27w, 1dThe Writer's Group
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43w, 4dGive Blueblood Some Character!
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21w, 3dCompleted Story Compendium
4w, 5dStraight Shipping
After returning to the marina, Rarity was sorely disappointed to find that even though her hooves were on solid ground, the earth was swaying back and forth beneath them. She tried to look out at the horizon to reorient herself, but her head was swimming and she stumbled.
“Steady there, Miss Rarity,” Top Shelf said. The gray earth pony braced Rarity upright with one front leg. “You didn’t imbibe that much champagne, did you?” he teased.
“Thank you, I’m quite all right,” Rarity replied, accepting Top Shelf’s helping hoof in order to regain an even keel. “I’m just having some momentary difficulty exchanging my air legs for land legs.”
In truth, she had drunk that much champagne, in anticipation of being forced to meet face to face with Blueblood again. She blinked and tried to chase the fog out of her mind. She needed to think clearly, or she might say something that she would regret. Of course, she might do that regardless. No pony had ever elicited a stronger feeling from her than the burning, righteous indignation she had experienced as a result of Blueblood’s ill treatment of her at the gala.
“I want to thank you all for a splendid cruise,” Fancypants addressed the group. “After enjoying the wind in my mane and your stimulating company, I feel absolutely invigorated.” There were many platitudes and hoofclasps as the others thanked Fancypants. Then they dispersed, leaving Rarity behind with her host.
“Now, Rarity, please allow me the honor of arranging your encounter with royalty. I feel somewhat guilty for doing this, but I suppose it’s important that you see the true face of the old royal family here in Canterlot. Afterwards, though, please don’t say that you weren’t warned.” Fancypants led Rarity back to the lobby of the Royal Yacht Club and immediately solicited the attention of the manager. Rarity heard him inquire as to the whereabouts of Blueblood’s yacht launching festivities.
While Fancypants was haranguing the manager, Rarity couldn’t help turning her attention back to the big oil painting hanging over the fireplace. If she looked away, she couldn’t shake the eerie sensation that Prince Blueblood was peering at her from the canvas, mocking her behind her back. He of all ponies knew that she didn’t belong in this place, with these fancy ponies. When she looked at the portrait, however, all she saw was the stallion’s face staring resolutely into space.
“You’re not even a real prince,” she muttered under her breath. She had already learned a lot about Blueblood that she never gleaned from the tabloids she read in Ponyville, or from her disastrous encounter at the gala. She felt a tingling fascination take hold of her as she imagined what it would be like to see him again. Rarity then noticed Fancypants had finished speaking to the manager, and she quickly turned away from the painting as he approached.
“It seems we’ve had a spot of luck,” Fancypants said jovially. “His Grace is currently on the north marina green entertaining the notables in advance of the launching. We’ll simply trot on over and make your introduction.”
“Oh, but surely I couldn’t presume to barge in on an important pony at his own event like that,” Rarity protested feebly, certain that at this point there would be no stopping Fancypants from shoving her right in Blueblood’s face. That would be the end of this experiment in being a high society pony. Rarity’s throat suddenly felt parched and she wondered if anypony might chance to walk past with another glass of champagne, or perhaps something stronger.
“Nonsense, my dear, you’re with me,” Fancypants said encouragingly. “I’m the duke’s best customer, so he wouldn’t dare turn me or my special guest away. Moreover, I’m quite sure he’ll be tickled to see me, if only so that he can explain in excruciating detail why his new yacht is vastly superior to my own. Now, let us away so that your dreams of this pony’s princeliness can be shattered before they cause you any serious harm.”
The two unicorns walked outside, and Fancypants led them down a grass-carpeted path that veered away from the yacht club and then wound down and around the outside of the mountain. After they had rounded the first bend, Rarity was struck by the fact that despite their proximity to the noisy and bustling port, it was quite tranquil on the path. The stony spires and steep cliffs of the mountain completely isolated them from the noise and commotion of the docks. Only the whistling wind and the shrill calls of mountain birds punctuated the placid scene.
Soon, the path opened up into a small alpine meadow terminating in steep rock faces on three sides and a sheer drop off the side of the mountain on the other. An enormous wooden ramp had been erected in the center of the meadow, which led up from the edge of the cliff to a platform decorated with streamers and bunting. On top of the platform rested the hull of an airship that looked to Rarity completely identical to Fancy Free. A small balcony extended from the main platform, and Rarity figured that when it came time to launch the ship, Blueblood would stand on the balcony and give the signal, at which time the ship would slide down the ramp and into the air. That was not going to happen anytime soon, though, since the airship’s balloon had not even been inflated yet; instead it draped loosely over the top of the wooden platform. She looked around for Blueblood, hoping that perhaps he hadn’t arrived yet and that she could invent an urgent excuse to leave. Perhaps she had forgotten to feed her cat ...
