• Published 13th Jan 2014
  • 1,692 Views, 33 Comments

A Crown of Rhinestones - TheDarkStarCzar

Diamond Tiara goes too far and gets caught, now the Cutiemark Crusaders hold her fate in their hooves while Silver Spoon argues for leniency by telling the story of how they met how they received their cutiemarks.

  • ...

Symphony for the Worlds Smallest Violin

Silver Spoon was nearly reduced to snatching at their hooves and begging to keep them from simply trotting away, but eventually they acquiesced. Again it was a matter of winning over Apple Bloom who'd remained stoic as a judge, the merest flutter of her upper lip the only outward sign that the dam was in dire and constant jeopardy.

"Well?" Scootaloo demanded at length, "What is it you have to say that you think's going to change our minds?"

"Yeah, some of us have a bed time and if we're late we won't get our bedtime story and warm milk!" Sweetie Belle demanded with a distressed sniffle.

"Uh huh, some of us sure don't want to miss our on a bedtime stories." Scootaloo rolled her eyes sarcastically only to be kicked by a glaring Apple Bloom.

"I don't expect any of us are gonna get much sleep on account of this nonsense going around in our heads. I'm like to spend half the night goin' from sad to angry and back before I could settle down. I imagine it's got to be the same for you two." She addressed her friends, her face making it clear it was not the time for Scootaloo's sarcasm and that any delay granted for Silver Spoon to explain herself was a short lived boon.

"Okay, I know how this is going to sound, but Diamond Tiara and I aren't like you..." It was a bad start, Silver Spoon realized that immediately when Apple Bloom let out a disgusted grunt, "Well, I mean it's true. Take me for example."

Silver Spoon cringed as she looked at the patched up bit of sidewalk that wandered in a picturesque manner from their back door into the dense thicket of a garden which encircled, nearly strangled, their sprawling house and the grounds that surrounded it. It was poured when she was still a little foal and her parents had delighted in having her press her little hooves into the fresh cement and write her name. Both the S's were backwards. She was informed that it was adorable, but she just couldn't see it. To her it was an embarrassing reminder of how ignorant and pathetic she'd been. The incompetence of foals wasn't something she took joy in and she couldn't understand why stupidity and cuteness were meant to go hoof in hoof. From her earliest days she'd tried to distance herself from foalish things.

It was a drive first initiated by her parent's desires that she be able to read before the other foals, and through dedication and constant drills with tutors she achieved that desire, surpassed it in fact. Before she'd waded into her education properly she'd already graduated to chapter books. It only got more extreme from there. When the other fillies her age were still struggling with Diary of a Wimpy Foal and Ponie B Jones, she'd graduated to Crime and Lunar Banishment. She thought it no less than what was expected of her, for her achievements to outstrip and ascend above her peers as proof that she deserved her ill-understood station in life among the privileged class as her mother asserted that she did. It more or less reinforced in her that these were the things expected of her when they garnered her no more than faint praise from her parents.

Paradise, (who found the name of their subdivision hilarious with an inane beating-a-dead-horse repetition that made her daughter cringe) was a hooves off type of mother and a demanding mare, a pegasus who insists on being chauffeured and waited on as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Maybe it is, she thought, but hindsight told Silver Spoon that she's both physically and intellectually lazy. Despite that she loved her mother and actively tried to remain blind to her flaws and largely detached parenting. It was her mother's intent that her beloved filly likewise be lavished with such a placid lifestyle when she grew to become a mare, so she unironically named her Silver Spoon and vowed that she would only have the best in life, though her work towards that end was exceedingly inconsistent, progressing in fits and starts.

It was a stark revelation to Silver Spoon when it became obvious that the books, the etiquette lessons, the gymnastics class that was meant to teach her to move gracefully, were not things her parents had endured themselves. Not as foals, not at any age. They were foisted upon her simply because she'd taken them as a duty and not rebelled. It was brought back to mind as she eyed that petrified scrawl, an emblem of innocence long past, just how this became obvious. For Hearths Warming one year they'd gotten her a selection of classics which included age inappropriate reading materials. She digested Andalusian Rand, several novels by Steinbuck, some anarchistic tract by Abbie Horseman and a good portion of the Marquis DeSaddle's vile prattlings that snowy winter break. Doubt seeped into her mind that they would have heaped those works upon her if they'd had any idea of their content, conflicting themes and the outright vulgarity of the latter. They were under the impression it was a vampony story, she came to learn later and they shrugged off the mistake as largely irrelevant.

It occurred to her that she had not, in fact, ever seen either of them read anything headier than the Sunday paper and the books on their shelves were kept free of dust by the maids rather than use. As for social mores, they aspired to them, faked them convincingly, but it became clear it was an affectation and as winter had finally given way to the first strands of spring, an acquaintance of less than a day, Diamond Tiara, had explained the pejorative concept of the nouveau riche on the walk behind a house that embodied that very folly.

"I don't understand, our house is almost twice the size of yours and it's way fancier, are you sure you're not just jealous?" Silver Spoon asked, having finally looked up from her inscribed name.

"Jealous of this?" Diamond Tiara gestured grandly towards the house, "Please, spare me. It's not fancier, just gaudier, and space for it's own sake is a waste. It's just what I'd expect from a couple of peasants who hit it rich, but look, that's their deal and I won't hold it against you..."

"What about the garden?"

"Our house has a garden. Everypony seems to have a garden these days, it's just expected."

"Yeah, but just look at ours." Silver Spoon pranced up to the nearest bed of crested irises like a game show hostess and smiled broadly, raising her head both to take in and indicate the emerging greenery all around them.

"Yeah, just do look at yours. It's overgrown and untended. It's run wild around the whole house. It's quantity over quality, whereas father's garden is expertly tended by a team of gardeners who selected plants that bloom at different times so that there's always something beautiful coming up any time you look out there. It's laid out in the Canterlotian tradition instead of being some big, sprawling, tasteless mess, but I guess it suits the house..."

