'How did I get myself into this?'
Spy's brain worked as fast as it could, given the war zone around him. The snow on the ground was slowly disappearing as volley after volley rocked their makeshift shelter.
His horn shimmered, and he disappeared from view. He stepped gingerly around the snow, not wanting to leave any trace of himself. As the specter crossed the battlefield undetected, his mind traveled to what led him here.
"Miss Sparkle, I must thank you for this opportunity." The dark blue unicorn adjusted the saddlebag on his back. A light blue glow that was not his own enveloped his tie, adjusting it tightly. "Miss Rarity, you're choking me" The magic dispelled, and Spy readjusted the tie himself. Rarity grinned sheepishly. The fasionista admired her own hard work, a tuxedo in the spitting image of the suit she wore only two months ago, now made for Spy's new job.
"Celestia's ambassador," Twilight read the letter again. She had asked Celestia if there was any place in her castle for any part of the team. The student had expected a guard position or some other lower ranking job. However, the letter she received back was far outside her expectations
From your description, these ponies you met sound quite... eccentric. Unfortunately, I don't have many job openings in the castle. However, due to a recent... scandal forcing Silver Stone out of office, I am left without an ambassador. I would like 'Spy' to come to the castle so that I may see with my own eyes if he is a worthy follow-up to Silver Stone. I shall send a carriage to pick him up in three days
"An ambassador is quite an honor, but I can't help question her logic. I've only just gotten here, what would make her believe me to fit this job?" He took a seat on the bags he had packed.
"Well, I did give you guys quite the write-up... Maybe you should ask Celestia. After all, your carriage will be here soon." She grinned as the Princess' guards started toward the ground. They landed and stopped in front of the conversing unicorns. Spy stood up, and a quick spell carried his bags into the carriage.
"Goodbye and I hope that when next I see you, I can do so as an ambassador." The two guards pulled away with Spy in tow.
"Good luck! " The two watched him disappear toward the castle in the distance. What they didn't see, however, was the white earth pony following the guards on the ground.
"Celestia, please!" Luna begged her sister. Once a year, the Princess of the Sun traveled to meet with the other leaders of the countries to discuss global matters. While they talked in a private room, the ambassadors of the countries would perform a good-will meeting to learn what they can about their fellow races.
"Luna, why do you want to go so badly? The conference is only for leaders and ambassadors."
"But the castle is so dull! We don't want to be stuck here for a week while you get to go have fun on Ungu Island!"
"Luna, these meetings are important business. There is no fun to be found in that room"
"Then we will stay with the ambassadors, anything!"
"This wouldn't have anything to do with Prince Farrow, would it?"
The mention of the Deer Prince caused Luna to blush. "Wha-what do you mean? We simply wish to spend a little bit of time away from the castle"
Celestia gave an amused smirk. "Are you sure? Because when he was here last month you couldn't keep your eyes off his-"
"I DO NOT HAVE A CRUSH ON FARROW!" If there was one thing Luna had on her older sister, it was the fact that her Royal Canterlot Voice was much, much louder. A painting on the wall clattered to the ground. Celestia recoiled, eardrums ringing. She smirked.
"Whatever you say, Lulu."
The Princess of the Moon was about to shout again at her foalhood nickname when a knock drew both of their attentions to the large door of their throne room. A guard poked his head in.
"Princess Celestia, a guest for you has arrived."
"Ah, that will be the new ambassador. Send him in." The guard disappeared. Celestia turned to her younger sister. "I will let you come with me, Luna"
Luna jumped for joy. "Huzzah!"
"On one condition." Luna hovered in the air. "You must follow my instructions when we arrive. No back talking, no whining, nothing of the sort. Understood?"
Luna huffed "We have been to social gatherings before, Celestia. We think we know how to handle ourselves."
"After what happened on Nightmare Night, I'm not so sure" The younger sister blushed slightly. "Now go pack, we'll discuss more later. And for mine and everyone else's sake, drop the royal 'we'. It's very nerve grating. Plus it makes you seem outdated." Luna exited the chamber, passing a dark blue Unicorn slowly trotting into the room. The door closed behind him. "Hello, Spy"
He flinched. Usually when he heard those words, the assassin was caught by the enemy team.
"It is good to finally meet you."
He quickly composed himself. "Thank you for the honor, princess. I am glad that I have the chance to become something as prestigious as your ambassador. But I must ask: Why me?"
"I admit that I'm in dire need of an ambassador. The trip to the largest annual meeting between the nations is only two days away. Twilight gave an excellent recommendation about you and your diplomacy skills."
"No offence, your highness, but I'm a bit new to this culture. Wouldn't it make more sense to hire a pony with more experience?"
