(The following is a work of fan fiction based on My Little Pony:Friendship Is Magic. I am not affiliated with Hasbro and company. This work is intended to be a work of parody that complies with fair use guidelines.)
Lead Proofreader: Alchemy Gold
Part 3 of 3Jump to part 2.
The guards' noble sacrifice bought Trixie and Blueblood the time they needed to gallop deep into the Everfree Forest. Blueblood grieved for his long time companions as he would a favorite bow-tie that fell in his drink. The two unicorns did not know how long they ran through the woods, over logs and under hanging vines, propelled forward by the spooky sounds of unknowable creatures surrounding them.
Finally, they collapsed in a small clearing, panting for breath. About the time they had regained it, Blueblood heard something strange. A strange, wet, feminine noise. He realized that Trixie was crying. That really got under his coat for some reason.
"What is this?" he demanded pompously of her.
A more effective cure for crying there never was. Blinking tears out of her eyes, Trixie faced the prince with the full force of a mare's scorn, "You
want to know why the Great and Powerful Trixie is crying?! You
, foal, could not possibly
The prince had allowed this uncouth behavior to go far enough, "Now, see here-" he countered angrily.
"No!" interrupted Trixie, launching into a fury-laden tirade, "You see here. Up until you met the Great and Powerful Trixie, you never had to work a day in your life! When you
ran away from home, you
didn't have to work the backstreets and alleys performing simple card tricks for bits. Neither did you
have to work your way up the ladder of the stage! You
could not possibly
know how it is like to risk everything
by taking it on the road, only to see it destroyed before you, not once, but twice
The prince was momentarily taken aback, sputtering for words, but then served her anger back to her, "Oh, so you believe being a prince is easy?! I do not believe the Great and Powerful Trixie," he said the title with all the sarcasm he could muster, "was forced, every day of her young life, to attend thousands of lessons in diction, royal etiquette, and more! Further, our royal person is quite certain a commoner such as you could never understand the pressures of rulership, to have everything decided for one's self in advance, to never be allowed to do one thing on your own, all in the name of preserving your good name. Then, one day, you try doing one little thing on your own, only to lose everything by becoming the laughingstock of all of Equestria!"
Trixie saw a vulnerability and she stabbed it, "The Great and Powerful Trixie believes a snotty little prat like you deserved
to become the laughingstock of all Equestria."
The prince parried, "Then our royal person believes a wretched little showpony like you deserved
to lose your wagon!"
"What's the matter, prince?" Trixie's voice dipped with venom, "Afraid to admit you're just a bad luck charm to everypony around you?"
Blueblood blanched. Thinking back to recent events, it really did feel like he was the black hole of misfortune, the unluckiest pony in all the universe. (After all, he was the center of it.) Braced by his gigantic ego, he immediately decided not to allow it to depress him. Instead, he would become more angry than he had ever been in his life.
The prince had been taught never let his emotions show on his face. It felt oddly therapeutic to scrunch his face into a ball of fury and project it at Trixie. He stuck his neck out and growled at her, "GRRRRRR!"
Trixie returned the gesture, bringing her nose up only two inches from his face, growling right back, "Grrrrrr!" It was cuter when a mare did it, but he knew she was being deadly serious.
Then, "GRAAAAAAAAAAAAUGGH!" screamed all four heads of the hydra as it stepped into the clearing, drowning the two ponies in noxious breath.
Angry time was over. Blueblood and Trixie ran.
Again, the two unicorns did not know how long they were galloping through those terrifying woods. Worse, they did not have any brave ponies to sacrifice themselves in order to buy time. No, the hydra was right on their tails. They could not even split up, whenever one dove off to the side the hydra would extend one of its necks and force them together again. The monster was fully in control of their fate, herding the pair before them, knowing it would be able to enjoy, not one, but two delicious snacks the moment they ended up trapped by the terrain, unable to continue forward.