“A-ha!” Fancypants exclaimed. “Our timing is impeccable.” He pointed with a foreleg and Rarity followed it with her gaze until she saw, at the far end of the meadow beyond the wooden platform, a small group of ponies thronging around a tall, white-coated unicorn stallion.
Him. Rarity took a deep breath and closed her eyes. There was no way out now. She and Blueblood were destined to meet one last time. The humiliation would be painful, but she could only hope that it would also be mercifully swift. She mentally bid Canterlot and Fancypants farewell. Rarity was halfway across the meadow before she even realized that she was walking, following in Fancypants’ hoofsteps as he stepped purposefully toward Blueblood and the herd of society ponies and royalty groupies who had gathered around him.
They were only a few pony lengths away now. Rarity spied a table with light snacks and a large bowl of brightly colored punch. As she walked, she magically poured herself a cup of the beverage and floated it over. “Please let this be strong,” she thought, and desperately proceeded to down the entire contents of the cup in one gulp. At that point, Rarity realized that the punch was almost entirely distilled spirits; what fruit juice there was seemed to have been added solely for color. She stifled a cough and tossed her empty cup in a nearby receptacle. Now Blueblood was right in front of her, and it really was too late to escape the impending fiasco.
“Good afternoon, Your Grace,” Fancypants announced, his voice ringing as clear and crisp as a bell in the protected meadow. Instantly, every pony turned away from Blueblood to look at the interlopers. Rarity heard several gasps of “Fancypants!” and at least one query as to “who’s that mare with him?” For his part, Blueblood’s eyes narrowed as he glared at one of the few ponies who could so easily steal the spotlight away from him. Then, his gaze met Rarity’s, and his eyes shot open wide. Rarity saw his mouth drop open and then slowly close. He didn’t even blink, but only continued to stare. She had to look away.
The gathered ponies parted before Fancypants and Rarity as they walked the remaining short distance over to Blueblood. “I’ve come to see your new yacht, and whether it really is as vastly improved over my own as you say,” Fancypants said as they drew near. “I also have someone I’d like to introduce to you.” Fancypants then noticed Blueblood’s transfixed gaze, and looked back and forth between Rarity and the royal stallion. Rarity tried to look nonchalant and oblivious to the stallion’s awkward stare. Fancypants spoke up. “Why, Your Grace, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost! Can it be that you recognize my companion, the lovely Rarity?”
Blueblood blinked and finally broke away from staring at Rarity. “I apologize,” he said, and then turned to Rarity with a curious look. “I do believe I must have seen you before at some formal gathering or another.” His tone was carefully neutral.
Rarity laughed nervously. “Well I do believe I spied Your Grace briefly at Count Przewalski’s soiree yesterday, perhaps you saw me there as well.”
“Yes, that must be it,” Blueblood replied at length, still regarding Rarity inscrutably.
“Miss Rarity is my new favorite party guest!” Fancypants interjected. “She’s become the toast of the town since I met her just two days ago.”
Suddenly, a well-dressed society mare who had been eavesdropping on the conversation boldly stepped up to the group. “Wait, are you the Rarity that everypony in Canterlot is talking about? Why, I’ve heard that everypony who is anypony is dying to get you to attend their functions!” That remark instantly caught the attention of every pony in the immediate vicinity, all of whom were also listening in.
“Rarity, you must tell me who you’re wearing!” a mare demanded.
“Who in Equestria is responsible for your fabulous mane?” another asked.
“Are you seeing anyone?” a bold young stallion chimed in.
Rarity blushed and tried to shrink behind Fancypants. At this point, however, she was surrounded.
“My heavens, Miss Rarity, it seems I’ve underestimated your popularity!” Fancypants said with a laugh. “You’ve become the center of attention. Why, this simply won’t do if we are to see a yacht launching today.” He turned to Blueblood, who stood looking cross as the crowd that had lost interest in him. “Your Grace, I am afraid there’s only one way I can think of to properly refocus these ponies’ attention on the launch of your new airship. You must conduct the launch together with Miss Rarity.”
“You can’t possibly be suggesting that I share my spotlight with her,” Blueblood replied, aghast. Rarity, standing behind Fancypants, knew her face mirrored Blueblood’s horrified expression.
“I’m afraid I am,” Fancypants replied. “It seems like the only way that the ceremony will be able to proceed.” He flashed a surprisingly predatory grin, looking suddenly like a timberwolf that had its next meal cornered.
