• Published 24th Sep 2014
  • 4,505 Views, 112 Comments

The Mare Behind the Mare - Eakin

Thrown into an entirely unfamiliar world of intrigue and politics, Princess Twilight finds herself struggling to adjust. Luckily, Rarity is there to help her adapt.

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The Mare Behind the Mare


It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

“Princess Twilight, I humbly beg that you reconsider,” says the Duke of Trottingham, dressed up in a finely tailored suit. Posh. Timeless. Well cared for, despite the fact that the stitching around the pockets dates it rather severely. At least twenty years old. A suit with history behind it. The crest bears his family coat of arms, two pegasi with crossed spears and wreathed in the laurels of victory. Everything about that suit tells me that this is a stallion who’s proud of his lineage and not afraid to show it.

I glance over at Twilight, up there on her throne. She isn’t looking at the Duke, and that’s her first mistake. Her attention is focused on a dusty old tome suspended in her magic, one she has undoubtedly already read cover to cover. It’s an unintended and innocent snub, the dear simply wants to make sure she’s getting her facts precisely correct. As if that would matter in the least. She’s a voracious reader; well, I suppose it’s fair to say that we both are.

I simply prefer reading ponies to reading books.

I clear my throat with a gentle yet pointed cough, loud enough to be noticed without drawing attention. I’m far enough from the throne that although I remain faithfully by her side I am not seen to be by her side. Twilight registers the little signal we’ve arranged between us and looks up, noticing the Duke waiting for an answer. His wings twitch with poorly concealed irritation. Well, poorly concealed from me. Princess Twilight Sparkle either doesn’t notice or doesn’t allow her noticing to be noticed. Based on the last three days, I’m inclined to suspect the former. “I’m not really sure I understand your objection, Duke Tempest. The new evidence scholars have uncovered in the journals of Sergeant Thunderclap suggest that your great-grandfather, in point of fact, did not lead the Charge of the Flight Brigade he was famous for. Our parks department just wants to update the plaque under his statue to reflect that.”

“My great-grandfather served this kingdom faithfully for thirty years. Now you want to besmirch his honor?”

Twilight blinks a few times. My heart goes out to her, because I know that the sort of disrespect he’s implying (rather rudely, if I do say so myself) is the furthest thing from her mind. “Of course not, Duke. He accomplished many great things in service to Equestria. I don’t want to diminish his legacy, just correct a simple misunderstanding.”

“Well, the Charge of the Flight Brigade is by far what he’s best known for. I see no reason to change the plaque even if it isn’t strictly correct.”

Twilight’s eyes go a little wider, and I groan inwardly. This will be getting worse before it gets better. “But then it’ll be wrong,” says Twilight, as if nothing could be more terrifying. Perhaps to her that’s precisely the case. “What’s next? Museum exhibits that proclaim that up is down? That black is white? That pi is equal to three? You’re talking about sheer madness!”

“And you are talking about tearing down the stallion whose leadership was instrumental in repelling the worst diamond dog incursion in the last five hundred years!” The Duke’s temper is beginning to flare, and even Twilight’s picked up on the tension. I lean over to Plumed Quill, the creamy beige earth pony mare who is both Twilight’s assistant and my partner in crime for the duration of this little endeavor.

“Abort?” I whisper to her.

“I think that’s wise, Lady Rarity,” comes her hushed reply. Before Twilight can speak up again and the situation can escalate further, Plumed Quill steps forward and positions herself between Princess and Duke. “I’m afraid the Princess has a meeting with representatives of the Treasury, so we’ll have to cut this short.”

The Duke takes an aggressive step forward, but Plume is unyielding. The guards in their rather fetching gold and bronze armor may protect Twilight’s life, but Plumed Quill has guardianship over something arguably even more important: her time. “This matter has not yet been resolved to my satisfaction.”

I can see Twilight shift nervously in her seat, up there on the throne that’s built for much bigger ponies than she. She wants to give in to his demand, which is exactly the wrong thing to do. But that’s just Twilight to a T; there is a problem before her and the idea of leaving it unresolved galls her. I know it does. She just wants ponies to be happy, even if she has to undermine her own assistant and make herself look weak in order to do so. That’s why I only feel somewhat bad when I clear my throat and speak up. “Princess,” I mutter, as quietly as one can while still enunciating each syllable with exactly the necessary degree of emphasis, “you wouldn’t want to be tardy for your meeting, would you?”

Perhaps a little more than somewhat bad, but one does what one must.

Twilight’s twitch is too obvious, and I wince. She’s like a blind sparrow amongst hawks and eagles, and watching her flail about trying to keep her composure turns my stomach. We’ll have to find time to review the importance of maintaining one’s placid facade once more, somehow. “No, of course not. Duke Tempest, I’ll...” I silently will her to put her hoof down and declare her decision to be final, but it’s not to be, “...consider your objections and we’ll address this again once I’ve done some more research into the matter.”

With that the Duke, momentarily placated if not actually satisfied with the outcome, gives a bow that’s a few hairs shallower than the one he gave her when he entered. The small procession of guards and advisors that’s accompanying Twilight everywhere these days clumps up around her, with me following along on the periphery as we trot through the halls towards her office. I’m struck once again by her ability to hold three different conversations on wildly divergent topics all at the same time as her staff peppers her with facts, figures, and questions, This is the princess that Celestia knew she could be, here in her element soaking up information like a sponge on matters from military deployments to art grants to grammar school curriculums and thinking five steps ahead as naturally as most ponies breathe. Frustrating as a few of her mannerisms can be, it would be a lie of the highest order to claim I wasn’t proud to be her friend.

We reach her office, her last bastion of sanctuary against the insanity that swirls around the poor thing 24/7 these days. “Thank you all. Plumed Quill, will you let me know when the representative from the Treasury gets here? I’ll be going over the details of a proposal I want to discuss with him.”