It was incredibly fortunate, then, that where they ended up running was over a rotting rope bridge extending over a canyon. The hydra stopped abruptly before the bridge: it may have been hungry, but it wasn't stupid (well, one of its heads was stupid, but it did not have the majority vote). It raged on the other side of the rope bridge, watching the ponies escape. Then it noticed the rope bridge was the only way out from the stone island they had crossed to. It retreated into the forest just out of view and sat there, waiting for them to return.
When they felt they were out of the hydra's reach, the two ponies collapsed on the opposite end of the bridge, again panting for breath. The chase had thoroughly scared them off the colliding trains of thought they were on beforehand. Recovering their breath, they stood and took in the scenery around them.
Trixie vocalized the question going through her mind, "What is this place?"
Prince Blueblood knew, as part of his lessons involved being briefed on the royal holdings. With perhaps a little extra pride in his voice, he said, "This is the ancient castle of the royal pony sisters."
Trixie frowned, "It's a dump," she said.
True enough, the castle had long fallen into ruin, its dilapidated walls had crumbled in many places, it was as gray and overgrown as the misty confines around it. However, knowing that going backwards would be a death wish, the wayward prince and thoroughly dispossessed magician had no choice but to press on inside.
The fallen antechamber was thoroughly spooky. Vines climbed pillars near the walls that supported a ceiling that had long since rotted away. The once majestic stain glass windows had managed to lose every last flake of glass, leaving behind incomplete rusting metal frames. In the center of the room was a strange moss-encrusted statue, its purpose unknown, appearing as though it my have once held five round artifacts.
Trixie and Blueblood did not have much opportunity to take in the incredible sight. As they neared the center of the room, a loud rustling spooked them. They realized that they were not alone. Behind them, out from a pillar next to the door crept a strange creature indeed. A many-spiked lizard with the head of a chicken. It did not seem to have noticed them yet.
Trixie's loud shout attracted the attention of the prince, "Don't look at it! That's a cockatrice! Its gaze will petrify you!"
Her loud shout also attracted the attention of the cockatrice. With an aggravated chuck, it hissed at the two ponies who were now carefully looking away from it. They could hear its claws scrabbling closer.
"What should we do?" asked the prince in hushed tones.
"Run!" replied Trixie.
There was no argument as, so far, that plan had served them well. They turned and ran to the end of the antechamber, to what looked like a dead end, but then spotted a hallway hidden behind a pillar. They ran down it, side by side, until the hallway forked. Without time to decide which direction to turn, they split up, Trixie to the left and Blueblood to the right.
The prince registered their separation with increased fear, fear for himself and something even more important than that. (Something more important than himself? A strange impossibility he did not have time to think about.) As he galloped down the hall and turned a corner, he was greeted by a most welcome sight: the walls fell away, revealing an open plain!
Then he heard Trixie scream from within the castle. He realized that this was the perfect opportunity. With Trixie distracting the cockatrice, escape was sure to come. He happily sprinted forward.
And stopped. He wondered to himself, about that. Why did he stop?
Trixie screamed again, and he found himself oddly curious to see what was bothering her.
For a moment, his desires to save his hide and satisfy his curiosity fought. In the front of his mind was his ego, the proud and self-satisfied prince. It was on the defensive, fighting back desperately against that unidentifiable terrible primal throbbing coming from the back of his skull.
Blueblood turned and began to canter in the direction of Trixie, assuring himself that he was just going to take a look.
Then, he began to gallop.
As Blueblood turned the last corner of the hallway Trixie had fled down, he found his curiosity satisfied. There, in a ruined (yet still very solid rock) corner of the castle of the royal pony sisters, was a very desperate Trixie. She was panicking, trapped, fore-hooves scrabbling against the wall blindly with her wizard's hat pulled down over her eyes.
The reason was immediately evident: wings outstretched, crowding her as it stepped ever nearer to her, forcing her into that corner, was the cockatrice! Blueblood idly noted that it would only be a matter of time until the creature's potential to physically attack would force Trixie to confront it, and then...