"Well, that's the issue. Recently a scandal forced me to retire the last ambassador. Moreover, no one will come forward for the position. Her actions were so immoral that nopony wants to be saddled with that kind of predecessor over their heads. With you not being from around here, I hoped that you wouldn't have any such hang-ups."
He shuffled a bit. "I suppose that makes sense. Very well then. I will accept your gracious offer. Although I don't suppose there is a way that you could give me something to work off? An ambassador would look pretty foolish if he didn't know anything about his home country, no?"
Celestia nodded. Her horn grew bright, and then a thin blue trail crept towards him. When it made a connection with him, his mind flashed with knowledge. "Think of that like a current events spell. A Princess has to keep up on things, after all. You will learn everything necessary about Equestria while you rest. Now, a guard will lead you to your room for tonight, and then we will leave for the island in the morning. Sleep well, Spy."
A guard led him to a large bedroom. He stewed over the new thoughts in his mind. As he calmed from the shock of the spell, he drifted off into a deep slumber.
The chariot rolled to a stop on the shore of the small island. The sand was the only thing free of a layer of snow coating the ground. The guards pulling the vehicle collapsed to the sand. "Amazing work, men. Rest up for the next few days, because the return trip is going to be just as difficult"
"How big did you say the pay raise for this was?" The leader of the group half mumbled.
"Two months salary for two day of flying." The group murmured in agreement. Celestia, Luna and Spy walked off the glimmering vehicle.
A zebra greeted them, and a Unicorn next to him lifted the bags of the group. They turned down a paved road covered with snow into a small town. Spy looked up and gasped. From the center of the island, a large building rose in the distance. The face he could see was covered in a gigantic mural depicting pony-kind. To the left and right were similar murals depicting Zebras and Buffalo. "That's the new meeting hall," The zebra proudly said. "The old one was getting much too small. The murals came from the community, to symbolize our unity. A celebration we hold each year, for the next week the party is here."
The group traveled through town toward the building. The marketplace bustled with several creatures. A deer and camel were arguing over the price of some vegetables, while a giraffe and antelope stood on the street corner, loudly playing a few instruments to attract a spare coin out of the travelers' saddlebags.
Celestia relayed the story of the city on the trip, both to Spy and Luna. "The town was founded about one hundred years ago. We built the meetinghouse on the very point that all of our nation's borders were equally distant. Once the building was finished, creatures of all kinds flocked to the island to celebrate the harmony of the island. The building you see now was finished last year."
"Sister, why have we never seen such creatures in our kingdom?" Luna was looking at the antelope and giraffe on the corner. The duo began to play much more intricately, hoping to capture the princess' attention.
"Their kingdoms are halfway around the world. No normal creature is capable of crossing such a great distance naturally, and even magically is difficult. Even with all the magical endurance spells I cast, the guards are still exhausted. Trade usually brings a few here and there, but long term residents are exceedingly rare"
Soon the glimmering golden doors of the building loomed before them. They opened to reveal a group sitting around a large table. Their dress was regal, wearing crowns and headdresses fit for royalty. Behind the chairs was a creature of the same species. 'Those must be their ambassadors' Spy thought.
"Ah, Celestia. Good to see you showed up. I was beginning to wonder if you weren't coming after last year." The sneering leader of the camels tapped the gold watch on his wrist mockingly.
"Well, Dyun, I wouldn't miss the chance to be here. How many more are coming?"
"Everyone that's going to be here is. The Gryphons refused to come while they were still at war, the moose very politely declined, and the goats' leader is too much of a stubborn jack-ass to come." The Antelope Queen huffed.
"Now now, Eryx. Such language is unneeded. Well if that is that, I suggest we send the ambassadors on their goodwill mission and get the negotiations started. Luna will be joining my new ambassador this year after Silver Stone's...incident."
The giraffe's leader leaned in. "Is it true she was publicly-?"
"What she was doing is her and those pedestrian's business alone. Now if you wouldn't mind..." The ambassadors all gathered into a group. They departed, leaving their leaders to their duty. Once the doors all closed, Celestia pulled a lime green dealer's cap and a deck of cards from under the table. "Ladies and gents, the name of the game is Equestria Hold-em. And since I had to take Tarturus for the year, I start as dealer."
The group traveled toward the town. Suddenly the antelope at the front turned his head back. "Well, I think we should start by introducing ourselves to the new Equestrian ambassadors. I am Steen, of Themora"
"Ambassadors? I know who you are, Steen. You visited the castle two months ago" Luna looked at him quizzically.
"Luna, I was speaking to your new ambassador AND the Buffalo ambassador. After all, they are new this year and the buffalo are from Equestria, correct?"
