(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.)
The Blueblood Conspiracy
By Geldon (geldonyetich.deviantart.com)
Part 2 of 5
Jump to part 1.
The two wagons carrying the friends and their things had set out from Ponyville the very next morning. The rumors had traveled fast, and it was no secret that nopony knew for certain when they would be returning. Though Canterlot was only a few hours away by wagon, many Ponyvillians bid tearful goodbyes to them as they passed, even the mayor herself.
The departure of the six ponies (plus one dragon) from Ponyville had went relatively smoothly. Perhaps the greatest resistance came from the Cutie Mark Crusaders, three young fillies with close ties. Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom were both being deprived of their older sisters, and Scootaloo was taking Rainbow Dash's absence at least as hard. However, the older fillies had managed to escape the gravity of those bottomless eyes with promises that the mission would be over soon and that they would be allowed to return home. (It was a promise that they desperately hoped to be able to keep.)
The trip itself was largely uneventful, the only particularly notable thing being Twilight Sparkle's continued strange behavior. Though she had made token efforts to keep up with her friends' antics as they passed the time with conversation and games, it was clear that the unicorn was becoming increasingly reserved. When she could hide it no longer, she was quick to blame it on seeing Princess Celestia, whose exposure to her friends had thus far been limited to special occasions. It was an easy excuse, since she had always demonstrated anxiety whenever making a good impression on her mentor was involved.
Finally, the two wagons pulled up to the verdant lawn before an immense structure of many majestic spires united under a graceful architecture: Castle Canterlot. Upon informing the guard of their arrival, the fillies from Ponyville were told to report to the throne room. While following the winding footpath up to the drawbridge, they passed the royal porter ponies who would be taking their things to their room. Twilight had told her friends that most things they need would be provided, but each of them had a few personal items they wanted along if they were expected to live at the castle for an indeterminable amount of time.
Although Twilight told her repeatedly it was not necessarily, Rarity insisted that she and her friends demonstrate some level of sophistication when entering the royal court today, and so had provided them with some short but elegant dresses. It was a design intended to exemplify Ponyville humility while still attracting notice. Even the tomboyish Applejack and Rainbow Dash did not find these dresses too excessively froufrou.
Spike did not get off so easy. At Rarity's request, he unquestioningly wore a blue velvet sailor suit topped with a fancy black sombrero with white trim. As they passed through the gates and into the castle, he could swear he heard some of the guards stifling snickers, but whenever he looked they were standing at statuesque attention. He felt absolutely humiliated, and planned to ditch the suit at his earliest opportunity.
Twilight's friends were excited. "I simply cannot believe this is really happening!" enthused Rarity as they passed through the antechamber leading into the throne room, "We get to live under the same roof as Princess Celestia herself!" Even Pinkie Pie seemed to be bouncing slightly higher than usual.
Twilight Sparkle stumbled sideways into Applejack, who immediately moved to support her, attracting a concerned look from her friends. "You okay, sugar cube?"
She righted herself and grinned sheepishly. "F-fine... I'm sorry for worrying you, girls, I don't think I slept very well last night."
"Understatement of the year!" came Spike's glib confirmation, "When I got up this morning, you looked like a wreck!"
"Uh huh." Twilight was too weak to protest.
As they were entering the throne room, Rainbow Dash was saying, "Then lets just get this over with so Twilight can get some re-"
"AIGH! IT'S THE YELLOW DEMON FROM THE GALA!"
The royal herald's shout caused every guard, servant, and noblepony in the court to take one look at Fluttershy and cower in place, as though afraid one wrong move would set her off. Some of them may even have started crying.
"Oh, no! Not this again!" squeaked the shy pony, cowering herself as she began to crawl backwards out of the room. Her friends gathered around her protectively, Rainbow Dash and Applejack looking about ready to kick somepony.
"Enough!" From atop her throne, Princess Celestia's usual serenity looked close to breaking. "Everypony, that is Fluttershy, one of my protege's closest friends, and I expect you to treat her kindly!"
The cowering court ponies cast a few quick glances between Fluttershy and Celestia (perhaps trying to decide who they feared more) and then climbed to their hooves, muttering all matter of apologies to the shy little pegasus. Some even bowed before her. If anything, this added attention made her even more nervous, but at least she no longer felt the need to bolt from the room.
