Diplomacy through schooling

by Evilhumour

Chapter 1: Chapter One

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Chapter One

It was early in the day in Canterlot when the first of the parties began even though the guest of honour had yet to arrive. This was fine with the party planner and something she had planned for; she called it a preparty and absolutely necessary for something as big as this to get everyone warmed up for the main event.

Among the people gathered for the celebrations were ponies, changelings, wolves, harpies, seaponies and sirens, minotaurs, Abyssinians, ahuizotls, one pair of dragons sent on behalf of Torch (who had included a note stating that he was rather too large to comfortably move about in the city without causing damage wherever he stepped), a small group of yaks, griffons, hippogriffs and a few other races making their first appearance in ages. All were brought together for the occasion, some meeting for the first time in years, and it warmed Celestia’s heart to see them all working together. Even Discord was around somewhere, working minor but harmless mischief as usual (Celestia had seen the butterfly-winged napkins he’d set astir, and found them most amusing).

Even Luna had made an appearance, though it was clear she was not used to being awake during the day anymore with how much she was leaning on Pharynx and not nibbling on her fiancé’s ear. Celestia had encouraged her to tell them if she needed a few hours’ doze to refresh herself, and Luna had promised to do so.

She had stared at the couple and mused to herself how strong her sister’s teeth were as royal changeling chitin was incredibly tough, though she had a feeling Luna’s stubbornness was also a factor to her ability to leave bite marks on him.

Though she was sure if she wrote to Remigium, she would get a clear and concise answer with no fluff to it. She had missed the ridged Queen; Remigium had thrown off more than a few nobles with her bluntness which was always enjoyable to see. Not even Fancy could use his natural good nature to change her attitude much to his wife’s amusement, though he had found it to be just as refreshing as Scolopidia’s.

The sun had been up and the preparty going on for just a few hours when one of the ponies present looked at the horizon and pointed to something her guards had alerted her to a few minutes ago.

“Is that…?” one person whispered.

“It’s gotta be!” another said.

“It is!” a third called.

A few minutes later, the airskimmer flew overhead, clearly traveling in the direction of the castle’s chariot hanger. Acting instantly, Celestia teleported ahead, going to meet her, with Luna taking Pharynx and Twilight’s friends with her as she teleported too, though Pinkie Pie was not seen among the mares. Celestia had a feeling that the Earth Pony had already traveled the distance with her odd talents. A third teleportation signaled that Cadance had gathered the last few who intended to be there when Twilight arrived, including her husband, Twilight’s parents, and a few others.

The group was there when the airskimmer landed, and thus when the door opened, Celestia was the first to see a blue mare walk out with a magician’s hat on her head and a cape around her neck.

“Greetings and salutations to all!” the mare announced with a showmare’s flare to rival only the best. “The Grrreat! And powerful Trixie, is proud to present, for the first time in Equestria in a full year… Princess Twilight Sparkle!”

Small fireworks popped around them as Twilight emerged, looking a bit flustered but still happy to see them. “Hi!” she called.

“And, of course, her faithful and number one assistant, chef and pilot, Spike the dragon!” Trixie announced.

The little dragon trotted out right behind Twilight, a grin on his face. “We’re back!”

Celestia stepped forward, gazing at Twilight. The younger mare had grown an inch or two in the year she was away, and was showing other visible signs of increased physical maturity. But still, Twilight looked as the day she left, healthy and hopeful for the future. Eyes bright with ideas and her brilliant mind no doubt thinking of how to improve the world. Her heart swelled with joy and she longed to pull her former student into a hug, who, after prompting from Velvet, she saw as her own daughter.

It was at that point that Pinkie Pie made her presence known with a tackling glomp that had somehow roped in the rest of Twilight’s close friends, the Lady of Laughter giggling loudly as she embraced her friend. “Hi Twilight!”

Laughing as she was embraced, Twilight hugged them all back. “I missed you all,” she said with a wide smile, nuzzling them happily.

“We missed you too,” Rainbow Dash said as she reached out and ruffled her mane with a hoof. “But what’s with the big entrance?”

Twilight smiled. “Trixie insisted,” she said. “She said it was the least she could do for me after I rescued her.” As she got back on her hooves, she saw everyone else waiting for her. “Mom, Dad! Shiny, Cadance! Princesses…”

“Printheth!” another voice called, and Twilight looked up to see a somewhat abashed Tempest Shadow, Grubber waving eagerly from her back.

