• Published 1st Oct 2012
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A Pony Walks Into A Bar... - chief maximus



A Ponyville bartender tends to the booze-related needs of Ponyville seven nights a week.

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Bonus Chapter: Gilda

Gilda

Back for more, are ya? Well I can't say I blame ya. I'm quite the storyteller! Or so my wife loves to remind me. Anyway, just give an old stallion a moment to think... ah! I got one for ya. One day a fairly tough costumer came busting through my doors. A griffon, as fate would have it. Now, it's not that I don't cater to certain types in my bar. Far from it! Bits are bits, no matter whose wallet they come out of. But, lets just say if I've got ten griffons in my bar, five of them will end up brawling by last call.

In my youth, I'd be waist deep in a good old fashion bar scrap, but when it's your bar and your chairs being broken over patron's heads, you tend to change your tune. Anyway, this young lady griffon came in and sat down just as the afternoon was beginning to settle. She looked like her beak knew nothing but a scowl.

"What can I get ya?"

She flicked her eyes up at me. They were pretty, to be honest, though from behind her glare they could cut holes through steel.

"Wheat beer."

Another quiet one. But, they don't stay that way for long. This wouldn't be much of a story if they did now would it?

I went about my business, and caught a glimpse of her grabbing a scroll with a fancy wax seal out of the messenger bag slung around her shoulder. She stared at it, like opening it was going to cause her physical harm. She slammed the rest of her beer and fixed her glare back on the letter.

"One more?" I asked. I nearly startled her out of her feathers. "Sorry, didn't mean to make you jump."

"I didn't jump!" she insisted. She reminded me of that Rainbow Dash filly. "You just... surprised me. Don't you know to never sneak up on a griffon?"

She had a point. After all, those talons weren't just for show.

"My apologies. Need another?"

She glanced down at the empty mug. "Yeah..." She seemed exhausted. If I had to guess, the letter had something to do with it.

I refilled her glass and she took a mighty swig.

"Now, I don't mean to pry, but you look awfully tired for one in the afternoon."

If looks could kill, I'd have been a dead pony. But, just as suddenly as her glare appeared, it left, replaced by a look of pure apathy.

"Yeah, letters like this always take it out of me." That was unusual. After all, reading a letter generally wasn't tiring work.

"Why's that?"

"It's from my Dad," she replied.

It all made a bit more sense now. Contrary to popular belief, Equestrian society wasn't all full of sunshine and rainbows. There are plenty of those, but you get the idea. Anyway, lots of folks didn't get along swimmingly with their parents. But, as I would soon find out, her situation was a bit more... complex.

"Eh, I never got along too well with my old pony either, miss..."

"Gilda."

I always make it a point to get on a first name basis with my customers.

"So, what's he buggin' you about, if you don't mind my asking?"

"He wants me to come home, to 'quit living like a petulant hatchling.'" She threw on an unconvincing snooty accent at the last sentence.

"Oh, wants you to take over the family business, eh?" I asked, wiping my favorite glass.

She snorted. "I guess you could say that."

"Whats the business? It can't be all bad?"

She flicked her amber eyes up at me. "Politics."

Hesitation. I wasn't sure whether she was lying or not, but, lying to a bartender isn't a crime, last I checked.

"Well I don't blame ya. Politics is all about pleasing some, but not others, and no matter what you do, someone, somewhere, is gonna hate you."

She leaned back in her chair and pounded the rest of her drink. "Well, I wouldn't have to worry about making them happy. Politics in the empire isn't a democracy."

So at that point, I was just thinking she was a higher-ups daughter, or maybe a ministers. But, she slid the letter across the bar for me to get a closer look. I hadn't recognized the seal from afar, but it was black, and had the wreathed iron talon impressed in the wax. Black was the reserved color of the emperor. I minored in griffon studies in college. Glad I finally found a use for it.

"Holy... so... you're—"

"The Emperor's daughter. Yeah."

