• Published 30th Oct 2011
  • 25,571 Views, 135 Comments

Canterlot Follies - LadyMoondancer



Young Birdy is sent to Canterlot to steal an artifact and bolster Prince Blueblood's reputation.

  • ...
1
 135
 25,571

Chapter 10: Down the Garden Path

Chapter 10: Down the Garden Path

Misgivings swarmed up upon hearing there’d been “a little difficulty” on my valet’s end of things, although I did cling desperately to the adjective “little.”

“What kind of trouble, Greaves? Tell me all, sparing no detail.”

“Very good, sir.” He slipped into the hallway, shutting the door behind him with a quiet click. “The fact is, sir,” he began in a low voice, “the young . . . gentlecolt . . . is having some reservations.”

“Cold feet about the duke, eh?”

“No, sir, reservations regarding the evening wear.”

“Hm! Doesn’t it fit?”

“Oh yes, sir, very well indeed.”

“Well, I’d understand if it didn’t, we’re rather different sizes.”

“The suit is not one of yours, sir. I found suitable garments in the laundry facilities, freshly pressed.”

It took me a moment to process this. “You mean to say that you pinched some cove’s clothes?!”

“Borrowed, sir. The domestic staff will wash the garments again before they’re returned to their owner.”

“Well . . . I suppose one extra wearing won’t do them any harm,” I said doubtfully. “But is it a regular thing, this musical-chairs stuff with the laundry?”

“No indeed, sir. But desperate times . . .”

“Quite. And these are the desperatest.”

“Precisely, sir.”

“I still don’t get the problem, though.”

“Perhaps it would be easiest to show you, sir.” He opened the door.

Well, my first thought was that Greaves had been putting me on, perhaps out of eagerness to surprise the young master with a job well done. Because that’s what it looked like—a job well done, I mean. He’d stuffed that unicorn into a suit so well fitted that he might’ve been poured into it—a traditional black tailcoat, though the waistcoat was a rather startling sky blue. (“To counteract the gentlecolt’s monochrome colouring,” Greaves later informed me.) With his mane combed out of the military mohawk and a neat pair of spats on the appropriate set of hooves, he looked fairly dapper and not in the least like a guard. It now seemed to me possible—just—that he might actually make a hit with Sun Shimmer.

Cheered by this, I greeted him in good spirits. “Hallo again, Seeker!”

The grey unicorn set down the scroll he’d been editing and turned around. And as he did so my initial, cheerful thought was superseded by a second, gloomier one, namely that we were in a good deal of trouble.

You know those little tin toys that are wound up with a key, the kind that stutter along for a few steps before falling over? Right. Now, you know the way sea lions move about—kind of humping themselves along? Well, if you can imagine a gait combining the stiff, lifeless leg-jerks of a wind-up toy with just a hint of the awkward, hunchbacked posture of a sea lion, then you will have a pretty good idea of Seeker’s bearing as he turned towards me.

I stared; I was dimly aware that my mouth was hanging open. “What in Equestria is wrong with you?”

“It’s these darn clothes!” Seeker made as though to stomp the ground, but only got as far as bending his leg—in the stiffest, most uncoordinated way imaginable—before nearly falling over. “They don’t fit!”

“With all due respect, sir, they do,” Greaves put in, his brows lowering the tiniest fraction. “You simply require a period of adjustment.”

“They require a period of adjustment!”

I frowned. “They’re fine. Top notch quality, and you could hardly get a better fit if they were tailored for you. What’s your kick against them?”

“I can’t kick in them, that’s the problem. I can barely walk!” His horn lit up as he fretted with the sleeves, tugging them first up and then down. “I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my life . . . and I wear fifty pounds of armour every day, so that’s saying something! Look, can’t I just change back?”

“You really need only endure it for a short amount of time, sir.”

“Just walk normally, can’t you? Bend your knees in the front and straighten out your back.”

The grey unicorn trotted—well, walked—well, tottered around the room. “It chafes.”

“Where?”

“Everywhere.” He tugged at the high, white wing-collar rounding his neck. “Can’t I at least get rid of this thing? What’s it made of, brambles?”

“It’s cotton, you silly ass.”

“Indeed, sir. Starched for stiffness.”

“Well, it’s awful! Just awful!”

“Seeker, listen. No, leave the collar alone and listen. It’s not that I don’t sympathize. When I was a little nipper, my aunt—”

“The one who eats rats?”

