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First Serve w/Flick Ray #1: Queen Haven


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"Testing, testing. One, two, three, four. Hello, all you ponies. Check, check? It's good? Alright." Flick Ray takes his headphones off, pulls back, and stands up from his carefully adjusted microphone. This being the first episode of his new podcast, he wanted to make sure the sound quality was confirmed to be appropriate. "She here, yet?" Flick and his friend, a.k.a. producer, were slightly nervous. They were about to embark on a journey most ponies have never ventured. After dealing with the regular sources of news and information for a year or so, Flick was determined to create his own brand of media. He hoped that he could have a hooves to hearts conversations that would inspire ponies to be true to themselves, while at the same time having interesting things to talk about regarding Equestrian current events. But even though he was confident in his approach, it surely didn't take much pressure off who he was able to score as his first guest.

 

Queen Haven had just returned to Zephyr Heights with her princess sisters. Although the princesses seemed to be more preoccupied than they used to, Queen Haven's spotlight was well used and provided her exposure in order to get her message straight. Flick hadn't watched much of the initial interviews and royal conferences, but when he was able to schedule an appointment with the Queen to discuss all that had happened, he knew this would be a breakthrough conversation that could change the way ponies in Zephyr Heights think. And depending on what the Queen's responses to his questions would be, it might even provide information for ponies that are listening from the forests or the bays.

 

It was almost time for her to show up. Flick's studio was discreet from the outside, but convenient enough for city ponies to easily find it, assuming they knew where to look. With a door pony waiting for her arrival, Flick was anxious to get the signal that the queen had arrived. He didn't want to waste too much time when she did. Once she arrived, he planned to greet her formally, have her sit down in the recording area, and flip on the mics.

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*Home at last...but not yet home free.*

 

That was the thought that had dominated Queen Haven ever since she had re-entered Zephyr Heights city limits.  Everything that once seemed fixed and moored to the solid earth was floating in the heavens.  In some cases, this was exhilarating, as all her little pegasi were finally able to realize their inborn heritage, and use their wings to take to the sky.  But what would their future be?  Would it even include her?  That remained an unsettled question, as did the legal question of the monarchy.  The last thing she wanted was those upset by the (necessary at the time!) fiction that she had inherited to keep them all together, and those loyal to 'the whole show,' as they called it.

 

But her oldest daughter had been right, ultimately; their ultimate safety could only ever be the truth, but if she were to add her voice to it, where could she go?  Who would interview her, and just let her explain, without peppering her with hostile questions to look good in front of an audience?  Here, her younger daughter had been instrumental in introducing her to the world of online broadcasting, and to a name intending to make waves in the space.  From what Pipp had told her about Flick, he would give her the exact opportunity she needed.

Thus, she came to the studio, habit making of the entrance a show.  No trumpet heralds, but a guard was sent ahead to let the host know she was about to sweep aside the studio door and sashay inside.

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Flick had an unplanned staring contest with his producer friend, seeing who would smirk first. It was hard to believe they put themselves in this position. Was it too good to be true? Flick had managed a spotlight before, and with flying colors. But this strive to go independent combined with interviewing the Queen, it was a bit of a wakeup call to how easily his vision might be achieved. Of course, it could all go wrong very quickly if the Queen decides to demarcate his program into obscurity. But when it all came down to it, Flick realized that was up to her. He wasn't going to back down from his true self, and if somepony, even a royal somepony, wanted to bash him for that, then that was their doing and not his. He held his confidence close.

 

"She's here!"

 

"Oh!" Flick started to breathe heavy for a couple seconds before nodding to his assistant and smiling at the reality of the moment. The time had come. Flick stood in the line of sight of the entryway when her gaurd motioned to him that she had arrived. When the Queen walked in, he didn't hesitate. "Your Majesty! Thank you so much for coming to visit us today." Flick performed a quick bow, mostly out of impulse. He did not plan to, but seeing her walk into his new establishment forced him to acknowledge the privilege, despite how unimportant it may seem during any other time. He respected Queen Haven for the most part, but considered many of the ceremonial traditions involved with the royal family to be beyond his primary mode of attention. Flick was not knelt for too long. "Please, step inside the recording room. We're all ready to get started."