“Of course, Princess.” Plumed Quill bows and the crowd disperses, leaving Twilight to walk into her office by herself. Nodding to the guards, I slip in after her.

Twilight is digging through a mountain of scrolls that covers the spot that, in theory, holds a desk somewhere under it all. Magic wraps around one particular foothill and the paperwork flows by her, each one being evaluated at a glance before flying off into one of the many filing cabinets adorning the walls. “Twilight?”

At the sound of my voice, she jolts and a scroll ends up being filed in a vase amidst a dozen chrysanthemums. “Rarity? Sorry, I didn’t realize you were still there.” She smiles at me but I can see the extra makeup she’s put on to hide the bags under her eyes. That had been an early suggestion: Never let those around you see weakness. Not until you commanded their respect, at least.

“Perhaps you should get a little rest, darling. Is there any way I can be helpful?”

She scoffs. “Feel like growing a pair of wings, dying your coat lavender, and being my decoy until I’m at least four hours away from here?”

Well, I do look absolutely smashing with wings. And alicorn wings are probably a good deal more heatproof than the ones I bore during the... incident... but seeing the gauntlet poor Twilight’s been run through did a great deal to stamp out whatever itty bitty teensy tiny speck of jealousy I might once have felt over her ascension to full-fledged Princess.

I think we both know in our heart of hearts that I’d pull off the royal wardrobe with a bit more flair, however.

“I’m afraid not, darling,” I say as I lift a brush and mirror from her end table and touch up her ever-so-slightly frazzled mane a tad. “Your treasury official would probably ask me to multiply 238 by 179 or somesuch, and the jig would be up before you even cleared the city limits.”

“I know, I know. I can’t run away from a responsibility like this. Celestia wouldn’t have made me a princess if it weren’t for my own good and the rest of ponykind’s, would she? I just didn’t realize it was going to be this hard,” she says as she rests her chin in the paperwork and relaxes under my ministrations. “Also, for the record, 42,602.”

Of course she’d know that. I idly wonder if she memorized it ages ago, or it just clicked in her mind during the tenth of a second she had to think about her reply. Which one would be more impressive? Perhaps the most impressive bit is that either explanation is entirely plausible. “Well, I think you’re doing a fine job. Everypony does.”

“I know at least one who doesn’t,” she mutters. I tilt the mirror so she won’t be able to see me grimace in the reflection. Twilight needs the one pony I know she’s referring to to believe in her. If she does, nopony else matters. If she doesn’t, no amount of support will be enough to prop her up.

A mare has to believe in herself.

“Why don’t you tell me about the meeting coming up with Treasury,” I suggest. Bury her in enough work and she’ll be able to ignore her own lack of confidence, at least for the time being. A short term solution at best.

“Well,” she begins, and sits up a little straighter as she collects herself. Magic nothing; facts and figures are Twilight’s true element. “You’re familiar with the tenth-bit coin, I assume?”

How could I not be? “I have a jar full of the things somewhere at home. Really must run that over to the bank and exchange it for more useful denomination once I’m back in Ponyville.”

“YES!” I can’t say I was anticipating the degree of enthusiasm with which she slams her hoof down. Granted, striking the pile of scrolls rather than the hard surface of the desk muffles the effect a tad, but still. “It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Nopony likes those things, and from an economic and commercial perspective they’re worse than useless. Do you know how much they cost to mint?”

“I can’t say I do.”

“A third of a bit! We put a third of a bit in and get a tenth of one out. That’s just... I can’t even... UGH! And don’t even get me started on the waste! Tons upon tons of zinc and copper go into those things. It could go to, y’know, anything else and have a more positive impact on Equestria.” Her righteous fury disappears as quickly as it came on, and she slumps down once more. Lower than before if I don’t miss my guess, and I so rarely do. “Treasury’s humoring me. They’re sending somepony over to tell me that there’s too many ponies who like the coins, or too much political opposition, or... whatever. They won’t change it. They’re just going to keep on throwing good money after bad.” She sighs. “That’s this entire thing in a nutshell, isn’t it? Who’s worth more: the new Princess, or a tenth-bit coin? Apparently the coin.”

I’m getting the sense that this may, just may, be about more than currency. “Well they’re absolutely wrong, then. You just... you have to find your moment.”

Her ears perk up a bit, and one of her eyebrows makes a break for the ceiling. “My moment?”

“Precisely!” I do hope my enthusiasm does a presentable job at disguising the fact that I have little to no idea what I’m trying to say. Perhaps I can find inspiration in the total lack of the thing I’m searching for, what a neat trick that would be. “Even if right now you sometimes feel that you’re, well, ‘faking it’ sounds like such a deceptive thing. But I promise you, there will be a moment. A moment when the stars align and the pieces fall into place. A moment when all your preparation and the hours of work and study I know you’ve poured into this pay off and you’ll know, truly know, that you belong upon that throne. Does that make sense?”

Twilight’s outwardly skeptical look is a fine match for the feelings I’m concealing myself, but she’s not the only pony adept at faking. Not by a long shot, I’d dare say. “That sounds nice, and I hope you’re right, but...” she trails off, far from convinced. There’s nothing I can say to her at this juncture to change that. “Look, you don’t have to hang around here if you don’t want to. You have that interview, right?”

I do indeed have business elsewhere, luckily not far from here. My dresses won’t sell themselves, regardless of their obvious quality, and Twilight’s press secretary was kind enough to arrange for me to speak to a reporter from the Canterlot Record regarding my new line. Not that I would ever take advantage of Twilight’s friendship for material gain, naturally, but connections to royalty come with certain perks. Still, I’m not going to let her shoo me away quite that easily and I raise an eyebrow. “You’ll be fine taking the upcoming meeting yourself, then? Do try to keep it on topic. I trust I won’t return in an hour to find you chatting away about organic chemistry like you were during that ‘quick briefing’ with Dotted Line last week.”