"I'm so glad everypony could make it!" Luna cheerfully waved to them from her spot next to her big sister.
The warm welcome restored Celestia to her usual good mood as she signaled the new arrivals to approach the throne. "Come and be welcome, my little ponies. Twilight Sparkle, my faithful student, it is so good to see you again."
"Uh huh." replied Twilight aimlessly.
Celestia paused for a moment, perhaps surprised at her student's lack of enthusiasm, but continued. "I wish to thank you all for answering my summons-"
"Shucks, 'taint nothin'. We're sure as sugar is happy to be helping y'all out, princess!" drawled the tawny earth pony. Some of the nobleponies in the court gaped at her. Applejack noticed this and looked a little embarrassed.
The alicorn did not seem bothered in the slightest in being interrupted. If anything, her smile became even warmer. "And your help is greatly appreciated, Applejack. Please consider Castle Canterlot your home during this important mission."
"Ooo!" marveled Pinkie Pie as she poked her head out from high behind the throne, "I can see everypony from here!"
Nopony saw how or when she got there. A noblemare fainted, probably at the breach of protocol that came from approaching the throne so brazenly.
"I know, right?" Luna was beaming at Pinkie Pie, who withdrew her head behind the throne and popped it out again at the opposite end next to Luna, nodding furiously.
Rainbow Dash flew up to the two and shouted, "Pinkie Pie, stop being so random! She was about to tell us what this is all about!" In response, the pink pony playfully stuck her tongue out at her, causing Luna to giggle.
At this point, the court was no longer surprised at their rude guests' antics, just appalled.
"That's quite alright, Rainbow Dash." Celestia's smile seemed completely unaffected by all that had transpired. "I believe the details of your mission will become clear in time. For now, why don't you girls settle into your new room?"
Rarity was gaping, as shocked as any noblepony at her friends trampling all over court etiquette, but upon hearing Celestia's dismissal she snapped back to her senses and bowed. Fluttershy and Applejack followed Rarity's example, but Twilight just stood there. Noticing this, Rarity shot a subtle kick to her flank in order to get her attention.
To the shocked cries of her friends, Twilight toppled unceremoniously to the floor, and was still.
The royal infirmary was as well-equipped as any hospital, albeit limited to six beds. There, a stately gray stallion with a stethoscope cutie mark pronounced his prognosis, "I see nothing wrong with her, so I believe Miss Sparkle is simply exhausted from the trip. All she needs now is some peace and quiet."
Twilight's friends and Princess Luna let out a collective sigh of relief. Although the purple unicorn wore an unhappy expression, she appeared to be resting comfortably.
Celestia sat beside the bed, her unusually large body taking up its entire length. She spoke kindly but firmly. "You heard the doctor, everypony. I think it's best if you let her rest. The steward will show you to your room." The doctor retreated to his private office and shut the door, while the others left through the archway leading to the rest of the castle.
There were two exceptions. "Luna. Spike. Stay a moment, won't you?" They froze. There was something about Celestia's voice that told them they were in trouble. They sheepishly made their way to the opposite side of Twilight's bed.
The monarch was to the point. "Do either of you want to tell me what was in that letter I wrote?" Luna just hung her head, while Spike kicked the ground bashfully.
The dragon spoke first, "Well, there was the proclamation. You were saying that Twilight Sparkle's mission in Ponyville had been suspended, she had to live at the castle, and that her friends were coming with her. She seemed really upset about having to break the news to everypony."
Celestia looked down at her faithful student with an unreadable expression for a moment. "This I know. And...?"
"I'm so sorry!" Luna admitted, "I told her that Blueblood and Trixie were here, that they were the reason that they were coming, and not to tell Rarity. But that's all I wrote, really!"
"Oh, Luna," murmured the older alicorn sadly, "whatever am I going to do with you?"
"You're not going to send her to the moon, are you?" The young dragon was earnest.
"No." replied Celestia immediately. Her voice was sharp, but not harsh, "Never again."
Luna seemed unaffected, already knowing this. "Somepony needed to know, Tia. It was too risky to simply spring it on them."
"I agree." The answer seemed to surprise Luna. "But there was a very good reason why I took that risk."
At her sister's inquiring glance, Celestia spoke, "Twilight Sparkle is the bearer of the Element of Magic."
