“Really? Seriously and truly?” Early morning at Canterlot palace, in one of the highest tower rooms. The whole space had been converted almost into a boutique. Dresses of every color and description filled the room, as did shoes, varieties of makeup, and accessories. Also in the room, packed into the clear center, were Connie, the light-gray, long-eared love of Prince Blueblood's life, Prince Blueblood, and Lime Sherbert, the green unicorn maid who usually served as Princess Luna's lady-in-waiting. Connie had spoken, and was giving an incredulous gaze to Blueblood and Lime in turn.
“It is simply the way of the nobility,” Blueblood explained with a comforting expression on his face.
“It's complicated on purpose, just to give them something to do, I guess,” Lime added.
“You proposed, I accepted, I nearly crushed your bones into powder with a hug,” Connie said. “The matter is done.”
“Yes. By general technicality we are engaged,” Blueblood noted with a nod. “However...” he started.
“You have to put on a show from the rest of the slack-jawed nobility,” Lime finished.
“There is a particular protocol,” Blueblood said strongly.
“'Protocol' is fancy for 'obstruction,'” Lime said. “Think of it like social constipation.”
“It promotes order and surety in life,” Blueblood said, glaring aside at Lime. “Better than chaos, yes?”
“A little chaos, properly minded, can be good. It's called chance, and her majesty loves it,” Lime said firmly back to Blueblood. “You know it. It's why she plays cards in her free time.”
“Yes, with preternatural skill,” Blueblood grumbled, earning soft chuckles from both Lime and Connie.
“But seriously...” Connie said, drawing attention back to her. “I have to stand on a stage in front of a bunch of gawking rich folks and have you propose to me again?”
“We do the whole thing, with proper lines and motions,” Blueblood said. “They cheer, some photographs are taken and we go on with our lives.”
“The catch?” Connie asked, a brow coming up.
“The what?” Blueblood asked.
“The catch,” Connie repeated. “What is it? Nothing could possibly be that easy with the upper echelons.”
“Especially since she's a commoner,” Lime noted.
“You don't have to say it like that,” Connie groused.
“I'm on your side,” Lime snapped. “But it's true. No noble heritage, legitimate or otherwise, no qualifications to join the noble orders, nothing.”
“How did that pretty-colt Shining Armor do it?” Connie mused. “He married a princess with actual power.”
“You don't have to say it like that,” Blueblood sniffed, with a lip-quiver.
“I mean, she had an empire ready for her, so she had a bigger profile and... okay, I'm digging myself deeper,” Connie said with a shake of her head. “The point is, how did he get off so easily?”
“I know that one,” Lime said. “His captaincy in the Royal Guard made him a de facto and, with a little paperwork, de jure knight. It barely makes a blip on the peerage scales but after reforms knights are no longer cut off from the ranks of the titled.”
“Then sign me up!” Connie cried.
“It isn't that simple,” Blueblood said. “Military ranks are not normally a path there. One must attain a particularly high rank, such as Centurion, Aquila or Captain, say, or attain an especially notable ceremonial position, and even then, barring special need, the status will only be conferred on retirement.”
“It's true,” Lime concurred. “Uncle Golden and Uncle Rosy tell me than when they retire they'll be bumped up to Centurion and Destrier, respectively, and also get to be called 'Sir.'”
“We're losing the point,” Connie said. “I'm a... commoner. I never thought about it, but I am. That seems to matter more than my being a donkey, which is good. But it still matters, which is bad. So what does that mean for us and this ridiculous little shadow-show we need to put on?”
“As a commoner you will have to be approved of by my near kin. Normally that means... parents...” Blueblood coughed after getting the word caught in his throat. “But if they have no title any longer or by my choosing, I may select a family member of higher rank. I chose this option, as great-auntie Celestia and great-auntie Luna really, really want me to marry you. Frankly, I'm in complete agreement with both of them.”
Connie gave a braying laugh and playfully nudged Blueblood, her natural strength sending him stumbling off nearly to the ground. “Okay, so they rubber-stamp me. Is that all? That's easy.”
“You... will need to project... a certain nature,” Blueblood said with hesitation.
“What nature do you mean?” Connie asked, suddenly serious.
“Nothing improper!” Blueblood cried. “Remember how you were before you showed me the fire in your heart? That sort of low, quiet nature.” He added, sotto voce “And you refuse me.”
“What was that?” Connied asked, one large ear wiggling. “'I refuse you'? Remember, these things aren't just for looks and one hundred brush strokes every night.”
