Goodcarriage's War of Succession

by DarkObsidian

I.

When I first heard of Goodcarriage, I was still a young unicorn apprentice at Drakkhen & Ashenheart, agonizing myself with complex calculating machine simulations for mass funerals, studying gravestoneology and dreaming of my own pietas company one day. Mr. Golden Guts Goodcarriage - probably the most famous Earth Pony in all of Equestria, successful businessman, cavalier, darling of the high society and beloved by the princesses - was celebrating his three hundredth birthday with such pomp and circumstance that the articles about it would fill all the gossip magazines from Las Pegasus to Manehatten for weeks to come. I envied him. His new manor, based on historical designs from Canterlot's early days, was a palace - or at least it seemed that way to me. In my tiny apartment in the eighth basement of the Tantabus tomb complex in Fillydelphia, I watched obsessively all the Crystalvision broadcasts about the birthday celebrations. I was fascinated by the fact that my great idol seemed not to have aged a day for decades! Despite our immortality, a huge and very expensive effort was usually necessary: Cell regeneration spells, Healing stones, Mud baths... Things like that. But Goodcarriage could easily afford all of this. And for us ordinary ponies, this stallion was something like a pop star. A magnate. A living God. So I thought.

His bright emerald green eyes especially impressed me, and I practiced the famous Goodcarriage look in front of the mirror for hours, this indescribable mixture of condescension, sensuality, cruelty and distant warmth. He was undeniably at the height of his power. His wealth was so fabulous and his reputation so neatly ruined that he could afford to maintain links with the Reformed Syndicates, the Immortality Party and Oatstadt's Epidemic Union at the same time, supporting all of them while playing them off against each other. I admired him. Every pony admired him.

More than a hundred moons later, his illness became known, an insidious, incurable disease whose origin was supposedly in the secret laboratories of the Ministry of Lethalities. I didn't believe in it, but I didn't care much for it either. My own business - Pietas Coldblood - was just beginning to flourish. The pandemics some years ago catapulted me into the first rank of the industry, I had a lot to do, earned a lot of bits and meanwhile supported Oatstadt's Epidemic Union, for understandable reasons. Immortality was a plague, in each and every way. Any halfway reasonable pony knew that much more had to be done against this curse than the Immortality Party, with its old-fashioned manic aversion to death. A few corona virus epidemics, the timid reintroduction of the plague and the accident promotion law could not save us from disaster. Oatstadt was only too well aware of this... He was the only one who advocated radical solutions. Oatstadt was the Great Death - his symbol was the scythe, my own symbol were the crossed palm branches of mourning. I found that both went well together.

In this context I also met Goodcarriage again. It had become very quiet around him. Some claimed that he had died by now, but that was nonsense. He kept himself in the background. No more pictures of him could be seen, but he was more active and powerful than ever! Long before me he had started betting on Oatstadt, and it was certainly thanks to his treasure chests filled with gold rather than my comparatively few coins that the Epidemic Union won the elections. Oatstadt had promised much, but he was probably the first delegate pony in the history of Equestria to exceed his own promises. Life became risky, even for me. Despite my money, I had to be very careful. Oatstadt's party then started the promised "virus offensive" immediately after taking office, and it was arduous and expensive to stock up on all the necessary vaccinations and antidotes, especially when the government laboratories were operating with previously unknown pathogens.

Much more dangerous, however, was that Oatstadt proclaimed the total war of succession, a program of the old government, which he expanded and carried to extremes. Oatstadt called it "a warm-up exercise for the fastest and most elegant apocalyptic steed" and I felt a little queasy when I tried to imagine what would happen if this steed had practiced enough. But when I got this call, I didn't know that I should play a role in this process myself. Otherwise I would have hung up very quickly.

"My name is Goodcarriage," said the hollow-cheeked earth pony, looking at me from unspeakably sad, grey eyes, "I would like to come to your office to discuss an urgent business matter. "

"Golden Guts Goodcarriage"? I looked at him doubtfully through the crystal screen of my office terminal.

"No," he said nervously. "Of course not. Silver Shy Goodcarriage. But I'd rather do this in private. . . You understand?"

I did not. Ten minutes later, he was there. My heart was bleeding when I had to cut off the tip of my Tenochtitlan cigar, which had just begun to gain momentum under its hoofnail-wide crown of ash, and let it disappear into the desk along with the ashtray. Barbaric as a yak - but I thought he was an important man. In reality, he was just a runt.