“Hey,” she said happily. “How are you two?”

“It’s been an interesting few months,” Tempest said.

“No kidding,” Pharynx grunted from his spot by Luna’s side.

Twilight smiled. The changeling commander had long since recovered fully from his injuries, which she was relieved to see. Then she looked at the back, and saw another pony, looking a little nervous, and her face lit up. "Moondancer!"

"Hey, Twilight." The other mare blushed a bit shyly as she stepped to the front. "It's... good to see you."

"It's good to see you," Twilight said. "Last time we met you were... well..." She moved forward and hugged the other mare. "I was so worried, after what I saw that day," she said. "Princess Celestia said she'd spoken to you, and that you were doing better, but..."

"Yeah," Moondancer said. "She talked to me." She smiled. "She invited me to come and stay in the castle, where I'd have company... she insisted on helping me move out of that shack I was in. And she explained why... why you didn't come and see me sooner." She turned away. "Twilight, there is so much I want to say to you, but can we do it... in private? Later? When there isn't a crowd around?"

Twilight smiled. "Sure thing," she said. "Just let me know, okay? But just so you know, it did do me a world of good to hear that you were healthier and happier again. And actually seeing you that way too means a lot to me."

"Thanks, Twilight. It means a lot to me too, to hear you say that." Moondancer blushed as she stepped back.

One by one, she let all of the others present come forward to give her their own hugs or other greetings, until finally, she was face to face with Princess Celestia.

“Oh, my faithful student,” the eldest Princess said as she stepped up and finally embraced her, as she’d been longing to do for so long. “I have missed you, so much.”

Twilight smiled. “I missed you too,” she said as she hugged Celestia back.

“There is another who wishes to see you, you know,” Celestia said when they finally parted. “And I believe he and his companion are waiting patiently behind us.”

Twilight looked up. “Who?” she asked. “I don’t see any-”

Then there was a flicker of magic as the shield of invisibility that had been present dropped, and Twilight gasped in joy at what it revealed. “Ambassador Swift-Pad!”

The wolf laughed in delight as she came forward to greet him. “It is good to see you again, your Grace,” he said. “I have heard much of your accomplishments since we parted ways.”

“So have I,” Maxilla added as she came up to join them. “Princess… you’ve done so much for our people, you realize that?”

“I’ve heard,” Twilight said as she gave the she-wolf a hug. “It’s so good to see you both.”

Their greetings could have gone on a little longer, had a party blower not gone off some distance away with the sounds of a massive party already unfolding in the city, fireworks shooting off. “Twilight Sparkle, come on down!” Pinkie announced, acquiring a microphone in the little time she had been unobserved. “It’s your big welcome-home party, and everyone’s waiting!”

Twilight gave her a resigned, yet cheerful, look. “We’ll be there in just a bit, Pinkie,” she said.

Turning back to the wolf couple, she gave them one more hug. “Thank you both, for being here,” she said.

“You are most welcome, Twilight,” Swift-Pad said with a smile.

The party that followed was one of the biggest and most energetic Twilight had ever attended. She met friends old and new, got her first look at the royal changelings (besides Pharynx), and overall had one of the wildest days she’d had in a long time.

As everyone celebrated, she caught glimpses of things here and there - Spike chatting with Princess Ember and the shorter orange dragon who’d accompanied her, her old classmates Minuette, Lemon Hearts, Twinkleshine and even Lyra Heartstrings (and her wife Bon-Bon) all talking to Moondancer, Ahuizotl (or Teomitl, as she’d learned his real name was when she asked Rainbow Dash after first seeing him) signing autographs, and many, many others.

The day was one she would never forget, but eventually, it wound down, and she was able to head into the castle, where Pinkie had encouraged her to keep up her strength (and save some room in her stomach) for the small, private after-party, reserved for the same crowd (and just a few more) that had greeted her at her landing.

Celestia led the way to the chamber Pinkie had set up for this, and finally, Twilight was able to sit down at her designated spot.