Luna gasped. "I knew that, but are you saying..?"
There was a pregnant pause. Princess Luna was looking as ashamed now as when she had been carried into Ponyville following the defeat of Nightmare Moon.
Spike sensed a secret, and it worried him, "What are you two talking about?!"
Celestia answered with an abrupt command, "Spike, quickly, retrieve your friends. Tell them it is an emergency."
Twilight Sparkle felt like her ribs were being pried open but, instead of an unpleasant sensation, this seemed to be letting in a much-needed breath of fresh air. She felt something she dared not feel since before the day she left Ponyville: loved.
Her eyes gradually came into focus, taking in the royal infirmary and the visage of Princess Celestia, whose horn was aglow. Noticing she was awake, the alicorn stopped whatever magic she was performing and that pleasant inner feeling stopped, being replaced with the usual dread she had been feeling lately.
The unicorn sat up and took in the rest of the infirmary she had been resting in. Sitting on both sides of her bed were the two royal princesses. Her friends surrounded the foot of her bed in a semicircle, all wearing concerned expressions.
Spike jumped up onto the foot of her bed. "Hey Twi, how are you feeling? Do you remember how you got here?"
"Well..." She thought back to recent events. "We were about to enter the throne room and..." She winced. "The rest is a blank!"
"My faithful student." Celestia's familiar voice warmed Twilight like the rays of the sun. "Sometimes, I wish you were not so faithful."
She gaped at her. "Huh?!"
"I'm really sorry." Luna's voice eclipsed her sister's, drawing Twilight's attention to the other side of the bed. "It was wrong of me to ask you to keep anything from your friends."
The unicorn introvert was now doubly flabbergasted. "Huh?!"
At the foot of her bed, the fillies passed a look between each other. "Now, what in tarnation is this all about?" The bearer of the Element of Honesty was always quick to want to get to the truth of things.
Twilight Sparkle required a moment to reorient herself before she could recall the source of her troubles over the past few days. When she did, the pain she had suppressed back at the party came flooding back, and her eyes filled with tears. They felt bittersweet: she realized she had been given a royal pardon, and could now unload the greatest burden she ever had to carry.
She told them everything. About knowing that Prince Blueblood and Trixie would be present at Castle Canterlot. About knowing they had something to do with their mission. About choosing not inform Rarity. About how she had betrayed them all by keeping it to herself. She told them that she would not blame them if they knew how terrible she was and wanted to leave her forever. When she was done, she closed her eyes and braced for the tongue-lashing she was sure to receive.
Then, she felt the embrace of her friends from all sides. She looked and saw that the alicorns had stepped away from the bed and her friends were now piled atop of it. Pinkie Pie had even somehow found some way to replace her pillow with her stomach, hugging her head from above and behind.
But one pony did not join the embrace. Rarity stood some distance away from the bed, with her back facing them all.
"Oh no," worried Fluttershy, "I don't think she's happy."
"No." Rarity's voice smoldered at a low ladylike furor. "I'm not happy."
"Hey!" In a flash, Rainbow Dash had flown up to Rarity and was now confronting her. "I know that Blueblood jerk-"
Rarity shut her down mid-sentence with an elegant dismissal, "I could care less about Blueblood." Rainbow Dash seemed at a loss for words.
The fashionista turned to face Twilight Sparkle, glaring at her. "But what is completely unforgivable," her voice was quivering in barely contained righteous indignation, "is that anypony would dare think that Rarity Unicorn would rather abandon a friend than face a demon of her past!"
Twilight looked as though she was struck, and was about launch into a crying fit, "I'm so sorr-!"
"I forgive you." Rarity said simply.
"Huh?!" Twilight's tears stopped before they had even reformed. She was once again shocked at a sudden turn of events.
Rarity's anger had vanished in the blink of an eye, and she sat there looking at Twilight with a warm little smile. "Unforgivable or not, everypony makes mistakes, and I do believe you have suffered for it more than anypony else would have." She walked up and daintily found a place beside her friends on the overcrowded bed. "I'm proud to have a friend as marvelous as you."
Rainbow Dash rejoining them, the six friends completed their group hug in earnest. From the foot of the bed, Spike silently took the situation into account and decided that, just this time, he could forgo acting nauseated at all this mushy junk.