"Mother just likes it more natural. There's nothing wrong with the garden and there's nothing wrong with the house, you're just a bad mannered little brat and I think you should leave." Silver Spoon glared. The mansion had been built when Silver Spoon's mother and father married on a prime piece of land in a new development that the family had held for just such an auspicious occasion. It was actually fairly new, both the house and the gardens surrounding it, for there was no lawn, only convoluted mazes of the lushest exotic plants once the summer was in full swing. It may actually have been a bit extravagant, Silver Spoon would have admitted in less contentious circumstances.

"Ugh, and here I thought you were different than all those other lame little foals. Look, the nouveau riche spend enough on their cracker boxes to get a real house put up, but they just don't recognize quality, or a lack thereof and they end up..." She fluttered a hoof dismissively, "With this sort of thing. It's not that old, but, the cobblestones on the drive are all heaved up, the sidewalk's all cracked, the stucco's falling off the lath, which by the way you're supposed to stucco over stone or something, not just stick it up on whatever ticky tacky you want like they're building a set piece. Even that ivy's been left to climb up the front and tear the trim off and the roof's gone all swaybacked so I'm sure it leaks and that's not even mentioning those giant, gaudy, brass plated pot metal lanterns out front. So twenty years ago." She said nonchalantly and it was actually true. Silver Spoon didn't realize that she'd gleaned all this by overhearing her father talk, complaining in a gossipy way about the pretensions of the broad class of ponies he'd labeled as 'The Climbers.'

It was a defining characteristic of Diamond Tiara that she gleaned information and opinions from those she deemed worthy and took them unashamedly as her own, in bold contrast to Silver Spoon who sought to inform herself, to construct and buttress her views until she could hide behind their stalwart ramparts. It was simply beyond her to react with unequivocal confidence since none of these metaphorical structures were ever complete and she was always wary that somepony would find a weak bit of foundation to tumble the whole were she to expose her ideas to scrutiny. In point of fact, this was what she later came to love about Diamond, her boldly judgmental nature.

That day, however, she'd yet to see her charms. Diamond had introduced herself to Silver Spoon at a small gallery opening in Canterlot that their families had attended, but Diamond rode back alone, her father having stayed on some business in the city. They'd lived within a few blocks of each other for some time, but never actually talked until they had a whole train ride home to get acquainted and by way of first impressions Diamond Tiara gave a staunch refutation of the value of home schooling, which Silver Spoon had been up until that point.

Her argument had some merit, that they were both destined to be the elite of Ponyville and in such a close knit community, common ties to those she planned to someday reign over trumped the questionable merit of the curriculum itself. Indeed it seemed to be of utmost importance to her that they were familiar and fearful of her grit and iron hoof. The night was capped by Diamond Tiara walking Silver Spoon home. Being opinionated was all well and good, and Silver Spoon had yet to form any strong opinions about the self assured little filly until she began to belittle her home and family.

Silver Spoon's muzzle scrunched in disgust and rather than argue points unworthy of her time, she'd turned away and dismissively spat, "Whatever, princess."

Unperturbed and seemingly amused by the intended insult, Diamond Tiara called after the retreating filly before leaving herself, "I think you know I'm right, but if you want to play it that way, fine. But sometime, when you want a safe, civilized place to hang out, come on over and I'll show you what a proper house is meant to look like."

Silver Spoon vowed to never set hoof in that proper house, but for days she thought about the things that bratty filly had said and she finally approached her mother about some of them as she sat by the fire one evening, she was not overly pleased with the answers she received.

"Don't be so ungrateful for the opportunities your mother and I have striven to provide you with." Her father said, an invisible presence in an oversized wing backed chair, veiled by a curtain of newsprint which may have been the stocks page, but was just as likely a racing form with it's arcane stats and figures, "How many families would go to such an effort to see that their daughter has the best education available, even without any suitable private institutions in town. I mean would you rather go to that dreadful public school?"

Silver Spoon's knee jerk reaction was to say no, but upon consideration she wasn't sure, "M...maybe? I was talking with Diamond Tiara and she thinks it's really important to mix with the other foals in town." Her parents took her successes as praise of their good parenting, even though the heavy lifting of her education was outsourced to coaches and tutors. Homeschooled in name and isolation, only.

Paradise snorted, "She would think that. Her whole family has such pretensions of grandeur, but in the end, their business is just retail. Right honey?"

"Quite. It's not really a very dignified occupation is it?" He harrumphed with a rustle of broadsheet.

Where did their money come from? Silver Spoon wondered. All they'd ever said was that it was from investments, but they had always been cryptic about it. Her father had an office in the house with a steady stream of well dressed stallions trickling in and out, but though it was during business hours, the jovial discussions, drinks and backslapping smacked more of a club than any sort of serious enterprise. Having heard hours of the stuff, she'd never heard anything talked about beyond golf, families and a slew of mule jokes, usually told in quick succession. Diamond, however, had implied more humble beginnings to their fortunes, but there seemed little enough point in trying to force the subject.

"Still, I think maybe I could...should give the public school a try. Do you think that would be alright?"

"If it's good enough for Filthy Rich's daughter, I suppose we'll let you try it out until you get bored with it." Her mother had condescendingly agreed, but her father was not similarly inclined.

"I rather think not," He grumbled, "If it's scholastic camaraderie you're craving, why couldn't we send you to the Canterlot school for exceptional fillies this summer? It's a place I should think more suited to your intellect and tastes than Cheerilee's school for paste eaters and delinquents." He laughed at his own little joke, "I'll send for the forms tomorrow, I'm sure it's just the thing for a clever little filly like you."

"Oh...Okay, I guess." Silver Spoon said with little enthusiasm, feigned or otherwise. Nopony seemed to notice but she knew that without any action on her part they'd forget about it entirely in a few days.

It wouldn't be fair or accurate to say that Silver Spoon had few friends. The entire gymnastic class attended her birthday party and she could often be found enjoying tea and light conversation with little fillies roughly her age and social class. There were actually very few of them in Ponyville proper and even the simplest outings seemed to require a day trip, which meant that most of her recreational time was scheduled, the venue, activities and attendees already settled upon. It seemed that the conversations were likewise staid, never really scratching the surface and Silver Spoon considered her friendships of a most wholly superficial sort.