That annoying sensation that had been building in the back of Blueblood's skull, one that had always been a very uniquely Trixie infliction, now ignited, and became an inner fire that suffused the entirety of his being.
With all the pride befitting his aristocratic background, Blueblood strut forward, and stomped a fore-hoof firmly on the cockatrice's tail, just past the spikes. The cockatrice hissed a loud cluck of pain and turned sharply at its new aggressor, its red eyes glowing red with rage... and something worse. Smirking defiantly, Blueblood stared right back into those eyes, and felt the unmistakable sensation of their views locking together with magic.
"I recommend you leave now, oh Great and Powerful Trixie," said Blueblood airily, unwavering as petrification began to overcome his body, beginning at his tail and hooves and slowly working its way upward, a sensation that was at first bitingly cold and then completely numbing. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Trixie recover from her fear long enough to cast him a quick glance before bolting past the cockatrice for the exit. Blueblood felt oddly satisfied knowing that, with the greater part of his body weight firmly down on its tail, there was no way the beast would be able to pursue her even after its grim work was done.
Blueblood had two thoughts, then.
The first thought was a bitterly ironic observation: he had spent nearly his entire life as nobility, but this was the first time he ever felt truly noble. It was an alien feeling, one that did not sit particularly well with him, and yet, somehow it felt extremely right.
The second thought was that he would make an absolutely marvelous statue.
Then, he didn't think anything: rocks don't think.
Yet, after an indeterminable amount of time, this rock began to dream.
Blueblood was on the ballroom floor again, suave, turning in practiced elegance with the waltz, a beautiful stranger adoring him as they spun. And then another ballroom, another strange mare. Another, and another.
Blueblood was in the royal reception, meeting foreign dignitaries, their lovely daughters and wives swooning, worshipping him from afar. Blueblood turned on the charm and went to work, providing the necessary grease for the wheels that drove the bureaucracy Equestria, one heart at a time.
Blueblood was on the veranda, under a star-lit sky, alone except for an elegantly dressed strange mare before him, confessing her secret feelings for him. And then in a row boat, another star-lit sky, another mare whispering with blushed cheeks and pursed lips. Regardless of whether it was happening in a secret alcove, incognito in a commoner's cafe, or on a horse drawn carriage, Blueblood always wore the same mask of roguish perfection, a prop he had refined over the years, as these poor girls lined up one by one and scene by scene to tear their hearts out and drop them at his feet.
Blueblood faintly recognized he was reliving his recent life, right up to a certain major disgrace in Ponyville. However, he noticed something new as these experiences blurred together, a thought in common with each experience, a thought that did not repeat itself so much as reinforce itself continually, building in strength until it drowned out all else. Something was wrong, something important that he missed, or that was missing.
Then it came to him.
What was wrong was that he never had feelings for any of them.
Why should he? They were not in love with him at all. Not in love with the little colt who was denied a childhood. Not in love with the prince being lead by his nose through hundreds of lessons intended to improve his finery. Not even in love with the dashing prince that they were marveling at in the present moment.
No, they were in love with the idea of Prince Blueblood, a dashing figure to sweep them off their hooves and into a life of fairy tales. In every romance he had been coaxed into, no matter how intimate the circumstance, when he looked deep into the beautiful sparkling eyes of the mare before him, he saw an unmistakable vacancy that betrayed the truth: she was not seeing the prince before her, but rather watching her own inner fantasies playing through her head.
The first few times, it hurt, it truly did. But he was a trained performer, and he lived by their credo: the show must go on. In time, his heart had grown thick, calloused. Finally, it turned black. He came to relish a broken heart as a fine prize for a job well done. It empowered him, made him feel strong to know he could do that and get away with it.
In the end, all that was left was a faint logical suggestion, a theory he could understand but not subscribe to, that what he was doing was wrong.
It gave him such a headache sometimes.
Prince Blueblood's head was killing him. He groggily opened his eyes to see his fore-hooves out before him, and noted with some giddy satisfaction that they weren't made of stone.
