• Published 17th Jun 2019
  • 858 Views, 183 Comments

The First Republic - Starscribe



One generation ago, a volcanic eruption nearly smothered all life on Equus. Ponies and griffons ended up deciding not to kill each other. Contrail is going to set down the history of the Migration War, if it doesn't kill him first.

  • ...
7
 183
 858

Chapter 2

I knew that getting the princess of all Equestria alone for an interview like this was a rare opportunity. It can take weeks to make it to the front of the queue for the Eventide Court.

But for all that, her appearance across the table from me was not that different from many of the other scholars I’ve spoken to about this matter. She fidgeted, glancing over at my various notes. It was no wonder Equestria had done so well in my lifetime, with a princess who cared so much about every miniscule detail. Even a single historian’s book was worth her time.

“So the way I’m planning to conduct these interviews…” I began, settling my ballpoint pen onto the page. I could write with a wing, a skill few pegasus ponies mastered. But while they were busy doing loops in the sky, I would be preserving the past. “I’m going to be going through in order. Particularly now that I might actually visit some of the creatures involved. We’ll be speaking mostly about your initial involvement with the migration today, if that’s alright. I know you also had a hoof in the, uh… the close of hostilities. But those parts felt better saved for the end.”

Twilight shrugged. “Far be it from me to interfere with the scholarship of another pony. If that’s your approach when doing the interviews… no, wait, I won’t say anything.”

I shifted nervously in my seat, looking down at my list of questions again. I could feel Twilight’s attention on me, the way I never had with any other pony. Alicorn magic really is unlike anything else. It’s no wonder that the old princesses were always so well respected.


What was Accipio to you growing up? Did you know anything at all?

Everypony knew about it—it was the part of the world we couldn’t visit. The place where airships stopped, and sane ponies turned around. I couldn’t tell you much about what it was like, except that I knew you weren’t supposed to go.

A little later, when I became one of the Elements of Harmony, I could’ve gone anywhere I wanted. But my friends and I never did. We were afraid of it, maybe even more than we were of the monsters we sometimes fought.

Why do you think that was?

Because in some ways, Accipio was worse than any monster. All those ancient creatures Grogar filled our world with, it’s not surprising when some giant bear/bee/walrus attacks a town and hurts anypony it can. It can’t really help it.

But griffons were something different. They could think like us—mortal like us, with the same basic needs. They had a history and culture as long as Equestria’s. But they still did things that are hard for a pony to imagine.

Slavery.

Princess Twilight nods. It’s probably hard for somepony as young as you to even understand how terrifying that is. The stories of ships going missing, of tourists who went anyway never coming back—they were true. Even worse, there was a whole population of ponies in Accipio who had lived for generations without their freedom. And for every one of them, there were ten other creatures, all descendants of creatures whose nations had been conquered long ago.

Accipio controlled the entire world.

Except for Equestria.

Right. Were you afraid they would invade again?

Lots of ponies were. It was all over the worst newspapers. Whenever some noble or another wanted public support, they would try to rile up everypony and make them afraid. When I asked Celestia about them, she was never afraid. She always said that Accipio knew who controlled the sun, and they knew she’d never allow them to hurt her ponies without retaliating.

But that didn’t work.

It did for almost two centuries. Until Mons Ignis erupted.

You got involved before that happened though, didn’t you?

Yes. There’s a group of ponies who do nothing but monitor the world for existential threats. They’re called—well, I won’t tell you that part. But they were the ones who first let us know. There are signs you can read about a volcano to know that it’s getting unhappy. Pressure lifts up the land above it, that kind of thing. And if there aren’t any little openings to relieve that pressure… something big will.

Did we know before the griffons did?

I think both sides will say they knew first. But we were the first ones to contact the other, that’s all recorded. The emperor at the time, Gaius, he was more cooperative than anypony thought he would be. He let us send a team of scientists to the volcano, and they cooperated with some griffon scholars for a few weeks. Their findings were… grim.

How did Equestria react to finding out that the climate was about to collapse?

Twilight laughs, pushing briefly away from the table and gesturing up at the stained-glass image above my head. It shows the defeat of Nightmare Moon, with Twilight herself featured prominently in the center. Nopony knew. Equestria has always had great respect for its leaders. Ponies live their lives, and trust their rulers to deal with things like this. When Celestia found out, she didn’t tell anypony. Nopony here knew about it for another month at least. She probably would’ve kept making plans in the background for six months more if information wasn’t starting to leak from Accipio.

That they might be planning to invade.