She was convinced that sheer proximity and her enigmatic standoffishness was what kept bringing her mind back to thoughts of that spoiled pink filly, and if anypony were to demand an answer as to why she went to see her a few days later, despite their tumultuous first meeting, she wouldn't have had a concrete answer. It was likely the niggling seeds of rebellion seeking out a compatriot to whom she might voice her doubts about her parents in a gossipy, conspiratorial manner as fillies are often wont to do.

Just one dreary, waterlogged day when the leak in Silver Spoon's bedroom ceiling had just about driven her crazy with it's erratic rhythm, she opened her umbrella, walked down her lumpy drive, crossed the street and the few blocks that separated them from that most affluent neighborhood and found herself inexplicably knocking on Diamond Tiara's door.

The grey filly was nervous when the old cream coated butler answered, but he escorted her to Diamond's room chatting lightly the whole way and it did a great deal to settle her nerves. He knocked, Diamond invited her to come in and suddenly she was in Diamond Tiara's room.

Her host smiled, graciously waiting as the the silver maned head swiveled around in an effort to take in all the wonders. The comparison to Silver Spoon's own room was much like a comparison of the two houses. Silver Spoon had more and possibly better things, but Diamond Tiara's were more artfully laid out and organized. There were foal's paintings and drawings, presumably her own, a shelf full of pageant trophies and a smattering of toys, all arranged as for an open house though she didn't know anypony was coming.

Her stuffed animals were the prime example of her esthetic. There were a full dozen various creatures, all of the highest quality, impeccably dressed and seated around the head of her frilly bed. They were arrayed as a photographer would have done for a group portrait and that's easy enough, but to sleep in the bed they'd all have to be moved which meant they had to be reset daily. It begged the question of whether this was all done by her or her servants. Regardless, every inch of the room was carefully and impressively kept in it's lavender and white livery.

She'd stood when her guest entered and had remained silently smiling as she took in the room. Finally, the circuit completed, her gaze returned to the pale pink pony. She'd previously been seated at a round table in the center of the room practicing calligraphy on a sheet of rice paper. The brush had been set aside on a plate and a halo of ink had formed around it's bristles.

Diamond nodded her head to dismiss the butler who exited quietly, "You done?" She asked with a smirk. Silver Spoon was about to say yes when her eyes lit on the previously overlooked book case behind her. She could see from where she stood that it was filled not with foal's books, but real literature. Her jaw fell open in delight and her hooves carried the helpless filly closer without a care for polite propriety. Diamond Tiara giggled behind her as she lovingly stroked the spines of some of her favorite books. Quickly it came to rest on a very special volume.

"This is a Mane Austen first edition!" Silver Spoon declared, ears perked and teeth set in a mad grin.

"Of course." She replied simply, "I think that one's signed, too. Go ahead and pull it out and look."

She did and it was. She was thrilled that such a thing existed at all, much less that she held it in her own two hooves. A squeal and smile of delight was turned on Diamond. Her polite, condescending smile reminded Silver Spoon of the inappropriateness of her actions, "I just, um, can't believe you really have something like this. It's lovely, really."

"I guess. If you like it that much why don't you just keep it?" She said with a disinterested shrug.

"Keep it? Like, keep for keeps? I...couldn't do that...I..." Silver Spoon stammered. Diamond's eyes hardened and her smile faded.

"You're going to keep it, it's a gift. Geez, you really are going to have to learn to accept gifts more graciously if you're going to run with the the more urbane classes, much less be my friend." She sighed, "Look, it's not your fault, your mother should have taught you this sort of thing. First thing, never show that you're impressed by anything unless it's something so ostentatious that that's it's only purpose, like a carriage all covered in filigree and done up like a wedding cake. Then you have to act impressed or you'll insult your host, but you have to say something snarky, like...ask if it turns back into a radish at midnight. Then they'll say, no, a pumpkin, or something. Then you both laugh as if it was actually funny. That's the way it works."

"If you act impressed by some trinket, like that book, a host of good breeding is likely to offer it to you. It puts them above you, though. It's like they're saying 'Here's a thing you couldn't own but for my generosity and see how wealthy I am that I can give it away so casually.' So it's best not to put yourself in a situation like that, it degrades your own standing. Since you're a little filly you can get away with it a bit with older ponies, they love to give you things, but don't overdo it."

Now Silver Spoon had been to many many functions in my time, but she'd always been shyly reticent, feeling that there was some covert set of rules of which she had not been apprised. Here Diamond Tiara had enumerated part of this hidden code clearly and concisely and she wondered what else she knew.

"Now say 'Thank you.' and smile." Diamond ordered sternly.

"Thank you." Silver Spoon replied with a restrained smile. She wanted to bounce in excitement at her new possession, but that would be undignified before somepony who clearly valued propriety.

"You're welcome." Diamond smiled genuinely, "So do you want to play a game?"

They played board games and talked like normal little fillies for several hours, never once bringing up the bratty pink filly's judgmental take on the other's home and upbringing, before she had to go. That triggered another frank discussion about hospitality and how Silver Spoon should have been prepared to stay for lunch and tea, minimally, so as to not insult her host, but she understood that she didn't know that so it was okay this time.

She visited her once more several days later, not too soon so as to let on how charmed she was with the previously objectionable filly, and it was much the same. Diamond Tiara would say something that the less socially ept filly would react to in an unsatisfactory manner and then she would calmly explain to her how she was meant to act in that situation, as if Silver Spoon were a little foal and she was her governess. It was a strange dynamic, but Silver Spoon guessed she really did have her best interests in mind. She even insulted her several times in what might pass for a jovial manner had the home schooled filly been more worldly, but then Diamond explained how she should counter her barbs and waited patiently as she stumbled for something witty with which to retort. It was clear to Silver Spoon that she was being groomed. She found that she was not opposed to it.

On the next occasion Silver Spoon was turned away by the bald old gentlestallion butler, but not without the barest explanation. Diamond Tiara had been sent away until school resumed in the fall.

