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I humbly present to you chapter 7. Ill admit, but its not a personal favorite. Feel free to skip it if you want.
If you've been wondering "Where the hay was Dawnscroll and why was this chapter so long?" there'll be a blog post later tonight explaining that, and a few other things about the future. Don't get worried but tune in all the same.
Blog post will be up in an hour or so.
Thanks goes to JohnPerry for editing, prereading, and helping me tie together a good part of the story. Almost couldnt figure out how to connect the pieces. As always, he rocks.
If there was one thing Celestia hated, it was parties.
Celestia’s entire body gave a sudden shiver as the temperature around her dropped several degrees. There was a sudden chill in the air that was not unlike somepony dancing on her grave.
No, Celestia corrected herself, this was more akin to somepony digging up her grave, rifling through her coffin, and then playing pin the tail on the pony with her rotting corpse.
Celestia had a sneaking suspicion that said ‘somepony’ had pink hooves.
The princess, however, had her doubts that her would-be grave robber would have taken the slightest interest in this party. Tonight was the eve of the Spring Equinox, and thus, Cherry Celebration. The holiday had many different names throughout Equestria. Her faithful student, Twilight Sparkle, had written to her about one such holiday; she had called it Winter Wrap Up.
Fortunately for the magical unicorns of Canterlot, there was no need for the manual effort to erase the last vestiges of winter.
It had once been one of Celestia’s favorite holidays. The Cherry Celebration had been a night of dancing, good food, and catching up with friends and family. At the end of the night, Celestia would say a few words to the gathered guests. Some profound tidbit of wisdom that would aid them in the coming spring and summer. Then, to the awe of everypony present, chosen members of the Arcana Council and their students would take the floor and begin to weave their spell. Like true artists, they would press their magic against the canvas of reality and brush away the last vestiges of winter chill. The air would warm, and with it came the blossoms.
That had always been Celestia's favorite part. Myrtle. Plum. Crabapple. There were many flowering trees in Celestia's garden, but the one that held dominance over them all was the cherries. Dozens had been planted centuries ago for her and now took firm and solid root in the carefully cultivated soil. As the Arcana mages changed the very air around them, the once bare branches would go through a burst of new life. The black skeletal branches would swiftly become laden with pink blossoms. For Celestia, the scent of the trees had always been the final proof that Spring had truly arrived.
It had once been a night of dancing fireflies, warm lamplight, and blossoms stirring on the warm breeze.
"-of course, the votes of the noble houses are up for grab, but the two candidates will have a tough battle wooing the pegasi voters amid calls from activists-"
"-publishing a book and posing for Playmare, the colt is struggling financially! Never would I have thought that-"
"-and so I said to the Secretary of State, 'Deary, you absolutely must let me do your mane’-"
It had once been her favorite holiday. But that had been many, many years ago.
Celestia found herself now mingling amidst the sharks of Canterlot, engaging in petty politics and rigmarole. No, it wouldn't be right to call them sharks. While it was true that if the nobles had smelt even the slightest bit of weakness amidst their own they would go for the kill, sharks at least had the decency to hunt by themselves. These were more like piranha, traveling in packs and looking for any scrap of meat they could strip clean.
“Doesn’t the princess look absolutely stunning in her dress tonight?”
“It fits her like a glove! Oh, it must be her new diet. I hear it’s all the rage these days.”
Celestia looked down at the garish white monstrosity she now wore. The silk ensemble had started as a gift from one of Twilight’s friends. It had been a simple white evening dress, stylish but not overly extravagant. Celestia had thoroughly appreciated the kind offer.
The royal tailors, however, had gotten their hands on it once they had received word she would be wearing it tonight. Finally, after dozens of alterations and what felt like a thousand feet of lace, they felt it would now be appropriate for her to wear to the Celebration. They had even boasted that they had shrunk the waist as to show her thinning and marvelous body.
Oh, if they had only known the truth…
Earlier that day
Celestia’s labored breath fogged up her bedroom mirror, her skin damp with droplets of sweat.
Feather Duster placed a comforting hoof on her mistress' back. "Please just hold on a little longer your highness. You're almost there."
Celestia bit her lower lip, squeezing her eyes shut. This was beginning to become almost far too much for her. She was going to reach her limit any moment now.
"Ngh... ah.... F-Feather Dustaaaaaaah!"
Celestia's legs quivered as Feather Duster gave another hard tug.
"Stop! Please stop! You're going to kill me!"
Feather Duster spat the cords out of her mouth and gave an irritated look at the princess. "I doubt anypony has ever been killed by a corset alone."
