Why am I not at my cousin's wedding? Erm. Well...
I didn't get an invitation.
No. I couldn't find that less suspicious.
I have a long history of being 'swept under the rug' for events that seemed to hold emotional importance to my auntie or cousin.
It's felt like any time something didn't involve Canterlot nobles playing their games, and was 'actually important', I just happened to be on a voyage or serving as a diplomat. You're wondering how come I haven't started any wars with my, erm, winning personality?
You'd be surprised how doing the dance with nobles and being a diplomat have in common. Everything is about saying one thing and meaning another, acting like somepony's best friend even if you hate each other guts, and acting generous when you're always putting your own interests first.
Yes, we've gone over that, I treated Miss Rarity as a servant because she wasn't nobility, but I know how to behave around ponies who would start a war over getting their grandfather's name wrong. Trust me, wars have been started for equally stupid things.
Yes I was present at the Elements window unveiling, in the back row, placed conveniently near the exit.
Sometimes I felt like a prop being put aside whenever the scenery didn't call for me. I simply told myself those events were unworthy of my attendance. I imagine many now thought the same thing but for opposite reasons.
So no. Not getting a wedding invite from the cousin who slapped me and called me filth when we were foals is not that surprising.
A pity. I sure Arcane Spell would have liked to attend. Yes yes, I am fully aware of the irony, the first pony in so long I care about besides myself and treat like a friend instead of a servant is a servant, thank you very much! Her father is actually doing better by the way.
Well, if I wasn't wanted, far be it from me to break tradition. Yes. Maybe I do have something in my eye. Do you know what it's like to realize that you just might have messed up very badly, and when you try to make it for it, just a little, to those you wish would notice, you might as well have done absolutely nothing different at all?
Then, when you try to address what you did wrong, they see through glasses telling them it's just more proof that you're a bad pony.
Yes I was hurt by what Cadence had said to me, and the Element cheering for her when she did. Maybe some things were never meant to change.
Wasn't one of the many joke at my expense that a judge had declared nopony cared about what I thought or said until the end of time?
Maybe this was just the role I was meant to play. I didn't have any other reason to exist other than to be the 'royal annoyance' for Auntie to sic on nobles that agitated her or to wake up innocent wide-eyed mares from their delusions. Maybe I couldn't escape my destiny as a prop anymore than I could become an Alicorn.
"Blueblood, what's wrong?" I looked up from the coffee table to see Arcane Spell wearing the dress I had given her, only care on her face.
Well, maybe to one pony what I did mattered.
I'd, I'd rather not go into details on what happened next please. I tried to hide what happened. Unfortunately, I don't have Auntie's poker face. She noticed I was uncharacteristically un-chatty, and besides she wanted to know why I had been crying. Truth be told I was feeling too tired to come up with a polite enough lie. She wanted to talk to Cadence about it personally.
"Please Arcane, just don't. It won't change anything."
I didn't want her dragged into mistakes from before I ever met her as a friend. If she stood up for me, they wouldn't suddenly feel ashamed, they'd decide I must have simply manipulated and lied to her to trick her into standing up somepony as awful as me.
But she did ask me one thing.
"Blueblood, tell me the whole truth. Did you treat me to a night as a lady because I looked like Lady Rarity?"
"...I didn't even realize how your colors were similar that entire evening or the next day, or the day after that. I was thinking of how Miss Rarity's dresses work for you, but I still didn't connect your similar...pallets."
She nuzzled me. "I believe you."
I blinked. "What?"
"Blueblood, I asked you to show me what a jerk you are. You have. And that jerk is more interested in buying big boats than inventing elaborate back-hoofed revenge schemes." She gently stroked my mane.
Nopony reacted to a prince having a date in their cafe.
You know it's rather demeaning when you realize that ponies turn their heads at your cousin's presence but barely give you a glance. I've never had to go outside in disguise for a moment's peace in my life. No pony, seemed to care.
Well, there was one now. She wasn't the world's most beautiful mare, she wasn't the most talented, the most gracious, the most brilliant, the kindest, and couldn't hold her salt, but she was somepony who cared. And that meant something for me now.
She was somepony who was willing to listen. She was somepony willing to be there for me. She was somepony who didn't mind that I wasn't their perfect fairytale prince. She was willing to do work that nobles would die before doing for the sake of her family. It didn't matter if it had to do with her special talent or not. She absorbed the rules like a sponge and learned how to play the nobles' game, but didn't let her real self be suffocated underneath. She had a real self underneath. And I hadn't ruined our first true meeting by treating her like dirt.
After I spent more time with her, I begin to feel a lightness in my chest, a brightness in my brain, a feeling that things would be okay as long as she was nearby. I thought I was suffering a heart attack. I'm still not sure what it was.
Moron?! There's no need to be rude! What? It means I'm happy? I've been happy before! I've visited the the opera, I've cruised my new airships, I've attended countless parties. And...I had finally made a real friend.
Was I going to ask her to marry me? Maybe. Wouldn't be the first decisions I hadn't put much thought into.
I'll admit (rare enough for me), a part of me is scared. Am I so attracted to her because she can be just my yes-mare? Am I happy with friends? Do I want friends? Or do all I want is sycophants?
