• Member Since 3rd Jul, 2012
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LoyalLiar


Co-founder of the Price of Loyalty universe.

T
Source

This story is a sequel to A Beginner's Guide to Heroism


Before 'Everfree' was a forest, it was Equestria's thriving capital.

In the city's earliest days, fresh off saving Equestria from an evil that threatened to steal the sun itself, Princess Platinum faces a new challenge. She and her undercover coltfriend, Celestia's apprentice Mortal Coil, set their sights on what seems like a much easier, safer, and happier task: giving the Princess a choice other than the seven horrible suitors her parents picked out for her.

Unfortunately for them, when it comes to the politics of a freshly founded Equestria, the romance of a princess is anything but simple, or safe, or happy.

Editing by The 24th Pegasus, Pega-Ace, and Ruirik. Cover art by Ruirik.

Chapters (49)
Comments ( 177 )

finally i started to think there never be a sequel
i.imgur.com/9zsEFRg.jpg
going to enjoy the ride

IT BEGINS.

So great to finally see this published.

Luna ruins everything, as always.

*excitement noises*

I love that we're getting the pillars in PoL, that's a nice connection to more recently revealed show canon.

“We fought the most dangerous wizard in the world together; you think I’m going to run away from some stuffy nobleponies?” I had to chuckle as I considered the implicit threat in Gale’s words. “Oh no, it’s Princess Platinum from the Hearth’s Warming Eve pageant. What’s she going to do, whine at me?”

It works for some ponies.

“And the earth ponies and pegasi went along with that?” I asked as I delicately applied a coat of orange dye to the front of my coat, and then shifted my weight to hide the fact that I had stained the expensive couch of these nobles I hadn’t even met yet with mimosa.

That's what they get for serving mimosas to a horn cripple.

“If you want, we can see whose existence has any value to society—”

This is going well.

Wow, really well.

Then it was my turn to express my confusion, and as I cocked my head she threw her hooves around my shoulders and nuzzled her forehead into my neck (just barely managing to avoid impaling my stitched wound with her horn).

I've long felt that accidental impaling would be a really common problem for unicorns.

I just noticed your story was on the featured list. Congrats:heart:

I look forward to seeing more of Dawn. She seems nice.

“Holy shit… even your parents? Who liked you then?”

“Well… Wintershimmer…”

Fantastic example.

“Morty, I know I asked you to marry me…” Instead of trailing off into silence, Gale’s words trailed off into punching me square in the cheek.

That's fair. Just the pronunciation correction could maybe be excused, but the followup metaphor dismantling was a step too far.

As we climbed into the ‘seat’ area of the little wooden tray that would shortly be our only separation from a precipitous drop and a rather messy death, I could hear the younger of the two soldiers speaking to his partner. “I can’t believe it; we’re about to be flying the Princess! Commander Typhoon’s little sister; this is such an hon—”

Just don't drop her.

Tolerating organized crime is one, actively allowing them the possibility of marrying into the unicorn royalty seems like a far worse step.

“A sign of respect amongst us old bags from old Cirra,” Dawn Coral added, laughing. “Hurricane may hate being called ‘emperor’ to his face, but amongst ponies of our generation he’ll always be Cataegis Haysar . ‘Aura’ means a gale—like the wind—in Cirran.”

Neat.

Again, my naïve question led to laughter from the Dawn, though I never got the sense she was laughing at my ignorance, nor at my expense. Hence, despite Gale’s warnings, I found myself liking the old criminal much better than I had the supposed ‘nobles’ of the House of Gullion.

Dawn does seem nice, but I bet that would turn on a dime if she felt she needed to.

That's quite a birthday request.

That was a great chapter but...went much differently than expected.

In short, it was a beautiful, elegant structure that, while certainly grandiose, lacked the outspoken exuberance I expected from the leader of the earth ponies.

He saves that for in-person encounters.

“Sometimes you get opportunities in the capital that you wouldn’t in Lubuck, like lending a ship out to the crown to get a runaway wizard across the ocean to River Rock, in exchange for lessened tolls on harbor taxes.”

I nodded as I finally understood how the mare knew of me. “You own the Little Conqueror then? Thank you for helping our escape.”

That's a nice connection.

Peanut isn't really interested in being Gale’s suitor, is he.

Dang, that was going so well-ish right before it ended so badly. At least Peanut seems like a reasonably nice guy.

...Well, she's certainly a lively one.

Ah, yes. Can't have an array of suitors without at least one inbred noble.

The degree to which Gale is beating Morty is starting to become a problem.

In addition to its uniform appearance, the homunculus also appeared in a uniform: a black and white maid’s uniform, wrapped tightly around the shape of a mare.

