Stormstride

Royal Reasoning Regular Meeting (closed - invite only)

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Celestia had sent the notifications out a week in advance to allow ample time for all parties to make arrangements to be free for that day. She notified the public that official court was cancelled for that day, as well as posted extra guards to allow for the princesses to be more able to concentrate on matters at hoof rather than ponies walking up to them with business that was not so pressing. It was not that Celestia did not love her ponies, in fact she adored each and every one of them. But there were times where she needed a day to settle more private matters with her fellow princesses. Matters of state, planning of events and specific meetings, gathering and analyzing information, assessing threats more deeply, the list went on. 

 

Celestia had the private study furnished for such gatherings. Today had a semi-full list of affairs, as each princess would bring a short list of their own. Celestia looked down her own list, bandit groups at the boarders, redecorating the palace, and the planning of the annual gala event. As she walked to the study, she had her head on these matters, but also tried to sort out how to broach them with her fellow princesses. Her sister was often more direct, and apt to have a simpler solution to matters. That was perfect in some situations, however others required a more finessed approach. Other still needed a more critical mind than either of them, of which Twilight possessed. 

 

Celestia was never not surprised by how detailed Twilight could get with the slightest thing. Though it often made her giggle when she saw her former pupil stressing over something that she thought was an important matter. For Celestia and Luna, these things had become trifles. Though their lengthy tenure of leadership had taught them many hard lessons on what was most important to a princess. 

 

Entering the study, Celestia sat herself at the table and waited for the others to arrive. Tea was already prepared and waiting, as was a small selection of fruits and sandwiches. Celestia preferred the simpler foods, as well as the sweet treats she allowed herself from time to time. And she hoped her selection of food was desirable for her friends. She knew some of what Luna liked, however Twilight had been away long enough that her tastes may have changed. As the solar princess set her papers down and began sorting out some parchment and ink, she paused and then sent a note to the kitchens to have extra treats prepared, just in case this ran longer than normal.

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Twilight was always excited when she got to meet with one of her fellow Princesses to discuss matters of state. There was something invigorating about the process of problem-solving on the macro-scale, especially when the preponderance of solutions stemmed from microscopic ideas, Of course, this was not always the case and sometimes big action, broad action, the type anypony and everypony could see, was called for. Even more invigorating than solving the initial problem was solving the problems that would crop up from the initial broad solution. For every action there was an equal and opposite reaction, or so the saying goes, but in matters of state, the reaction was often times tremendously unequal in the pressure it created. It was a never-ending, unstoppable puzzle whose only reward was the continuation of the puzzle. It was perfect!

So she was very excited to receive news that Celestia had called for a meeting of the Princesses. No doubt there was some good cause behind it, but Twilight could only guess. The lack of any serious urgency told her that many of the problems were going to be gnawing pains rather than severe punctures but that didn't make them any less significant. She cleared her schedule...well, that was incorrect. She instead packed everything she had planned for the time of the meeting and the travel to and from in the few days before it all took place. A few parties, meetings to finish the creation of the Twilight Guard, a quick sojourn with Daedalus into the Aetherial Plane to retrieve the Lockets of Al'tuban Raa, all to name a few. Not to mention attending Zap Apple's second birthday celebration and the resulting mass outbreak of drunk mares that an Apple-thrown party could turn into should somepony bring out a particular vintage of cider.


She arrived in Canterlot and made her way to the Castle with good pace. She had studied Canterlot's pedestrian traffic over the years while taking a bath and had decided to avoid as much as possible. She landed and moved quickly, with only a single Twilight Guard with her. She arrived to the palace almost entirely without being spotted, dismissed her guard, and entered. On her she carried two large saddlebags overladen with papers and documents with another set of basic care requirements in case the meeting went long. She wasn't planning on spending the night but she was prepared to, and besides, if they all had plenty of subjects to bring up and problems to solve she didn't know if she could even get sleep in she'd be so excited that sleep would be...unlikely.

Twilight entered the study not long after Celestia had sat down. Twilight had to resist the native urge to bow to Celestia, and instead decided to settle for a decidedly unroyal “Hello! It's been so long, Princess Celestia. You look great as usual!” She said, walking over to her Ruler-turned-Mentor-turned-Colleague-turned-Friend and giving her a hug, before hovering away nd taking a seat. “I brought some very exciting stuff to talk about. Very exciting!”