After some time, Celestia spoke. "Girls, I would guess that none of you have eaten anything since your arrival at Castle Canterlot." The looks she gathered indicated she guessed correctly. "Then please proceed to the grand dining hall, where you will find I have had a banquet prepared. Surely, this reconciliation is grounds for a-"
"Party!" cheered Pinkie Pie, producing confetti out of nopony-knows-where and tossing it into the air.
Laughing, the close friends left the infirmary. It felt empty without them, despite Celestia and Luna lingering behind.
From across the empty bed, Luna called, "I misjudged Rarity, didn't I, Tia?" Her tone was bright, even playful.
Celestia returned her sister's mirth. "We both did, little sister."
"Yep, that's my Rarity for you, she's wonderful." A young voice intervened dreamily. The two regal sisters turned to see Spike was still in the room, having jumped out of hiding and back onto the foot of the bed.
There, the little dragon stood firm, a stare boring into at the tall monarch as though he did not care if he went blind looking at the sun: he had just about enough of its brilliance, and it was going down.
"Alright, sister." This was his ultimatum voice. "I'm giving you two choices. Choice number one: you tell me exactly what just happened. Choice number two: you throw me in the dungeon. You're not leaving until you pick one or the other."
It was a ludicrous demand: as if a baby dragon could force an alicorn to do anything. Nevertheless, Princess Celestia confronted Spike with an unreadable expression, their staring contest going on for a full minute, before the alicorn smiled and said, "What an unusual dragon you are, Spike. You truly care about my faithful student, don't you?"
The dragon looked a little taken aback and replied, "Well, yeah. She's Twilight, you know?" That seemed to explain everything.
The tall alicorn looked to her sister, who nodded.
Luna began, "Spike, as you are aware, there are six Elements of Harmony. Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Honesty, and Loyalty are the basic elements. They can manifest through each of our actions and radiate throughout Equestria. However, the sixth element is different. When the first five elements combine, they become friendship. Friendship is magic. This is how the Element of Magic comes to be."
Celestia continued, "What my sister learned today is that no pony takes up the mantle of becoming a bearer of an Element of Harmony without being changed. The element transforms the bearer as needed for the magic to flow correctly. Twilight Sparkle is a very special case. Her special talent is magic, and she is the bearer of the Element of Magic. They have fused, becoming one and the same. We ponies breath magic; we require it to survive. Should the Element of Magic ever recede from Twilight Sparkle..."
Luna's voice was heavy, "Twilight Sparkle wasn't being melodramatic, Spike. The Element of Magic has been receding, taking the magic sustaining her life with it. She was suffocating!"
Spike gaped. "Holy guacamole," he said in a reverent tone, "you ponies really play for keeps." Then he was frantic in his concern for Twilight. "So what happened?! Why was the element receding?!"
"It's all my fault." A tear rolled down Luna's nose. "My sister's tasks gave Twilight things that she could get out of the way quickly, restoring the balance, but when I told her to keep Blueblood from Rarity..."
As her sister could not continue, Celestia explained, "A pony's emotions are closely tied to how the flow of their magic works. Twilight Sparkle felt she was betraying, not just Rarity, but all of her friends. To avoid the pain from this, she decided she did not deserve them, closing her heart. As her friends directly represented the five elements, she was now effectively blocking the inward flow of them all. That is why it was important for them to reconcile. Now that she again feels worthy of her friends, the five elements can now flow into her, not just from them but from everypony. The Element of Magic has been restored within her."
"I see," said Spike crossly, "So how do we fix her? How do we get her magic back to normal?"
Luna and Celestia exchanged a glance that told Spike the answer to his question before the older sister spoke. "We know of no magic that can undo what the Elements of Harmony have done."
"Fine!" the dragon spat bitterly. "In that case, there's something I gotta know. What about the other bearers? What happened to them?"
Celestia was reassuring, "Their lives are safe. As other five elements have always stood on their own, they have no danger of receding. Even if they could recede, the current bearers are not so intimately bonded with them, and would suffer no ill effect. Except, perhaps, feeling a bit empty inside."
Spike was visibly relieved, if still a little cross.
Celestia was not finished, and continued in a cautionary tone. "Yet, a transformation did occur in each of them. For most ponies, the elements function as a moral compass. To live contrary to any one element simply results in a less balanced, less harmonious life. However, for the bearers, their element has been given a much greater role, as practically the only element their moral compass draws from. This makes them very vulnerable to losing their balance and falling into discord completely."
