A purple drake stared out the window of the quickly moving train, his wings pressed tightly to his body. He had green spikes running from head to tail. His emerald, slitted eyes took in the passing scenery. The trees' leaves had begun changing color, signaling the changing of the seasons. The Running of the Leaves would take place in another week, an annual race intended to knock the remaining leaves from the trees before winter.
Without even realizing it, his hand had fallen to the white unicorn, whose head lay across his lap, moving back and forth petting her soft fur. Even in her sleep, her purple mane and tail remained perfectly curled, and the three blue diamonds on her flank moved with each tranquil breath she took as she enjoyed her cat nap. He remembered how excited she had been when they received the invitation. It was one he got every year from his surrogate mother.
The Harvest Feast was a day of celebration every year held to celebrate a bountiful yield from the fields of farmers everywhere. It was a day when families came together for a grand meal and to enjoy the pleasure of one another’s company. Normally, the feast included Twilight, her parents, her brother Shining Armor, Cadence, himself, Luna, and, of course, Celestia, who always prepared the Castle’s Grand Dining Room for their celebration; however, this year Twilight’s entire family had been invited to the Crystal Empire, since Prince Shining Armor and Princess Cadence’s responsibilities required they stay.
This was Spike and Rarity’s first Harvest Feast since they had officially started dating, and, thankfully, Celestia had seen fit to invite and prepare transportation for not only the two of them, but Rarity’s entire family as well. Knowing Celestia the way he did, Spike knew that she not only wanted to meet the parents of the mare who had stolen his heart, but also knew that she would severely miss the large family that she had become accustomed to at her table over the years.
So here they were, on their way to Canterlot, the seat of the monarchy of Equestria, with Rarity’s mother, father's, and sister in the next cabin. He was happy to have them all along, but grateful to have some time alone with the mare he loved, even if it was just appreciating how beautiful and serene she looked sleeping. He kissed the top of her head before resuming his viewing of the world flying past him, her body nestling against him making him smile.
The trip to the castle had been uneventful… right up to the point where they stopped at the gates, drawing Rarity’s father, a unicorn with a dashing, brown mustache, an aloha shirt, his signature straw hat, and three hoofballs for his Cutie Mark, attention. “Why are we at the castle?”
Rarity looked strangely at her father, confused by the seemingly obvious question. “I told you, we’ve been invited to spend the holiday with Spikey’s family.”
“And that leads us to the castle how?”
“Well, Celestia is the closest thing Spike has to a mother. The two of them are very close.”
Magnum’s pupils seemed to shrink into his head.
Beside him, Rarity’s mother pressed her hoof to her head, making it appear as if she was holding up her purple and nightshade dual-colored, beehive-styled mane. Her pink coat had three cookies imprinted on it, showing off her natural talent; in fact, she had brought a plate stacked high with her award-winning to thank their hosts. At the moment though, she was shaking her head, her pearl earrings swaying with her. “Here we go again. Magnum, we are guests of the princess and you are going to behave, are we clear?”
“But, Pearl, baby, you can’t expect me to just-”
“That’s exactly what I expect you to do. We’re going to be on our best behavior for Spike’s family.”
With his head hung low, Magnum muttered out, “Yes, honey.”
Sitting next to Rarity was her sister Sweetie Belle, a young, white, unicorn mare with a pink and lilac mane that ended in two bouncy curls. “Do either of you know what’s going on?”
Rarity shook her head and Spike simply shrugged, responding, “Not a clue. I honestly thought they knew.”
The last few minutes of the carriage ride was fairly uneventful and awkward with Magnum shiftily moving his head back and forth when he thought no one was looking and Pearl staring daggers at him with every failed attempt.
Upon reaching the entrance to the castle itself, the royal guard who had been pulling the carriage called out to them, “We’re here.”
Before the door could be opened, Spike threw it open bounding out and stretching his body, before turning around and helping Rarity and Sweetie Belle out. Magnum followed Spike’s lead and offered his wife his hoof for support.
Upon entering the castle, they were quickly met by a large white alicorn whose ethereal color-shifting mane and tail blew in a non-existent wind. The mare in question bowed her head respectfully to her guests, who followed suit with their own bows. “Spike, it’s a delight to see Rarity and you here for the Harvest Feast.” Her attention shifted to the other three before her. “I would like to thank you for accepting my invitation, Magnum and Pearl.”
“How do you-!”