 

He led her into the recording booth. It was rather humble. Not too small, but not overly large. Large enough for six ponies to have a conversation, but small enough for two ponies to have a meaningful one. There was a table centered in the room with three chairs around it. Two were stationed across from each other, and the third was on a perpendicular end, distanced away from the other two. His assistant occupied the third chair. In front of him was a small soundboard and a laptop. Flick watched her walk in but had no words to say other than, "Uh, have a seat and we'll get started." Flick had so many things he wanted to talk to her about. He knew her time was extremely valuable, so it was his intent to keep the pleasantries to a minimum so that the real progress of this conversation could begin. Flick sat in his chair, pulled his microphone closer to his mouth and put headphones on. The other side of the table featured a mirrored setup waiting for the Queen to partake.

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  • 3 weeks later...

(Thought I'd replied to this; whoops)

 

Queen Haven smiled graciously at the bow, giving a little motion with her hoof for Flick to straighten up.  "Charmed to meet you."  She gave a quick glance over the studio setup, but an educated one.  Having spent her whole life either in or adjacent to media attention, the finer points of the craft were not lost on her.  This place definitely prioritized audio, she could recognize the insulation, and even the acoustic structure of the studio.  Quite a lot of his endorsement money must have been invested in this place.

 

The mare took a seat on her designated end of the table, placing the headphones around her ears and pulling up to the microphone.  "Yes, I'm sure you have a great many questions, considering all that's been happening lately."

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Flick was glad to see the Queen felt comfortable, or at least she portrayed herself that way. It was never clear how much she revealed her true feelings on basically everything. Flick took her wearing the headphones that as an all clear and was ready to get into it. He took a deep breath. "Queen Haven. You made it back!" He chuckled. "Word is, you had quite the road trip. Something about escaping prison, being friends with forest unicorns. Of course, we now know what happened in Maretime Bay, but there is still a lot of questions about what happened to you. So what happened?" Flick was willing to keep the opening question as vague as possible in order to let the Queen answer as much of it as she wanted to. He could always ask for more later.

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Having taken her seat with ample poise, Queen Haven gave Flick a small, controlled smile.  "It was indeed quite the trip.  And the story... well, it is a long one.  For me, it began with having two trespassers brought to me by the guards.  At the time, it wasn't legal for non-citizens to enter the city."  That was a diplomatic way of saying 'pegasi-only,' but the queen didn't see any reason to use such rhetoric now.  It would make the transition a bit easier if everypony just went with the idea that Zephyr Heights was just opening up to guests, rather than changing its entire way of life.

 

"Well, the next thing I knew, Pipp was doing her concert when all Tartarus broke loose; I trust you don't need me to go into details; everypony saw what happened... and alongside that, everything that had been happening."  She sighed, pausing on the point, as she knew Flick was going to ask that eventually, and it was best to confront this head-on.  Don't appear evasive, nopony respects a prevaricator.

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  • 1 month later...

Flick was intentional with his purpose of this conversation, but he didn't want to come off abrasive. He wasn't even intending to harm the Queen's public image. All he wanted was a good conversation that would help make the situation more transparent and understanding so that whoever listened to the conversation could feel assured that things were going to be alright, because that was basically what Flick believed. "Oh yeah, that night was catastrophic. It opened a lot of pegasi eyes to what was really going on. Like, all in one night, all of Zephyr Heights finds out that you and your daughters cannot fly." Flick had so many questions to ask on this one subject, but he wanted to take it simple and easy and not overburden the conversation, otherwise this would quickly turn into an interrogation. "Though everypony saw it on livestream, there are still rumors that pegasi talk about surrounding that night. Like, for instance, there are many who suggest one of the princesses was working with the non-pegasi to expose the lies. What's going on there? Princess Zipp isn't at risk of being abdicated, is she?"

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Well, now that the pair of them had gotten to the incident, surely conversation could be easier from here.  Surely.