"Mister Rich has it in mind that his daughter should be versed to run in the highest circles of Canterlot or Manehattan, a task he feels the local school incapable of equipping the young lady for." The butler informed her, "To that end she's been sent away for a time to a highly regarded finishing school in Canterlot to finish out the school year and attend the summer semester."

"She can't be happy about that." Silver Spoon guessed, from what little she knew of Diamond Tiara, she claimed Ponyville as her proper domain and being forced away from it, even to mingle with other well bred fillies of her ilk, wouldn't sit well with her. The fact that she hadn't even mentioned her impending departure irked Silver Spoon and it must have shown because the butler gave a further bit of explanation.

"The young lady wasn't intending to go," He revealed, "But the Canterlot School for Exceptional Fillies has been regarded by her father as a punitive measure since the young lady's mother departed us, and she has been sent there in just such a circumstance."

"You mean she got sent away because she got in trouble?"

"The young lady wouldn't approve of me divulging a great deal more, but that is just about the size of it. Good day." The butler shut the door gently to leave the filly reeling before it's carved panels. A budding friendship, nipped. Come fall, would Diamond Tiara even remember their short association or would she have moved on by then? The name of the school, though, was familiar and while Silver Spoon debated hotly with herself, claiming Diamond's departure as good riddance and wondering what she'd ever seen in the rude prima donna, she knew deep inside that she would talk to her parents and take the necessary step to chase after her to Canterlot. It only took her a few hours before she acted upon the impulse. Slightly quicker than she'd suspected.

Silver Spoon had been losing her audience, though her story thus far had been condensed into a few minutes of generalities and oversimplification rather than the full narrative. Diamond Tiara getting in trouble, though, brought her audience's attention right back.

"What did she do?" Scootaloo asked, as was her nature she came straight to the point.

"I remember her not finishing out the school year, that was the summer right afore she got her cutiemark, right after me and her had that last fight." Apple Bloom said, looking downcast, "But I never did hear what happened 'xactly. Rumor had something to do with Archer, if I 'member right."

She'd gotten in trouble for making Archer cry in front of both of their families at a garden party as it turned out. Silver Spoon heard it as third hoof gossip, but from a reliable source, the Rich's zebra cook who she'd befriended in a bid to discover the nature of Diamond Tiara's crimes.

Archer had been bragging about her cutie mark and Diamond was still a blank flank at the time. Even though it was just innocent pride on Archer's part, not intended as an attack against her, she retaliated in typical Diamond Tiara fashion.

"Are you kidding? I'm glad I'm not tied down by a cutie mark yet." She'd reportedly said with a scoff, "All a cutie mark does is limit what you can do because no matter what you do or care about in the future you're always going to be known for this one dumb thing that you loved when you were a foal. Good luck being a CEO or the mayor with a toy bow and arrow on your rump. Phht...The guards don't even use longbows anymore."

"You're pretty much stuck training forever just to compete for one day at the Equestria games. That's a lot of pressure, your whole destiny hinging on one shot made on one day and if you miss...If you miss your whole life up to that point will have been for nothing, a joke. I'd choke, I think. You probably will too, don't you suppose? Maybe you can get a job as a security guard or a telemarketer or something in between times. I'm sure glad I haven't gotten one of those marks to steal away my potential and ruin my life yet. If I have anything to say about it I'll be the very last one to get one."

Scootaloo's laughter interrupted the story and Sweetie Belle asked, wide eyed, "Did Diamond Tiara really say that? I thought she wanted a cutie mark worse than all the rest of us."

"Aw, that filly will say anything that comes into her head that she thinks will hurt somepony's feelings. She's such a hippogriff." Scootaloo said.

"Hypocrite." Sweetie Belle corrected only to be scowled at.

"I think she really believed it, at the time. Mr. Rich told Archer's family that she was just jealous, maybe that's the case, but on the other hoof, there's some truth in what she said, don't you think?" Silver Spoon pondered, aloud.

"No ah don't think there's much truth in anything that filly says. She jest wants to hurt ponies to make herself feel big and in charge." Apple Bloom growled.

"I think I remember hearing about this." Scootaloo asked, "Both of you got your cutie marks over that summer, right? You told the class about it in the fall after it happened, when you gave up on homeschooling and joined our class for good, right? I've been wondering about those marks anyway. How do you manage to get a cutie mark in being a stuck up, spoiled brat?" Purple eyes glared from behind thick rimmed glasses, but Scootaloo didn't back down much, "That's what you two told us it meant, that you were meant to be pampered and served. Diamond said hers meant that she was supposed to be a princess and rule an empire of her own someday, which sounds pretty stupid to me. I mean what, was she playing at being a princess when she got it? That could just mean her special talent is pretending to be royalty."

"Ooh!" Sweetie Belle howled, "Maybe that means she'll grow up to be a changeling! That's what they do, right? Pretend to be princesses?"

"You're a changeling or you ain't. It ain't a thing you can work your way into." Apple Bloom said.

"Oh. So you think she's already a changeling?" Scootaloo asked. Silver Spoon wasn't sure if she was asking ironically or not. From the look on Apple Bloom's face she couldn't tell either.

"No, she ain't a changeling and so far as I figure she ain't a princess either. I doubt she ever will be 'less she grows up to marry Prince Blueblood or somepony of that sort." She looked to Silver Spoon, "You think that's what it means?"

"Do I think that marrying into royalty is her special talent?" The three blank flanks nodded, "No, I don't, but that's because I know what it really is. It's kind of what I'd been building up to if you hadn't interrupted."

Dainty Daisy's School for Exceptional Fillies tended to have the headmaster's name replaced with 'Canterlot' by those who bragged of attending it or sending their foals there. Largely it was a concerted attempt to equate it in status with Celestia's own school. With some heavyweight alumni whose supply of bits were nigh unlimited the school had acquired the famous lunar cultist hall just blocks from the castle itself. Once the massive and florid monstrosity had housed dormitories full of overgrown colts, who well into middle age dabbled with the pomp and ceremony of supposedly dark rituals. In point of fact it tended towards an overhyped game of grabflank with strong homo-erotic undertones. Regardless, the building had been acquired, fitted out in dark, luxurious trappings in a distinctly Stirropean style and given over to the cream of Canterlotian fillies.

