“Don’t be so hard on yourself Vik.” Keaton gave his younger brother a firm pat on the back, nearly knocking his younger brother Viktor down to the ground. The smaller brother steadied himself and let out a depressed sigh.
“Father will kill me. I let him down again…” He rubbed his shoulder from the pat. Keaton’s armored body certainly added more weight to him, but the pegasus didn’t seem any more encumbered than a wonderbolt.
“Father will be upset, but he loves you.” He ran a hoof over his sky blue mane, sweeping it around his bright blue eyes and orange fur. “I know he sets high standards for you, but don’t let it get you down. Everypony stumbles and falls. Myself included.”
“But I failed several classes and am being held back a grade! That isn’t a stumble, that’s outright failure... He’s already disappointed with me for enough things. Father will—” Viktor was cut off when his brother gave him a hug, something he did sparingly.
“Brother, you’re going to be fine. When you fall down, you might get hurt, break a leg, and need to rest sometimes, but all you gotta do is get up and try again. You’ll get better each time.” He ruffled Viktor’s mane, to which he could only squirm and try to break free. “Even if you’re a bit different.”
“If it doesn’t kill me…” he muttered. “You can best nearly anypony in combat. Everypony respects you and looks up to you. I’m just the leftover black sheep of the family filling in the blanks.”
“Viktor…” Keaton smiled. “Don’t compare yourself to others. Be your own pony. You have your own strengths and more. You have a unique talent with strong magical potential, and you certainly are smarter with your words than I am. Heck, you topped the class in government, world history, economics, and culture. And I know you will find many more strengths if you think hard enough.”
“My magic that is no more useful for anything short of putting pop tarts in the toaster. I’m nothing that father wants, not some ‘paragon’ that everypony looks up to.”
“Don’t worry yourself so much about what father wants. Play to your strengths and practice your weaknesses. But for now I want you to relax and smile. You’re going to be an uncle soon. Can you believe it?”
Viktor looked out the corner of his eyes. “That’s great. It really is, but I’m not sure if I’m going to be much of an uncle.” He sighed, the title depressing him further.
Keaton chuckled heartily and gave him a pat on the back. “Oh come on Vik; you’ll be great. You got a heart where it counts, and one day you’ll have your own kids to raise. Believe me, you will love being a father.”
Viktor nodded, looking off into the distance as his words echoed in his mind, giving him a dreading chill.
The sound echoed through Victoria’s mind.
There it was again, resonating off the walls around her.
“Uncle—What did you do to your mane? Its got pink in it! Oooooh! Pretty!”
Victoria’s eyes shot open, her mind coming to a rude awakening as she snapped out of her sleep. Startled awake, she lifted her head and looked to the source of the ruckus that was climbing onto her back. Her eyes met with a curious pair of forest green ones that were quickly becoming rather dumbfounded right now. The little, warm sunset orange colored pegasus sat on his rump on her back, his sky blue and white mane looked a bit tussled, save his braid that hung over his shoulder. The young effeminate colt looked over Victoria before returning them to her eyes. Victoria was locked in horror and indecision, frozen as her nephew started to put things together in his head.
“...You look different Uncle Vik. Your eyes are blue! Very pretty!”
Victoria stared back, her thoughts stumbling for words from her recently awoken state.
“You got smaller,” he quipped.
Come on. Think of something to say. He is going to start jumping to conclusions. I can’t make this difficult for him and it’s very important he understands and takes this well.
“...You got bigger,” she replied with a smile, the words coming to her reflexively, much to the delight of the little colt.
“YOU’RE A GIRL?!” squealed the little colt upon hearing her voice, bouncing up and down on her back before taking a tumble when he slipped. Rolling gracefully, he was right back up on his hooves so quick that it almost looked like the whole stunt was intentional.
Victoria couldn’t help but laugh a bit to herself at seeing his antics. “Well you squeal like one.”
“Whatdidyoudo? Howdidyoudoit? CanIdoit?” The little colt hopped up and down, fluttering his wings.
