Follows A Little Spark 07

Oct 23rd, 2019 (edited)
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  1. >As palace guards close the great hall’s main doors behind the last batch of petitioners, you turn to Celestia’s throne.
  2. >She wears the same serene smile you always see when she interacts with her subjects
  3. >You, however, have been learning to read her eyes rather than her face
  4. >Her eyes tell a much more complicated story.
  5. “Your Highness.”
  6. >She slowly turns her head to meet your gaze.
  7. “Your feelings for your subjects, even when hearing trivial matters, is touching.”
  8. >She sighs and stands from her throne, turning and heading for a side door. “Anon, I’ve been doing this for a thousand years. I’ve spoken with hundreds of thousand of ponies about problems they’re desperate enough about to come to me with. Each one breaks my heart, even if I’ve heard their same problem a hundred times. Every day without a single petitioner showing up is a day I know I’ve played my part well. Those are the days I still live for.”
  9. >Well that’s fucking depressing.
  10. >You walk fast to catch up. Celestia’s the only pony you’ve met of comparable height and stride to yourself.
  11. “The last one is pretty simple, it’s just a matter of balancing logistics.”
  12. >”I already know how we can reallocate things. I’ll give my sister the instructions at this evening’s meeting.”
  13. >You walk alongside her in silence for a time, looking at her eyes.
  14. >She stares ahead unfocused, navigating her palace through instinct and muscle memory alone.
  15. >You have a feeling she’s performed this daily ritual long before you’d arrived.
  16. >You also have a feeling you’re the only person who’s ever accompanied her for it. In a long time, at least.
  17. “I have a question that may seem a bit, uh, weird.”
  18. >”Hmm?”
  19. “Has my counsel ever been useful? As you said, you’ve been doing this for a thousand years. Why keep me where I am?”
  20. >She finally looks to you, eyes shifting minutely as she looks your face over. “I value your input.”
  21. “Even when it contributes nothing.”
  22. >”Then it’s affirmation, which is its own help.”
  23. >She looks back ahead when the two of you reach a door at one side of the hallway’s end. She opens the door telekinetically and extends a wing to indicate the narrow stairwell inside. Once you start the ascent around the spiral, she follows you, closing the door again behind her.
  24. “I spoke to your sister last night. She thinks you put me here to protect me, rather than listen to me.”
  25. >You can’t see her reaction, with her behind and below you, but she takes some time to respond.
  26. >”I think my sister’s view may be colored by her… archaic perspective.”
  27. >But you’ve been working on getting better at The Game.
  28. “That doesn’t say anything about the truth of her belief.”
  29. >In the next several seconds of silence, you reach the top of the spiral staircase. A golden glow opens the door before you.
  30. >On the other side is a tiny library, round like the tower it sat atop. At the far end is a balcony overlooking Canterlot. You step inside and aside to let Celestia in. She heads immediately for the open balcony, and you turn for the shelf that contains the work of history you’d been reading the past few days while Celestia took the time to organize her thoughts.
  31. >”Please let me show you something,” she says.
  32. >You stop halfway to the shelf in question, then move to join her on the tiny balcony. There’s barely enough room for both of you to stand on it.
  33. >She nods her head towards one side of the city. “Down there. Grey stallion, on the otherwise empty street."
  34. >It takes you some time to find the individual in question, but when you do, you nod.
  35. >”He is a good husband, wise father, and is clothed with strength and dignity. His herd’s business has fallen on hard times, so he takes to the streets in search of odd jobs, and utters no complaint. He wants nothing more than to look after his foals, but here he is.”
  36. “You know a lot about this random stallion.”
  37. >She nods solemnly. “Once a week, he finds a tip pointing him somewhere that could use his talents.”
  38. >You look back at Celestia.
  39. “Your doing?”
  40. >She nods. “I don’t have the time to attend to our subjects’ every problem, but I do what little I can for those on my doorstep. Helping in those small ways makes me feel just as good as helping in big ways in my formal capacity."
  41. “Huh. Noblesse oblige, I guess.”
  42. >She looks at you and tilts her head. “Luna has been talking to you about the nobility?”
  43. >You shake your head.
  44. “Just something we had too, back when we had monarchs and stuff. Kings leading their men in battle. Dukes and counts overseeing infrastructure projects. We have two units of measurement – the Rayl and the Rayleigh – named after a baron and his son, who devoted themselves to science. Kelvin was made a baron for his scientific and engineering contributions, got a unit of his own. It’s a long list.”
  45. >”It’s a philosophy I try to uphold. Princesses are made in this world. Magically elevated to the position for achievement, but that doesn’t mean you can turn away from how you got there. Twilight Sparkle spends her time being a force of friendship and harmony. Cadance, our adopted niece ruling another land, bolsters the emotions of her people. Luna soothes the troubled dreams of our subjects. I try my best to use my power to help ease their lives as I move the heavens that guide them.”
  46. “Sometimes going so far as to leave personal notes in mailboxes.”
  47. >She chuckles. “My reputation as a prankster comes with a certain set of skills I occasionally put to more productive purposes.”
  48. >You furrow your brows. “You’re known for pranks?”
  49. >Celestia, for the first time that you’ve seen, visibly flinches. “You don’t know?”
