There is an art to polishing gold, particularly when it is in the form of a magical peytral. (For the non-equine amongst you, that's the equivalent of an armoured golden bra made especially for princess ponies). It must gleam enough to suggest its wearer is not a slouch in buffing her own armour, but it must not be too radiant lest it confirms its wearer's vanity. But, more importantly, there is a very subtle finesse to polishing it in such a way so as to produce an entire range of the most annoying squeaks and screeches between the cloth and the gold.
I am glad to say that on that particular morning, between my trusty silk cloth and myself, we managed to hit an entire octave of high notes. I was starting on the second octave when I finally earned myself a satisfying groan from my charge. I flicked an eye up at the ornate mirror hanging before me to surreptitiously gaze upon the figure rebelliously sticking its head under its pillow behind me.
I allowed myself a small smile of triumph as I set the peytral down on its velvet pillow alongside a set of gilded golden horseshoes and a magnificent crown whose radiance alone lit up the entire room. Which was good as the sun had yet to rise, and probably will not rise until I succeed in my daily sun-raising ritual. I turned to regard the royal bedroom behind me, a work of subtle opulence wrought from furniture of finest white spruce and silver marble tiling and masonry. But even the white theme of the room palled in comparison to the perfect white of her majesty, my lady princess Celestia.
Yes, that perfect thing hiding underneath the pristine white sheets, pretending as hard as she can that I'm not here.
"You can narrate your life story somewhere else." A bleary voice mumbled as a hindhoof blindly flailed out for me, too lazy to add any aim to the threat. "Aim can be arranged. Just....give me 5 minutes."
I would open the curtains and have the sunlight wake her up. Except there is no sunlight without her majesty's grace. But I must persevere for the sake of Equestria, her majesty's five hundred million subjects and their summer tan. The Elements of Harmony may have saved the sunrise for one day. Mine is the great labour of saving it daily.
"Ponies don't tan. We bleach. Your hide, on the other hand...." A muffled voice muttered from underneath the big fluffy pillow. "Where's your snooze button? If I hit it hard enough, will you give me 10 minutes?"
"My lady, with all due respect, snooze buttons are wasted upon your prowess. Mainly because your prowess instantly voids the warranties of all known alarm clocks in addition to their very existences. I believe the remains of your last alarm clock is still orbiting the moon as we speak, hence why I'm here in its place. As for myself, I'm afraid my insurance does not cover fluffy white alicorn princesses and their morning upsets." I said, crisply. "Hm, I should probably rectify that, post haste." I added, thoughtfully.
"You havent' seen 'upset'." The voice under the pillow muttered.
"No, my lady, I've seen juvenile tantrums. 'Upset' suggests maturity on the part of the upsetee." I agreed with her. "Now, allow me to tempt you out of bed with my own personal choice of cheeses to go with your whine." I raised a dish cover off a nearby breakfast cart to allow the perfect blend of cheesy aromas to suffuse the room and rouse sleeping appetites. Yes, I annoy the sun into rising every single day. One could even say that each and every sunrise relies upon my utterly insufferable demeanour.
"I hate you." She muttered. Ah, the sweet sound of success.
"I'm sure that's why you hired me." I said, brightly.
"Can I fire you?" She asked, hopeful.
"You tried that yesterday, my lady. And the day before. And the day before that." I said, simply. "And each and every time I would remind you of the last time you successfully and legally terminated my employment and banned me from entering the castle grounds on pain of banishment to my own personal comet. The sun not only rose two hours late due to 'technical difficulties' for four days straight, it rose backwards and almost collided with the moon. We're still auditing the tax misfiling and the resulting economic crisis. The nobility almost succeeded in usurping the throne under the guise of a failed cake audit. And we mysteriously lost the entire castle's supply of cake overnight. Oh, and you gained a lot of wei-..."
"Please don't ever leave, Butler." Her majesty very quickly interrupted me. "Please."
"No other sun goddess has replied to my pleas for job offers, so I'm afraid I'm stuck here for now, my lady." I said, graciously.
A loud growl punctuated our little conversation. I watched as her majesty's alabaster coat turned a soft shade of pink. "It wasn't me." She muttered in fervent denial.
"I'm sure it wasn't, my lady. It must have been the vorpal tatzlwurms I'm trying to breed in the garden." I said, airily. "They've been getting ever so frisky ever since we lost the Discord statue. I do believe they enjoyed using him as a scratch post."