“Arty, slow down now.” She pushed her front up and sat on her haunches. “Listen, I know you might be confused right now.”
The rather feminine looking colt stopped giggling like a little filly and looked at her with a huge smile. The angle of his head made the pink bow in his mane all the more apparent to her. “Hehe...Confused?” He stuck his tongue out a little at her. “What’s so confusing about that?”
Victoria noted the bow on his head, something that she constantly had to discourage him from wearing in public. She was a bit dumbfounded by the 8 year old’s simple understanding. It made her smile at how youth was so innocent and pure. It only made her want to hug him even more, which she did.
The little colt squeaked as he was snatched up into her magic and embraced into her arms. “Ahh! Halp! The tickle monster is gonna eat me!” He squirmed in her hug. Victoria didn’t think she could love a pony more than this one.
“Arty, you adorable furball. There is going to be some changes, but I’m the same old me, okay? What are you doing back here anyway?” She said, releasing him. Victoria was met with wide eyes staring back at her closely, so very curious and in wonder.
“Can I try?”
Victoria blushed a bit and sighed. “No Arty, this isn’t for fun. I just needed to make some changes because... there is some family business going on that I need to fix. Now what were you doing back here?” She gave him a vague answer and hoped he would follow her onto another subject.
“Ahhwww. Okay. Oh, um, Elissy was almost ready with dinner so I was gonna surprise her by having you there early!” He beamed. Victoria, however, gave him a knowing smile.
“You wanted me to tell her to make creme brulee again before it’s too late, didn’t you?”
“Maaaaaaaybeeeee.” He blushed and looked upward like the most innocent of angels. It was a face that would make the devil himself blush.
Victoria smiled and shook her head. “You have had enough of those in the last week. It takes a while to make those; poor Elise works hard enough. Why don’t you try making them yourself?”
“She banned me from the kitchen though.” The little colt frowned.
“What? Why would she do that?”
He looked to his hooves shyly. “Umm...I kinda...made a tornado in the kitchen by accident.”
“Oh I remember that.” She failed to hide a smirk. “She was very upset about that. You have to be careful about those pegasus abilities of yours.” Victoria had to admit raising the little colt was difficult at times, as he showed an early and strong affinity for wind and weather manipulation. He created so many messes and even once got the attention of the local weather team when he sent a small twister through their garden and into the street. At least he impressed them enough to start receiving scholarship offers, but she already had arrangements for him to be in the finest schools.
“So we gonna eat some din din, Auntie?” He asked carefully of her, embarrassed about her recalling those events.
Victoria blushed and was broken from her train of thought at hearing him call her that. A smile overwhelmed her and she felt the urge to hug him again. “Yeah... Lets go get dinner, Arty.”
On the trip back, Victoria could see that the sun had begun to set, darkening the surrounding overgrowth enough that it wouldn’t be hard to get lost in all of it if one strayed too far from the path. She must have fallen asleep for at least a couple hours, if not more. Victoria followed the little colt as he skipped and hopped his way across the stone tiles on the approach to the mansion, occasionally looking back at her with fresh curiosity.
It was hard to miss the massive residence, being three stories tall and meant to house near a couple dozen ponies in both wings, though it had been quite some time since the house had been that full. The large structure dwarfed most other mansions that were built in Canterlot recently, and had a history to show for it. The sight of it never failed to bring awe to her and remind her of the legacy she stood for.
The family legacy…
Victoria followed Arty as the little pegasus bounced his way inside and down the hall toward the dining area. Entering the dining room, she reflexively took a seat at the head of the table while Arty continued to bounce on back to the kitchen area beyond the swinging door. The table and room were uncharacteristically smaller than most of the other rooms, being suited for 6 ponies comfortably. Normally, her family would eat in the grand dining hall that was fully decorated and easily seat the residents and guests, but the servants table was much more convenient and quiet with only three ponies needing to be fed. The budgeted meals felt less out of place when they were not in a grand hall.