Down the formerly dimly lit marble corridors, once lined with masks, robes and archaic torture devices, now with beige metal lockers stacked two high, shrill voices tinged with malice rang.

"Lift your hooves stumblebum!" Silver Spoon heard yelled from a gaggle of fillies loitering in a clump along one side of the hallway. A telltale thump and grunt was followed by them calling out, "Have a nice trip!" and a chorused, "See you next fall!" before the laughing herd moved off, their humiliating entertainment having been enacted upon their victim. This sort of schoolyard teasing was unknown to the home schooled filly and she moved to investigate the ostracized student before she even knew it was the object of her short lived search of the campus.

There, sprawled before her, gathering up her books and pencils that had been cruelly slapped from her hooves, was a pale pink pony with a white striped lavender mane. Without thought or hesitation Silver Spoon reached down to help her gather her errant supplies and give her a hoof up.

"They got you too?" Diamond asked, only to have a blank look returned, "Your parents? You acted up and they sent you here as punishment, too?"

"Um...yeah." The grey filly resettled her glasses on her nose and looked askance.

"Figures. My father's been using this place as a threat so often lately, I think I would have ended up here this summer no matter what." Diamond sighed, opening a nearby locker and storing her books within. It was hard to miss the mismatched blotches of fresh paint on the door that were indicative of covered over graffiti, "At least it's the summer semester now, when the classes are a lot more lax and some of the fillies who are here year round take some time off. I really could do without being trapped here with them too."

"Are they always like that?" Silver Spoon asked and Diamond nodded once, her ears folded back, "I don't think I could put up with that for a whole summer."

The pink filly's eyes roamed, appraisingly watching another small group of fillies flit by, jabbering and happy, then she huffed, "You get used to it, I guess. Welcome to my own personal Tartarus."

"But...why? You're just as good as any of these fillies, right? What have they got against you anyway?"

Diamond looked incredulous, "You don't get out much do you? The name Filthy Rich means something in Ponyville, someday my name will too, but these fillies all belong to old families, unicorn familes. I might be a barracuda among goldfish back home, but these are fillies are sharks no matter where they are. They know it and they won't let you forget it, and you? You're chum, a babe in the woods. You're going to get it twice as bad and I feel for you. I really do."

"Well...maybe together, we could stand up to them?" Silver Spoon suggested, it being a golden opportunity to prove herself.

"No. Look, Silver Spoon, I like you, I really do. You're a good filly, but you shouldn't have come here. There's only one strategy you can use here and that's to be inconspicuous and non-threatening. If you're not part of a clique you have to keep your head down, don't talk to anypony, and I mean anypony, including me. If they find out we're friends they'll just find some way to use it against us. The one thing you definitely don't do is try to stand up to them."

Silver Spoon snorted, "They're just a bunch of spoiled little rich fillies, how bad could they be?"

"You'll see." Her friend cryptically replied as she slipped off down the hall into a knot of students and disappeared.

The School for Exceptional Fillies was meant to be a getaway for Silver Spoon. A place she could relax and dabble with various hobbies and crafts that substituted for proper classes during the summer. It was meant to be a school to round out an upper class filly's education with a basic knowledge of many things, to make proper little dilettantes of them all. The classes weren't taken too seriously by the students as they were all wealthy enough that any actual skill they managed to posses was a gilding of the lily rather than a means of earning an income.

Diamond Tiara spent Silver Spoon's whole first week sulking, only being drawn out of her shell long enough to verbally spar with the other students when they started to torment her and if she got the upper hoof in it usually ended with a physical confrontation in which the well trained unicorn magic of her adversaries always won out.

In front of Silver Spoon, her friend was stuffed in a locker twice, once in a students desk and once in a filing cabinet. She'd been forced to eat a locust, had globs of tar pressed into her coat and she'd been dragged kicking and screaming into the bathroom daily, only to emerge with a wet mane and a look of burning fury. Silver Spoon was aware that violent things happened to her friend at night as well, but she wasn't sure just what precisely.

She knew it had been a mistake to pursue a whim and chase her friend there, but for a while they'd left the school's only other Ponyvillian earth pony alone as an unknown and largely immaterial creature. It was only after she was forced to intervene that she'd inextricably linked their fates and torments together.

They'd tied Diamond Tiara's mane to the monkey bars and left her hanging by her elbows, without the strength to pull herself back up and tethered by her long, formerly luxurious mane. Sooner or later her strength would give out and she'd be left hanging by her hair and nopony was moving to help her. To the contrary, they all formed up ten yards off the rusted playground equipment in a loose circle, waiting with bated breath to see what would happen when she finally fell. Would her mane pull loose? Would it hold her? How loud and how long would she scream before one of the oblivious staff found her and would they cut her mane to free her? Even those who felt sorry for her longed to see that beautiful mane ruined, such was the jealousy and ill will engendered in that school.

None of these things happened in the end. Rather a grey filly with thick rimmed blue glasses ran out from the crowd and positioned herself below her embattled friend long enough that she could stand on her back and untie her own mane with no damage done and jump down with a grunt of thanks.

All eyes were still upon them and a trio of unicorn fillies emerged from the crowd, headed towards them.

"Primrose." Diamond Tiara growled and widened her hooves into a fighting stance. A magenta aura flared long enough to pull a hoof from beneath her and the three giggled at her stumbling to the ground. Silver Spoon stepped up to her friend's side, nostrils flared and eyes narrowed. She'd had no occasion to fight, but liked her odds simply because she was a lithe and athletic earth pony, whereas Primrose was a fairly twiggy unicorn. Magic aside, she had a massive advantage in a fight, but magic is a killer she realized belatedly as a pale yellow aura whipped her glasses from her face and dashed them against the ground. Her nearsightedness was severe enough to handicap her severely, but she stood her ground and feigned disinterest in her lost glasses.

"Diamond Tiara. Who said it was okay to have your marefriend here interfere?" Primrose demanded.

