• Published 30th Sep 2022
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Diplomatic Solution - Starscribe



Equestria joins the galactic community to discover an bloody eternal war. They resolve to find a solution in the pony way: diplomacy. All the Young Six have to do is negotiate an alliance with violent, xenophobic aliens. What could go wrong?

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Chapter 11

"That sounds like a great idea," Sandbar said. "Convince the rest of your tribe to change their ways and be willing to join the war. That's basically the whole reason we're here. But that doesn't mean we know how. That's the hard part. How do we change their mind about magic?"

"Well..." Even without the ability to read alien emotions exactly, Ocellus could sense his hesitation now. This stranger was unsure about how they would feel. He didn't want them to reject his idea. They were an opportunity to him, perhaps his best chance at achieving his goals.

But does he want the same things we do, or are we just a convenient opportunity to capitalize on?

"The core of the problem is obvious; they don't believe a nonmagical creature can have a spirit. I could not tell you the source of this belief, since it is not present in any of the ancient texts. It is self-evident, in the same way that people know plants grow purple or that space is cold. But there are some ways."

"The only way to make a creature question their assumptions is to prove them wrong," Ocellus said. "But not too forcefully, or else their old habits will only dig in deeper. It needs to happen in a way that's compatible with what they already think.

"That was how it was for the Changelings. We knew we needed to feed on emotions to survive, in the old days. But we didn't know that we could share those feelings with each other, instead of stealing them from other creatures. If Thorax had arrived declaring that we could eat pony food, we would've laughed and ignored him."

"Yes," the Zecrin agreed. "That is what we considered as well. There is one task you could accomplish, something so dramatic that even the Watchers would be forced to witness for you. We've known about this method for some time, but no one has succeeded before."

"You didn't say tried," Yona said. "Yona not happy to hear it that way. You know how to do this thing, but you fail already?"

The messenger, Degara, clicked his claws together unhappily. "All who last attempted it have not returned. But that doesn't mean you will fail. I think their failure comes from the biases of our kind. Even the open-minded among the Zecrin don't see it as an option. Most would not even consider attempting it."

"Tell us what it is," Silverstream demanded. "We're brave, and we've come a long way to make friends with you. I'm sure it won't be too hard for us."

"The task is simple; to accomplish something incredible, without the aid of magic. There is a crater on the far side of our world, where the heartbeat of magic is discordant. At its center is a relic, the scepter of the Final Emperor. Make it to the bottom, retrieve the scepter, and you would be recognized as the rightful ruler of all Zecrin. More importantly, you would make a point that even the Sacred Watchers would be forced to acknowledge."

"Get a stick out of a hole." Gallus spread his wings, grinning. "That sounds simple. In and out, and the Zecrin are joining us to defend the galaxy."

Ocellus nodded. "That sounds... too easy. You have a relic that elevates its bearer to Emperor, but you are still ruled by Watchers? Why does no one go?"

"Because..." He looked away. "Because the chaotic magic of the place drains all who enter it. Of their magic, or their soul, depending on who you ask. The Final Emperor was the greatest spellcaster to ever live, with power to pull the stars down from heaven. When he went mad, he corrupted the land for miles. Halidom collapsed into the earth with him, hiding its shame from the stars. Life grew up in the wreckage, but not life as the rest of our worlds know.

"It grows wild and chaotic. It draws the power from your veins, then attacks you with teeth and claw. None who have entered ever returned. The Watchers declare they never could. No one could accomplish so great a task without a soul. And no creature could survive holding the emperor's scepter without a soul. You see? Proof that all will be forced to acknowledge."

"So if we go down there, the crater takes our magic away?" Sandbar asked. "I've been through that before—Cozy Glow almost took over Equestria that way. We could get a magic stick without magic. That should be easy!"

Ocellus could feel her friends' optimism. None of them seemed to even care about the danger, or the fact that a species of clawed, muscular lizard-monsters couldn't make it into the crater and out again. They didn't seem to care about how long it would take to get their own magic back, even if they could succeed.

"Not quite the way I would describe it," Degara said. "Not easy, but simple. The emperor's body is at the bottom, still holding his scepter. Reach it, overcome the wild chaos of the life there, and return with it. Do this, and the Sacred Watchers will be silenced."

"Send us directions to this crater," she said. "Will we be allowed to fly there?"

"To the edge," he said. "Do not take your ship into the crater, or it will join the tomb with all the others who attempted it. It has its own defenses, even more hostile to technology than to magic. If you wish to have a ship that can fly you back to your home system, you will go in on foot."

"Thank you for telling us this," Smolder said. "We were running out of ideas. But doing something impossible and proving ourselves to everyone, that's something we can all understand."