Hmn.

I looked at Gale with the absolute flattest expression I could manage, given my rather sorry bleeding, hungry state. “Are you asking if I should put Angel’s core into a body shaped like a mare and dress him in a maid’s uniform, or if I could make golems that are shaped and dress like that to keep around my home? Because I can do both, but I will do neither. The last thing I need is a reputation like that . And frankly, I don’t know what I’m expecting out of whoever made these, but he obviously doesn’t care about his own reputation one whit.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Well, this is an interesting family.

I was left hoping that Gale understood the implications of my painful overemphasis as I stepped out of the alchemical repository as gently as I could. Behind me, I heard Gale growl in frustration toward Spice “How about a sword? Can you do that? So the next time one of ‘us nobles’ decides to be that much of an asshole, I can fucking impale them.”

That's fair.

“That’s what I fucking said!”

As a trio, all three of us mages on the stage turned to look at the doors into the auditorium. There, Princess Platinum III in all her glory was struggling to make headway against a tide of foals who had been making their way out into the hall. I use the past tense here because, in addition to painting both Diadem and Grayscale’s faces a variety of interesting colors, Gale’s colorful shout had also managed to halt the progress of the foals around her.

“Miss, what does f—”

Oh god, Gale bursting in like that was priceless.:rainbowlaugh:

It's about time they sent Morty to Magic Kindergarten, maybe someone will teach him how to read.

“Hi, Diadem.” Gale tried to take a step forward, frowned when she realized that the step would have put her hoof down on Exuberance’s face.

Very excited, that child is.

“I…” My gut reaction to snap to a refusal, in deference to my skepticism of learning any kind of magic in a classroom, foundered when my mind caught up to what was being proposed. Mistmane the Beautiful was no mere footnote in the annals of illusion, and as I had mentioned to the students at the beginning of my discussion, it would be patently idiotic of me to turn down a lesson in transmutation magic from Star Swirl the Bearded, considered the greatest master of that school in all of equine history, living or dead. “I’ll have to find some time.”

Yeah, saying no to that on principle seems dumb.

10299391

Very excited, that child is.

Yeah, her name is definitely fitting.

I like gray. He seems more reasonable than the rest.

Oh hi, Iron Rain!:pinkiehappy:

“Calm down, Morty. She’s just getting her swords.”

Oh, nothing to worry about, then.

“Gale, even if I were allowed to use my magic right now—which I’m not, my horn is still healing from killing Wintershimmer—you want me to fight your…” I turned to Rain and looked her up and down more to catch my mind up to my words than for actual inspiration, before finishing “…your weird elderly lesbian pegasus cyclops suitor?”

Not a bad guess given Morty's day so far.

They should have gone to an alchemist that didn't hate stallions so much, maybe Morty wouldn't have ended up with a metal neck. But then again, maybe it'll help the next time someone tries to hang him.

No worries about keeping secrets from Rain, interesting.

After enough of a snack to at least satisfy my immediate hunger, and more than a bit of comfort holding one another, I let out a satisfied sigh. “I could get used to this. A beautiful mare in my forelegs, feeding me berries.”

I heard Gale scoff. “When your horn’s better, you owe me.”

Proper turnabout would be a complete reversal of positions. Gale holding Morty, Morty feeding her the berries.

“Silhouette,” I replied. “And no, for a lot of reasons. To state the most obvious one, she has some jagged edges.”

And that's just considering her personality

“Mortal Coil,” Gray interrupted abruptly, as if acting on reflex. “Titled ‘the Immortal’.” He nodded his head just as stiffly as he stood. “Gray Rain. Praefectus Faborum , Legion Eight auxilia.” That string of unintelligible pseudo-Cirran poured out of his mouth at a near monotone, and when it was done, he resumed staring through us in absolute silence.

Gray must have been a great model for the eventual statues, assuming the sculptor never accidentally tried to put him up on display at the end as opposed to the statue.

It's nice to see Gale be so kind in dealing with him.

Welp, I'd say her patience has reached its limit for the day.

Now I kind of want to see Halo find something to give her that does that.

Unlike most Equestrians, however, I was raised in the Crystal Union, where the deity of choice was the rather philosophically regarded ‘Artist’—not that I had any particular reverence for him either.

Barbarians can like art, no shaming.

If Cherry is that unnaturally adorable, I'm forced to wonder if there is something actually unnatural about him.

