Chapter 1: A Scribe of Note
My story begins some thirty years ago. I was working at the castle as one of hundreds of scribes. Our duty, to record everything from tax accounts to legal disputes to how much paper the castle used in a day. The work was thankless, but important. Without the scribes the castle would have fallen to ruin.
I worked in the legal department. Whenever there was a dispute between ponies that came before the Princess she would have us pull documents, review the case and any relevant information, and report to her any important details. I was just one of about forty in the department at this point and I had only been present at a small few of the proceedings. On this particular day there was a dispute between two upper class ponies concerning land rights. This was the first time I was sent on my own and to say I was nervous would be a gross understatement.
Princess Celestia, Sovereign of all Ponies, Raiser of the Sun and Moon, and Ruler of all Equestria sat on her throne holding court. Her rainbow colored mane flowed in an ever-present ghost wind. Looking into her eyes you could see the wisdom and knowledge that belied her beauty and youthful appearance. A charcoal unicorn in gilded gold armor stood guard at each side of the throne, neither moving a muscle except to scan the other occupants of the room.
Standing before her were two ponies, one unicorn of green coat and brown mane and a black as night earth pony with a silver mane and tail. Each wore formal attire covering them from neck to flank. I entered with a satchel full of documents and no clue as to why. I took slow calming breaths as I stared at the floor and they continued to argue. It was apparent that they had been going back and forth for the better part of an hour and from the look on her face that the Princess had grown tired of listening to them bicker.
"I must protest," interjected Mr. Monger the unicorn, "Mr. Smith built that mine on my property. Those lands have been in my family for generations-."
"Pony feathers, your family abandoned them and have let them rot for generations. The only reason you care is because my family has managed to turn a profi-."
"You built on my land! Without my permission!"
"Ahem." The Princess said quietly, bringing the two ponies' attention back to her. "Mr. Chronicle," she said glancing at me still standing at the entrance, "would you mind coming forward and informing us as to who has the rights to this land?"
I froze standing at the entrance of the hall. I had been hoping that I could slink by without being called upon. I felt sweat bead on my forehead. It was one thing to be around the Princess, it was quite another to have her address me by name. How did she even know my name?
"Oh, um, y-yes your majesty." I stammered keeping my eyes down and making my way in front of the two noble ponies. "A-according to our r-records," I began, retrieving the relevant documents from my satchel, "the lands in q-question have not been sold by Mr. M-Monger or his family." I placed a copy of the deed on the tables in front of the two ponies. "T-they indeed have been owned by the M-mongers for well into one h-hundred f-forty eight years. How-"
"See that is my land, you have no right to it!" Mr. Monger burst out with a stomp of his hoof and a smug grin.
"However," I said perturbed at the interruption I stared Mr. Monger down, "nopony has paid taxes on that land for the past twenty five years." Mongers mouth slammed shut with an audible click, "There by accumulating a debt of…" I paused checking the numbers on the form floating beside me "… accounting for interest and penalties… sixty four thousand nine hundred sixty two and … eleven hundredths bits." Both ponies' mouths dropped as copies of the tax forms floated to the tables, "And with the current estimated value of the property being slightly less than thirty thousand bits it reverts back to the ownership of the state and therefore the Princess." I finished looking up at the regal alicorn, and flushing at the small smile she gave me.
Celestia turned her attention back to the two ponies with a sly smile, "Well that is rather interesting Mr. Chronicle. Since neither of you can come to an agreement and I have no use for that little piece of property I hereby place it up for public auction. In three weeks time the property and all assets located on and in it will go to the highest bidder."
"But, but…. You can't just-" Both ponies stammered together.
"You will find that I can." She chided like an angry mother disciplining her foals, "Your greed and unwillingness to work together has brought this upon you. I gave you ample time to reach an agreement, but instead you argued and fought. Neither of you will get what you want. Next time perhaps you will find it in yourselves to reach a compromise. You are both dismissed."
Red faced, whether in rage or embarrassment I could not say, they backed away from the Princess with bowed heads and closed mouths. As they turned to leave both of them faced each other whispering heated words that I could not make out, but could easily imagine. When the great doors closed behind the departing ponies the Princess let out a soft sigh and softly shook her head. Her irritation slowly seeped out and her calm demeanor returned.
I began gathering all my papers together and replacing them in my satchel. I felt good. Being able to talk down to a pony like Baron Monger was a rare but gratifying experience. Then the Princess looked over at me.
"Mr. Chronicle, would you mind escorting me back to my apartments? There is a matter I need to discuss with you."