“No, no, that’s Aunt Agate. This was another of my auntly menaces, Charade. At one point, when I had the misfortune to be in her custody, she stuffed me into the hottest, silliest velvet suit you can fathom, a garment that started where Little Lord Fauntleroy’s attire left off—”

“Who’s Little Lord Fauntleroy?”

“Never mind who he is. Just imagine a foal drowning in lace and velvet and you’ll have the right idea. And, yes, my first reaction was to struggle and itch and sulk. But mark my words, by the time she actually dragged me to the museum in this bally outfit, I realized there was no point worrying about it. And once we got there several ponies complimented me—well, her actually—on what a dear little colt I looked.”

This story did not appear to set Seeker aglow. “So you got dragged around in lace all day? That sounds sort of terrible.”

I paused. In fact there was a sequel to this story, and it involved young Birdsong inadvertently getting left at the National Gallery. The first thing I had done upon realizing this was to toss the offending suit into a public fountain and dash around in the buff, chased by a posse of museum watchponies. But Seeker did not need to know these irrelevant little details.

“On the contrary, I had the best time I’ve ever had in an art gallery, bar none! And you’ll have a spiffing evening too, if you just try to adapt. Why don’t you move around a bit and see if you can’t get comfortable?”

“Weeeell. All right, I guess.”

“That’s the spirit! Good show!” Brave words, but my heart sank as I watched him make another wobbly circuit around the room. “A word in your ear, Greaves?”

“Certainly, sir.”

I drew him aside. “Greaves, if we send him out there like that, the duke’s liable to think he’s having some kind of fit. Or else that he was born without kneecaps . . .”

“I agree that he presents a less than perfect appearance, sir, but with a little more time and practice—”

“We haven’t got time, dash it! Sun Shimmer is even now preparing to abandon the festivities!”

“I see, sir. I hadn’t realized that,” the earth pony said in a distracted sort of way. I looked over my shoulder to find that Seeker was now sitting on the floor, scratching frantically at his front elbow like a dog with fleas.

“Oh gods.” I buried my nose in the crook of my leg to hide this sorry spectacle. “Maybe we should just send him out au naturel.”

“Sir! That would hardly be appropriate for a—”

“I know, I know, I know, I know. I was being face—farce—”

“Facetious, sir?”

“Yes, that. All the same, I mean to say! Look at him!”

We both looked. And shuddered.

After a moment of pained silence, Greave said, “Perhaps if we simplify the outfit, sir.”

“Strip it down to the bare essentials, you mean?”

“Precisely, sir. If we discard the tailcoat and waistcoat, his main causes of complaint, but retain the collar, the bow tie, and the hoofwear . . .”

“And slap a top hat on his melon. I think you’ve got something there. Carry on, Greaves.”

“Very good, sir.”

“But be quick about it, for goodness sake! I’ll delay the duke as long as I can.”

“Understood, sir.”

“Right-ho.” I turned back to the guard, patting his shoulder. “Just . . . listen to Greaves, will you? There’s a good chap.” And with that I galloped back to the ballroom.


The party was definitely dying off by the time I returned. Princette Cloud Dreamer was marching her little army out of the ballroom in double-time, Rarity the Unicorn was exiting in close conjunction with a pegasus who was, if memory serves, a lord of some kind, and the buffet table had been picked clean in my absence. Cousin August was nowhere to be seen and neither, to my alarm, was Duke Sun Shimmer. Fortunately when I extended my search to include the garden I discovered that his sister had cornered him against a border of perennials. They were expressing their deep, familial affection in their usual way.

“Do not start congratulating yourself yet, dear brother,” the princette was hissing as I cautiously approached. “Duke Finch-Freely and Duchess Ravenwaves have been planning their advancement for some time, and if you think their allies will vote for you over them—”

“I’m not afraid of Finch-Freely or Raven,” the duke said breezily. “Did Princette Cloud Dreamer introduce them to her friends? Did Mirror Mirror compliment their horse-sense? Mmm, yes, ‘Prince Sun Shimmer’ . . . it has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”

“You can hardly count yourself as their protégé after one night.”

“Oh can’t I? Just because it took you years to garner support, dear sister, does not mean every pony is so talentless.”

From the expression on Snow Shimmer’s face, there was an increasing likelihood that I would be introducing Seeker to a freeze-dried corpse unless I intervened. “What-ho, Shimmers!”

“You!” Duke Sun Shimmer said, as he had at frequent intervals throughout the night. This time he seemed genuinely surprised by my presence, however. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, I wanted a word with you, actually. In private, if you don’t mind.”