“It's a part of the performance,” Blueblood explained. “You are so awed and amazed by my status and power and... you... feel... so unworthy...” He trailed off, withering under Connie's and Lime's glares.
“'Unworthy'?” Lime asked with a snort. “Is there a ritual 'hoof to the dangly bits' part because it sounds like it needs it.”
“Keep in mind, I still need him to be able to use those,” Connie noted. “But he only really needs one...”
“It's not my doing!” Blueblood shouted, voice going up an octave from pure fear. “It is the way of things. My status and power are meant to be shown as intimidating so you demurely refuse the first time and walk away. Then I must gallantly stop you, explain that you are my choice and asked again. And then you say 'yes'.”
“There must be a script. Right?” Lime asked.
“A... brief one...” Blueblood admitted.
“You brought her up here to pick out a dress and everything just to lay this on her, didn't you?” Lime questioned, giving Blueblood the hairy eyeball.
“I brought her here to show her this beauty and splendor which is free for her to choose!” Blueblood insisted. “She had an inkling there would be a more formal engagement. But I... did need to inform her of... certain realities.”
Connie hit Blueblood with a serious stinkeye before she rolled her eyes and blew out a frustrated breath. “It's a good thing you're sexy and good at kissing now.”
Blueblood wiped his brow and heaved a light sigh. “This is just the reality of the situation. You do still want to marry into this... complication, do you not?”
Connie sighed. “Yes...” she said with a tired tone.
“Welcome to our interesting world,” Lime said. “I just stand on the outside and look in. That's weird enough for me. You get a front-row seat.”
“That's such an encouraging thought,” Connie noted dryly.
“That's the reality. But it's okay. Marriage will probably make it easier to ignore,” Lime noted happily.
“So, shall we get to the task for which we have come here today?” Blueblood asked, looking around at the collection of items.
“Sure,” Connie said with a small smile. “As long as I'm going to be forced to endure a scripted second engagement, I might as well look good while I do it. This is all free and clear, right?”
“They are... consigned,” Lime said significantly, with a quick wink. “You know how that works, right?”
“Right. Wear it, but don't spill anything on it and then get it back here in time to sell it for double, as an 'as worn by Connie, affianced to Prince Blueblood' original,” Connie said with a nod.
“I know you don't like overly fancy things but... I want the whole of the nobility to despise you,” Blueblood said.
“Well, talk about an encouraging thought,” Connie said, a trifle shocked.
“I want you to stun them. I want them to feel almost ashamed that they're not you or me. Me, getting to marry you or you just being you,” Blueblood said.
“Still a bit bitter about how they tried to use you, eh honey?” Connie asked.
“I still blame them for how I treated you at first,” Blueblood said, before blushing softly. “But I... I understand it was my fault for letting my reactions color my treatment of you.”
“He's gotten good at that kind of thing, hasn't he?” Lime asked.
“He apologizes beautifully and takes responsibility like a pro,” Connie said proudly, nuzzling lovingly at Blueblood's cheek. “I make fun but I love him.”
Blueblood's chest puffed out a bit and a huge smile spread across his features. “With encouragement like that I shall be happy all the days of my life.”
“My ego's going to end up blowing up like a balloon,” Connie said with a laugh.
“Don't worry,” Lime said with a laugh, “We'll keep your head at a reasonable size. Don't think the rest of the palace staff will let you forget where you started.”
“I'm not apt to forget it, myself. I'm proud of where I came from,” Connie noted, nodding firmly.
“And so am I,” Blueblood concurred. “You're a pillar of strength and nobility.”
“I'll take the nobility, but I'll leave the 'pillars' to you,” Connie quipped, getting laughs from Blueblood and Lime.
“So, will you pick something grand and ostentatious to floor the gaping nobility?” Blueblood asked.
“My advice? Go with something complicated, showy and needlessly archaic,” Lime suggested. “It will amuse her majesty, and she does need amusement.”
“But wouldn't that mean that Princess Celestia will feel slighted?” Connie asked.
“Her co-equal majesty loves to see her sister smile. She actually silently approves of many of the more silly and harmless things her majesty does, or so I have been told,” Lime said with a grin.
“It's true,” Blueblood concurred. “Great-auntie Celestia loves it when great-auntie Luna makes the nobility look silly or does something that is plainly amusing.”
“Well, I'm sure eager to make Princess Luna happy,” Connie said, running a hoof over the dresses.
“Shall I assist you with your selection, my dear?” Blueblood asked, indicating a rack of extremely puffy dresses mixed with a few filmy, diaphanous selections.
“You're very a la mode, your highness,” Lime said, with a shake of her head. “But you know modern style.”
