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Ponies of the North: Book 1: Journey to the North: Chapter VII: Negotiations

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At the same time, far to the east, Baldr, the firstborn son of Odin was leaving the Diamond Fort of Lord Mund. He had been a guest of the good Noblepony for the past three days in an attempt to negotiate a deal with him. In recent months, the normally complacent Lord Mund had become more and more aggressive with the Earth Pony Clans and nopony could understand why. His soldiers and sublords had been expanding their designated territories, both mining and residential, onto Earth Pony lands.

Most of the expanded territories hadn’t been on the lands of Earth Pony Lords, but onto Earth Pony farms. Minor farmers had been forced off of their own lands by soldiers of Lord Mund. Baldr had been sent to discuss terms with Mund so that both parties could come to an agreement and be happy.

For the first day, Mund had not sent for Baldr. The only contact Baldr’d had was with Mund’s son, Freyr. The second day, he met Lady Dia, Mund’s wife. She assured him that her husband would be by to speak with him shortly. It wasn’t until later that night that Baldr had met Lord Mund. The bronze coated Unicorn had sat on his elevated throne so that he could look down upon Baldr. The conversation hadn’t started well either.

“And to what do I owe the honor of the presence of the future King of the North,” his voice dripping with obvious disdain and sarcasm.

Baldr cleared his throat and held his head high. “Lord Mund, I have been sent by my father, King Odin, Fourth of his Name and…”

“Yes, yes, yes, I know the titles, Your Highness. Please. Just tell me what is going on here.”

Baldr knew Mund was baiting him. He knew of Mund’s hatred for his family and that to bow down to the Crown Prince was irritating to him. Still, that did not excuse the insolence of this Unicorn Mining Lord. But Baldr would take it. He would shoulder the burden like a true leader would. Mund would be dealt with when Baldr was formally crowned. But for now, he would let the Unicorn Lord have his fun.

Baldr cleared his throat. “As I was saying: Your sublords have been expanding your overall territory into Earth Pony Lands. Many farmer ponies have been uprooted from their lands and I have been told that mining on those lands has begun. Lord Mund, I beg of you. Please withdraw your troops from our lands. Please. Our people need their homes. They need to prepare their crops for the Spring Harvest. The mines in the mountains should be more than enough to sustain the Unicorn Lands and the North as a whole. Please, consider this.”

Mund sat back in his throne and pondered for a minute. Finally, he answered.

“Why should I? Give me a reason why I should remove my soldiers.”

Baldr face gave a brief flash of anger at Mund’s insolence. He had come in peace with a plea for basic decency and concern for the citizens of the North and their homes. Fortunately, he and his father had planned for this eventuality. He had offered the carrot and now it was time to extend the stick.

“If you do not remove your soldiers from Earth Pony lands, then the Royal Army will arrest every single Unicorn soldier that remains by the next full moon. They will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and imprisoned. Also, if any Earth Pony citizen has been harmed or killed by the Unicorn Soldiers, they will hung by the neck until dead like common criminals. That is the reason why you should remove your soldiers from Earth Pony lands.”

Lord Mund’s face remained unchanged for a few minutes. Finally, he answered Baldr in a calm and collected voice. “Tell your father that the troops will be removed from Earth Pony Lands by the end of the week. And that I was unaware of the expansions onto your lands. That is my answer.” Baldr smiled and gave a bow and departed the throne room.

Later that day, Mund watched the Crown Prince depart from the Diamond Fort, his face a mask of fury. The arrogant colt had the audacity to come to his home and threaten his troops with violence and death. He may have been the King’s chosen heir, but the throne rightfully belonged to Freyr. In fact, the whole of the North belonged to the Unicorns.

Originally, the North had been ruled by the Unicorns after the departure of the three rulers, starting with King Odin the First. The Unicorns had kept power by using their near limitless wealth to buy the loyalty of the various lords and ladies of the North. However, when the last Queen of the North died with no heirs, that left a power vacuum. All three races clashed on the battlefield in order to take control of the North and the capital, Valhall.

Eventually, the Unicorns nearly won the war with the help of Mund’s Great Uncle, Canute the Tall. However, Bor the First, Odin’s father, appeared with an army of Pegasi, Earth Ponies, and Caribou warriors and took the throne from Canute. He had claimed that a soothsayer had told him that it was his divine right from the four Gods, Vidarr, Vali, Modi, and Magni. He allowed Mund’s father to retain control of the Diamond Fort and the mines as long as he swore fealty to him and his family.

His father had agreed and Bor’s rule of the North was complete. Mund had always resented his father for bowing down so quickly to Bor, but what really annoyed him was Bor’s naming of his second son. Odin was originally the name of three of the greatest rulers of the North. It was a name that deserved to belong to a Unicorn ruler, not an ordinary Earth Pony!

“The nerve of that brat, my Lord. Threatening you and your soldiers like that. Do not worry, you will make him and his father pay for his insolence.”

Mund turned around to come face to face with a bright red unicorn wearing a black cloak. He smiled at the newcomer.