The younger alicorn seemed to understand, but the dragon was confused, "Come again?"
Luna turned to Spike and gave him the simple version.
"When they act against their element, it's easy for them to get carried away. They may even go completely insane."
The towering walls of the grand dining hall rung with their cries, "AIGH! IT'S THE YELLOW DEMON OF THE GALA!"
"Will you stop that?!" Twilight Sparkle was glad to be back to her old authoritative self again. "Fluttershy is not a demon! She's very nice! Now, clean up this mess!"
In response, the two distinguished looking earth pony waiters stopped shivering in each others' forelegs and scrambled to clean the contents of the trays they spilled. Though the power behind being Celestia's personal protege was only implied, it was nonetheless effective.
Aside from the six friends and the occasional royal staffer, the grand dining room was empty; it was perhaps a little too clean, as though it were missing several minor furnishings. It seemed unnatural to the shy yellow pegasus as she worried quietly from their place at one end the grand dining table. "I don't know about this, Twilight. Everypony's scared of me! Maybe I should just go back to Ponyville?"
"You worry too much, Fluttershy!" Though at times Rainbow Dash seemed callous, she had known the former ex-Cloudsdalian the longest, and comforting her was old hat. "Once we set everypony straight, things will be so awesome around here!"
Across the table from the two pegasi, Pinkie Pie had already gulped countless cakes, and was now entertaining herself by making a remarkably elaborate sculpture out of some mashed potatoes. Sitting next to her, Applejack's hearty country girl appetite was doing justice to the luxurious spread before her. "And I'm atellin' ya," she drawled between mouthfuls, "this fancy-britches palace grub is mighty fine once you get used to it! Though... it could use more apples."
Rarity was sitting at the end of the table, next to the recently-reconciled Twilight, and was aghast at the farm pony's conduct. "Applejack, darling, do mind your manners!"
Applejack thought it over. "Nah. Celestia did say we should make ourselves at home, and I say the soup's on!" To Rarity's dismay, the farm pony resumed piling her plate high with various royal confections.
For some reason, Twilight Sparkle could not be happier at their usual antics than she was today. She was feeling light; alive. As though, no matter what, as long as she was with her friends, everything would be right in the world.
The familiar baby dragon walked in and joined them at the table. Twilight Sparkle greeted him brightly, "Heya Spike, what kept you?"
He grabbed a plate of rubies and replied, "Oh, I was talking to the princesses."
"Really? What about?"
"Just about how hard it's going to be to live under the same roof with all six of you." The fillies took his sour response in good humor, rolling their eyes or poking fun at how silly the young dragon was, but he inwardly congratulated himself at how smoothly he diverted suspicion.
The princesses had sworn Spike to secrecy but, as far as he was concerned, they need not have bothered. Fate (likely with a guiding hoof from Celestia) had cleverly chosen six ponies whose natural behaviors were such that they were almost never in conflict with the Elements of Harmony they bore. Spike preferred everypony thought their little quirks were just that; personality quirks, nothing else. Unlike Twilight, who he planned to keep a close eye on, it was not like he was going to croak from guilt. If anything, a dragon guarded a momentous secret like the finest jewel, something Celestia may have taken into account when she confided in him.
The dragon smiled as he chewed his gems, happy to be sharing a meal with his six favorite fillies in all the world. So maybe they do go nuts once in awhile? That was just part of the reason why he loved them!
They had been enjoying the banquet for a solid half hour when the double doors on the opposite end of the hall opened, heralding visitors.
"Shhh!" Pinkie Pie hissed in a low whisper, with all the ferocity of enforcing a Pinkie swear, "Girls, look!" The pink pony pointed far to the opposite side of the grand dining table where, over a hundred empty place settings away, a royal entourage had entered for their supper.
On the left, Prince Blueblood strut in, nose held imperially high, being trailed by his nearly-ever-present personal guards, Hans and Fritz. On the right, a smaller, bluer version of him mirrored his actions. Trixie, of course, was being trailed by her maids, Primrose and Zinnia.
