Diplomacy 6

Jun 9th, 2017
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  1. >Be Twilight
  2. >You and Princess Celestia had been walking for hours up and down the market, trying to awe your guests
  3. >Never, in all of the years you had lived in Canterlot, had you spent this much time in the market and, oddly enough, you were pleasantly surprised with what you were finding there
  4. >A dozen bookstores that you didn't know existed, a charm and hex shop, half a dozen stores that sold only herbs and other potion-based items
  5. >You had a feeling that some of the stores weren't exactly on the up-and-up, especially since a few of the store owners looked more than a little nervous when you poked your head into their places of business, but you made a note of them all of the same
  6. >Legal or not, you might find something very interesting in those stores
  7. >Maybe you'd luck out and find some long forgotten spell books written by a famous unicorn!
  8. >And if there was something fishy about a store, you could always have a few guards check everything out...
  9. >Still, bookstores and magical shops aside, this was about your guests
  10. >The lord Aegis and his men-at-arms
  11. >The lord and his knights surrounded both you and Princess Celestia
  12. >At first, you had thought it was because the stallions were nervous and were huddling together like groups of stallions were known to do, but as time went on you realized that that wasn't the case
  13. >They weren't scared; like a unit of guards they had surrounded you and the princess with their hands on their weapons, so that you and Princess Celestia weren't chaperoning them as they were guarding you
  14. >And it felt... odd
  15. >Having such a big group of stallions surrounding you, so silent and focused
  16. >You weren't too fond of them holding and flashing their blades like they were, and they might have been a little too rough pushing ponies out of the way as you all navigated the crowds, but there was something almost neat about it
  19. >Most mares couldn't say that they had a guard that consisted entirely of giant, fierce, exotic males
  20. >It was almost like one of those dreams you had after drinking way too much ginger ale
  21. >Except this was real, and these stallions weren't wearing nothing but ball bras
  22. >Unfortunately
  23. >You couldn't help but puff up in pride when you saw looks of disbelief and jealousy that were thrown your way
  24. >Out of the corner of your eye, you could see your old teacher puffing up a bit as well as she talked with Lord Aegis
  25. >The lord was quietly listening to what he had to say, tapping his giant warhammer against his shoulder while he did so
  26. >If you had been a nosier pony, you might have perked your ears up and tried to listen in on their conversation, but you knew better than to do that
  27. >The princess knew what she was doing--she was the PRINCESS after all-- and you had no doubt that she'd tell you what they were talking about later
  28. >So, leaving the two of them well enough alone, you continued to do what you did best
  29. >Spouting random but educational facts
  30. "--That little building right there may look like nothing special, but it used to be the home of the famous painter Dot Spot. She was the pony responsible for bringing about the modern expansionist style and--"
  31. >Since you weren't really much of a tour guide, you had decided to unleash your steady flow of information to one of the knights and hope you were being loud enough that they'd all hear you
  32. >The stallion that was bearing the brunt of your verbal assault was standing next to you, a knight that went by the name of Ser Kyilth
  33. >Ser Kyilth was one of the smaller stallions in the group, with almond skin and the blackest pair of eyes that you had ever seen
  34. >The stallion's hair had been completely shaved off, revealing a very complex and ornate tattoo that made its way down his neck and back
  35. >You had asked about the markings, and the knight had been happy to answer with short, quick sentences
  38. >The markings were a right of passage for his people
  39. >When young boys came of age, they were taken to what he called a "village mother"
  40. >They were then put in a chair, where they'd be forced to sit while the old mare used a giant needle and hammer to make the markings
  41. >You, of course, had been horrified by the news, so horrified that you nearly forgot about the tour you were giving
  42. >What kind of mare would do something like that to a stallion?!
  43. >It was SICK!
  44. >You might have made a spectacle, if the knight had not explained himself further
  45. >The marks were a right of massage that turned colts into stallions, he had said, one that would immediately stop if the young stallion were to make so much as a sound
  46. >He went on to explain that the further down and more ornate the tattoo was the more prestige the young stallion would get
  47. >Some males had markings all the way down to their ankles, while some had elected to have markings expand around their bodies so that not only their backs were covered but their chests as well
  48. >This information did absolutely nothing to calm your fears, but from the way that the knight talked, and the way that some of the other knights that had similar markings perked up in pride, you knew not to voice your outrage
  49. >Cruel or not, the stallions seemed to take pride in their tattoos
  50. >If you said anything bad about them, or how wrong it seemed to you that their village mother would do something like that to them, they might take offense
  51. >And if they took offense Lord Aegis might get mad
  52. >And if he got mad he might up and leave, ruining the whole diplomatic trip and maybe WORSE!
  53. >So, you could only swallow your outrage and continue forward
  54. >Though that didn't mean you couldn't promise to beat the horse apples out of this village mother if you ever saw her
  55. >The monster...
