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“Come along, this way,” Blueblood called out. Rarity, Fancypants, and the other thirty-three dinner guests followed him down a narrow, lamplit stone corridor. As the crowd hurried along, Rarity tried to steal glances at her surroundings, while spending most of her effort on avoiding being trampled.
Faded, threadbare tapestries were hung at indiscriminate intervals along the corridor, and Rarity passed several alcoves set into the stone that displayed statuary or old armor. The feel of the place was positively medieval and the air stagnant and musty. Everything was exactly as one would expect it to be in an ancient castle, if one had only experienced such places through old storybooks and nursery rhymes. This old fortress, however, was no fantasy. Caricature of a castle that it was, somehow Canterlot’s modern and sophisticated pony-about-town, Blueblood, lived here.
Rarity continued to follow him as he turned and led the way into a spacious dining hall that finally gave some relief to her developing claustrophobia. The room was dominated by a long, narrow table currently bare save a lonely candelabra here and there, and the high-backed chairs flanking it. A dozen candlelit chandeliers, each larger than a full-grown stallion, cast their light upon the cold stone and gave what warmth and life they could to the hall. There was no fireplace, but heat seemed to be seeping in from somewhere, or Rarity was certain the room would have been unbearably cold.
There were four white-coated unicorn ponies already seated at the long table. Two were giggling fillies not much older than Rarity’s little sister, wearing sea green dresses to match their eyes. An older male about Blueblood's age was similar in countenance to the royal unicorn, but his slim, almost emaciated build marked a sharp contrast to the other’s robust physique. Finally, at the head of the table slouched an aged mare, swimming in a sumptuous but far too voluminous gown of royal purple, liberally decorated with diamonds and rubies. A high, stiff gem-encrusted collar rose from the garment like a peacock’s fan behind the mare’s head, and her stark white mane fell in a tangle. The gown, Rarity observed, would have been the height of fashion a hundred years ago, but never in the lifetime of anypony present. All three females, the mare and the two fillies, wore plain coronets of silver metal atop their heads. Rarity knew at once that they were Blueblood’s heretofore unmentioned family.
“Late. You’re late,” the older mare proclaimed icily from her place at the other end of the dining hall, her voice echoing in the stone chamber. Blueblood ignored her and said nothing, but waited for the remainder of the guests to file into the space.
“Welcome,” he finally said to the assembled group while mustering a cordial smile. “Fillies and gentlecolts, griffons and all the rest. For those of you who I haven’t met, I am Polaris, the Duke of Canterlot, Prince Blueblood the Twenty-Fourth, bearer of the title Unicorn Royal, et cetera, et cetera. I am also the best air racer in the world, but you’ll find out all about that starting tomorrow.” Blueblood paused, as if expecting a reaction from the audience. When none was forthcoming, he continued. “This is the year the Alicorn’s Cup returns, after twenty-nine years. I was a foal the last time the airships took to the sky.” He scanned his gaze across the group assembled in the dining hall. “Some of you were old enough to race then. Some of you weren’t yet born.”
He paused when his eyes met Rarity’s, and he blinked twice in rapid succession. She realized that he hadn’t known she was coming. Blueblood gave his head a little toss as if to clear his thoughts before continuing.
“The race marks important milestones in history. The last time it was held, it honored a new, closer trading relationship with the griffon folk. The very first Alicorn’s Cup, at the time just a nameless race, was held one hundred and seven years ago, to mark the dawn of airship travel. My great-great grandfather, the twenty-first Prince Blueblood, flew a craft of his own design in that race. He called it the Alicorn, in honor of our ageless Celestia, and he won. Though everypony thought it suicide for ponies without wings to fly, he raced through the mountains of Equestria, over the plains far to the west, to the very edge of the endless sea, and back. He had nothing like the steam engines and gyroscopes we know today. He had only a balloon, sails, his wits, and the stars to steer by. The race was given the name of his airship, and this and all future generations will remember it as the Alicorn’s Cup. Tomorrow, I will fly a new Alicorn, to honor my ancestor’s legacy.” This statement was rewarded with polite applause from a few guests, though it died quickly.