"Then I'm going to be the first if you keep this up!"
"Nonsense!" Feather Duster bit down onto the corset strings again and pulled them back away from the princess, forcing Celestia to arch her back in pain. She growled through her teeth. "You are going to fit into this dress even if it kills you!"
"Didn’t you just say- AAAAAHHH!”
…the good news was that her lower intestines were getting acquainted with their new neighbors, her lungs.
She at least had managed to fit into the dress in the end.
Celestia had to give her maid credit though. Things had thus far gone exactly to Feather Duster’s schedule. The guests had arrived exactly as the invitation had specified. As always, the guests were dressed to kill, each mare trying to outdo the other with the most proper, or glamorous, or in Celestia's holy opinion, most gaudy dresses Canterlot had to offer. For now, they all had about half an hour before dinner to rub elbows with the rest of the upper crust society. Waiters weaved in and out of the throngs of aristocracy in the garden pavilion, offering refreshments and hors d'oeuvres before the main course began.
At five minutes before dinner, the royal guards would double their presence on the grounds. Colonel Mustard, of the royal guard, was no doubt planning to assassinate Lord Strawberry as he did at EVERY social gathering. Or vice versa.
Because heaven forbid either of the eighty-something year old stallions try to butcher each other with a spoon.
She was actually looking forward to this year's attempt. The two curmudgeons seemed to become more creative each and every time they tried to snuff the other one. She had thus been most amused with Lord Strawberry's latest attempt, involving a rather large slingshot and a coconut.
Before Celestia could even begin to protest, an over eager waiter had topped off his princess’ glass. Well… there was another twenty calories under her belt tonight.
Resigning herself to another fifty of Schwarzwälder’s crunches, Celestia took a sip of her red wine. At the very least, it was good for her heart.
The hour was late, and the party was getting into its full swing. The richest, most powerful, most lazy ponies in all of Equestria whiled away their evening with small talk and idle gossip. Whether it was the prices on the commodities market or some rather crass remarks about a duchess’s wig, no topic was deemed too small in importance for the bored, idle rich.
Celestia traced the rim of her glass with her hoof, absently listening to a duke drone on and on about his third wife. For courtesy’s sake alone, she played the part of the concerned princess, nodding at all the right moments and smiling when it was required of her. She had repeated this process for each of her distant descendants who felt it was necessary to infringe on her personal space.
Whenever she was asked where the ‘most noble and beloved Princess Luna’ was this fine evening, Celestia deflected with a simple excuse of ‘royal duties’.
…or as the Princess of the Night liked to call it, buried beneath a foot of blankets and lost amidst a sea of pillows. Celestia wouldn’t begrudge her. Her sister had been burning both ends of the midday candle as of late.
When she was able to, she had managed to pull herself away from the Duke and collapse into the closest seat available, silently nursing her glass of wine.
“You can do this…” Celestia whispered to herself, closing her eyes. “Just a few more hours… its nothing new. Just get through this…”
Try as she might she couldn’t help but tune into the conversation behind her.
Celestia was familiar with that particular lot. A quick glance confirmed it. The two pegasi, one blue and one golden, were the Ambassador to the Zebricans and his wife. The unicorns, orange and grey, were undoubtedly two undersecretaries of her cabinet members, if their uniforms gave anything away.
All four had their eyes fixated on an unsuspecting white-and-pink mare on the other side of the field.
“So, did you see that Fancy Pants’ trophy wife seems to be… more generous than usual tonight?” asked one of the stallions.
“I doubt it has anything to do with her philanthropy.” The orange stallion sneered, giving a disdainful glance at the mare in question. “If you ask me, her curves have become more pronounced. In all the wrong ways.”
“By Jove, are you suggesting that the Fleur De Lis has let herself go?”
“Don’t act so surprised. I mean, just look at her. That’s her second slice of cake this evening. Clearly she’s been letting herself go.”
“That’s what I hear. Apparently rumor has it that she’s set to announce her resignation from her modeling career at the end of the month.”
All heads turned to look at the ambassador’s wife, a shocked “No!” leaving each of their lips.
The golden mare chuckled wickedly between sips of her wine. “Such a scandal for Fancy Pants; I suppose that just goes to show you that even a commoner’s form can only last so long.”
'It wasn’t parties,' Celestia thought venomously to herself. ‘It’s the nobility.’ She was truly beginning to regret putting down that Prench uprising. She had never considered how vastly their guillotine would have improved the royal bloodline. If she wasn’t so sure of Luna sending her to the sun, Celestia had half the mind to drag the old device out of retirement and put it into so much needed use.