In addition to those who had greeted her, they were joined by Thorax, Queen Tegmina and a pair of sirens whom Celestia introduced to her as Aria Blaze and Sonata Dusk, the two having been working closely with Cadance for the past few months. Finally, Pinkie entered, rolling a cart with a massive sheet cake on it.

“Happy welcome-home-so-glad-to-see-you-again!” she exclaimed as she moved it onto the table, causing Twilight to laugh in delight.

“A full-scale replica of Predictions and Prophecies!” she exclaimed. “This is wonderful, Pinkie!”

“I thought you’d like it,” Pinkie said with a grin.

From her own seat, Twilight Velvet gave a smile to her husband. “That’s our Twilight,” she said.

“It certainly is,” Night Light said. “Takes after her mother the bibliophile.” He then rolled his eyes at her grin before patting her arm. “The mom that I am married to.”

Twilight looked at them curiously before deciding to ask about it later. “It’s true,” she said. “You’ve heard of the Daring Do Award for Authors, haven’t you? It’s a prestigious award for great writing, and Mom’s won it more than once.”

“Really?” Rainbow Dash looked in her direction. “What kinds do you write? Because I just love adventure novels.”

“I’ll show you some of my work later, Dashie,” Velvet promised. “Tonight is for Twilight, and Spike.” She looked in his direction. “I’ve missed my little grandson too,” she said, holding out her hooves to him.

Spike blushed but still went over to her and gave her a hug before giving Night Light one as well.

Cake was soon served, and food and conversation mixed as they ate, Twilight sharing some of her adventures as they shared their own, adding to the bits they’d sent back and forth through their letters.

“It’s great to hear that Scootaloo’s family is staying with her full-time now,” she told Rainbow Dash. “She must be really happy.”

“She is, she is,” Rainbow Dash assured her.

“So am I,” Swift-Pad contributed. “For reasons you well know.”

“Yeah, that was one of the things we talked about when I met with her aunts after we got back from the Packlands,” Rainbow Dash told him. “They’d actually been thinking about it before that, but when I told ‘em what you said about it, that helped make up their minds in a hurry.”

“And Applejack, it’s great that Slice is reconnecting with her first family,” Twilight said. “Have you been out to see them since then?”

Applejack shook her head. “We’ve got plans to go early summer, Mac and me,” she said. “Right now, Apple Bloom and her friends are up there visiting Bramley, mah other cousin. She’s Slice’s younger sister and the fifth member of the Cutie Mark Crusaders.”

Twilight giggled. “I bet they’re having all kinds of fun,” she said.

“Eeyup.” Applejack grinned. “Slice has written me that she’s mighty miffed Ah didn’t warn her properly and she plans to get back at me somehow.”

“Forgot to mention the tree sap, I take it?” Twilight asked wryly.

“You guessed it, partner.” Applejack sighed. “Ah don’t know how they do it, Ah just don’t know how.”

“I heard you were going to visit the Diamond Dogs recently, before coming back here,” Rarity contributed. “How did that go?”

“Remember the trio that kidnapped you?” Twilight asked.

“Vividly.” Rarity looked most disgusted at the memory.

“They lived there, and I had to threaten to bring you in to get them and the rest of their people to behave.” Twilight gave her a wicked-looking grin. “They couldn’t agree to my demands fast enough.”

Celestia looked somewhat taken aback by this. “What on Equuis could possibly have warranted such an act?” she asked with a frown on her face with the other various leaders Twilight respected also looking concerned.

“Their leader was forced to wear a special crown,” Twilight said. “One that could only be removed if everydog there agreed. As long as they wore it, their King or Queen wasn’t able to leave the valley.” She gestured to Trixie who was talking to several of the changelings. “They got Trixie to put it on before telling her about any of this, and then basically kept her hostage. A slave, to find gems for them. I pointed out just what I thought of that.”

The reactions she got were just what she expected.

“That is abhorrent,” Swift-Pad said. “You were well within your rights to act as you did.”

“I agree,” Queen Tegmina said. “Changelings may have fed largely from volunteers, whether they knew it or not, but we have never kept prisoners for that sort of purpose. Except for you-know-who, and she was the exception.”

Twilight nodded. “Fortunately, I got them to agree to never use it again - their new King, who’d been serving as Trixie’s Royal Chancellor and was actually pretty smart when it came to doing the work, is using a non-enchanted crown now. And that’s why she was with me when I got back - I invited her to come home with Spike and I, and she agreed.”

