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"Burninating the countryside... burninating the peasants... burninating all the peoples... and their thatched-roof COTTAGES! THATCHED-ROOF COTTAGES!! And the Trogdor comes in the NIIIIGHT!!!"

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    Hoers Fæme

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    I'm taking a sabbatical.

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  • 30 weeks
    Echoes in the Well, pt.3

    I know. "Again? Who cares! It's cut stuff from an old fic!"

    I've realized something, though, as I've been gathering this up: I'm doing this for me. I'm laying something to rest. I'm letting go of a lingering sense of what might-have-been, which in its own way is a part of the story of what ended-up-being.

    Maybe it's even the last part of the story.

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    0 comments · 79 views

Echoes in the Well, pt.2 · 12:48pm February 28th

As I mentioned last time: there's a mountain of cut content from To Serve In Hell, including some nuggets that I very much regretted having to take out. I've already shared a couple of those stronger moments with you, and discussed the thought process that lead to both adding and ultimately removing them.

Today, however, I want to share a few alternate versions of scenes that I'm glad didn't make the final cut. I've mentioned that Hell involved a lot of "discovery" writing through its middle; these are some bits that got weeded-out during that process. They represented early attempts at finding my way with the story's themes, characters, and timeline--but in all cases, they revealed that something was wrong with my approach.

And of course, we can't talk about things I did wrong (or nearly wrong) with Hell without mentioning one mare in particular...

"Get in losers, we're airing dirty laundry!" (source)

My original plan with Hell as of late 2015 was to write it as a comment-driven serial.

By the middle of 2017, however, I was struggling to keep that train anywhere near the tracks. It wasn't that I was new to writing novels; it was more that I hadn't grasped up-front that this was a novel, and it needed to be approached like one. As such, it was around the time that Rarity made it to Canterlot in Book 1 when I finally started to get a clear picture of what it would take to carry the novel through its midsection. Rarity (or Cheese) would be the plot's prime mover; Rainbow Dash would help develop the emotional and lore aspects; but I started to realize that my story's proverbial three-legged stool was missing a leg. I needed someone who could give us a window into the various factions and intrigue swirling around the edges of the Nightmare's regime, but not in the heroic way that Rarity would encounter it. Someone who could also be a foil for Blueblood, and help reveal his ties to those other players.

Lo and behold, I realized that I'd already put Sassy Saddles in the right place with the right connections to help show what I needed. But there was a problem with adding her to the roster of heroes: she was evil. Like... right-hand-of-darkness-evil; cackling-toadie-evil; and worst of all, more than a little bit pointy-haired-boss-evil. Sassy had not debuted as likeable, nor even all that competent; if I was to salvage her character and re-spin her as someone who the audience could come to root for, I would need to do a lot to "humanize" her, and I would need to start that process fast.

This was my attempt to humanize her fast. It was the original version of what would become Chapter 15: Loose Threads. But it was sequenced earlier, and boy-oh-boy, you do not need to see the reader feedback that I got on this. Suffice it to say that Sassy's sudden manifestation of a desire for "The Sex" just comes right up out of nowhere, along with a heretofore uncharacteristic expression of feelings of loneliness, and an iffy backstory for her villainous motivations.

But the bigger problem was that she still comes off as not merely a little bit evil, but as downright mustache-twirlingly evil, contrary to my desire to show her as a flesh-and-blood mare who'd made some bad decisions. After seeing this, and throughout the rest of drafting & editing Hell, Moosetasm undertook the unenviable task of helping me (and/or beating me over the head) to excise numerous instances where I wrote Sassy with word & dialogue choices that reflected a pure and virulent malice. I'm mostly happy with the arc that Sassy got to have in the end, but it was unquestionably fraught getting her there.

Yet for all that I sit here and knock this, it remains very memorable to me, as it represents perhaps the moment when I realized I would need to change course. The feedback I got on this in July 2017 led me to put the whole novel on pause, draft the rest of it, edit the hell out of everything, and plan for the Halloween 2018 (re)release that ultimately happened.

Sassy closed her eyes and, with some effort, slowed her breathing.  The overstuffed chair creaked slightly as she settled deeper into its plush embrace.  The heat of the crackling fire next to her sent waves of tingling pleasure through her left foreleg.  It was almost enough to free her from the headache radiating outward from her jaw, which she couldn’t help but clench.