Celestia began to walk away, desiring greatly to put as much distance between herself and the group. The alicorn felt her hackles rise at the crassness of their attitude, the ease with which they insulted one of the few decent ponies in this wretched upper class.
“She should take a cue from our Princess’ new trend and shed those unsightly pounds before he wises up and takes back that ring of hers.”
Celestia’s attention snapped back to her wineglass. Or rather, to the shards that had once been her glass. As her drink bled into her evening gown, a fatal wound on the immaculate silk, Celestia snatched a napkin from a nearby table and dabbed at the stain.
To her dismay, she knew there was no saving the dress. The alicorn let loose a stream of words that would have made even the saltiest of seadogs proud.
Celestia was suddenly aware of the noise. Or rather, the lack thereof.
Every head in the garden had turned to face their princess, and wide-eyed, slack-jawed looks of appall seemed to be the latest fashion trend amongst the Canterlot nobility. Even the musicians had ceased to play, and were now nervously glancing at each other.
Celestia regarded the crowd before her with a cold gaze. For a brief moment she considered apologizing for her outburst, but then she caught a glimpse of the nobles who had so casually slandered Fleur De Lis’ name yet now dared to act offended at hearing a few choice words.
No. She had been putting this off for far too long.
“Oh, go buck off.”
There was a collective gasp from everypony present. One particularly dramatic mare pressed her hoof to her forehead and collapsed in a dead faint.
Celestia was not amused.
With a little more force than was necessary, the alicorn passed the stub of glass that had been her drink to a nearby waiter and turned to get as far away from these charlatans as she could.
Due to her height, Celestia could see Feather Duster and several royal guards quietly trying to push their way towards her through the sea of faces. Celestia noticed the look of worried disappointment on her maid's face. Feather Duster did NOT look happy in the slightest.
The princess decided that now would be an opportune time for a stroll…
…and by stroll she meant quick escape.
Celestia lowered her head and pushed onwards through the bushes. Thorns and branches snagged at her mane and dress, tugging her back as if to bar her entry. Within a moment, the alicorn had succeeded in breaking free and stepped out of the bush, the sounds of the party far behind her.
She had led the guards and Feather Duster on what could only be described as a “Where’s Celestia?”-esque run around the garden. Using the various shrubbery and bushes as hiding places had been a small brilliance on her part.
Unfortunately, there was nothing inconspicuous at all about a tall, stark white alicorn leaping from between patches of giant petunias. Eventually, Celestia had resorted to booking it to the hedge maze which bordered the expanse of her royal gardens. It was with much satisfaction that Celestia realized that her pursuers had given up the chase after her.
At least for the moment.
For the first time since Feather Duster had shoved her into this ridiculous dress, Celestia felt as though she could finally breathe.
‘Actually,’ Celestia thought to herself, ‘I actually can breathe.’ Sure enough, a quick glance at her hide revealed a tear in the back of the dress, cutting loose several of the corset strings. She had little doubt it had occurred somewhere in her impromptu leafy escapade. It also revealed the number of twigs, burs, small pieces of leaves had caught in her ethereal mane and tail as well. With a sigh of resignation, Celestia began to clean herself, resulting in a few minutes of discomfort as she tried to extract the debris.
It was only when Celestia had tossed away the final bur that that she noticed she was not alone.
Of course her hooves had led her here.
“H-hey…” Celestia whispered shakily to the grove’s sole occupant. She took a deep breath, trying to press down the rush of adrenaline that was coursing through her limbs. Her eyes flickered up to the draconequus, forcing herself to stare into the creature’s empty eyes.
Idiot. How could she have forgotten him.
The statue had been moved to a plinth in the center of the clearing. Already the stone showed signs of wear and neglect. Soft beds of moss had begun their assault at the base of the pedestal, with tendrils of creepers beginning to push their way up Discord’s stone limbs. The undisturbed tall grass in the clearing showed that nopony, least of all the gardener, had breached the inner sanctum of the maze in a while.
Celestia looked around at her surroundings. Nopony had come near since Discord had last escaped. The maze of shrubs, while not the strongest physical barrier, proved an effective psychological one. Few ponies ever ventured into the garden maze, but few, it seemed, found themselves capable of reaching the center. They would wander for a few hours amidst the winding curves and dead ends, before finally giving up and working their way out. If there was something that Celestia had learned over the years, it was that sometimes the best defense was the simplest one.
She looked up at the statue again. Part of her wanted to recoil from its features. But that part of her hadn’t been getting its way very much tonight.