“Then all is well,” Celestia said. She sighed. “Were… any of the other peoples you visited doing that sort of thing?”

Twilight shook her head. “I had a bit of trouble getting in to see the yaks, but that was just an overzealous sentry, and Prince Rutherford wasn’t happy with him over it. Or when he found out they’d missed your letter asking them to help in the war because of that same yak.”

“They didn’t even get the message?” Pharynx looked outraged; Twilight wasn’t sure why he was next to Luna and made a mental note to ask later on. “Because of one sentry‽”

“It’s been taken care of,” Twilight promised him. “They were pretty mad that they’d missed out.”

“What did you have to promise them?” Luna asked. “Knowing yaks as I do, they always take a great deal of persuading to calm them over disagreements.”

“Well, I made a bunch of snow sculptures of the Storm King for them to smash,” Twilight told her. “After that, they were happy, and they swore to make sure their sentries would pass on messages rather than just ignoring them in the future. And seeing as how I saw a few out in the streets, I take it they’ve come to meet with you now?”

“They have,” Celestia said. “Formal talks have not begun yet, but they’ll be starting soon.”

“That’s good.” Twilight paused. “Oh, I found out why they went and hid - apparently the whole Nightmare Moon thing freaked them out the first time it happened, so they decided to shut themselves away. They didn’t even know she’d been banished, let alone come back and been healed.”

Luna looked uncomfortable. “You don’t say,” she said.

“They were understanding, once I explained,” Twilight said. “Oh, I have so much that I learned while I was away…”

“That is good to know,” Celestia said.

Twilight nodded. “And… I want to share it all,” she said. “With the world.” She took a deep breath. “Which is why… I want to open a school.” She looked around. “A school dedicated to sharing knowledge of the cultures of the world, and the bonds of friendship that can exist between all races. A school that will be open to everycreature, regardless of tribe or species. To ensure that we never forget the ties that bind our nations together, and spread these teachings to all.”

“That is a marvelous idea, Twilight,” Celestia said after the applause began to end. “I will be sure to aid you in getting whatever land you wish in Canterlot for your school.”

“I’m sorry Princess, but I do not plan to have my school in Canterlot,” she smiled softly. “There are already many fine schools in this city, with yours coming to mind, but Ponyville is my home and where I live. It is only appropriate I establish my school there.” She looked around. “I’m not trying to take students away from the Ponyville Schoolhouse that’s already there, but if they want to have ties with us, they’re more than welcome.”

“Aww yeah!” Rainbow Dash whooped. “Ponyville just hasn’t been the same without you, Twilight. It’ll be great to have you back there.”

“Though I do hope it will not start right away, your Grace,” Swift-Pad said. “We have a request to make that we hope you will accept.”

Twilight nodded. “It’ll take time to build, to find accredited teachers and work up lesson plans. I should have a few months, at minimum, free before the first classes start. By early next fall, I think.” She looked at him, curiously. “What request?”

Maxilla smiled. “Swifty and I are getting married,” she said. “We’d love for you to be there.”

Twilight’s jaw dropped, and then she started beaming. “That’s great! And of course I’ll be there. When are you having it?”

“Her Grand Grace has been gracious enough to have one prepared for us when we were ready, though of late, we had to make the ceremony a touch larger,” Swift-Pad said, looking over at Pharynx and Luna, who was wearing a horn ring with a gemstone on it and the last piece fell into place.

“You two are engaged‽” she all but shrieked. “Congratulations, I didn’t even know you were dating!”

Pharynx gave a shrug. “We kind of had other things to talk about the last time I saw you, face-to-face,” he said. “I didn’t actually ask until I was back home.”

Luna smiled. “And of course, I said yes,” she said. “We’ve just been waiting for you to be here - we wouldn’t dream of having the ceremony without all of our friends present.”

Twilight smiled. “I’m so happy for you two,” she said. “I’ll be there, I promise.”

“Then let us set a formal date for it,” Swift-Pad said. “Two weeks from now?”

“That works for us,” Luna said, with Pharynx nodding.

“Then that is when it shall be,” the wolf said, nodding his head with Maxilla rubbing against him.