She sighed, then raised a quill in her magic from the small circular table next to her chair, and took a small book from a side pouch in her armor.  After a moment’s hesitation, she opened the book, flipped to the first empty page, and started by writing the date.

Previous entry did not go as planned.  Stripped of position and sent to Canterlot to find the letter’s source.  Just now received a suite in the Governor’s mansion with two guards outside the door.  Hopefully adequate, should the Seneschal try anything more.

How badly I’ve misjudged her.  She’s long reeked of sympathy but never showed the side I’m glimpsing now.  Came to blows over the letter, and the little rat trounced me. Afterward, without provocation, I was rendered unconscious and placed in a carriage without so much as a change of clothes.

I will send for new outfits from dear Hoity Toity to get me through the next few days, including a ball that our letch of a Governor insists I attend with him.  I’m mortified that he’d parade me around like a conquest even as he speaks of some new lady-in-waiting. I couldn’t bear further embarrassment by sending for my effects from the castle.

Perhaps the Seneschal will at least complete the task I’ve given her, or perhaps she’ll disappear among her fellow vermin.  Regardless, I can reach out to my other—”

A dull throb in her chest broke Sassy’s concentration.  She shifted in the chair, leaned forward, then slowly rotated her left shoulder a few times.  The motion was slowed by her tight armor and an almost sticky feeling in the joint, not to mention a burning line of discomfort that worked its way down the left side of her spine.

She sat back and added another line to the journal:

Schedule massage while in town.

But with the thought of hooves running down her back came other, deeper stirrings.  She took a long breath, attempting to dispel their fire, but still they lingered. She took a quick, furtive look around at the empty suite… which was a foolish gesture, for which she reprimanded herself inwardly; of course she was alone.  And she continued writing:

Perhaps finally accept Svengallop’s offer of an escort.  I have no wish for meaningless, unsavory relations, but I tire of feeling alone and untouchable.  If the truth seems to paint me as both, is it not better to admit that and to seek some small relief?  I am not made of stone or ice, regardless of how others speak of me…

Sassy closed the journal and placed it back within her armor.  Then she stood up from the chair and strode across the room to the window. She gazed out, taking in the moonlit ruins of the onetime castle’s maze and gardens.  Though she'd seen them from the road not long before, it lent an air of greater majesty to see them from above, even in their disrepair.

An unbidden thought about the time before darkness came to her mind:  an intricately embroidered dress of green Saddle Arabian silk that she’d slaved to create over months of the few precious off-hours allowed by her career in the upper city.  Canterlot’s fashion world had been thought of as cutthroat even in an age when throats were rarely cut, and it was considered a matter of both skill and luck to break into that world, even from within its business side.  Sassy had dreamed of presenting the finished dress to a luminary or debutante of the caliber to draw eyes and comments when stepping out at one of the year’s major social affairs, and so she’d pored over every detail of the dress with exacting precision, readying it for even the strictest of critics.

She closed her eyes.  It was fruitless to consider how the Mistress’ coming had disrupted those plans.  It was petty to weigh the loss of her dream against the more tangible losses others had experienced—some of which had been caused by her own hoof.  Yet the dream remained, and in some ways it was as intractable as her yearning for touch that never came.

She opened her eyes again, and scanned the grounds once more.  The castle gates caught her eye. She noticed they were open, and that a single pony was passing through them, pulling a small, covered cart. Sassy then looked down toward the entrance to the mansion proper, and spotted a much grander coach parked there. The coach, its driver, and a tough-looking guard beside it were all bedecked in familiar livery: a trio of money bags over a brown field.

Sassy bristled at the sight. “Well, rivets and rasps… Lord Rich, what are your ponies doing here? And why hasn't—”

A quiet rapping came from her suite’s door. “Enter,” Sassy shouted.

The door creaked open, and a slim, white, bespectacled head appeared. “Overseer Saddles?” came Silver Shill’s thin voice. “Ma'am, I was to tell you if there were visitors at the castle, or if anyone came or went.”

“Indeed you were,” Sassy barked.  “I see even that was too much to ask of the Governor’s staff?”