Celestia took several slow steps towards him, her mind protesting with screams for every inch closer she came to the statue. There was an itch; one that she knew she'd never satisfy even if she tried. It was as though thousands of ants were crawling under her skin. Every part of her was rejecting him and what he was.
It wasn’t hard to explain why. Her eyes ran over his body. Eagle’s claw. Lion’s paw. Buffalo hoof. Bat and Peagsi Wings. There was not a single thing right about him.
Everything about him was wrong. Her being this was wrong. Everything she was doing was wrong.
She took another step towards him.
Everything she was doing was wrong...
“This isn’t fun anymore.”
She had barely whispered the words but they had been said all the same. The admission came as something as a shock to Celestia herself, as though somepony had drenched her in ice water. A startled look came across her face as she shot a glare at the statue.
She was being ridiculous. Barely two sentences in, and this entire conversation had become ridiculous.
But how utterly convenient that she was being ridiculous right around him?
Celestia slowly mouthed the words again. They were almost foreign to her. Indeed, the very thought was alien to the princess.
Guiding and watching over the ponies of Equestria had never been about being fun. It had been about necessity. Ponykind had been so young and fragile. It had known little of the creatures that lurked within the Darkness, and even less on how to protect themselves from it. Windigos, Hydras, Timberwolves; these were only the tip of the iceberg. Ponykind had long since forgotten the rest, and in turn, forgotten their fear of the darkness.
There were things long forgotten and lost in the Deep and in the Shadows. Things that Celestia had ensured would never see the light of day again, bound in the runic adamantine chains of Tartarus and forced to futilely claw at the walls of the realm they were bound to until the sun turned to ash and the stars themselves died.
After that fiasco had been dealt with, Celestia had turned her entire attention to leading and aiding the ponies who revered her. True, there had still been insurmountable amounts of work on her plate. But ponies had been so much more… revering back in the day. Being a goddess meant being treated like one. Ponies of old had begged for her blessing for their foals. She waited with eager anticipation on her throne as one of her stallions returned from a quest, manticore tail in tow. Countless cold winter nights spent curled up by the fire, foals sleeping against her side after a story.
True, she still received satisfaction from outwitting and outplaying the nobility. Her tongue and mind was still as sharp as any knife, and received a certain fulfillment when she had outmaneuvered them. But that was not the same as having fun.
No, her only enjoyment in this era came from the occasionally prank she could pull on the unsuspecting members of her household staff. And even those were beginning to slowly grow old.
No… now she just raised the sun, worked, and lowered the sun.
Every day was… the same.
She no longer enjoyed being a princess.
“Suppose...” she began, speaking to nopony in particular, “Suppose I freed you.”
“Let’s just say,” Celestia repeated, now for her own pleasure, “That I freed you." Her heart skipped a beat at the very notion. “Hypothetically, of course,” she added quickly. “I’m not being serious. But let’s just say...”
She remembered the laugh he had. It wasn’t the phony tittering of nobility, nor was it like Luna’s chime-like giggle. It was deep and hearty. It was a laugh that he threw his entire being behind.
She wanted so desperately to hear that laugh once more.
“It wouldn't be very difficult, you know, to break the spell,” she told him. "If I really wanted to...”
It was true. The power of the Elements of Harmony had forged the perfect jail. Even the very embodiment of chaos would find his efforts to escape nigh impossible.
Jails were hard to break out of. Breaking in was surprisingly easy.
Even at this distance Celestia could feel the layers of magic stacked on top of each other, coalescing into a thick shell. Just like an onion…
…and for a clever alicorn, all she’d have to do would be to carefully peel away the layers.
If she wanted to of course.
“Would you make it rain for me?” Celestia whispered. She pressed a reverent hoof against the base of the statue, scraping away the moss that she found there. “Would there be cotton candy clouds…”
Those had been Celestia’s favorite trick of his when she was younger. She would sit under them and tip her head back, mouth opened wide. A downpour of rich chocolate milk would drip from the fluffy confines of Discord’s concoction and onto her awaiting tongue. The chocolate would run down her face and flank, and she would splash in the sticky puddle that grew around her.
Her mouth opened a fraction, the tip of her tongue on her lips. She could almost taste it from him. All it would take was to remove the layers…
“I thought I’d find you here.”
Celestia’s head snapped up to the entrance of the square, anger clear in her eyes. Of course she couldn’t get even three seconds of privacy.
She had been expecting Feather Duster, or perhaps a contingent of Royal Guards here to take her back to the palace. But she hadn’t been expecting this…
Her nephew’s horn glowed as he levitated a full glass of mead in front of Celestia, an offering for a distraught goddess. “I brought your favorite.”