  56. >As you told the knights about an old section of wall that helped hold off an army of bandits when Canterlot was still in its infancy, you let your gaze wander
  59. >You stared at the bald, tattooed men that refused to wear helmets; and the lathe, squat men with their golden hair and bright blue eyes; at the pale, shift-eyed men with skin so hard that it was almost black; at the men that stood above all the others, with their massive frames and well-kept beards
  60. >Northerners, southerners, easterlings, and westerlings
  61. >Four tribes of humans, each so radically different from each other, yet all standing before you
  62. >You knew nothing about the human's history, nopony did other than a few accounts and husband's tales
  63. >And, looking at each knight, you couldn't help but wonder WHY
  64. >Why were all four tribes together now?
  65. >Why did they look so different?
  66. >Were they always united, or were they like the ponies before the tribes came together?
  67. >Did humans even call their different peoples tribes?
  68. >There was so much to ask
  69. >You had questions that you wanted to ask, so many that you'd no doubt be able to fill books with them
  70. >If you were just able to sit down with a few of these stallions you'd cast a light on Humeyithal and it's people
  71. >You'd educate millions
  72. >MILLIONS...
  73. >You tore your gaze away from the knights, biting your lip
  74. >A shiver ran up the length of your spine, causing you to ruffle your wings, but you managed to mostly keep yourself together
  75. >You'd be with Lord Aegis and his knights for a few days at least...
  76. >There was a good chance that you'd be able to ask them a FEW questions...
  77. >Looking back at the stallions, your gaze settled on the young colt that Lord Aegis kept as a page
  78. >Just like the others, he was looking cautiously around, a hand on the dagger that hung on his belt
  81. >Your brow furrowed in thought as you continued to look at him, trying to remember what his name was
  82. >You were SURE somepony had said it yesterday...
  83. >...
  84. >Anon...
  85. >It was Anon...
  86. >A smile came to your face at the realization
  87. >Maybe you'd be able to ask him a question or two...?
  88. >You slowed down your pace until you were walking side by side with the young page
  89. >He eyed you cautiously, but unlike many of the knights walking around you it wasn't in suspicion or outright hostility
  90. >Good...
  91. >Clearing your throat, you turned toward the colt and gave him your best smile
  92. "So how do you like the market so far, Anon?"
  93. >Anon jumped, his gaze snapping over to you, his grip on his daggering tightening
  94. >You resisted the urge to step away from him, keeping your smile on your face
  95. "You know, I've been around this market since I was little," you continued. "So if you want to see something I'm sure we can stop for a second so you can check out a store or stand!"
  96. >Anon's nose scrunched up
  97. >There was a bit of hesitation in his eyes, as if he was deciding whether or not to talk to you
  98. >Around the two of you, you could see the knights eyeing you meaningfully, making you painfully aware that you had quite a few very large and very armed stallions surrounding you
  99. >"I... The market is very nice, your highness," Anon said, inclining his head
  100. >You sucked in a lungful of air through your teeth at the sight
  101. "Please, there's no need to bow or call me your highness," you said. "Just Twilight. Please."
  102. >Anon looked like he was ready to bow again--much to your horror--but, thankfully, he stopped at the last second
  105. >"Of course, pr--Twilight," he said, his tone careful. "And thank you."
  106. "You're very welcome," you said with a nod
  107. >All around you, grips on sword hilts went slack and the tension left some of the knights shoulders
  108. >Alright...
  109. >You're doing good, Twilight...
  110. >Just ease into it...
  111. "Anon? Would it be alright if I asked you which tribe you're from?" you asked
  112. >Anon's head cocked to the side
  113. >"Tribe?"
  114. "Yes, tribe. You know, the Northerners, southerners..."
  115. >Anon's eyes widened in realization
  116. >"Oh, I'm a westerling," he said, running a hand through the mop of hair on his head. "Your hi--er, I mean Twilight."
  117. >You looked over at one of the stallions with his tattoos
  118. "Which tribe would he be from, if you don't mind me asking?"
  119. >To your surprise, the stallion that you had gestured towards turned to look at you
  120. >"I'm a easterling," he said, with an accent so foreign that you almost couldn't understand him
  121. >Anon nodded
  122. >"Yeah. He's an easterling, I'm a westerling. Ser Araoon is a southerner, and Ser Telfi is a northerner," he said, pointing out one of the stallions behind you, who nodded in confirmation
  123. >Another shiver ran up the length of your spine
  124. >You'd give your wings to have a piece of parchment and a quill right now...
  125. "If you don't mind me asking, why do you name your tribes after directions?"
  126. >"We don't call ‘em tribes, girl," one of the Northerners said, tugging on his beard
  127. >Your head snapped toward him
  128. "If you don't call your different races tribes then what do you call them then?" you asked
  129. >The knight shrugged
  132. >"I know we don't call ‘em that."
  133. >Okay...
  134. >Still though, you were getting somewhere!
  135. "Well, can you tell me what's the difference between your peoples? If you don't want to answer that's completely fine, but I've just..."
