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Twas the night before Warmths Hearting... wait... (Griffonstone, Open)

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Shortly after Ridge had arrived in Griffonstone, it had been everything that he could have asked for. Dirt poor with no real local government to speak of or law enforcement to contend with. His hunch about the gems and riches buried in the earth that had been mined back when Griffonstone had been an actual power having been abandoned as its major trading partner had disappeared and the kingdom was crumbling rather then just running dry had proved to be correct and thus he was free to set up Prosperity Mining in order to harvest it. Even having an Equestrian military base being set up nearby had proven to be an opportunity rather then a hassle, because not only did it mean that he didn't have to invest as heavily as he might have needed to in order to secure the city and more importantly his mining operations, but some early arrangements he made with them had given him a degree of legitimacy that his company would have needed time and effort to earn.

 

It also offered him an early trading partner to sell the gems his company was mining too, but he knew better then to count on the Equestrians to remain as such. Equestria was naturally rich with gems and crystals, with their current interest in purchasing from his company being little more then an attempt by them to help start up a company within Griffonstone in order to try and kick start the economy of the old griffon capital. That good will and more importantly, the bits backing it would only last so long. He would need to branch out into other markets in time, but it was still a damn good start for a dragon's horde and even better for a new company.        

 

However, getting his company into the ground to start digging had not been the only thing on Ridge's mind as of late. The same day that he had inspected the quality of the gems to be mined in the future, the 'Emperor' had arrived in Griffonstone. A delusional,  homeless gutter bird who believed he was soaring and had designs to uplift the rest of Griffonstone with him. While it was laughable to consider him as anything close to a real threat, Ridge hadn't gotten this far by allowing himself to become complicate; He himself had taken advantage of others believing that he wasn't a big enough threat to be worth considering a few times and he likely would again.

 

The cold, hard fact of the matter was that the 'Emperor' might have been a joke, but he was a joke that the other griffons were entertaining... and considering his own plans for the city, griffon sovereignty under a griffon ruler was a dangerous idea to have floating around.  However, disposing of the problem was somewhat harder because the crazy buzzard was somewhat popular and well liked; Setting such people on fire tended to work against the one setting the fire and that would simply cause further problems down the line if not ruin his plans completely. Alternative solutions were required... and as much as it hurt him deeply whenever he looked at the bottom line of the bill, the holidays provided him with an opening to deepen his roots and further cement himself here while making the 'Emperor' out as the bitless bum he was.

 

'The First Annual Prosperity Mining Hearts Warming Party' as he had taken to calling it on the posters he had placed around Griffonstone was, by the standards of the dilapidated settlement, a lavish affair in which no expense had been spared, delicacies that a hard working family might have saved up enough for once or twice a year were common place on the tables, the drink was endless and came in bountiful forms and several live bands had been contracted to play throughout the night. Behind the scenes there was very much a budget for the party and by the standards of more developed Equestrian cities like Manehatten or Canterlot if he had tried to host an event with the same budget there, it would have either needed to be a cozy, private affair with a limited number of guests or risk being so bare thread that it would have been over rather quickly. The fact that Griffonstone had such a low population coupled with the low standards that its poverty had enforced on the population had gone a long way to making sure that this was going to be a smash hit.

 

Climbing up onto the wooden stage that had been built for the evening for the bands later on, Ridge the dragon gazed out at the crowd that had likely been drawn out if for no other reason then it promised to be a night of entertainment and food that they didn't have to pay for rather then by any actual holiday cheer or love of him or his company. Dressed in a lovely red jacket that blended well with his scales while helping to protect him from the chill that was generally always in the air, he cleared his throat before speaking with a tone of voice that commanded attention. "Ladies, Gentlebirds, ponies and anyone else who happened to be here that I haven't spotted in the crowd yet. As the founder and president of Prosperity Mining, Griffonstone has been good to me since my arrival here. As such, I couldn't help but feel the urge to give back a little to the community that has allowed me to prosper in such a relatively short amount of time as a sign of goodwill going forward into the new year. However before we can enjoy the music, take advantage of the food and get plastered on drink I do believe it's time for me to make a little speech."

 

"And I believe it's time for us to take a little nap!" An elderly voice called from the crowd, the exact source of which was lost amongst the wave of merriment and laughter. 