Her eyes gazed over the empty seats, remembering back when they were filled by her brother, mother, and father The addition of her sister in law was strange, as her relationship with Sinnie was a bit rocky at the start, but she grew to like the noble pegasus from House Horizon. The arrival of Arty solidified her love for her newest family members, strengthening the bond between Victoria and Sinnie as well as her brother Keaton. The feeling of jealousy she had toward Sinnie; though, never went away. She was not sure why she felt that way, but with Sinnie’s passing she still felt the pain of losing the only sister she could have ever had. While her mother’s death was expected, the loss of Sinnie and Keaton devastated her, and her father—
“Well hello there love. I got you your favorite tea.” A stallion immediately invaded her peripheral vision as a hoof patted her firmly on the back.
Nearly jumping out of her seat, Victoria gasped and threw herself to the edge of her seat furthest from the unanticipated arrival of the tan bodied pegasus. “What in bloody Tartarus!”
Her shouts were met with a hearty chuckled as the lean pegasus ran a hoof through his red and orange mane, smirking at her as his ice blue eyes wandered over her in such a way that Victoria couldn’t help but feel like she needed to cover herself up.
“My apologies there Miss. I didn’t anticipate you finding me so alarmingly ‘interesting’.” His words were suave, as was his posture as he leaned up against the table aside her.
Victoria glared back at him in mild irritation, not feeling up for his word games right now. She knew this pony, even without glancing at the silver serpent that adorned his flank, but he did not know her as she was now. Thankfully she had the presence of mind to remember that fact, she eased up and figured this might be a chance for try to play her role here as a new pony.
“You had me quite startled there. I don’t believe we have met.” Victoria put on a smile and put a hoof to her chest to exaggerate her startled reaction. He smirked and gently took up her other hoof with his own, giving it a gentle kiss that put her into a moderately surprised blushing fit.
“Brenner Skye, my Lady,” he said, the name being one that Victoria knew rather well, but always thought it oddly traditional for a pony who was not a noble himself. She practically grew up with him as he spent much of his time amongst the members of House Victoria, her father having insisted on having him around to be a friend and ‘squire in training’ unofficially. “And what name would a lovely mare such as yourself be graced with?”
Victoria didn’t know what was happening to her as her mind started to blank a little and cheeks burn red. She didn’t want to give in to weakness and tear her gaze away from him, but those eyes and smile were distracting her. With hesitation, she forced herself to talk.
“Victoria.” Before she could say more and take the lead, Brenner gracefully took it.
“Joining us for dinner then, my dear? Perhaps I could entertain you after. The rooftop has a most delightful view over the estate and Canterlot proper.” He leaned in closer toward her, his hoof resting on the backrest of her chair around her. “The stars are quite a sight, as beautiful and wondrous as y—”
Elise whacked Brenner across the head quite firmly with a wooden serving spoon, the maid having entered from the kitchen through the rather silent push door. Brenner jumped back from Victoria and stumbled away with a hoof up in defence.
“Ouch! Confounded mare!”
“I know very well what you are up to Mr. Skye and I can assure you that nothing has changed since last time.” Elise spoke with only the slightest increase in aggression in her usual calm tone. With another swing she whapped Benner across the thigh, causing a loud crack that almost made his ears ring.
“Sweet Celestia!” He jumped and hobbled several feet away from her like an injured animal. “I was merely conversing with our guest—”
She swung again, striking his rump with another loud crack. Benner jumped again and retreated swiftly to the other side of the table.
“Alright! Alright! So I may have known that she is Viktor. It wasn’t very hard to figure that out”
“...It wasn’t?” Victoria had been pleasantly enjoying the show from her seat until now.
“Well,” he eyed Elise cautiously as the maid simply stared back at him unamused, “considering how similar you look to your previous self, especially the cutie mark, Elise’s insistence that you need ‘alone time’, Arty squealing more than he usually does, and, well, the fact that you haven’t exactly had any interest in traditional ‘male behaviors’.”
