The One Who Got Away

When Gaberdine is awarded a noble title by Princess Celestia, he soon finds out that his new lands contain several surprises. For starters, there is no land in his new barony. Secondly, his new castle turns out to be a broken-down riverboat. And third is… seaponies.

Baron Gaberdine has a lot to learn about his new barony. And himself.

Fortunately, he has a very young teacher.


8. Author Comments, Ramblings, and Footnotes of Awesomeness

Author Comments, Ramblings, and Footnotes of Awesomeness

As, when in tumults rise th' ignoble crowd,
Mad are their motions, and their tongues are loud;
And stones and brands in rattling volleys fly,
And all the rustic arms that fury can supply:
If then some grave and pious being appear,
They hush their noise, and lend a list'ning ear;
He soothes with sober words their angry mood,
And quenches their innate desire of blood:

—Virgill, The Aeneid

First, I would like to thank the individual who gave me the idea for this story. I think it was GhostOfHeraclitus, but I can't find the actual email/messaging exchange, possibly because it happened before Google put archiving on Hangouts. As best my spotty memory can recall, the conversation (with whoever it was) went vaguely like this:

Me: I need to do a story where there's a barony in a valley that winds up split in half along a river, where one son gets one half and the other son gets the other half, but the third son gets the river.

Ghost: And it's full of seaponies?

Me: (pause) Yeah.

Between my editors and myself, we had a few somewhat vigorous discussions and comment sessions that just had to be reproduced for the edification of the readers, or at least any of them named Ed. (That is what Edification means, right?) The quotes from The Aeneid come from the public domain translation, with just the smallest change to Virgil to make him more of a seapony. (Get it? Virgil? Virgill? … I'll see myself out.)

Chap. 1

(Where the Barony of Fenwick is mentioned)

GhostOfHeraclitus: Their Pinot Grand Fenwick is, I am told, simply to die for. 
(I dare you to work in the phrase 'the pony who roared' into this) ;)


(Reflections on the name of Gaberdine)

Seether00: Oh, it's a guy. I kept thinking that with a name like that it he was a she

Georg: k, just for illustration's sake, I went through and green/yellowed each his/he in the previous several sentences. There's 11 of them. 12 if you count 'Lord'

(On the discussion of the Equestrian budget being 137,000 bits per minute)

Georg: 72 billion bits a year. Seem high or low?
Peter: No way to tell without some idea of the buying power of the bit. What is the usual wage per hour for instance is a good place to start.
Southpaw: It's good as a high enough number to make the point. It doesn't have to equal the budget of a nation like the US - Equestria doesn't have aircraft carriers. ;)
BluePaladin: I want to say the buying power of the bit is probably meant to be around the dollar mark, given how freely those little gold coins (plated, perhaps?) are thrown around.
Ghost: Less gold content than seawater, your basic bit. That's not even gold. Rubs off too fast. Brass. Even that's too expensive, truth be told. Also it while it is true we don't have aircraft carriers, we do have airborne pegasi carriers and those cost a pretty penny. The protective spells alone cost over... anyway. I'd take aircraft carriers and half of Pentagon in trade for the Parasprite Preparedness Fund and half of the MONHUNGENCOM infrastructure. --D.H.L.

Personally, I assume a bit is exactly one dollar and work from there. It's a daft notion[1] but it helps keep some sort of perspective.

Taking that into consideration, 72e9 is too few bits. But I doubt anyone (anyone not virtually present, at any rate) is going to bother multiplying let alone figuring out the economics of it. It sounds like a reasonably vast sum.

[1] I can't even blame parochialism. I've only ever seen a dollar once.
Ferret: Can we please keep these footnotes? Or can Ghost put them in the comments? It's such an amusing contrast in writing styles.

(“Yes, Your Highness. Or my second-eldest brother Plum, in the event Elderberry is unable to carry on the family name.”)
Peter: in other words if his plums don't work?
Georg: Boo!
Seether: Oh c'mon. Throw the guy a
Anon: not his fault it might be difficult to raise the flagpole.
Georg: Ahhh!!! You perverts... I love you all, you know that, right? :)

(Discussions on paddlewheel vs. Sidewheel steamships)
Peter: Ah, I see. Sternwheeler vs sidewheeler.
BluePaladin: Sidewheel 4lyfe!
Seether00: Oh dear. He is in deliverance country now.
Georg: Oh, if only I had a good spot for Sen to whip out a banjo...
Ferret: Just mention someone's playing a banjo out of sight n___n

(On discussions of Gaberdine's new career)
As a noble, it would be his responsibility to fritter away a certain amount of bits on irresponsible hobbies that could be used as conversation starters at court.

Ghost: Ah. I see he has learned the art of being a noble from Canterlot ponies. Good. We needed more of those. --D.H.L.