I had been hoodwinked by folks claiming to be celebrities before, and literally anyone can get a black candle and carve a crude seal.

"Don't believe me, do you?" She had a talent for reading people, that was for sure.

"Well... I mean, it's just a letter."

She smiled. "See that guy down there?" she asked, pointing to a griffon in a coat quietly reading the newspaper and sipping hot tea.

"Yeah."

"He's been following me since I set paw in this town."

I looked at him and then back to her. "Like, he's stalking you or something?"

"No," she said derisively. "He's one of my Dad's goons. One of them follows me everywhere," she sighed as I refilled her drink. "They aren't good at the whole 'secrecy' thing."

I still wasn't convinced. After all, he was just some guy reading a newspaper! Nothing about him suggested he was some kind of undercover operative.

"Alright, I'll prove it." She grabbed a knife my assistant was using to cut limes and grabbed my hoof from over the bar. She held the knife to my hoof and held my hoof to her neck.

"Help, I'm being threatened!" she shouted in his direction. Sure enough, he threw down his paper and reached into his trench coat, retrieving what was unmistakably the handle of a flintlock pistol. I pulled my hoof away and let the knife drop to the bar. I definitely didn't need to shoot it out with somebody in my bar. The mysterious stranger settled back down, flipping his newspaper back to its place in front of his face.

"See?"

"Wow, so... what does your Dad want you to do exactly?"

She rested her head on her talon. "Rule the empire," she said as nonchalantly as one would order a cup of coffee.

Suddenly, I felt myself tighten up. The griffon empire was well known for their creative punishments for those who slighted the emperor or his family. There had been a few times where a pony tourist to the empire caused an international incident by making an off color joke in the presence of the wrong griffons. But for all the news reports about the draconian laws of her homeland, Gilda seemed pretty well adjusted for an emperor's daughter.

"And I guess you aren't really into that?"

"It's not that... I mean, I always knew I was going to have to rule eventually, but it just seems so lame!" She explained, throwing her talons in the air. "I watched him do the whole 'emperor' thing and all it was were meetings, and holding court, and listening to subjects whine about this or argue with their neighbor over gods know what, and..." she trailed in to silence, as though there was something else on her mind, but this wasn't the time or place to mention it.

"And?" I led her on a bit. It wasn't often I got the chance to talk to royalty! Well, except for when Princess Luna drank all my cider and most of my liquor.

"He... ah, just forget it," she snapped. I could tell she was normally pretty abrasive. A common defense mechanism among the carnivorous persuasion, but griffons were known for their particularly dour attitudes around strangers.

I shrugged. "Fair enough. Can I get you anything else?"

"Absinthe." If I had any doubt as to her lineage before, it was erased. Only the griffon elite were even permitted to drink absinthe, and any griffon caught partaking even outside the empire's borders were subject to punishment upon their return. Ponies have never quite developed a taste for it, myself included, but I did just so happen to come across a case of the green liquid in my travels. Not a single bottle sold since I bought it ten years ago. Heck, I was surprised she would even ask for it!

"You're in luck, I happen to have some that's been aging for quite a while."

I produced the proper glassware, and literally the only absinthe spoon in the entire town. One part absinthe, four parts ice water. None of that bohemian gimmick of lighting the sugar cube on fire.

I set the spoon over the glass, placed a sugar cube atop the spoon and slowly poured the cold water over it, allowing the bright green drink to turn cloudy, releasing its aromas. To be honest, the only other time I had to prepare absinthe was in bar tending school. Yes, that's a real thing.

By the time I had prepared her drink, she was ready to continue where she left off.

"He was never around," she muttered. "He tried to be there for me when I was growing up, but... it wasn't the same. I had nannies and sitters and handlers, but, all I ever wanted was my Dad."

"What about your Mom?" I asked. I was probably overstepping my bounds, but I must admit I was genuinely interested.

"My Mom's gone."

I shrank back a bit. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."

