the Apothecary and Dewpoint departed, the throne room doors opened again, and Cyclone momentarily had to fumble with his fallen son's glasses to refocus his view on the more distant faces.

What he saw, at least, was a salve for his burning heart.

"Blizzard? And… No, it couldn't be, could it?" Cyclone broke into an outright grin.

For his display of happiness, Iron Rain offered him a very rude gesture—one which required flexibility that belied her age. Afterwards, Tempest followed with a certain timidity—the very same distrust he had exhibited when he accompanied Gale and I to first meet his infamous uncle.

"Hello, Father," said Blizzard, only to be struck utterly mute when the goliath stallion hurled himself out of his throne, darted across the throne room (dragging his lame wing on the carpet as he did) and finally wrapped his daughter in a hug. "Oh. Um…"

"I've missed you, Blizzard," said Cyclone. "I was so worried. Were you okay in…" Cyclone cut himself off by glancing up at the throne room doors. "Guards, close those. And if the griffons come, tell them I am busy and send them away."

"Vero domine," said one of the stallions, and the pair dragged the heavy doors shut.

Once they settled closed, Blizzard took a step back out of her father's embrace to look into Cyclone's eyes, and she was staggered to see that though they remained dry, they wavered with emotion. "Everfree was fine, Father. Grandfather was extremely welcoming. And I got to meet Miss Rain and Pathfinder, and Aunt Typhoon. Really, everypony was great." With a wince, she added "Everypony except Mom…"

"I… see," said Cyclone. "Do you mean you didn't find her, or—"

"She knows," interrupted Rain, before grumbling "No use listening to you two beat around the bush about secrets you both already know."

Blizzard looked between her elders, and then asked "Wait, you knew, Dad? When Morty tried to talk to her before I left—?"

Cyclone interrupted her with a nod. "When Father and Celestia stopped here on their way back to Dioda, looking for Luna, your mother was with them. It was clear they hated each other; that is part of why I was afraid Father and the others in Everfree would reject you." Then turning to Rain, he dipped his head in gratitude. "I'm glad I was wrong."

"You should know two things," said Rain, coldly. "She's here with me delivering our answer from Hurricane, but she's not staying. I will kill you before I let you keep her here, and if I've gotten old enough that you win, Hurricane wanted me to let you know he'd send Gale's little unicorn colt-toy… which you're supposed to understand is a threat, somehow, even if I don't really get it."

Cyclone's eye twitched. "I see."

"Second, I'm not here for you. I'm here as a favor to Hurricane. We aren't friends, and this doesn't mean I forgive you."

"I understand," Cyclone answered. "I… honestly, I hadn't expected Father could convince you to come at all, Prel… what should I call you now?"

Rain rolled her eye. "Do I look like I care, Cyclone?"

Cyclone shook his head. "Not for our sake. For the griffons."

"Griffons?" Rain asked, muzzle wrinkling and wings rising even as her ears dipped back. "Your letter only mentioned the one; are your forces already in combat?!"

Cyclone shook his head firmly. "They're peaceful; these ones at least. They came after I sent Sirocco. I doubt they could put up much of a fight even if they wanted to; they have two hundred nineteen civilians but only four combatants."

"Don't discount a fighting age griffon just because they aren't trained," Rain warned.

Again, Cyclone waved away her concern; this time, with his wing. "At most sixty more could be trained. Most are too young, or too old, or crippled from the Red Cloud War."

That tiny number put curiosity on both Rain and Tempest's faces, but neither chose to voice a thought, so Cyclone continued. "Our story has to be that you've been living in… let's say Amber Field. But if I called you back, you'll have a rank in my Legion, even if it's honorary."

At least some of Rain's fatigue faded with the practical question. "Well, what do you have open? I assume you've got an Imperator?"

Cyclone nodded. "My daughter, Sirocco. I assume you met her. Is she well?"

"Stormblades," Rain growled. "I told Hurricane he was an idiot to give you the Praetorian guard, but at least that was mostly a field combat posting. This is ridiculous. Imperator is an administrative position. And she's, what, eighteen?" After a moment of that irritation, she concluded "She's fine. Hurricane wanted her help pulling political strings… I'd bet a thousand deneighrii she'll be working for the Dawn before this is over."