She huffs, acting all indignant to cover the guilty look flashing across her face. “That was a one time thing. The new journal article had just come out the day before, and I had to talk about it with somepony.”

“Well he has plenty of other responsibilities, and no time to spend business hours on such things. He was simply too polite to say so to your face. Really, Twilight, you must be more considerate of others’ time and anticipate their needs. It’s a very important part of your new role.”

Perhaps that came off a bit more critical than I meant it to. It’s a fine line to walk between coddling and berating, and one I may have strayed from just a touch every so often. Twilight’s ears droop. “Sorry. I’m trying my hardest, but it’s just...” she sighs and gamely collects herself to begin to prepare for the meeting at hoof. “I’ll do better. Like you said, just need to find my moment, right?”

That’s the spirit. I bid her farewell and hope against hope that my ‘moment’ idea ends up doing more good than harm. At least it lifted her spirits. Progressing through the halls of the palace I begin to mentally rehearse what I plan to say about my new line. I’ve spoken to Spun Yarn before, and she’s a joy to talk to. A former seamstress herself before she began working as a writer, she’s an insightful and curious mare with a good head on her shoulders and a hoof on the pulse of Canterlot’s fashion scene. I couldn’t ask for a better mare to present my new dresses to the world.

Unfortunately, when I reach the press office at precisely the time we’d discussed she’s nowhere to be seen. Instead, an earth pony stallion with a notepad for a cutie mark seated towards the corner gives a belabored sigh and rises to his hooves. His sneer is openly contemptuous towards me and really quite rude. “Are you Rarity?”

“I am, yes!” Unlike some ponies, just because I dislike an individual doesn’t mean I’d do them the disservice of treating them poorly. An attitude that’s clearly not shared by this stallion as he rolls his eyes. “Is Spun Yarn running late? I thought she’d be the one interviewing me.”

“She’s not coming. Daughter came down with the flu. My name’s Copy Paste.” He gives my outstretched hoof a rather perfunctory bump and pulls out a notepad to match the one on his flank. “Look, let’s just get this over with so I can get back to covering some real news and not just a bunch of ponies playing dress up.”

It’s a supreme effort to hold back a half-dozen biting retorts that bubble up in the face of such an openly dismissive attitude. Hopefully, the next hour won’t be that bad.


Fifteen minutes into our chat, and it’s rapidly becoming apparent that it wasn’t as bad as I feared. Unfortunately, that’s only because it’s much, much worse.

Copy Paste’s attitude, far from improving, deteriorates as it becomes increasingly obvious he has no mind for fashion and doesn’t care to. What few notes he does take as I speak are undoubtedly the wrong things to focus upon, and I’ll be reading an unimaginative and by-the-numbers writeup of this conversation in tomorrow’s paper. If the article even runs at all.

I can discuss dress forms and color theory in my sleep, especially with a conversational partner who doesn’t know any better, so my mind begins to wander. I wonder how Twilight’s meeting is going? From the sound of things it’s likely as big a disappointment as this one. My thoughts linger on what I told her about ‘her moment.’ What was I thinking? Opportunities don’t just magically present themselves to us just because we want them to. We must make them ourselves.

Or, failing that, make them for one another.

I pause mid-sentence, not that Copy Paste notices or cares. No doubt thinking about the ‘real news’ he’ll be going on to cover later today. Perhaps...

Hmm... now there’s an idea. A grand scheme, though of course I would never do anything so base and coarse that the word ‘scheme’ would be appropriate. It would just be a... suggestion. Strictly speaking, it wouldn’t even be a lie, and Copy Paste would probably thank me for it. Let’s see if I can get away with it.

“...and of course the whole skirt is reinforced so as to keep its shape while the wearer moves about the dance floor,” I tell a blatantly disinterested Copy Paste. “Originally I was going to use copper wiring for the effect, but I had to scrap that idea. What with all the recent goings on, it just didn’t seem appropriate.” I make my eyes go a bit wide and cover my mouth with a hoof. Come on, he must be noticing this. If this pause were any more pregnant there would be discreet inquiries made about the subject of paternity. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring that up. I’m not at liberty to talk about it.”

Copy Paste’s ears perk up, proving that at least he isn’t entirely unfit for the profession he’s chosen. “Can’t talk about copper wires? Why not?”

“I really can’t say,” I say through an obviously fake and uncomfortable smile. “What sort of friend would I be if I betrayed another’s trust? And of one of the Princesses, no less.”

“Are you saying that Princess Twilight Sparkle has ordered you not to discuss something? Something involving copper?”

I feign shock at the very idea. “Why, of course not! Besides, I don’t even understand what I overheard. I can assure you that she’s consulting with the very best advisors and experts in the field and she’s taking the unfolding events very, very seriously. A great deal of it goes over my head, I’m afraid. All this talk of shortages and declining production output doesn’t mean very much to a simple dressmaker like myself.” I even throw in a little ‘tee hee’ giggle to punctuate that, which may be a tad overdoing it, but oh well. Copy Paste’s quill is scribbling furiously on his notepad now, the seed firmly in place. “But you don’t care about a silly thing like that, do you? Oh, I simply must tell you all about the inspiration for the new swimsuit I’m designing for a client. It’s just the funniest story...”


Twilight is running late for our lunch appointment the following day. I amuse myself in the palace while I wait, the very picture of the patient guest. I have a hunch she’s having something of a rough morning. When she finally arrives in the dining hall nearly a half-hour later than I was expecting her, she looks like she’s running on a great deal of caffeine, her hooves tapping frantically on the surface of the table as she joins me.