 

Ridge himself couldn't help but chuckle along as he waved a claw in the air. "I know, but formalities and all that. Let's just get this over with quick." Reaching into a pocket of his jacket to remove a sheet of paper... and then into a different pocket to pull out an almost comically small pair of glasses that he donned, he started by going "My speech, here is my holiday speech." before politely clearing his throat before reading it aloud. "Thank you all and merry Hearts Warming!" before lowering the piece of paper and gazing out over the crowd.

 

The silence was quickly filled by a different elderly voice from the crowd that seemed to be close to where the original had come from. "That was the speech?!" before it was quickly joined by the original speaker.

 

"It was dumb!"

"It was obvious!"

"It was pointless!"

"It was... short?"

 

There was a silence as two old griffons turned to look at each other, before both turning back towards the stage and announcing together "I LOVED IT!" much to the amusement of the crowd and Ridge himself.

 

"Well I'm tried of speeches." Ridge announced, before blowing a brief burst of flame that combusted the paper in his claws before declaring "Let's get this party started!" and abandoning the stage to allow the first band to get started, the dance floor to live up to its namesake and the food and drink to be open to the public.

 

 

 

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It was commonly said of the insane that they had lost their reason.  In many cases, however, what they lost was not their reason, but their perspective.  Many delusions often were reasonable conclusions from absurd premises.  It was, for instance, totally absurd that an ex-marine captain of no further distinction from Aquellia had any legitimate claim to the throne of Griffonstone, much less over the entire griffon population.  But once accept the premise that Norton Breakbeak did possess a legitimate claim, and the rest of his actions had a followable logic.  That was, perhaps, the secret to the rather unlikely success he had enjoyed so far.  Whether or not he ought to be the ruler, he was genuinely trying to be the best ruler he could be to anyone who would accept his rule.

 

And that was the thing; there was never any shortage of griffons, otherwise cast aside in the industrial grime and muck of Aquellia's less fortunate cities, who weren't receptive to the thought of being meant for something more.  And following an "Emperor" gave one a little more dignity than slaving away for a mere 'boss.'  It wasn't an especially rich life, sure, but it was a fun one.  Among that gang of urban rowdies, however, were a few more level heads.  Or rather, intellectuals who were willing to take a long shot on this bid at statecraft, rather than be stuck in the bureaucratic underclass for the best decades of their life.

 

It was this gang that had conveyed 'Emperor Norton' this far, from Breakbeak City hall, where years of his civic spirit and enthusiasm had earned him some support and sponsorship, all the way to Griffonstone itself.  And he had plans, great plans to restore this place to greatness. 

That would, of course, cost considerably more than fan donations could supply.  Griffonstone would have to somehow pay for its own development eventually.  And what did it have to offer right now?  Cheap land, unused labor, and untapped mineral wealth.  Norton may have been mad, but he wasn't stupid.  Mining, or any other extractive economic activity, would only spur further development if every bit made from Griffonstone was invested in Griffonstone; otherwise they'd just be a slightly richer basket case than they already were.

 

And that was where Bright Ridge found himself, right in the center of Norton's attention.  The self-proclaimed 'Emperor' had seen his mining company for what he felt it truly was, a threat to the economic, and ultimately political sovereignty of his regime.  This would have to be confronted as soon as possible, before the dragon bamboozled the locals with his bread and circuses long enough for his claws to be inextricably stuck into *his territory*.  

This party would be as good an opportunity as any to stage that confrontation.  So, while Ridge had planned his party, Norton Breakbeak was planning his Entrance.  It took a couple of rather frantic weeks to set everything in motion, and the older bones of the griffon were still buzzing from the adrenaline of the effort.  First, he'd needed to intercept an emissary from the nearby Tenoctilan basin, Cemmoyāhua Tletl, to establish his connection there first while Ridge was busy with the more distant Aquellia.  Then, there was the matter of a trade deal struck between his regime and the Basin on the basis of some knowledge sharing from his machinist followers, as well as a load of minerals and gems stolen diverted taxed from the Prosperity mine.  (He wondered if Ridge had gotten a letter from Equestria enquiring as to why his first shipment hadn't arrived yet.  Given the state of the local post office, he doubted it.)  The expected goods from this first trade route, then, were used as a basis for negotiating a second deal with Falkensfjord, the closest settlement on the Western coast.