The duke flicked his ears backwards and forwards as though checking their functionality. “You are expecting me to . . . to talk with you?” he said, as though I’d suggested that he jump off a cliff or set himself on fire.

“Of course not,” Snow Shimmer butted in. “He was addressing me, naturally.”

“Er . . .”

“He was certainly not addressing you, Snow, since he was looking straight at me.”

“Possibly his attention was briefly drawn to the spinach stuck in your teeth,” Snow Shimmer said coolly. (Her brother hastily raised a hoof in front of his mouth.) “But his invitation was clearly aimed at me, nonetheless.”

“You’re delusional, but it’s you’re funeral. Don’t blame me when you get demoted to duchess!”

Snow Shimmer put her hoof aside her mouth and whispered in a carrying voice: “You must excuse my brother. He has never been known for his tact. Little wonder his attempts to gain a princehood have failed to bear fruit.”

“They’re going to bear plenty of fruit!” the yellow unicorn snapped.

“Pathetic, is he not? So feeble are his political allegiances,” she continued, probably not audible to anypony more than twenty feet away, “that he dares not be seen with you, for fear of offending the old nags to whom he kowtows—”

“I do NOT kowtow!”

“—whereas I, being well-established in the upper echelon of the Council, fear nothing and no one.” She offered a bright smile. “But enough about him, Mr. Rooster! There has been a great deal of talk about how you publically snubbed your cousin, the prince . . . I’m sure we have much to discuss to our mutual benefit.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that I snubbed him exac—” I broke off as Sun Shimmer suddenly leapt into my field of vision. His chest was heaving with some pent up emotion which, judging by the expression on his map as he faced off with the princette, was probably fury.

“Listen, my dear, opportunistic leech of a sister! He did NOT come over here to talk to you, he does NOT want your company, and I do NOT have spinach in my teeth! Isn’t that right?” he demanded, swinging a menacing look in my direction.

“Oh, quite. Yes, yes, yes,” I said hastily, though truthfully the answers to his questions, in the order named, were yes, yes, and no. “It was actually you I wanted to speak with. My apologies, princette.”

“How extremely rude!” She gave me a glare so hammy it might as well have rolled in a mudhole and oinked.

“HA! You see?” The duke turned away from her smugly. “Come on . . . Mister . . . Whatever.”

“It's Rooster, Birdy Rooster,” I clarified, trotting after him.

Well, you had to admire the filly’s sleight-of-hoof, what? If you had told the duke at the start of the evening that he would later, of his own free will, engage in a tête-à-tête with one Birdsong Rooster—or “one Mister Whatever”, as the case might be—I imagine he would have snorted and said “Poppycock!” or “What rot!” or whatever the Upper Canterlotian equivalent of those phrases was. But apparently no opportunity to score off his sister was to be missed or scorned. It was all to the best that he did not happen to take a backwards glance, as I did, and see Princette Snow Shimmer steaming towards a knot of the gentry with a spring in her step and a gloating smile on her face. I picked up my pace, hoping the more isolated paths of the garden would prove to be ground she feared to tread.

I don’t know if you’ve ever taken a jaunt through the Royal Gardens, but if you haven’t, let me just say that they are not without their hazards. It’s bursting to the gills with animal life—not just the usual squirrels and rabbits, but also exotic fauna like spider monkeys and vultures and I don’t know what all. Once, when I was a kid, I dashed down a path rather too fast—I was playing tag and trying to outdistance the colt who was “it”—and ended up slamming right into a wallaby. The creature, noticeably pipped at this intrusion into its private life, vented its feelings by getting in some good, solid kicks before disappearing into the undergrowth.

Due to memories of this rather painful episode, I was happy to let Sun Shimmer blaze the trail on this occasion, flushing out any wayward and irate animals, while I hung back a ways, strolling along and pondering the intended programme, which ran along the lines of:

1. Put in some preliminary spadework for Seeker, talking him up like a used-carriage salespony trying to offload a particularly cumbersome model.

2. Wait for said guard to pop out of the bushes and proclaim his love for the duke.

3. Exit, stage left, at a gallop.

4. Raid that bally museum.

Introducing the subject of this lovelorn guard was going to be the trickiest part, in my estimation. Romeo, if you’ll recall, didn’t start flinging terms of endearment at Juliet until he actually spotted her and decided, right-ho, this was the genuine dream-rabbit. I imagine if someone had tried to talk her up before then, he would have snorted, laid his ears back, and had none of it. “Why ring out the wedding bells with this filly from a rival family,” he would’ve said, “when I could have a father-in-law who won’t try to poison my tea? There are plenty more beets in the field!”