Within a second, the glass was emptied and held expectantly in front of the prince.
Blueblood quirked an eyebrow at her. “You’re welcome,” he commented dryly. The prince gave a good natured sigh and topped off Celestia’s glass. “Things could be worse.”
Celestia raised the glass to her lips and took a slower sip to calm her nerves. With time for her brain to register, she gave a half-muffled moan as the warm honeyed-flavor of mead spread across her tongue.
“The only way this garden party could get any worse,” Celestia muttered, “is if Tirek himself returns from Tartarus.”
Blueblood raised the decanter to eye level and swirled the amber nectar inside with an appraising eye. “To be fair, auntie, don’t you feel you’re exaggerating that just a touch?”
The goddess scowled. “Not in the slightest. By now, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he showed up. If he does, he better do a better job of it than last time." She caught his look of surprise that she was being serious. "What? Tirek? Is he really that much of a surprise? I mean, let’s be honest. In the past year alone, how many of those old mares tales have become reality for you, nephew?”
Celestia blinked in surprise. “Five?”
“Permission to speak plainly, auntie?” With her nod of approval, the prince smiled teasingly. “The Mare in the Moon, your Sister Luna, and the Elements of Harmony make three.” Blueblood waved an idle hoof at the statue in front of them. “Discord here makes four. But Princess Celestia losing her temper and managing to tell ALL of Canterlot to sod off at once?” The prince gave her a look of admiration. “They’ll be telling that story for generations to come.”
Celestia groaned, firmly pressing a hoof against her forhead. How stupid could she be? No doubt she had made few allies amongst the nobles tonight. As much as she loved them, despite being idiots, she knew they could cause trouble for her somewhere down the line. At the very least she hadn’t gone and verbally destroyed everypony present. What she did would have required damage control… but that? That would have been fatal.
Thoroughly enjoyable, but politically fatal all the same.
“I’m a grown mare, Prince Blueblood. I don’t need to be chastised by a foal a fraction of my age.”
“As always, I yield to your infallible wisdom. Especially in lieu of the slight discord your outburst caused tonight.”
The two ponies looked up at the statue of the draconequus. Celestia regarded it calmly while her nephew looked upon it with disdain.
“I suppose if Tirek truly were to return tonight, he would at least be better than the spirit of chaos.”
“You know, even he was known for his own occasional gems of wisdom.”
“I find that a little hard to believe.”
“Oh yes,” Celestia allowed herself a bitter smile. “He once said that ‘the only things that truly matter in life are good food, good drink, and good company.’”
Blueblood gave a cautious look at the statue. Its petrified expression of abject horror did little to aid in swallowing this tidbit of news. “That seems… unusually tame for Discord.”
“Not unless you were there.” Celestia’s hoof reached out gently caressed the draconic leg of the effigy in front of them. “For him, and I guess, for me, it meant so much more. When one has the time to experience everything the world has to offer, those are the only things one can take any sort of pleasure out of."
"A life of doing good and being respectful is all fine and dandy," the princess offered, “but when you can live forever regardless of how you behave, these virtues seem to fade in importance.”
“Don’t get me wrong. We hated each other.” Celestia reminded her nephew firmly. “There’s nothing worse than building a castle other than to have the bucking god of chaos himself turn it into a deck of cards.”
“Wow, that is infuriating.”
“No, it gets better. The playing cards then became a horde of savage marshmallow bunnies that ate each other in an orgy of sweet cannibalism.”
Blueblood was now staring up at the staring with wide open eyes. Not the tiniest noise could be heard in the clearing at that point, not even from the birds. She could just tell that three simple words were shooting around in her nephew’s skull: What. The. Buck.
“I’ll admit, that’s one of the more extreme cases. I guess you could say we tolerated each other. He got under my nerves. For a long time, nothing he ever did was harmful in the long run.”
“Auntie, on the day he broke out, I woke up to find that the walls to my room were made out of six foot thick waffles. To make matters worse, he had turned my horn into an icecream cone! I couldn’t use magic!” Blueblood crossly admitted. “I had to eat my out the front door!”
“I figured as much. He was always had a weird habit of incorporating food into many of his tricks. I think it was his way of coping with things. We each had our own..."
“Gluttony. Intoxication. Lust.” Celestia recited. Blueblood noted how distant her eyes seemed to him. “You call them vices now. I called them opiates.” She caught her nephew’s worried look and could only offer a rueful smirk in return. “I guess you can say they kept us sane for a while.” She closed her eyes, letting herself get lost in her own thoughts. Blueblood began to open his mouth to ask, but Celestia beat him to the punch.