“No no no, ma'am,” Silver Shill said. “Lord Rich only just arrived a few minutes ago. I galloped straight up here to tell you!”

Sassy glared at him. “Lord Rich himself is here?  Very well; go down and continue watching. But first, another cart on its way; do you know who’s pulling it?”

Silver Shill trotted over to the window and peered out, leaning forward on his forelegs. “Oh, I think that's one of the archivist’s assistants.”

“From the Royal Archives?”

“The very same.  I’ve seen her coming and going from time to time.  Maybe a little more often, of late.”

Sassy furrowed her brow. “Very well, then. Go keep an eye on her.”

“Yes, ma'am,” he said, hurrying back for the door.

Sassy stepped out into the hall and eyed the guards. “You'll take me down to where the Governor would entertain a guest of Lord Rich’s importance.  Now.

From the outside, Sassy could tell the reception hall was grand.  She hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing it from the inside, but the the heavy, polished wood double-doors with silver handles and carved marble inlays spoke volumes about its opulence.

She pressed an ear against those doors, hoping to hear anything that would give her a clue about Lord Rich’s intentions.  But she heard little save for hoofsteps, and those only with moments for her to duck back before the doors creaked and swung toward her.

“—need your protection,” Lord Filthy Rich said before stopping short and locking eyes with Sassy.  Governor Blueblood came to a halt beside him and gave Sassy a smirk.

“Lord Rich,” she said slowly.  “Whatever brings you here?”

His eyebrows climbed.  “O… Overseer Saddles?!”  He dropped into a speedy bow.  “Forgive me, I didn’t expect… the Governor did not inform me he had company.”

“Slipped my mind,” Blueblood said with a simper and a shrug.

“Nor did I realize you would turn up here, Lord Rich.  But I suppose this good fortune could save us some time; in a way, you’re just the pony I’ve been looking for.”

Lord Rich cast a narrow-eyed glance at Governor Blueblood.  “Governor, do you know what the Overseer might have in mind?”

“Leave me out of this one,” Blueblood said, raising his forehooves and holding them up in mock defense.  “I’d rather watch you two fight it out anyway, especially if it should come to blows!”

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” Lord Rich said, taking a deep breath.  “How may I help you, Overseer?” he asked in a practiced, cheerful tone.

I have you now, she thought to herself.  Her pulse quickened, and she gave him a tight smile.  “Lord Rich, I have long believed that you associate with ponies who resist the rule of Mistress Nightmare Moon.  More recently, though, I have received certain indications that confirm what I’ve suspected.”

His jaw clenched.  He took a step back, then glanced at Blueblood as if expecting aid.  Finding none, he cleared his throat. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Sassy’s smile worked its way up her cheeks as she watched him squirm.  “I wonder, then, who would?” she asked in a tone she might’ve once used to help customers.  “Perhaps we ought to ask the loving wife you were so fortunate to get back from Tartarus some months ago?  It might even simplify your dealings with the Seneschal if she were to be thrown right back into the flames.”

“You leave my wife out of this,” he said through gritted teeth.

“That is up to you, Lord Rich.  Confess what you’ve done, and there’ll be no need for me to talk to her, or anypony else, about this matter.  But rest assured that I am watching you. I am going to find what you have done, and if it goes as deep as I believe it might, I will not hesitate for a moment to bring the full wrath of the Mistress Nightmare Moon down upon you and your house!”

Filthy’s features tightened with what looked like barely suppressed rage.  “I don’t know what you’re playing at here, Overseer, but I am a noble now, and I will not stand here and be treated like this, whether it be by an agent of the Mistress or anypony else.  Good evening!” And with that, Lord Rich pushed past Sassy with a heavy shove.

She grinned as she watched him stalk away.  I wonder what it will take to force him to talk, she thought to herself.

But rather than receive some kind of answer, Sassy heard the sound of one hoof striking another.  A few moments later, it repeated. She turned and saw Governor Blueblood up on his hind legs, giving her a slow clap with his forehooves.  “Oh, very well done, miss Saddles. You know… I’d give that a ten for bravado, but maybe more like a two for subtlety and careful handling of a potential suspect in whatever you’re investigating.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, no no, don’t get me wrong, that was masterful.  Really, you didn’t just stick your hoof in your mouth; you managed to shove almost the entire leg up in there as well.  I’d wager it’ll be tasting like fetlock in the back of your mouth for hours.