“Storm-Fast and Queen Metamorphia will be co-officiating our side, with Wise-Mind in attendance, as you know,” she said. “I believe Princess Celestia will be handling such matters for her sister.”

“With myself as well,” Queen Tegmina said, glancing in Celestia’s direction. “As Eldest Queen now, it is part of what I do for my fellow Royal Changelings.”

Maxilla nodded. “Of course.”

Celestia smiled. “It would be my honor to do so with you,” she said. “And Storm-Fast when he comes.”

She comes, your Grace,” Swift-Pad corrected with everyone looking at him. “Not all Packleaders are male.”

Celestia nodded. “My mistake,” she said. “I had not known of any female Packleaders the last time I was permitted in your lands for a Gathering, and had not been informed of any females achieving that status since then.”

“It is fair that you did not know,” Maxilla said, placing a paw on Swift-Pad. “She is one of the first to reach the status.”

“Really? I didn’t know there was a limit for female wolves to rise in ranks,” Twilight said before blinking and raising a hoof to her face. “And I say that while all the rulers of Equestria have been females.”

“There isn’t an official block for she-wolves to achieve higher status or rank,” Swift-Pad said. “It simply had not happened; few had any interest in the position of Packleader. But in recent years, that has started to change.”

“Though what he is not saying is that there has been a lot of old mentality that it was not our place to be in charge,” Maxilla said with Swift-Pad whining at her direct words. “It was really refreshing to see her rise to the rank of Packleader. Though that has me wondering why there have been no male alicorns?”

“The last male alicorn that I personally ever met was Celestia’s and my own father,” Luna said. “Why none have ascended since then, I don’t know. Though I can think of at least one pony who would not object to seeing a certain male ascend...” She looked in Cadance’s direction, and the younger alicorn blushed, reaching a hoof over to set it on her husband’s.

“There are some who are complaining about it reminding them a little too much of that one pride of Abyssinians that the packs had conflict with a number of centuries ago,” Queen Tegmina noted. “That pride took things a little too far in the opposite direction, with their males being deprived of nearly all rights by their leader, a sorceress named Catrina.” At the startled looks she was getting, she raised a hoof. “Abyssinia’s central authority eventually took notice and stepped in, capturing her and restoring the male’s freedoms,” she said. “But old memories die hard.”

“For the most part, the packs simply accept that society is continuing to evolve naturally, and the she-wolves wishing greater political responsibility is simply one aspect of it,” Swift-Pad said a bit more openly, adjusting his glasses. “Though we are not the only country yet to adjust their old mentalities, is that not correct your Grand Grace?”

Luna gave him a glare before nodding her head. “Equestria does have a habit of favouring the female gender over the male in leadership roles,” she said. “Though Captain Shining Armor proved his abilities for many years as head of our Royal Guard. And Prince Blueblood did quite the job in keeping certain individuals in line while my sister and I were focused on the war.”

“Though to be fair, Luna, I was the first stallion in over a hundred years to become Captain of the Royal Guards and neither you or your sister ever gave the noble court much respect,” Shining said with Cadance nodding her head in agreement.

“Er… well…” Luna looked somewhat embarrassed. “You’d have to ask Celestia about the guard; I wasn’t exactly around to decide on it. As for the noble court, that’s because the majority demanded respect on the grounds of a title, rather than what they had accomplished as individuals, and I tend to have little patience for that sort.”

“Which is why the majority of royals we have met in recent years have earned our respect and friendship, not only on the basis of their personalities but because they do achieve things as individuals,” Celestia said. “Such as all who are present here today.” She looked a little distracted. “At any rate, it is getting late, and there are one or two more things to achieve this day. I think we should all reconvene in the morning.”

There were a number of nods of agreement, and one by one, the majority of those present left, until only Celestia and the six Bearers were left; a rather tired Spike had been carried out by Velvet. Twilight was about to follow after them when Celestia stopped her.

“While we’re here,” she said. “Just the seven of us… a few of us brought you welcome-home presents.”

Twilight smiled. “You all being here for me is the best present I could ask for,” she said.

“Yeah, well, we wanted to get ya a little somethin,” Applejack said. She brought a package out. Twilight opened it up to see it was a cookbook, though from the pages it was clearly from different writers. “Ah asked mah family from all over to suggest some recipes you and Spike would like, so Ah hope ya enjoy it.”