"Oh." Luna lowered her head in embarrassment.
The Buffalo spoke up. "I am Crossing Stream. And my people graciously thank the council for allowing us to join this most prestigious of-"
"Oh, it's no trouble at all, Crossing Stream." Steen cut the girl off, earning him a glare.
"Quite rude, Steen. Don't they teach you manners?" The deer straightened his back, looking at Spy and Crossing Stream. "I am Farrow, the prince of Servidae. Well, the younger prince. My older brother Ar handles most things, I assist."
"Ah, I have heard a lot about you Farrow. You were referred to quite a bit by-" Spy felt the force of Luna's hoof clasp over his muzzle.
"I wouldn't pay too much attention to him right now, he's still woozy from the trip" Luna sheepishly grinned. The deer prince turned his head, and Luna gave Spy a death glare that chilled his spine.
"Call me Andara, if you can. Hippotigia is my native land." The zebra bowed her head briefly. Spy marveled at the apparently innate ability of zebras to rhyme on the spot.
The camel turned her head only far enough to see Spy. "I am Biyona, of Dromasia. Shame Silver Stone got herself fired. Maybe you can get a new leader to make a matching set." She gave a haughty laugh and turned back.
Spy turned to Luna. "What's her problem?"
Luna grit her teeth. "There's been some bad blood between us, and that's all you need to know right now."
"And last but not least!" The giraffe announced and turned quickly, smacking loudly into a low hanging store sign. The group winced at the sight. The girl's eyes crossed and she swayed a little. She shook her head, bringing her back to normal. "I'm Tippe, from Lo-appu. Nice to meet you both!"
"Honestly Tippe," Farrow said. "You must learn to be more careful." The tips of his antlers glowed, encasing the sign in green magic and lifting it. Tippe ducked under it. "So, we've met you, Crossing Stream, but I'm afraid I didn't catch your name, Mr..." Farrow cast his glance at the well-dressed unicorn.
"My name is Spy"
Steen and Biyona stopped walking. The rest of the group crashed into them. Steen looked at Spy incredulously. "Spy? She hired someone named Spy?" He laughed. "I knew her hiring practices were easy, but really now!"
Spy glared, insulted. Andara stepped between them. "Remember, the yearly celebration is here, made for all from zebra to deer. This is no time for animosity, with all of these sights to see." Indeed, the celebration, which had not started when Spy first arrived, was in full swing. Instead of a few street performers, the road was practically littered with them. There were bright, vibrant colors in every direction.
"Andara is right. We'll meet back here in two hours." They all split in different directions. Luna followed Farrow toward a large stage set up. Spy kept in step with them.
A pudgy pony took center stage. "Hello and welcome! Tonight, Equestria's most powerful magician will take her place on the stage tonight to perform an astounding show! So without further delay, I present-" The Pony was cut off by a blue puff of smoke. From the smoke brilliant streaks of light burst in every direction. A mare rose in shadow from the display. Her eyes opened, revealing shining yellow eyes. The light caught her skin, shining like metal. A look Spy knew all too well. 'No... That's not possible...'
"THE GREAT! AND POWERFUL! TRIXIE!" The mare called out in a booming voice that resonated through the crowd. The metallic effect ended, and her light blue coat came into its normal view. Spy reeled at the thought. 'How did she...'
"Thank you, and goodnight!" The crowd erupted into cheers, and the curtain closed.
"Amazing show" Farrow said through a mouthful of popcorn.
"Indeed it was. Would you excuse me? I will meet you two at the designated spot. I have something I need to take care of."
Luna briefly gained a panicked look, but Spy was already heading toward the show-mare's dressing room. He knocked on the door.
"Trixie said she is not signing autographs at the beginning of the show!" The girl inside shouted.
"I'm not looking for your autograph!" Spy shouted.
"Well then why are you... wait... Trixie knows that voice..." The door slowly opened. "Spy!?" She ushered him in. "What are you doing here?
"I could ask you the same thing"
Spy told her of his new job, leaving anything that could be considered privy information out. Once he finished, Trixie began her story of traveling to the island in the middle of the ocean.
"...And after the tournament, I was left here without a ride. I've been performing here for about a month to try to earn a trip back home. Looks like I've found one."
"Well, I still need to ask Celestia. For now, I suggest you stay here. I will relay any information I receive," Spy said. Trixie nodded. "Now if you'll excuse me, Ms. Trixie, I have to go meet with some people.
He trotted toward the meeting spot. As it came into view, however, he heard a vicious argument. Once he could see clearly, Luna and Biyona were being held apart by Farrow and Steen. "That is it, Luna! It's war!"