Tall like a tower, but a weakling... I saw that immediately when he stepped through the door. His company was the only thing that really mattered at that moment. In shock I held my breath for a moment. The two companions, a Pegasus and a Griffon in the dark pinstripe suits of the Reformed Syndicates, smiled amusedly and stepped to the left and right of Goodcarriage, putting each a wing around his shoulder, and led him gently through the room like some sick, old pony. On their chests just above the heart, the rune of death shone ebony-colored.

I watched with no enthusiasm as they slowly, almost solemnly, came towards me. The black carpet swallowed their every step and the silence with which they moved frightened me. But the atmosphere of my office also had an effect on them. For a moment they seemed irritated, like two Timberwolves with their cornered prey on foreign terrain. The floor, the ceiling, the heavy, quietly swinging velvet curtains caught their eye in black, grey and purple, appealing to the deep primal fears in all living beings. The large coffin with brass decorations that served as my desk, together with the artfully flickering candles and their hundredfold reflections on matt-coated black lacquer and brightly polished onyx, captured their attention. Hidden loudspeakers murmur between deep minor chords: Welcome to the antechamber of death.

Most visitors were usually intimidated by this carefully staged interior and immediately showed an appropriate form of humility. The two syndicate members, on the other hand, recovered very quickly. They both smiled mockingly. Mr. Silver Shy Goodcarriage shivered in his expensive tweed suit. His long, haggard face was only a touch paler than the white shirt he was wearing. He gulped non-stop. His gaze wandered across the room. He was scared stiff. Considering his company, I probably wouldn't have had it any other way in his place.

The little procession stopped. At the same time, the syndicate members let go and put a hoof and a bird's foot on the back of the visitor's chair in a good manner. Looking at the sharp horseshoe of one gangster and the sickle-shaped claws of the other, I said to Goodcarriage: "There was no mention of any escort earlier. I'm not working with the Syndicates."

"But we're his bodyguards!", said the syndicate Pegasus to the left of Goodcarriage. He was wearing a worn-out, plaid newsboy cap. Orange-red strands of his mane fell into his forehead. A handsome stallion with cruel blue eyes. " We're just taking care of him a little bit. "

"I don't do business with the syndicates", I repeated furiously. I threw such an icy look at this Mr. Goodcarriage that he looked to the ground – sniffing and wiping his nostrils on his shirt sleeve. He was obviously impressed by my stubbornness. Unfortunately, the other two didn't.

"Of course not," said the gentlepony in the cap. "No reputable businessman gets involved with the syndicates. A regrettable prejudice."

He put on a very sad face. His colleague took over the word like a relay runner took over the baton. He didn't even come to a halt. Their rough, rugged voices resembled each other like the edge and tip of the same knife.

"But perhaps you do business with Mr. Goodcarriage? He has integrity, he has a good reputation, and he has an amazing offer to make you. We can guarantee you that."

"No," I said.

"Oh, yeah, you do."

The one with the cap made a snide, discarding hoof movement. He seemed to have lost interest in our little game. Without any request he sat down, almost simultaneously with the other one. They took Goodcarriage between them in the middle.

"Yes. I'm sure you will," he went on, slapping his hind legs together and grinning at me impudently. "You, Pious Coldblood, will take over this case because we have a death certificate."

"Maybe he didn't realize that the government had changed, Rusty," the other one said. Both giggled and pushed Goodcarriage into the ribs until he pulled his face painfully. I thought he looked extremely retarded. In his bloodline, brother and sister seemed to be a little too close to each other for both to have been any good.

Of course they were right. Since Oatstadt's Epidemic Union had taken over the majority in the Council and all the pietas companies were obliged to accept any mandate on a possible inheritance issue. I myself had welcomed this regulation, because the alternative of placing the way of successions directly under the Ministry of Lethalities - as proposed by the Immortality Party during the last election campaign - would have deprived my industry of a very important source of income. It was the traditional right of the United Piety to supervise duels of succession for a fee or to buy into the expected proceeds - a relic from the time when natural deaths became extinct and both my guild and society as a whole faced the problem of either going down or having to ask death to come back in through a back door. In the first century of the general immortality of the Alicorns he returned rather hesitantly. God Mors was a little offended. But the families grew, the prospects of a bearable life for all became increasingly poorer the longer it lasted, and the heirs pushed the door wide open again. Death returned, smiling.