It was thus with secured diplomatic backing and a load of luxuries that Norton practically crashed through the gates, laughing uproariously, "Ha, ha, ho, ho!  It is the season of gifts and patronage now, isn't it?  Never let it be said that your Emperor was lax in either of these things!"  He cut quite the figure, his normally trim figure bulked up with jaguar furs, gold chains and decorations, and other exotic goods.  As he approached the front of the stage, he shed these layers of luxury one by one, the furs going to those of the most ragged clothing, and the jewelry, gems, and other goods to the poor, which was pretty much everygriff here.  No Dragon was going to make *him* look like a pauper, at least not tonight.
"My friends and subjects," He addressed the crowd from the front of the stage, for all the world as if the dragon were not there, "I bring you even more than these treasures tonight!  Yes, for in this holiday dedicated to the Spirit of Friendship, I have brought friends as well!  I am pleased to announce that our neighbors in Tenoctilan have recognized you all as the true Imperial Citizens that you are, and have opened their markets, borders, and hearts to you all.  The hard times we have all known shall end, starting today!"

 

There was no small amount of awe, an applause from his words.  The Emperor had managed actual diplomacy on their behalf!  It was more than some expected, given the somewhat good-natured grumbling as betted bits changed claws in the back.  Most of the audience, however, were looking between him and the now-snubbed dragon, more in anticipation than trepidation.  This was a night that promised to bring a bit of theater with their dinner!

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If anyone in the crowd had the power to read minds or emotions, they likely would have reveled themselves because of their desire to suddenly be as far away from Ridge as they possibly could having betrayed them. Well on the surface he was smiling beneath the surface was a building, almost impossibly hot rage akin to the molten magma that ran deep under the surface of the Dragonlands. Had this been just about any other dragon, parts of Griffonstone would be on fire and the first part of it to burst into flame would have been Emperor Norton himself!

 

However, Ridge wasn't like many dragons. He had tasted the bitter wine of defeat and being upstaged by others many times before and while he still hated it, it gave him the experience not to lose his cool and actually think about the situation despite the desire to remove the head of an upstart catbird. While on the surface Norton had won this round, Ridge took a mental step back in order to examine the situation from a place of cold calculation in order to attempt to figure out how he could turn this to his advantage... and suddenly the rage disappeared as he recognized the gift that the upstart had given him without intending to.

 

The markets of Tenoctilan were now open to Griffonstone... and unless the 'Emperor' wanted to undermine his own announcement and give a solid amount of ammunition to politically be torn apart for seeking to stifle free enterprise, Prosperity Mining would also benefit from such an arrangement because it was (on paper at least) a Griffonstone company. Sure, there was going to be work going forward but opportunities always took work... and Norton's hard work had gone a long way to providing him with opportunities to profit. So he could let Norton have his win, if only because of the compensation he was going to get in return. 

 

So it was with a surprising amount of good grace that Ridge grinned at the 'Emperor' and announced with his arms flung to the sides wide as if he was accepting an old friend "Why Norton! What a surprisingly thoughtful and generous gift! I'm sad to say I don't have anything near as meaningful to give you in return but I'll make it up to you next year. Consider it something to look forward to when you host your first party of the holidays!" He actually made a small show of thinking about something before adding "We should actually line up the calendar for next year in advance. Don't want both parties to end up on the same day after all."     

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Norton wanted to have his grand entrance, and Cemmoyāhua was more than happy to oblige. He had bought the furs, jewelry, and plumes with his own gold that he so ready shed to his fellow griffons as an expression of good faith. Indeed, that was his task to perform to a great reception from the crowd. She had seen insincerity before, and to her, the 'emperor' really did want to help the griffons of Griffonstone.

 

Besides Norton's concern for his fellow cat-bird, this arrangement was a tenuous one for those ponies of the Tenochtitlan basin. A serious risk to the ponies involved if this agreement between cities did not pay off, with payment in both reputation and status or maybe worse. As well, vultures would be circling overhead, waiting to pick apart the whole deal if it fell apart.

