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Hazard Time

Kotov Syndrome

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Foreword

Hi everyone!  This is my first fan fiction, so constructive criticism is greatly appreciated!  I also want to give a shout out to three people, Checkmate, Greyscaleisme, and M00nGl0w of the Legends of Equestria forums for giving me permission to use their OCs, pre-reading my work, and generally giving me the motivation and support I needed to write this.  It's only its first chapter at the moment, but I have ambitious plans for it.  I am planning on a mix of political intrigue, mystery, action, and a dash of witty humor!  Thank you for reading and enjoy!

 

 

Chapter One:  Welcome to Stalliongrad

Written by hazardtime

Edited by Checkmate, Greyscaleisme, and M00nGl0w

 

 

      

­­       The city itself was the shining jewel as well as the capital of the duchy that shared the same name.  In a land whose economy was based almost entirely on agriculture, Stalliongrad was the only city in the entire duchy that could call itself metropolitan.  Since its absorption into the Grand Principality of Equestria one thousand years ago, each successive duke has sought to add more to the city.  Centuries later, Stalliongrad is less a city and more a cultural showcase.  It is hard to go more than a few blocks without seeing some monument, library, museum, or opera house named after a famous hero, writer, or composer of Stalliongrad.

       It was through these streets that an ornate carriage maneuvered its way.  Driven by a large earth pony wearing a black coat with gold trim, common ponies knew instinctively to move out of the way.  The sight of house guard-drawn carriages around the city was not a strange sight; being the capital of the duchy, Stalliongrad saw its fair share of counts, barons, and knights coming and going on their way to formal functions.  On this occasion, however, hiding behind one-way glass, were not noble ponies.  Had the passers-by been able to see inside the carriage, they would have seen two unicorns of common birth and a dragon-pony.  Fortunately, this faux pas would not be discovered until later.

       At this time, it would perhaps be most beneficial to introduce this motley crew of faux nobles.  Let’s start the male unicorn with the black coat, white mane, and red irises.  With a white knight chess piece as his cutie mark, he conveniently goes by the name of Checkmate.  Abandoned as a foal at a Manehattan orphanage, little Check was no stranger to abuse and neglect.  Gripped by internal strife, he soon came in contact with a zebra shaman who helped him lock away his emotions deep inside his mind.  His conscience clear, Checkmate’s intelligence began to manifest at an early age.  Joining his local school’s chess club, he demonstrated an impressive tactical genius by wiping the floor with everypony who dared oppose him, earning him his cutie mark.  Following his graduation from high school, Checkmate joined the Royal Guard in Canterlot in spite of his own physical frailty.  Often marginalized for his small stature and emotionless demeanor, Checkmate had quite nearly been discharged on multiple occasions after senior officers accused him of being physically and mentally unfit for duty.   That was up until they became aware of Checkmate’s genius after he was able to scare off a dragon with only one fireteam.  He soon found himself rising through the ranks and ended up in a senior position, himself.  When Shining Armor eventually left his position as Commander of the Royal Guard in order to assume the title of Crystal Emperor, many senior officers began fighting each other for the now vacant position.  However, Princess Celestia was no fool and had been watching all of them for a while, and the one officer that had her attention was Checkmate.  With no hesitation, she named him the new Commander of the Royal Guard, a rank that he still holds to this day.

       Sitting next to Checkmate is a similarly-colored unicorn mare.  One could easily make the assumption that they were siblings, to which she would reply with a less than courteous introduction involving your face and her size 8 hoof.  Grey Scale was her name, and Checkmate was her husband (Sorry, gentlestallions).  Like Checkmate, Grey lived most of her childhood and adult life in a series of orphanages.  During morning role call at one such orphanage, a fight broke out between two of her peers.  Without even thinking, she produced a force field and successfully broke up the fight before any of the workers could respond.  Shortly after that, Grey discovered that she now had a cutie mark in the form of a hoof surrounded by a force field.  Since that day, her magical abilities have continued to grow in power, making her one of the most powerful unicorns in Equestria.  Following her 18th birthday, Grey promptly enlisted in the Royal Guards, eventually being promoted to the position of Captain of the Canterlot Street Guards.  It was here that she met Checkmate, and the two hit it off.  They are now happily married with children in Pascalo Beach (Living the dream…).