Twilight gasped, seeing for the first time the two ponies they had been brought here to help, and realized that the princesses never did get around to explaining their mission. Applejack muttered what she and her friends were all thinking, "Wut do y'all reckon those two 'r all about?"
Strangely, the two remarkably self-absorbed unicorns were carefully avoiding looking at each other. In fact, so very carefully that it prevented them from looking forward, in the general direction of the six fillies plus dragon. Instead, they mostly looked at the ceiling. It was testimony to how practiced they were at sticking their nose up at other ponies that this did nothing to impede them from navigation. They sat at opposite sides of the far end of the table from the fillies, facing each other in body, if not in spirit. Between them, royal servants delivered fresh dishes of food.
Twilight Sparkle whispered to the pony next to her, "Are you alright, Rarity?"
"I told you, Twilight," she replied primly but covertly enough to escape notice, "I am completely over that ghastly prince!"
Twilight rolled her eyes. If Rarity really felt that way, then how could she explain why she had abandoned her impeccable manners in order to carefully hide behind their end of the table?
"What are those two doing eating together?" Rainbow Dash barely prevented herself from shouting her suspicion. "Do you think they're plotting against us?"
Fluttershy was looking over at the two vain unicorns with wide eyes. "Oh, my." she sighed softly, "I didn't see that coming."
At the far end of the dining hall, Blueblood and Trixie ate their food in silence. It was the prince who eventually spoke, eyes downcast on his plate. "Trixie," he said, "please pass the salt."
It was a strange request, and the oddness was multifaceted. Not only had Blueblood managed to address Trixie without her title and escaped unscathed but, when you're a unicorn, you can very well pass your own salt with your telekinesis. It was as though he was trying to get her attention... with subtle courteously? It seemed like an impossible thing for such a self-entitled prince to do, as the fillies had known him to boldly proclaim demands for anything he wanted.
Odder still, Trixie complied, quipping, "You're not going to let it go to your head, are you?" She was referring to intoxicating effect salt could have on ponies. Her voice may have been slightly sharp, but the words still seemed grossly alien compared to all the snarky replies the fillies were expecting.
"Well," Blueblood could not resist retorting with a slight edge, "that would not be the only thing that had went to my head lately."
Sharply, the tension on that end of the table had risen, to the point where the fillies could feel a certain threat hanging in the air even from where they sat. Trixie shifted uncomfortably in her seat, wrestling with her towering pride. Hans and Fritz, who had been taken up a post on both sides of the double doors they had entered, looked across at each other nervously. Standing next to Trixie, the scarlet filly, Zinnia, took wing and darted behind her fellow maid, the stately Primrose.
"Miss?" It was Primrose who spoke, a noblemare's voice that elegantly expressed a single word. It sounded subtly insistent, encouraging Trixie to a course of action. Unlike the other attendants, she did not seem the least bit nervous. This pony had nerves of steel.
At this prompting, Trixie grit her teeth. Then, carefully, she allowed herself to relax. She took a deep breath. Finally, she looked directly at Blueblood and said something that shocked the six fillies to the core.
Twilight and her friends looked at each other open-mouthed, even the indomitably oblivious Pinkie Pie not believing what she was hearing. The Great And Powerful Trixie had apologized for something. Using a first person pronoun, no less. This, the show pony who relished humiliating them up on stage rather than let them comment on her flamboyance from the audience. This, the very same pony who would rather flee from Ponyville in a dramatic exit than apologize for a simple lie that had set in motion the events that nearly lead to the quaint town's complete destruction! It was nothing short of miraculous. Could it be that Trixie had learned her lesson after all?
Yet, in response to this notably incredible thing, the prince merely harrumphed. It was not a dismissive harrumph, but rather one that seemed to suggest he really had nothing to say about that. The fillies saw that, and thought, "Now there's our inconsiderate prince."
Trixie stood up at once and yelled at him, "THE GREAT AND POWERFUL TRIXIE HAS SAID SHE IS SORRY!" Her shout echoed off the walls of the great dining hall, increasing tensions further. The ponies that had served their food beat a hasty retreat. If most of the onlookers had not already been sitting in anxious silence, they would have been now. Now that was the Trixie the six fillies knew.
Trixie was glaring at Blueblood, who now regarded her, afraid. He opened and shut his mouth soundlessly. After a moment, his eyes glazed over and he answered her in practiced regal detachment.