Pearl’s hoof found itself pressed tightly against Magnum’s mouth. “The honor is ours princess. You’ll have to excuse my husband. He’s a bit… excited; we had not realized that when Spike and Rarity invited us to enjoy the feast with his family that they were referring to you, princess. Will Princess Luna be joining us as well?”
Celestia wiped the look of confusion from her face and smiled warmly down at the ponies before her. “Yes, although she prefers to just be called Luna and I would very much appreciate it if you simply referred to me as Celestia.”
Hopping up and down around the benevolent ruler, Sweetie Belle happily greeted her, “Celestia, it’s so great to see you again!”
“Sweetie Belle, you’ve grown into a fine young mare I see.” Celestia pointed her golden hoof armament at the mare’s Cutie Mark, the young mare's pride and joy, a heart shaped musical note inside of diamond. “How is your singing career coming along?”
“Rarity convinced Sapphire Shore to let me audition and now I get to travel from Ponyville all over Equestria to sign with her. It’s the most stupendous, amazing, and greatest thing ever!” The filly seemed to radiate excitement.
Chuckling softly at the mare’s antics, Celestia couldn’t help but feel a warmth in her heart seeing one of her little ponies so happy. “Sapphire Shores puts on quite the amazing show, one of my favorites for sure. Perhaps, I’ll convince her to make a stop in Canterlot so I can see the two of you perform together; I’m sure you’ll be simply amazing.”
Gasping, Sweetie Belle’s eyes twinkled. “Really!?!”
“I think her manager will be more than happy to book a Canterlot concert.” She turned around walking with a goal obviously in mind. “Now come along, everyone, Luna’s waiting eagerly for us, and I’d hate to keep her waiting.”
The party followed the princess through the beautiful castle, taking in the many banners and stain glass windows depicting moments in Equestrian history that helped to shape it. Spike and Rarity shared a smile and sense of pride as they passed the windows with their own accomplishments.
As they entered the Grand Dining Room, they were greeted by a dark blue alicorn with a mane that resembled the night sky filled with stars and blown by the same unnatural wind. “Sister, guests, come, join us!” She motioned to the large rectangular table before her, already set but void of any food.
Celestia took her place beside Luna at the head of the table with Spike taking the seat adjacent to hers. Rarity sat next to her drakefriend with her parents and Sweetie Belle across from them. The room itself had white marble walls and looked as grand as its name claimed. Kings, ambassadors, and many other important ponies had been Celestia’s dinner guests in this very room, but today it was filled with family and friends warming her heart.
A menagerie of dishes floated into the room surrounded in Celestia’s golden, magical aura. Each one had a different fruit or vegetable course. “Normally, we have staff to bring out the food, but I give them holidays off. Even the food is prepared ahead of time and frozen at the exact moment of being finished for preservation with a stasis spell. Only a hoofful of Royal Guards volunteer to stay, most celebrating the day before or after, and they always receive a nice bonus to show my gratitude for their service and dedication.” She looked at her sister a warm smile on her face. “I know how hard it is to be away from family at such important times.”
Rarity was glad that their commitment was appreciated. “That’s very kind and generous of you, Celestia.”
Before Celestia had a chance to respond, a chair’s legs screeched across the floor as Magnum stood up. “I beg your pardon, but I need a moment.”
The whole table stared confused at the stallion’s random self-dismissal, Pearl gave her daughter a shrug before apologizing and following after him.
Once they were in the hall, Magnum checked for guards before turning to his wife and leaning in close. “I should have seen it coming; Spike was obviously a spy sent to get close to Rarity so he could get his claws on my intel!”
“Honey, you adore Spike. He makes Rarity happy and plays hoofball with you. Not to mention he's the only one I know who actually likes listening to your old college hoofball stories.”
Magnum raised his hoof preparing to retort when it hit him. “Are you saying you don’t love my hoofball stories? OUR MARRIAGE IS BUILT ON LIES!”
Shaking her head, Pearl patted her stallion’s back. “Of course I do, why else would I have kept my old cheerleading uniform all these years?” Magnum sighed in relief, closing his eyes and missing her rolling hers at the thought of hearing another one.
“But that’s just it, he’s too perfect! I should have seen it! Obviously, he’s been well trained in the art of deceit. Getting close to us without us ever expecting a thing, but I’m on to him now!”
“Enough! We are guests here and I will not have you embarrassing us or your daughter with your conspiracy theories in front of the princesses. Now you get in there and be polite and respectful or so help me, Magnum, you will never get another one of my cookies so long as you live.”