It seemed to me I could not count on any greater show of enthusiasm from Duke Sun Shimmer. Possibly even less, considering Seeker’s station, despite the fact that his family was not (so far as I knew) in a blood feud with the Shimmer clan. As for the Love At First Sight gag, it was all well and good, but what if it didn’t take off? Rather a gamble, and at odds that made me reluctant to run to the bookies. The only thing for it, I decided, was to try to rev up Sun Shimmer’s romantic side, awakening the poetry that—according to Seeker—was lurking in his heart, and hope that the Royal Guard would strike him as being a twin soul.

Luckily the gardens themselves would serve as a stalwart ally in this endeavor, being positively soggy with romantic atmosphere, partic. at this hour. Night had well and truly settled, with moths and bats flitting above the roses. The birch and willows dripped with vines covered with those niffy white flowers that wait until after-hours to make an appearance, and the blue and purple fairy lanterns that hung in the boughs were hardly necessary as the moon, nearly full, drifted over the trees at a leisurely pace. A scene practically ripped off the cover of a second edition of maudlin poetry, I mean to say.

And if ever there was a moment when Duke Sun Shimmer was in a good mood this was it, while he was still muttering things like “Ha!” and “I showed her!”

I sped up my pace to draw beside him. “Nice night,” I said as an opening gambit.

He started a bit, reluctantly remembering my existence. “What? Oh, the night. Yes, it's nice.”

“The stars punching in their timecards.” I waved a hoof heavenward.

“True.”

“The crickets heading out for a night on the town.”

“Yes.”

“A balmy breeze drifting through the roses, if balmy is the word I’m after.”

This time he didn’t say anything, just eyed me. Despite the cool night, a slight sheen of sweat dampened my brow. His expression was not that of a pony who was about to start framing the beauty of the night in rhyme and iambic pentameter; it was more like that of a pony wondering how he had let himself be talked into something, and how soon he could get out of it.

“What, exactly,” he said at last, “did you want to talk to me about?”

“Well . . . it’s a funny old world, isn’t it?” I said. I paused to give him the opportunity to agree, but he just raised an eyebrow, so I pushed onward. “Take these roses I was talking about. Nice, what?”

He agreed that they were nice, though without much enthusiasm.

“Of course, my Aunt Dahlia would probably say they were infested with aphids or root rot,” I added, “and get into a tussle with the gardener. But that’s neither here nor there.”

“Indeed, it’s not.”

“But anyway, these roses.” I gazed at them a bit desperately, having no idea how to continue. I was sure the Bard had written some fairly fruity stuff about the genus Rosa, but every line of it had retreated to my subconscious and seemed determined to hunker down there for a good long stretch. Giving up on Classic Literature, I seized on the first idea that leapt to mind. “Roses. Yes. Most ponies just see them as an attractive bit of landscaping, you know. But some ponies, or perhaps I should say one pony in particular, would look at them and immediately chart out a connection between these blooms and the object of his affection.”

“Huh?”

“‘Butterflies, nectar for to gain / gently alight his rose-red mane’,” I quoted, looking at him hopefully. Well, it wasn’t exactly received to rave reviews; in fact, the duke stared at me as though I was speaking in tongues.

“What in Equestria are you talking about? What butterflies?” His eyes shifted from me to the flowers and back again. “And they’re not red, they’re pink.”

I saw I had painted myself into a corner and accordingly tried to leap clear. “All right, never mind about the roses. Forget about roses, red, pink, or otherwise. The fact is, I’m acting as a sort of messenger. Carrying a message,” I specified, breaking it down into terms that even he could comprehend.

His ears, which had been flattened back, swiveled slowly forwards with grudging interest. “From who? If it’s Prince Blueblood—”

“You may rest assured this has nothing to do with my princely cousin,” I said firmly. “Quite another matter.”

“So who is it then? Princette Royal Purple?” he asked with a sudden burst of animation. “Or, no, Crystal Crown, is it Crystal Crown?”

“Er . . . let’s keep walking, shall we?” I moved along the moonlit path, following its curve until it opened into a little clearing hedged about with willow trees, a glade with a couple trails leading out of it—or into it, if you prefer.

I was about to point out the moon, to reset the mood, but Sun Shimmer didn’t give me a chance. “So-o-o-o?” he asked, his tail twitching impatiently. “Who?”