At that moment, Rarity realized that Fancypants had planned this all along. He had known that he and Rarity would distract the crowd of onlookers at Blueblood’s launching, and he had anticipated proposing that Rarity join Blueblood in front of the crowd. This was Fancypants’ scheme to provide her with the promised encounter with the prince, rather than the polite introduction she had anticipated on the walk over. It made sense, of course, as Blueblood would be unlikely to give a strange mare the time of day when he could be talking about himself instead.
Even though her head was still feeling foggy, Rarity was beginning to understand that there was even more going on here. Fancypants’ interference had also served to show Blueblood that he could steal the latter’s spotlight whenever he wished. Perhaps Fancypants was getting even for Blueblood building his fancy yacht and then immediately constructing an even more advanced version for himself, or perhaps there was some other unspoken rivalry between the two stallions. In any case, Rarity realized that she had just been used as a pawn in a game between the two elites. She wasn’t angry; such intrigues were part and parcel of the life of the Canterlot aristocracy. She was surprised, however, that a pony of Fancypants’ gentility could also be so diabolical when the situation called for it.
The crowd continued to shift away from Blueblood and press in around Rarity and Fancypants. For a split second, Rarity felt a pang of empathy as she saw Blueblood standing there, looking as deflated as the limp airship balloon behind him. Then she was overcome with raucous laughter at the pathetic sight of him. She had just seen Prince Blueblood, the most handsome and sought-after royal stallion in Canterlot, practically bullied by the infinitely polite Fancypants. Blueblood’s cheeks flushed and he glared daggers at Rarity, which only made her laugh more. Even if he outed her as a simple Ponyville mare and she was forced to leave Canterlot right now, it had been worth it for this.
“Fine!” Blueblood shouted over the din of the crowd. “Rarity will join me on the royal platform for the launch!” At that the crowd turned back to Blueblood and began to cheer and stomp their hooves in approval. At great cost to his dignity, he had bought back the crowd’s attention. Blueblood then turned to a pony standing on the wooden launching platform and nodded, and Rarity heard a loud hissing sound as the balloon began to inflate. “Come now, Miss Rarity,” Blueblood practically growled, before turning to stomp toward the wooden ramp that led up to the launching platform.
Rarity turned back to Fancypants before following Blueblood. She wanted to chastise him for using her to get under Blueblood’s skin, but in truth she was enjoying the royal’s discomfort far too much to complain. “Thank you for the introduction,” she said.
“Oh, it was my absolute delight,” Fancypants replied. “Now go on and follow your prince. I’ll be here when you are finished to take you back into town, and I’ll have another stiff drink waiting for you in the carriage. I expect you’ll need it.”
The crowd gave Rarity her space as she trotted after Blueblood and caught up with him at the bottom of the wooden ramp. “This was not my idea,” she declared loudly.
Blueblood angrily wheeled around to face her. “Of course this wasn’t your idea! Do you think I was born yesterday? You’re just an ignorant country mare, but Fancypants… Fancypants would never miss an opportunity to humiliate me or my royal family.” He then turned to continue up the ramp.
Rarity raced ahead up the ramp and then turned to block Blueblood’s progress. “I suppose at this point I have no reason to be surprised or shocked at how utterly classless a so-called prince can be!” She shouted at him more angrily than she would have liked. “By the bye, I’ve recently learned that rumors of your princeliness have been greatly exaggerated, although in retrospect that should have been obvious since Equestria’s only real royalty are the Princesses.”
“You will call me Prince Blueblood,” the unicorn stallion said in a low voice, brushing past Rarity. “It is my hereditary title.”
“I will call you whatever I please,” Rarity challenged, and shoved Blueblood out of her way. They were now away from the crowd outside, standing in an enclosed chamber that led out to the balcony from which the yacht would be officially launched. “Especially now that I know that Blueblood isn’t even your real name.” The emotional high of seeing Blueblood manipulated so easily by Fancypants, coupled with the litany of potent potables she had consumed, was making Rarity brash. She felt like she could say anything any get away with it, especially now that they were out of sight of the Canterlotians outside.
Blueblood stretched to his full height and haughtily tilted his chin upward so that he could look down on Rarity. “I know what you’ve been doing here in Canterlot. I hope you realize that as soon as we get out on the platform I will look out over the crowd. Then I will point to you, and I will tell everypony that you are just a simple Ponyville pony who is playing them all for fools. They will laugh you out of Canterlot. I will still be Prince Blueblood, but you’ll be back to being a nopony.”