Now, it should fairly be mentioned that I have been ‘the chosen one’ a surprising number of times in my life for various cultures, sects, and yes, as Gale would so love to remind me, cults. I estimate that if the words ‘chosen' and 'one’ are uttered consecutively in my earshot anywhere, at any time in Equine history, there’s a solid two-in-three chance I am the subject of the prophecy in question. Still, in centuries of life, I have never, never been made as uncomfortable by those two words as I was when the faithful of Celestia turned as one toward me and the spooky chanting stopped.

Creepy.

Halo guffawed in what a less cynical author might have mistaken for good humor. “Compared to the wonders of raising the sun, I’m sure it’s only a trivial matter for Her Holiness to heal a mere wound, Cherry. Remember, all things are possible through she who giveth us the day.”

Praise the sun, and such.

“Holding six swords is hard,” said Cherry in his chipper little voice, ambling around his much taller mentor. “I can barely hold two.”

“You’re an earth pony…” I pointed out as dryly as I could.

I do have to wonder how the earth pony is holding two.

“It would be very nice if you picked my master, Princess,” said Cherry with an entirely innocent smile. “Then you could be like my big sister. I think I would like that very much.”

Gotta be careful about letting that kid get that close.

“Oh my; I’m sor—” The Count’s apology devolved into a gasp as Gale picked him up by said hoof and hurled him into a spin, head over hooves, onto his back. Six swords and two shields made an incredibly satisfying noise when they clattered on the stone floor of the cathedral.

Ahh, so that's what all that gear is for, sound effects.

What is peculiar about the Coltlumbia and the Delamare is that they simply refuse to do so; instead, Everfree was built atop their fluvial ‘X-marks-the-spot’, where both rivers continued their separate ways as though the other simply did not exist. The division did make finding one’s way around rather simple, however. Since the rivers mostly ran northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast, the city had four easy quadrants to refer to: one for each cardinal direction.

Weird, yet convenient.

“It’s…” I had to pause as my heart pounded in my chest and my ears alike; I was in no shape for running around after spending so long in bed, and it was beginning to get hard to pretend otherwise. “It’s nice. The shade’s well-appreciated.”

Easy solution, stop pretending.

Worst first chocolate experience ever.

Stars bless the cricket who somehow got confused about the time and started chirping in the middle of the afternoon that day.

Cooperative wildlife is very helpful.

“A bontek is a magical miniature landscape. See, way east of River Rock, the feline empires have this idea of a ‘bonsai’, which is an art form made by grooming a dwarf tree. And Tectonic was a unicorn archmage who figured out how to push earth to cause small earthquakes and make mountains and that sort of thing; really he couldn’t make much more than a molehill, but the theory was what mattered. So now it's traditional for wizards to make little replicas of the sites of famous battles or cities. It was really a lot of fun; Wintershimmer would animate these little tin soldiers and we’d ‘play’ old battles .”

Neat. I'm sure that will catch on and be very popular in the future.

The pop and the lurch of teleportation sent my gut twisting before I could even tell her I was ready, and a moment later my head was underwater. I gasped, brilliantly exercising the survival instincts of a fish, and then began flailing as I tried to swim upward.

That went well.

This motion had two side effects; the first was that I punched Gale in her shoulder with most of my body weight. The second was that my other hoof almost immediately kicked me up out of the water; it was barely a couple of hooves deep.

Even better.

The birthday party is going to go terribly wrong isn't it.

Cliffhanger presents! The best kind, clearly.

Can't wait to see how this turns out.:twilightsmile:

That was quite satisfying.

A very good chapter indeed.

“Did she?” Celestia quirked a brow. “That… wasn’t very subtle of her. Are you admitting that because you trust me, or did Gale forget to tell you to keep it quiet?”

They're really bad at secrets. The plan of pretending Morty isn't really a suitor until it's too late to challenge should go well.

“The latter. Why would I need to keep an invitation quiet? Isn’t she allowed to invite who she wants, if the party is for her ?”

Really bad.

Celestia buried her whole face in her wing with laughter. “Morty, I can already tell you’re going to get me into so much trouble.”

Endless amounts of trouble.

“Because everypony has an agenda.”

Even Celestia, it would seem.

For the record if you happen to know Celestia personally, yes, it is that Philomena, and yes, she still tries to burn off my eyebrows every time I visit.

I hate that bird.

The feeling appears to be mutual.

“Lady Menage,” Celestia gently completed with a nod. “I don’t mind nicknames between us, Morty, but if you learn to think of Gale’s suitors by their preferred titles first , it will spare you and Gale a great deal of pain in the future. Are you saying she deliberately put a layer of metal over your open wound?”

There's a lot of pain in their present, too, so it fits.

“Cherry?” Celestia cocked her head, before smiling. “He’s a delight, isn’t he? Just so friendly. It’s a shame he’s squiring under Halo, but hopefully he’ll come into his own before he gets too blinded by the faith.”