“Busy day?” I ask her as I take a small forkful of watercress on my fork and bite down on it. It is, of course, exquisite. I really must find time to slip back into the kitchens and offer the chefs my compliments in person.

“You have no idea,” mumbles Twilight, somewhat incorrectly. “It’s the weirdest thing. The price of copper futures spiked eight percent in overnight trading, and nopony seems to know why. I just had a meeting with my economic advisor, have you met him?”

“Tulip Bulb, yes?” I remember the pony in question quite clearly. As nervous a bundle of energy as Twilight herself at the moment, white feathers of his wings perpetually stained with ink.

“Right. He says if something isn’t done the price could double by the end of the month. Double!”

“Well, we certainly can’t have that,” I say. I must admit that I have no idea if the price of copper doubling would be a good or bad thing, but it’s clearly an outcome Twilight doesn’t want to see happen.

Twilight seems to notice the food in front of her for the first time since she walked in, and immediately scoops up a huge mouthful. She catches the look I’m giving her and at least has the decency to look a bit sheepish. “Thorry,” she says through a mouthful of food. “Thkipped breakfetht.” She swallows her food before going on. “What do you think I should do? There are all these rumors going around about shortages, and I have to put out a statement that they aren’t true.”

“Oh,” I say. Twilight’s eyes are locked on my face studying my reaction, so it takes only the slightest hint of a frown to get her to pick up on it. “That’s... an interesting approach.”

“You don’t think I should? Why not?” she asks.

“Well, of course I’m not saying that,” I lie, “I just think you should be careful how you phrase it. Do you know for sure that there isn’t a shortage?”

Twilight ponders that for a moment. “Well, I’ve been looking through the data, but it’s a couple years out of date. There’s no evidence of any shortage, though, at least none that I can find.”

“Well,” I point out as I take a sip from my water glass. I pause to savor it, leaving Twilight hanging in anticipation for me to go on, “it really wouldn’t do for you to come out and say there’s no shortage only for it to turn out that there is one. Think of what ponies would accuse you of. It would look like a cover up.”

“But... but I’m not covering anything up!” she protests, as if I’m levying any accusations at her. She really is high strung today.

“Well, of course you’re not, dear, but think of how it might look. From the outside, I mean. But I do agree that you must say something. It would be easier to put out a conservative statement and then expand on it later rather than overstep and have to walk it back, would it not?”

“I guess...” says Twilight, not sounding completely convinced.

“For example, why don’t you phrase it something like... hmmm...” As if I don’t already know exactly the words to use. “The most recent data does not conclusively prove that any shortages that may exist are anything more than a transitory and localized decline in output. Emergency rationing measures have not been implemented for the time being.”

“Emergency rationing?” asks Twilight, somewhat skeptical, “I don’t think there are any rumors of rationing going around.”

“Even better, then. Nip that sort of thing in the bud before it can even get started.” The timing of the approaching waiter couldn’t be any more perfect, and I raise my voice just enough to be sure he can hear us without needing to blatantly eavesdrop. “Wouldn’t want ponies to get the wrong idea about this whole shortage business. Can you imagine if the rumors turn out to be true? We’d have to start melting things down just to keep the nation going. Why, not even the pots and pans in the kitchen would be safe. Quite the foreboding prospect isn’t it?” The waiter nearly stumbles for a fraction of a step, before turning away from our table and trotting back towards the kitchen with a bit of extra spring in each step.

“I’m sure it wouldn’t get that bad,” says Twilight, oblivious to the waiter’s departure. “But you don’t think if I do make a statement it shouldn’t be a little more definitive?”

“You can always clarify later,” I point out. “I’m sure everypony will understand what you mean.”

She sighs, and polishes off the last of the salad in front of her. “Listen, Rarity, I’m really sorry I have to eat and run, but...”

“Don’t you worry about a thing, dear, I completely understand how busy you are,” I say, offering her a comforting pat on the back as I dab a napkin to my lips with my magic. “In fact, in just a little while I’m meeting Princess Celestia for afternoon tea. I’m sure she’d be happy to have you join us.”

Twilight looks like she’d love nothing more, but soon enough the reality of the situation intrudes. “I wish I could, but I have too much going on already. Do you think you could ask her if she thinks I’m doing the right thing, though?”

“I’m sure she’s quite confident in your judgement,” I reply. Twilight still seems unconvinced.

“You two have tea a lot,” she says, “what do you two talk about, anyway?”

I give the most casual shrug I can manage. “Oh, we just chit chat about this and that. She’s such a wonderful conversationalist, as I’m sure you’re well aware. It’s never hard to come up with something to talk about.”

She ponders that for a moment, but then some new concern about an encounter or meeting in the immediate future claims her focus instead and pushes it aside. “Say hi to her for me, okay?” With that she gets up from the table and, on impulse, snatches a piece of bread from the basket at the center of the table for the road. With a quick wave goodbye she departs for her next meeting leaving me to finish the rest of my meal on my own. The plate is still half full when I decide that I’m satisfied for the time being. Princess Celestia has the most delicious little cookies that accompany her afternoon tea.

I’ll have time to indulge in quite a few of them. The two of us have a great deal to discuss.


Three days later the throne room is absolutely jam-packed with petitioners and nobles with Princess Celestia seated up on her dais in the eye of the hurricane brewing around her. The copper shortage is the only topic on everypony’s lips, along with the rumor that it’s gotten so bad that Princess Luna herself might have to offer up her antique bed frame to be melted down as a show of solidarity. Most of the other ponies are here today in the hope of getting some answers.

Me? I’m just here because I enjoy watching an artist at work.