Victoria groaned with a roll of her eyes as this subject came up again. “You’re one to talk.” Her cheeks were burning now.
“I find nothing wrong with appreciating somepony despite their gender. Maybe you’ll come to appreciate that, my lady.” He emphasized her title, smiling in satisfaction at her reddening cheeks.
“Brenner,” Elise spoke up. “If you wish to stay for dinner, you will behave while I finish preparation. Otherwise…” She simply stared at him a few silent moments until he quietly took a seat across from Victoria, ears drooping. It wasn’t even necessary for her to finish as he knew what would ensue. She turned from both of them and went back to the kitchen once she felt her point was made clear enough.
Left alone now, silence consumed the air as Brenner stared at Victoria nonchalantly, her eyes firmly looking back at him. Her mind started to wonder as to what he might be thinking, why that look was making her more nervous than usual, the fact that she was quite a bit shorter than him now, and how Arty hadn’t come bursting in yet to interrupt them. She knew he was bound to ask her questions and pick her brain. It was just a matter of time before he—
“So did you hear the news late this morning?”
Victoria was perturbed, was she suddenly not interesting to him anymore? She expected him to ask about her and it irked her that he just seemed to move on like she were some brief passing of mild fascination.
“...That’s the question you want to ask me? After all this?” She motioned to her body with a hoof, completely dumbfounded.
Brenner smirked and gestured to the kitchen door. “Well, Elise was rather insistent, though I didn’t know you would crave the attention like a highschool filly.”
“I am not a high school filly and I do not participate in that kind of behavior!” she said with aggravation. He chuckled to himself, covering his mouth to try and hide it when she only seemed to get more frustrated with him.
“Oh I’m sure you don’t….Yet.”
She glared at him sharply, burning her eyes into him. “I’m not that kind of pony.”
“Oh come now. You have been a filly for, what, not even a day? Don’t you think those hormones your brain is bathing in now will have an effect once they settle in?”
Victoria shook her head and put her chin up. “I have been handling it just fine, all that has changed is my appearence.”
“Pardon?” Her ears perked up at his quiet comment.
Brenner couldn’t help but snicker to himself. “You reaction earlier says otherwise, my dear.”
“You always liked to flirt, no matter the pony.” She crossed her arms and looked to the wall, a faint blush on her cheeks.
“True,” he grinned further, “but you were quite flustered moments ago by me, and I wasn’t even trying.”
“That’s not true! I was trying to use this as an opportunity to role-play and see how well I could handle myself with somepony who didn’t know. Though you botched that with your flirts.” She pouted.
“You would have role-played with me right to the bedroom with how poorly you guarded yourself.” Brenner chuckled.
“I like to role-play!” shouted Arty joyfully as he hopped up on his seat at the table. A loud thwack could be heard moments later as Brenner yelped in pain from the wooden spoon impacting the back of his head. An accomplished Elise stood behind him with an ever so slight frown on her face.
“Sinning Sisters! Would you stop that?”
“I will pluck that silver tongue out of your mouth if I hear anymore of that,” Elise said firmly. She looked across to Victoria, the new mare being quite mute for the moment as she covered her flushed red cheeks with her hooves. The mental imagery that came to mind at Brenner’s words made her so very aware of her sex that she squirmed in her seat. This wasn’t new to her with how Brenner liked to tease every now and then, but he was on a roll today and she found herself really flustered by it now that she was on the other side of the fence. It was almost jarring to her mind, but she figured she would get used to it.
“I can get some dice and we can role-play!” Arty chimed in again.
Elise shook her head and finally stepped away from Brenner after she was satisfied with the amount of cowering he showed with her spoon at the ready. “Now isn’t the time little Reginald. Dinner is about to be served.”
“Call me Arty! I don’t like that name.” He whined.
“Dinner sounds great!” Victoria forced a smile, her discomfort combined with the chaos in the room made her really want to move on with the evening. Elise gave her a nod keeping her eye on her for a moment before slipping away into the kitchen. Victoria knew that look meant something, and she would probably find out very soon.