He rose, bowing farewell to their group. "I'll deliver the location to you. I'm sure the Watchers will permit you to leave if you ask, to see our world. I would refrain from describing your goals, or else they might... take steps to guarantee your failure. The last thing they want now is a new emperor stealing their thrones."

He left, leaving them to watch the campfire burn low.

For a long time no one said anything, until Ocellus finally broke the silence. "It's a crazy plan," she said. "Something so hard none of the locals can even figure it out—do we really think we're better at surviving their world than the ones who live here full time?"

"No, but we have better teamwork." Sandbar circled around the campfire. "You've seen how they're like. They're so violent all the time. I bet not very many have tried. Lose their magic? They think they don't have a soul without it!"

"We don't know if they are wrong," Yona said. "This world is theirs, and they choose not to go and risk danger in that place. Maybe we should obey their wisdom."

Ocellus looked back at their tray of food, remembering the slaves who had brought it to them. While they were here, Princess Twilight was integrating into the Stellar Compact. She thought their odds of winning the war were nonexistent. If they couldn't make a change here, their new friends were doomed.

Either we find a way to win here, or we accept the Enti's offer of peace. We abandon the ones who showed us the stars, and we accept never leaving our home star again.

Equestria wouldn't want that. She knew many changelings back home who wanted to go out and explore. They weren't the only ones, either. Creatures from every tribe had the galaxy open to them now. It wasn't a peaceful place, or a welcoming one. But it needed their help.

"We won't be limited to our muscles and claws and wings," she said. "Twilight knew something dangerous might be waiting for us, remember? It doesn't matter how much power is in that crater. It can drain us, but it can't steal the magic from what we brought.

Equus's most powerful artifacts, precious beyond description. Each one represented a source of bottomless power—they'd survived Discord. They could survive a spooky hole.

"We do," Gallus said. "It would mean bringing them into danger. Equus won't get them back if we die in the jungle."

"This is not a problem. Yona does not plan to die there. Does Gallus?"

"No."

"I don't need magic to be tough." Smolder stood straight, flexing both her limbs and filling the air ahead of her with a burst of flame. “Magic is for weaklings. And... friends. If I have to, I'll burn our way down. Simple."

It wasn't even simple to get to the crater. Ocellus spoke to the guards outside, explaining their intention to fly elsewhere on the planet and tour. It took an hour for their representative to arrive, carrying a glowing crystal filled with images of interesting places for them to go.

"You should see the Starfall," he said. "The twisting bridges are my particular favorite. The water there is so warm you never need to lay in the sun. It feels like you can swim for days and never rest. And the black-sand beaches are the finest on all of Kavaal."

It did sound relaxing. Ocellus wished the galaxy wasn't at war, and they'd been here on a normal diplomatic mission. Seeing the sights might be a legitimate part of their reason for being here.

"I'm sold," Smolder said. "But I should probably talk things over with the others before I make my decision."

Ha’luu showed them images of other interesting places—fields of swaying grass taller than their heads, where massive predators feasted on anything too slow to get away. Towering mountain peaks that somehow remained warm with every step, carrying the rainforest vertically with a species of specially-adapted lichen.

He showed them wonders, filled with new species to transform into, or just animals to get to know. It took all her self-restraint to avoid giving a selfish answer and just agreeing to every single one of them.

Maybe the crater will have fun animals to try. Except that she would lose her magic as soon as she went there, and not be able to become any of them. A cruel and unfair price to pay.

"One of these must seem worth a visit to you," Ha’luu said, as soon as he had finished his presentation. "Most of these are reserved only for the most important beings of Kavaal. It is a great honor even to be invited."

"It is our custom to decide on the way," Ocellus said, before any of her friends could say anything that would take away the option. "We might wish to see more than one, or perhaps fly in some other direction and see all the natural beauty of your world. We would give an expedition from the Zecrin the same honor on Equus."

"I'm sure one will be sent, in time." He switched off the crystal, pocketing it in a heavy leather satchel. "It would be easier on me if I knew where we were going, however. I would like to know what to pack."

"Pack?" Silverstream asked. "But you don't have to—" Her eyes widened.

"Oh, I do," he said. "It would be irresponsible for the Sacred Watchers to allow visitors to wander. You might encounter terrible dangers, and not even understand them. I insist on coming with you."

Her mind spun, searching for any polite excuse she could use. If Ha’luu came with them, would he try to stop them from flying to the crater? Or maybe just report what they were doing to the Watchers, so they could somehow sabotage their attempt.

"Sounds great!" Sandbar said, with apparent enthusiasm. "I think you'll love flying on the Fortuna. It's so smooth, no matter how fast we fly!"

Ocellus sighed, defeated. Sandbar's strategy was probably the right one—if they couldn't get him to leave them alone, their next best hope was winning him over.

"I'm quite certain that I will," he said. "Let me send word to my household. My porters will meet us on the landing platform."