“In the grand tradition of the cup, the hosting club fêtes the racers on the eve of the race. I am the royal patron and sponsor of the host club, and so here we are. My home and my food are yours for this evening. I invite you to meet my family, though they must remain my own.” Blueblood gestured to the table behind him. “My sisters, Lady Ruthenium and Lady Iridium.” The fillies giggled again as their names were called. “They prefer Ruthie and Iri. My brother, Lord Procyon. My mother, Princess Palladium.” Blueblood turned back to the crowd, his eyes tired and, Rarity thought, something like resignation in his voice, despite his bold words. “Now eat, drink, and boast. I know I will.”
Blueblood stamped a fore hoof loudly. Within seconds, a line of identically garbed unicorn servers walked into the dining hall from a side entrance, each levitating a silver tray of hors d’oeuvres. Another troupe of servers followed carrying trays of champagne and cocktails. Rarity felt fabrics and feathers brushing by her as guests fanned out in search of food and libations. Then, one of the griffons loudly spoke up.
“Where’s the kitchen?” he shouted above the building murmur of the crowd. Rarity saw that it was one of the oldest, and certainly the fattest, of the group. “I brought food. We griffons have a special diet, you see.” He unslung a large, lumpen sack from his back and held it up with a claw for all to see. Rarity had read of the sorts of things that griffons ate, and she dared not imagine what might be inside. At least, thank Celestia, it didn’t appear to be moving. Blueblood’s skinny, long-faced brother, Procyon, got up from the table and wordlessly took the griffon aside, presumably to help him find the kitchen staff and smooth over the momentary disruption.
As the crowd swirled around her, Rarity was momentarily at a loss. She had spent her life preparing to be her imagined ideal of a Canterlot pony. Now she was in Canterlot, but in a situation that she had never contemplated. To be sure, some of the ponies around here were the cultured elites she had grown used to. Other ponies, and other creatures, were a different story. These were racers, adventurers, warriors, and mysterious strangers. She hadn’t spend a fillyhood reading storybooks about them, nor a burgeoning adulthood striving to become one of them. What should she do?
“Look at this room, my dear,” Fancypants said, forcing Rarity out from under her fears. “Rarely have I ever seen such a menagerie of characters. Everyone here has a story, and everyone wants to trade it for yours. Some probably just want insider information to help win the race tomorrow. Some see this as a business opportunity. For others, this is a time to play politics. Yet others may hold darker secrets.”
“Which are you?” Rarity asked playfully.
“Ha! I’m a bit of all of them, much to my chagrin. Would that the world was a simpler place,” Fancypants said, and punctuated his statement with a theatrical sigh. He then assumed a guilty, apologetic demeanor. “On that note, I’m very sorry about this, but I have matters to attend to here which will require free rein to mingle alone. I strongly encourage you to make some new associations yourself. I’m sure you’ll have heard some fascinating stories before the night is over.”
Before Rarity could protest, he had already turned away and begun navigating a path through the crowd, leaving her standing alone in a sea of strangers. Now what? Fancypants had encouraged her to mingle. Back in Ponyville, or even more recently at the society events in Canterlot, she had learned to become the life of any party. She was a great mingler. Why, she was practically Ponyville’s mingler-in-chief! She had a few stories of her own to tell, after all. How many of these ponies had faced down a manticore and kicked it square in the nose? How many had calmed a raging sea serpent?
“You can do this, Rarity,” she said to herself.
“Excuse me, Miss?”
Rarity jumped and spun to find the speaker. It was time for the mingling to begin. “Why hello! My name is Rarity. It’s such a pleasure to …” She was face to face with one of the unicorn servers, who was levitating a tray of champagne flutes. “Oh, right. Thank you.” She levitated a glass away from the tray. One drink could only help facilitate her socializing, after all. It wasn’t as if she would let herself get carried away like the last time she was in Canterlot.
As she sipped the bubbly liquid, she surveyed the room, looking for the right place to insert herself into the mix. There was Blueblood having an animated exchange with his mother, Princess Palladium. Off to her left several griffons were quaffing drinks and gesticulating wildly with their talons. Somehow that didn’t seem to Rarity like the place for her to start. She saw Fancypants’ mechanic, Elbow Grease, seated at the dining table. He had somehow found a tankard of ale and had produced another of his odd tubular sandwiches, which he proceeded to bite into. He didn’t seem like he needed any company besides his meal.
Aha! Rarity saw the group of pretty, pastel-wearing earth pony mares who represented the citrus farmers’ team. They were already fending off some initial advances from the Fillydelphian stallions. This was a dynamic she understood, and a crowd she could infiltrate. She walked easily across the room and straight into their circle.