Silence settled on everypony after the maid made her exit, save for the jingling sounds of Arty playing with the silverware. Victoria took this moment to clear her head, and think about how much had changed in the last twelve hours. The tingling from her transformation had faded long ago, but she felt like something was still there, like some mental aspect that was making her feel quite aware of herself and her body. Hearing others, such as Brenner, remind her of that was becoming near irritating. She had to admit she was adapting rather quickly in her mind, perhaps not giving herself enough credit when it came to self-reflection. It was her family name afterall.
Elise returned not much later with a serving cart of plates with pasta, salad, and various other vegetables. She meticulously and masterfully placed all their plates with an elegance that suited the cutie mark of a dancing mare on her flank. Getting to Victoria last, she hovered aside her for a few moments before looking to Brenner. “You didn’t tell her about the news yet, did you?”
Brenner smiled cautiously at her. “Well... you see,” he didn’t sound too sure of himself at first with Elise staring at him so intensely, but Brenner returned to his smooth casual taking voice soon enough. “I was more than happy to break the news, but she was just so persistent that I talk about her that I could not ignore her needs.”
Elise rolled her eyes, Victoria sighed, and even Arty looked mildly unimpressed.
“...You win some, you lose some,” Brenner said quietly to himself.
“Elise, what news is there that is so important?” Victoria was starting to feel impatient, and she hadn’t even eaten yet.
Elise nodded. “Basyrr Dusk of the Lunar Council died last night. Murdered on the castle walls.”
Victoria turned to Elise, eyes open and mouth agape. While she may have been a shut in for quite some time, Basyrr was a pony that she was familiar with, having met him quite a number of times in her childhood.
Basyrr Dusk. He would visit my mother often, talk to her about time and fate. One of her true friends. I remember him coming by to talk and bring her books when I was just a young mare— Erm. Stallion.
If the situation at hoof was any less serious, she would have given herself more trouble on misgendering herself in her own head, but she didn’t have the time. Somepony her family considered a friend had died, murdered even. What could motivate such an act scared and angered her.
“Why? How? Basyrr? A member of the Lunar Council? One of mother’s friends?” Victoria asked, knowing what answers she would get, she felt a need to exclaim her shock though as a heavy, dreadful sensation filled the pit of her stomach. She wanted to say more, but what could she say? She only had a couple of conversations with him in passing, having secluded herself during those times, and most everypony else here probably was in a similar situation. That didn’t help the emotional build up that she felt inside her, terrifying her even more. What if she were to die tomorrow? How would she be remembered? Would she be remembered? What about her family? She began to shake a little as her mind started to cascade into emotional turmoil, pondering the meaning of her life. Fortunately, she was interrupted from this when Elise put a hoof on her shoulder and leaned in close.
“It is grave news, and the occasion is not the most ideal, especially considering your recent development, but this is your chance to get back into the social circle of the nobility.”
Victoria, rife with depressive feelings, still managed to blush when she realized what she was telling her.
“The funeral is the day after tomorrow. You are going to need to be there to pay your respects and give this House a presence. It will be your first time out in public among all the nobles. There is quite a lot to prepare for.” Elise sighed. “I managed to get an appointment with a tailor for you to have something to wear in time. We’ll need to go over a lot tomorrow.”
Arty bounced in his chair, waving a hoof as if he were in a class room. “Oh! Can I have something made for me too?”
“I guess game night is canceled tomorrow.” Brenner leaned on a hoof, watching Victoria squirm as Elise piled on the responsibilities and expectations.
Victoria’s mind was running wild through her thoughts, trying to think of what she would even say or how other nobles would react. Certain houses need more attention over others, especially ones with potential suitors.
By Celestia! I have to make a good first impression on heaven knows how many noble stallions! I need to talk to Fancy Pants before then if I’m going to see all the noble houses.