“Ah, Skult. Thank you for coming by on short notice.”

Skult had arrived at the Diamond Fort a few months before, claiming to have information about the locations of untapped jewels for the Fort’s coffers. The information had turned out to be correct and Mund had made Skult his right hoof pony in terms of the matters of court.

Skult smiled and bowed to Mund. “As your councillor and advisor, I am at your beck and call. I apologize for not being present during your audience with the Prince, but I was busy looking over the layout for the new mines to see our progress.”

“No, no, my friend, it is fine. I could handle the Prince myself. Besides, I am eager to know if we are coming closer to you fulfilling your promise of a brand new army to help me take back the usurper’s throne.”

Skult nodded. “We are, my Lord. By tomorrow we should have the right amount of jewels to be able to buy the loyalty of the Valkyrie Pegasi and the Caribou tribes. With their help, you will have the Throne of Valhall… Your Majesty.”

Those words were music to Mund’s ears. “Your Majesty”. They sounded so… perfect. It was his rightful title. Not “Lord Mund of the Diamond Fort”, but “King Mund the First”! He would rule the North as was his birthright. Had Canute not been killed in battle, it was likely that the throne would have eventually passed to Mund. It would all be his soon enough.

He turned to Skult and waved him away. Skult bowed and trotted off. Mund stood on the battlements of the Diamond Fort and survey his future kingdom. The Diamond Fort was the perfect fortress to rule from. Diamond shaped and, like diamonds, its walls were impenetrable. Soon, he would have the whole North.

“Hear me, Odin! Royal blood courses through my veins. I won’t be denied! I will reclaim my rightful throne. From realms beyond this waking world, I swear! I will rend your flesh from bone!”

That night, when all in the Diamond Fort had gone to sleep, a single Unicorn was making his way through the frozen landscape to the mines at the foot of the mountains. Wearing his black cloak, Skult made sure that nopony was following him or was even aware of his presence. When he reached the entrance to the mining tunnels and was quite sure that he was alone, a change came over the Unicorn. He stood up on his hind legs which lengthened, the hooves changing into normal shoes and hands. His bright red coat turned into normal everyday clothing. His mane retained its bright red and orange color and changed into normal hair. His muzzle changed into a human face with hawkish features. When the changes were complete, Skult was gone and in his place stood Loki, the God of Mischief.

Loki stretched out his limbs and made his way down the tunnels. He snapped his fingers and a bright ball of light appeared out of thin air in front of him. As he wandered down the tunnels, he smiled to himself. Manipulating Mund had been easy for him. The Unicorn Lord already had the greed and the thirst for power, all he had to do was point him in the right direction. Mund had served his purpose and the mines that had been dug in Earth Pony lands would not be filled up over night, so he had time to utilize them.

When he got to the end of the tunnel, he came out into a massive cavern. It was the most recent and it contained what Loki was looking for. It had taken a lot of doing to hide this particular find from Mund, but he had succeeded.

At the very end of the cavern was something nopony had ever seen. Encased in the stone was an Jötunn. 10 feet tall with pale blue skin and a white beard, the Jötunn towered over Loki. Its eyes were open, but were completely blank, staring off into space. For all intents and purposes, the Jötunn was dead, having been covered in lava millennia ago during the final battle of Ragnarök. It was a relic of the old world, perfectly preserved in a state of being trapped between life and death. However, Loki had planned for this.

He walked up to the Jötunn and placed one hand on an area of open skin and the other on the stone prison that held the Jötunn. He closed his eyes and began chanting one word over and over. “Rise”. Over and over for nearly an hour, Loki chanted, directing all his energy into the Jötunn. Heat emanated from his hands, flowing into the stone and the Jötunn. And always, he chanted that single word: Rise.

Suddenly, he felt something from the  Jötunn’s skin. It was faint, but he was sure that he felt a pulse. Continuing the chant, he looked up at the Jötunn’s face and saw wisps of cold air coming from the its open mouth. Loki smiled and stepped away from the Jötunn. It was time to wake up.

As the Jötunn began to stir, the cavern around him shuddered as the giant tried to pull itself out of the cavern wall. The walls cracked as muscles tightened and strained against the stone bonds. With a thunderous CRACK the Jötunn pulled himself out of the wall. He stretched his limbs and let out a loud groan before eyeing Loki.

“Who are you?”

Loki drew himself up and held his head high. “I am Loki Laufeyjarson, God of Mischief and Kin of Ymir. It is I that have awakened you from your eternal sleep. And it is I that shall lead you and our kin to victory over the inhabitants of this new world. Will you join me… What is your name?”

For a moment, the Jötunn scrutinized Loki. He walked over to him and stared him down. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the Jötunn stood back and kneeled to Loki. “Braenr. My name is Braenr, my Lord. Command me, Lord Loki.”

Loki smiled. Now he had a follower. “Come, Braenr. We must find our brethren.”

Braenr nodded and stood beside Loki. With a gesture, Loki opened up a tear in the air and motioned for Braenr to follow. Soon, he would have his army. Soon, the North would fall to him. Soon.