His head shot backwards, the sheer weight of the threat hitting him like a back hoof to the face. “You wouldn’t.”
Staring directly into her husband’s soul, her voice came out cold and clear, “Try me.”
There was only one thing a stallion of his caliber and wit could do in this situation. With his head hung low, he submitted to his wife, “Yes, honey.”
Back in the dining room, a certain purple drake had entangled his tail with that of his beautiful and generous mare. The two loved the contact, feeling one another close even as they ate. Spike’s plate was stacked with extra crispy hay fries and gems, whereas Rarity’s contained small portions of fruit salad, green beans, carrots, and a wheat roll, a much healthier choice than her dragon’s. Rarity found herself swatting Spike’s claw as he tried to sneak some food before her parents got back. Celestia seemed to find the display both cute and amusing.
Thankfully, for all the hungry participants, Rarity’s parents returned with a quick apology and retaking their seats.
Celestia raised her goblet, the smell of a sweet wine seeping out from within, and made a toast, “On this beautiful day I ask that you join me in giving thanks.” She looked over at Spike and Rarity. “Thanks to our children for being more than we could ever dream and for spending this day with us.” She looked to Magnum, Pearl, and Sweetie Belle, “Thanks to family new,” her gaze fell upon her sister, “and family old.” Her eyes shifted to the meal before them. “And finally, let us give thanks to this great land and the bountiful harvest it has so graciously provided us with thanks to the hard work of ponies everywhere.”
The entire table shouted, “Cheers!” their own glasses held high.
They began eating and, within moments, conversation quickly followed.
“So,” Celestia started, “how have things in Ponyville been?”
Rarity beamed. “It’s been wonderful. Spike and I have enjoyed the almost unnatural calm. It’s nice being able to go a month or so without any evil vine attacks, giant Timberwolves, gods of chaos, swarms of admittedly adorable pests, dams breaking, mysterious cloaked ponies showing up, or any of the usual Ponyville occurrences. We were actually able to enjoy a picnic without some kind of end of the world scenario interrupting it.”
Celestia cleared her throat. “Um… how fantastic. On a completely unrelated note, I should really consider starting a branch of the Guard for Ponyville.”
“NEVER!” All eyes fell on the stallion behind the outburst: Magnum. A kick under the table warned him to save this fast, or else. “I mean, Ponyville has always managed to take care of itself. It’s why we have so many strong willed and dedicated ponies that are happy to defend their town. I feel that having the Guard come in and start protecting the place would hurt the very qualities that Ponyville and its unique circumstances bring out in those who live there.”
Celestia rubbed her chin with her hoof in contemplation. “Hmm, you may be right. After all, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, I suppose. Still, I worry about the safety of our citizens.”
“Leave it for another time, Sister. Today is a day of celebration not worrying.”
“Of course, Luna. Well then, I suppose the next question is how are you two doing? Hearing wedding bells yet? Maybe the sound of little hoofs or claws on the floor has been in mind?”
As only a true master of the arts could, Spike spit his wine out in surprise, nearly choking in the process. Rarity quickly patted his back as her magic levitated a napkin to clean up the mess. His entire face was red as his breath finally returned. “We just started dating… it seems a little soon to be thinking that far ahead… but one day I’d like to…”
Rarity’s face followed his example and lit up. “Yes, as would I.”
Laughing into her hoof, Celestia couldn’t help but be proud of how well her toying had worked. “I’m just playing,” she took a sip of her wine, “mostly.”
Chiming into the conversation, Pearl happily remarked, “I would love some grandkids. It’s been so long since you and your sister were fillies, I miss having someone to watch over… besides your father.”
Magnum was quick to speak up, “Hey!”
The glare from his wife was all he needed to understand it was best to drop the matter.
Looking for anyone out of the conversation, Spike’s shifting gaze quickly fell upon Sweetie Belle. He made a mental apology to her, but there was no other way. “So how about you, Sweetie Belle, anyone you’ve been thinking about making your special somepony?”
A number of extremely unladylike thoughts crossed through Sweetie Belle’s mind, most of which involved doing horrible things to a certain purple dragon. “Nope, none at all. So about you-”
“All those ponies you meet at the concerts and running around Equestria and you haven’t found anyone you’re interested? That seems pretty hard to believe.”
“Well it is, so drop it.”
“Maybe a dashing stallion with a golden coat and microphone on his rear who sings back up with you?”