“Oh please do tell them,” Rarity urged with manic mirthfulness. “In fact, I’ve been counting on you to act like your petty self ever since Fancypants got it in his head to force this introduction, and you certainly haven’t disappointed so far. Well go ahead, I’m ready to leave here in shame. It’ll all have been worth it to see you get pushed around by Fancypants. Have I mentioned that he’s a hundred times the stallion you’ll ever be? And one more thing: for a nopony, I certainly have my image on a lot of the Princesses’ stained glass in Canterlot Tower. Where’s yours?”
Blueblood gaped at her in consternation. Rarity felt utterly euphoric as the crushing weight of spending every minute of the day at the top of her polite and demure society pony game sloughed off, leaving her free to speak her mind.
“How dare you?” Blueblood sputtered, practically whimpering.
“You can’t even begin to imagine what I’d dare,” Rarity continued, jabbing Blueblood hard in the chest with a hoof.
“Are you … intoxicated?” Blueblood asked, slowly backing away.
“I’ve never felt better,” Rarity replied truthfully, bearing down on the retreating stallion. “You go ahead and tell the crowd whatever you want about me. But be warned, I’ll tell them, and I’ll even tell Princess Celestia, and then I’ll tell all of Equestria, that you are nothing but a loathsome, spineless, spoiled brat!” She jabbed him again in time with every accusation she listed.
“Get away from my royal person!” Blueblood squeaked. He was backed into a corner, and as she loomed over him, burning with righteous indignation, Rarity was suddenly struck by the thought that Blueblood looked fragile at that moment. His frightened visage with his eyes wide and his blond mane all out of place looked vulnerable. Somehow, he even looked innocent. A strange warmth overtook her as she looked at him.
Before she could even consciously comprehend what she was doing, Rarity leaned in and kissed him, full on the lips, committing to the osculation with an ardor she had never experienced in her life before that moment. Eyes closed, she wrapped her forelegs around him and melted onto his sturdy frame. For his part, Blueblood was completely unresponsive, as if catatonic. It was only when she opened her eyes and saw the look of pure shock on Blueblood’s face that the rational part of her brain took control again. Rarity jumped backwards as if a struck at by a snake.
“Celestia, what have I done?” she cried.
At that moment, with Blueblood just beginning to pull himself into a normal standing posture, a young unicorn stallion entered the room, wearing a magical communications device on his head and levitating a clipboard. “The balloon is inflated and we’re ready to go ahead with the launching, Your Grace,” the stallion announced. When he saw Rarity and Blueblood staring at each other from opposite sides of the room with horrified expressions, he backed out the way he had come. “Right. We’ll be ready whenever you are.”
“I’m so sorry!” Rarity exclaimed as soon as the stallion had gone. “I don’t know what came over me. I guess I really did have too much to drink.” She was mortified. However badly Blueblood had acted at last year’s gala, she had just committed a much worse violation. In other circumstances, an action like hers would result in a court hearing, especially if their sexes had been reversed. It was really nothing short of abuse. How could she have done such a thing, and why?
Blueblood then did the only thing that could have surprised Rarity more than her own action. He laughed. It was a genuine, hearty belly laugh. “You’re insane,” he accused, his mood suddenly seeming lighter as he employed his normal haughty tone. “You’re literally crazy.” When Rarity only stared back at him, he was prompted to continue. “I thought you were going to strike my beautiful face, but then you did that!”
“It didn’t mean anything! It was a mistake,” Rarity protested. “I would never have done anything so outrageous on purpose!”
“I still hate you too, if it’s any consolation,” Blueblood replied. “But I suppose I must recognize that I am simply cursed with being irresistibly handsome. Now that you’ve gotten that out of your system I propose we call our grudge even.”
“Even?” Rarity asked hesitantly.
“Correct. I can still despise you, and vice versa, but perhaps we can at least be civil about it,” Blueblood said.
“That could work,” Rarity replied, still cautious about this sudden change in Blueblood’s demeanor, and still feeling terribly guilty about what she had done.
There was a rope dangling down into the room through a small hole in the ceiling, and Blueblood yanked on it with his teeth. A bell rang somewhere above, and before Rarity could ponder what was happening the eager young stallion from before had raced into the room.
“Are you ready, Your Grace?” the stallion asked.
“We’re ready,” Blueblood replied. “And for the love of Equestria, please get this mare some water.”
“Right away,” the stallion replied, and disappeared again.
He was gone only seconds before returning with a large flagon of water for Rarity. She gulped it greedily, and was rewarded when she felt a clearer head immediately. “Thank you,” she said to Blueblood, who ignored her.