He sat up and slowly took in his bearings. He was still in the castle of the royal pony sisters, facing the very same corner where he had met his stony demise. The cockatrice was still there, terrifyingly enough. However, it was now in a strong wicker cage with a blindfold firmly about its eyes, preening somewhat placidly.
As his head cleared, he heard a unfamiliar young mare's voice say, "Welcome back, nephew."
The last few rocks in his brain broke as the gears turned. Doing the math, he was able to deduce where the necessary magic had come to free him from his prison.
"Hello, Auntie Luna," he said.
Turning his gaze from the corner, he saw the night itself, a dark bluish alicorn shrouded with a nearly-invisible aura of eldritch darkness. It was indeed Princess Celestia's sister, Princess Luna. Despite being roughly the same age (perhaps minus the thousand years she spent while entrapped in the moon) Luna was, at most, only half a size larger than the average mare, and she had a definite look of youth about her. Even with the wisdom of centuries behind those eyes, she would, now and forever, always be Celestia's darling younger sister.
Next to Luna stood Trixie. At first glance, Blueblood thought she looked worried but, double-checking, he saw he was quite mistaken. No, she was extremely annoyed, disappointed in him for wasting her time. It seems she had a bit of a stroke of luck in finding Princess Luna in the whereabouts, but Blueblood was not overly surprised: though ruined, this was one of their castles, after all, and perhaps one that Luna was even more familiar with than the one in Canterlot.
With a loud harrumph, Blueblood wearily climbed to his hooves and stretched, dislodging a few pebbles that had settled on him, and stared hard at Trixie with the typical look of contempt painted across his face.
As the two unicorns leveled scathingly disapproving gazes at each other, something flickered between them, their minds united by mutual sentiment. They realized that they could see a bit of themselves in each other... and they hated
what they saw. Arrogant, vain, downright mean, they would sooner eat a horseshoe than to give each other the time of day. They were self-centered jerks, nothing less, nothing more, and they preferred it that way.
Yet, if there was any chance under Celestia's sun or Luna's moon that they could possibly see around the colossal egos they held so dear, they would have said one thing to each other, a fundamental fact, an undeniable truth:
They were more in love with each other than they had ever been with any other pony in their lives.
This unvoiced mutual realization came from several things. Before it was drowned out by their personalities, Trixie and Blueblood had enjoyed a brief moment of love at first sight, as both of them were gorgeous and there was a certain something about each other that they liked from the start. In the brief time that they had come to know each other, they had discovered they both excelled at performing and, as performance was their life passion, it served as a bridge in which they could be passionate for each other. In fits of anger, they had accidentally related to each other their life stories, had found they had in common miserable lives, and the self-serving pity they had for themselves had made the transition to sympathy for each other. They had even chosen to risk it all in order to save each other's lives, Trixie from the cockatrice, and Blueblood from wasting away in isolation, and these uncommonly selfless gestures were not completely lost on even these two most selfish of ponies.
Most amazingly of all, the formidable number of positive things these two insufferably vain ponies had discovered about each other were actually slingshot into an even higher realm of love by the negativity that they wore on the surface. This was because looking at each other was like looking into a mirror and seeing an opposite gendered version of themselves, and they loved
looking into mirrors.
In other words, as if it was not enough that these two ponies seemed made for each other, they also absolutely deserved each other.
Princess Luna cleared her throat sharply. With uncharacteristic looks of embarrassment, the two hopelessly narcissistic unicorns broke their gaze on one another, narrowly evading the possibility of starving to death enraptured in their reflections.
"Nephew, " said Luna, "I have a wagon waiting to take you back to your quarters in Canterlot." She pointed a fore-hoof through a large crack in the walls and into the distance, and Blueblood could see the wagon on the other side of the rope bridge, a full contingent of guards ready to repel any more hydra visitations.
Blueblood was relieved. While, not long ago, he had stoked a fiery spirit to run away from home, his adventure had put out those flames with all the ferocity of a waterfall. He was now quite certain that the best place for him was behind some very stout, well-guarded castle walls at Canterlot. Without a word, he haughtily set off for the wagon.
