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Bellosh

The Garden of Betrayal (Bellosh101 & Ciraxis)

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Morianna Razorclaw sat alone in the marble gazebo, enjoying an exquisite cup of tea. Nothing disturbed her other than the bees buzzing by to pollinate the magnificent array of flowers within the garden. Rockwington wasn’t like most Aquellian cities in that it was explicitly constructed with ponies in mind. Griffons here gave much more care to the ground, beautifying it with trees, parks, lawns, and other things. The Professor lacked a decisive opinion on spending effort on ground-level landscaping, other than her observation that ponies felt more at ease in natural settings than high in a skyscraper.

That basic assumption was why Morianna could be found outdoors sipping on tea, within the confines of the Silverbeak family’s secluded estate. Nothing could be allowed to disturb her, save for the scheduled arrival of a rather despised unicorn. Swift Squall would not know this of course; he was being lead to believe that an unknown informant in Rockwington possessed information regarding a dark force, posed to strike at Equestria from within. Based on rumors and hearsay amongst the upper echelons of international high society, or so the anonymous letters to Mr. Squall claimed, the elderly griffoness believed that only the stallion had the know-how to stop it.

All in all, it was an ingenious way to dispose of a pest who shut down three of her secret criminal fronts in the same amount of months. Swift Squall was swiftly transforming into a real menace, but rather than make him disappear into the Pit like with so many past enemies, the stallion possessed certain qualities that Morianna Razorclaw hoped to use. Assuming her scheme works as predicted, the Professor would find herself with one brand-new spy suitable for insertion into Equestria’s experimental Task Force Suntrot.

So the Professor finished her cup of tea, waiting for one of the Silverbeak’s servants to lead Mr. Squall to the garden of intrigue.....

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The problem with anonymous information sources was that they were...well, anonymous. Following on them was a gamble and while most ponies and no ponies would try their luck or not, depending on the mood, Swift Squall of Fillydelphia, Heir of the Noble House of Squallcoast....and occasionally an adventurer had no such luxury.

For Squall was on never ending quest of justice. Swift didn't believed that world was a cruel place like some did. He saw too many beautiful sights and meet to many wonderful characters to hold such view. But stallion also knew that it wasn't perfect, there will always be some wrongs to correct, and some evil to smite. Like cold wasn't a cold without and hotness, so did good and righteousness weren't themselves without evil and injustice. After all, you only knew how dear is what you posses, if you realize to what you can lose it too.

Swift knew what he could loose right now. Recently he rattled the chain of several mob bosses, it wouldn't be surprising if they would want him kaput as soon as possible, it would make sense. So was the wish to meet him face to face - to lure him into a trap obviously. The meeting place being the estate of Silverbeaks in Rockwington - a known and respected Aquelian aristocrats, one of the country ruling families? Not so much.

He arrived armed of course, Squall himself was a nobility and of an extremely ancient (or so his mother claimed) linage as well. One of the privileges of being born in the upper class - which unicorn absolutely despised. He himself learned long ago - that to right judge somepony, you have to see not how he or she treats those that are equal to him/her, but those who were below him/her. He himself spent to much time doing hard, down to earth work to ever develop such attitude, and that made him distant to other that were of the same status. Their whims was as waving as was the flapping of his expensive white trench coat. The clothing covered the noblepony almost completely. It was the garments of highest quality - something that stallion took n consideration only when it came to functionality - but at the same time they hinted the adventuring streak of the owner. They didn't restricted his movement first, second they had pockets for many items for all occasions and third at his side, hidden in the scabbard was attached and exotic blade. A katana, sword from far, far east unfamiliar by many was easy to pass as the ceremonial weapon. Of course it wasn't - but then again it didn't mattered - Swift took it with himself more in hopes of some psychological advantage, not from expectation of actual usage.

Not that he wouldn't be able to take care for himself without it, the latest letter mentioned that the meeting would be de silla a silla. Swordpony doubted this, but at the same time, judged that it would be unlikely for some assassin to jump from behind the column or flower bush. No, if some attack would come it will have a different shape and form...

The first one came - indeed - from unexpected direction. After being led to the gazebo by one of the Silverbeaks valets he expected...well....a Sliverbeak.

