“There is no murder in paradise,” said Chairperson Tamara, as she gazed down at Eclipse.
Eclipse, staring up at the Chairperson from between two Praetorians, took a step forward and raised one hoof in disagreement. A Praetorian’s staff thudded into this flank and he sank to one knee, breath hissing out but his gaze still steady and unrelenting.
“I know not of what you speak, pony,” the Chairperson continued, the Horn Crown shimmering in the light of the large windows behind her.
It had been easier, Eclipse thought, under her father. The King had been wise, and just, and would receive all manner of creatures, be they pony or unicorn, and hear them all out. When he died and Tamara came to power, things had started to change. Not quickly, but gradually, over a few years. Ponies had sat in pubs and discussed some of the changes, such as a new regulation here, or a new bylaw there, a new tax levied on something or a new checkpoint along a road. The barkeep, a large pony with a thick, black mane, had been particularly vocal of the changes, liking it to a frog in a pot.
“Mark my words,” he had said. “This is but the beginning. We are all sitting here complaining about this change and that change but we accept the little things and move on. Tamara is tightening control and doing it in small and subtle ways. It’s like a frog boiling in a pot. At first, the frog doesn’t notice. The temperature is raised gradually and the frog still doesn’t notice, because it is very slow and the frog adapts. Mark my words, before you know it, it will be too late.”
Many a pony had poo-poo’d this. One old pony, that would often sit by his front door and watch the foals play outside, had said that if some of what was being said were true, if would have been in the news. Even now there were reports of intimidation, especially in the outlying areas. It wasn’t as prevalent in the city and of course the conspiracy theories abounded. Ponies had been said to have disappeared, and those that kept abreast of the news and joined the quiet talk in the dark recesses of the pubs were saying that this was not ordinary crime, that it was political, a marginalisation of the ponies.
The unicorns. More and more, things seemed to favour the unicorns. Just recently a law had come in where employers needed to report their employment figures to the Citadel, to prove that they had a certain amount of unicorns working for them. Suppliers had to do the same and, where they didn’t, tenders coming from the Citadel could be denied to them. A pony was finding it harder and harder to do business these days, and finding it harder to get jobs.
And, still, the changes kept coming. The Royal Guard became the Praetorians. The city was being referred to as the Citadel, the Royal Advisors were now the Central Committee and Queen Tamara was now Chairperson Tamara.
Worse, a pony had to be careful about what he said. It was rumoured that spies were about the land. The barkeep had disappeared a short while after his frog statement. It was said that he had sold up and moved to other pastures but some – like Eclipse – thought otherwise.
Tamara had kept the Horn Crown though. Some trappings of office are more equal than others, it seemed.
This is part 1 of a longer story, which will be available soon in a new collection.