What other choice did they have? Equestria might’ve done the same thing, if we didn’t have friendship. You can’t just close your eyes and wait to die. I wasn’t there, but I know Celestia was shocked when Gaius’s request finally came.

An invasion would’ve been bad.

Devastating. Equestria is on the other side of the world from Ignis, but the ash from an eruption like that was going to lower global temperatures for years. Paleontologists tell me that at least one of the previous mass extinctions on Equus was caused by an eruption like this. We needed all our pony magic to stop that from happening here. But if we were fighting off an invasion, we wouldn’t have it.

Celestia must have been eager to accept Gaius’s terms.

Yes and no. Back then we didn’t know how much we could trust them. You probably know their reputation for honor today.

I nod in response to this. It’s hard to imagine a bird breaking their word.

It wasn’t back then. You can’t think of Accipio as one nation, not really. It was four, or three, or… however many Noble Clans they had at the time. They were hundreds centuries ago, but they’d all killed and absorbed each other. We couldn’t be sure who was in control. And we didn’t really understand any of their internal politics. All we knew was what the science team had told us.

This is exactly the opportunity I am looking for. I’m not here to collect trivia. I have one other subject I need her to address.

That’s where the expedition came into play. Starlight Glimmer’s enforcement ship.

Twilight seems to think this suggestion is amusing. She laughs for several seconds before finally answering. You probably shouldn’t call it that in front of any birds. Yes, Starlight was our key to accepting their peace. We needed to know if they really meant it. Starlight was one of the few ponies out there who was competent enough to send into danger like that.

She was your personal student, wasn’t she? The understanding was that you were grooming her to be a princess one day. Did you realize she might not come back?

For the first time, Twilight seems reticent to answer. She looks away, straightens some of my papers for me, shuffles them so that all the maps are on the top of their piles.

One of the first things you have to learn in a position of leadership is that you can’t protect everypony. You can’t, and they usually don’t want you too. A pony like Starlight wanted to help Equestria, make up for all the guilt she had. She was the perfect pony for the job, and she did it well.

Even though they managed to bring weapons back with them?

No spell is perfect. I don’t resent the ways Starlight failed, I’m grateful she was as successful as she was. Imagine an Accipian invasion fleet landing on our shores. You don’t know how close we came.

But I might find out.


That was the end of my interview. I closed the pad, finishing my last few notes. “Thank you, Twilight. I hope none of those questions were… inappropriate.”

She grinned in response, rising from the other side of the table and shaking out her wings. “Not at all, Contrail. I’m impressed with your historical insight. I think this project will be more than worth the investment to Equestria. My kingdom will not have a population of ponies ignorant to the trials we have overcome.”

She levitated something down onto the table in front of me—the scroll she’d written on. Her horn flashed, and her royal seal burned into the parchment, smoking briefly. “There are conditions. You are as of this moment an official scholar of my court. You will represent the Crown everywhere you go. And when your work is published, I wish for the original for my personal collection.”

That was basically what she’d written on the form—it was a contract, waiting for my signature. Promising me everything I’d asked. Official diplomatic status to travel the world under the Equestrian banner, enough bits to visit anyone I wanted. A ship. She’s basically not asking anything. Act correctly, give her the first book. So what?

I took my pen in my mouth and signed at the bottom of the contract. “I can do that, Princess. It will be an honor.”

She didn’t correct me this time. “Then go with Spike. He guards the, uh… hoard, I suppose.”

“That’s what I call it.” Spike the dragon rose from behind the throne, standing fully upright on just two legs. Now I saw a creature that was larger than a princess. He was still a young dragon; in that he was small enough to fit in the building without too much difficulty. His spines were wicked sharp along his back, his wings wide and with a few scars.

“Come with me, pony. We will take you to the treasury.”

I gathered my papers in a rush, snapping the case closed and bowing haphazardly to Twilight. “Th-thank you, Princess! For… being so generous. I promise to give you an addition to the library to be proud of.”

“I’m sure you will,” she answered, smiling ruefully. “Oh, and Spike. Take care of the ship for him—give him whatever’s left after their three-month commission. You were listening well enough to know which one to charter?”

He nodded back. “I might be slower than I used to be, but I can still listen. I’ll call ahead to make sure they don’t go anywhere.”

A royal airship? She cares about my mission that much? Maybe I had overestimated my own competence. But Twilight had apparently approved of my questions. So long as I could use the same historical neutrality with the others I needed to interview, I should be able to keep my promise.

It’s only the single most important event of recent history. How hard can it be to summarize the whole thing in one book?