“Deep Depths, thank you for coming on such short notice,” says Celestia. Her voice cuts through the bustle and brings silence in its wake, all eyes on the black earth pony stallion standing before the throne. He’s powerfully built, a not-unexpected outcome of a lifetime of work in a mining town. He’s somewhat out of place among the daintier, more refined nobility, but is doing an admirable job of disguising his discomfort. “I hear you’re quite busy these days, so I appreciate you taking the time to answer our summons.”

“Yer, uh, yer welcome, Princess,” he mutters. This is not a pony who enjoys the spotlight, if I’m reading his body language correctly. “Very busy, ma’am, had a big surge of orders come in these last few days. Workin’ around the clock trying to fill ‘em, but just can’t keep up.”

“Indeed,” says Celestia, her face the very image of a serious ruler making serious decisions. “I wanted to ask you if—”

“Princess Celestia!” A new voice from the throne room’s entrance interrupts her. The crowd turns to look at the soldier who’s barged into the conversation, all serious and austere and looking like he’s just come back from flying for miles. “General Flanking Maneuver informed us that we were to report to you immediately. Top priority.”

Celestia’s expression turns grim. “What did the scouts find?”

“Well...” he hesitates before going on, “we swept the coordinates in the Badlands you gave us, but we didn’t find anything. Just rocks and sand.”

The assembled crowd turns back to the Princess, expecting relief. But her expression only grows darker. “You’re absolutely certain of that?”

“I saw it with my own eyes. There’s nothing there.”

“So it would appear,” Celestia mutters, just loud enough for a few choice ponies to overhear. “Captain, I want patrols flown over that area daily. You can base your activities out of Saltlick Plateau.” She turns back to Deep Depths, and smiles. “I’m sure your town can handle a few soldiers for the next couple of weeks. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a military presence in the area just in case.

“In case of what, Princess?” asks the miner. He doesn’t seem sure he wants an answer.

“Nothing you need to worry about, my little pony. As you’ve just heard, there are absolutely no invasion forces in the area. Dragon or otherwise.”

“D...dragons?” he stammers, beginning to tremble. “We get a couple flyin’ over the town when they’re migratin’ but they never cause any trouble.”

“Of course not,” says Celestia, “they’re a very tolerant people, and we’ve been on excellent terms with them for centuries. The rumors of an upstart political faction making threats against our border towns are completely baseless. Probably.”

The stallion lets out a nervous chuckle. “Well, good thing there aren’t any nearby, then.”

Celestia just stares at him, long enough that the entire room is starting to feel a little uncomfortable. “Right,” she eventually says. “That’s an excellent point. I really can’t emphasize it enough. There definitely is not an imminent risk to your town. Which is good, since the copper from your mines is one of the many resources we would need if we were to repel some kind of hypothetical draconic invasion force.” The muttering around the room grows more intense. “Tell me, though. If, hypothetically, there were the chance of such an invasion, which I’m not suggesting that there is, how long would it take to reinforce the town sufficiently that it would be able to withstand being besieged by around a score of fully-grown fire breathing dragons?”

“I... I...” poor Deep Depths is looking completely lost and right on the verge of a panic attack. “That’s not really my area of expertise...”

“Do you think it could be done before next Thursday?” asks Celestia, just enough desperation in her voice to be convincing, “it would be really great if it could be done before next Thursday. I mean, hypothetically.”

“Well, my guess would be probably not that fast.”

“I see,” says Celestia, shaking her head. “Deep Depths, thank you for your time. Captain Hawk? Please send word to General Flanking Maneuver that he needs to assemble the war council with all available haste. Not because of the dragons, of course. It’s about something else. Completely unrelated.” She gets up from her throne, eyes wide with thinly veiled panic. “Court dismissed. Would somepony let Ambassador Jade Fang know that I need to meet with him immediately? But right now I should... I should just...” she abruptly turns and walks off through a door behind the throne, and the muttering of the crowd builds in intensity.

As I walk away from the crowd, I have the sneaking suspicion I know what the price of copper will be doing tomorrow.


“Let me pass! I demand to speak to Princess Sparkle this instant!”

The commotion at the entrance to the throne room where Count Runic Medallion is being challenged by Twilight’s honor guard causes her to look up from the spreadsheet she’d been quietly discussing with Plumed Quill, strategizing while I wait not so far away. The Count pushes his way inside, not that it’s a very impressive thing when the floor is open for anypony who wants an audience at the moment, but I can appreciate a good dramatic entrance as much as anypony. “Can I help you?” asks Twilight.

The Count shoves a letter into her face and outright snarls at her. “It’s unacceptable, Princess. I have here in my magic a letter signed by over three hundred and fifty members of the courts, parliament, and high-ranking officials in every part of the government demanding that you take immediate action to resolve this crisis!”

Twilight sighs. “You’re going to have to be more specific about which crisis you’re talking about. It’s been one of those weeks.”

“Why, the unfolding copper shortage, of course! It simply cannot be allowed to continue.”

“Actually, Count, the more I look into that the more it seems like there’s not actually any detectable drop in mine output. In fact it looks a lot like we’ve actually increased our—”

“LIES!” he bellows. “You can manipulate the numbers to say whatever you like, but the fact remains that there’s nearly a month long backlog of orders, not to mention that the prices are unsustainably high. That cost is trickling down and hitting craftponies and small businesses right in their pocketbooks. Do you think that’s acceptable? As if the looming threat of a dragon invasion wasn’t bad enough on its own.”

“About that,” says Twilight, passing the sheet of parchment she was reading from a moment ago to another assistant so she can give this conversation her undivided attention, “I was talking to Ambassador Jade Fang just last night and—”

“Ah ha!” He points an accusing hoof right in her face. The dear has the patience of a saint. If it were me I would never tolerate being spoken to that way, but Twilight is mostly just befuddled by it. “So you admit that there have been talks?”