 

Norton's entrance into Tenochtitlan was not unnoticed. With the basin being so insular from the hostile terrain surrounding it, it was the first time many inhabitants had seen a griffon. Of course, they were still welcoming, but his presence had garnered a mixed response. Distrust as well as hopefulness from all strata of society. And his proposal for trade with his impoverished city of Griffonstone was received as a misguided hope as best by those in power in the city. Why would any trader bother to make their way there, risking life and goods in an expensive expedition? That was until Norton had brought up knowledge of gems in the mountains of his city, which changed the tone of Tenochtitlan's own Emperor.

 

The emissary was, however, on board with Norton. Monetary gain was nice, but many in her city already had comfortable live brought out through hard work. She wanted the griffons of Griffonstone to enjoy a life out of poverty, and Norton, she felt, would help them. So, she was tasked with making this agreement pay off for her fellow nobles who wanted to collect more taxes as well as the traders who were eager to establish a new market.

 

After his grand entrance and small exchange with the dragon, she made her way through the gates as well. A hastily organized and rather small caravan of goods from Tenochtitlan. Though, an outside observer wouldn't be able to tell. Especially the birds of Griffonstone.

 

Cemmoyāhua would head the group of ponies. She was clad in her deep blue cape, and a small diadem made of a single piece of blue stone. She was followed by a group of ponies, about 50 in number. Inside of the ovular formation were ponies either naked or clad in white or other dull colored capes. Each had saddlebags, large, almost bursting on their backs they were stuffed. And marking the perimeter were guards, each with clubs or wooden swords or spears embedded with sharpened obsidian. Each guard had a vibrant headdress and cape of bright colors and fine necklaces and bands.

 

Of course, these would draw their own attention from the crowd. A wanting gaze, curious as to what could these ponies could be carrying. The armed ponies were doing their job, of keeping watch on the crowd, but were outwardly not on a heightened state of guarding.

 

This dragon, though, was going to be a pain in the neck. She could tell from it all that they knew each other, and were looking to one up each other for the crowd. Norton was on the offensive, and she was looking to keep it that way. She looked to the crowd and waved to them, "Xitlacuacan! Our gifts to you!" She called out, then gave the signal to the ponies. Some of the ponies in the center began to take their bags off their backs and got to unpacking. Soon, they began offering out whole ears of sweetcorn, and fresh squash to the crowd. As well, whole chunks of brown, sweet smelling substance. Chocolate.

 

She looked to Norton, expectantly. She knew it wasn't much from her city, but would hopefully strike a chord with the griffons there.

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Foolhardy though he may seem, Norton Breakbeak wasn't wholly unaware of the danger he was courting.  As the old saying went, 'Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.'  Still, if the research he'd managed to do (or rather, that his secretary had managed to do) was to be trusted, Ridge was the sort of dragon who could restrain such carnivorous impulses.  Nonetheless, The Emperor was not coming into this crowd alone.  Besides his own loyalists, there was the Tenochtitlan delegation, boosting his own numbers, and patronage, for that matter.  The food and drink gifts they bore directly undercutting the generosity of the feast, as opposed to the furs, which might well be spun as a mere addendum.

 

A bold statement the shrewd could not fail to miss, for sure.  "Ah, of course, I should introduce my new friend, Cemmoyāhua!"  He would have said 'our new friend', to appropriate the royal 'We' as well as include the now somewhat awe-struck populous, but that ran the risk of including the dragon in his patina, and that would be counter-productive to his purposes.  "It is to be hoped, by the both of us, that besides goods, knowledge, skills, and well-being shall be frequent travelers of the road between us."  There was no change in his expression, no pause in his speech as he moved on to his next statement; the smoothness belied the careful phrasing he'd constructed and practiced the evening before.  "The Griffonstone National Mines shall only be the seed of our prosperity, to grow into a crop even more prodigious than the ones we feat upon tonight!"

 

Boom.  There it was, if Ridge caught it, and if he didn't, he wasn't half the dragon Norton thought he was.  It would be a mistake on his part to assume the griffon was all that hung up about 'Free Enterprise'....