“Well hello my dears,” Rarity began. “I was just standing across the room when I noticed your beautiful dresses, and I had to find out where you acquired them. I’m Rarity, fashion designer for the discriminating mare.”
The five earth ponies made room for her in their circle before one of them, her coat a light yellow and her dress pastel orange, responded. “Miss Rarity, of Carousel Couture?” she asked.
The pony recognized her! Rarity was delighted. Only then did she think to more closely scrutinize the dresses the mares were wearing. She knew that she had never done anything in those particular colors before, but the design was beginning to look awfully familiar. Then it came to her: they were her dresses. It was her first mass production line, “Full Spectrum Fashions.” She had created the originals, and then authorized Hoity Toity in Canterlot to source a garment maker to make more of the dresses, petticoats, hats, and accessories than she could complete herself. She had even signed off on pastel versions.
“Oh my, how embarrassing,” Rarity said, knowing that she was turning crimson. “Those are my label, aren’t they. I promise I didn’t come over to fish for compliments, I only wanted to tell you five that you look simply smashing in them!”
“Thank you most sincerely for the compliment,” the orange-wearing pony replied. “And don’t feel any shame for mentioning your work. It’s a great pleasure to meet one of my favorite designers. My name is Clementine Orange, from good old Manehattan.” She indicated the other mares with a hoof. “These are my friends, Lemondrop, Ruby Squeeze, Pomelo Punch, and Key Lime Pie. It’s obvious, of course, but we are from the citrus consortium.”
“We don’t actually work on the farms,” said the pastel red-wearing Ruby Squeeze with a disdainful look. “But our families run the companies that own them.”
“Of course not,” Rarity replied with a knowing smile. She hadn’t realized that some farms weren’t even owned by the ponies who worked on them. She wondered how Applejack would feel about that. “So what made you decide to race in the Alicorn’s Cup?” she asked.
Four of the mares turned to look at Clementine, who was apparently their de facto leader. “Uh, well,” the citrus pony began. Then she paused and looked Rarity in the eyes. “I’ll be honest with you, since it’s clear that you are a sophisticated lady, and not one of these rough-and-tumble scallywags we’ve been surrounded by lately. The answer is one word: advertising. You see, the citrus business has been hit hard lately. Manehattan is in the middle of a carrot fad. Canterlot has gone crazy for apples, apples, apples! The story we’ve put out in the media is that we’re doing this to show that earth ponies can keep up with the rest of you lot, even in the air, but the reality is that we have no chance of winning.”
“Oh, no?” Rarity inquired curiously. That matched up with what Fancypants had presupposed.
“No,” Clementine said, shaking her head, and the other citrus ponies mimed her action. “We paid good money for our airship, but we’re not air sailors, or navigators. We’ll follow the course, but at our own speed. The real value is that every pony in Equestria is going to be paying attention to the race, and reading about five brave mares from the citrus companies. They’ll see pictures of our airship, which is of course covered in images or oranges, lemons, grapefruit, kumquats, and all the rest. With any luck, this will turn around our fortunes. Maybe everyone in the lead will suffer a breakdown and we’ll do better than we expect, but this is a business venture first and foremost.”
“Well I wish you only the best of luck,” Rarity said in response. “And let me say that I do enjoy a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice in the mornings.”
“Thank you,” Clementine said with a demure smile. “Now, perhaps in return for our story you can give us a tip about next season’s fashions?”
Rarity was about to eagerly offer her best sartorial prognostications when she felt a hoof lightly tap on her left shoulder. Turning in the direction of the contact she found herself looking into the searching eyes of the rainbow-maned pegasus she had seen earlier. Now that she could see the mare’s face along with her hair, Rarity was certain that this was Rainbow Dash’s cousin. The mare’s cutie mark, a bright rainbow arcing between two gray rainclouds, clinched it.
“Rarity, yes? I very much need to speak with you. It’s important,” the mare said urgently.
“I’m sorry, Miss,” Rarity replied, “you’re welcome to join us, but I was just about to exchange some valuable fashion tips with these ladies in return for sharing their story with me.”
“Oh, go on ahead with her,” Clementine said with a dismissive wave of her hoof. “This sounds important. We’ll catch up later.”
“Well, if you truly don’t mind,” said Rarity. She waved farewell to the citrus ponies and followed the beckoning pegasus a short distance away to a quiet corner of the dining hall. She was rather more interested in learning what was so important to the pegasus than in discussing oversized hats at the moment anyway, so she was grateful for Clementine’s reprieve. Rarity wondered what the pegasus would say, considering that Rainbow Dash had told her to disregard her cousin’s words.