“Governor, this is my jurisdiction,” she snapped.  “And you should be concerned that you were just discussing giving protection to a pony like Lord Rich!”

“Well Miss Saddles, far be it from me to stick my jurisdiction where it isn’t wanted.  But how can you be certain that your friend Lord Rich was here discussing covert matters of skulduggery and illicit dealings?  Perhaps he was simply here delivering a book?”

She looked at him askance.  “A book?”

Blueblood leaned closer and held a hoof to his lips.  “I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I know that my reputation is for licentiousness and wild parties, and I do enjoy maintaining that.  But in fact, my dear, I’ve taken rather a shine to reading in the recent past.”

“Reading what?”

“Oh, all sorts of fun things!  History, legends… uh, historical legends… oh, it all sounds so very boring when I say it out loud.”

“No, Governor… Lord Rich is at the center of what I’ve been sent to investigate.  If you’ve had dealings with him, you must tell me of their nature!”

“Why?  Otherwise you’ll have me dragged away and clapped in irons?  Frankly, that sounds like a promising start to an evening alone with you, Miss Saddles.”

Sassy drew in a breath and prepared a retort, but paused as she spotted movement from the corner of her eye.  She turned, seeing Silver Shill standing in a doorway, eyebrows raised. Then she looked back at Blueblood. “Governor… privately… have you gone mad?

His expression hardened.  “Miss Saddles… privately… do you enjoy being alone?  Or is there a pony underneath that armor? And I ask not just because I’d like to get you out of it.  But I fear that pony has been hidden for too long, and done too much of her work through contacts and intermediaries, letting her social skills atrophy to nothing.”

“You will have your dance with me, Governor.  Try anything more and it will be your mouth tasting like somepony’s hoof.”

He gave her a broad wink.  “Tell me that’s a promise?”  Then he laughed, and turned back into the reception chamber, closing its doors behind him.

“What do you have for me?” Sassy asked Silver Shill, her tone high with exasperation.

“Terribly sorry to interrupt, ma’am.  As I said, it was the archivist’s assistant.  Looked like she was picking up some books the Governor was sending to the archive.”

“He mentioned books,” she said quietly.  “Well, no matter; I’m sure it’s for the best that an uncultured pig like him should get things from the library from time to time.”

“Actually, I think that he was donating some books.  Seems like he’s sent more to them than he’s gotten from them lately.”

Sassy’s brow crinkled.  “You mean he was serious?  He’s been getting books from Lord Rich?

“Well now, I couldn’t tell you that for sure, ma’am.  Just seems as though he’s getting them from somewhere.  Valuable ones, too. The archivist is pretty happy about it from what I hear!”

“That doesn’t make any sense… how far away now is the archivist’s assistant?”

“Probably not far, ma’am; she just left before I came to you, and didn’t seem to be in a particular hurry.

Sassy turned to the guards, who had been waiting at a discreet distance.  “Run ahead and stop that cart! I think it’s time we have a glimpse at what the Governor’s been reading.”

He's been reading teh pr0nz!

One of my early ideas for Book 4 was to build toward a grand, chaotic ball that Blueblood would throw for the nobility. Doing so was both a ripoff and homage to What Is Left by OnionPie, whose early help was significant in getting Hell started.

The ball might have brought an action-packed set-piece where Rarity and Filthy Rich would have to pursue and corner Sassy Saddles to keep her from revealing their treason to Nightmare Moon. Hints of those possible events remained in the story; most notably, Sassy manages to get an incriminating note to Silver Shill, and it's only through Cheese's giddy willingness to murder anyone who gets in his way that a potential crisis is averted. Blueblood also laments at the beginning of Book 4 that the ball he first mentioned in Book 1 has been canceled because of a street war that's erupted between Starlight's faction and the Canterlot Resistance. But the hooks were there to have that ball, and I spent a long time writing toward it.