Instead he found somepo....somegriffon else.

"Razorclaw..." was the first word that flowed from his lips when he recognized who it was. Indeed Morianna was something that Squall wasn't prepared for. He expected an noble and instead unicorn got something worse.

A politician.

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Swift Squall’s surprise at seeing the identity of his host gave Morianna Razorclaw a small measure of pleasure. To the stallion’s credit, Morianna couldn’t get a clear read of the emotions conveyed by his body language. The Professor couldn’t imagine Mr. Squall however caring much for politically-inclined individuals like herself. Assuming the psychological profile on the former mercenary was accurate, he would not respect the authority of those not deemed ethical by his sense of morality... and it was rare to find any griffon in Aquellia who considered elected officials or bureaucrats to possess moral integrity. Fortunately in Morianna’s position, a bird of prey need not concern one’s self with the opinions of insignificant mice.

Adding to Prof. Razorclaw’s curiosity, Swift Squall’s choice of garments cast him as a sharp-looking pony of nobility. Here was a reminder of the contradictions inherent in the unicorn’s nature, at least as presented by Morianna’s small army of analysts. Squall abandoned his parents and everything they represented, only to years return to Fillydelphia to purchase an old mansion that used to belong to his family. Since it wouldn’t have done to leave their boss without an answer, the Professor’s profilers guessed that Squall’s unresolved family issues were in fact more resolved than initially expected, although such a guess came with a disclaimer that they didn’t have much to work with for this part of the stallion’s background.

But all that was just one small unimportant cog in the big picture, so Morianna refused to dwell on the contradiction. Swift Squall must be good at memorizing important faces, for he recognized the Razorclaw griffoness by sight. “Your insight serves you well Mr. Squall,” Morianna greeted, her voice cordial and her body slouched as she sat; “Thank you for accepting my invitation, even though for reasons I will explain shortly, I had to send my summons anonymously.” The Professor tapped an empty tea cup lying next to her own; “Come now; help yourself to some tea. You must be thirsty after your long walk to the Silverbeak estate.”

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"Actually, I am not. That kind of distance is nothing." Squall replied in reserved tone. "Also, I prefer to stand thank you..." unicorn frowned as he tried to recall some facts. Morianna Razorclaw - for without the doubt it was her, sitting before his eyes - had a title. A aristocratic one? No, Aquelia was monarchy centuries ago. It had to be scientific one. Second later, Swift finally remembered "...Professor." he added to the older griffoness.

"Especially since I am both younger, and that poor sap in the bushes has to lay on ground as he notes my every word. Sitting would've be rude." unicorn gave quick glance to the side before returning his attention to Morianna.

"Let's spare ourselves this charade, as both of us would prefer to be somewhere else." swordstallion said bluntly "What's Professor of Political Arts wants from me? I am but a simple swordpony who just corrects some injustices here and there. Like the one in Las Pegasus that I should be intercepting right now." stallion stated.

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"Actually, I am not. That kind of distance is nothing. Also, I prefer to stand thank you... Professor. Especially since I am both younger, and that poor sap in the bushes has to lay on ground as he notes my every word s sitting would've be rude."

The Professor looked flustered when Swift Squall mentioned someone lying in the bushes. In reality, Morianna Razorclaw had no reason for alarm; indeed, she requested that no one in her employ either eavesdrop on the meeting or watch from afar. The griffoness desired to give the impression of her being nothing more than an academically-minded dignitary in service to Aquellia. If the stallion really had found a spy listening in, that could have jeopardized that image.

Prof. Razorclaw played her innocence act further. “Excuse me,” she quietly summoned the servant who brought Squall in; “Could you... check the bushes there to make sure nothing’s there?” The griffon servant did as he was requested, tearing through the nearby shrubbery that the stallion gazed at moments ago, only to end up empty-clawed. Morianna gave a sigh of relief, in imitation of a natural reaction of receiving a false alarm.

"Let's spare ourselves this charade, as both of us would prefer to be somewhere else. What's Professor of Political Arts wants from me? I but a simple swordpony who just corrects some injustices here. Like the one in Las Pegasus that I should be intercepting right now."