“Rarity. My name is Chroma Prism, from Cloudsdale. You know my …”
“Your cousin, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity finished.
Chroma Prism smiled faintly and ran a hoof through her color-streaked mane. It was longer and more carefully brushed than Rainbow Dash’s, but there simply couldn’t be that many pegasi with hair of that sort. “I suppose it’s pretty obvious.”
“Just a little,” Rarity replied, matching the other’s smile.
“I was so glad when Rainbow Dash told me you were going to be in the race,” Chroma Prism said. “My cousin doesn’t write very often, so it was a rare treat to hear from her. In fact, I don’t think she writes at all to the others back home, and never invites visitors. When I learned one of her friends would be here in Canterlot, I knew I had a chance. Now that I can talk to you, I have to beg. You must convince Rainbow Dash to come home.”
“Home?” Rarity repeated. “To Cloudsdale?”
“Yes. We’ve been bombarding her with letters, but she won’t listen to us.”
“Why, what can be so urgent? I know Rainbow Dash goes to Cloudsdale from time to time. In fact, I visited there with her,” Rarity said.
“She’ll come for the Wonderbolts or a flying competition, that’s true,” Chroma Prism went on. “But she won’t come home to see her family. Celestia knows she has her reasons, but now we need her.”
“I’m sorry,” Rarity began somewhat more crossly than she would have liked, “but you really must fill me in on some important details. I’ve never even heard Rainbow Dash talk about her family except for a passing mention here or there, and right now I don’t see how it’s my place to intervene in her personal life like that.”
“Of course you’re right,” Chroma Prism replied, a tinge of desperation in her voice. “But this a uniquely serious matter. Please allow me to explain.” She waited for Rarity to nod before continuing. “I don’t know how much you know already, so let me start with the basics. Her family, well my family too, we own Skyworks Industries. It’s the largest cloud architecture and engineering firm in Equestria. We’ve literally built most of Cloudsdale from the sky down. Rainbow Dash’s father was the wealthiest pegasus in town, and the toast of sky society.”
“Surely you jest,” Rarity interjected, her mouth agape. “This can’t be the same Rainbow Dash?” Her friend, the scion of the wealthiest and most important pegasus in Cloudsdale?
“Oh no, it’s all true. Years ago, when Rainbow Dash was just a tiny foal, the pegasus folk were undergoing the worst structural-quality cloud shortage in history. We needed to build, but we had nothing to build with.”
“I don’t understand,” Rarity said. “I’ve seen the cloud factory in Cloudsdale. If you make your own clouds, then how can you have a shortage?”
“We make weather clouds, and basic fluffy cumulus,” Chroma Prism corrected. “Structural clouds, the special stratus kind that we build our cities and houses from, have to be quarried. Just when it looked like we would have to start kicking ponies out of the clouds and down to the earth below, Rainbow Dash’s father found the richest source of structural stratus any pegasus had ever seen, right on the windward side of the Snowmane Mountains. He immediately moved his family, including little Rainbow Dash, and used the family fortune to set up a mining town in the sky. It was a risk, but Stratusburg made the family tenfold richer than we had ever been before, and Rainbow Dash’s father cornered the market on construction in Cloudsdale.”
“I never knew any of that,” Rarity said. “Please go on.”
“The Snowmane Mountains are on the northern border of Equestria. Beyond are some of the largest griffon eyries, and they use the mountains to train and hunt for food. Anyway, I’m sure this will come as no surprise, but as soon as she could get airborn, nopony could get Rainbow Dash back down. Even though she was tiny, she was always out exploring in the mountains, and she eventually became good friends with many of the griffons living there. Even though they were skeptical of ponies and our expansion so close to home, thanks to Rainbow Dash and her father, the ponies and griffons grew closer. Eventually, though, Stratusburg was self-sufficient and Rainbow Dash and her family moved back to Cloudsdale to manage the business.”
“Let me guess, Rainbow Dash didn’t want to move,” Rarity surmised.