"You still don't approve of me releasing him, do you?" The princess asked, turning onto her front to regard her favourite choice of morning entertainment - me.
"He still hasn't learned to wipe his filthy claws on the welcome mat and leaves choclate paw prints all over my polished marble. So no, my lady, as far as I'm concerned, he's anything but reformed." I remarked with a faint sniff. "Let him try my job for a day. That will sate all his appetite for chaos for all eternity."
"Are you suggesting I hire Discord to take your place?" The Princess giggled, kicking her rearhooves into the air daintily.
"You are most certainly welcome to try." I said with a shrug. "But I am afraid this suit comes in only one size - G for Gentleman." I flashed my princess a solid 1 million bit smile.
"I'm sure he'd at least give me all the cake I wanted." She said, wistfully. "Would you be my little Discord today, Butler?" She pleaded, giving me a pony-squee that could crush planetary cores.
"Do you know what cake would do to you?" I asked while multi-tasking with the princess' morning tea.
"It would make me happy." The princess said with a hopeful note.
There is a side to the princess, a very personal one that is practically a state secret. Not even her ministers and nobles are privy to this highly sensitive information. I am one of few souls charged with taking this secret with me to my grave. That is of course assuming I'm even allowed the respite of death.
I weighed my options and my lady's calorie intake record over the past week in my mind. Then I factored in my own plans for the day and how much it depended on my lady's good mood. Yes, it made sense to keep my lady happy in case she needed reminding about my plans. "Of course, my lady." I said, lifting up a small panic-red dish cover labelled 'Emergency Use Only'. Beneath it was a small slice of cloud cake, my lady's personal favourite.
"Alright, Butler." My lady's voice was suddenly very much alert, awake, almost dangerous. "What are you up to?" She demanded. I felt her brilliant lilac eyes burn the back of my head. It was times like these that I am very acutely reminded of just who it was I served - not just any spoilt little princess, but an alicorn princess, a formidable goddess who moves the sun and entire armies with but a word.
I very quickly gathered myself as best as I could, looking the very picture of professional nonchalance. "Preparing your tea, my lady. And I'm not cutting back on your sugar either, see? Two lumps." I said, innocently, lifting two lumps of sugar in a silver tweezer for her to see.
Her gaze did not waver in its ferocity. "You do not have to play games with me, Butler. I know there's something behind the tasty tasty cake." A little smile played across her face, truly a dangerous place for something as innocent as a smile. Yes, yes, my lady, I must play games with you. My very life depends on it. "So, would you share with me, Butler? What is it you're up to today?"
"Nothing you are not aware of, my lady, I assure you. You've already approved my personal activities for today way ahead of time." I said with my patented innocent smile. Never mind that she was half asleep and plied and distracted with the best cake when she approved of my plans for the day. But I was close, too close, to let her spoil it now. It was now or never, do or die, freedom or gummy bears. And I shall seize the day faster than you can say 'sunbutt'.
A little flare erupted in the air next to me. A neatly rolled up piece of parchment bearing my address upon its seal fell to the floor with a clatter. It was a letter, sent by fire-post.
It was also my death sentence if my lady got her hooves on it. My usual impenetrable mask must have betrayed my panic for my lady's eyes quickly narrowed in suspicion.
"Ah, must be the new catalogue from Quills and Sofas I ordered." I said, smiling brightly, kicking the roll of parchment as hard as I can just as my lady's telekinetic grasp blew a crater in the carpet where it first landed. "Ooops, no worries, my lady, I can pick it up myself." I made a mad dash for it, quickly dribbling the letter out the door with my feet while dancing around my lady's explosive attempts at grabbing my letter with her telekinesis. We left a trail of craters across her carpet as I kicked the letter out into the corridor. It rebounded off the wall opposite the door and into my grasp as I made my escape. But I knew it was only the start of the chase. My lady is not known to be yielding. She once reduced a dark crystal overlord to subharmonic particles, drove the entire empire of Gryphonia into surrender by freezing them under her moon, even stoned the very lord of chaos himself for an entire millenia. Give up on me and my letter? Not a chance.
I could practically feel the powerful beating of alicorn wings, the thunderous footfalls of mountain-crushing hooves, fill the corridor behind me. I ran. She galloped. I barely dodged another telekinetic grab. She galloped on. Another telekinetic grasp missed me and blasted the doors to the royal apartments open. I practically stumbled out the doors.