“Well, yes...” Blueblood said, looking confused. “Is that not the point?”
“It is useful, yes,” Lime noted, “But that's not the point. The point is to dress like her majesty. Heavy fabrics, brocaded fabrics, layering, ruffles and puffs and all the other outmoded things.”
“Oh... yes, of course!” Blueblood said, moving over to a rack and pulling out a dark purple corselet with embroidered swirls and stars. “Like this?”
Lime and Connie both looked on the thing with a critical eye.
“Wrong color for her. But you have the idea,” Lime finally said.
- - -
“Sister? Have you liberty for parlay?” Luna gently nudged the door to Celestia's room open, looking around. It was as it ever was, bright, airy and open. The white marble reflected the ample sunlight allowed in through the huge open windows and doors. Gold and jewels glittered all about to create more reflected light. The linens, hangings, curtains and all other cloth objects were light-toned and appropriate for the season. Celestia's huge canopy bed was neatly made and not a thing on any of her tables, from sides to makeup to decorative, looked out of place.
Celestia herself was out on the small balcony, just through the glass double doors. She turned at the sound of her sister's voice and smiled. “Sister, you know that if my door is unlocked I'm free. And I always want to talk with you.”
“Aye, aye, sister, and it be locked you have your needs to tend,” Luna said with a soft chuckle.
“Luna!” Celestia squealed, looking scandalized, a blush burning on her white face. “Oh that was... I'm actually more surprised you know.”
“'Twas but a fancy, colored with thought. Deduction, as say the constabulary,” Luna said with a cheeky grin.
Celestia clicked her tongue and shook her head. “You certainly got me Luna. I guess I don't need to ask how you got so good at deduction and mental exercises.”
“I take not your meaning sister,” Luna said, putting on an innocent face. “I am but a sweet and artless princess that hath neither inclination nor capacity that she may be a coney-catcher.”
Celestia broke out into a high, powerful laugh, crossing the room to giver her sister a warm, tight hug. “I try to save that for special occasions.”
“Aye, for absence doth make the heart grow fond, and you have made plots that it should not be so. Well do you manage your loins, and judicious are you in visits to the mountain that you should try the strength of the Cult-Finder General, according to his inches.”
Celestia cleared her throat and blushed once again. “Well... I think that conversation has run its course.”
“Indeed, sister. Do forgive mine intemp'rate tongue. 'Twas but a sport with you, for I love you,” Luna said, giving Celestia another hug.
Celestia pressed her neck to her sister's neck and smiled. “And I love you, sister.” When the hug broke Celestia took a step back. “Why did you need to see me?”
“Yes, my purpose. Sister, must it be so that we require dear Connie and our now-loved great-nephew perform this farce 'pon the stage for the chattering nobles?” Luna asked.
“It's... a tradition. It's mostly harmless and inoffensive. Personally, I'm in favor of it. It keeps the nobles open and honest, at least about some things. And that is a good thing,” Celestia said.
“But we do know that Connie be affianced to our great-nephew,” Luna said. “He doth strut and sigh and tell all who would hear he hath intention to marry, as he saith, 'The greatest jenny that ever lived.' There be not need that they must make of themselves fools.”
“The custom does seem unnecessary in this case, but it just is as it is,” Celestia noted. “It's expected, particularly of a noble of Blueblood's stature. Honestly, I think he may be looking forward to it.”
“How now? He hath delight in this foolishness?” Luna asked.
“He has accepted it. But I mean I've seen him picking out attire, and I helped him gather a large selection of possibilities for Connie. I think he wants to show the other nobles his good fortune, wants them to see that he is going to marry a beautiful jenny and wants them to, perhaps, envy him.”
Luna nodded slowly. “Aye... you speak good sooth sister. 'Tis so he hath been roughly treated by the lower nobles. And 'tis so that he hath cause to trumpet his fortune. But still sister... this be such piffle.”
“I'm not saying it's not. I'm saying he may have a reason for taking part,” Celestia said.
“Again, you speak good sooth. You know best in matters such as these,” Luna said with a nod.
“I just had more time to learn how to navigate the silliness,” Celestia said with a small laugh. “There is a more important matter to consider.”
“What matter be that, sister?” Luna asked.
“We're obviously going, yes?” Celestia queried.
“Assuredly, sister. Blood he be not, yet he be family in our hearts. And Connie be most fine, she doth greatly please as...” Luna started, tripping over herself. “A... maid...”
“I know you brought her into your knightly order,” Celestia said, hiding a smile behind a hoof. “I'm sure she gets on well with you, Lime and Fleur.”