Of course, he stopped before leaving the room.
Not bothering to turn around, he stated, "I believe that our royal person would enjoy a bit of company on the way back to Canterlot. In fact, I seem to recall we have a vacancy at the castle for a royal magician, a position that includes lodging and very fair pay."
Head imperiously raised in the air, he craned his neck just enough to fix an eye on Trixie behind him, and saw on her face a smile reeking of the usual utter self-satisfaction as she replied, "In light of the recent destruction of the Great And Powerful Trixie's mode of transportation, home, and place of business, I accept."
As Blueblood ushered Trixie into the wagon with the practiced motions he had gained from hundreds of royal courtship rituals of the past, he decided to take a chance, to say something a little spontaneous.
"Great and Powerful Trixie, I do believe this will be the beginning of a truly terrible relationship."
Trixie paused for a moment with an unreadable expression.
She smiled then, a smug little smile, and said something she never thought she would say in her life.
may call me Trixie."
From a concealed clearing, Princess Celestia watched the wagon pull away on the path back to Canterlot.
When it was far enough away, she turned back to a terrible reptilian monster bent down into the bush not twenty feet away and pointed in the direction of Froggybottom Bog, its home. The hydra reared up, turned around, and trudged away. In departure, one of the heads blew a raspberry at her. Celestia ignored the sleight: hydras will be hydras.
With her were two very familiar guards, shuffling uneasily.
Princess Celestia turned to them demurely and said, "Hans, Fritz, you have permission to speak freely."
Hans was the first to break the silence between the two, "My liege, you know we do not mean to question your methods, but we must know: why did you go through such elaborate measures to help that insufferable nephew of yours in a simple matter of romance?"
Fritz chimed in angrily, "Begging your pardon, princess, but insufferable is right! Do you have any idea what he made us do to a defenseless baby dragon?!"
Princess Celestia's serenity was unbroken, their comments no more than a leaf gently impacting a calm lake. Of course, it was only natural that the far younger guards would not be able to understand an immortal's machinations. She rarely explained as, for her intervention to work the best, it took an invisible touch, and consequently there was an inherent danger that revealing her intentions may undo her progress. However, among the virtues she insisted on being in every one of her guards, one was the ability to keep a secret, and sometimes she liked to explain the reasons she incited her mad fiascoes. Besides, these two had earned it.
She began with the obvious, "Guards, you should know that my goal is to bring happiness to all
my little ponies, especially
the problematic ones." Hans and Fritz flinched, already feeling reprimanded, Celestia continued, "As for why we're doing this today, it's because it's all our fault."
The guards looked boggled. Hans asked, "Our fault, Princess?"
Celestia nodded, "As you may recall, Equestria has just escaped from a major crisis: Nightmare Moon's return, dark magics having perverted my sister into an wicked mare of darkness. Fortunately, my faithful student and her friends managed to end that crisis in the best way possible, quickly, before any lasting damage was done, and even returning my precious sister to me. It was my grandest plan yet, a millennium in the making, and it succeeded wonderfully. However, I ask you guards, was justice done for all?"
The guards were lost.
Princess Celestia shook her head softly, "No, I'm afraid not. For you see, there was a possibility my student would fail. Should that have occurred, Nightmare Moon's insane aims to bring everlasting night would bring nothing less than doom to ponydom, and I would not be there to stop her. That could not be allowed. We needed a plan B. Through the sheer poor luck of being born my nephew at the worst possible time, Prince Blueblood's entire life was to be that plan B."
The guards looked at each other dubiously: that ridiculous fop would stand against Nightmare Moon?
Princess Celestia was anticipating this, "Understand that no one pony could hope to stand up against an immortal, but together they may have a chance. My nephew's role was not to make decisions, as it would take the combined efforts of the best minds in all of Equestria to hope to outmaneuver our foe. No, my nephew's role was to be the figurehead, every bit as majestic as the alicorn he would oppose, the banner that all of Equestria would unite under in one last push against the darkness. For this, he was trained to be the representation of a perfect prince, indomitable, and as self-centered as possible so as to have the necessary confidence to inspire everypony even while Equestria crumbled around them."