  137. ~_~_~_~_~_~
  139. >Be Celestia
  140. >You were watching your student with a small smile on your face
  141. >All around you, you could see Lord Aegis’s men staring at the purple alicorn, some of them even chiming in to answer her questions
  142. >The suspicion was still there, as was some hesitation, but it was nowhere near as bad as it had been when you stepped out of the castle...
  143. >Your chest couldn't help but puff out a bit
  144. >You should have known that you had nothing to worry about
  145. >Twilight, though she was a bit funny at times, could make friends with a pony at the drop of a hat
  146. >You were sure, if she had a day or two with these stallions, she'd win each and everyone of them over
  147. >Especially the young colt in the group, Anon
  148. >The little stallion was answering most of Twilight's questions, and, to your delight, he was even asking questions of his own
  149. >You could see excitement in the page's face, the same excitement that you had seen in Twilight's eyes when she was little
  150. >It was the excitement of learning
  151. >Broadening your horizons and doing your best to know more than you had the day before
  152. >The sight filled your chest with a pleasant warmth
  153. >This was the first step...
  154. >And with it friendship...
  155. >Out of the corner of your eye, you could see lord Aegis eyeing ponies in the market, completely ignoring Twilight altogether
  158. >He would be the hardest to win over, you knew
  159. >From what you had gathered from the Minotaur Empress, this stallion had a reputation for disliking the other races
  160. >For very good reasons no doubt, from what little history of Humeyithal you knew
  161. >But that just meant you had to work a little harder to win him over...
  162. "Is there something wrong, my lord?" you asked
  163. >Lord Aegis didn't answer you for several seconds, his eyes scanning the buildings around you
  164. >"We're being followed."
  165. >...
  166. >What?
  167. >Your ears perked up
  168. "Excuse me, my lord?"
  169. >Aegis's grip on his hammer tightened
  170. >"Someone is tailing us," he said. "I have a feeling that they've been tailing us since we left the castle."
  171. >You were about to stop and look around, but thought better of it at the last moment
  172. >Somepony was tailing you?
  173. >That was nonsense!
  174. >You were sure a curious pony or two might be tailing you so they could get a better look at the lord and his knights, but there was no tailing!
  175. "Are you sure, my lord? You may just be imagining thin--"
  176. >"When I was a younger man I lived in the capital of Humeyithal, in one of the poorest, most crime-ridden sections of the city," Aegis interrupted, staring at you with the utmost seriousness. "I know when I'm being followed."
  177. >You opened your mouth to calm the stallions fears, but found that you couldn't
  178. >As silly as what he was suggesting sounded, what if he was right?
  179. >What if you were being followed?
  180. >Slowly, you looked over your shoulder
  181. >There were all manner of ponies around; far too many to single out one with less than noble intentions
  184. >The warmth in your stomach disappeared
  185. >It was replaced with stomach-knotting nervousness
  186. >Oh filly...
  187. >Here we go...
  188. "...You wouldn't happen to know where this follower is, would you?" you asked quietly
  189. >"That's what I've been trying to figure out since we've left," lord Aegis quietly replied. "But if they're anywhere they're up on the rooftops."
  190. "Rooftops?"
  191. >The lord nodded
  192. >"Aye. It'd make the cunt following us harder to see, and let them keep pace with us."
  193. >Your brow furrowed
  194. >So if there was a stalker--which you weren't saying there WAS-- they'd be a pegasus, or at least a unicorn that knew levitation
  195. >But why would somepony be following you...?
  196. >Unfortunately for you, the answer came in a sharp, metallic sound, which was followed by the sound of something flying through the air at terrifying speeds
  197. >Out of the corner of your eye, you could see something flying toward lord Aegis
  198. >You let out a cry, your horn sparking to life, but it was too late
  199. >A crossbow bolt slammed into the lord's shoulder with a sickening, meaty smack
  200. >Lord Aegis, though he was a giant of a man, was launched forward, falling face first into the ground
  201. >His warhammer fell from his hands and the lord went still
  202. >Deathly still
  203. >No...
  204. >NO!
  205. >Nonononononononononono!
  206. >The lord's knight's spun around, letting out cries of their own
  207. >A few feet away, a stallion screamed
  208. >Ponies gasped
  209. >You stood there, frozen
  210. >Nonononononononono...
  211. >Your heart skipped a beat as you looked down at him...
  212. >Only for him to jump back up a moment later, his teeth gritted and his eyes blazing
  213. >"YOU SOD-CUNTING BASTARD!" he roared, the steel tipped bolt sticking through his shoulder. "YOU PIG FUCKING, SHIT EATING MOTHER HUMPER!"
  216. >Already, the lord's wound was bleeding heavily, but he didn't seem to notice, bending down and snatching up his hammer with his uninjured arm
  217. >As he did that his knight's drew their weapons
  219. >He pointed at a rooftop
  220. >Straining your eyes, you could see the head of a pony just before it disappeared
  221. >Lord Aegis let out a growl, gritting his teeth
  222. >The sight made you take a half step back
  223. >"Come on boys, we got a coward to find!"
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