Similarly, I took more than a few runs at structuring how Cheese would bring Rarity together with the Resistance without revealing to them that he was pulling the strings. I needed her to believe enough of his story to sell it as her own; yet as I kept going deeper with Rarity & Cheese's relationship, I realized that she would need to be more overtly disgusted and fearful toward him than I'd originally thought. I figured she would run from him if given the opportunity, yet she would also accept his help if things got bad, albeit with great reluctance--because on a deeper level, she believed him.

The trick with all of this was weaving it together. It was way back in Book 1 that Rarity and Sassy left Nightmare Moon's castle, which splintered the plot into three concurrent threads centering around them and Dash. Now in Book 4, Rarity had gained the Resistance's trust, and I needed to get her plugged back in with both Sassy and Cheese, with the intent being that they'd all march back to the castle and link up with Dash for the finale.

I am a bit embarrassed to show my initial attempt at plugging things back together. As you'll see, rather than layering those elements over multiple chapters, I just kinda jammed it all in with duct tape, krazy glue, and gusto. Of particular note is Sassy just sitting there feeling defeated, even though she hadn't yet gone through the arc of change (and hubris and failure and imprisonment) that ultimately gave her a (semi-) satisfying resolution in the final version.

I remember this for being a brassy but misaimed example of how not to make a complex plot converge, and I present it in that spirit:

The streets that approached the Governor’s mansion were choked with carriages of every description.  Many were fine vehicles of polished dark wood; others were more generally metallic; and a few of the hired carriages looked downright rickety considering the importance of the clientele who had hired them for transportation.  Yet all were joined in the singular quest of reaching the mansion and delivering their painted, preened, and recently quite nervous complement of nobles to the Governor’s ball.

Inside one fine but modest carriage sat Rarity and Filthy Rich every now and again. He was dressed in a dapper black suit, and his mane had been slicked back in a most fetching manner.  Yet Rarity could hardly focus on it; they had ridden mostly in silence, and Rarity had spent far too much time fidgeting with her dress. It was of a simple but elegant blue, with gold accents at the neck and end of its short train, all of which she knew would compliment her eyes—and in the case of the dress’ length, would serve as one more layer of protection of her current Un-Marked status from the casual observer.  Her hair was still down, though mercifully, there had been enough time for her to wash and comb and treat it into something healthy, bouncing, and elegant. Nevertheless, it was still more than a little uncomfortable compared to her usual well-controlled bun.

Every once in a while, she caught him glancing at her. He’d taken well enough to the proposal to meet up with the Governor, and he’d expressed a mixture of awe and excitement at the possibility of breaking into Tartarus and uniting the Elements of Harmony, along with freeing as many ponies as they were able to.  And yet, Rarity had had the feeling that he knew he was being kept in the dark about certain details. He’d asked question after question, far too many of which she’d had to rebuff for the sake of not revealing her ties back to the green-eyed stallion as the initial source of her information.

But eventually the questions had stopped, leading to their present silence—which she hated.

“Darling.”  She reached across the distance between them and took one of his hooves in hers.  He startled at the sudden break in the silence. “You know I care about you more than anypony.”

He nodded, smiled, and looked back out the window.

Rarity sighed and settled back in her seat, joining him in watching the scenery of the crowd of ponies trying to navigate the night-black city.

“Goodness,” he said a moment later, “it seems we would’ve been better off walking.  Look at this crowd!”

Rarity looked back at him, then back outside.  “I suppose we could, if you were feeling up to it.”

“Wait… you mean, actually walk?

She shrugged.  “Why not? We’re really only a little bit away, and this ball is bound to be quite the mentally taxing experience; perhaps some fresh air would do us good as we prepare for it?”

A smile worked its way across his face.  “All right, milady; I suppose it would be lovely to take a nice evening walk with you.”  He clopped a hoof against the ceiling above him. “Driver? We’ll go on hoof from here. Just bring her home, will you?”

“Yes sir,” he called down.

“Well then?”  Filthy opened Rarity’s door and held it for her.  She smiled and inclined her head before descending to the street.  Here, despite the close proximity of town, there seemed to have been cleared a pair of wide open spaces on either side of the road, providing clear views out to the town itself on one side, and out to the sheer precipice of Canterlot Mountain on the other.  Rarity’s mind needed little prompting to draw parallels to her greater situation of being balanced on the knife edge between the unknown danger of hellish deep depths below, and the relative safety of the nevertheless hellish nightmare that was all she’d known in years.