       The third, final, and most out-of-place occupant of the carriage happened to be Moonlight Guardian, a white, immortal dragon-pony.  Despite all appearances, Moon is actually thousands of years old (Which is strange because he doesn’t look a day over 542).  Born a full-blooded dragon, he also possessed a rare gene set that made him immortal.  After several hundred years of tossing his moral superiority around, he got bored and decided that immortality was overrated.  Leaving his homeland, he arrived in Equestria centuries before Celestia or Luna.  Enlisting the help of a powerful unicorn noble, he tried to neutralize his gene set.  Instead, the powerful magic merged his genes with that of a pegasus, turning him into the dragon-pony hybrid that he now is.  Though he lost his immortality, he is still long-lived.  After outliving multiple lovers, Moonlight gradually began to go insane.  To combat this, he began hibernating every few centuries and wiping his memories.  It was after waking up from his latest hibernation cycle that Moon met Checkmate and Grey, pledging himself to them as their guardian, just like a good neighbor (He’s also always there).

       Back to the story, we join our three heroes in the carriage in Stalliongrad.  As Moonlight stares out through the one-way, reinforced glass window, nose pressed against it like a colt in a candy shop, Grey is currently passed out from boredom while Checkmate is playing his 33rd round of chess with himself.  He had already played several games with Grey and Moon on the way here, but had to go single player after both of them got tired of losing consistently.  A few times during the week that it had taken them to get here, Checkmate had looked out the window at the landscape of this new land.  It truly was a beautiful country with a certain rustic charm.  Thick, green forests with an abundance of wildlife, quaint villages, and the occasional castle all set this place apart from Canterlot.

       The city, itself, was another story.  After seeing the rest of the country and finally happening on the capital, it became painfully obvious that this was where the vast majority of the duchy’s wealth resided.  Even through the armored walls of the carriage, Checkmate could smell the smarm and arrogance that almost every noble seemed to exude.  Even the “commoners” didn’t seem too convincing of their role, only being differentiated from their superiors by slightly less clothing.  Compared to their cousins in the countryside, where running water, heat, and emergency services were probably non-existent, the citizens of the “Grand City of Stalliongrad” lived their lives posh and aloof.  Had he not been invited by an old friend, he never would have agreed to set hoof in such a decadent place.

       Just as he had moved one of the white pieces into a position of check, the carriage came to a halt at the gates of a very large and grandiose palace.  Looking out the window, Checkmate could see it past the ornate cast-iron gate and beautiful gardens that lay before it.  The Winter Palace was indeed a sight to behold, a building of baroque architecture with a white and sea-green façade and golden domes.  If there was ever a place a prince, let alone a duke, would live, it would be here.

       Placing his chess board off to the side, Checkmate placed a hoof on Grey Scale’s shoulder and gently shook her, “Wake up, we’re here.”  Groaning slightly, Grey’s eyes fluttered open and looked over to her husband.  A devious smile crossing her face, “Oh come on, Love, it was just getting to the good part.”

       “We can reenact it later.  In the meantime, Pure’s waiting on us.”

       At that moment the guard who had been pulling the carriage earlier opened and held the side door of the carriage for the three.  Moon was the first out and immediately took in his surroundings like a dog at the park.  This, of course, elicited more than a few gasps and cries from the various posh ponies about.  Even the professional house guards out in front of the palace stopped and stared, eyes wide.  One mare was so distraught, she ran away screaming, “BYEGAI!  SUSCHESTVUYET DRAKON V’GORODYE!” 

       Snorting slightly, Moon replies, “Well I never!  You’d think these ponies have never seen a dragon-pony hybrid before, eh Checkmate?”

       Stepping out of the carriage, Checkmate offered a smirk, “I wouldn’t really know that, Moon.”

       As Grey exited the carriage, she looked upon the palace for the first time and her jaw dropped.  After Checkmate helped her pick it up off the ground, she simply replied, “Wow…I could imagine living here the rest of my life.”

       “Trust me, the life of a noble isn’t one you’d want to live.”  Dry as ever, Checkmate began following the carriage guard whom led the way towards the castle.  Contrary to his black and gold uniform, the house guards outside the palace wore dark green coats that reflect the different houses that both served.  

       Passing through the gardens, Moon and Grey slowed down to admire the painstakingly well-manicured fauna.  As Grey reached out and plucked a flower with her magic, the response from the guards was swift.  In a matter of seconds, the three ponies (and one dragon-pony) were surrounded by at least a dozen house guards, sabers in their mouths all pointing at them.

       Looking over at her, Checkmate deadpans, “Grey, what did you do?”

       Her eyes as wide as saucers, Grey Scale holds up the small purple crocus, “If I had to guess, I…heh…think I may have just desecrated their garden.”  With a nervous smile, she adds, “Oops?”

       Before Checkmate has a chance to facehoof, the guard from the carriage began talking with the other guards in the local dialect.  After about a minute of dialogue, the other house guards slid their sabers back in their scabbards and returned to their positions.  Looking back at Grey, the carriage pony offered a reassuring shrug before continuing to lead them to the palace.