Though I had been working in the castle for many years I had spent very little time around the Princess. When I did it was always in reference to a case and with a number of other scribes in attendance and Mr. De'facto was the only one who ever spoke. This was unprecedented for me and I immediately feared the worst. I was frozen for a moment in complete shock unsure as to what I should do.
"Mr. Chronicle?" She called again.
"Uh, y-yes, I mean, n-no, I mean, as you w-wish your majesty." I managed to stammer out trying to compose myself.
The Princess merely smiled indulgently as she stood. She began to make her way to the side exit. The two unicorn guards fell into lock-step two paces behind her. And I stood still locked in uncertainty with papers floating halfway to their place in my bag.
Upon reaching the door she turned toward me with a quizzical look, "Are you coming Mr. Chronicle?"
Her question snapped me out of my daze, "uh, yes, yes." I said quickly; realizing that I was delaying the Princess I shoved the papers into my bag not paying any attention to their order or placement and made quick to join her. A soft grey enveloped the wooden door as one of the guards opened it.
I kept a half step behind the Princess as we walked down the hallway. But my eyes kept darting from one stained glass mural to the next. This was a part of the castle that I had never been to before. Each image was of an important event in Equestrian history displayed in stained glass images. The first group of murals depicted the story of Hearths Warming Eve, the harsh winter and the dissension among the pony's, the discovery of what is now Equestria and the six being trapped in the cave, ending with the three becoming friends and banishing the Windigos.
The next set of panes pulled me up short. The first was of a creature, a monster that looked to be comprised of a number of different animals with its head thrown back in laughter. The scene behind him was filled with so many strange images that made no sense. Rain clouds on the ground with rain drops going up, what could only be described as an inside out house, lollipops growing out of the ground, and ponies all over doing strange and impossible things.
"Are you familiar with the story of Discord?" came the voice of the Princess.
"D-Discord? Who is Discord?"
"That creature was a Draconiquis known as Discord. Remind me to tell you the story someday. But for now come, we have things to discuss."
The Princess began moving off again motioning me to follow and with one last glance at the mural I fell back in with her. We continued down the hallway in silence. I tried to study the murals to keep my mind off the fact that I was with the Princess. There were so many murals that I recognized and so many more that I did not; I had to also focus on not stopping and thereby delaying the Princess further. The hallway eventually ended and we began making our way through the castle proper. We continued on eventually climbing a flight of stairs that ended at a set of ornate double doors. The guards immediately positioned themselves on either side and opened the door for the Princess and me.
The Princess stepped into the room and I froze halfway through the portal. Once again I found myself unable to think or move. I had just stepped into the Princess' private offices. The light of the sun flowing in from the glass-domed roof lit the massive room. A light spring breeze came in from the open balcony keeping the air fresh and clean. A massive ornate desk dominated the center of the room stacked with piles of papers and books. The walls were lined with bookshelves and filing cabinets. As I stood half inside the Princess moved to behind the desk taking a seat and smiling that same indulgent smile from earlier. She motioned to a cushion on my side of the desk that I had not noticed. Coming to, I hurried to it and tentatively took my seat carefully watching the Princess, still unsure of myself. I jumped slightly as the door behind me closed.
"Now Mr. Chronicle, do you know why I have asked you here today?" she asked still smiling.
"N-no, your majesty." I replied worry churning my stomach. My mind began to reel at the possibilities, had I messed up? Did I screw up an important document? Was she firing me? Why would she fire me? Shouldn't Mr. De'facto be doing this? Oh this is bad.
But as my mind ran through all these things and more she just smiled at me. Everything stopped, all the sound ceased, the breeze froze, and my mind cleared. For that one moment there was only her, her smile radiating love, and understanding. I felt a calmness enter me, all my worries seemed to melt away, and suddenly I felt that everything was going to be all right.
"As I am sure you are aware it takes a great deal of time and effort to keep Equestria running smoothly. As the sole ruler I have a large number of royal duties that are expected of me which leaves me little time for administrative duties. Because of this I have taken to employing a secretary to relieve me of some of these burdens. Two weeks ago my last secretary, Mr. Quill, filled his retirement papers."
I nodded in understanding, but I still didn't know why she was telling me this. She needed a new secretary; did she want my input on who would be a good choice? Maybe she wanted me to search the records for her to find information on different candidates.
"I have spent the last two weeks speaking with the head scribes. We looked at each scribe employed at the castle and discussed their merits for the position. Tell me, what was your opinion of the Hooves v. Crust case last month?"
"H-Hooves v. Crust?" I asked, unsure of the sudden change in subjects. "W-Well I felt that your d-decision was... j-judicious."
"Judicious? Come Mr. Chronicle, I expect my subjects to be honest with me. If you won't answer honestly then I have no use for you." Irritation dripped from her voice.