“...Yes? I guess so? It wasn’t really a secret meeting, Princess Celestia has been introducing me to all sorts of delegates these days. We mostly ended up talking about classical architecture.”

He scoffs. “Oh really? And during these talks about ‘architecture’ did he or did he not demand tribute from our nation?”

“We did talk about a possible trade agreement, if that’s what you’re referring to.”

“Shameless, threatening us like that,” he says and shakes his head. “You’re our Princess? Then start acting like it. This is rapidly deteriorating into a true emergency, and we expect action and answers to address it. So I’m asking you right now, Princess: What’s your plan to deal with this?”

Twilight, stunned and put on the spot, stares back at him. This is it; her moment. I can hold the door open for her, but she must choose to walk through it on her own. Then the corner of her mouth twitches into the hint of a cryptic and enigmatic smile. I’ve seen a smile like that before. It’s one that suits a Princess quite well. “Well, Count, if you’re going to force my hoof I guess I don’t have much of a choice. Tell me; how much do you know about the process by which we mint tenth-bit coins?”


“Oh, stop it Rarity. Really, I’m serious.”

The two of us are alone once more in Twilight’s office, which is looking a bit more organized and put-together these days. Its contents are slowly making the transition and settling into the proper places they belong. As is its primary occupant, who right now is blushing furiously but wearing a happy, confident grin.

“It goes on to say...” I glance down at the newspaper op-ed that’s the source of her embarrassment. I suppose Copy Paste found some news worth reporting after all “...that since the sale of the refined copper that had previously been meant for coin creation, prices have stabilized and begun to return to the old levels. Not to mention that the higher sale price will mean a nice profit for the Crown.”

“Which I already have fifteen proposals for ways to spend pouring into my inbox,” grumbles Twilight.

Undeterred by her interjection, I skim further down past a few paragraphs of glowing praise until one sentence catches my eye. “Listen to this. ‘Palace insiders credit Princess Twilight Sparkle for the successful negotiation of the recent trade pact with the Dragon Empire. Amidst a sea of, frankly, rather bizarre rumors about invasions by an invisible army, sources say that a lifetime of experience in raising a cultural ambassador as a ward of the state gave her an edge in the form of insight into dragon psychology.’ I wonder what Spike would say to that, hmm?”

“Oh, geeze, does it really say that? Where do they find the ponies giving them these quotes?” Twilight chuckles and takes the paper from me. She’s trying to hide her unbridled joy as she reads further, but I don’t begrudge her a moment of private gloating. She’s certainly earned it. When she finishes with it she looks back up at me, a bit wistful. “I can’t believe you’re going back to Ponyville tomorrow. Sorry I’ve been such a lousy host, I feel like I’ve barely had time to catch my breath, let alone spend any quality time together.”

“Oh, it’s not as bad as that. I’ve kept myself well enough amused anyway. And it was quite the privilege getting to see you in action.”

“If you say so,” she replies. “You were right, you know. About finding my moment. That was honestly the first time I’ve felt like this all hasn’t been some terrible mix up. I feel like I should thank you.”

“I can’t imagine why, I hardly did anything,” I say with a dismissive wave of my hoof. The truth can stay as my little secret.

“Well, now that I have things are going to be different around here.” She grins and leans in closer. “Want to hear a secret?” As if she even has to ask. Of course I nod at the prospect of some juicy palace gossip. “Now that the coin situation’s been resolved, we can move onto more important business. Like changing the colors of everypony’s roof.”

That... wasn’t exactly what I’d been expecting to hear.

Twilight, however, misinterprets my stunned silence. “Won’t that be great? See, it turns out that darker roofs absorb more of the sun’s heat during the middle of the day, especially in the summer months. In fact, the difference in energy required to maintain a pleasant temperature inside with a dark roof can be as much as four percent greater. Four percent! Isn’t that amazing? And don’t even get me started on metal roofs, those are even worse! But of course a lot of the old manors that the nobility live in are just huge drains of magical energy and the owners don’t like the idea of changing them. But there are some really promising new building materials that I think might just...”

She keeps going, talking a mile a minute about her exciting new initiative, unknowingly listing off reason after reason certain very influential ponies won’t be making her proposal anything like feasible to pass. But the look of unbridled excitement on her face as she does so isn’t something I’d ever dream of taking away from her. Not ever.

Perhaps I should look into extending my visit for just a few more days.

Comments ( 96 )

I like how there's supposedly 0 words in the story itself. :P

Rarity is simply diabolical. It's almost like reading a Wodehouse book from Jeeves's perspective. :raritystarry:

I was experiencing the strangest sense of deja vu! :pinkiegasp:
Are you psychic? ::trollestia::

I wish I saw your head-notes when you wrote this story.
It feels like there are a bunch of references to the real world in this story, and I only caught two.
The two being "Getting rid of the penny", and Tulip Bulb being an economist.

Pretty spot on. The plan Twilight starts describing at the end is actually based on a real environmental proposal to recolor black surfaces like roofs and parking lots in lighter colors, improving their albedo and reflecting more of the sun's energy to save energy/fight global warming.

And while it's not a real-life reference, the brief mention of Dotted Line was a doff of my cap to Ghost of Heracles' civil service stories.


Been really strapped for time, so sorry I never got a chance to take a look at the Google Doc. I'll let you know what I think after I give it a read on the train.

Mighty glad to see you powered through and saw it done.


I already like Equestria more for succeeding in ridding itself of its penny Equivalent.

Yaay for the invisible army. of ghosts. Lead by a wizzard. And backed up by a box, having hundreds of little legs. :pinkiecrazy:

Also, if the roof colour is going to save 4%, why not just use similar price 4% efficint PV paint, whch cuts the incident radiation by that 4%, and then has that power available to run the AC? Or, if you use a black radiator and a nano OTEC, you can get 6% off the underfloor heating coils.