"War? Ha! How do you suggest we do that!? You couldn't win a fight if your opponent was a rock!"
The camel looked around. "Snowball fight! Tomorrow!"
"Snowballs!? What are you, a foal?"
"Sounds like you're scared!"
"NEVER! So it is! We'll have teams!"
"Fine with me! Steen, Tippe, Crossing Stream! You're with me!" Biyona glared at the three
"Fine! Farrow! Spy! Andara! You're on my side!" The alicorn's stare was somehow just as fierce as the camel's.
"Tomorrow! At dawn! Winner is superior!"
"You're on! First to surrender loses!" The two girls left in opposite directions toward the cottages they were using for the night.
"Did we just get drafted?" Spy asked in wonder.
"Looks like it. Man, this should be interesting." Farrow watched the two leave. The group dispersed, Spy quickly running to catch up with Luna, though staying a bit behind her to avoid her wrath.
She stormed into the empty cabin. "Can you believe her?"
"I didn't see the fight start, so I don't know what's going on."
"Doesn't matter. Get your war face ready. And do NOT tell Celestia. I don't need her interfering."
"You are acting childish!"
"She started it!"
"Fine. I will humor you"
A few minutes later, the princess of the sun walked in, although her crown was suspiciously absent.
"Princess, what happened to your crown?"
"Huh? Oh... I must have... Forgot! Yes, I forgot it at the hall. Heh... Silly me. I'll pick it up tomorrow" He watched both princesses take their rooms. He pulled his covers up on the mattress on the floor serving as his bed.
'I can't help feeling something bad is going to happen tomorrow' He fell asleep, waiting for the next day's battle
Luna paced in front of the crew before her. She looked ready for action, with her hair pulled into a ponytail to keep it out of her eyes. "Okay, do we have the plan down?"
"Not too be rude, ruler of night, but all you said was throw with might" Andara tilted her head questioningly.
"Well yeah. That's how we'll win, by hitting them harder." The group silently stared at the expectant princess. "Well then you make a better plan!"
"I intend to." Spy took Luna's place "First we need to-" A snowball caught his jaw, coating his muzzle in snow. "What the-!? We haven't started yet!"
"Pre-emptive fire! All's fair in love and war!" Biyona appeared above the ridge to their right. The rest of her team followed suit, including a pair of ponies.
"You... You hired extra teammates!? That's cheating!" Spy was shouting, uncharacteristically angry.
"I say again: All's fair in love and war!" They disappeared behind the ridge again.
"Pre-emptive strikes, hiring mercenaries, guerilla tactics... This is personal now. Set up a shelter, I saw some sheet metal in that direction." Spy pointed. "I'll be back soon; I'm going to get some firepower." He bolted toward town.
He slid in front of his target door. After some frantic knocking, Trixie sleepily opened the door.
A few minutes later, the two charged into the sheet metal shelter. "How goes it?"
"They've hit a few times, but nothing huge. You brought the magician?" Farrow kept a lookout at a square hole functioning as a window.
"She's an old friend."
Farrow let out an exasperated sigh, studying the forest as close as he could. "Let's hope she can help."
"Now what?" Luna asked
"Well, they must have some kind of base to plan their attacks. If we can find it when it's unoccupied, we can set up a sneak attack."
"How do you suggest we find it?" Farrow asked. Spy grinned at the question. His horn shined briefly, then he disappeared from sight. "Like this."
They waited for the next strike. They got their wish about ten minutes later. Loud slams against the walls announced their enemies.
'How did I get myself into this?' The snow on the ground was slowly disappearing as volley after volley rocked their makeshift shelter. Trixie's magic was first, creating an illusion of the group hiding in the shelter.
Spy's horn shimmered, and he and his teammates disappeared from view. They stepped gingerly around the snow, not wanting to leave any trace of their deception. When the enemies retreated, they followed quietly. They found a mound of snow with a hole dug in it. Biyona, Crossing Stream, Tippe, and the two ponies left soon after they got back. Luna's team walked into the nearby forest. Spy lowered the illusion, panting. Luna created a circle around them, hiding them from sight and masking any sound.
"What now? Steen's still in there."
"I'm thinking." Spy put his hoof to his head, pondering the possibilities. But a yell from his right caught him off guard.
"Got you, you rat!" The white pony jumped on Spy, his hooves strangling the unicorn and the helmet on his head rattling back and forth. Trixie pulled the angry pony off him.
"Soldier!?" Spy coughed. "How did you get here!?"
