Diplomacy 1

Mar 31st, 2017
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  1. >"Come on boy. Pick those feet up."
  2. >It was a sunny day in the capital
  3. >The winter snows had finally been driven back another year
  4. >Everywhere you looked you could see the beginnings of spring
  5. >Flowers were springing from the ground, men and beast alike were rising from their slumber
  6. >It was one of the most beautiful times of the year
  7. >...Though you wouldn't have been able to tell in the hallway you were walking down
  8. >There were no windows, barely any light
  9. >The walls weren’t made but hewn, and incredibly constricting
  10. >And then there was the cold
  11. >Frost lined the every inch of the hall
  12. >The air was biting and harsh, so much so that it cut down to the bone
  13. >Winter had not left this place, and you didn’t think it left even during the middle of summer
  14. >It almost reminded you of the tales that your wet nurse had told you when you were younger
  15. >Of tunnels that led to Hell...
  16. >Of dark shadows that whispered only evil…
  17. >Glowing blue orbs in the darkness that signaled death to hero and villain alike….
  18. >If you were alone you would have done what most people did in the palace
  19. >Stayed away from these secret tunnels
  20. >Used the main hallways to go where you needed to go
  21. >There were windows there
  22. >And warmth, and light
  23. >But you weren't alone
  24. >"Why in the name of the gods does that cock always make me go through these tiny tunnels? At the very least he could have them widened so I don't have to crouch down like some old hag..."
  25. >Your companion strode through the tunnels purposefully
  26. >He was a very large man; large even compared to his fellow northerners
  27. >His head nearly touched the ceiling, and if he was just a few more inches wider he would have been scraping against the walls
  28. >Even in this dim light you could see the gray in his hair, suggesting that he was getting along in years, though the way that he carried himself suggested that he had the vitality of men a quarter of his age
  29. >The cold didn’t seem to bother him
  31. >In fact, the chill in the air seemed to put him at ease
  32. >This man--whose heavy steps seemed to make the hall shake as you walked behind him-- wasn’t just some normal, run of the mill fellow
  33. >He was a legend
  34. >Long before you were born, he rode with the king to save your people from a great minotaur horde
  35. >Before that, he was considered one of the most notorious bandits that the kingdom had ever known
  36. >He had fed starving peasants and slit the throats of half a dozen great nobles
  37. >Twice he had been jailed and twice he had escaped
  38. >And now he was an anointed knight and one of the king’s closest friends
  39. >He was Knight-Commander Aegis
  40. >The Cutthroat Lord, the Peasant Who was Risen, the Giant, the Cow Smasher, among other, far less savory titles
  41. >You didn't know him by any of those names
  42. >You knew him as the man that liked far too much honey in his morning porridge
  43. >He was also the man that could leave a bruise on a mailed man with nothing but his pointer and middle finger
  44. >You were Anonymous, trainee of the Order of Red Heart, and the lord-commander's page
  45. >One of the youngest that he had ever had in fact, since you had turned nine just a month earlier
  46. >Not that you were bragging or anything...
  47. >"Tell me, boy, did you bring those papers like I asked?"
  48. "Yes, my lord. I have them in my satchel."
  49. >"And what around the quills and ink?"
  50. "They're in there too, my lord. I made sure to get twice as much as you asked, just in case I need it."
  51. >The lord-commander nodded, reaching over and touching one of the walls with a scarred hand
  52. >"Good, good. And did you bring that small, wooden contraption with the needle? The… what was it called…?"
  53. "The compass, my lord?"
  54. >"Yes, yes, the compass."
  55. >You had no idea why your lord had made you bring a compass
  56. >Every once in awhile he’d do that
  57. >Make you bring bring odd things, or have you wear a silly hat or an ugly pair of pants
  59. >You had no idea why he made you do any of it, but you’d be darned if you didn’t follow all of his instructions to the letter
  60. "I did, sire."
  61. >Lord Aegis grunted
  62. >"Good. Now, where is... There we are..."
  63. >Your lord stopped, placing his hand on a section of stone that looked no different from any around it
  64. >Bracing himself, he pushed against it
  65. >At first the stone was unyielding but, as your lord applied more pressure, the stone began to give way
  66. >There was a sharp hissing sound, then a crack that echoed up and down the hall
  67. >The hidden door revealed itself in a flash of runes, and with another hard push it opened
  68. >Light flooded the tunnel, forcing you to turn away
  69. >"Come on boy. The king is waiting," your commander said, stepping through the door without hesitation
  70. >You followed, not wanting him to close the door behind you and leave you in that dark, cramped tunnel
  71. >He wouldn’t do that, probably, but you didn’t want to take that risk
  72. >Last time you were in the palace a servant boy told you a story about a knight being eaten by giant, hairy rats when he tried exploring the secret tunnels
  73. >And no dumb rat was gonna eat you!