An entire gallery of royal guards peered at me curiously. A few even raised their eyebrows questioningly at my rather abrupt exit. "Ah, good morning, gentlecolts." I smiled, brightly, straightening up smartly. I fell into a hasty stride, fast enough to seem busy, but not so fast so as to arouse undue suspicion. "Just making way for my lady." I said, gesturing behind me. Sure enough, my lady trotted out after me, in a prim and proper trot, fast enough to seem the vigorous monarch, but not so fast so as to seem swept off her hooves.
"Good morning, my little ponies." She nodded at them all, smiling beatifically, as she trotted rapidly after me, hastily-thrown-on white bathrobe billowing through the air in her wake. "Keep up the good work."
"Ma'am." The guards responded as one, saluting. We smiled and nodded as we strolled past.
My lady slowly gained on me. I began power-walking for the nearest corner, readying myself for another sprint. She seemed to anticipate that as she trotted even faster, intent on cutting me off.
"Ah, my lady, please, no need to hurry yourself so. The state will not descend into anarchy should you decide to pace yourself this beautiful morning." I hissed through gritted teeth.
"I am fine, butler. T'is too fine a morning to dally. In fact, why don't you walk with me. It would do you much good." She suggested with an edged smile.
"Oh, you're too, too kind, my lady. But I insist on doing my appointed task and making way for you." I shot back with a smile.
We rounded the corner, away from the guard's eyes.
I blasted into a sprint that would leave Equestrian game sprinters choking on my dust. My lady's wings flared wide, throwing off her bathrobe as she leapt after me. As the very avatar of my doom loomed up behind me I found my next escape - the solaria, my lady's usual sun-raising observatory. I skidded in through the beautifully gilded pillars marking its entrance. To my great relief it was already full of court nobles, intent on watching my lady raise the sun, all while not wasting even a moment to schmooze up to her.
"Presenting, her most royal majesty, Princess Celestia." I announced, settling into another swift stride. I quickly moved into the crowd which, unfortunately, parted for me and the princess I was 'leading'.
"Oh, a very good morning to you all, my little ponies." The princess beamed at her noble subjects as she settled into a more sedate trot behind me. "Oh, yes, you're here for the sun, are you not?" She waved her horn, lighting it up with her usual bright golden glow. With a light tug she coaxed the sun over the horizon to the oohs and aaahs of her nobles, all without losing a single iota of speed.
"Now my lady shall hold a very special morning court session just for those of you who have so very kindly come to witness her great majesty and yet another of her masterpieces light our sky." I announced, rushing as casually as I dared towards the exit. The nobles were quick to perk up their ears at this, swarming about my lady like bees to honey.
"Yes, yes, of course." My lady trilled, goodnaturedly, "As soon as I have a quick word with my dear butler." She dropped the inflection at the end of the sentence, almost suggesting it would not be the last thing to be dropped that morning. She quickly pushed through the crowd, right on my heels.
As I reached the exit I made yet another dash, this time down a winding set of stairs. But this time my lady seemed ready for me. Without missing a beat she soared off the top of the stairs. I felt her powerful wing beats disturb the very air around me. I could hear her swoop down from on high like a deadly bird of prey. And before I knew it she had crushed me flat into a landing. I slammed hard into the ground, my grip on my letter lost. It flew out of my hand and down the steps below.
With yet another powerful beat of her wings she leapt off me and into the air, swooping down for my letter, for the kill. With a telekinetic grip that crushed the aged marble underneath the letter, she pulled her prize up into the air.
Then, landing lightly at the foot of the stairs, she paused to aim a little smirk of triumph at me.
She tossed the seal off my letter and unrolled the piece of parchment. Her eyes quickly studied it. Slowly, they widened.
Her next few words were my death sentence in all but name. "So, Butler, who are Lightning Dust, Minuette, Cloud Chaser, June Bug, Ditzy Doo, Lyra Heartstrings, Octavia Philharmonica, Flitter, Rain Drops, Apple Shine, Coco Pommel, Eclair Creme, Grace Hoofworth, Golden Harvest....all these mares?" She demanded, eyes narrowing like the very gates of Tartarus itself upon my coffin.
"Uh, would you believe me if I told you some of them may possibly be your future maids?" I ventured, hopeful. "Oh, please, my lady, not the pout. Please! By all that is cute, adorable and pony, NOT THE POUT!"