“Is something wrong?” Filthy asked.

“No,” Rarity lied, shaking her head.  She offered a foreleg to him, and he linked it in one of his own, and they set off down the side of the road on three legs each, leaning into each other slightly for support.

They passed the great diversity of coaches lined up waiting to get by, and looked in on the ponies within, spotting an equally great array of differences in how the rich and powerful would cope with being made to wait.  Many seemed incensed and pumped their hooves in anger; others looked bored and perhaps even napped; one or two seemed to be using the opportunity to get “fresh” with one another; and a few stared back at Rarity and Filthy as they walked, either mocking them or pining quietly for the same bravery to loose their carriage bonds and move freely.

As they approached the front of the line of carriages, Rarity slowed, watching a curious scene unfold.  Another couple dismounted from their carriage, and were escorted in through the mansion’s central entryway by a pair of liveried hoofcolts.  But then another pony seemed to be arguing with the stallion hitched up to the carriage. Rarity caught only snippets of their argument, but the word “search” seemed to figure heavily in it.

Her breath caught as she realized that he had a brownish—orange coat and a curly dark-brown mane and tail.  Curiously, he also wore a very large pair of glasses on his face, as well as a comically large black moustache.

“Rarity dear,” Filthy said, breaking her concentration.  “You must tell me what’s bothering you.  And don’t try to tell me ‘nothing,’ because I know you better than that.”

She frowned.  The altercation up ahead seemed like it was going to progress into actual blows.  “Oh… just… trying to conceive of the rudeness of this hoofcolt. Let me speak with him a moment…”

She broke away from Filthy and put on a quick burst of speed, aiming toward the green-eyed stallion.  Filthy called something in protest from behind her, but Rarity continued to hustle; she wanted to speak to the stallion alone.

She reached him just as he drew a hoof back to take a heavy swing at the carriage pony.  Rarity set her hooves firmly and lit her horn, reaching out with a band of force to catch the stallion’s hoof in midair.  He whirled on her, veritably snarling… but then calmed in an instant, and assumed a genteel, well-composed manner.

“Very well; on your way then,” he said, waving dismissively to the cart pony.

“What are you doing here?!” Rarity half-whispered, half-hissed.

“You gave me the slip again,” he said quietly.  “Care to explain?”

His words filled Rarity full of fire.  “I gave you no such thing; I believe it was your efforts to give me a ‘clear escape’ that…” She glanced to the side and blushed at the sight of another carriage full of dignitaries pulling up.  “You know what, I can’t do this right now. Keep your eyes open, but make yourself scarce!”

“Nuh-uh, sweet cheeks; you gotta give me more than—”

I made contact.”

The stallion’s features threatened to pull violently into a great smile.  He seemed only able to control it through a great force of will. “Oh! Oh, tell me everything.”

“Not now.  Don’t you see that this is the worst possible place for us to do this?!”  She took a step back and raised her voice to be widely audible.  “Begone to your master, rude pony! See how the Governor will reward you for holding things up so!”

“Yes, ma’am!”  He dipped into a low bow, but kept his eyes fixed on her, and the smile fixed on his face.  Then he whirled and strode into the mansion.

A sound of hooves clopping from behind got Rarity’s attention.  She turned, spotting Filthy close behind her, up on his hind legs, and clapping with his forehooves.  “Well done, love! I’m not one for lording my position over a servant, but holding up the whole line was just rude!”  He set his hooves back down and grinned.  “Leave it to my beautiful Rarity to see right through a difficult situation, find the heart of it, and know just how to strike to make things happen.

Rarity returned his confident smile with one that was much shakier.  “Indeed, Lord Rich; let us hope my skills in that regard are not found wanting.”

“Who did the Governor let decorate this?” Filthy asked.

“Oh, hush you.  This is haute couture.  Make no mistake, whoever did this has a well-developed eye for fabulosity.”

Filthy chuckled.  “Well dear, I suppose if you like it…”

“That’s right,” she said, giving him a quick peck on the cheek.  He looked at her so hopefully that it was all she could do to tamp-down the fear she felt about ultimately disappointing him.

“Look, dear,” Filthy said, pointing at the Governor’s table at the far end of the ballroom.  “It looks like Overseer Saddles is accompanying Governor Blueblood tonight?”