“How did you- I mean, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
His grin was slow and deliberate. “Of course not.”
An accusatory hoof shot out, aimed directly at Rarity. “You told him didn’t you!?!”
Gulping, Rarity offered an apologetic smile. “It may have slipped out,” she gave Spike a glare, “but I had thought he knew better.”
Sweetie Belle looked like she was about to jump over the table and try to strangle the couple for revealing her biggest secret in the world; even her two best friends did not know about her crush. “And what about you Spike, running around chasing Rarity all those years with hearts in your eyes?”
Spike nonchalantly took a sip of his drink. “It worked out perfectly,” he stole a glance at his love, “better even.”
Her eyes narrowed on him. “I will get you for this.”
Magnum broke in, nearly in tears. “My little girls are growing up too fast!”
That was the final straw that sent Spike into a fit of laughter, his fist slamming against the table, accidently sending a helping of mashed potatoes into Sweetie Belle’s face. The young mare gave him a death stare as she wiped the mush from her face. Spike gulped and retreated as far back into his chair as he could get. “Now, Sweetie, it was an accident; can’t we talk about this?”
Her response was to raise a bowl of cranberry sauce and fire it directly at Spike’s face. Regrettably, Spike dodged to the side and the messy missile nailed Rarity instead.
There was a moment of shock, before the anger overcame her. Rarity's teal aura encased all the stuffing on the table and with a battle cry, “IT. IS. ON!” they flew across the table.
Sweetie was quick to duck, getting both of her parents nailed in the crossfire.
Grabbing on to a yam, Magnum fired it like a hoofball without taking any real aim while screaming, “Give me back my ten minutes!”
It was like everything had become slow motion as the yam sailed through the air and nailed Princess Luna right in the muzzle. There was a moment of silence before Luna spoke, her tongue licking up the smeared yam around her lips first, “I see, this must be a new tradition that came around while I was gone, one Twilight’s family does not practice. Very well then, I too shall take part in the fun.”
As the Princess of the Night’s eyes began to glow, all of the gravy on the table rose into the air and gathered into a massive wave that came crashing down on the poor, misfortunate souls gathered at that table. Spike’s quick reflexes caused him to unconsciously jump in front of Rarity, holding her close and protecting her from the mess as the gravy tsunami washed over everything.
As the horrible tragedy, known as wasting of good food, ended, not a single member of the dinner party had been left uncovered in bits and pieces of food and drink. Thanks to Spike, Rarity had by far received the least of the mess, although she still managed to faint in his arms when she saw her appearance in his eyes. The once pristine and clean dining hall fared no better, the cleaning staff would be wondering for months what exactly had taken place in their absence.
Everyone had dismissed themselves to clean up. Spike prepared Rarity a warm shower, but attempted to get away with using his incredibly long tongue and a quick spin to clean himself off, something Rarity would have no part of. He still did it before jumping in to join her just to enjoy the last remains of the food.
Magnum was being chewed out for attacking a princess with a yam, while Celestia explained the concept of a food fight and its level of childish inappropriate behavior to Luna, who mostly ignored her.
Once everyone had thoroughly cleaned themselves, they met on the balcony overlooking the castle grounds, uttering fast apologies and accepting them in return. Before long, Spike, Magnum, Sweetie Belle, and Luna had taken to the grass for a game of two on two hoofball, leaving Pearl, Rarity, and Celestia alone.
Watching the game and the happy faces of her family, Rarity addressed the princess, “I really must apologize again, Celestia. Even in my wildest dreams I’d of never thought bringing us all together would end in a massive food fight. And I showed such deplorable unladylike behavior, too.”
Smiling warmly down at her subject, Celestia put a reassuring hoof on her shoulder. “Do not worry about it, Rarity. I assure you, had Luna not ended it so impressively I myself would have jumped in to the mayhem. It was by far the most exciting Harvest Feast I’ve had in a very long time.”
Pearl placed her hooves over the balcony and stared at her husband and daughter playing. “They may be a bit goofy and out-of-control sometimes, but you can’t help but love that about them. Families are just like that, Rarity.”
Her eyes fell on the dragon, and, as if sensing her observation, he met her gaze with a big goofy smile. She had wanted a prince: brave, courageous, excellent manners, refined in every way, and who knew how to treat a lady, and while Spike had many of those features, it was his heart and his sometimes immature attitude mixed with a fair bit of undying devotion to her that had won her heart in the end. “I know exactly what you mean, mom.”