  74. >For several seconds, the light was blinding, but with each blink you started to see things
  75. >A fine table stacked high with papers
  76. >A lit, crackling fireplace
  77. >Walls covered in books and tomes
  78. >The room, though a bit chilly, was comfy, bright, and cheery
  79. >And, after the half an hour you had spent trekking through the tunnels, it might as well have been the gates to paradise
  80. >Trying to rub some of the warmth back into your body, you continued to look around the room
  81. >The fireplace caught your eye, and you were about to walk over to it, when someone cleared their throat
  82. >You whipped around to see who it was, immediately stiffening when you saw who else was in the room
  83. >It was King Drfual, First of his Name, King of Humeyithal and its surrounded lands
  85. >Your lord and king; the mightest that there had been in almost two hundred years, some said
  86. >But this wasn't the mighty, proud lord that you had seen riding atop of his manticore with his golden armor and his crown whenever he came to your lord’s keep
  87. >This man looked shrunken, tired, old
  88. >His tunic was crinkled and ink-stained, as were his face, his hands, and his arms
  89. >His usually well-kept beard was a mess, and his hair looked like it was in a dire need of a cut
  90. >He was bent over a document, staring down at it with half-lidded, bloodshot eyes scanning over the letters
  91. >"You look like shite," lord Aegis said, standing to his full height as he strode over to the king
  92. >"Good morning to you, Aegis," the king said, not looking up from his paper. "I trust that your trip here was without incident?"
  93. >The lord-commander sat on the beautiful, finely crafted chair right in front of the table
  94. >It groaned under the weight of the man and his armor, but it held
  95. >Thankfully...
  96. >"Boy, bring that satchel over here. Then warm up some wine for the king and me."
  97. >"The king and I," King Drfual corrected, finally lifting his gaze from his document to look at you. "And it's very nice to see you again, Anonymous. I hope that the lord-commander is treating you well?"
  98. >You bowed
  99. "He is my--"
  100. >"Boy, stop bowing to this cunt," lord Aegis said. "We don't want him having an even bigger head than he already has. Now bring that satchel over here."
  101. >The king let out a quiet, yet tired, chuckle as you scrambled toward your lord
  102. >He took the satchel with a grunt of thanks before waving you over toward the fireplace, where a small pot and a jar of wine was waiting
  103. >"Two glasses. Big ones. The king looks like he’s about to shrivel up from the cold."
  104. >The king carefully sat his quill down
  105. >"Make sure to get yourself a glass, Anon."
  106. >A scowl came to your lord's face
  108. >"You know that I don’t allow my page's wine, Drfual."
  109. >"That's an order from your king, Anon," the king said, leaning back into his chair with a groan. "You pour yourself a glass of wine and warm yourself up; your lord-commander be damned."
  110. >You did your very best to hide the smile on your face as lord Aegis scowled
  111. "Yes, your highness," you said getting to work
  112. >The jar of wine was uncorked
  113. >You grabbed three fine glasses that sat on a shelf, along with a few other necessary ingredients
  114. >You needed to make sure that the wine didn't get too warm
  115. >Your lord liked raisins in his, while the king preferred sugar
  116. >Your small hands worked quickly and efficiently
  117. >Still though, you listened intently to what the king and lord had to say
  118. >"So how has it been going, my old friend?" king Drfual asked, rubbing a temple with his hand
  119. >Lord Aegis let out a grumble, leaning back into his chair, much to the chair’s distress
  120. >"We managed to burn the last of those bandits near the king's road out of their hideout last autumn, so I've been bored," he said with a frown. "There's nothing to do other than scream at my men and wait for another war."
  121. >"You should never wish for conflict in the kingdom, Aegis," the king said, running a hand through his messy hair. "A peaceful kingdom is a happy and prosperous one."
  122. >"For you. You're the one that likes to sit around and make his laws," your lord said. "I, on the other hand, am a man of action. I need to go out and do something, otherwise these old bones start to ache."
  123. >"You could always try hunting," the king said. "Dancing or falconry might keep your mind off of your psychopathic desires."
  124. >"You know, the other day I spent twelve hours chopping firewood because I had nothing better to do," lord Aegis grumbled, ignoring the king's suggestion. "And after that I spent the rest of the day bothering the masons about something or another."