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The smile on Ridge's face was a frozen thing as he gazed at Norman. His trade caravan of ponies, his offering of 'gifts' to undermine his own celebration... but his announcement of the Griffonstone National Mines was what really caught his attention. The urge to burn a catbird to serve as the main course of the evening was growing again, but for the sake of civility (and the crowd of witnesses both local and possible future trading partners) that option was being filed away for later. He suspected he knew where the conversation was going, but a bit of theater to confirm one way or the other wouldn't hurt. "I must say I admire your bravery Norton. Adventuring out beyond the relative safety of the local Griffonstone area in order to discover a new claim to build a mine around. Color me impressed!"

 

Turning his gaze towards Cemmoyāhua, the cold rage that was being reserved for Norton slipped away into an... expression of remorse? Sympathy? "Forgive me if I am pronouncing your name wrong Miss Cemmoyahua because I am not as well versed in Tenochtitlan dialects as I would long to be. I am Ridge, founder and owner of Prosperity Mining and it would be my pleasure to welcome you and yours to Griffonstone after your travels. However, I fear that you may have been asked to come here under false pretenses. I would be correct in assuming that you were invited here by the 'Emperor of Griffonstone'?" The title was said with him making quotation marks with his claws.

 

Pausing but a moment to give the impression that he was waiting for an answer before barreling on, he laid the honest truth to bare. "There is no Emperor of Griffonstone. Norton here is some random griffon from the Republic that started squawking that he was the Emperor without any actual evidence and everyone kind of played along with it because he wasn't hurting anyone and it was amusing." Ridge's facial expression turned icy as he glanced to glare at Norton like he was some cub that had gotten caught doing something he wasn't meant to. "It stopped being harmless and amusing the moment he conned your government into believing he is actually a head of a state and organized a trade deal."

 

Turning back to Cemmoyāhua, his expression softened again as he offered "However, if you can make some time to speak with myself and the head of the local Equestrian military outpost about the arrangements that Norton has made, we'll be happy to arrange things so that Tenochtitlan can save face from this whole debacle."

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The crimson unicorn looked to the dragon as he spoke. Her glower was unrelenting, even has he explained to her that there was no 'Emperor of Griffinstone.' Merely, griffons humoring Norton. When the dragon finished speaking, her unchanged gaze shifted briefly to Norton as she gathered her thoughts. The warnings of a smooth-scaled, smooth-talking dragon were not underplayed. Fortunately, her knowledge of the common tongue was strong enough to grasp this poison hidden in his words as well as understand his offer and argument.

 

"Worry not, your pronunciation is more than adequate." She relaxed her expression, closing her eyes as she formulated her own formal voice and translated them. "I have been tasked with securing a source of gems for our city. That is what my city has asked of me."

 

She opened her eyes and set her gaze back upon the dragon, a much more relaxed, neutral one. "I have no doubt you would match Norton's promise of gems for the cooperation of our city." She continued, then paused briefly. "I apologize, my Equestrian tongue is not flexed often. I assume you did not make the mistake..." She let the word hang for a second, marked with a rise in her volume, "That our tlatoani and our pilitin would be so easily duped, tricked into an agreement with a 'squaking griffon' as you put it." She turned and began to trot out toward her guards.

 

"Our ancestors survived without home in the jungle. Now we thrive in our expansive city, Tenochtitlan, we call our home. We had to build it with our own hooves, magic! We had to farm our own fruit, hunt our own game, search for own own jade and gold." She trotted out toward the griffons, looking them in the eye, looking at the buildings behind them. Squalor, decrepit structures, sorrow as far as the eye could see.

 

"These griffons are lucky, a city build atop a gem mine. And the means to extract it provided by a dragon, a perfect recipe for prosperity." She grimaced, her horn started to heat, smoulder. "Yet, I see no trace of it." She turned back to Ridge, gaze back to a hardened glare as she stared down the dragon.

 

"Norton swore his pact in blood. He swore to help his griffons out of poverty, and to trade us gems for incentive. He knows if he cannot deliver to my emperor, he and his closest conspirators will be fed to the sun!" She stamped her hoof to the ground, while her eyes locked with Ridge's. "I am in no interest in entering such an agreement with you, for you have already failed." She trotted up to Norton, to stand by his side. "Maybe what Griffonstone needs is an emperor! An emperor of the griffons here!" Her horn's smouldering ceased as she took out a hard breathe, "I speak on behalf of my tlatoani, and the tlatoani's decree is no trifling matter. I will uphold the agreement made with Norton."