Cyclone rubbed the bridge of his muzzle. "I'm glad she's safe." Then, the same feathers that had touched his muzzle removed the reading glasses from his face, and he beheld them for a long moment. "I have an opening for a Praetorian Prelate," he said, after a very long silence.

"You do?" Blizzard asked. "Did Maelstrom do something to be demoted?"

The titanic red stallion had a hard time swallowing after his daughter's question; it could be seen even behind his thick black beard. "Maelstrom passed away, Blizzard."

Fires burned and popped and crackled in a few of the fireplaces; it was the only sound in the room. Cyclone took a tentative step forward, and then pulled his daughter tight against his chest with one wing. Blizzard made no noise when she cried, but one could see it in the way her body convulsed at dealing with the thought. "Since I didn't think I'd get help like Rain, I left Artorius—the original griffon—in Maelstrom's care so I could go get Thunder Hawk—he's another old soldier. But the other griffons arrived while I was gone. And when the food got short with all those mouths to feed, Legate Wrest led an uprising to kill them. I'm told Maelstrom could have stood aside and let her kill them, but instead he stood up for them."

"Wrest… killed Maelstrom?" Blizzard managed between gasps choking on air.

Cyclone patted his wing on her back. "Yes."

"I…" Wrinkling up her face, Blizzard pulled away. "I need to…"

"Whatever you need," Cyclone answered, stepping back himself. "I'm sorry, Blizzard."

Blizzard said nothing more, turning to leave the throne room by one of its side doors.

In the heavy absence, Cyclone was surprised to feel a wing on his shoulder, and even moreso when he turned to look into the face of Iron Rain and found sympathy, in spite of her words mere moments earlier. "I'm sorry, Cyclone. It's hard to lose a foal."

"I—" Cyclone winced at what had come to mind in reply. "Thank you, Rain."

"If you need to go to her," Rain offered, "I can keep myself busy."

Cyclone pondered that for a moment, and then shook his head. "I do not think there is anything I could say that would help. And there is a lot I could say that would make it worse. We will talk when she is ready, but I will not force her." With a swallow, the grim-faced stallion adjusted himself, picked up his limp wing from the floor and folded it with a hoof against his side with a small brace he wore over his shoulder, and finally strode back to his seat. "Also, I need to be here when my other guests arrive."

"Other guests?" asked Rain.

The formidable beard on Cyclone's chin seemed to quiver in anticipation despite the subtlety and control in his nod. "Archmage Clover and a delegation from the dragons. I'm glad you came, but I'm not in the habit of sitting in the throne day-in and day-out. It isn't the most comfortable seat anymore."

"Seems like you have nopony to blame but yourself for that," muttered Rain.

It was at this point that Tempest, who had thus far blended fully into the background of the throne room, finally overcame his fear of his uncle and spoke up. "Um, are there other chairs in the room somewhere? Or a cushion? Or a blanket?"

The corner of Cyclone's mouth wrapped up in a subtle show of amusement; then he opened it fully and shouted "Castellan!"

Not terribly long later, the two guards manning the warped and burnt doors pushed open a small gap, through which a middle-aged pegasus mare missing an ear and wearing a prosthetic hoof wandered in with a notable limp. "You called?"

"Castellan, this is my nephew Tempest. I'm sure you know Iron Rain, if only by reputation. Rain, Tempest, this is my Auditoris, Castellan. She'll arrange anything you need during your stay. Castellan, bring up some seating for our guests."

"These guests, sir?" she asked. "Or the dragons? Cause I don't know I can offer much more than a big carpet—"

Cyclone interrupted her with his good wing. "The dragons joining us are not much larger than Artorius. Two of the couches from the sitting rooms in the north hall will be enough. Also, send up the food and drink and have the gifts ready. I expect the rest of our guests shortly." Castellan dipped her head in acknowledgement and turned to carry out the order without another word.

"You have enough food to spare on hosting?" Rain asked with a frown. "Your letter said you were starving."

"We are," he agreed. "What we have left I can trickle out at half rations over the next… maybe month or so, or I can spend it on this meeting and hope I can win Krenn's sympathies."

Rain scoffed. "I hope you have better luck than your father."