“No she did not. She was just a filly barely old enough for flight camp, and she didn’t even have her cutie mark yet. She wasn’t ready for change like that. Eventually, she grew to love the opportunities for advanced flight training she got in Cloudsdale, but she never forgave her family for moving away from her griffon friends and the place where she first learned to fly. Some of the griffons would still come to visit her, and even join us for flying lessons and activities like Junior Speedsters, but it wasn’t the same for Rainbow. Eventually she began to get in trouble in school. One day after she came of age, and after her father had given her a beautiful, amazing cloud home of her very own as a gift, she just left, towing her house away from the city at night. We only found out later than she had gotten a job managing the weather in Ponyville. Now she barely talks to any of us.”
“I’m so sorry that you and Rainbow Dash have grown apart, but what can I do? This seems like a very private matter,” Rarity said.
“Rainbow’s father passed away last year,” Chroma Prism said. “My uncle.”
Rarity didn’t know what to say to that. She could see the bitterness and frustration in Chroma Prism’s expression, but honestly, how could she help?
“Aside from Rainbow Dash, he was the only pony who the Snowmane griffons listened to. Now more ponies are moving out there. Other companies are trying to set up cloud quarries. Earth ponies have dug a mine and are using the pass through the mountains to transport coal. The griffons complain that we are stealing their resources, as well as disrupting the environment and scaring away the animals that they need for food.”
“Well, those sounds like legitimate concerns,” Rarity said hesitantly. It wasn’t as if she knew anything about politics, but it seemed that the groups simply needed to reach an acceptable compromise. “Can’t you work something out?”
Chroma Prism sighed. “Look, the griffons may be right, but we need those clouds. Lately, the situation has been becoming dire. The local griffon clan chief has gone to their high council and petitioned for redress, and now they are claiming both sides of the mountains as griffon territory and are threatening to expel all ponies.”
“This sounds like a matter for Princess Celestia to take up,” Rarity suggested.
“No! They’ll interpret that as a show of force. We need to handle this amicably. We need somepony they trust. We need Rainbow Dash! Please, I implore you, convince her to come home so that we can all go back to Stratusburg and she can help us resolve this mess before it’s too late.” The rainbow-maned pegasus’ face fell and she cast her gaze to the floor. “Otherwise this regatta might mark the end of the accord between the two races.”
“Rainbow Dash is my friend,” Rarity said at last. “I’ll talk to her, but I can’t promise anything.”
“Please, for the sake of Cloudsdale. No, for the sake of Equestria, just try,” Chroma Prism pleaded. “That’s all I can ask. Thank you, Rarity.” She inclined her head in a show of respect and moved away, melting back into the mass of guests.
Rarity stood in place as the pegasus left her. She finished her first glass of champagne and set the empty flute down on the tray of a passing server. She was beginning to understand what Fancypants had meant about wishing for a simpler world. Now she had information, and she had to decide what to do with it. Would she barge into her friend’s family life and try to convince her what to do? It was most certainly not her place to do so, but if this was as important as Rainbow Dash’s cousin had made it sound, then maybe she had no choice. Rarity sighed. Perhaps it would be better not to seek out any more interesting stories this evening.
“More champagne?” a stallion’s voice asked.
“I don’t mind if I do.” Rarity turned to take the proffered flute with her magic, but immediately lost her concentration and let it fall, yelping in surprise. Fortunately, the stallion caught the glass with his own telekinesis before it impacted the stone floor. It was Blueblood.
“Don’t you sneak up on me,” Rarity snapped, wrenching the glass away from him with her own magic. She felt a twitch as their spells intersected, and reminded herself not to do that again.
“You declined my invitation, but then here I find you in my house,” Blueblood said, glaring back at her. “Now I learn that you are actually going to be in the race. That’s a laugh.”
“I’ll be the fifth crewpony. I’m barely going to be doing anything but trying to stay out of the others’ way,” Rarity replied. “So don’t count on me to ruin things for Fancypants. He’ll win the race even with me up there.”
“I could have offered to take you along on the race,” Blueblood said, frowning. “It doesn’t matter to me where you’re watching from when I win.”
“Now that’s a laugh,” Rarity replied. “Ha!” She took a swig of her champagne.
“I just want to know something,” Blueblood began. “Why do you keep coming after me like this?”
“What in Equestria are you talking about?” Rarity asked, her voice escalating in both pitch and volume. “I have done nothing but try to avoid you!”
“You’re doing a great job with that,” said Blueblood with pointed sarcasm.
“Okay, yes, fine, I’m here,” said Rarity. “Because Fancypants invited me, and for no other reason. I didn’t know when I accepted that I’d have to go to your ridiculous fairy tale castle. Do you have any other examples?”