The boy could have potentially used better manners in the presence of an elder, but the old lady refused to let herself get worked up over such petty matters. “If the Las Pegasus matter really was important,” she casually retorted; “You’d have chosen to go there instead of here. And that’s one of the brutal truths of the world; that one being alone can’t undo every injustice... although there are many who erroneously hope otherwise.” Morianna tipped her head upwards, indicating the Sun shining down above Rockwington; an indirect reference to the one that makes the Sun rise each day.

“The fact of the matter is that if all was right in the world, those ponies who are sworn to... deal with the problems you’ve been personally fixing these last couple of years, would actually perform their duties. But I digress. Word has reached my ears of a particularly grave situation, that I have been led to believe that only you can stop it..... before it is too late.”

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It was funny. Funny and unsettling at the same time, how much Razorclaw wanted to maintain the innocent image. Squall could swore that there was some kind of observer. He didn't saw anything, but that was natural - while the griffons were blessed with phenomenal sight, ponies in turn had excellent hearing. Or maybe it was his paranoia acting up?

Regardless, it turned out that Morianna was a very good actress. Seeing how much she wanted him to believe that she had crystal clear intentions, Squall deducted there was or will be a catch in something that she had in mind. Something that involved him, why would she call Swift otherwise?

On 21.06.2014 at 11:15 AM, Bellosh101 said:

The boy could have potentially used better manners in the presence of an elder, but the old lady refused to let herself get worked up over such petty matters. “If the Las Pegasus matter really was important,” she casually retorted; “You’d have chosen to go there instead of here. And that’s one of the brutal truths of the world; that one being alone can’t undo every injustice... although there are many who erroneously hope otherwise.” Morianna tipped her head upwards, indicating the Sun shining down above Rockwington; an indirect reference to the one that makes the Sun rise each day.

For the first time since he arrived, Squall smiled.

"That's true. One can only be in single place at the time. But ths is not a reason to stop trying. And besides, while I would deal with those crooks myself any other time, I tipped off friends in REA about them instead. They should be arrested as we speak." he said with tone that - for his reserved personality - could be described as jolly.

"And this is something that I...and I believe She learned long ago. You are never alone" he said and recalled his time when he learned his part....

Only to be pulled into large....explanation mixed with anti-Army rant. Out of the good manners he didn't called Razorclaw how much rubbish it was, so his only reaction was risen eyebrow, indicating griffones to go on.

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Based on both his mention of having associates in the REA, along with no obvious indication of any lasting sentiment against it, Morianna Razorclaw concluded that her profilers might have misjudged Swift Squall’s feelings about that military body. It mattered not; if he in fact bore no will towards the REA, it might very well make the Professor’s eventual request all that much more likely to be granted.

“Very well,” the griffoness sipped on her tea; “As you very well know, I am more than just a professor. I have a proud, storied family that I must look after, and I have additional duties as a diplomat of this Republic. I have many contacts throughout the world, and one of them lately has become rather... jittery.” A shadow of manufactured fear entered Morianna’s eyes; “I’m not at liberty to divulge the identity of this contact, but they are absolutely convinced...,” a deep breath; “That a military coup to take over Equestria is imminent.

Furthermore, my source seems to be under the impression, for whatever reason, that you’re the only pony with the ability to stop the coup dead in its tracks. They fear for their safety,” the griffon sighed; “So I’ve been asked to inform you in their stead.” There was essentially a 99.9% chance this lad would refuse to accept this outlandish story at face value, but the devious Prof. Razorclaw held several cards up her sleeve.

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Squall rose his eyebrow. A...coup? This was so ridiculous that almost hilarious. But then Swift realized something. Razorclaw face was deadly serious....or she was just good actor. Unicorn rested his chin on one of his hooves and closed his eye while weighting his options. So far Mrs. Professor was very careful with not spitting any specific details, instead dancing around issue as much as she could. Still to little information...

Noblepony decided to listen in, but also making completely clear that he wasn't buying hat she said fully. At least for now.

"Really? A coup?" he said in deadpan tone "Let's assume that is indeed the case. Skipping the whole, financing, timing and who and why. As well who those 'informants' are, if they real that is. What wonders me instead..." Swift tilted his head to the side, slightly.