Yes I've been given praise and more praise by many a noble-pony, I am royalty after all, it's not like I don't deserve every single word of it in honor of my bloodline. There was just one tiny problem:
The one problem is knowing the rules of the game? You realize everything is platitudes. No I never tried connecting with the hired help before, no real friends, no siblings, two aunties who are always busy, just 'good friends' who materialize or melt away as the pecking order changes.
Why have I been with any other mare? Mostly because they were the most beautiful mare present so they'd made me look good by addition. Yes, that does mean I considered Miss Rarity to be the most beautiful mare at the Grand Galloping Gala.
Would I trade Arcane for a hundred nobles who can't stop telling me what a great stallion I am? No. Never.
I actually tried to get her appointed 'court mage' but I don't pull as much weight up the food-chain as I'd like to think, and Arcane Spell said she didn't want a job she hadn't finished fully qualifying for. Yes I obliged by her wishes. Yes I've given her a raise and bonuses, until she can get a job that has to actually do with her special talent. It just feels like, a waste for a mare whose talent wasn't even clean. That and her family needs the money...especially in light of recent events.
Oh? Why were we meeting at a cafe instead of a restaurant more expensive than a dentist bill? I wanted to, but she said she wanted something simpler to get away from the 'upper class games' we had been doing.
... Do I like her as a friend? Do I want her as a friend? Of course I do!...And she didn't just happily agree to something she didn't want to do. I guess you're right, she is no yes-mare, and yes-ponies are not what I truly want.
I decided to take her someplace special. Someplace important. Yes, I'll get on with it! I chose to take her on a tour of where I got my cutie mark! She didn't seem to care we were missing cousin Cadence's wedding. She was very surprised when I showed her some of the secret passages hidden through the castle. Still wish I could figure how to open the one in the entry hall Auntie thinks I don't know is there.
No need to push! I swear I'm getting there! Watch it! These stairs are more tricky than they look!
Yes. Most ponies have no idea these are even below the castle. These crystal mines have existed since before recorded history, they've been mined by countless ponies over the centuries, and have claimed countless ponies. As a foal I never appreciated the danger I was in down here. Don't worry! I know these caverns like the back of my hoof! Even if I didn't have my night visions spell I could still do these caverns blind folded.
Navigating this place is what earned me my cutie mark, there are some things you don't forget. Yes. Arcane trusted me completely. I was giving her a tour nopony had ever seen before.
If there is more to this crystal maze than what I know, then those are spots you can't reach unless you have a thousand years to wait for mother nature to shake things up.
Did I have a ring in a box to pop the question so it would be somewhere special instead of the 'ordinary' setting of Canterlot's beautiful buildings? Not telling.
Though I will say I sparkled inside when I saw her eyes sparkling at the sparkling jewels. Yes I knew a light spell, getting your horn to glow was easier than falling off a log. I've yet to meet a unicorn who could do magic without their horn glowing. Miss Rarity can? Oy.
Arcana calmly created some floating candle flames for herself. Blag! Maybe I should have told her what that did to night vision. Ow! My eyes.
Maybe it was the history of how many ponies had been lost down here that made this place extra special for her, there's a certain attraction to danger, the thrill of risk.
I knew every short cut. Every passage way. Maybe I was being idiotic, if something happened to us down here, heh, by the time they found our bones archeologists would be thinking we were some buried royal couple.
This day was going to be perfect
The kind of day of which I've dreamed since I was small
"Somepony singing?! Down here?!" Arcane Spell exclaimed before I could. "Who could it be?" She asked her guide, namely, me.
"I...I don't know." I said honestly.
There was something very familiar about it. Made me wish I had a better ear for music.
Did you have to ask if we followed it? We're still ponies.
With all the echoes you'd expect from this place, following it proved a lot easier than it should have. It was like the vibrations had a life of their own. Like they were leading us.
Everypony was to gather 'round
Saying I looked lovely in my gown
What they don't know is that she has fooled them all!
If it turned out to some ancient evil using a siren song to lure victims to release it from its eternal prison, at least we were likely to be eaten together or we'll have a nice tale share over tea of when we were turned into an evil overlord's brainwashed minions.
Yes I was scared. But I put on my best (not very good) brave face for Arcane. And I think both our curiosities would drive us mad if we didn't follow this song to its source.
"I know I've heard this voice before," she said.
We came to a dead end. But Arcane didn't hesitate to put her ear against a wall.
"She's on the other side," she said. Even I wasn't tone deaf enough to not tell the singer was a mare.
Time to put that see the see-through spell I use to watch under-class mares undress to good use.
"COUSIN!?" Impossible! She looked like Tartarus. This had to be some illusion or trick. But this was behind a solid crystal wall! What was the point of having an illusion behind that?! You didn't hide bait!
I'm sheltered, spoiled, cowardly, inconsiderate, and classist, I never said I was stupid.
We could hear her, but she couldn't hear us.
"But she's at her wedding! It HAS to be a trick!"
"...Which would make it a very poor trick indeed."