  126. >"That's the peasant in you," king Drfual said, giving you a nod of thanks as you handed him a cup of wine. "You don't know how to relax and enjoy the finer things in life like the rest of the nobility."
  127. >"I'm too old to be getting fat and lazy now," your lord said, gulping half his wine the moment you put the glass in his hand. "There's work to be done."
  128. >"Didn't you just say there was nothing for you to do?" he asked
  129. >"There WASN'T anything to do, but since that you called me here, there has to be something now," your lord said, setting his cup onto the table
  130. >He then leaned forward, staring at the king intently
  131. >"So what is it then? Are the gryphons massing at our borders again? Is there a nest of hydras somewhere in the Ironwoods? Have the minotaurs started sending over raiding parties to steal peasant men?"
  132. >Setting his cup down, the king reached onto one of the piles of papers on his desk
  133. >Grabbing a handful of them, he leafed through the documents until he found what he was looking for
  134. >Licking the wine from his lips, he set a piece of vellum down in front of lord Aegis
  135. >It was a fine document by the looks of things
  136. >The letters were finely drawn with liquid gold, and there was a border that looked like it had been inlaid with enough silver to ransom a knight
  137. >Lord Aegis took one look at the paper, picked it up, and immediately handed it to you
  138. >The king frowned
  139. >"Aegis, you've been a lord-commander for over twenty years..." he said, clearly irritated
  140. >"I could be one for a hundred but I'm not going to learn your highborn letters," your lord replied dismissively, looking at the paper in your hands as it he were expecting it to take a bite out of him
  141. >"You do know that you're the only one of my lords that can't read, correct?" the king said, shaking his head
  143. >"My father and his father before him never needed to learn and neither will I," your lord replied, taking another gulp of wine. "Now read it boy. Nice and loud so these two old men can hear."
  144. "Yes my lord," you said, clearing your clearing your throat
  145. >Your eyes danced across the page, quickly reading everything so that you didn't mess up halfway
  146. >...
  147. >Huh
  148. >...
  149. >Your lord isn't going to like this...
  150. "Greetings, King Drfual, First of his Name, King of Humeyithal and its surrounded lands, I pray that this letter comes to you in good hea--"
  151. >"Skip the ass-kissing, boy. I'm not getting any younger."
  152. >You nodded your head
  153. >Now…
  154. >Where should you restart…?
  155. >...
  156. >Wow…
  157. >There’s a LOT of titles here…
  158. >Ah, there we go!
  159. "For over five hundred years the kingdom of Humeyithal has made it its business to stay closed off from the rest of the world. Through this is... isol...."
  160. >"Isolation, my dear boy," the king said
  161. "Isolation it has become a nation known for its strength and the hardiness of its folk. I have nothing but the utmost respect for you and your people, but I believe that it is time for this isolation to end."
  162. >Your lord's eyes widened slightly before a look of utter revulsion came to his face
  163. >A blind man would have been able to tell that he realized who had sent the letter
  164. >He realized, and he wasn't at all happy with it
  165. >"Did that damned Equestrian princess send you another letter?" he demanded, hopping to his feet
  166. >"She did," the king said with a nod, taking another small sip of his wine. "Anon, please continue. I want your lord-commander to hear a bit more before he starts throwing my chairs around. And Aegis, sit down. Getting worked up isn’t good for men our age.”
  167. >Your lord's eyes narrowed, but even still he sat back down
  168. >"...Go ahead, boy. Let's hear what those blasted ponies have to say."
  170. >Your nose scrunched up as you tried to find the place where you had just left off
  171. >You nodded again, continuing
  172. "If the kingdoms of Equestria and Humeyithal were to come together and embrace as friends I’m positive that it would begin a golden age for both of our peoples. There is much that needs to be discussed if such a thing were to happen, however, so my sister and I humbly beg an audience with you and your ill... illus... illust--"
  173. >"Illustrious."
  174. "Illustrious wife, Queen Guinevere. We would enjoy nothing more than to have you and your court in Canterlot, so that you may see how we live in harmony with each other. Humbly yours, Princess Celestia, First of Her Name, Ruler of the Sun, Princess of Equestria."
  175. >Huh…
  176. >A lot less titles than the king...
  177. >Your lord snorted angrily, scratching at the long, ugly scar on his cheek
  178. >"They humbly beg an audience, then immediately ask you to come to their shithole of a capital instead of coming here themselves," he said, crossing the arms. "The pompous cunts."
  179. >"Thank you very much, Anon," the king said with a small smile, reaching over the table to grab the letter from your hands. "Now sit down and have a drink of wine. You look parched."