“She doth mix well 'mongst us. As Lime, she wast not born amongst the highborn yet she doth move with ease and grace,” Luna noted.
“That's good. But I digress. We're going. We need to decide on a wardrobe, and just how much notice we want. It's their night after all, but I think we should make it clear just how much approval we give to them,” Celestia said.
“I do have some fine dresses that serve to bring notice yet not overpower. I shall tire myself as ever I do. Doth that give answer to your query, sister?” Luna asked.
“Knowing your taste and usual outfits, it tells me what I need to know,” Celestia said with a nod. “I think this will be a success, even if it is completely ridiculous.”
- - -
The formal engagement party was set up in one of the gardens of Canterlot Palace, a small stage illuminated by large, powerful spotlights. Plush, embroidered cushions were set up in regular rows for the attendees, who all arrived in a steady stream.
The rich and noble ponies had been assigned seating, as indicated by the tickets they had to show. Cavalier Golden Stare and Miles Scutum Rosy Cranberry oversaw the security detail, which consisted entirely of Night Guards, given the timing of the occasion. Silver-barded unicons used their magical light to usher sharp-dressed ponies to their places.
Fancy Pants, resplendent in a pressed tuxedo was seated at a plum position in the front row. Beside him, and snuggled against his side, was his fiancee, Fleur. Their pillows were set slightly ahead and apart from those around them, giving them an air of extra prestige.
Two modest thrones were set up at the back of the while thing, and were occupied by Celestia and Luna. Celestia wore a tasteful and light gown that started white at her neck but slowly faded into seemingly undulating bands of soft pastel colors, like the aurorae of her mane and tail. Luna was more formally attired. She wore two layers, the under-layer a thick, terry-like red dress with many folds in the bell, which was closed at the chest by laced ribbons of dark wine red color. Over her upper body was a brocaded royal blue doublet with silver piping. She also carried a shield on her back, apropos of nothing.
“Shall we begin the proceedings, sister?” Celestia asked across to Luna.
“Aye, aye, we begin this farce...” Luna muttered. She then called forward with the Royal Canterlot Voice, “Commence ye the drama as hath been scribed!”
Prince Blueblood slowly stepped out onto the stage, to a polite smattering of stomping applause. He was as he ever way, in a white tuxedo dickey, his mane perfectly coiffured, a rose inn his lapel. He looked quite nervous, not the usual state for him. He almost seemed uncomfortable with the attention being paid to him.
Connie came onto the stage from the other side, in a creation that was distinctly not like her usual style, but which put across her Lunar affinity. The bottom layer was a royal blue satin dress, the bell reaching down to the floor. The second layer was a crushed black velvet, split down the front and not intended to close by itself, the secondary open bell reaching only half as low as the first bell. That second layer was secured by silver lacing at her neck and chest, and the third layer, a dark purple embroidered corselet, cinched securely around her lower chest and belly. Attached to the neck of her attire was a high collar that rose behind her head, the diaphanous material mostly black, but with silver threads running through it and silver stars woven into it to look like the night sky.
Fleur, Fancy and Celestia politely applauded Connie, the other guests not sure what to do. Luna did not settle for simple applause but slammed her hooves down and let out a raucous call. “Aye! Aye! 'Tis a grand sight! Truly she doth shew great and wond'rous glory in such tiring! Do ye see it not? Aye, it be invisible to ye that cheer not her raiment! Behold a countenance temperate and stern, in defiance of ye that hail her not! Cheer, ye miscreaunts! Cheer and ye desire our good graces!”
Great applause and calls of delight rang out from the audience, with an undertone of reluctance from the majority. Fancy and Celestia cheered sincerely, while Fleur whistled and whooped, calling up, “Very bold! Good show, Da- dear Connie! Good show!”
Blueblood looked almost stunned by Connie's appearance. The refined elegance of the archaic attire did not detract from the natural beauty she held. She was still very much herself, rabbit-ears to knob knees and every piece of perfection between.
“My word...” Blueblood whispered.
“Yeah, your words,” Connie hissed, sotto voce. “You've got a script. Let's get this idiocy over with and we can get to dinner.”
“Oh yes, yes, of course...” Blueblood said, quietly. He loudly cleared his throat and placed a hoof on his chest. “I suppose you are wondering why I asked to see you this day.”
Connie dipped her head, eyes rolling. “Yes. I wondered about that, oh grand Prince Blueblood.” She intoned her lines with stilted, mechanical disinterest.
Blueblood frowned, not in anger but in sadness. He could tell how much Connie hated it. He hated doing it to her. But he pressed on, with some passion. “I have a very important question which I must ask you.”
