• Published 30th Sep 2022
  • 1,790 Views, 170 Comments

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 7

In a time so long ago it felt like someone else's life, a very young Ocellus had once wondered what it would be like if a race other than ponies had inherited the magic. While traveling through Canterlot as a young changeling, she was in awe of everything that ponies had built. What could her people have done with so much magic? Now on the homeworld of the Zecrin, Ocellus received an answer to that question.

The sacred palace was unlike any structure she had ever seen. Even the orbital stations built high above Equestria followed rules she understood. But here all logic and reason were abandoned. The palace itself emerged from the jungle as a construct of cement bricks with mortar not of gray, but ground up precious stone. Parts of the pyramid were so overgrown by the jungle that they looked abandoned, while others hosted vast concourses of the lizard-like Zecrin.

Some thronged about in robes while others wore only heavy chains around their necks and ankles. Prisoners? From them she sensed a dejected despair, a will as broken as any the swarm had kept and harvested for too long. The Zecrin were cruel even to their own kind.

She wasn't the only one to think it either, judging by the sudden nervousness she saw from her friends. Yet they said nothing, and followed the priest into the pyramid. At least the interior was well lit. It smelled of strange plants and perfumes that Ocellus's nose had never sensed. The corridors extended to dead ends or twisted beyond sight. Sections of the building didn't seem to be attached, but instead hovered there suspended. Occasionally creatures leapt bodily up to waiting platforms, sometimes as much as 10 feet at a time. Apparently those coiled muscular legs could do more than just lope around; they could jump further than earth ponies.

Everywhere they went, her little group received many stares. She did her best to smile at some and waved with her wings at others. Yet none spoke to them. And from the hurried way that Ha'luu moved them, Ocellus got the sense that this was not a time for conversation. Eventually they climbed a set of stairs leading upward towards the top of the pyramid, and the gloom of smokey firelight was broken by sun from above. An open skylight continued all the way to the peak of the pyramid, which shone down as a single solid beam of light. In it, she saw three chairs, a throne really, made of crystal. Each of the occupants had their backs to each other.

Ocellus almost asked why they'd arranged themselves in such a strange way, but then Ha'luu hurried ahead of them, prostrating himself on the ground before one of the three. It happened to be the one with the largest hat, though every one of the three reptiles was adorned, not with cloth, but overlapping metallic chains with bits of glowing gemstone set in each. Magical armor, she realized or otherwise enchanted objects, but she could feel the magic everywhere. Not just around these three.

"Sacred Watchers," the priest proclaimed. "I have brought these prospects before you who beg recognition before your eyes. They represent another planet of ensouled beings, the third of its kind in all creation. Let it be known."

Near the back of the group, Ocellus caught a mumbled whisper from Gallus and her ears flattened.

"So much for getting something to eat," he said.

Fortunately, he'd been quiet enough that the aliens didn't seem to hear it. Ocellus stepped forward. She imitated the bow as perfectly as she could. A few of her companions did likewise. Sandbar the pony was quick to recognize a regal authority, Silverstream as well, but Yona and Smolder only nodded.

Hopefully they just think those are differences in body language, Ocellus thought. She looked up trying to read these strange creatures. Of course only one of the three could see them directly. Yet, as she looked, she realized the strange chamber had mirrors on all sides, curving the light around the room. Looking anywhere but into the center was disorienting. Yet anyone in those chairs could probably see the whole room if they used the mirrors correctly.

Strangely Ocellus could not sense anything coming from the front of the room. She probed cautiously, until she recognized what she was looking at. Not embalmed corpses, as she had initially feared. Rather, they were encircled by powerful protections, shielding their minds from even peripheral emotional bleed.

One of the reptiles rose from their chair into a standing position. Its scales were gold in color, not metallic like a dragon, yet still regal in their own right. She looked over their group with harsh eyes. Yet when she spoke, her voice was measured and peaceful. "Long have the Watchers looked out at the galaxy in hopes of discovering another intelligent race. There is a vast creation before us, yet so little life of significance to appreciate it. Having others to share in this bounty is exactly what we have hoped for."

In the other chairs, the reptiles scratched their claws along the ground in a loud rhythmic way. Applause perhaps? Or simple agreement.

From the weight of eyes settling on them, Ocellus guessed it was their turn to make a reply. She didn't wait for someone else in her group to do it. "Thank you," Ocellus said, rising from her bow. She stepped forward slightly, indicating to her friends that she would handle this. "On behalf of Equus, we thank you for this friendly welcome."

Fortunately, she didn't have to stress and wonder at what to say. Twilight had already prepared her for this moment. "We have only recently been able to construct ships of our own. We travel out into the galaxy, representing our planet in the hopes of making many new friends. We would be honored to count you among the first." The words were stiff in her mouth. Yet she was standing in front of a throne facing in three directions. It was hard not to feel silly, no matter what she said.