 

Queen Haven had hoped so, but the emotions brought up there, of hurt, shock, betrayal, desperate love and fear....  it wasn't that long ago, and it would be a while yet before she would be able to reflect on that night with Equanimity.  After all, that had been the shattering of a whole way of living for her.  Even if the future promised to be better, it was still a radical thing for a mare her age to deal with.  

 

She said none of this, but Flick would have been able to read it in her expression.  "From what I understand, from what Zephyr told me, the rumors are largely true.  She first met them outside the city, assisted them in their escape and theft of the crown, though it wasn't their intention to actually expose Pipp on stage.  She tells me that was just an accident, and I believe it.  Had it really been her desire to expose our... show, she could have done so at any time.

"And the proper term for what you're thinking of is 'disinheritance'; abdication is what *I* would be forced to do, if I were judged unfit for the throne."
  Which might still happen.  Unlikely, but things were very much up in the air.  "But no, Princess Zipp's position is secure.  As secure as it can be, in these uncertain times.  Though, if you had asked me then...."  She bit her lip, doing a bit of self-reflecting, before shaking her head.  "No, despite everything, as angry and hurt as I was, I don't think I would have been able to bring myself to cut her from the succession.  It would have... broken too much between us."

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"Ah, yes, not abdicate. Heh, sorry, I'm not much of a wordsmith." As Flick listened to the Queen, he couldn't help how nonchalant he was acting about receiving what is otherwise a pretty traumatic experience for the royal family. He rested on the fact that everything was much better now than that fateful night, but there were still unfinished ideas that Flick had to make sure he mentioned. "It's good that she is still part of the family and therefore, destined to rule, I presume. But then even that's up for question isn't it?" He hoped his tone wasn't too assuming, but he didn't want to ask her uncomfortable yes and no questions all day. "There are some in Zephyr Heights that think the royal family should resign now and that a new form of government should be applied. The trust has been severed for many pegasi. What would you say to assure them that things will be transparent and just in the future if your rule continues?" Flick took a big risk throwing a collection of challenging words together. The 'if' was one he almost wanted back as soon as it left his lips.

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"If"?  *IF?*

 

Not an advisable word for an interviewer.  Perhaps a risk too far with a mare who was still, in her own mind and in the minds of still a good portion of the ponies of Zephyr Heights Flick Ray's ruling sovereign.  He certainly would have caught a rather sudden frost from Queen Haven's previously-warming expression, one that suggested... trouble, should anypony attempt to permanently bar her and her family from their home in the palace.  "Some ponies, Mr. Ray?  Ponies who lacked the past initiative to leave the city in the quest for the whole truth?  Ponies who lack the present courage to publicly call for that under their own names?  The fact of the matter is, that the only ponies who had either were my daughters.  You may criticize me, and if it were a mere call for abdication, I would consider it harsh, but fair.  But if truth be the test of rulership, there were only two pegasi in the whole of Zephyr Heights who went in search of the whole of it.  Who else would you propose to trust to tell you the truth?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Queen made a good point, but Flick couldn't help but press a little further, not for the sanctity of his perspective, but of the perspective of several citizens of this city that knew existed. "Of course. But transparency is not something that feels earned for a lot of ponies here. Let me put it this way, we live in a very polarized world. Everything is either up or down, left or right, and the room for nuance is lost. I know it's there, it's got to be. So for me, it feels a little foolish to think that everything is fine and back to normal. I have to assume that there is something else going on. And I'm not even a conspiracy theorist." Flick quickly mentioned his countering opinion to some of the things his own critics say about him, and did so with a little guilt in his voice. "And for others, I know that there are a lot that still support you, want you to rule until you feel you're done with it, and that one of your daughters should take your place, as has been the case for however many generations. But many of those same ponies also claim, still claim to this very day, that the reason for all the trouble was the fault of the earth ponies and unicorns. They aren't right are they?" Flick was pulling for a specific answer, even though he would always invite the Queen to be as honest as possible with what she thought.