"Uhmm.." I was lost, "I think..."
"Really, Mr. Chronicle, if you cannot or will not give me a straight answer then we have nothing else to discuss."
My eyes dropped. I didn't know what to do. Then she said it. "You are dismissed, Mr. Chronicle."
With those words something snapped. I lost control like I had earlier with Mr. Monger, "Your treatment of the Hooves family bordered on neglect. Mr. Crust was obviously the aggressor. He pushed the Hooves family to the breaking point. Their response was the only logical outcome of such treatment and yet you punish them further by siding with Mr. Crust." When I finished I was out of breath; my burst of courage faded quickly as I realized what I had just done. I stood stock still and tried to recover my breath, waiting for her to chastise me again.
But she just smiled like before with no hint of her earlier irritation."Very good, now can you tell me why I passed that verdict?"
Once again I found my eyes staring intently at the floor in embarrassment, "B-Because you had to," I knew the case well, I had been on the team in charge of it and I knew that it had been the only possible outcome, "the H-Hooves had broken the law and the Crusts had not. T-There was no other possible verdict."
"Now, what is your opinion of Mr. De'facto?"
"Mr. De'facto?" I asked, once again caught off guard by the change of topics, my irritation at the entire situation burned through "He is an angry old colt, a horse driver. His extremely high standards for our work are beyond measure. Nothing but perfection is allowed to go beyond his desk. And he never misses a mistake…" As the words escaped my mouth I realized how completely inadequate they were, "but he is fair. He r-rewards our good work with equal f-fervor as he punishes our bad… I could not i-imagine working under anyone else."
"Really? Well he has much the same opinion of you. He said you were his best scribe and that a pony of your ability only comes around once a generation. I hope you will still consider my offer."
"Why yes Mr. Chronicle, you are the best of the candidates. All the head scribes agreed. I would like you to be my new secretary. You are of course under no pressure to accept."
This had truly been the most exasperating day of my life. It seemed that with every sentence I had been stopped speechless. Nothing had gone the way I expected it to. And now here I stood in front of Princess Celestia, being offered a job after loudly disagreeing with her and insulting my boss. I did not know what to do. I did not know what to say... "Yes." The words escaped from my mouth without my consent, "I would be honored to serve."
"I thought you would." She said knowingly, "You are to report to me here tomorrow at sunrise, now please go find Mr. De'facto and tell him of your decision."
"Yes, your majesty," I said, bowing my head in resignation to what I had just done. I began back stepping toward the door.
"Two more things, first of all I will expect you to be honest with me at all times. I will be asking for your opinions on matters and I will not have you saying only what you believe I want to hear. Is that clear, Mr. Chronicle?"
"Yes, your majesty."
"And because we will be working together I insist that you call me Celestia."
"Yes, your majesty." I said one last time as I stepped out the door.
The guards eyed me as the door closed behind me. I did my best to ignore their eyes as I began making my way down the stairs. Once I was out of sight I galloped through the halls until I collapsed to the floor out of breath. My mind raced over the events of the day and sped through every possible emotion in a matter of minutes, coming close to tears two or three times. I had lived a peaceful life up to this point, doing my job as best I could without making waves or getting noticed… or so I had thought. Now I was to be the Princess' secretary and I had said yes… without even thinking about it. What had I been thinking? Could I go back and refuse?
My mind continued on like this until I heard the clip clop of a pony approaching. I struggled to take control of myself. Breathing in a final time I looked up to see who was intruding on my inner conflicts.
"Howdy feller." She was a lime green earth pony with a blonde mane that was half grey, "Is e'rything alrit?"
"Yes," I said looking back at the ground.
"Come now, yur lyin'. Ah can tell. Why dontch ya tell ol' Granny Smith all about it."
I don't know if it was her country accent or that she reminded me of my own grandma, but I told her everything. And she listened only stopping me when she wanted something repeated. When I finished I felt much better, if no less worried and at a loss as to what to do.
Then she said something that I will never forget, "Well, sonny, there is only one thing fur ya to do. Stand on up and keeper going. It sounds to meh like the Princess were mighty impressed wit ya. And ya should trust her, shes been runnin things fur quite along time. Now it was maghty fine meet'n ya, but ah got to go. Zapp apples don't sell themselves ya know... well maybe they do, but somepony's got ta collect the bits." And with that she stood up, smiled one last time, and left.
I sat there for another minute processing her words. Eventually I realized that she was right. I still didn't know how I was going to handle this change to my life and I was still scared and unsure about everything. But Celestia had chosen me and she believed in me. I could take solace in that. Standing on shaking legs I made my way back to the scribe quarters to tell Mr. De'facto the news.
(Lovingly edited by Inkiepie)