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The younger diarch chose to take her time getting to the location her sister picked for this meeting. If it were a casual gathering, Luna might've been there sooner, enticed by the prospect of getting to spend some more casual time with Celestia, something she rarely ever got to do these days. Their schedules made it difficult for them to get any sisterly time together- anytime they were both present was if there was something pressing. A disaster, a grand event, or some villainous being yet again putting Equestria in peril for their own gain.

 

Alas, it wasn't a casual gathering in the least. It was a private meeting of the crown, something that would most likely involve lengthy discussions about varying matters of importance that they'd need to tend to. At worst, it might be somewhat drab. At the least, it wasn't court. Her own experiences with Celestia's daily duties had been something of a nightmare for somepony as asocial as she was, somepony who was far more used to solitude and simply doing her own thing at her own pace, if anything was required of her at all. The list she was required to bring to the table of what needed attention was an unfortunately short one, one she chose to discard in the small wastepaper basket on the way out of her study.

 

Princess Luna's stroll through the castle to Celestia's study saw her arriving shortly after a certain enthusiastic purple alicorn princess. She'd never gotten to know Twilight particularly well and only picked up on what was most apparent about the new alicorn's personality. She was bright, enthusiastic, inquisitive.. and often prone to nervous 'freak outs'. Twilight had also done quite a bit for Equestria and carved a path to spreading friendship. It was a nice notion.

 

The moonbringer stepped through the room with her usual silent grace, finding her place at the table next to her sister's. "Evening," she greeted, making herself known. Celestia might've noticed that she'd come in, but she wasn't sure how observant Twilight might be while she was focused on Celestia.

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Celestia smiled and gave a soft chuckle to Twilight. "One can only hope so Twilight. These affairs often leave myself and my dear sister bored to tears. Personally, I wish we could just take the day off and spend time lounging in the spa or in a flower field. It has been so so long since I was your age. Do not let the weight of your crown keep you from what matters most my Dear Twilight." She reached a gentle wing over, patting Twilight on the back softly with a kind smile. Though now that smile was weathered, showing some cracks. She kept perfect face in front of crowds. However away from the limelight, she let some of the facade fade. 

 

But that smile immediately brightened up to the point it would make the sun itself jealous. Luna was here. Celestia loved her little sister, and would never let anything happen like that again. Once Luna was seated, the mare took a deep breath and set out her parchment. A bottle of ink and a few quills as well. "I will transcribe the copy for the Canterlot archives. Twilight, it seems you brought plenty of supplies to make copies for your palace records as well. Good. Hopefully this will go by swiftly and we can enjoy a day of tea and cakes." 

 

Setting her list down, she looked to Luna. Her sister had brought no list, which hopefully meant she had no major issues to address. That and it made the meeting shorter. Celestia loathed having to deny her sibling and her friends the chance to just relax for the day. However, duties must and needs be there were a thousand and one things to do. Looking to Twilight, she smiled and gave a nod. "Perhaps our younger princess would like to begin first? We can lend our experience to the issues you see most in need of attention, and hopefully reach a swift and helpful solution." 

 

Celestia was honestly feeling better now that her sister and friend were here with her. For a thousand years she did this alone and it ate her up inside. Mostly because it was her own fault. Now that she had others to speak to, that could understand the difficulties involved in the position and point out things she might have missed she felt more at ease as a princess. 

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Twilight didn't know if Luna understood how inspirational a pony she was, if not traditionally, then at least with great power. It wasn't easy to have dealt with your own demons in such a stark and literal fashion as she did, doubly so when it was not just public but part of the fluttering fabric of Equestrian history. She could easily have allowed herself to sink back into the background noise of her sister's radiance and love, but she didn't give herself the excuses so readily applied by others. She worked hard. She worked very hard for the ponies of Equestria. She worked very hard for the ponies of Equestria in ways they didn't know, and didn't begrudge herself for the lack of intense glory that came with it. Regal, hard-working, coming back from a place of darkness? Very inspirational. “Good evening to you as well, Luna. Haven't seen you for a while! How have you been?”

“Oh, I'm not worried about the work this involves. I actually relish it. One giant puzzle with an infinite number of pieces that are constantly moving. The ultimate problem without a permanent solution, but along the way we make the lives of millions better,” she gushed, blushing afterwards. She was just too excited to really contain herself, but she had to remind herself that while enthusiasm could be a tool well used to solve problems it had to be applied, oddly enough, conservatively for it to be effective. Speaking of, it appeared that they would have her open the meeting's working portion. What an honour! She had believed Cadance would show up, but she was likely busy. Being a mother could do wonders for your timetable.