“And what question is that, grand Prince Blueblood?” Connie asked in her 'bad actress' voice.
“Well... I know that you love me, and with very good reason,” Blueblood said with a swell of his chest and a pretty-colt pose. He deflated a little when Connie shot him a withering glare. Too far. “Yes. Well, I also love you. Love you very deeply, and very powerfully. With all my heart and soul.”
Connie's look softened. She knew it was in the script. She also knew it was from the heart. “And I love you, with all the depth of my... commoner soul...” Connie fumbled over the line and snarled. “We love each other. We know this.”
Blueblood's self-loathing grew. It wasn't right. He was just doing his duty as a noble. But maybe it was easier for him to be so blithe because he got all the good lines and Connie's were self-deprecating. “Yes. We do. We love each other so very much, so deeply, truly and purely. Our souls join and our hearts become as one.”
Connie couldn't stop her smile, though she kept it small. “It's all true. These heights are strange to me, and I don't know how to move in this atmosphere. I don't understand what our love has moved you to,” she said, tapping her hoof impatiently.
“It has moved me to this!” Blueblood grandly posed, his magic taking out the engagement bracelet he had bought for Connie. “Connie, my love, commoner though you are...” He withered again under the hateful glare he got. “W-will you... marry me?”
“Marry you? This is so sudden, so unexpected. So improper,” Connie flatly stated, rolling her eyes. “You wish to marry me though I am... common?”
Blueblood's heart was a scuttled ship, sinking in his chest as he looked into Connie's angry face. Making her mad was depressing. He had promised he would make her happy. He really was bad as a coltfriend. “Y-yes. I do. Please give me an answer. Will you?”
The audience held its breath as Connie swept her gaze from Blueblood to the observers. Most of them looked bored, knowing what was to come. A few looked a little too interested, as though wanting to see her efface herself. Fleur, Fancy and Celestia appeared rather distressed, all of them looking to the side. Luna, however, was looking straight at her. And she gave a small nod.
Connie nodded in return, head dropping slightly. “I... I am... I'm afraid I... oh forget this nonsense!”
The audience gasped, save for Luna, who sat up a bit higher in her throne.
“Wh-what is happening?” Blueblood asked.
“Look, this is dumb. I know it, you know it, the Princesses know it, but I'm the only one who will say it. You're too proper, and I like that about you but come on,” Connie said.
“But... but...” Blueblood stammered.
“You asked the first time. So I guess we're taking turns. So here...” Connie reached into her attire and pulled out a ring sized for Blueblood's horn. Like the one he had gotten for her it was a swirled mix of gold and silver, inset with precious gems. “I love you. I love you with all my heart. And you love me, we went through a lot of garbage to prove it. So... you were a whiny brat who turned into a decent stallion. We're a weird pair, but a pair. So, I said yes. How about you? Will you marry me?”
The nobles in the audience were shocked. Utterly scandalized by what they were witnessing. Traditions, defied. A commoner speaking down to a noble. She not only didn't refuse the proposal she offered her own. It was beyond the pale.
“Yes,” Blueblood said, clear and strong, with a goofy smile on his face. “Yes, Connie. If you'll have me, I'll marry you!”
“You're rough, but you'll do!” Connie cried, grabbing Blueblood up and planting a huge, powerful kiss on him. Her natural strength put her in command, his body following where she pushed.
“Huzzah! The romance hath been doubled!” Luna cried, flapping up from her throne to clap her hooves together. The applause was literally thunderous, sparks of lightning shooting from each clap of hooves.
“May you both be truly happy, and may this engagement proceed smoothly and beautifully to marriage,” Celestia said, rising grandly and sedately in contrast to her bombastic sister.
Fancy and Fleur took up the cause, stomping their hooves and calling up to the stage. “What a turn of events! So passionate and unique! Outstanding!”
“Applaud ye scraping pickthanks! Slugabed dullards! Applaud this happening or shall ye face our wrath!” Luna cried to the dumbfounded audience.
With no other choice, and the princess' threat hanging over their heads, the outraged and scandalized nobles began to applaud, and cheer the happy couple.
The kiss finally broke, and the pair looked out over the sea of faces. A lot of pique, and a few genuine looks of happiness.
“You know what this means now, don't you?” Blueblood asked.
“We're getting married?” Connie queried.
“We're having a noble wedding. A structured, formal engagement is only the beginning,” Blueblood said, with a hint of mirth. “Remember Princess Cadance?”
Connie looked stunned for a moment, before shoving Blueblood, her natural strength sending him staggering. “What did you get me into?”