"As do I." Cyclone nodded. "Before the dragons get here, we should finish getting our stories straight. Rain, I don't care where we say you've been enjoying retirement, but I think it's best we let the griffons believe Pathfinder is dead. Some of these griffons are old enough that they may remember him."

Rain scowled momentarily, and the thing that stood out to Cyclone was that (for once) her ire didn't seem to be directed at him. "There are very few griffons who would remember Pathfinder. But we will be cautious, like you say."

"I also—"

Cyclone was interrupted by the hammering of a hoof on the chamber's warped doors. After not but a moment, the door groaned its way open a crack, and the helmeted head of one of the throne room guards peeked in. "My Emperor, they are here."

Cyclone nodded. "Send them in."

In the ensuing moments, the throne room got very crowded indeed. After the partially melted doors opened fully, the first figure to enter was the not-especially imposing figure of the young dragon lord Torch. Since Torch is still alive at the time of writing, and still dragon lord, I should remind readers that the behemoth figure you may have seen was not his shape at the time; Torch in the era of early Equestria was a seemingly off-balance adolescent drake. He was still twice the height of most stallions on his hind legs (which is to say, only a little taller than Cyclone, and notably shorter than Celestia), but those hind legs seemed gangly and wimpy compared to the musculature of his torso and his biceps, rippling beneath scales that were then a more vibrant blue than the sort of gray they hold today. Torch wore a crown of rubies as a mark of office, and carried on his person the Bloodstone Scepter as a mark of his authority.

Following after Torch was the far older but not much larger dragon 'god', Lord Krenn, who (confusingly) had never held the title of 'dragon lord', even though virtually all dragons referred to him by the honorific of 'lord'. Not much had changed about Krenn since I met him on the road to face Clover; not only had he not regrown his missing right hind leg or the webbing of his left wing, but his dark purple scales were even still covered in volcanic soot that left him seeming almost charcoal gray. He limped heavily on his perfectly plumb steel rod that served as his crutch or staff, and yet despite this state he seemed much more balanced and controlled than his counterpart in Torch.

After Torch, much to the gathered ponies' surprise, came Artorius and Aela. The former griffon with his sleek 'bald' head, would have looked quite the sight for his formidable strength, were it not for the bandages still covering his various cuts and wounds from the Battle of the Short Hallway—wounds which would have crippled a pony for life, and which while healing on a griffon gifted with natural regeneration, still took a very long time to fully close up. Aela attracted much less attention, both thanks to her lesser size and what seemed a deliberate choice in the way she carried herself, despite her equally bold white-feathered head.

Finally, but certainly not least, came Archmage Clover the Clever. I will remind readers that, despite the load of drivel you may have seen in the pageant, Clover was not some financially bereft peasant in sackcloth. The olive green mare wore a pair of gilt-framed nez-pence glasses and a rich ultramarine robe of the sort I am inclined to despise, trailing on the ground behind her where it might get tripped on in a fight. (Credit where credit is due, given her magical 'luck' I suspect tripping was less of a concern for Clover than for other archmagi in history.) However, I do not want the description of her attire to miss the fact that she looked a mess. Even compared to when I had dueled her, Clover looked haggard, with sagging bags beneath her eyes and streaks of gray growing more obvious in her frazzled mane.

"Tsar Cyclone," Krenn greeted, the first to speak, not bowing but offering a brief tip of his head. "Thank you for hosting us."

"He asked for us," Torch grumbled. "Why thank him? Let's conduct our business and get back to somewhere warm."

Krenn shook his head with dry amusement that not-especially subtly masked frustration. "Patience, Torch. Appearances need keeping." Then he nodded his head to Rain and Tempest. "I am Krenn; the other dragons call me 'Lord', but I do not care if you use the title. This is the reigning dragon lord, Torch. And while I assume the ponies know, for the benefit of the griffons present, this is Archmage Clover the Clever of Equestria."

Rain and Tempest winced. Cyclone, however, showed remarkable deceptive tact, given his general appearance of a brutish behemoth. "Archmage Clover, there's no point using that title anymore. I know when you left for the mountains, there were still a few ponies in your little city, but I had to bring them here to the capital to protect them from the vargr. Equestria is, I am afraid, just empty houses and snow now."