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To describe the look that Queen Haven was giving Flick Ray as "flat" would be an understatement.  Both her eyelids were held at exactly the midpoint of her eyes, so completely even with each other as to have been set with a level.  Her right eyebrow was precisely parallel, though her left deviated from the square plan, rising to a perfect arch within her brow.  Political polarization hadn't really been much of a thing in Zephyr Heights; when you didn't elections, ponies had much less heated debates over policy.  "As bad as all that, Mister Ray?  I've been away for no longer than a month, and they have so much trouble talking to each other already..."  She shook her head. 

 

"In my experience, ponies only get like that when they think they have something to fight for, power over a city in this case.  Or, to put it slightly more sympathetically, they fear what will happen if somepony else wins power over them.  That's why Monarchy exists; when ponies don't have things to fight over, they actually talk."  She sighed.  "But as long as something like that can be fought for, it's not really fair to expect nuance.  Anypony pleading for that is either a chump about to get clocked, or a champ who has enough power to carve out a peaceful space, a miniature monarch, if you don't mind me applying that label to you, Mister Ray."

 

Her expression softened a little, and she permitted herself a smile.  That didn't last long when he brought up the convictions of her loyalists.  "We have no evidence either way.  I daresay we all did awful things to each other, by the end of... whatever it was that split the tribes.  But we cannot move past by denying old wrongs, only by forgiving them.  Which begs the question, if you cannot forgive ponies who live among among you, who did their best by you, even if they ended up doing wrong; how can you then be expected to forgive strangers with whom you have yet to build trust, or ancient grudges which clipped the wings of generations?"

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Flick didn't agree with the Queen on her assessment of the way a society overcomes its own power struggle. He felt that she wasn't giving enough credit to ponies' desire for freedom and dignity. But maybe there was a part of what she was saying that had some truth to it, that pony nature always brings citizens back to their primal roots, and to do so is less effective and efficient than having a designated leader, like a monarch, rule over them so that those troublesome quarrels don't interrupt progress in society. At least, that's how he worded it in his head. He would be less successful to ever issue those thoughts as clearly and concise.

 

When she called him a miniature monarch, it made Flick uncomfortable. He would agree with no doubt that he has influence over many ponies who listen to his show and commentary. But he always deflected the idea that he would be some kind of representation of an actual societal leader. But he would hide his displeasure of the label for the purpose of the Queen's analogy. "Of course not, go ahead."

 

When the Queen addressed the complicated history of the pony tribes, Flick liked all that she was saying, but could only nod and agree without adding much more to it. He would, however, be reminded of something he had seen a few days ago, and hadn't even thought to bring it up in this conversation until now. "Oh yeah, so there's this meme going around, I don't know if you've seen it. Where there are ponies posting on KlipKlop," Flick looked at his producer, "or is it Trotter?" His producer nodded, "It's KlipKlop." "Oh, it is KlipKlop, okay. Go ahead and look that up, Rainy." Flick turned back to the Queen and put a smile on his face. "I want you to see this." He said with a chuckle, hoping that whatever sense of humor the Queen had been hiding all these years for the purpose of acting prestigious would show itself. The source they were trying to pull up would take a moment to find.

 

"But anyway, there is this meme where some ponies think that the best way to get Zephyr Heights and Bridlewood to have a strong friendship and alliance is if you were to marry a unicorn." Flick chuckled, hoping to disarm any repulsiveness the Queen might have about this. "But because Bridlewood doesn't have a central leadership like Zephyr Heights does, many unicorns who have gotten a hold of the network devices we use in the city have been posting selfies and videos of themselves saying that they would make a good candidate for a diplomatic marriage with you," Flick paused. "And it's hilarious." The Queen had a significant moment to respond to Flick before whatever link the producer was able to procure was shown.

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The conversation seemed to be moving on to more agreeable tones and subjects.  Pipp had, of course, taken the time to painstakingly explain the concept of "memes" to her mother, though she repeatedly insisted that Queen Haven not embarrass herself by attempting to make any herself.  Which might have been taken as impertinent by a lesser parent, but Queen Haven understood that she could not afford to put herself in public in a capacity she was lacking.  That was why Zipp never was made to sing a duet with her sister.