Gilda shook her head. "Not gone as in 'dead'. She abdicated the throne and left my Dad when I was still too young to remember." She took a slow, calm sip of her absinthe. "Dad thinks she ran off with one of his griffons-at-arms, so he hunted down his family and threw them in the dungeons. He never found my Mom or the knight she ran away with," she said wistfully, as though she'd wished he had.

"I take it he wouldn't have been too happy if he found them?"

She chuckled. "No, he'd have his head on a stick by sundown. And mom, well, he probably wouldn't do anything," she sighed. "He loves her too much."

I guess being the head of a nation isn't all luxury and vacations.

"So, you just don't want all your time taken up by running the empire?"

"It's not that, it's just... I have to have an heir, and by law, I can only have one. If I'm too busy for him or her, she'll turn out just like me." She took another bracing sip of absinthe. "And I'm not that great."

According to griffon law, the royal family is only allowed one child to prevent fratricide, which was a common problem, since the empire does not take the sex of the child into account, only the seniority of birth. The eldest gets the family's wealth.

"Well, you've made it this far on your own, haven't you?"

She perked up a bit. "Yeah, I have, and without accepting one red cent from the imperial bank." I could tell she was proud of that, her chest plumage sticking out a bit as she spoke. "But, it's tough to make friends outside the empire. I had one once, when I went to flight school. I came back to visit her, and this annoying pink pony wouldn't leave us alone. I got pissed off and snapped at her and a few other ponies that turned out to be her friends, and long story short, she picked them over me."

I could tell that was a sore subject.

"So, what have you been doing all this time?"

Gilda shrugged, finishing her drink. "This and that. Odd jobs mostly, but I'm thinking of moving to Manehattan or Canterlot. There's a lot of hotels in the capital, and I hear they need security for fashion week or something. Might be an interesting gig."

Security departments were always looking for griffons to swell their ranks. In the times when cave-ponies existed, griffons were our natural predators, and the sight of one can still discourage a would be criminal from causing trouble. That, and they ate meat. Some things are just unsettling.

"I hear Canterlot is nice this time of year."

She leaned back on the stool. "Yeah, so do I."

I glanced down at the letter still waiting to be opened on my bar.

"So, do you ever read your father's letters?"

She followed my eyes to it and held it up. "Yeah, but I usually need a few drinks before I read how much he wants me to quit living my life and do what he wants me to," she replied with a scowl. She slid a talon beneath the wax seal and broke it, unfolding the letter.

"For example," she said, preparing to read the letter. "My dearest Gilda, let me open this letter with something long overdue. I'm..." Her voice shook, and then stopped. Her eyes seemed to go over one line four or five times before she was able to speak again. "...Sorry."

She let her talon fall to the bar as her eyes stared past it.

"He... he's sorry?" she asked herself. Her face hardened. "No, he can't just say he's sorry and have everything be all better!" she growled. She slammed her fist on the bar and stood up. "Thanks for the drinks, but I got some yelling to do."

"Don't be too hard on him, Gilda."

She turned her back to me, but shot me a small smile over her shoulder. "That's Empress Gilda to you."

"Really?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

She laughed. "Hell no."

She turned to the newspaper-reading griffon at the end of the bar. "Let's go, you. Your cover's blown anyway." Without a word, he folded up his paper, tied his coat and followed her out the door.

"Hey!" I shouted after her.

"What?" she snapped back.

"You forgot to pay!" I wasn't gonna let that happen again. No way Rocco could reclaim this particular open tab.

She patted herself down, and a blush came over her. "Uh... bill the Imperial Bank."

And just like that, she was gone, off to who knows where. If her Dad's plan was to get her to come back, he may have succeeded. It may have been just for her to yell at him, but who knows. He probably didn't become emperor by not being clever. Even though she left angry, I saw some sadness in those eyes. I'd wager she'll get a lot off her chest when she gets back.

I turned to Rocco, who was stacking glasses behind the bar. "Get me the stationary. I have to write a bill."

So much for not taking one red cent!

Author's Note:

I told ya there would be bonus chapters!

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