“We’re going to be launching the most advanced airship ever to sail the skies of Equestria, my new personal pleasure yacht Sacrebleu,” Blueblood began. “You will stand there silently while I say a few words. Then, you will toss the ceremonial champagne bottle against the hull, and she will slide down the ramp and into the air. Then, we’ll go our separate ways. If you agree to leave me in peace, I won’t tell Fancypants and his friends that you’re just petite bourgeoise from Ponyville. Do we have a deal?”
At this point, Rarity just wanted this terrible, humiliating encounter to be over with. “Deal,” she affirmed. She followed Blueblood through a curtain to the balcony. Outside, she saw that the crowd had gathered below them on the meadow. Blueblood’s crew had indeed inflated the balloon and it now provided enough lift to support the airship hull suspended beneath it. Accordingly, they had slid the yacht forward onto the top of the ramp so that it was now directly in front of Rarity and Blueblood on the balcony. Somepony had suspended a bottle of fine champagne from a rope next to the balcony so that it could be swung out to contact the yacht’s hull and officially launch it. At this point Rarity could hardly bear to look at champagne, but at least this bottle was not for drinking.
“Greetings everypony,” Blueblood addressed the crowd, who cheered the royal unicorn.
From atop the launching structure, Blueblood’s assistant spoke into an amplification device. “Ponies of Canterlot, behold your Duke, the 24th Prince Blueblood and Unicorn Royal of Equestria.” When he finished speaking, a brief and somewhat distorted phonograph recording of a fanfare played.
“Yes, my loyal subjects, it is I,” Blueblood continued. “Today we are here to celebrate the official launching of the Royal Yacht Sacrebleu, designed and built by Canterlot’s very own North Star Shipwrights. She’s the fastest and most advanced steam yacht in all of Equestria!” He waited for a smattering of applause to die down. “I am also here to make another announcement, though. As you all know, in two months the Alicorn’s Cup airship regatta is being held for the first time in twenty-nine years, to celebrate the new era of steam propulsion, and our fair city of Canterlot is hosting the race. This will be the sporting event of the century, with competitors participating from all corners of Equestria, and even from some of the foreign lands.”
Blueblood paused for dramatic effect. “I hereby formally announce that I will be competing in the race with a new airship that will make the one I am launching today seem like a stationary balloon by comparison!”
At that the crowd cheered again, although Rarity could scarcely imagine them being genuinely excited for Blueblood. Perhaps cheering for royalty was simply programmed into the elites of Canterlot. While Blueblood was speaking, she still dwelt on the kiss. She had never done anything like that before; it was as if she’d been possessed. Of course, she had been drinking, but the old adage said that drink only brought to the surface thoughts and feelings that were normally hidden deep inside. After everything, though, she couldn’t possibly feel anything real for Blueblood. Now that her mind was clearer, she only felt repelled by him. No, it must have just been one last manifestation of the schoolfilly crush she had clung to for years.
Suddenly she saw that Blueblood was moving for the champagne bottle. She realized that he was going to launch the yacht on his own without even acknowledging her presence. Before he could do so, Rarity sprang into action and grabbed the bottle in her mouth. She tossed her head and let go, and the bottle glided away on its rope to smack against the side of the airship’s hull, but it didn’t break. As the bottle impacted, somepony dropped the braces that were holding the yacht in place and it began to slide backward down the ramp. Rarity knew that all sailors, sea and sky, were superstitious, and she wondered whether it meant something if the bottle broke or not. At any rate, the crowd erupted in cheers as the yacht slid out into the open air and floated free. Blueblood glared at her.
“You truly are a cad,” Rarity said, her voice just loud enough for Blueblood to hear over the roar of the crowd.
“Thank Celestia that nopony else cares what you think,” Blueblood replied. “I am royalty in this city, and no crazy mare from Ponyville is going to change that.”
“You’re nothing but a royal pain. Everypony here knows that you’re not really a prince. They’re just playing along with your delusion because it’s traditional,” Rarity said while waving politely to the crowd and wearing a forced smile.
“I know, why don’t you come out in two months for the Alicorn’s Cup and you’ll see just how much of a winner I am,” Blueblood rejoined. “If I’m not mistaken, your precious Fancypants is fielding a competitive airship as well, so you’ll have somepony to cheer for while I completely outshine the competition.”
Rarity and Blueblood looked contemptuously at each other. “I wouldn’t miss it for all the apples in Equestria,” she said. “It will be my pleasure to watch Fancypants humiliate you again.”
“Perfect. See if you can keep your hooves and lips to yourself this time,” Blueblood said.
“You’re perfectly awful, you know?”
“At least I’m not a punch-soaked lunatic.”
“I loathe you.”
Rarity and Blueblood both smiled and waved at the crowd.