Rarity followed his hoof with her eyes.  There indeed sat Sassy Saddles, facing away from the Governor and looking not only manifestly uncomfortable, but also as if she’d been crying.  Gone was her usual leather armor—a thought which still made Rarity’s stomach turn as often as not.  In its place was a flowing white dress that looked almost bridal in nature. It paired well with Sassy’s blue-green coat, though its influence on her appearance was overshadowed by her body language, and the scowl on her face.

As she watched, a hoofpony in a fine suit approached Sassy, bent low to her ear, and whispered something.  Sassy’s head shot up, and her eyes scanned the entryway. She quickly swiped at her face with a hoof, wiping away the tears, but only as if in afterthought.  Her eyes met Rarity’s, going wide for a moment before narrowing, then being accompanied by visibly heavier breathing and flared nostrils.

“Oh my,” Filthy said.  “She looks a bit displeased…”

Sassy rose from her chair.  Governor Blueblood noticed this and said something to her, including reaching a hoof out toward her.  But she struck his hoof with her own—a fact that gave Rarity a brief startle—and then turned and stalked away from the table to what looked like a nearby servant’s entrance.

Blueblood seemed to watch this with amusement.  Then he turned his eyes on Rarity and Filthy, took a glass and a spoon in either forehoof, and actually stood up on the fine table before him.

*clink* *clink* *clink*

The room went silent, and all eyes turned on Blueblood.  He smiled broadly, wielding the glass like a microphone and the spoon like a pointer.  “Fillies and gentlecolts, it gives me very great pleasure to announce our other special guest of the night.  All the way from the same luxurious destination as our first guest—and don’t worry,” he stage-whispered, “she’s just gone to the little fillies’ room—I give you:  Seneschal Rarity!”

Polite applause rippled through the room as the assembled nobles turned to regard her.  Rarity blushed despite her position; it wasn't often that she received quite so much attention.  It wasn’t completely unwelcome, though.

“Oh,” Blueblood added, “and I suppose she’s with that Filthy guy, too.”

The room laughed.  It was light and jocular, but Rarity could almost see Filthy’s blood pressure rising in the vein that stood out on his neck, just below his clenched jaw.  His status as a nouveau riche noble was ever a sticking point with both the old guard and Filthy himself, though for different reasons.

“And now let us eat, drink, and go home with somepony unexpected!”  Blueblood finished with a flourish of his glass and a deep bow, causing no small inconvenience to the noble lady who he ended up dousing with his beverage.

The rest of the nobles took this as a signal to return to their mingling and (metaphorical) preening.  Rarity put a hoof on Filthy, and they exchanged a chance that Rarity hoped would help soothe his raw feelings.

“We need to get him on our side,” she said.

He took a deep breath and adjusted his tie, then put on his best smile.  “I know, dear. He’s a shrewd negotiator; he doesn’t even know why we’re here, but he’s already trying to put us off our game.  We’ll have to tread carefully.”

Rarity nodded.  “Then let’s get to it.”

They strode through the crowd, engaging only lightly in the proffered interest of the various nobles.  Overall, the interest was only light and feigned; all recognized Rarity as occupying a position of importance in the Mistress’ sight, but that position had little relevance to their everyday lives.  They all had ponies occupying similar positions in their homes, after all, and Rarity was all too eager to capitalize on that fact by hastening toward Blueblood.

That's all I've got for now.

I don't need to sit here and grind out every excerpt that I've got lurking in my Google Drive. That's not to say that I might not do more of this at some point, but it's not my intention to overdo it.

It just feels good to finally reconnect with some of these bigger turning points in Hell's development.

Comments ( 3 )

Ahhh. I remember Evil Sassy. I remember how hard it was to bring her to “not utterly despicable.”

It’s crazy coming back to this stuff. I don’t always have it at the top of my mind anymore that so much work went into everything. A few things didn’t change too much, but there were tons of things that went through major change.

Sometimes I wonder where Sassy would’ve gone after Hell was over. Maybe someday I’ll figure that out. I think it would’ve been somewhere small and remote, and that she would’ve had a good life in the end.

Pony version of the Bahamas. Bahorsemas, or something like that.

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