"What YOU can gain from preventing it Professor? And please don't tell me that Equestria stability is vital for Aquelia or that you doing it from the kindness of your heart, because I am not buying either. I heard about you Professor...." he mused

"...About lectures you give at Aquelain universities, advices for the ruling council. You the biggest supporter of isolationism since the late King Ravenspire and Harmony help me if you griffins didn't ditched monarchy ages ago." Squall showed that he was more familiar with Morianna then her looks and name.

"Let's say there is the coup. It will not go smoothly - that's guaranteed. Equestria currently has four Princesses. Two of which rule from autonomous city-states. One of them along with her closed circle of friends is wielder of mysterious powers that helped them defeat reality warper's. Any upstaging of Sister's rule would meet with hard opposition. There would be power struggle, and whoever would triumph in the end, Equestria can only emerge weakened from such infighting....and as such elevate Aquelia importance on world's stage" he continued. Despite claiming to be a simple warrior, Swift had much more insight that that...even if he took worst-case scenario as default.

"And you say that those informants aren't willing to inform me directly. If this knowledge is so dangerous then...why did you put yourself at risk in their stead then? Where is the catch? Or maybe there is some more information that you still didn't told me? stallion resolved to pry for some additional explanations from older griffones.

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Prof. Razorclaw let off a frown, the boy apparently confusing unilateralism with isolationism. If Aquellians wanted their proud nation to be isolationist, there would be no need to maintain a massive Air Navy and Marine Corps. On the contrary, from the Professor’s perspective, this vast military couldn’t bring about Pax Aquellia if it refused to leave its mark on the world.

At any rate, Swift Squall needed to be schooled further on why a destabilized Equestria at this time spelled bad news for Aquellia (at least for the time being). “Tsk tsk tsk...” the haughty Morianna shook her head; “Perhaps you’ve forgotten that this entire world has no choice but to rely on those princesses to manage the day-night cycle. If any disruptions occur, well... you already know what’ll happen. And even if that worst-case scenario does not come to pass, Aquellia will be burdened with a neighbor in chaos, and considering the... special forces flowing through that kingdom, any successful coup can result in catastrophic consequences that will undoubtedly spill over our borders. No, my dear Mr. Squall, Pax Aquellia becomes less of a reality by violently overthrowing Princess Celestia and her royal cadre, as much as I loathe their leadership decisions.”

Finally, the stallion got around to asking sensible questions, and Prof. Razorclaw’s answers no longer sounded so condescending, but now rather grim and foreboding. “Because my source believed that meeting with a known vigilante would raise undue suspicion on themselves. This individual happens to meet me on a semi-regular basis, and so they initially confided with me instead.” Morianna paused for a breath; “With that addressed, I do have in fact more information; a letter purportedly from the coup’s mastermind, that my source managed to acquire. I assume you want to... read it?

OOC: Sorry for the very long wait, it took me some time to figure out what direction to take.

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Swift Squall's eyes narrowed when Razroclaw gave an explanation why Equestria remaining stable was vital for Aquelia interests. Still he felt that he needed to point an obvious hole in her reasoning.

"There were days and nights before Sisters were born Professor. Where is a will, there is a way."

It didn't escaped him either that Morianna used the word 'loathe'. For a griffon so good at controlling her emotions it sounded like a very strong word. A crack of the whip among the cicadas. Was she having a grudge? Swift Squall decided to be mindful of this 'loathing'.

But then Professor gave him answer for his other question. Not to be startled he pressed on.

"What kind of suspicion? That he finances my...endeavors? Or...well, it doesn't matter."

Stallion didn't really expected the answer. No, what he wanted to do was to annoy the Morianna with his stubbornness, to make a crack that would make her say something that she would otherwise avoid when collected.

However the next information she gave him made him careful? A letter? A direct evidence one-upped the stakes. Still...

"The letters can be forged, especially if magic is involved." he told, in effort of giving a shade of doubt over this revelation.

A long meaningful pause followed after which Swift Squall said...

"Regardless, would it be an issue if you shown me this latter, Professor?"

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