"Well you had both of your skanky little hussies with you, aren't I allowed one too?" Diamond shot back and was instantly overtaken by the canary yellow bully and her two lackeys. Silver Spoon's hooves were rooted to the ground and she was roughly hoofed across the face.

"I keep putting out warnings, but you filthy ground pounders keep showing up at my school." Primrose shook her head, goldenrod mane whipping majestically, "Where were you from? Ponyville? Blankflanks from Ponyville, they really should know to keep their foals at home."

"We're not some helpless little foals you can treat like this!" Silver Spoon snarled and manage to rip one hoof free of the aura holding it. She swung wildly at her captor, but was stopped well short by another bit of magic holding her hoof aloft.

"Aw, look, the little foals want to play patty cake!" Her accomplices snickered, "Let's help them out." The two earth ponies' hooves were wrenched up and clapped together in a pattern, "Bump, Bump..." Then their elbows were twisted and clunked together with a jarring jolt of pain, "...sugar lump, rump!" The pattern was ended by their flanks being banged together seemingly as easily as clapping erasers, but hard enough that they were both bruised the next day, "That's the shuck and jive the little mule babies used to do and it looks just right for a couple of blank flanked backwater bumpkins like yourselves, so everytime I see you, you best show me that you're good little foals and dance for me, or else. You got it?"

She didn't wait for an answer, Miss Dainty Daisy, the headmaster was breaking through the crowd and shooing off the gawkers. Primrose tried to slip off with everypony else, "Not you, young lady." The headmaster sternly said, "Something tells me you're at the center of this."

"She sure is!" Silver Spoon started, only to be elbowed by Diamond Tiara.

"Hey," she whispered, "You can't tell on them, they never get in trouble and they'll only make it worse for you."

"I don't care." Silver Spoon whispered back harshly.

"I do! They'll make it worse for me! Even worse than today, just let it go."

"How did this happen?" Miss Dainty Daisy asked, her magic holding up the mangled plastic frames with their one scratched up lens.

"It was an accident." Primrose said.

"Yeah, sure." Silver Spoon mumbled.

"What was that?" The headmaster leaned in.

"Yeah, it was, I'm sure it was." Silver Spoon said flatly.

"Yes, well why don't you fix it then, Primrose?" Miss Dainty Daisy hoofed the glasses over and though the yellow filly rolled her eyes, she also magically reassembled the glasses as if they'd never been broken. The two Ponyvillians came to realize in this way that their adversary was a truly prodigious user of magic and having fixed the glasses and given them back, the teacher had thought everything settled and left them be.

They tried to stay apart, because when they were discovered together by Primrose or her henchmares, Snowbell and Jasmine, they were violently forced to dance the humiliating little dance. Soon they discovered that if they did it voluntarily there was no reason for the bullies to abuse them with their magic.

"Bump, bump, sugarlump, rump." They repeated unenthusiastically for the fifth time that day. Snowbell nodded in smug satisfaction and moved on.

"I'm about sick of this." Diamond Tiara said, "Look, we're just going to have to take different classes so we're not seen together so much."

"I...I kind of agree." Silver Spoon admitted sadly.

"Yeah, well, I'm going to try to get in with the club that's planning the summer wrap up pageant, maybe the theater nerds need help. You should try to stay on this side of the school. Maybe take that literature class? Anyway, keep your head down and ciao for now!" Then she galloped off to hide amongst the drama freaks.

Diamond had no respite in the night either, her dorm likewise being occupied by her enemies, where Silver Spoon lucked into a fairly tame arrangement with a trio of fillies so elevated in their self estimation that they ignored her entirely. The cafeteria and the classrooms were still a battlefield and without her friend, Silver Spoon didn't see much point in the school and simply chose one of the most sparsely occupied classrooms. The first one was, in fact, the literature class, but it already had an established clique who'd taken it over and they quickly laid into her.

"Silver Spoon, huh?" One unicorn filly had idly taunted, "Does that mean you're going to be a great cook? Maybe I'll hire you to work in my kitchen if you turn out to be any good, not that I really like having earth ponies around, but maybe I'll make an exception for you."

"No, no." Another filly corrected, "I bet she's going to be a maid, and that's fine. It's hard to find somepony who can do a proper job polishing the silver."

"You've both got it wrong. Silver spoons are what you feed babies with, she's probably going to be a nanny her whole life. Those glasses, that hair, she already looks like some old spinster, right?" One more chimed in and they all laughed. Before Diamond's influence she would have just shrugged it off, told them that she didn't know what it meant yet and weathered the storm until they got bored. Somehow she couldn't now, but neither did her her few retorts come out as anything more than tepid, so she sought out a more secluded refuge.

There was every sort of class in the place. Flower arranging, basket weaving, cooking and baking in every variety, sewing and every sport deemed sufficiently mild for little ladies to participate in, which eliminates the bulk of them immediately. She chose the only class that currently had no other students. It was a jewelry making and fine metalworking class and on the first day she was shown how to solder silver stock together and polish out the joints. On the second day she learned chasing and engraving.

They were meant to rotate through the classes, spending a half day in each. In practice everypony just went to whatever class their friends were attending and stayed there. Since Silver Spoon was the sole occupant of the class nopony seemed too interested. In a week She'd mastered the basic metalworking skills and made an ornate, footed bowl with a hinged lid. She engraved her initials on it and decided that it was a sugar bowl, so she made a duplicate but with no lid and a little spout to be a creamer.

About halfway through forming and soldering the plates that would be a teapot together, Diamond Tiara showed up in class so taciturn and gloomy that Silver Spoon hadn't noticed her come in and she hadn't said anything by way of greeting. Her eyes were puffy and she was frustratedly trying to fit the pin back on an overly ornate broach and not managing very well. The teacher was distracted, possibly asleep and when her friend finally took notice of her with a start she immediately walked over to help her.