Clover was, true to her title, very clever; she didn't even glance at the griffons present as she answered "I'm sorry to hear that. Does that make me the Archmage of River Rock?"

"It does," Cyclone answered.

Dragon lord Torch was clearly about to say something, but a gentle touch on his shoulder from Krenn silenced the infinitely younger dragon. Celestia and Luna's old guardian even aligned his long, serpentine neck so that his head was beside Torch's to whisper some clarification in the other dragon's ear.

Cyclone elected to distract from this correction by speaking up himself. "Lord Krenn, Lord Torch, Archmage; these two griffons are some of our guests. Aela, an… acquaintance of my late father, and her son Artorius. My new companions here are my nephew Tempest, and Iron Rain, who will be acting as my right hoof—"

Artorius took a bold step forward with eyes wide in awe. "Princess Rain?! You live! It is such an honor to meet you! I…" Artorius let his words trail off when his mother's taloned arm closed on his shoulder. "Ahem; I forget myself; my apologies to the court, Emperor Cyclone."

Cyclone didn't even speak in response; he just waved off the comment with his good wing and then sighed. "Rain, it seems I only needed to give your introduction to the dragons."

"No, you didn't," Rain muttered back. "Well, maybe the young one. But I've met Krenn before."

"We've met?" Krenn asked. "A part of me suspected you had a familiar face."

Rain nodded. "I was at Treasonfang Pass with Hurricane, when we signed our treaty."

Artorius, it seemed, could not help himself. "You signed a treaty at a place called Treasonfang?"

Torch scoffed at the comment, folding his arms across his chest. "The name comes from an egg-song; it's not cursed or anything."

Seeing Artorius' confused expression, Clover stepped forward to add "An 'egg-song' is like a nursery rhyme, um, Mister Artorius? When a dragon mother is warming an egg, it is tradition to sing to the child inside, even if the words are nonsense and the tone is the point."

"Ah," said Artorius, then glanced to Rain. "So you and Emperor Hurricane signed a peace with the dragons there?"

Cyclone growled in growing impatience, until Rain gently placed a wingtip on his foreleg and shot him a meaningful one-eyed glance. Before even she had a chance to speak, though, it was Dragon Lord Torch who spoke up. "The last Dragon Lord wanted a bigger hoard, and he heard the unicorns had loads of gold and gems hidden away. And with the long winter setting in, he thought it'd be easy pickings. Idiot."

That last comment put an unusually fierce show of emotion on the normally mildly-displeased but placid Lord Krenn's expression, though the elder dragon did not actually voice his concerns.

Rain picked up the rather abrupt end of Torch's story. "Hurricane had the legion serving as mercenaries for the unicorns at the time, in exchange for food. So we fought back the other Dragon Lord's army. Hurricane didn't want another genocide like the Red Cloud War, so the minute Lord Krenn offered to broker a peace, we accepted." Rain nodded to Krenn.

"Did Grandfather kill the other dragon lord?" Tempest asked.

"No," Rain answered. "Lord Krenn, what happened to Scathe?"

Darkness fell across Krenn's expression. "Word of our peace was not spread quickly enough to your crystalline kin."

"Given they were at war with the Diamond Kingdoms for literally centuries, that hardly seems surprising," offered Clover.

"So a wizard from the crystals came alone to Krennotets, killed Lord Scathe, and took his body as a trophy and a warning to other dragons. His skull and his spine, grotesquely transformed into nothing more than a walking stick." Krenn took a heavy step forward, letting his metal rod clang on the throne room floor. "You ask for aid before Clover's work on the curse of the dragons is completed, Emperor Cyclone? Then that is my price. I want the remains of my son returned to me, and I want the head of Wintershimmer the Complacent."

"Your son…" whispered Artorius and Tempest, more or less in sync; then the latter spoke up. "Um… I don't know what's left of Wintershimmer's body; I think Luna's… um… anyway, he's already dead."

Krenn's head swiveled to the young stallion, one brow raised. "Hmm… Emperor Cyclone, we will have to discuss this further in more… quiet company. But for now, arrange for the staff and I will bring fire from beneath the earth."

Quietly, under his breath, Artorius asked his mother "And? What would he do if he doesn't get what he wants?"

PreviousChapters Next