"Yes, very good."
That would have been the right thing to say in a relaxed dining environment. However, taking the context of the situation into account, it was so callous that even the brash Rainbow Dash blanched.
"NO, IT WASN'T!" cried Trixie, her horn aglow. Hans and Fritz dove behind some pillars. Primrose gracefully backed into a quarter, carefully shoving Zinnia behind her.
"Ooo!" Pinkie Pie had recovered from her surprise and was getting increasingly excited at watching the couple argue. Suddenly, the hindquarters she was sitting on began to rattle, and she shouted a warning to her friends, "Twitchy tail!"
Twilight and her friends exchanged a look. "Twitchy tail? But that means-"
It was then that they noticed that several articles from about the room had begun to glow, and were slowly being drawn above Trixie, as though attracted by her anger, where they begun to spin into a slow whirlwind.
"TWITCHY TAIL!" shouted Applejack, as she and her friends dove for cover.
What followed was chaos, something so terrible that the fillies and dragon would only remember scattered scenes. Twilight Sparkle and Applejack on the front lines, knocking stray projectiles out of the air with well practiced magic and apple bucking hoof respectively. Rainbow Dash flying between a spinning tempest of floating flatware, trying to avoid being pulverized by the plates. Spike bravely defending a frightened Rarity from a hail of cutlery with an improvised saucepan shield. An annoyed Rarity defending a frightened Spike with that same lid when he balked after the first volley. Fluttershy hiding under a pony-sized serving lid, only to have it levitated off her by Trixie looking for more ammunition. Pinkie Pie was on the offensive, dodging attacks with the honed skills of a professional food fighter, picking up various pies and cakes and throwing them, scoring only a few direct hits on lingering service ponies that she imagined were in league with enemy.
Once again, Castle Canterlot was under siege.
Somehow, the six fillies and Spike had managed to escape the grand dining room, galloping into the hall leading through royal quarters. Twilight Sparkle followed her friends to their room, and they quickly barricaded themselves inside by pushing some heavy wardrobes in front of the doors before bracing themselves against it for good measure.
"No explosions this time. The nephew must be restraining himself."
"Yes, sister. You know he's a good colt, deep down. This one should be short."
The voices turned Twilight Sparkle's attention away from the barricade and she found herself dumbstruck... and perhaps a little creeped out.
Though she had been to the castle many times before, this room had been completely renovated since she had last seen it. There were six alcoves, two to each wall other than the one with the double door that lead out into the hallway. Each alcove had bedroom furnishings and could be concealed with curtains decorated with the pattern of their cutie marks. Above each of the six alcoves, hewn into the rock wall, were the six icons of the Elements of Harmony.
There was no doubt about it: Celestia had actually gone so far as to create a room at the castle specifically customized for Twilight and her friends to stay in. Considering it must have been done months before she received the summons, the critical thinking unicorn could not help but feel a bit manipulated.
If Twilight had any complaints, she would not have to look far. The centerpiece of the room was a square table, ornately inlaid with gems, and large enough to accommodate three normal-sized ponies comfortably to each side. On two of those sides, the two princesses sat, drinking tea. The table had been recently decked with a fresh tea set and baked goods, even going so far as to set out places for Twilight and her friends, as if the alicorns were expecting the fillies to appear in a panic in order to join them for a post-banquet tea party. Pinkie Pie already had.
Knowing the craftiness of the creatures before him, the little dragon was not the least bit surprised. He regarded the princesses grouchily. "I hope this isn't going to be another boring, long-winded explanation." The fillies could only assume he was referring to his earlier conversation with the two, whatever it was.
Luna giggled, but Celestia was being her usual imperturbable self. "I'll try to keep it brief, Spike." she assured him kindly. He only sighed and went over to a little bed set outside Twilight's alcove, apparently deciding it was time for a nap.
A shy little sniffle attracted Twilight Sparkle's attention. A little yellow pegasus in a torn, ragged dress crouched near the door with tears streaming from her eyes. Twilight attempted to placate her, "It's alright, Fluttershy, we're safe in here."
"But that's not iiiiiit!" she wailed in response, crying even harder.
"Geeze, Twilight!" Rainbow Dash flew up and sat between them, "Give her some room! That's just Fluttershy being Fluttershy."