 

"I've rather been out of the loop in that respect."  She relaxed a little, letting the crew show off a few memes.  Oh, how charming!  It reminded her of her own princess days, when hopeful suitors bid for her hoof... it was rather a pity she didn't select for endurance; widowhood is an experience that no royal comforts can soften "Oh dear, I'm rather dismayed not to see that charmingly rugged stallion who ended up helping me find Pipp and Zipp.  Alpha...beta?  Bittle!  Yes, Alphabittle.  He's a little older than most on Klipklop, though."  She giggled.

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  • 1 month later...

"Oh, I'm not too sure about that." Flick humorously implied. "Some of these unicorns look like they could have been old enough to have grandfoals." The large monitor on the wall began showing a short video from the social media platform KlipKlop. Flick's producer had managed to find the clip in question and put it on the screen for them all to see. "Oh here, it is, right here. Give us some volume."

 

The video played back in mobile format and only featured an older unicorn with grey mane and a five o'clock shadow, jungle green pelt, and had several missing teeth. The unicorn spoke into the camera he was recklessly holding. "Miss Queen Haven. I want you. I love you. You need a king, and I need a queen. I think I would be a good candidate because I can do many things to entertain you like...  like I can cook, play cards. We can ride bikes once I borrow my neighbors bike. He isn't fun to be around though, I wouldn't invite him to our little thang. Also, I make different kinds of cheeses. Everypony loves cheese..."

 

Flick chuckled involuntarily as the video continued and the unicorn in it began rambling. He gave the queen ample time to respond to the publicly released video. "What do you think, he's charming right? Wait this isn't Alphabittle is it?" Flick's producer shook his head. "Oh good. But it's interesting to me that several ponies have this in their head that they can just put themselves out there like this thinking they have a shot. I mean, kudos to them for trying, I guess."

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Well that was certainly a parade of... ponies, Queen Haven had to admit.  She was very carefully controlling her expression as this particular stallion was shown, as if she was in his presence and did not wish to crush his spirit.  It didn't do to publicly humiliate anypony from atop a pedestal, but...  "I would say his courage was admirable, but I'm still of the opinion that if you won't confess affection to a mare in person, it doesn't count."  She was personally quite afraid that Pipp didn't hold to that opinion, but again, no need to air family concerns when not asked for.

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  • 1 month later...

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Flick smiled as he listened to the Queen's much more professional and matured response to what they both had just witness on the screen. Flick knew she had to answer properly, and while that was fine for now, he felt it was his job to chip away at that personality cover a little bit. He knows the Queen wants to hold back her true character because it would never seem proper for a queen to do that. But everypony must have an idea that the Queen has interests and quirks just like any pony else. Would the queen reject the idea that she is just like the common pony if everything else was equal?

 

"In person. Oh." Flicks looks at one of the cameras in the room and his assistant switched to the camera in order to get Flick's profile in full. "Hear that, fellas? If you wanna confess your love to the queen, ya gotta do it in person, hehe." Flick fell back in his seat a little but then quickly leaned forward to his mic. "But actually no, you will probably get tackled by the guards, don't do that." Flick winked at the Queen.

 

"Alright, well. Not that anyone's asking. Well, I guess I'm asking. But what does the Queen like to do when she isn't ruling and decreeing. We know the family is heavily involved in the entertainment sector, as Pipp has always had shows presenting new songs. But what about you? Pipp and Zipp are visiting Maretime Bay, there are no political campaigns to drive, and the city seems quiet and well-maintained. What does Queen Haven do when she has time to herself?"

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There was a difficulty with "chipping away" at some ponies' personality presentations because one thought they were artificial.  Queen Haven may have worked to build how she presented herself, but that didn't necessarily mean that anything she showed wasn't her 'real' self, as it were.  She could laugh in public, and she allowed herself to do so, chuckling along to the comments of the guards tackling them.  "Perhaps I should hold a tournament for my affections, bring back the old traditions?  Though, I suppose sky jousting would be considered needlessly restrictive, so we'll have to do it on the ground."