“You want to know why?” The prince could only nod numbly. “Immortality is a wonderful thing. There’s… so much freedom to it. It’s like… It’s hard to explain, properly anyway, to one who isn’t. You wake up each morning, and you have a choice. You can either get up and start your day or you can spend it in bed. Most ponies would choose the former, because you must make the most of your time on this world before you leave it forever. You hurry about, because you have to make every living day worthwhile. Tomorrow might not come. Tomorrow you die.”
“Unless you know, no matter what happens, tomorrow will come. You will see another sunrise, and it doesn’t matter if you get out of bed. The world will move on, and you can always get out tomorrow."
“Is that how you see us?” Blueblood asked quietly.
Celestia indifferently shrugged her shoulders. “It certainly gives you the chance to put things in perspective. Actual perspective. I’m going to blink, Blueblood, and when I do, you’ll just be a weathered tombstone with an epitaph nopony will pause to read. You, Feather Duster, all the ponies in the garden. You’ll all be gone, just like your grandfather, and his grandfather, and all the ponies before you.” The goddess opened her eyes, and Blueblood was stung by the pity he found in the tourmaline eyes. Pity for him. For all ponies who were born with the curse of mortality.
“We must seem so insignificant to you; a venerable mountain in the river of time. No matter how long or how far it flows, there you are. Immovable and impassable, all while we grains of sand are swept away with the tide.”
"Oh my young prince..." Celestia whispered. Blueblood flinched as she wrapped her hooves around him. Celestia gave him a paper-thin smile and ruffled his mane, causing the grown stallion to roll his eyes and grumble. "...nopony is ever insignificant. Least of all you. And that's why it hurts when they all go because the memories... those memories are all we have left in the end."
There was a pause as Blueblood considered her words. “That seems a harsh price to pay for immortality.”
“Indeed. And that was what our opiates meant to us. They helped us forget those memories up here...” Celestia touched a hoof against the prince’s head, “…and made us feel… well… more whole in here.” The hoof came down and light tapped against the unicorn’s chest.
“There was nothing like a berry tart, a tankard of ale, or a stallion to warm your bed to help get through the days… and the weeks… and the years…” Celestia trailed off as silence fell between the two once again. Finally, Blueblood looked up at the princess.
“Would you like to share some of those memories?” he asked, a small, hopeful smile crossing his face.
The princess was more than happy to oblige.
Ye Olden Times
The glorious castle of Everfree stood as a pinnacle to the elegance and refined nature of those who resided within. From here, justice and order presides as king, ensuring the prosperity of Equestria. It was a symbol to the highest ideals and virtues of ponykind.
Except tonight, of course.
"Chug chug chug chug!"
Knights banged their armored hooves onto the table, wonder and admiration reflected in each of their eyes as Luna's head tipped back one final time.
Perched precariously between her hooves was a massive barrel that had taken almost half a dozen servants to wheel in.
Her throat bobbed once, and then twice, and the barrel was lowered to reveal the Princess of the Night. The stallions at the table cheered and laughed, and bits were exchanged between hooves.
Luna wiped her lips and looked at the pegasi closest to her. “Time?”
"Twas naught but five minutes, m'lady!"
Her cheeks rosy, she slowly lifted herself up on her hind hooves, holding the barrel aloft above her.
With a feat of herculean strength, Luna smashed the barrel against her skull. The stallions closest to her dove for cover under the feast table as shattered wood flew everywhere. An absolutely smashed Luna wobbled in her hind hooves, a smile on her face. The iron rings of the barrel dangled around her neck like a pair of necklaces.
"Bring another! Ale! Ale for *hic* everypony!"
“Even Auntie Luna?”
“There’s a reason why they call it Moonshine.”
“…how did I NOT pick that up?” Blueblood groaned and pressed a hoof to his face.
Celestia picked up the crystal decanter with her magic and swished around the golden mead in it, eyeing it very much like Blueblood had done only minutes ago.
"You should have seen her back in the day. She could hold her liquor better than any one of our knights. Myself included.”
Blueblood tapped his chin thoughtfully. “I wonder if she’d still be able to best the guards. From what I’ve seen Shining Armor put away-“
“Oh I don’t imagine so. I think going dry for a millennium would sober anypony up. Besides…” Celestia finished the last of the mead in her glass, the sweet honey-wine vanishing on her tongue. “…after Discord went insane from immortality, it became more of a once in a blue moon sort of thing for her.”
Ironically though, Celestia noted, blue moons had been a bit more common back then.