"Like this." Silver Spoon said simply and showed her how to clean the surfaces, flux, solder, file and finally polish. By the time they were done you couldn't tell it had ever been broken. Diamond thanked her friend, then left with only the minimum number of words exchanged between the two, such was her apparent depression. It was finally found out from overheard gossip that it hadn't been her broach at all. She'd been arguing against a herd of the other fillies on the stagecraft crew and knocked it off of one of their dresses and the whole group of them had demanded that she fix it, or else. Or else what, besides expulsion back into the wilds of the school at large, was not too awfully well defined .

She didn't come back in the afternoon, nor the next morning, but the following afternoon she was there. Things had gotten rough for both of them. Diamond Tiara more so as Silver Spoon had taken to simply hiding with her growing tea service. Diamond Tiara, however, seemed bound to expose herself to the harsh taunting of the other fillies rather than face a relatively comfortable seclusion. Their only choice had been to flit around like ghosts, pretending to be transparent. It met with limited success. At various times both of them had been tripped, had their lunch trays snatched away only to be spit in and returned and on two occasions, even in her relatively safe dorm, Silver Spoon awoke with her hoof in a bowl of warm water and for the record, yes, that prank seemed to work. Having repaired one piece of jewelry, Diamond had been drafted by the drama fillies to make the same sort of repair to another one.

"Do you need help?" Silver Spoon asked her, looking over at the pendant that had lost it's loop. It was a frilly bit of gold set with a single moderately sized stone, "Oh, is that a real diamond?"

"You can't tell?"

"No, not really. It looks the same as the glass ones to me." She admitted and pulled a drawer loose from the cubby holed wooden supply chest. It was filled with loose rhinestones and she tipped it out on the table, picked one out and rolled it next to the diamond, "See? Looks the same to me."

"No, they don't look the same at all. The real diamond sparkles more and the facets have sharper edges. I can tell right away which one's fake." She scowled at the mock stone for a moment, "Huh, let's find out if she can tell the difference." Then she carefully worked the real diamond loose and fitted the fake one in it's place. Then she scooped up all the rhinestones with the diamond and dumped them back in the drawer with a giggle.

From that day on the two were together for most of the day, with Diamond still spending some time with the stagecraft crew, preparing for the pageant. Silver Spoon worked on her tea service, which was coming along quicker than she had any right to expect, and Diamond was fixing her classmate's jewelry, swapping rhinestones for real stones as the opportunity presented itself. Once she had five of them of a suitable size she quit working on the other student's things and started bending and soldering a delicate frame of pure silver barstock.

Once her rudimentary metalworking skills were widely known, she'd been volunteered to make the trophy for beauty pageant, a rhinestone studded halo of a crown. It was traditionally done by the jewelry making class, but Silver Spoon had been it's only regular attendee and she had shrugged it off when the teacher mentioned it and he didn't bother to press the issue, he didn't really care.

Halfway through the summer she'd finished her tea service and had embellished the tray with piercings, engravings and all manner of filigree. She didn't want it to be done because she couldn't think of anything else she wanted to make but didn't want to leave Diamond Tiara's side, even though she'd been quite reserved the whole time. Her spirits had been improved by getting one over on the snobby little rich fillies who couldn't tell glass from a diamond and her own little project progressed quickly. They'd taken to sticking together and when the bullies hassled them they verbally tag teamed them and usually came out on top, so long as Primrose and her crew weren't around, then it was right back to Bump, bump, sugarlump, rump, the humiliating ritual they'd been forced into to prove their subservience.

It was odd in that, even having been bullied rather badly, Silver Spoon didn't really know how to be a bully herself and Diamond, having had longer to study the subject would have to prompt her, often out loud in front of their target, "Okay Silver Spoon, now call her a worthless blank flank and show her your new cutie mark." Because once she'd notched the sugar bowl's lid she made a fancy spoon to fit it and had really gone all out and when she was finished and dropped it in place, the set complete, Diamond gasped. Silver Spoon's cutie mark had appeared. It's not something that marked her to be a part of the idle rich. Not a bit of it. Much to her shame it's a metalworking cutie mark.

Though it was nearly finished, needing only to be cleaned up and polished out, Diamond's project had taken a backseat. Another group of fillies had slowly filled the class with their own clique and even though they were mostly harmless given their own rising statuses, Silver Spoon and Diamond Tiara let themselves be displaced. They cycled through some of the other classes and settled into the now deserted literature appreciation course for a few days.

Diamond Tiara surprised her friend when she not only knew the same works she'd read, but was intimately familiar with them to the point that she could argue their merits with the instructor. When praised for it she just snorted derisively and said, "Nopony can read all that drivel and actually remember it. I've never read a novel in my life and I never will when it's so much easier to read the literary analysis in a few pages and have all the opinion I need."

"Somepony else's opinion." Silver Spoon rebutted, appalled at her casual dismissal of the literature she loved so much.

"Somepony whose whole life's work is to tell me what I should think about a book to look smart? I think I can deal with that." She took down a thick tome from the shelf and thumped it down on the table, "Okay, here's Dr. Jackal and Mr. Hide, go."


"Yeah, go." She sneered, "What's it about, what's your opinion of it?"

"Well..." The grey filly furrowed her brow for a moment and rubbed her hoof across the worn brown cover as if she could pull her opinions forth by osmosis, "There's this mule who comes up with a potion that turns him into a diamond dog..."

"No, not a plot summary." Diamond pounded a hoof on the book, "Everypony knows that already, what's the point in it?"

"Oh, right, it's um...about the underlying bestial nature inherent in all of us and how we're ultimately slaves to it, no matter how civilized we think we are." She said at length, having had to rerun the story in her head and assemble it's moral from that.

"But what did you think of it, the pacing, the style, all that?"

"I...I don't remember. I only read it last year, but I can't really say much about it." She admitted.

"It's pacing was so slow, like it was a short story that somepony stretched out to be something more than it was, and it was clunky. Even by the standards of the day it was clunky and it wandered around so much I could hardly get through it. If the underlying narrative wasn't such a stroke of genius it would have been banished to the dustbins of history." Diamond said eruditely, "Now, of course I've never read it, but I remember the critic's opinion about it well enough that nopony would doubt that I had, and I can remember it faster than you having to write a book report in your head. That makes me the victor if this were a normal conversation."