 

The topic turned soon to hobbies and what a royal did in her spare time, which was a fair enough question.  "Normally, I try to carve out whatever time I have for my fillies; my parents weren't always able to be there for me, but I could see the efforts they made for the times we had.  My father, for instance, would take an hour for lunch, bolt down two sandwiches in five minutes, and spend the rest with me.  Now, I don't condone such uncouth eating habits, and when left to myself I rather do like to sample such luxuries and take my time with them.  Good food, good drinks, good massages... of course, the trouble with hobbies like that is that they take up double-time, for all the working out one has to do to maintain one's figure in the face of it!  That said, flight practice burns calories like nothing else!  One more thing to thank my daughters and her friends for."

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"Do you like flying?" Flick's simple follow-up question seemed filled in, or at least unnecessary as the answer likely would have been guessed correctly by most ponies. But Flick asked it in a tone that almost encouraged the nuance in having a countered opinion. Before he would even give her a chance, he couldn't help but indulge his own mindset on flight. "I think we all liked it at first. But I personally am already over it. It might be the fact that I'm retired from tennis. Or maybe it's the idea that the sport will enter a new era where pegasi are now using their wings to help propel them to make their backhoof swings more lethal than they ever have been. And because I don't feel like participating in that venue, I guess I just have less drive and excitement to take to the skies and stretch 'em." Having given his opinion in full, Flick momentarily lapsed in his concentration and rephrased the question. "Am I off? I feel like flying is a young pony's game."

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"I do, as a matter of fact."  Queen Haven's response was quick and without hesitation.  She even chuckled as Flick related why he felt it was a young pony's game.  "Well, then it would seem that I'm hardly aged at all, then!  Flattery like that will get you everywhere."  

 

Some explanation might be called for, though, and by now she was willing enough to say, "Of course, one of the primary reasons is, again, family bonding.  With one daughter as a dancer finally getting a chance to stretch her wings for real, and the other who has studied aerodynamics for years... I can hardly let them leave me behind, can I?"  She smiled, leaning forward a bit in a lower tone.  "And do you want to know something?  When I was younger filly... I dreamed their same dreams.  It's why I indulged them, you know; my firstborn and heir spending so much time in her laboratory.  It used to be mine, years ago.  Thinking that maybe, one day, she'd find a way to bring it all back... which she did, ultimately, just not in the way I expected."

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Flick laughed out loud when the Queen responded with joyous attitude. It was good to know that she was having fun. Of course, she was probably having fun from the start, she typically likes interviews and cameras in her face, especially when she can use it to promote something. But up until this point, Flick wasn't sure she had been completely comfortable with the environment. It is, after all, a little different than what she might be used to.

 

"It's great to know that your daughters are still number one to you. Seems like a no-brainer, but being a ruler for an entire race of ponies can generally invade any sense of privacy or sense of family. It's good to know that that has always been your focus. And it seems to be paying off. The princesses are already inspiring another generation of their own, and it's all thanks to the investment you've put into them." Flick didn't want to sound too brown-nosing, but he was simply speaking his mind. Perhaps he could use it as a launching point to suggest a new topic that might be slightly obtrusive or problematic. "Speaking of which, Princess Zipp is next in line for the throne. She seems to have several aspirations with what she likes and wants to do, especially with the flight training an entire city of pegasi. What would happen if she felt she was unable to rule, or didn't want to rule? Would Zephyr Heights get its first pop star Queen?"

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While family was a topic that Queen Haven was always happy to open up to, succession was... less so.  Flick would be able to see it in her face now, since she had settled in long enough for her emotions to show.  The scrunched muzzle and pinched eyebrow were pretty unmistakable.  "Should anything... unthinkable happen to Zipp, Pipp will be prepared as best we can to fill her role.  Otherwise... desire must be subject to duty.  Both of my daughters have enjoyed the perks of royalty, but I have not let them forget that it comes with responsibilities.  Much was given, therefore much shall be asked."  Which was to say, the Queen was not wanting to broach the topic.  "I would... appreciate you not touching on the subject again.  It was... not always a peaceable subject of discussion in the family."

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