Celestias manipulation of Twilights situation, so it looks like she hasnt anything to do with it at all. Truely masterful. I like the gemweave infuser as well, reminds me of the Erbium doped YAG fibres for optically pumped telecom repeaters. I wonder if its pure spun filament sapphire she used. I didnt know that molybdenum, tungsten alloy crucibles were used to hold liquid sapphire, aluminium oxide, because its been decades since I did detailed chemistry and so forgot all the periodic table values. :facehoof:

Which is cheaper, stamping the coin, or injection moulding it? then again, something about the die has to be complex and accurate, so theres the conflict of mass production and uniqueness. Might as well just end up using a high power pulse laser and a pair of holograms, one with teh face design, and th other for the beam array splitter, so that coins could be boil printed by the hundred every few seconds. then theres the problem with the metals, or other materials. Sigh. People would complain if SiC coins cost face value to make? :trollestia:

Spike sat in a cramped little cubical down the hall from Twilights throne room "In, Out, Trash, Copy. In, out ,copy ,trash, Copy copy Trash in":moustache:
"How's Spikey Wikey the hero of the Crystal Empire?" Rarity cooed .Spike mumbled "Uh oh,,, whaT?":moustache:
"Spike? Time for a breaky":raritywink:
Spike put his claws to his face and cried "From hero to a Royal Cubical Hamster!":moustache:
"Come my Gerble let's get some ice cream":duck:

"The real power is in the clerks office":trollestia:

It's a good story, certainly, but as important as Twilight's confidence is it feels a little harmful to arrange something like this and leave Twilight still unable to contend with politics well.



To be fair, having Twilight be seen as a masterful politician instead of as an inexperienced new princess will do wonders for her future dealings even if nothing else changes...

Found a typo:

The new journal article had just come old the day before,

- out

I'm so happy to see this continued. Very much getting a West Wing meets MLP vibe. :duck:

Fixed! Thanks

I just noticed the story is marked complete, so I've decided to leave a comment now seeing as we won't be getting any new chapters. I'd like to apologize in advanced for the proceeding gushing I will do.

I really loved this story. The prose is stunning, and as I was reading, I was honestly thinking how much I want to be able to write so fluently. Your characterization of Rarity is enviably spot-on, which means the narrative was consequently amazing (Twilight and Celestia were perfectly IC too). The way the characters interacted, the setting, everything was extremely well-handled, and it was just a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Thank you for sharing it!

Rarity scheming + Celestia helping is just a little bit terrifying.

Happy to hear that it worked for you. I really enjoyed the challenge of getting into Rarity's mind. As for everything else you praised, well, thank you so much! It really does mean a lot to me to hear that random folks think I'm a pretty gosh darn okay writer.

5053689 Basically, what this guy said.

I just noticed the story is marked complete, so I've decided to leave a comment now seeing as we won't be getting any new chapters. I'd like to apologize in advanced for the proceeding gushing I will do.

I really loved this story. The prose is stunning, and as I was reading, I was honestly thinking how much I want to be able to write so fluently. Your characterization of Rarity is enviably spot-on, which means the narrative was consequently amazing (Twilight and Celestia were perfectly IC too). The way the characters interacted, the setting, everything was extremely well-handled, and it was just a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Thank you for sharing it!

I was going to say something similar, but this was simply better so I shamelessly stole it.

“You’re familiar with the tenth-bit coin, I assume?”

I'd say that she's familiar with it, yes.

Nice reference :raritywink:

Rarity is best conspirator, and Celestia just does so perfectly with [muted panic] :twilightoops:

I'm so glad this got continued. Rarity's potential for genius gets swept under the rug far too often, and giving her Celestia as an enabler just makes it so much better.


I love Rarity as Twilight´s Good Chancellor.

My main concern here is what happens when Twilight realizes what they've been doing. Twilight's a brilliant pony, a consummate researcher, and meticulously detail-oriented. Let's assume that eventually she'll discover Celestia and Rarity's actions. Obviously Celestia wants their involvement to be like the flavor imparted by her tea strainer: undetectable. If their behind-the-scenes manipulation helps boost Twilight's confidence, great! So what happens when she realizes that her "moments" were engineered for her? Will she thank her friends for going out of their way to help her get her court started and get a boost in the public's eye? Or will her confidence shatter when she realizes that without Rarity and Celestia's involvement, she'd be a manic nervous wreck and a laughingstock?

I do feel that Celestia was vastly premature in making Twilight a princess. It takes a certain type of highly flexible mind to be good at being a politician, and frankly Twilight's mind is as flexible as a carbon rod, and infinitely more brittle. They must also not believe in anything specific keeping their objectives wide open, whilst appearing to be both passionate and specific. They must also be quite happy to bugger the truth with a fish fork. Twilight is a scientist, not a politician. To compare, she can see one truth, holy and immutable, while Celestia can see 20 different ones, all of which can be twisted for convenience. This story is excellent in dealing with many of these problems, and of course is just excellent in it's own right. :pinkiehappy:


I wonder if equestria has an elim? :raritywink:

And I trust princess Celestia had nothing to do with Twilight reading a chemistry article just the night before meeting with Dotted Line...

Hey Eaks,

Thanks for bringing back the intelligent, sophisticated and resourceful Rarity of season one. :raritywink:

And damned well written story, as always!


The real power lies in the Dark Clerks office. :trollestia:

Rarity for Patrician!

Queue a series of run-ins with the aristocracy that demonstrates that despite Twilight enlightened, intelligent, and by far rational proposals, ponies, especially those on a seat of power, are anything but logical.