"Maybe, but you miss out on the joy of actually reading the book." her friend argued, as, in truth it's quite a compelling book.

"Nopony reads the classics to enjoy them. They read them so that they can pull out little references and quips to one up their peers at dinner parties." She scooped up and reshelved the book, thunking it neatly into it's slot, "Since that's all they're good for it's better to only have to remember a thousand words of condensed opinion than three hundred pages of unprocessed fiction. I mean, to you, maybe you can take the same joy in it that you'd get from solving a jigsaw puzzle, but I've got better things to do with my time than to solve riddles some other pony set out for me. If I want to read for pleasure I've got a whole stack of comics in a box under my bed."

That's when it hit Silver Spoon and she really understood, Diamond Tiara was simply and unabashedly all about appearances. She saw no true value in anything she could not immediately use, but saw the importance of maintaining the image of an accomplished little prodigy. That's not saying she's stupid, it takes somepony very clever to be as lazy as all that and to have thought out it's justifications so thoroughly.

"Get to the part where I give a buck," Scootaloo interrupted, "Because so far you're just giving us more reason to hate your little tyrant. Even if you were both bullied for three moons out of your whole life, is no reason to put us through it over and over again for the rest of ours."

"When we were younger Diamond went away somewhere every summer and wouldn't say much about it. I 'spect that wasn't the first time she'd been to that horrible school. Ah know where this is a'headin, though.'" Apple Bloom conjectured, "Diamond Tiara finished that crown in the metalworking shop and got her cutiemark for being a jeweler and she's all angsty that it's such a low station in life for somepony so dang glorious as her. Well I tell you that it's at least an honest trade, not that I cotton to puttin' so much value in sparkly rocks as some ponies, but it's about as akin to respectable as that filly's likely to get."

"No. It's true enough that the tiara on her flank's the same one she made and the same one she wears..."

"Full o' stolen diamonds." Apple Bloom interjected.

Silver Spoon shrugged, ears back because she had stolen them, but because it was symbolic and ironic, not because she actually lusted after diamonds in some felonious manner, "My point is that she got her cutiemark at the pageant they hold on the next to last day of camp, right on stage in front of everypony, and it didn't go as well as you might have thought."

By the end of the summer Diamond and Silver Spoon had gone from utter pariahs and outcasts to two of the more dominant fillies that ran the halls. As a team they had power and they had a chance. The two had strategized and Silver Spoon had gone so far as to read books on the subject, using them to be a more effective bully, which was the opposite of their intent. By bullying those who'd bullied them they gained status amongst their peers and Diamond slowly worked herself up to being the dark horse to win the beauty pageant. It was a popularity contest, sure, but despite her supposed popularity, everypony seemed to want to see Primrose, the main opposition, taken down a peg. Even after a bout of unfortunate illness that left her magic much weakened she gained very little in the way of sympathy because Diamond Tiara heavily implied and let it be spread around that she'd been the one who had slipped the ground up mithril into her drink. Silver Spoon had a good account that it hadn't happened that way at all, but anything which sidelined Primrose and her ilk and let them run the halls unmolested was fine by her.

It should have been a moment of triumph. A tiara she'd won sat upon her head, a tiara she'd made from scratch freshly emblazoned on her flank, a bouquet of roses pressed against her chest as she smiled that cheesy holding-back-tears-of-joy smile that beauty queens were the unique masters of. Silver Spoon surmounted the stage as the lights dimmed and ironically performed their formerly hated greeting as a rebellious victory dance.

"Bump, bump, sugarlump, rump!" They recited and went through the motions, laughing aloud as they finished. All things being equal, the reaction should have had those other bullies stalking off defeated, but it didn't play out that way.

The other competitors along with Primrose, Snowbell and Jasmine, in lieu of congratulating her with gracious falseness as is traditional, whispered and tittered amongst themselves until the half dozen of them were screaming with hilarious laughter. Diamond Tiara's face fell. Loathing blossomed on it as she turned on them.

"What's so Celestia damned funny?" She growled as the curtain fell. It took several moments before they could control themselves enough to respond. Primrose, stripped of her magic but not her attitude, stepped forward to speak for the group.

"You are, strutting around looking prissy and oh so pleased with yourself for winning that cheap bit of costume jewelry and finding out it's your special talent."

"It's a beauty contest, strutting around looking prissy is what you're supposed to do, and being prettier than you, well that's just not that hard. Nearly anypony could do it, with the exception of these trolls you're dragging along." Diamond Tiara retorted deftly.

"Whatever. All we were saying is that it's just as well you're good at this sort of thing, you'll probably be doing a lot of it." The filly said, though Diamond couldn't make head nor tail of what she was getting at. Her confusion must have shown, "Seriously, think about it. You're Filthy Rich's daughter, right? So you'll be in every beauty contest, ribbon cutting and dog show in that no horse town of yours, and the whole time you'll be smiling that plastic smile, shilling for Bargain Barn. It's just sad, is all. If you'd gotten a cutiemark in pretty much anything else, maybe you could have gotten out, but you didn't and now you're stuck singing the praises of the blue light special and double discount Tuesday forever."

When Diamond left the stage her smile had wilted and her tears were no longer ones of joy, somehow they'd parsed out the little filly's greatest fear and turned it's agonizing knife edge back on her.

The next day the camp ended on a sour note. That little filly that had temporarily lost her magic and spoken against Diamond had fallen down a flight of stairs and, among other things, lost a number of teeth. She swears she clumsily slipped and fell, and Diamond never said otherwise, but coincidences are a largely fictional occurrence.

Author's Note:

Silver Spoon was smart enough not to use the "Her father's an inattentive plot hole and her mother's dead." argument as that probably wouldn't have gone over well with Apple Bloom, and maybe with Scootaloo either.
Is Diamond Tiara's mother dead, or just left town or what? I don't know and it's also possible Silver Spoon wouldn't either. She seems like she wouldn't pry into that sort of thing unless Diamond initiated it and I'm too scared of the both of them to try and find out.

Sorry that turned out to be so long. The two remaining chapters are half that length.