  50. “I’ve never even heard of it. I’ve never seen you prank anyone. I haven’t had any jokes played on me that wasn’t a rude comment from a guard since I’ve arrived.”
  51. >She stares at you, slack-jawed for a minute, then throws her head back and laughs. “What am I doing with you?!”
  52. “Well, that’s sorta what I was asking. You put me in a position I’m not qualified for, and when we interact outside of it, you’re doting on me more than anything.”
  53. >Celestia recovers her composure and looks back to the city. “Luna probably meant I was protecting you physically. Her heart’s of a time where stallions were either far in front or far behind, absolute protectors or in need of absolute protection. That’s not true; I know you’re probably stronger than most of the ponies you’d run into. I meant to protect you mentally. I put you under my wing and at my side in court to give you time to adjust, and to show you this world was worth living in.”
  54. >You stare at her as that sinks in.
  55. “You mean you knew I’d never be going home again?”
  56. >”I don’t know for sure, but I wanted to prepare you, just in case.” She shakes her head sadly. “Instead, you’re trying to bring your world here with you, through your little science projects.”
  57. “Would you rather I not?”
  58. >She was quiet for a moment, then said softly, “I don’t know.” She shook herself then in some sort of full-body twitch. “I want to do everything in my power to make sure you have a place in our world. But on the other hand, you’re precious, Anon, and truly unique. You come from a land far beyond anything we know, with different ideas and customs and practices. You have so much you can share with us.”
  59. “Is… does that mean you want me to continue?”
  60. >She looks at you and smiles. “It means I should be asking you, and should have from the start. What would make you happy?”
  61. >You look back out across the city.
  62. “You help your people, in little ways they can’t imagine. I hope someday my creations may help you, in ways you can’t imagine.”
  63. >Her smile broadens. “I’d like that very much.”
  64. >The two of you watch the city for a time in silence, until the sun begins to set.
  65. >Celestia turns away then, back into the library. “It seems even after a thousand years of life, I still have things to learn, even about myself. I’ve been treating you poorly. I hope to put an end that starting tonight.” She walks to the door and opens it for you.
  66. “What does that mean?”
  67. >You move to her side.
  68. “Just letting you know, I’m not a fan of pranks.”
  69. >She smiles again, but says nothing, extending her wing to point you down the stairs.
  70. >You start your descent, but call out behind you when you hear the door close above, with Celestia’s hooves against the stone stairs following you.
  71. “And I told you how dangerous my projects can be if you don’t respect them!”
  72. >”I promise I wont mess with them, Anon.”
  73. >Once the two of you arrived back at the side corridor running down this wing of the palace, Celestia leads you towards the chamber that served what you called ‘The Royal Shift Change.’
  74. >She opens the large doors to the conference room for you.
  75. >Luna is already sitting at the far end of the table.
  76. >Prince Blueblood sits in the chair to the right of Celestia’s end of the table, as the current master of the royal household. For all the stallion disparagement you hear, you’ve noticed they’re trusted implicitly with any and all domestic operations.
  77. >As Celestia sits at her end of the table, you sit in the chair to her left.
  78. >Other seats are occupied by unicorn representatives of the various dukes that managed Equestria’s regions.
  79. >Celestia clears her throat. “First order of business; Prince Blueblood, Anon is to have direct and unfettered access to the royal stores and palace facilities, without escort, from now on. Please familiarize all staff with appropriate etiquette.”
  80. >Across the table, Luna gives you a sly smile. You give her the slightest nod you think would still be noticed.
  81. >”We request also a chamber like this suitable for discussing certain plans with Anon,” Luna then says. “It shall be cleared for the first hour after every moonrise. Canst thou arrange this, dear Prince?”
  82. >Blueblood nods while taking notes on a pad, but he doesn't look happy about the commands.
  83. >Celestia looks between you and Luna, then smiles and shakes her head. “It seems, sister, that you realized more about my… mistake than I suspected.”
  84. >Luna’s only acknowledgment was a dip of her head.
  85. >”Now, for Appleloosa,” Celestia continues. “Please inform Duke Silversaddle that we received a delegation from one of his outlying towns. In accordance with their wishes, we are sending relief. Please allow us three days to organize a course of action.”
  86. >The emissary bows her head.
  87. >Celestia looks to you, next. “Anon.”
  88. >You’re shocked; she never addressed you in these meetings before.
  89. “Yes, Your Highness?”
  90. >”If Prince Bluebood finds his space for you and Luna tonight, I’d like you two to discuss the logistics of that request.”
  91. >You blink in astonishment, and glance over to Luna before looking back to Celestia.
  92. “Ah, with respect, why me?”
  93. >”I’ve said I was interested in your outside perspectives. I want to compare your plan with mine. Perhaps by looking over both, we can find one better than either.”
  94. “I’m, uh, I’ll be honored to.”
  95. >Is THIS her idea of a prank?
  96. >No, her eyes never lie, and they say this is genuine.
  97. >Shit, you’re really in it now.
  98. >Celestia looks to the Appleloosan emissary, then. “Please have the Duke send us a short summary of available resources for my adviser here to look over. I want to make sure we have the most up-to-date information.”
  99. >You’re starting to wonder if you should have ever opened your mouth. Be careful what you wish for, indeed.
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