“No,” Celestia corrected herself with a frown, “Discord broke. He broke before Luna and I did. He used to be tolerable but then... then he became dangeous. Unstable. That's saying something, even for him.”
“I see,” Blueblood responded with a thoughtful expression, looking up at the draconequus he had just inquired about. “And then Luna fell... It seems of all you three, only you haven’t wrought devastation upon our land.”
Celestia’s eyes grew hard. “Oh, don’t let the history books fool you. Nightmare Moon might’ve been the one who tried to usurp the throne, but I was the one who almost let Equestria burn afterwards… too busy finding happiness at the bottom of a bottle and pouring chocolate onto the chests of the royal guard.”
“And that makes six. I’ve heard rumors about your unique tastes in the bedroom. Never thought the guards were being serious.”
The ghost of a smile hung around Celestia’s lips at that.
Blueblood noticed this and looked down at the decanter in his magic. It would do his aunt no good to mope in bitter memories tonight or to be bothered with the present.
“Well,” Blueblood began, a rare twinkle in his eyes, “I may be but a mere mortal, but I cannot deny the wisdom in Discord’s words. Let’s see...‘ good food, good drink, and good company,’” he recited. “So, since the last one would be highly inappropriate between us, and your special diet prevents the first…” He bit down in the cork and with a 'pop,' yanked it out with his teeth.
“I say we take a page out of your sister’s book.” Blueblood held up the crystal decanter for her. “Your royal highness, would you care for getting happily tipsy with me?”
Outside the royal gardens…
When Diamond Tiara had somehow acquired a ticket for him for the Canterlot Cherry Festival, she had only seven words for him: “Get a story or don’t come back.”
Featherweight knew that there article worthy stories elsewhere, but Diamond Tiara had insisted that it was time he dug up something juicy on the nobility of Canterlot. The equinox festival was the perfect place.
At first, the guards had refused him entry, even laughing at how his wings had struggled to lift the weight of his camera.
The look on their face was priceless when he flashed the golden ticket.
The guard outside the palace grumbled as he took the form from Featherweight. Apparently, they were letting anypony in these days that had the right credentials. The pegasi next to him took a glance at the tag pinned to Featherweight’s hat. “Hey kid, aren’t you a little young to be a reporter?”
The lanky colt nodded eagerly. The guards glanced at each other for a moment before shrugging indifferently.
“Eh, works for us. Go right on in. Enjoy the party.”
Featherweight gave a small salute and buzzed past the guards, his camera flashing as he trotted down the paved garden path.
He was going to get his story tonight…
“-and that’s how Equestria was made.” finished Celestia.
“I had no idea…” A wide-eyed Blueblood only shook his head in awe. The unicorn lay on the grass, his tie undone and golden hair in complete and utter disarray.
“Yeah… the Hearth’s Warming Eve pageant is the foal-friendly version.” Celestia gently slid the decanter from Blueblood’s lax hooves and tipped the final few sips of mead into her glass. The bottle had been emptied between the two of them, leaving the relatives somewhere between “sober” and “probably-should-not-operate heavy-machinery”.
“Oh, that reminds me!” Celestia exclaimed as she set the now empty vessel onto the lush grass. “Have you met any nice mares yet?”
The smile slid off of his face.
“Auntie, I really don’t want to talk about-“
“-why not? Is what I’m asking really so hard of you?”
Blueblood muttered, dragging a hoof down his face. “Ancestors above, not this again.”
“Don’t take that tone with me!” Celestia shook her hooves at Prince Blueblood. “Grandfoals! I want grandfoals, Blueblood-”
The prince groaned and squeezed his eyes shut, pressing his hooves over his ears.
“-and to get those, you need to get married! To get married, you need a mare, and to get a mare, you need to get off your flank and look for one-!”
“-and YOU keep scaring away all the mares I set up-”
“-work is crazy and it’s just not-”
“-you’re beginning to make me wonder if you’re not playing for the other team-“
“-for the last time, I’m not gay!”
"-and I want lots and lots of bouncing, bright-eyed grandfoals that I can spoil rotten!”
Blueblood titled his head back to look at the princess, an incredulous look across his face.
“Spoil rott-? They’ll be princes and princesses! How much more spoiled could they possibly be?”
Celestia put on a playfully hurt face, pressing a hoof to her chest. “Are you suggesting that I spoiled you when you were younger? I’ll have you know I was a responsible and sincere grandmother to you.”
Blueblood gave her a flat look and raised his eyebrow.
“Well, that at least makes sense now.”
“What does?” Celestia asked, as she tipped back her glass.
“You being the sun. I had forgotten that it’s just a bunch of hot air.”