“Hearth’s Warming Eve,” Blueblood muttered. “Why, with all the real actresses in Equestria, would you show up at the Royal Palace, dress up in a ridiculous outfit and act like a fool in front of the whole city, just so you could mock me and my family?”
“Mock you? Why is everything about you?” Rarity yelled, struggling to keep her voice below the hubbub of the crowd. She gulped more champagne. “Princess Celestia invited me and my friends to perform in the play, and since everypony in Equestria knows that Prinecss Platinum was a white-coated unicorn mare, guess who among us was nominated to play her? That’s right, the white-coated unicorn mare, me! It had absolutely, positively nothing to do with you! Nothing I do has anything to do with you. In fact, I didn’t even know she was your ancestor.”
“Oh, right. Did you think I’m a Prince because I’m Princess Celestia’s son or something?” Blueblood asked incredulously. “Do you see any wings back there? For the last time, I’m not an idiot.”
Nephew, Rarity didn’t say. She hoped her flushing cheeks wouldn’t give her away.
“I saw you,” Blueblood continued. “I’ve never seen anypony make Platinum look like more of a gem-crazed prissy buffoon than in your version. Thank you for that.”
“I was given a script, I read it, and if I took any artistic license, I assure it you it was for my amusement alone,” Rarity retorted.
“Some artistic license,” Blueblood said angrily. “You know what, I have something I’d like to show you.” Blueblood quickly extended a hoof as if to grab Rarity. She slapped it away before he could come close to touching her.
“I will go nowhere with you under any circumstances,” she hissed.
Blueblood stared back at her, the anger draining from his expression. Once again he looked merely tired, anxious, and beaten down. “Fine. You’re right. It doesn’t matter anyway.” He turned and began walking away. “Go have another drink,” he called out.
Rarity looked and saw that she had polished off her second glass of champagne. How did that happen?
“Wait,” she called out after a moment of hesitation. “Just tell me what you’re so worried about,” she asked.
Blueblood turned back. “Worried?” he choked. “I’m not worried about a thing.”
Rarity deposited her champagne glass on a passing tray and walked toward the royal. “Really now, I’ve seen you at your most obnoxiously overconfident, and tonight I’ve seen you looking like you’re scheduled to be banished to the moon. Do you think I’m an idiot?”
Blueblood stared at her for a long time. Slowly, his shoulders began to sag and he exhaled slowly, closing his eyes. “If you come with me, just for a few minutes, I’ll tell you. But there’s something you need to see.”
Against her better judgment, something urged Rarity on. “Okay,” she said, and moved to follow Blueblood out of the dining hall.
At the end of another series of narrow corridors was an opening, and after passing through that Rarity found herself in a tall, octagonal room. High on the walls were stained glass windows depicting dozens of different unicorns. The colored glass painted the stone room with muted light in shades of gold, rose, blue, and spring green. Under the windows, up and down the stone walls were bronze placards inscribed with words too small to read at this distance, except in a few places where there was only an empty alcove recessed into the stone. At the far end of the room stood a pedestal, on which was placed the carved marble bust of a mare’s head. A plain metal circlet adorned the sculpture. The center of the room was occupied by a long, low stone bench. No, not a bench, Rarity realized.
“No, this isn’t. It can’t be.” she stammered, fighting the urge to jump backward.
“Yes, it most certainly is,” Blueblood replied. “This is the family mausoleum. Before you lies the tomb of Queen Platinum. Over there is her crown. You’ll see that it is not quite so ornate as the costume jewelry you wore for the play.”
“Why would you bring me here?” Rarity demanded.
“I just want you to know this is here,” Blueblood replied simply. “There was a time when my family was not a punch line. These were real ponies, who did important things, even if it was a long time ago.”
“Oh come on, now,” Rarity said. “It’s not like Platinum discovered Equestria. It was …”
“It was her!” Blueblood shouted. “Look at my flank!”
“Really!” Rarity gasped. “I will not!”
“My cutie mark,” Blueblood clarified. “The compass rose. The greatest talent of the members of the unicorn royal family was always navigation, and exploration, and discovering new, hidden things. It was Platinum’s talent, it was my great-grandfather’s talent, it was my father’s talent, and it’s my special talent too.”
“How can you know what happened well over a thousand years ago?” Rarity asked.
“The records are all here, in this castle,” Blueblood said with a hint of fire in his eyes.