She sighed agitated. "Fine. But if we're turned into dragons by the ghost of Tirek, I'm never speak to you again."
Arcane charged up her horn and fired! And left a small crack in the the crystal wall. I looked at her.
"I never said I was Twilight Sparkle." She blushed.
Arcane's horn glowed again and she began -drilling- through the crystal.
"That'll take years!" I exasperated.
"Don't count on it!" She hissed.
The spiral cone of magic around her horn eroded and broke. But the crack Arcana had made had become a hole, but it hadn't poked through to the other side yet. Arcana panted, and created another one. This one broke faster than the first one. She was right, she wasn't Twilight Sparkle, she didn't have the Alicorn-like reserves of mana that auntie's student did.
"So you believe me?"
"When I start something I finish it Blueblood," She formed a third drill-spell one around her horn and tried again, grunting. I gently hold her, touching my horn to the base of hers. If she'd support me, I'd support her.
In that instant the crystal wall shattered into a million pieces. We both blinked in surprise. The Alicorn inside was looking just as astonished.
"P-Princess Cadence?" Arcane Spell stuttered.
I gingerly approached the mare, she did indeed look like she had just spent an all expenses paid vacation in the Black Pit of Coltcutta.
I inched closer, she leaned back, like a deer caught in the headlights.
I gently held her chin in one hoof. "Cousin? Is it really you?"
She slapped me.
"It's really you," I said.
"Wait! Why aren't you at your wedding?!" Arcane Spell asked.
She looked past me. "W-Who are you?"
"Arcane Spell, this is Cadence. Cadence, this is Arcane Spell. We're dating. Cadence what is going on?" I demanded ignoring my beautiful throbbing face.
"I'm not at my wedding because the Cadence getting married is an impostor!"
"How do we know you're not the impostor, or some back-up impostor?" Arcane Spell asked.
"Then it's the most stupid convoluted scheme in the history of stupid convoluted schemes and I've invented plenty!" I snapped.
Wait. So this meant. The Cadence who had told me how worthless I was yesterday was a fake? Small miracles.
"We don't have time for this, we have to stop her, Shining, Twilight, Auntie, they're all in danger!"
In less than a minute we were running, not like Tirek himself was after us, but like we had to catch up to him!
Cadenced explained more along the way. And she sang. It was a duet. The terrifying part was: I could almost hear the voice of the other Cadence, the same voice, but a completely different tone and inflection, the other voice was vicious.
I said I knew every short cut and passage way in these caverns, I hadn't been lying.
Cadence had no clue which way to go, her captor had apparently phased her through the floor into her cell. Given just enough air and water to keep her alive. This might be why I had to carry her more than once. Of course, why keep her alive after all? I considered what Arcane Spell said about a back up impostor, but that simply felt too insane to be true. Us coming here had been completely spur of the moment. I stopped myself before I began thinking of time travel and ESP and other such nonsense.
When we emerged back in the castle, Cadence didn't even waste a moment to enjoy Auntie's precious sunlight cousin hadn't seen in she didn't know how long except to cover her eyes to adjust to the bright light.
We made a beeline for the wedding hall.
Then we ran into two royal guards who were not looking all that friendly.
"Halt! No ponies that are not- You're Majesty!? What are you doing here?! Shouldn't you already be at the wedding?! Everything is set!"
"I am on my way now! Stand aside!" Cadence barked.
"Yes, Your Majesty," the two guards fell to their knees and covered their eyes.
We didn't stop to ask questions we just ran. This made me wish any three of us had bothered to learn how to teleport. Or did Arcane or Cadence know how? The wedding hall having an anti-teleport field around it wouldn't-YES YES I'M RUNNING I'M RUNNING!!!!
Princess Celestia spoke happily as the ceremony concluded, "Princess Cadence and Shining Armor, it is my great pleasure to pronounce you mare and-"
Rarity narrowed her eyes and growled at the intruder to the happy moment. 'Does that gelding have to try to ruin everypony's happiness?!'
"I...I object!" Blueblood shouted.
Princess Celestia did not look happy. "Nephew...what is the meaning of this?"
The fillies were wondering if the stallion was Princess Cadence's secret boyfriend. Silver Tongue felt ready to get rid of the brat if the guards wouldn't.
The Elements were feeling ready to politely tell Blueblood to turn around and leave and not show his face ever again in Canterlot. Pinkie Pie's right ear rung and her left ear twitched and her temples tingled. She had never felt that combo before.
Shining's four groomstallions were distracted from the groom's lack of reaction, along with the unresponsiveness of a few others in the room.
Starlight Sparkle wondered if this was what her horoscope meant by her son's wedding being 'full of bugs.' Moonshine Sparkle had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Ignore him Auntie," the bride said irritably, "He just can't stand I'm marrying a guard."
"It's not the groom that's the problem, it's you, 'cousin.'"
"What? Why do you have to ruin my special day?!"
"Because it's not your special day! It's mine!" Another Cadence stepped in supported by a white unicorn. This Cadence was dirty, uncombed, and uncrowned.
'Uh-oh,' Sweetie Belle thought, laying her ears flat. 'Chryssy, I think we're in trouble.'