Celestia guffawed, barely managing to cover her mouth with her hoof in time to avoid spraying her drink everywhere. The mirth proved to be contagious as Blueblood joined her. The prince clutched his sides as he laughed, rolling around on the grass.
After a while, both alicorn and unicorn regained some semblance of their breathing and lay basking in the afterglow of the alcohol and their laughter.
The goddess looked up at the sky. Celestia had allowed the sun to long since sunk beneath the horizon, and the last pink and orange hints of her sunset were being swallowed by Luna’s night. No doubt Feather Duster was already rousing her sister from her slumber, badgering her about her scandalous older sibling.
“We should be going…” she murmured. “Do you think the chances of Tirek still showing up are any good?”
“No, but I do think you’re still being over dramatic.” Blueblood muttered. “Now, let me tell you what IS going to happen.” The prince placed a comforting hoof on his aunt’s shoulders and looked up at Discord. “No horrible eldritch Old God is going to come back from the gates of Tartarus and enslave us all. True, this garden party is most likely going to be a disaster.” Here, Blueblood’s voice took on a more serious tone. “You’ll be stuck to sit at the head of the table all night, listening to the myriad of petty troubles and requests unworthy of a mare of your station. Nobles will be vying for your attention and your approval. You’ll be forced to sit and watch as entre after entre passes you by, unable to indulge in the slightest bite, because if you don’t, the nobles will be offended by a repeat of your sudden absence in the middle of the meal.”
Celestia had the sudden urge to bash her skull in against Discord’s pedestal. That sounded like a far better execution than what Blueblood had prescribed for her.
Especially once Feather Duster got her hooves on her…
"And I truly, and utterly hate to inform you of this, your highness, but the nobles are going to be offended like they have never been offended before tonight.”
Celestia cocked her head at the prince, confusion spreading across her face. “What do you mean? Why would they be offended?”
“Because Her Royal Highness, the blessed Sovereign of Equestria and the Mistress of the Morning isn’t going to be at some frumpy garden party.” Blueblood’s eyes lit up and a smirk picked up at the corners of his lips. “She’s going to take the night off.”
“Are you insane? I can’t just take the night off!” Celestia exclaimed.
“Call it an emergency state of affairs then.” Blueblood dismissively waved his hoof and sat down on the grass next to Celestia. “I’ll tell them you’re handling some… super cosmic dilemma with the sun or something… and just… go spend time with your sister, or raid the royal pantry, or heck, curl up with one of those trashy romance novels you like-“
“Does everyone know about those?” Celestia growled.
“-my point is… get out of here. Go spend some time for yourself. Your dress is a mess, you’re covered in leaves, and you reek of mead. You’re in no way presentable for this occasion.”
“And what will you be doing?”
“I imagine I’ll be trying to stop the nobles from killing each other.”
“I SHALL ENDURE THIS NO LONGER!” Celestia ears perked up as the angry shout ripped across the gardens. Birds flew off the nearby bushes in surprise, cawing irritably as their rest was disturbed. “HOW DARE YOU INSULT ME WITH YOUR PRESENCE, LORD STRAWBERRY! HAVE AT YOU! EN GARDE!”
“…and that’s my cue.” Prince Blueblood said, offering his aunt a sympathetic smile. He rose to his hooves, staggering ever so slightly. He magically brushed his suit of any offending dust and straightened his tie. When at last he felt he was presentable, running a hoof through his golden mane to ensure it stayed put, bit his lip in thought.
“You know… I think Discord may have been onto something.” Blueblood turned his gaze up to the sculpture’s unseeing eyes. No longer was his gaze so laced with scorn for the statue. “Eat, drink and be merry. For tomorrow we die.” He flashed the princess a charismatic smile before nodding his head ever so slightly.
“Good night Auntie.”
Celestia gave a sad smile as the last of her nephew’s tailcoat disappeared around the leafy hedge. She sighed softly as she lifted her glass to her mouth.
The smooth sweet taste of chocolate hit her tongue like a bomb. She recoiled instantly, eyes widening in shock as she stared at what she was holding.
Where there was once golden mead in the crystal glass now was a glass of ice cold chocolate milk.
She quickly set her glass back down on the surface of Discord’s stone pedestal, and looked unwaveringly up at the statue. The draconequus remained in his permanent expression of alarm. All the same… Celestia could have sworn that the corners of his lips had moved ever so slightly upwards.
“Sorry…” Celestia apologized to him. “But I’m on a diet.”
The slapstick humor you know and love will be back in the next chapter, I promise. But this chapter was necessary to get out of my system.