Twilight smiled. “This is great, Applejack,” she said. “Thank you.”

"Ehem." Rarity pushed a package over to her. "These are from me, darling. You remember that book series I mentioned, when we were in the Packlands, correct?"

Twilight smiled. "Rarity, have you ever known me to forget a book?"

"Touché, darling. But while you were gone, I bought you your own set - including the spinoff series." She gestured to the package.

Opening it, Twilight found a complete set of sixteen books. "The Cat in the Stacks Mysteries, and Southern Mares Mysteries?" she said excitedly. "Rarity, thank you!"

Rarity smiled. "It was my pleasure, darling," she said. "They're all in the proper reading order right now, though book six does have a prequel novella in it at the back if you want to read that one first."

“I will,” Twilight said.

The others joined in too; Fluttershy brought an encyclopedia on rare animals that Discord helped her write (which was also beginning to be published), while Rainbow Dash had brought a few volumes from one of the more recent adventure series she’d found, and Pinkie had brought a self-published volume, Complete Compendium of Practical Pony Party Pranks. Twilight happily accepted each of them in turn, with further gifts for Spike when he woke up. Finally, Celestia brought forth hers, a large volume with two Cutie Marks, one Twilight’s six-pointed star and the other a blazing sun.

“This is a communication journal," she explained. "Whatever you write in this one will appear in another that's linked to it, so the two holders can talk from a distance. It even works across worlds."

Twilight looked at her in surprise. "Worlds? You mean..."

Celestia ducked her head. "It seems that there's... another mirror that leads into the world of Canterlot High," she said. "A less restricted one that I was unaware of, until its owner told me. Sunset Shimmer and I had a pair of journals like this, and she used hers to write to me for help while you were away. Using that other mirror, I was able to travel there and see her, and help resolve her problem. We had a long talk while I was there." She smiled. "I've gone back and given her the other journal that connects to this one since then, so you can write to her whenever you want."

Twilight's grin could have lit up the room. "That's fantastic! Thank you!"

"My pleasure, Twilight."

Carrying all that she’d received, Twilight headed for the bedroom that was still set aside for her, and began putting everything away. When she had done so, she heard a knock on her door, and went to answer it.

“Moondancer?” she asked.

The other mare gave her something of a smile. “Can I come in?” she asked.

“Of course,” Twilight said, moving aside and closing the door after her. “Is this about… what you wanted to talk about before?”

Moondancer nodded, took a deep breath to calm herself, and then looked at her. “Twilight, do you know why I was so upset when I saw you last year?”

Twilight shook her head. “No,” she admitted. “I… I know I missed your party and all, but you know what I was like!”

“I know,” Moondancer said with a sigh. “But I hoped… I thought maybe you’d come anyway. Our other friends, they got me to finally put myself out there, told me I had value. That if I invited you specifically, after all the hints I’d dropped in the past, you might actually come. But you didn’t, and I… and I…”

She wiped her eyes. “Twilight, do you have any idea how devastating that was for me? To have the one mare I cared for more than anything in the world to just brush me off like I wasn’t worth it? I know now what you were really up to, and what impact it had on the world, but it still hurt me.”

“Moondancer… what are you saying?” Twilight asked.

Moondancer looked her straight in the eye. “I love you, Twilight. I always have.”

Twilight’s eyes widened. “I don’t know what to say,” she said faintly.

“Think it over, will you?” Moondancer rose. “And… if you ever decide you’re ready, I’ll be waiting.”

Then she went out, leaving behind a stunned alicorn princess.

Morning came, and as the light shone into her eyes, Twilight groaned. “Who opened the curtains…” she mumbled.

“Good morning, your Grace,” an amused voice said next to her bed.

Twilight shot bolt upright. “Gah! What - Maxilla? What are you doing in here?” she asked.

“Princess Celestia asked me to come and see you ready for breakfast,” the she-wolf said, smirking. “Got your attention, didn’t I?”

“You certainly did,” Twilight said with a sigh. Though she might be a wolf now, Maxilla still seemed to have some changeling tendencies, including her ability to move about largely undetected.

It took her a few minutes, but finally she was ready, and the two headed off to the dining room.

Next Chapter: Chapter Two Estimated time remaining: 5 Hours, 24 Minutes
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