       As they finally entered through the ornate front doors, they were greeted with an even more impressive sight inside.  Massive granite columns, marble floors,  gilded designs on the walls, and murals on the ceiling all gave the impression that not one amongst them was worthy of gazing upon such beauty.  Standing their stunned, they would not have noticed the young white coated, black maned stallion with a bowtie descending the ornate staircase towards them.  His goldenrod eyes lighting up, he said, “Welcome, friends!  I trust you had a safe journey?”

       Lord Pure Duty was a paradigm for nobles everywhere.  Born of house Abyazannost, his father is Count Earnest Duty of Novgarron.  Being the youngest amongst his two brothers and one sister, he learned to live in their shadows.  Still, he dreamed of the day when he would finally serve his house and play a part in the politics of the realm.  Unfortunately for him, when his time did come, his noble duty involved marrying a criminally insane countess who was old enough to be his mother.  After his father reluctantly refused to nullify the wedding contract, Lord Pure ran away from home with the help of his ever faithful Cossack companion, Loyal Ward.  After a week of running, they finally ended up in Pascalo Beach on the doorstep of none other than Checkmate and Grey Scale.  The two reluctantly took the noble and his house guard in, but it wasn’t until Pure revealed why he was there that their moods changed.  Without any hesitation, and much to Pure’s shock, both of them agreed to defend him from the countess’ retrieval party.  Against overwhelming odds and an attempted raid on the house, they had the countess arrested for attempted ponycide and sent straight to the Moon.  As much as I would love to tell that story, that is for another time.  At the end of the day, Lord Pure owed Checkmate, Grey Scale, Moonlight, and the rest of their friends a lifetime of gratitude.

       Looking up at him, Checkmate offered a smile, “It’s good to see you, Lord Pure.  It was long, but uneventful.”

       At that point, Grey Scale blushed and added, “Well, there was an incident in the garden.  If it hadn’t been for Loyal Ward’s intervention, there would have been a lot of injured house guards.”

       Offering a grin and a chuckle, Lord Pure said, “Oh dear, that would have been quite the incident, indeed!”  Turning to the house guard that led the group in he says, “Spasiba, Layalniy.  Tiy mozhesh ykhodit.”

       Bowing his head, Loyal Ward turns around and walks out through the large doors, back into the garden.  Lord Pure returns his focus to his guests, “Again, thank you for coming.  It makes me glad to know that I will have you all here as well as Loyal Ward and Early Snow.”

       As Pure begins to trot back up the stairs, the rest follow suit.  Grey Scale is the next to speak, “So, about Early Snow, you say she’s nothing like her mother?”

       Pure nods, “That is correct.  Countess Morning Snow was a cruel and selfish mare whom none of my associates mourn the loss of.  Still, after attempting to cause harm to you, me, and everyone who dwelt in your home before being arrested and banished to the Moon, the prestige of house Sneg took a rather large hit.  Of all the ponies I know, I was the first to openly pardon the house for the transgressions of its former matriarch.  I was also proud to learn that her daughters were nothing like here.”

       Smiling wistfully, he looks over to the group, “Would you like to meet her?  Countess Early Snow?  My future wife?”

       Feeling left out, Moonlight was the first to answer.  Cutting off the other ponies before they could respond and donning a smile that one would liken to the cat that ate the canary, he inquired, “Is she cute?”

       Mentally tripped by Moon’s outburst, Pure took a second to recover, “Well…erm, yes, yes she is, though beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

       When Grey Scale had recovered from being cut off, she replied, “Yes, yes we would like to meet your special somepony, Lord Pure.”

       A grin returning to his face, Pure says, “Then come with me.  We have tea and cakes already set up in the other room.  However, I should give you a little warning – the Countess is a little skittish, so I would appreciate it if neither of you did anything that would startle or make her feel threatened.”  Even though he seemed to be addressing all of them, he was also looking at Moon as he said it.  The passive-aggression was never less subtle.

       Turning back around, Pure continued leading the group through the palace, passing multiple statues and portraits of past rulers.  At that point, a thought occurred to Checkmate, “Is the duke here?”

       “Duke Chlorine the third?  No, he is away tending to other matters of his noble house, Galogen.”

       As he turned to a door on the right, he slowly opened it and led the way inside.  In the room was a large dining table set with multiple teacups, a samovar, bowls with sugar and cream, and a plate of tea cakes.  Sitting at the far end was a small unicorn mare in a blue dress.  Countess Early Snow of Maremansk had a mauve coat, a multicolored braided mane of blue and orange, and green eyes.  Setting her tea cup down on the table she gazed up to look over her new guests.  She jumped slightly as Moon walked in, but she seemed to have been adequately warned ahead of time that she was to be in the presence of a dragon-pony.

       As the visitors took a seat, Lord Pure took his next to the Countess, offering her a warm smile, “My dear, may I introduce you to my saviors, Sir Checkmate, Dame Grey Scale, and Moonlight Guardian.”