The idea of Canterlot having a functioning government beyond the counsel of the princesses makes for fascinating worldbuilding, but I like to imagine the princesses have a "fuck you, I do what I want button" for egregious cases of intransigence. I'd like nothing more then to see Twilight drop the hammer of books and reason.

In for a tenth-bit, in for a pound, I suppose.

This I like. Time to see Rarity show off her connections and become the spider sitting at the middle of a crazy network of favours, boons, grudges, and intrigue.

I love Twilight's roof idea. Maybe those retirees that lost their savings when their pension funds were wiped out by the volatile copper market could take on a second job as roofers. Gets them outdoors and plenty of exercise.

Wait a second...
Is Rarity the puppet master behind Celestia and Twilight, who are just figureheads?
Luna doesn't do stuff, and Cadence has no power, so they can't stop her...


Watching Celestia and Rarity work like that is sheer delight!

Bonus points for Dotted Line being mentioned.

At first I was thinking "What on Earth is Rarity up to?" then I saw Twilight's line about the tenth bit coin and I said "bravo. Wonderfully done."

Comment posted by BronyWriter deleted Sep 26th, 2014
Comment posted by BronyWriter deleted Sep 26th, 2014
Comment posted by BronyWriter deleted Sep 26th, 2014

5056812 My internet went wonky. I'm not in the habit of posting four times. :applejackconfused:

Hmmm... Surely, Rarity would want to nip this latest proposal in the bud. Efficiency overriding aesthetic choice? What would Carousel Boutique or Sugarcube Corner be with more efficient roofs? Architecture is art, and art is expression! Down with the oppressive regime of Princess Twilight and her forced white roofs! :twilightoops:

I might have gotten a bit carried away. In any event, I loved the original tea time story, and I quite enjoyed this expanded one as well!

So . . . how wasn't it "such a good idea"?

Also, not a fan of seeing someone managed this way, especially here because the end result is just going to be crippling Twilight, not helping her in the long run. What's she going to do when she really wants something done the next time? Nothing proactive, because that's what she did this time and it seemed to work fine to her. Really, if they want Twilight to learn maybe they should try actually teaching her.
Also, causing what amounts to immense economic turmoil for such little gain is silly. Celestia should have headslapped Rarity.

But otherwise I liked it.


Invisible Dragons Give Up On Saltlick Plateau Invasion
"We Just Couldn't Find The Town From Overhead," One Grumbles

* * *

Paint Matching Natural Canterhorn Marble Sold Out Citywide
Demands Grow For Royal Action

It's a good story, and an excellent addition to the original chapter, but I just feel like maybe Celestia was hamming it up a little. I'm sure she knows how to gain the same result with a much quieter action, and we can see that subtle hoof with the timing of Twilight's meeting with Dotted Line. Unless... she was purposely acting like she was more for Rarity's benefit than the plan's? Something about Rarity still being kind of amateurish at this whole political manipulation thing? I kind of like that idea.


When you are intentionally trying to cause a panic in already frightened beings, hamming it up is beneficial.

5057556 Fluctuations in futures markets for metals rarely end up impacting the real manufacture-level economy unless they're sustained for a relatively long time or end up permanently decoupled from actual supply. Neither is the case here.
Edit: Gold is a good example of the 'decoupled from supply' problem, as ot ends up getting ping-pong fun time at the whims of public confidence in government stability. Considering the number of first world nations that have crumbled into anarchy lately (pretty sure it hovers close to zero right now) it can be demonstrated that there isn't even much in the way of statistical rigor involved.

5052387 A commendable hat-doffing target. Recipient? Victim? Let's go with victim.

5055937 Rarity: The Masquerade? Toreador Harpy is always bundles of "fun" for everyone!

...Eakin has read my stories.

Eakin likes my stories.




Thanks! I'm profoundly flattered.

And the story is exquisite. In fact, allow me to bestow the highest compliment one writer can bestow upon another. Ahem: I wish I had written it, you bastard. :pinkiehappy:

Also. Heh. Talking about organic chemistry.

"Dotty! You were supposed to be here two hours ago! Where have you been and... is that chalk on your coat?"

"Did you know that Princess Sparkle has a blackboard in her office?"

"No... uh... you needed it because?"

"We were discussing azidotetrazoles. Hellish stuff. Empirical formula looks like a typographical error. Fourteen nitrogens. No hydrogen. At all. 357 kcal/mole heat of formation. Shuddersome stuff."

"...were those important for the Qilin trade treaty? Are we going to... buy some?"

"No! I don't think more than half a gram of the stuff has ever existed. And you certainly can't transport it."

"So you were talking about them because...?"

"Oh, the Clawpötke Group[1] in White Peak just synthesized some and published a paper in IJPAC. Princess wanted my input."


"She quite liked my thesis, she said."

"I'm waiting for the part where this has something to do with the Qilin treaty."

"Oh. Well in that case, d'you want some tea while we both wait? Might take a while."

[1] This has pride of place as my most obscure pun. Ever.

5058767 Dunno. I was always Tremere. Let the fops think they're running the show while us and Ventrue do the real work with real benefits. :twilightsmile:

My intention was that Rarity is providing useful tips, tricks, and lessons for diplomacy as Twilight settles into her new role. But no lessons could teach her to be confident and believe in herself as a Princess. She sort of had to awaken that in herself. So Rarity and Celestia set up the perfect opportunity for her to reach out for her goal in a fairly clever fashion. Twilight's hardly sitting back and waiting for victory to be delivered to her, the problem is the exact opposite. She's trying to assuage her insecurities by working herself that much harder.

Good catch! :raritywink:

Oh, Celestia probably had a thousand subtler ways to accomplish the same thing. But those wouldn't have let her watch the look on the nobilities' faces as they imagined themselves being eaten by invisible dragons, now would they?:trollestia:

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