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There was really only one answer that Ridge could give to the mare and it was the truth of the matter. "We've only recently sent out our first shipment to Equestria. I'm not sure if you're aware, but organizing and getting a mine operational takes time and hard work. It's why I haven't reached out to make contact with Tenochtitlan yet, because call me old fashioned but I prefer to have something to show for my efforts rather then merely talk a big game."

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If Norton was the sort to be intimidated by doubters, he would have given up long ago, when his little movement consisted of himself in a coal-dust coated apartment in Breakbeak city, sending out voluminous open letters to newspaper editors... and their wastepaper baskets.  Granted, no griffon ever posed such a direct, physical threat as a dragon, but the Emperor had not come to this party alone, or unprepared.  If it came to a fight... well; Aquellia may be corrupt in many ways, but it was rightly proud of its Marines, in which the young Norton had been an officer.

"A congriff, you call me?  A vagabond, despising to work with his own two claws for his daily bread?"  He cast a claw to the crowd, asking, "And who among you, having the roof-tree of your hut collapse, have seen me, sawing a new one so that my subjects shall not be homeless?"  A few raised their claws or wings in affirmation.  "And did I ask so much as a half-bit for it?  Or anything else I have done for the sake of restoration?"  Not from any of the locals, to be sure.  A few businesses in Breakbeak city, whose revenues had directly increased as a result of their local "Emperor's" public patronage, were willing enough to subsidize him.  Any audit of these funds would show that he pocketed practically none of it, currently.  Most of it went to keep his loyalists fed while they labored.

 

It was gratifying, to see and hear Cemmoyāhua's support for his cause.  It had been purchased dearly, of course; to welch on a deal with a tlatoani was to face death.  But what was the threat of death to a veteran, who had once sworn to face it for the sake of his country?  And if he were to fail, better to die than to live with the shame.  With the mare by his side, he switched from defense to offense.  "And if you call me a con, than what are you, pray tell?  Registering a company under Griffonstone, while seemingly taking no care as to what the government of this place was?  Your lack of curiosity as to our tax rate was so remarkable, one might have cause to doubt whether you ever intended to pay any.  As it stands, you haven't."

 

He rapped his claws on the stage floor, a signal to his supporters to get ready.  He knew these next words were likely to start the actual hostilities.  "I sent my assessors to collect the owed back-taxes, which were taken in kind, as no revenue has been generated as yet.  We also took the liberty of auditing your profit projection, and we found it rather remarkable that you struck a rather less profitable deal with Equestria than I managed with Tenochtitlan.  The only advantage to you, seemingly, would be that all payments were to be credited to a bank account beyond the reach of any assessor, where the rightful wealth of Griffonstone would be stored away in your private horde!"  Granted, the relative profitability of their respective deals was only so imbalanced when one factored in the trading on of Tenochtitlan goods to Falkensfjord, but as that deal was also in place, as of three or four hours ago, Norton felt fully justified and guiltless in his statements.

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He had been outplayed.

 

As much as the fact revolted and angered him, Ridge had the common sense to acknowledge that this situation was not in his favor and there was practically nothing he could do in this given moment to try and turn it in his favor. There might have been something he could have said or done earlier, but the arrival of a caravan from a native power that he had managed to sway to his side had rather simply cemented Norton's position and gave him a popularity with the crowd that would naturally swing in his direction regardless of just about anything he said at this point.

 

A lesser dragon would have lashed out, resorting to violence regardless of the odds. The slightly smarter but still lesser mind would have howled, fumed and raged like an upset child who didn't get their own way. Instead, Ridge lifted his right claw and raised two fingers straight up to silently gesture that he had something to say. "So let me get this straight just so everyone is on board. You've targeted a newly started up company founded by a minority of the community and ambushed their first trade convey to a foreign nation like a common bandit, doing gods knows what to those who were transporting and escorting it in the process because they haven't returned here, then took your stolen goods to not only sell them in Tenochtitlan but use what was rightfully sold to Equestria in order to convince Tenochtitlan to recognize what would otherwise be your illegal government." His words weren't angry or... any emotion really. He was calmly just stating facts as he saw them. Sky's blue, water's wet and you're nothing but a trumped up bandit. 