"Show him the death certificate," Rusty said kindly to Goodcarriage and winked at him as he began to rummage awkwardly in the inside pocket of his jacket. Then he carefully took the formula from his hoof and pushed it over my desk. His eyes glittered under the peak of his cap. He was curious about my reaction and looked a little disappointed when I didn't make any face, but in reality I felt dizzy. They had indeed chosen the legendary Golden Guts. Somehow they had managed to get this moronic Silver Shy Goodcarriage to file claims to the inheritance of one of the most powerful pony principals in history and to apply for a death certificate. I wondered what the Reformed Syndicate might have on Silver Shy. Did he kill innocent foals in his spare time and cut their bodies into handy little pieces for Tupperware boxes?

"You seem to have your work cut out for you," I said gruffly, fixating on Goodcarriage and forcing him to look back at me. "I hope you're aware of the kind of thing you're getting into."

Goodcarriage nodded sadly. "Yes." His eyes were akin to those of a great big lapdog.

"I suppose you're very closely related to Golden Guts Goodcarriage?"

"No, not very tight." He swallowed nervously. His gaze flitted from one side of the desk coffin to the other. "Unfortunately."

"So you are a grandson of the, uh, bequeathed pony?"

"No, all wrong. He is the great-great-great-grandson." Rusty forward to look past Goodcarriage. His nasty look was directed at his partner on the right side. For a moment he reminded me of a half-open switchblade. " He's the great-great-great grandson of old Goodcarriage, isn't he, Birty?"

"Yes, one of a few hundred great-great-great-grandchildren, Rusty." Birty sneered at me. "However, quite far behind in the succession. Isn't that what you were getting at, Pious Coldblood? That you have to skip a whole lot of ponies until it's Mr. Silver Shy's turn, am I right?"

Lost in thought, Rusty drove his hoof over the crease in his suit. It was so sharply ironed that I would have been afraid for my hoof in his place. Slyly I looked at the hooves of the Pegasus and tried to imagine how many ponies had already been skipped by them. For there was, of course, only one method of reaching the source of a truly great heritage: total war. Those who remained inherited and had no more problems with any envious relatives.

Despite the name of his party, Oatstadt gave preference to total war of succession over disease as a means of population reduction, and the time of rituals, noble duels between gentleponies and their dignified seconds was over once and for all. Only now did I realize that I was witnessing the start of a series of murderous fights that were designed solely to wipe out entire family ties. It was logical that the syndicates used fools like Silver Shy for this purpose. They were usually the weakest members in such families. They broke first.

"You know that anyone who stands between you and Mr. Golden Guts must die." Satisfied, I saw Goodcarriage gasp for breath. "Everyone. Practically your whole family."

"Oh, Pious Coldblood, you're not going to discuss moral issues with your client?" Rusty looked at me amused, plucked a white wool thread from Goodcarriages jacket and blew it across my desk. "I'm sure he doesn't want that", Birty said. I could feel the threat in his hazel colored eagle eyes. "He probably finally wanted to talk about the three-day peacetime obligation. And certainly to the prohibition of mass destruction spells in such matters of inheritance and succession."

He rolled his eyes as if the whole thing was gradually becoming boring to him. Rusty laughed and plunged Goodcarriage into the ribs again. "You don't like philosophy either, do you, Silver Shy? You want bits, don't you?"

"Yes", Goodcarriage said unexpectedly. "My great-grandfather will reward you all handsomely. " He looked around like a big, faithful lapdog who had succeeded in a little trick. Rusty and Birty stared at him in disgust.

"He messes everything up." Rusty put his hoof on Goodcarriage's flank and squeezed. From then on Goodcarriage fell silent completely and did not try any more tricks.

The wool thread had long since floated down and landed right in front of my folded hoof. I stared at it hatefully while I instructed Goodcarriage about his rights and duties. That was the rule, but I was absolutely sure that he didn't understand a word. I could just as well have explained to a Hydra that three days had to pass before the fight could begin. That Golden Guts Goodcarriage had to be informed so that he could prepare for the dispute, that I was entitled to the tenth of a percent of the net inheritance (jealously, I tried to imagine what the syndicate's share would be), - none of this reached him. Birty showed him where to sign. Apathetically, he let himself be led out when nothing more occurred to me.

When the three had finally left, I took the annoying wool thread and burned it in the ashtray. The cigar stank in the drawer. I brooded over the pile of ashes and had my doubts as to whether it had been wise to throw my bits down Oatstadt's throat. I then wrote Mr. Golden Guts Goodcarriage the prescribed letter of condolence and hoped to learn about the further course of the Goodcarriage versus Goodcarriage case from the crystal news.

Unfortunately, something else happened. The fastest and most elegant apocalyptic steed had apparently decided to gallop straight through my office.