“Oh, fine, you’ve been victimized by history,” Rarity replied, fighting the urge to roll her eyes. “Poor Prince Blueblood, stuck in his giant castle with nothing to do but count his money and fly around Canterlot in his yacht.”
“I’m already sorry I brought you here,” Blueblood said. “I can add unnecessarily sarcastic and cruel to the list of descriptors I have for you.”
“I’m not sorry,” Rarity said immediately. “I’m happy that I learned something about history. Thank you. The thing about history, though, is that unlike somepony else, I don’t wallow in it. I learn from it. If I was as obsessed with my family’s past as you are with yours, I wouldn’t have been able to follow any dreams of my own.”
“What do I have to dream about?” Blueblood asked in annoyance. “I’ve already got everything.” He looked away.
“No you don’t,” Rarity said. “You don’t have the Alicorn’s Cup. I can see right through you. This isn’t about Platinum, or me. You’re really just nervous about the race. I saw you dash home, looking as if you’d just thrown on your dinner jacket, and now that I am in unfortunately close proximity to you, it’s evident you didn’t have time to bathe. You were doing something to your airship. You don’t believe you’re going to win. In fact, you’re sure to lose, aren’t you?”
“You’re crazier than I ever guessed,” Blueblood huffed, clearly taken aback. “Not only will I win, I’ll do it record time. My Alicorn is the fastest airship ever built.”
The more he protested, the more Rarity was sure she had pinpointed Blueblood’s real problem. “You just brought me here hoping that I would participate in a pity party you’re trying to throw for yourself,” she said. “Bravo.” She clapped her forehooves together. “Nice effort. I’ll admit you had me feeling sorry for you for a moment there. Well, you may wallow in self pity all you want. I, for one, have long since given up on wallowing.” Rarity punctuated her remarks with a harrumph.
Blueblood looked at Rarity and then stared down at his ancestor’s tomb for a long moment. Rarity could hear his breathing slowing as he settled something down inside. “Fine,” he began, turning to her. “I’ll grant you that you didn’t do the Hearth’s Warming play just to irk me. I admit that I am an egomaniac, and I make everything about me. You win. And you’re right, since I promised I’d tell you what was on my mind, it’s true that I’ve been having problems with the airship all week. I’ve been working day and night all week to fix the control surfaces and get the instruments to work, and everything is still wrong. If I can’t control the ship or even tell whether it’s flying in a straight line, or at what altitude, I can’t very well race it. Especially at night, or in clouds. I doubt I’ll even be able to be competitive. I’ll be an embarrassment to the family name. Now you can go tell Fancypants all about it.”
Rarity was surprised. Something in the timbre of his voice had changed, and she was finally certain that Blueblood was being forthright with her. “You’re admitting that you’ve done something wrong?” she asked. “Wait, don’t you have a whole company full of engineers to fix that sort of technical thing?”
“Hm, yes, the company,” Blueblood replied, screwing up his face as if he was struggling not to laugh. “You’d think that, wouldn’t you? You should ask your good friend Fancypants about my company, since he owns it now.”
“What are you talking about?” Rarity asked.
“Procyon signed the papers yesterday. Fancypants is now the majority shareholder. I couldn’t sink any more of our family money into the company. My brother showed me the books. We were hemorrhaging bits.” Blueblood shrugged.
“I didn’t know,” Rarity said.
“It’s no matter, I have the last laugh on this one,” Blueblood said, smiling wryly. “Fancypants can have our buildings and equipment, but what he really wanted was our technical secrets, and all the talented engineers he thinks I had under wraps. Once he goes through our files, he’ll be surprised to find that we have no engineering department, and no blueprints or trade secrets. It was all in here,” Blueblood tapped the side of his head with a hoof, “and I won’t be working for him.”
“Excuse me, but do you expect me to believe that you’re the brilliant engineer who designs all those airships?” Rarity asked, staring dubiously down her muzzle at Blueblood.
The stallion only shrugged. “Incredibly handsome, incredibly talented, and incredibly brilliant. It’s pretty incredible, I know. It must be why you kissed me.”
“It’s incredible that you find a way to become less likable with every further interaction,” Rarity replied, glaring at Blueblood. “And I was drunk. I can’t fix your personal problems, or your airship. Now get me out your creepy crypt.”
“Come along, then,” Blueblood said, leading the way out. “I expect the formal dinner is shortly to be served.”