  180. "Thank you my lord," you said, quickly sitting down next to lord Aegis
  181. >A low groan escaped you as your backside touched the fine leather chair
  182. >Yeah…
  183. >That’s just what your tired feet needed...
  184. >Grabbing the small cup of wine that you had poured yourself, you took a sip
  185. >It was a southern wine; smooth and sweet and it went down so easy that it brought a small smile to your face
  186. >Since you had begin serving under lord Aegis, the drinking of wine was the greatest of rarities, so those few times that you were allowed it you enjoyed it
  187. >With just one sip you could feel your body warming up, prompting you to take another
  188. >"So what do you think, my friend?" the king asked
  189. >Lord Aegis snorted
  191. >"They just want your court to come to Canterlot so that they can pump your barons and counts for information," he said irritably, finishing his wine and slamming the glass on the table.
  192. >The king raised an eyebrow
  193. >"Is that what you think they want to do?" he asked
  194. >Your lord threw a hand up
  195. >"That or they want to snatch up some of the nobles so that they can be used for breeding stock or bed warmers. Or maybe they want to cast some spell on you all. Or a hundred other things."
  196. >"They could just want to discuss trade," the king suggested, intertwining his fingers
  197. >"If they wanted to do something like that they would have sent a diplomat, or at the very least sent that prince of theirs to deal with us. They wouldn’t want you to come there yourself."
  198. >A small, thoughtful frown came to the king's face
  199. >Humming, he reached into his stack of papers and pulled out another document
  200. > "A month or so ago my spies brought me an interesting piece of information," he said, his eyes scanning the page. "They said that something very interesting happened in Equestria. Somehow, someway, the ponies managed to make themselves a new alicorn."
  201. >For several seconds, the king let the news hang in the air, and in those several seconds you saw a range of emotions come to lord Aegis's face
  202. >Confusion, realization, shock, anger
  203. >Never good expressions for a northerner to wear
  204. >Covering a face with a hand, he leaned forward in his chair
  205. >"And did your spies say how they managed to do such a thing?" he asked, his voice deadly calm
  206. >"They did," the king replied, nodding. "They said that she was assaulted with so much raw magical energy that she ascended into demi-god."
  207. A popping sound filled the air as your lord rolled his jaw
  208. >"So there's four alicorns running around now?"
  209. >"Yes."
  210. >"Equestria has four very, very, VERY powerful spellcasters?"
  211. >"Yes."
  212. >Your lord grabbed the king's wine and drained it with two gulps
  213. >Setting the glass down, his nose scrunched up in thought
  215. >"Do you think they're trying to build an army of them?"
  216. >The king shrugged
  217. >"My spies haven't given me reason to believe that they're trying such a thing. Equestria as a whole seems just as surprised as you are about their new princess."
  218. >Your lord grimaced, reaching over and snatching your glass out of your hands
  219. >"One alicorn was fine, two was irritating, three would be a pain in the ass to fight but we could do it if we needed to, but four?"
  220. >"No matter what people say, alicorns aren't gods, Aegis. They've been beaten before."
  221. >"Two of them move the sun and the moon."
  222. >"Celestia and Luna aren't the kind of mares that go flaunting their power."
  223. >"Because they didn't need to. They raise the sun AND the moon," your lord said, finishing your glass and slapping it onto the table. "And now there's four of them. Four! And now they’ve set their sights on us!"
  224. >"They have," the king agreed. "And no matter what I do or how much gold I throw around no one will tell me exactly WHY."
  225. >"They want to sweep in and steal men, just like every other gods’ forsaken country around us, but unlike the others they're trying to hide their daggers behind a bouquet."
  226. >"I'm not to sure about that," the king said with a shake of his head. "This time it seems different. This letter didn't have any of the usual veiled threats or empty promises that they usually do."
  227. >Lord Aegis stared hard into the king's eyes
  228. "...You wish to see what they want?" he asked slowly
  229. >The king nodded
  230. >"Yes, I do."
  231. >Your lord rose from his chair, looking none too happy
  232. >"You're not going to that bloated corpse of a city!" he said angrily
  233. >"I don't recall you being a high enough rank to tell me what to do," the king cheekily replied
  234. >"I don't give a damn. You're not going into that city. I didn’t save you from those damn cows all those years ago to watch you die before me!"
  235. >"It might not be as bad as they say."
  237. >"Of COURSE it's as bad as they say! Why in the ten hells do you think that no one else wants to go there unless they have to?!"
  238. > “That’s the same thing you said about lady Helga, and after some back and forth the minotaurs and our people’s relationship is better than its been in centuries.”