But Luna had abandoned her tea, trotting by both of them and nuzzling the distraught pegasus. "There, there, I know." Fluttershy looked up at Luna, her tears slowing noticeably. "But it's going to be okay, I promise."
It was then that everypony noticed Applejack brazenly confronting Celestia herself. "Enough of this tenderfootin' around." she grated, glaring at the monarch of their fair land like she was staring down a cantankerous bear. "Are you a-gonna tell us the honest truth 'bout why we're here, or you are a-plannin' on hurtin' more of my friends first?"
Though the alicorn had her eyes closed, as she often does when trying to savor the taste of her tea, Applejack's accusation caused her to almost lose her telekinetic grip on her cup; the farm pony's words had a definite impact on the almost imperturbable Celestia.
Setting down her teacup curtly, Celestia respected Applejack with an earnest reply. "As my faithful student has already told you, the reason why you are here is because Trixie and Blueblood need your help. As to what kind of help they need, I thought it best if you see it for yourself."
"That's easy. They're just jerks!" Rainbow Dash had a tendency to leap before she looked. "So, do you want us to go kick their tails?" The suggestion brought a new wave of tears from Fluttershy.
There was a hint of amusement in Celestia's reply. "Thank you, Rainbow Dash, but if I wanted to 'kick their tails,' then I'm quite certain I could do so myself."
"Clearly, they have forgotten their manners! Leave it to Rarity Unicorn, I'll teach them the charm and grace they never knew!" The unicorn was currently poking about her wardrobe, shedding herself of a dress that been forced to operate far beyond its intended stress limit.
Still comforting the crying pegasus, Luna said, "That's very generous of you, Rarity, but they already have very good manners, even if it seems they don't know how to use them." The younger alicorn indicated Fluttershy. "But I bet she knows what it is."
Unfortunately, though Fluttershy had calmed considerably, she was still too distraught to speak up.
"Tell me, Applejack," Celestia turned the tables on the earth pony, "what do you think they need?"
Taken back, she thought for a bit, and offered, "Shoot, princess, 'reckon I'd have thrown em' in the hoosegow and thrown away the key fer acting that badly outta line!"
Celestia could not resist a lighthearted laugh. "Well, if it were anypony else destroying my castle, I would certainly be tempted! But I prefer to help problem ponies, not sweep them under the carpet."
"You know what I think?" The pink party pony was spitting scone crumbs as she spoke. "I think those two vainy vain McVainensteins have been performing for everypony so long that they've forgotten how to be themselves!"
"That's very good!" The monarch was impressed. "But do you know why this is causing them so much trouble?"
Pinkie Pie thought it over with a fresh mouthful of teacake. "Noph!" she said brightly.
Finally, Celestia turned to Twilight Sparkle. "What do you think, my student?"
Twilight Sparkle was accustomed to being regularly tested by her teacher. Why would not being themselves be a problem for Blueblood and Trixie? Thinking it over, there was definitely something off about the two vain unicorns, but what?
She looked at Fluttershy. The shy little pegasus knew, at least Luna said so. Thinking back to the party, didn't she say something? Right: she said she didn't see it coming. What didn't she see? What Twilight had seen was the sullen Trixie and Blueblood eating dinner in silence. The weirdly unnecessary passing of the salt and the question it caused Trixie to voice. That incredible apology. The usually flawlessly suave Blueblood responding to it so awkwardly, and how upset it made Trixie.
Twilight pondered that last thought aloud. "Hmmm... a clueless prince... that poor entertainer..." Then she stopped. She stared at Rarity, who had frozen, staring back. They had heard that somewhere before. At the last romance book club meeting, in fact.
"Are they... are Trixie and Blueblood... in love?!"
The question was so outrageous that it hung silently in the room. Even Fluttershy stopped crying.
Rainbow Dash collapsed into a laughing heap with Applejack. "Yeah, right, Twilight thinks Trixie and Blueblood are in love. They practically tried to kill each other! The only pony they could love is themselves!" Twilight blushed from embarrassment.
To the laughing ponies' dismay, Celestia intoned, "Twilight Sparkle, you are absolutely correct."
Faintly, Fluttershy could be heard saying, "That's what I've been trying to say!"
Spike apparently wasn't asleep, after all. "Duh! I figured that out before we even left Ponyville."
Jump to part 3.