Oh no, Celestia is also under the influence of the unnatural child.

I nodded. “She practically ordered me not to. But… I’m just going to need some money, and somepony who’s known Gale longer than I have to help work out a few of the details.”

Easiest answer would be to obey that order, by why go the easy route.

Well then, I was not expecting to see this happen so soon. Did a fantastic job setting up and highliting the significance of Gale's accention, can't wait to see more keep it up.

“Luna thinks she’s a poet,” Celestia answered. “Morty, do my flanks look wide to you?”

Uh oh.

Fortunately, by the sheer blind luck of a newborn foal at a construction site in a slapstick comedy, I managed to evade what might otherwise have been certain death when I answered “Um… Proportionally, no?”

No great, not death-inducing.

“I am curious what spell you cast to be in two places at once. And why your substitute seemed so intent on eating the furniture and scratching itself like a dog…”

Crystal barbarians, what can you do.

“Right. Queen Platinum, let’s not kid ourselves; you can’t even put up enough strength to stop my hoof. I know you mean to be threatening me with some kind of vague ‘political power’ warning and not blunt magic, but frankly, you’re not going to get far with that. I don’t really answer to you. And as we’ve already established, Celestia is on my side. I’m not going to pick a fight with you, so please, don’t humiliate yourself trying to threaten me.”

Morty's mastery of politics is astonishing.

That was a far more violent ice castle competition than I was really expecting.

Halo was really asking for that, to be fair. That said, good job laying low at the party Morty.

“Mother,” interrupted Gale, donning her ‘royal’ voice. “We cannot dishonor a knight of our own court by trying to tempt him into breaking his word, can we?”

On the other hand, Gale seems to be making the most of it.

Welp, that's a party crasher.

I wondered what she had said to offend her daughter that flagrantly, before Platinum spoke up, and her magically amplified voice revealed that her daughter was not, in fact, choking her.

That would have been an exciting twist.

Wait, my mistake, the exciting twist was still in the works.

Celestia’s golden magic surrounded the crown on Queen Platinum’s brow and lifted it up from the silvery hairs of the elder monarch’s mane. “Then I, and Equestria, now recognize you as Queen-Regent of the unicorns, and co-monarch of the Equestrian ponies.”

Hard to argue with that endorsement.

Gale, the true protagonist.

...In which magic turns into legalese. :rainbowwild:

Will this story be as long as the previous one?

10391816
Probably longer, to be honest. But hopefully the "Tale" divisions will break it up into more digestible chunks.

“Let him through, legionary.” The firm voice that spoke up belonged to Commander Hurricane, and the fact that the soldier in my way immediately darted to the side, offering the retired leader a stiff salute, indicated that calling him ‘Commander’ Hurricane despite his ostensible retirement was completely appropriate. “This isn’t the Crystal Union, Morty,” Hurricane told me as I proceeded up toward his place standing near what had once been his own throne. “Throwing your weight around like that in Equestria will come back to bite you.”

The Commander never actually retires.

“Oh, sorry; it’s a blindfold. So it can be a surprise.”

Gale’s eyes briefly jumped to her mother before she looked back at me with a sultry grin. “Kinky.”

Suddenly Gale is in favor of another present.

We were nearly to the door, though, when Platinum called to me over our shoulders. “Oh, and Coil; I will be in contact. Soon.”

He's doomed.

Hurricane winced. “I’m not as skeptical of your friendship as my better half, Morty, and I know it wasn’t your fault the last time. But so that we are clear: if you deliberately put my daughter in that kind of danger again, I will kill you.”

Even more doomed.

This birthday present was a great idea.

I patted Graargh on the shoulder. “Celestia is special, Graargh. Normal ponies can’t do that.”

It's hard for anyone else to measure up.

“Your mom and I were like sisters growing up,” Rain explained, stepping back. “Gods, look at you; so skinny! Well, we’ll fix that. Thank the gods somepony brought you back to Everfree, even if you are twenty years late.” Without even giving Blizzard a chance to breathe, Rain looked up and shot a one-eyed glare at Hurricane. “You finally realize I should have been raising her to start with, you crotchety old bastard?”

I really like this meeting, it's a nice almost reunion.

“Hmm… That sounds a bit boring from what I know of Gale’s dreams; what is your new queen ordering?”

Well, oh my.

As always, Luna ruins everything.

10403035
Glad to hear it! Hopefully, if I get to a good solid 2 or 3 Tale lead on what's currently being posted, I can increase the post rate to twice a week. But for now, I want to make sure we don't have to hit a hiatus by catching up to my writing speed.