Twilight got up, her horn lighting up. Her saddlebag opened and documents started shuffling their way to the other two Princesses, whose experiences would be most useful in discussing the very important matters. A chalkboard zapped into being and Twilight approached it, a piece of chalk levitating nearby. She cleared her throat.
“To start off, I have taken note of seven cities, twenty-four towns, sixty-two villages, and more than two-hundred and nine settlements that are running some sort of budget deficit, as reflected in several tables in your position. More run a net budget surplus; cities supporting one another and likewise down the line is common. By the nation's classification and mutual support system, this is how things work. However, there are multiple problems with it, which I have laid out in pages sixteen through forty-three. To summarize, the bit exchange rate with the Yakyakistan Rug-Penny means that Stalliongrad trading houses take in lower than reported income...” Twilight began, and soon was off to the races as she described the vast and deep web of Equestrian economics.

It was really interesting, completely and totally and not at all boring. Not. At. All.

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The moon princess didn't miss how her sister's expression brightened when she'd entered the room, and just like with the sun she could feel some of that warmth radiating off of Celestia. It was encouraging, enough so that Luna felt she might be able to get through this meeting of theirs. She offered Twilight a smile after the purple mare's greeting and dipped her head to the younger alicorn. "It has been quite a while. I've been doing well enough." Luna gave her a simple enough answer, avoiding the possibility of having to give any details about, well, anything that was going on with her. It wasn't anything terribly concerning- mostly mere annoyances and a few issues that she felt she could discuss later. Mostly with Celestia.

 

Any chance she had to ask Twilight about herself was lost as the princesses settled and Celestia opened the meeting, starting with Twilight. The youngest princess in the room would no doubt have quite a lot to go over, knowing how much information she tended to gather and store. Luna looked up with some surprise when the purple mare summoned a chalkboard and she was left wondering once more where Twilight stored such things to summon them so quickly for these occasions. Lifting a brow, the diarch placed her silver-shod hooves onto the table to pull the folders Twilight presented them both with, and Luna started looking through them.

 

There was a wealth of information here, and neither it or what lecture Twilight soon launched into made as much sense to her. Princess Luna was still learning the ropes of being a leader in this day and age, but the complexities of economics was something she still hadn't quite wrapped her more old-fashioned mind around. Did some cities not get enough funding, and some were getting too much? It sounded like it, and that some families weren't earning enough..

 

Luna supposed it was all rather interesting to learn about how the economy was in different parts of Equestria, but there was so much detail to sort through much less pinpointing all of the problems as well as figuring out how to fix them without impacting others. The dark alicorn glanced up towards Celestia, who she felt had more experience in matters like these.

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Celeatia's quill danced on its own. Writing notations as she leviated the folder of paperwork to look at. All the while she fixed Luna a cup of tea to sip, as well as one for Twilight. She was patiently listening, knowing full well Twilight had a clear head on her shoulders .   The young mare was plenty aware of finer details.

 

After a full thirty minutes, Celestia held up a hoof, "Twilight. Please wait a moment. Let us have a moment to understand what you have presented." Looking to her sister, Tia took a short breath. 

 

"As I see it, we have missed important trade and investment notifications. Perhaps we should schedule a meeting with Stalliongrad leaders as well as other major trade cities to see if we can instill new policies that may yet help change things over time. I fear too fast a change may destabilize trade and economical hoofholds. What do you think sister?"

 

Celestia wanted to hear Luna's suggestions. She valued her sister's thoughts more than ever. And even though Luna was still learning, she often had helpful insights. 

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Twilight loved economic discussions. There were simply so many facets to it, a self-perpetuating loop that was equal parts self-sufficient and entirely reliant on a multitude of other factors. She hoped others thought the same. That way ponies could really sink their teeth into it and get to helpful solutions into the field. But maybe she was just a nerd who liked numbers and problems and how they worked a beautiful ballet together. In fact, when she was stopped, she was in the middle of linking Saddle Arabian trade disputes deep into their interior with the falling values of some fibres in Manehattan, and the ensuing disruption in the clothing industry. A fascinating subject that even Rarity could enjoy, no doubt, but probably wise to stop the train there. She was getting into tangent territory.