(Yes, I am writing comments in character. No, I have no excuse)
BluePaladin: Now now, Dotted. It keeps them busy, after all. Otherwise, they might actually start to consider what powers they do still posses. I do rather wish they would stop having croquet, or racquetball, or what-have-you tournaments in the middle of the streets though.
Ferret: True, but is that better than them trying to actually exert their supposedly dictatorial powers? Or worse yet, try to influence court.

(Then he could return to Canterlot as Baron Gaberdine of Fen, much as several of his peers were barons or viscounts of bits of land so small that a stone could be thrown completely across them from one border to the next.)
Southpaw: Princess Celestia, giving the young nobility what they need instead of want: a healthy dose of humility for the future.
Georg: Some misguided youth just need a little size 14W golden hoofed nudge to direct them in a more useful direction.


(Reflections on IHTFP -- The crusty old pony gestured to an arch over the gangplank with IHTFP painted in large letters, and below in smaller golden script, the words S.S. Paradise IV.)
Georg: This is an in-joke by the way, it can stand for I Have Truly Found Paradise, or I Hate This Fucking Place.
Ghost: :D
Ferret: As it should be n_n
Editors note: It's also a very long in-joke at MIT.

(For a long moment, Gaberdine considered just climbing back into the carriage and flying home. This was obviously one of Princess Celestia’s epic pranks, and he was the punch line.)
Ghost: Random aside:
It is said that Princess Celestia likes to play pranks on senior members of the civil service just to see what they'll do. Dotted Line endeavors to avoid the prank by simply not being where the Princess expects him to be and not doing what she expects him to do. Spinning Top responds by erasing all evidence that the prank ever took place.

Leafy Salad, on the other hoof, responded by alphabetizing Celestia's rooms. Including the furniture. And everything in the furniture.
BluePaladin: I am imagining Luna trying to Prank Dotted, and spending a week desperately trying to out think him long enough to actually put a pie in his face. On Wednesday, Celestia told Luna if she actually manages, she will buy her that expensive telescope she has been eyeing lately.

(It only took a light magical touch on the dragonfire-imbued scroll for it to burst into green fire and flow out of the room in a trail of smoke, vanishing off to the north on its rendezvous with Princess Celestia, who would get it almost at the exact moment she was lowering the sun for the day.)

Peter: I have this sudden vision of Spike earning spending money by contributing a supply of dragon fire to the paper manufacturer.
Georg: So Twilight, why do you have me scheduled in at Minutette's to have my teeth cleaned every month of this year, and does it have anything to do with the new jewelry she's been buying?
Ferret: giggles helplessly


(The old baron must have been a fairly competent unicorn, from the number of waterproofing spells around his small but tidy bedroom and extensive library. )
BluePaladin: In fairness, it's unlikely any suites would be below the waterline. Unless I miss my guess, this boat is meant to be evocative of the famous American Riverboats (Especially casino boats) with the crown topped smoke stacks and great paddlewheels. Those things possessed an absurdly shallow draft and a nearly flat bottom. They were also quite tall. Tall enough that if they sunk, the top few decks would sit safely above the water line once the bottom hit the riverbed.
Seether00: You know what I'm going to say here:

Everyone said it was daft to build a castle in the swamp, but I built it all the same, just to show 'em.

It sank to the swamp. So I built a second one. It sank into the swamp. I built a third one. It burned down, fell over than sank into the swamp. But the fourth one stayed up!

(“I don’t see what relevance this has to a third barony,” said Gaberdine. “If one son took everything west of the river, and the other son took everything east of it…” The riverboat they were on took that moment to lurch slightly at its moorings and Gaberdine paused to consider just exactly how convoluted Princess Celestia could be when provoked.)

Ghost: That's nothing! During the highly annoying breakup of house Canter, she awarded one particularly annoying noble a third of all land (the middle third), excepting the third of that land (the middle third) and of those parts that were left, the Crown took a third (a middle third, as it happens) and of parts thus remaining the Crown took exactly a third (the middle third) and...

Six cartographers were driven insane, and an entire branch of mathematics had to be invented because of that little fracas. And then there was the business with House Sierpinski over in Stalliongrad. Yeesh. We still haven't gotten to the bottom of that one. --D.H.L.

Yes, it's a math joke. No, I don't have any shame.

Ferret: No shame for such math jokes is truly a good thing.


(After waiting a sufficient amount of time to put a dent in the glass of admittedly fine whiskey/cleaning solution and to see if the old pony was about to admit the joke, Gaberdine continued, “How many ‘seaponies’ are there in the river?”)

Ghost: One of my favorite jokes so far on account of being quiet.
Georg: Credit goes to Tek on this one. I think. Or Peter. One of them suggested it. They've both been a godsend.


(There was a sudden silence, followed by a piercing scream. “I got my cutie mark! Look! Look!”)
Ferret: What does a cutie mark for saving nobles from steam look like?
BluePaladin: A disappointed Dotted Line.


Well, that's it for now. Hope you enjoyed the trip down the river, and I hope to see you all soon as I continue writing.

Keep your boiler hot
--Georg (and the rest of the crew)

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