The guards were gaping as understanding overtook them.
Celesta concluded the first point she had to make, "So it is that, out of our mutual love of Equestria, it truly is all of our fault that Prince Blueblood is what he is today: a figurehead cut loose from its mount, a vain representation of a higher ideal that turned out to be completely unnecessary." There were tears in Celestia's eyes, "Is it really any wonder that my dear, once innocent little nephew grew up to become such an insufferable, arrogant dandy? It was his special talent, we all made sure of that, and he was very good at it. I am extremely proud of him for enduring the terrible role that had been forced upon him by us all."
The guards looked very guilty, not only for the prince, but for making their beloved princess relive a sad memory. Celestia's explanation drifted to how it is they had arrived here today.
"Up until recently, I let Prince Blueblood run wild, to do what he learned to do best, to use his special talent in any way he saw fit. It was the least I could do." Princess Celestia's voice took on a bitter tone, "However, he went too far, his little escapade to Ponyville came too close to threatening something far greater than he knew. I found out far too late, arriving just in time to allow his rash actions to backfire catastrophically, irrevocably destroying his reputation, the very thing through which his special talent operated. Now, not only his destiny as a plan B, but everything he learned since he was a foal, has been completely and utterly denied to him."
But Princess Celestia sounded hopeful, "Yet, not all was lost. You see, guardsman, as long as a pony lives, no matter how dire their circumstances, no matter how terrible they feel, they can learn. Learning is very powerful. With it, one can overcome virtually any circumstance. All a pony needs is a chance, the right stimulation at the right time. I needed to teach my nephew something he could use to escape his cruel fate once and for all."
Her gaze returned to the road, the wagon was long out of sight, "As the cage that confines my nephew was the single-minded self-love we had deliberately instilled in him, I knew that his escape could only come from learning how to love somepony other than himself. When my faithful student informed me of Trixie's visit to Ponyville, I realized that she would be the key, one Prince Blueblood could truly fall in love with by virtue of her similarities to the one thing he held dear: himself. She is Prince Blueblood's best chance at redemption. I also knew that he was hers in the very same way, potentially curing two ponies at once."
Where the guards had been shamed by their association with the damage that had been done to the prince, they were now staggered by the part they played in an immortal's attempt to counteract it. They now understood exactly why Princess Celestia had launched this scheme, from the depths of Castle Canterlot and all the way to the ancient castle of the royal pony sisters. She concluded what they now knew, "As was my intent from the start, we have succeeded in teaching my nephew and Trixie how to love somepony other than themselves. Whether or not the curse of their vanity will truly be lifted is still uncertain but, so long as their love preserves, they will have many chances to improve, little by little."
Always one for teaching lessons, Princess Celestia thought it would be best to end this discussion with one, "If there's anything I want you guards to remember when you are enforcing justice throughout Equestria, it is that everypony is just doing the best that they can with what they were given, whether it be dark magics, dire straights, poor upbringing, or something even more complicated. Their wrongdoings are just harmful, clumsy attempts to cope, and our standing against them doing what we must to mitigate the damage. Ultimately, nopony chooses to be the villain, being a villain chooses them."
Sometimes, when Celestia smiled, it was like a sunrise. "And that, my dear guardsmen, is precisely why we did what we did today: because even villains deserve a chance at a happy ending." The guards looked into that sunrise and smiled back, satisfied at having completed a job well done, more confident than ever that they were ready to tackle whatever adventure awaited them next in service to the crown.
That confidence did not last long, as it was then that her royal highness Princess Celestia, incredibly cunning creature that she was, did something that caused both guards to seriously consider resigning on the spot. She sighed and said, "Oh, dear me. My nephew and Trixie under one roof. It will be quite some time until peace and quiet is restored to Castle Canterlot. It seems that I have even outsmarted myself!"