"I swam! I've been following your stupid chariot since you left! I won't let you get away with it, you dirty thief! Put me down!" He swatted at Trixie, smacking her horn and briefly dispelling the effect. He jumped right back to strangling Spy, but Farrow quickly took Trixie's place, holding Soldier upside-down. With one hoof holding his helmet on and the other swatting futilely, he was helpless.
"You... swam?" Luna gawked. "From Equestria? That's not possible! No normal creature could cross that much distance in such a short time!"
"He's not normal." Spy rubbed his throat, then stood up. "What are you going on about?"
"My bagel! Scout said you stole it and then came here to escape punishment! But I won't let you get away with it!"
Spy placed his head in his hooves. "You crossed an entire ocean... FOR A BAGEL!? One that I don't even have!?"
"It was a good bagel. Now where is it!?"
"I don't have time for this! I didn't take your stupid pastry!"
"Well then who did!?"
"I don't know! Maybe Scout?"
Soldier pondered this for a second. "You may be right. But this isn't over"
Spy rolled his eyes. "At least we have an equal number to them now. Should we take them head on?"
"Yes." Soldier answered before the question was even finished. "All this sneaking is a mockery of battle! Head to head is the only way!"
"Anyone saner want to weigh in?" Spy looked for a voice of reason.
"Let's do it. No more sneaking around" Farrow released Soldier who fell to the ground.
"Agreed" Luna said. Andara nodded.
"Looks like we've got our chance." The enemies were coming over the ridge. Luna dropped the spell, and they ran towards them. Andara charged into the igloo. A few seconds later Steen ran out at a full clip with the zebra on his tail. Crossing Stream watched the cowardly antelope run around, then with one well delivered kick knocked him out. "THAT'S FOR CUTTING ME OFF!" The buffalo shouted at her unconscious partner. She smiled sweetly at Andara. "That felt good. Truce?"
"Truce, my friend, and I must say, seeing Steen get knocked out has made my day."
A minor battle had broken out between Trixie, Farrow, and Tippe. The giraffe stopped for a second, looking at the two. "Why are we still fighting?" They shrugged, and like that their fight ended with a truce, not wanting to escalate any more.
Biyona's two pony mercenaries were readying a volley of snowballs. Soldier ran up to the two ponies, grabbing them both in a headlock. He twirled around, tossing them both towards a large tree. They struck the massive trunk, and the tree vibrated, depositing a blanket of snow on the two. One was unconscious, while the other watched Soldier stride toward him. "What are you?"
"I'm a soldier!" With that the helmeted pony briefly saluted, then punched him across the jaw, knocking him out. Spy patted him on the back, then they turned to watch the final two combatants
Luna and Biyona were locked hoof to hoof, neither budging. "Give up, Biyona! Your entire team is either out cold or not fighting!"
"Oh for goodness sake!" Spy had finally had enough. His magic shook a nearby tree, sending a blanket of snow down on Biyona. The camel poked her head out. "Now will you please END THIS!?" The unicorn shouted.
"...Fine. I surrender." All the conscious parties cheered.
Just before sunset, the ambassadors gathered outside the doors one last time, although Biyona and Steen were noticeably absent. It was only an hour after the fight, but everyone had recovered from the war.
"Well that was different. Looks like everything is in order. I hope to see you all again next year!" Crossing Stream left with the larger buffalo leader.
"Goodbye all, and know this well, I will visit with stories to tell!" Andara and the Hippotigia leader left.
The normally loudmouthed leader of the Camels left the building silently. Biyona quietly followed, glaring at Luna briefly.
"Honestly Steen, you deserved a good kick to the head"
"Yes, my queen," Steen followed the Antelope queen out, an icepack attached to his temple.
"Bye guys!" Tippe excitedly waved, narrowly missing crashing into a sign again. Her leader was not so lucky, and a hanging sign caught him off guard.
"Well, Luna, I'll see you on our next visit." Farrow walked behind his king. After a few seconds, though, he bolted back, giving Luna a peck on the cheek, then ran back to his waiting leader. Luna froze up, legs stiffening, her dark blue face turning a luminescent red. Celestia was the final one to leave, sporting both her crown and an assortment of shining chains and bracelets, including a shiny gold watch.
"Is everyone ready?"
"Princess, where'd you get that jewelry?"
"I'm very good at negotiating. Also, we don't have to take care of Tarturus for the year! Isn't that great, Luna?"
"Mm-hmm." Luna said through a goofy grin.
They all trotted back to the carriage. They loaded everything up, including Trixie's cart and valuables, then took off. "So, Luna, how were you and everyone else's last two days?"
"Dreamy." Luna smiled.
"Exhausting." Spy flopped down.
"Entertaining." Trixie elbowed the large bag of coins she was laying on.
"Wet." Soldier simply said.