“Is Fancy Pants available? I need to see him before then.” She looked up to Elise, who sighed back at her, knowing she wanted her to call in her place.
“I’ll see to checking when he is available for a visit—”
“It would be better if he came here.” Victoria added in.
Elise sighed. “I will see if he can but I doubt it possible on such short notice. It would be far more forthcoming of you to go to him.”
“You’ll get to reintroduce yourself to his marefriend as well, and she has some connections when it comes to the inner mare groups I hear.” Brenner added in, speaking with a mouth half full of food.
As tempted as Victoria was to ask Brenner how he knew that, she had enough problems of her own right now. “Is he not engaged to Fleur De Lis yet?” She was honestly surprised considering how long the two have been together.
“Same as always. I hope you’re not taking an interest in him though. It would create quite a rift in the friendship you have with him.” Brenner smirked.
“No more than it would with you, Brenner.” She rolled her eyes and blushed, much to his amusement.
Elise looked in Brenner’s direction, making him pause and keep to himself. “I think it is best we worried about the details of the funeral preparation after dinner.” She kept a sharp eye on him until he nodded his head reluctantly.
“Ice cream!” Arty tossed his utensils onto his plate before jumping from his seat and fluttering to the kitchen to claim his prize.
What remained of dinner went rather quickly, and all attempts from Brenner to ask any questions of Victoria were met with Elise’s stare. Though she knew he wanted a chance to speak with her plainly as friends, she had quite a lot on her plate now with this funeral. Elise insisted on Brenner going back home instead of spending the night at the estate, as he commonly did, and sent Arty to bed early, wanting to have a few words with Vanity before the night was over.
Elise closed the door behind her upon entering Victoria’s spacious and finely furnished room. She couldn’t help but feel a growing anxiety as Elise approached her, looking her over again. Victoria never realized how much she appreciated being taller than her when it came to situations like this or just taller in general. Standing fully upright next to the already tall Brenner was a bit of a shock to her.
“I’ll be waking you up a bit earlier than usual tomorrow. There is a bit more consideration to the morning routine that, as much as I would like for you to learn from trial and error, I will need to impart on you.” She circled around her with a close eye, as she had earlier in the day.
Victoria sighed and nodded, shying away somewhat from her observant eyes. “Ugh. I was honestly hoping I could have just a few days to myself before having to worry about making connections.”
“How are you handling all this?” Elise asked her upon coming back to her front.
“Stressed, not wanting to go out, the usual kind of—”
“I mean your transformation. How are you adjusting to it?”
Victoria paused for a moment, having to think. “Umm... Well... I haven’t grown a second head. It’s honestly going better than I expected. So much that I’m even correctly gendering myself in my head. Brenner surprised me, but that is hardly unusual for him to be that way.”
Elise frowned, much to Victoria’s surprise, and rubbed a hoof to her chin. “That is... quite an adjustment to make so quickly. Are you sure the aftereffects are not still influencing you?”
Having Elise question what Victoria felt near proud of for adapting to so well upset her somewhat. “No, I stopped feeling those effects after I woke up for dinner,” she said flatly, her tone mildly irritated that she was even making an issue of it.
Several moments of silence went by before Elise shook her head. “I knew you were different growing up, but despite that, it seems you’re taking it... too well.”
Victoria sighed loudly, the annoyance clear in her tone now. “Elise. Just because something goes right with me for once doesn’t mean you have to question it like there is some mistake I made secretly hidden inside. I regret nothing and I’m handling it fine. I think we have enough to worry about with the upcoming days.”
Elise looked right into her eyes, thinking, reading, and finally nodding. “Alright then. I’ll wake you early to start the day.” She turned and calmly trotted away to exit the bedroom.
Victoria couldn’t help but feel she was all too quick to accept her answer, but then again she never knew Elise to be one to argue much on what she wasn’t knowledgeable on. As she crawled into bed, she had a feeling that the conversation would come up again. After all, Elise never argued unless she thought she was right, and usually she was.