       Taking a tea cake in his claw, Moon offers a sarcastically dejected look to Pure, “Aw, no noble title for me?”

       Grinning in amusement, Checkmate explains, “You’re not Commander of the Royal Guard.”  Turning to Grey Scale, he finishes with, “Or his wife.”  This gets a playful giggle from Grey.

       Giggling as well, Countess Early Snow finally speaks, her voice a soft soprano, “I am glad to finally meet all of you.”  Looking over at Pure and placing her hoof on his, she continues, “My husband-to-be told me so much about you.”

       While he helped himself to the tea in a teapot on top of the samovar, Checkmate continues, “So how exactly did the two of you meet?”

       Pure answers, “Well, at first, it was not quite as romantic as one would wish to believe.  Even though the former Countess Morning Snow was of questionable morality, I remember her briefly mentioning that she had daughters.  Taking her momentary reference to imply that she had little in common with them, I felt I owed my father a marriage alliance for all that I put him through with our little ‘incident’.”

    As he continues the story, Pure turns to look Early in the eyes and places his other hoof on top of hers, eliciting a blush, “When I first met Lady Early Snow, she was so shy and skittish that every time I came to court her, she looked like she was ready to bolt back to her room at any moment.  It took her a while to acclimate to my presence, but when she did, I discovered a whole new mare underneath; the most caring, passionate, intelligent, and honest mare I had ever had the pleasure to meet.”

       Grey Scale, her eyes involuntarily watering, commented, “That is so romantic!  What about you, Lady Snow?  What did you think of Lord Duty?”

       Early Snow smiles bashfully, “Well, I was at first a bit intimidated, to be honest.  Mother had kept me and my sister out of the public eye quite a bit and rarely talked about us except in fleeting conversation.  To say I was terrified of being courted would have been an understatement.  Still, the more time I spent with Lord Duty, the more that he started to grow on me.  His smile, his energy, the way he always seems to know just what to say at just the right moment.  It took a few weeks for it to finally get through, but now I know without a doubt in my mind that there is no other stallion alive that I can imagine spending the rest of my life with.”

       At this point, Grey is sitting on the edge of the seat, leaning in, her eyes wide and a broad, anticipating smile on her face, “…Well?”

       “Well what?”

       “When are you having foals?”

       Pure and Early both looked at each other, the former’s face blushing hotly while the latter dons a wicked smile, “Well?”

       “Erm, can we talk about this later?  I mean, it is one o’clock right now, how about we pick this up in five years?”

       “Aw, is my zhar-ptitsa living up to his nickname?”

       “First of all, that is a pet name.  Second of all, can we not use that in public…maya malenkaya snegurotchka?”

       “Ni pered gostami !”

       “Viy otchen miliy kogda krasnyeyetye.”

       “Uh, excuse me?  Trying to listen in over here!  Kinda hard to hear all the juicy details when you’re speaking another language!”

       Settling for a draw, the two nobles end their quarrel.  Lady Early focuses her attention on Moonlight, who had one teacake in his mouth and another already in his claw, “So…if I may inquire, you are Moonlight Guardian, yes?”

       Swallowing, Moon answers, “Yep, that’s me!  Long-lived dragon-pony hybrid and personal guardian of Checkmate, Grey Scale, and all they consider important.”  Promptly stuffing the next teacake into his mouth, he grabs another off the plate.

       “I have never had the opportunity to meet a dragon-pony before.  What is it like?”

       After swallowing, “Well, a bit like being a dragon.  Also, a bit like being a pony.  Although, it’s more like being both at the same time.”

       “…Oh.”

       Chortling slightly at Moon’s response, Lord Pure again takes up the reigns of the conversation, “Checkmate, I hate to discuss business now, especially since you only just arrived, but there is a formal function tomorrow night and it would be in your best interests to attend it.”

       Rolling his eyes, Checkmate takes a sip of his tea and asks, “What kind of function, when, and where?”

       “It is a ball.  It will be hosted by the duke, himself, at the Trotsky ballroom at the other end of the square.  Many nobles will be in attendance, and I believe that it would be most prudent if you made an appearance there and made acquaintances with a few important players.  Knowing you, I already have dossiers on each of them.  They are in your private accommodations which are already prepared.  If you wish, I can show y-“

       “NO!  NONONONONONO NO!  THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!”

       Immediately, all eyes shot towards Moonlight, who appeared to be going through some sort of crisis.  Jumping out of his chair, Checkmate acted swiftly, “Moon?  What is it?”

       Tears streaming down his face, Moon points to the empty plate where there had once been at least two dozen teacakes.  As everyone at the table burst out laughing, Lord Pure said, “I will be sure to send your complements to the duke’s pastry chef.  In the meantime, let me show you to your rooms.”

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