  239. >Lord Aegis tensed at the name of the minotaur empress
  240. > “We’re only like that because I caved her cunt of a mother’s head in at the Battle of Hummdrial.”
  241. >A small, knowing smile came to the king’s face
  242. > “I’d like to think that my diplomacy had more of a hand in it than you killing the late empress. Do you know that Helga still sends me letters asking if you’d--”
  243. >Your lord slammed his fists against the table
  244. > “Don’t try to change the subject,” he growled. ”You are NOT going to that city.”
  245. >The king stared up at him calmly, shuffling a handful of papers
  246. >"I won't go alone."
  247. >"Unless you plan to bring two hundred men with you you'll lose most of your whole party to those noblemares in a day."
  248. >"The princesses would make sure to keep my wife and I protected."
  249. >”It's not the princesses that you have to worry about in that damned capital," lord Aegis said, baring his teeth. "The nobles rule there. You've heard the stories just like I have."
  250. >"Yes, I've heard the STORIES."
  251. >Your lord, growling like an angry manticore, leaned forward
  252. >"You don't get those kind of stories unless there's some shred of truth to them."
  253. >The king leaned forward as well
  254. >"So you don't want me to go to Canterlot?" he asked, tapping a finger against the table
  255. >"No; you're not going to Canterlot, even if I have to lock both you and your wife in my thrice-damned keep."
  256. >"But don't you think we should send someone there to see what they want?"
  257. >Lord Aegis hesitated
  258. >"I think we should deal with them like we’ve always had. Tell ‘em to piss off and burn their letters."
  259. >He looked away from the king
  261. >Taking a step from the table he paused, his hands opening and closing as he thought
  262. >"But most countries don't have four alicorns," he admitted sourly. "So we might actually have to send someone..."
  263. >The king smiled
  264. >"Exactly!" he said, slapping your lord's shoulder. "But who should I send?"
  265. >Your lord opened his mouth to answer, but before he could his eyes widened
  266. >Mouth snapping shut, he stared at the king with narrowed eyes
  267. >"...You want to send me?"
  268. >The king stood up
  269. >Though he was nowhere near as large as your lord, for a second he seemed to dwarf him
  270. >"This is going to be a very delicate matter. I can't go because, like you said, there's a good chance that I'll end up bewitched by some ambitious noblemare. I also can't send any of my lords because their pockets will most likely be lined with Equestrian gold on the return trip."
  271. >He placed a hand on your lord's shoulder
  272. >"Aegis, I know that you're not the diplomatic type, but I can't think of any other man that I'd rather send on a mission like this."
  273. >Your lord looked at the hand on his shoulder, then back at the king, utterly baffled
  274. >"Me? You want me to go?"
  275. >"You said it yourself that you have nothing to do, and I doubt that any of their nobles would bother a man of your stature."
  276. >"...But me?"
  277. >Chuckling, the king gave your lord's shoulder a squeeze
  278. >"Yes you. Will you accept or will I have to go myself?"
  279. >The lord-commander took a step back, looking the king up and down
  280. >He looked like he wanted to ask him something, but at the last moment stopped himself, simply shaking his head
  281. >"What would you have me do, Drfual?" he asked, sitting back down
  282. >The king sat down as well, a quiet grunt escaping him as he did so
  284. >"Go to Canterlot. Get a feel for the princesses, take measure of this magically made alicorn. Listen to what they have to say and come back to me with their offer and whatever else they tell you."
  285. >"And how would you like me to act while I'm there?"
  286. >"That is for you to decide," the king replied simply. "You'll have two months to ready yourself. Make sure you have a few sensible men with you. Ones that you trust."
  287. >He turned to you
  288. >"Anon, since you have more sense than your lord I will give you a few books so that you may read up on Equestria. If you have trouble with any words go to your order's librarian. I'm sure that they will be more than willing to help you."
  289. >You perked up
  290. "Yes lord."
  291. >The king smiled
  292. >"Good boy."
  293. >Your lord rose from his chair
  294. >You rose as well
  295. >"I'll make sure to have everything ready by then, Drfual," your lord said, inclining his head.
  296. >The king nodded, picking up his quill back up
  297. >"Very good. I'm trusting you, Aegis. This is not for my sake but the sake of our people."
  298. >Your lord stood a little straighter
  299. >"I won't fail you," he promised
  300. >The king dipped his quill into an ink pot and slid over a clean piece of parchment
  301. >"Very good. I'll pray that your trip to Canterlot is a safe and uneventful one. Go in peace, and may the gods smile on you."
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