She turned back to the fellow Princesses, shaking her head sheepishly but with a wide smile. “Sorry, sorry. I might have gotten carried away there. Yes, some trade imbalances and budgetary concerns in the interior, major concerns. I think there are multiple solutions, and indeed it requires several, with the easiest starting point being a complete overhaul of the settlement classification system,” Twilight said as she sat down, allowing Luna to invest herself in a good answer while bringing up the classification system. Invented several hundred years prior, the system made some sense. The size of a settlement would dictate what degree of funding the state would assign it. In a nation like Equestria where communication could be slow- not everypony had a dragon assistant or was a Wonderbolt, after all- it made sense.

The issue was that as Equestria had grown, the system had not. Settlements, villages, towns, and cities alike all experienced a wider variance of population than ever before. Population centers on the verge of being classified above what they were before found themselves struggling while the opposite presented itself. Now, Equestrian cities and such tended to support one another, and it was never hard to find stories of a budget shortfall in one city being corrected by the help of another, while local budget measures were often successful enough to ensure that most places didn't have a critical issue.

The true negative was how trade came about. Much less capital could be spent on trade, while towns that relied on trade were at the mercy of poor trade deals. This allowed events and movements outside of Equestria to have great influence on many Equestrian cities. This then had a trickle-down effect. The result was that most of Equestria's cities and towns were operating just fine, but very few were ever thriving. And all it would take for it to become a significant problem would be for a major disaster or event to happen to a major trading partner of a city that was supporting others.

By coming up with a better classification system, one that was more exact and had more layers, budgets could be adjusted and extra capital available in most places. Without the need to keep some on hoof to help others, cities and the ponies who lived in them would be free to pursue healthier trade. This would then allow Equestria to be less vulnerable to events outside of her borders economically and cause less consternation.

“So, yes. That is the basics of it. I can't wait to hear what you've got to say, Princess Luna!”

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Princess Luna had looked to her sister to gauge her feelings on the matter of the economy, and she wordlessly accepted the tea Celestia made while she multi-tasked. The teacup was set down next to the folders she'd been given and gave a subtle start after her sister halted Twilight's tangent and asked her what could be done. A slight twitch of an ear, an adjustment of her wings. She rested her hooves on the edge of the table, glancing between the two alicorns and tried to gather her thoughts; she was sure she'd guessed correctly about the problems Twilight had underlined about Equestria's economy.

 

"I feel a visit will be a good idea so that we might assist the towns and cities that are currently struggling, and that perhaps.. we ought to change a few things. We could assess the funding that each town or city is getting and adjust it so that those that aren't getting enough may get what they need for their population." It was all that she could think of to do, if only because it looked like the most obvious solution to her. Of course, she didn't have as deep a knowledge as the young purple alicorn did, and Luna had to admire her for being as knowledgeable as she was- the moonbringer could only wish she had the same capacity for information. In time, perhaps she could, but it was an unknown.

 

Clearing her throat, she surrounded her cup of tea with her magic. "What other solutions might there be, Twilight? I am certain we may be able to find something that is a more permanent solution, among others that may prevent such a problem from happening again." Luna looked between then and lifted her cup to her lips, sipping at the tea in the silence. She wasn't sure if anything she'd suggested would be useful, other than what she knew Twilight had to say. If her own suggestions didn't sound like they'd work, what ideas Twilight had certainly might.

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Celestia listened and took her notes, as she was watching both her fellow princesses. As she was thinking on a solution herself, she could not actually think of anything solid herself, aside from going to actually visit these cities and see for herself. After a moment she had a thought that might help supply them more information and help them all make a better judgement. "Perhaps, if it is possible, we could have a census taken. Having a knowledge of the number and type of citizens in each town and city, we can understand more about their needs." 

 

She was not exactly grasping at straws, but there were facts missing. Even in Twilight's folders of information, there was no possible way to account for everything without performing a detailed survey of each city on site. There was need for something to be done about this, but hasty decisions were not good ones. As Celestia made her point, she realized that Twilight might have already made a few options. That was good, but she had learned temperance in approaching large issues like this. Time was not the key every time. It was good to be enthusiastic, but it was also good to know how deep to jump into a problem at the start. Getting too deep with out an understanding of the problem had gotten her into serious trouble in the past. 

 

"Luna, would it be possible to conduct such a census in the night as well as the day? this way we could compile the information faster and with Twilight's help possibly find a better solution than we can find under normal means?" she asked. The thought came to her but she wanted to ask her sister first. It was likely just a fanciful idea. However, Luna was smarter than her older sister, and Celestia knew it. She just needed a little nudge to show it. 

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