Thanks for saying something; it means a lot!

The Pillow Book of Princess Platinum’.

:pinkiecrazy:

Can't tell if this is leading to just more fun of Tales or if this is some setup for the elusive Honor Guard sequel, but either way I'm so happy I caught up on your work and get to read this week by week.

10404283
What if I told you the answer was both? Or rather, what if I told you Tales (or at least the Sunset Interludes in Tales) are the Honor Guard sequel? Without implying too much, the statement that Honor Guard is canon might very well give a strong suggestion of why Celestia is sending Sunset, Somnambula, Tempest, and Ink on this particular errand.

(But the implied separate Pillow Book fic is absolutely just a clop spin-off, and while I like to pretend it will have a plot (in the narrative sense, people) and won't just be pure smut, if you're hoping that will somehow become a true sequel to Honor Guard... well, I'm sorry to disappoint.)

It occurs to me that in a weird way, Tales is the direct sequel to Honor Guard, From Stalliongrad With Love, and 24's Snow and Shadows, in addition to the obvious Beginner's Guide.

Anyway, Price of Loyalty universe rambling aside, glad to have you caught up and following along! And thanks so much for your interest!

10404603
OH haha I meant the stuff with sunset, I had no illusions that the eluded clop fic would be a nonessential side story. Though alot of the whole price of loyalty universe is clicking away in lots of ways whenever I think about I, t which is great. not to mention the sumerlands story I managed to read that was later removed :pinkiecrazy:

It’s perfectly reasonable to have a most-comprehensible conversation with a breezie, one of the weakest of the fey, but to speak to an archfey even over tea and make small talk about the weather is to gamble with your sanity and your life.

So, Discord.

“Are homes normally expensive?”

Crystal barbarians, what can you do.

Ahh, so she simply wanted some necromantic services, and she wants everything about it kept extraordinarily confidential. Makes sense.

“You have no idea how often I’ve imagined bucking that old fuck in his stupid moustache. So it was a nice present. Mom losing her shit made it even better. Speaking of which, did you wind up making a deal with Tirek?”

“What?” I asked with absolute confusion on my face. “The centaur? No, Gale, I would never involve Tartaran magic! The fey contract with your mother was bad enough.”

Crystal barbarians do not have the concept of metaphors.

That really did end up being a great birthday present.

I shook my head. “There’s no such thing as ghosts like that, and I doubt there are any spirits. Just rubble now, and a big old block of ice… Once I get those tunnels excavated, Commander Typhoon, could I get your help melting that—”

“You could not pay me to go back into that damn house,” Typhoon cut me off with a scowl. “If you let me burn it down, I’ll pay to build you a new one.” I should perhaps emphasize that there wasn’t anger in the autumn-colored mare’s voice. Like nearly every hint of strong emotion I had seen from Typhoon, the words were icy, businesslike, and above all else, deadly serious.

...
...
...Oof.:ajsleepy:

Though a perfectly capable mage, she never ascended to the level of magic where one might expect to find her having tampered with her own anatomy, as one would note upon meeting myself, or Star Swirl, or the aforementioned Twilight Sparkle.

That really makes me wonder what Star Swirl has done to himself.

In fact, her only magical ‘side effect’ of note was her age—though she looked to be only in her twenties (which would have made her Twilight’s peer and not her predecessor), on that morning of Gale’s birthday Sunset Shimmer was actually forty three.

43 with the body of a 20 year old, now that's a nice thought.

Those nations that hadn’t yet been absorbed into Equestria couldn’t survive Nightmare Moon’s onslaught alone, and… when it was done, so much was lost.

As always, Luna ruins everything.

“But he wore the black armor that we had heard stories of, and he had the scars and the rugged appearance I had imagined. So I did what my pharoah required of me. I bowed, and showed him the full shape of my body and my wings, and I offered to wed him and to carry his foals, so that we could have an alliance. And to show I was serious, I walked up the steps and kissed him.”

Nice.

“That is one definition of the word ‘censorship’, yes.” Celestia nodded. Then, more sternly, she added “And since you bring it up, yes: the only surviving notes on that spell are in that book. I trust you’ll be careful who reads it.” Then, after a sip of tea, she added “Please don’t share it with Twilight.”

Yeah, yeah, makes sense.

“Then it shall be fun to…” Sunset found herself confused when the ancient pegasus glanced her way and let her words hang in the air for a moment before she finished “...catch up.”

Hah!

“They’re not dangerous. Just… very thorough . Morty titled those segments ‘ The Pillow Book of Princess Platinum ’. I suggest you skip them. Especially if you want to look Somnambula in the eye again.”

Well now.

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