 

After a moment of silence... Ridge actually started to clap. It was little more then a slow golf clap, but in the silence that had likely been created by this whole damn exchange the sound of claw and scale meeting each other was a lot louder then it had right to be. Ridge actually offered Norton a smile. "Well played. But then I guess you had more to gain. After all, what good are mere bits when a crown and dynasty are on the line? By all means, everyone can continue to enjoy the party. After all, it's already been paid for out of my pocket so I don't see any reason to ruin anyone's enjoyment. But personally I will need to retire for the evening. After all, I now have to draw up a letter explaining why a shipment of gems isn't going to be arriving now. Happy Hearths Warming Emperor Norton." Offering Cemmoyāhua a respectful bow of the head as well, Ridge turned and walked away with his head held high, his tail clearly not between his legs.

 

This round was Norton's. Ridge wasn't going to deny that. But one battle didn't make a war.

 

 

 

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Cemmoyāhua did not think to offer Ridge a response, other than a respectful bow in return. Afterall, he didn't really respond to her and this conflict was mostly between him and Norton anyhow. Now, he was leaving and she didn't want to provoke him further. He was clearly angered by how the night had transpired.

 

She looked to Norton and lowered her voice, "I spoke a lot of talk back there." Her accent became heavier, concentration on her voice waning. "I hope you should let your Griffons know to give you support. They will be the stone which you land on." She gave him a somewhat concerned look, then sighed out heavily.

 

"And we have to anticipate the next move, Ridge will do something." She hoped she was doing the right thing. That she was going about getting what she wanted in the end for the griffons or Griffonstone.

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As Ridge would speak his opinion on Norton's behavior, a few of the local griffons in the back would slink beneath the table, only now suspecting that the friendly "shift change" that had taken over the delivery and given them an early vacation were not, in fact, actual employees of the Prosperity Mining company.  Besides that, accusations of banditry were not exactly considered damning in Griffonstone; property rights were already on entirely notional ground as it was.  If Norton hadn't come with a group of loyalists if fighting age, he could hardly have hoped to keep anything like an "Imperial Treasury."  As it was, it would be a while before he felt comfortable keeping a large amount of cash reserves on site.

 

Once the dragon voided the stage, Emperor Norton turned to crowd.  "Heartswarming was traditionally a twelve day feast.  I don't know if he's paid for the full dozen; in either case, eat, drink, and be merry!  For tomorrow, he may lose his temper."  He raised a goblet of wine to the crowd, who duly cheered.  All of them like a good show, and quite a few of them liked a good fight.  They'd gotten the first, and might yet get the second.  In all fairness to their perhaps naive eagerness, none of them had actually seen a dragon fight before.  That might cause a few second opinions to sprout amongst the crowd...

 

But for tonight, he had his triumph, and took a seat at the head of the table, Cemmoyāhua beside him.  "I know.  He said himself he's arranging for a letter, I am myself, as well.  I actually drafted it up before hand, with the aid of my secretary.  It is an open letter, explaining my actions and intentions, to be published in every paper that will print it, as well as sent to my fellow sovereign in Equestria.  It is to be hoped that public opinion will provide an extra bit of pressure in our favor; woe betide the monarch for whom it is against!"

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Cemmoyāhua sat beside Norton, as it was the polite thing to do. Though, she couldn't just relax as it seemed Norton was doing. She put her elbows on the table, resting her head on her hooves as she concentrated on what the next move will be. Ridge wasn't taking this, that was known. But what can he do, other than try to get Equestria involved? She rubbed her chin as she concentrated, but when she was addressed, she looked to Norton.

 

"Good. Your base will need to be as loyal as you." She sighed hard and scratched her chin again, "Equestria shouldn't do much, then. I suppose all we can do is wait." Wait and ponder, which is what she did.

 

Her entourage continued to distribute the 'gifts' from Tenochtitlan until they ran out. At which point, the Tenochtitlan ponies mostly stuck to themselves, with few venturing out to get food and drinks provided by the now gone dragon.

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