Another of the creatures spoke from another side of the throne, a male voice this time. At least they had the friendliness to use translation spells rather than requiring her group to use human translation software. "They arrive at our door. So many. For what purpose have you come?"

As though Ocellus hadn't just announced it. She took a deep breath, glancing over her shoulder at her friends for help.

Sandbar stepped forward with less respect than the other lizard seemed comfortable with. They twitched and shifted nervously. Near the door was a set of guards wearing heavy metal armor. This was not Equestria, where the real security hid in a hallway and the guards you saw were friendly decoration. Here the weapons were real. "The princess sent us to request an embassy on your world."

"We brought a declaration of magical friendship," Silverstream added. She reached into a pocket pulling out a tightly bound scroll. Even now that most of Equus was gradually transitioning to digital storage and communication, formal declarations seemed to mean much more when they were delicately scrawled on real parchment.

Silverstream made it two steps before someone stopped her. It was Ha’luu, extending one of his forearms. It ended in surprisingly sharp claws, yet he somehow managed to take the scroll without damaging it. He brought it before the creature with their strange hat, who took it carefully and unrolled it.

Fortunately, translation spells worked as well on written material as on speech, so long as someone who spoke the language written was in the room. "This is an interesting proposal," said the watcher, before turning to one side and offering it to one of their companions. It took them a few moments to each have their chance to read it.

Ocellus waited patiently, though the pressure was lessened somewhat. She hadn't written that agreement, it wouldn't be her fault if they didn't like what Twilight had to say.

"There is no need to formalize an oath between us," said the third. Another female, her voice was low and silky, reminding Ocellus of the old queen. "For it is written that no creatures of significance will be harmed. Our armies will stop short of their doorsteps. Our ships will pass theirs in peace and friendship. Our knowledge will be shared. To swear more is redundant. To request more is an insult. To request more implies we do not practice our doctrine."

"These are foreigners," said the male. "They do not know our doctrine. It is not an insult."

"It isn't," Ocellus added. “Almost no one in the galaxy knows anything about you. The other races who have tried to visit you were not met peacefully."

"We were afraid the same might happen to us," Smolder added unhelpfully.

Ocellus winced, but the words were already out now.

The first watcher only chuckled. "No. Only one other race has ever visited us until now, and we met them in friendship. You can ask the Enti embassy in this building how we treated them. You will find that trade between us flows freely, that science and thaumic study between our peoples has produced mutually beneficial results. So it will be with Equestria as you will honor the doctrine."

This time, Ocellus sensed the shock coming from her friends. Not even Yona, who barely bothered to concern herself with affairs of Equestria, and had argued against even taking this mission, could miss what that implied.

Should we be surprised? The species that attacks anyone who goes near them for not being magic has diplomatic contact with the magical race trying to subjugate the galaxy.

“There are Enti here?” Smolder asked, taking one protective step towards the others. She put herself up in front, just beside Ocellus. “The ones attacking the whole galaxy? The ones invading and killing everyone?”

“They have not attacked anyone,” said the third watcher, the one who reminded Ocellus of her queen. “They have encountered resistive phenomena out in space and chosen to neutralize some. They can no more attack the galaxy than one who mines an asteroid ‘attacks’ the minerals deposited there. The asteroid can be harvested, or left alone, or pushed into the sun. No person is affected unless it is pointed at an inhabited world. No inhabited world of ours has been harmed. Have they attacked you?”

“Well no, but—” Smolder began.

Ocellus nudged her. She didn’t get too close, or else risk the heat. The air around her was already warming up. Somehow, I don’t like the idea of a fight here. These aliens allowed a group of aliens to meet their leaders after only a short search. They must have powers like Alicorns to be so fearless, maybe even more.

“Please excuse us,” Ocellus said hastily. “We have traveled further than any Equestrian before us. We would be grateful for a chance to rest.”

“Indeed,” said the male. Curious how the other two never tried to face them, always looking at the mirrors. What was the point of that? “The Zecrin admire tenacity, and respect the diversity of other significant races. So long as you honor the doctrine, we will not impose anything further on you.”

“Friendship we can do,” Sandbar said. “We’re not the ones who need help with that.”

“We will appoint an emissary to supervise further contact between your world and ours,” said the one with the huge hat, her tone becoming declaratory. “The Watchers have an empire to manage. And in the meantime, you deserve a chance to recover from your journey. When you have done so, there are many scholars and priests who would cherish the opportunity to learn of you and your world. Perhaps we can arrange a mutual exchange of information after we have a chance to rest?"

"Sounds great," Gallus said. "I'm starving."