“As it happens it’s a friend of mine.” Overstating things a bit, as Seeker was more of an acquaintance, but faint praise ne’er won fair noble, or however it goes. “A very dear friend,” I added, stretching the truth until it twanged.

A good portion of the yellow unicorn’s eagerness ebbed away. “A friend of yours?” he said, much as my Aunt Dahlia might have said, “Slugs on my petunias?” He pawed at the grass with a hoof. “Well, who is this friend and what’s the message?”

“The message, ah yes. The message is . . . Well, it’s a funny old world, isn’t it?”

“Oh gods, this again!”

“No, but listen! It is, isn’t it? I mean to say, here we are in the capital city, with the Princess heaving the sun over the horizon every morning, its light shining,” I said, remembering a good gag from my school days, “on the just and the unjust . . . Well, it really makes you think, doesn’t it?”

Sun Shimmer’s expression was sardonic as he opened his mouth, perhaps to share exactly what he thought, but at that moment a moth that had been bumping up against a fairy lantern made a sharp swerve and flew down his gullet. As the duke choked and hacked, I mentally saluted the insect for its timely martyrdom and hurried on:

“What I mean is . . . there’s quite a lot going on in the city every day, what? Bakers baking, tradesponies, um, laying bricks and making horseshoes and whatnot, servants bringing tea, and guards,” I said, reaching my destination at last, “marching about keeping the Princess’ peace and looking quite dressy while doing so, really. One has to admire them, don’t you think?”

With a final thump to his chest, the duke recovered from his coughing fit. He took a few breaths before weighing in with his opinion. “Get to the point! I didn’t come out here to talk about guards.”

Well, he had, really, but clearly this wasn’t the moment to reveal that. “Um, yes. I was telling you about this friend of mine, wasn’t I? A unicorn, you know, practically fizzing with magic. Now admittedly he’s . . . er . . . not exactly one of the noblesse—”

“Oh joy. Better and better. And how much does this untitled ‘friend’ of yours want?”

It took me a moment to follow his logic. “No, no, he’s not looking for a handout; that’s not it at all. As a matter of fact he’s, erm, well, he’s—Well, it’s a funny old world, isn’t it?”

“For Celestia’s sake.” He slapped a hoof over his eyes.

I tugged at my collar, wishing somepony else—Greaves, perhaps—had volunteered for this unpleasant duty. But it was time to take the hurdle, for better or for worse. “The fact is, Duke Shimmer, he—this friend of mine—has rather fallen for you.”

His hoof lowered slowly. “‘Fallen’? You mean, as in—”

“Fallen in love, that’s right.” The incredulous expression on his face did nothing to help my nerves, and in fact I could feel my cheeks heating. Still, now that I had sketched a quick outline of the sitch., there was nothing to do but fill in the details. “He happened to see you one day and just like that, boomps-a-daisy, head over hooves. And it’s been eating away at him ever since, you see. The amount of thought he’s given your eyes alone—well, you’d be amazed. He’s been churning out masses of poetry—”

“Perhaps about my mane,” the duke interrupted with a level look, “being red like a rose?”

I felt a surge of relief now that he was getting on board, and rewarded him with a friendly smile. “Quite so. ‘Butterflies, nectar for to gain / gently alight your rose-red mane’ and all that. Although he did give some serious consideration to the adjective ‘fragrant’ as well.”

“Good to know. My life is richer for that knowledge.”

“Is it? Then you’ll be glad to know he’s written reams of the stuff, all giving a very favorable view of you. ‘The little birds’, for example, ‘all rejoice / whene’er they hear your dulcet voice.’”

“I’ll bet they do. I’ll just bet.”

“He’s even been following you around off and on hoping to—”

“Bump into me?”

“Exactly.”

“Repeatedly?”

“Er . . . one supposes so.” I was beginning to feel there was something rummy about the duke’s reaction. Regardless of whether he greeted the news with smiles or sneers, I had expected Sun Shimmer to open up a line of questioning regarding the mystery colt. I had not considered the possibility that he would display a total lack of curiosity and simply fix me with a stare. It was hard to tell in the dark, but I was inclined to categorize said stare as “sour.”

I was considering waiting him out when I heard a soft rustle from the mass of trees behind me which suggested a certain guard might be in the offing, waiting for his cue to leap on stage. And since the sooner he made his debut the sooner I could retreat, I was anxious to help him make his grand entrance as soon as possible, to cheers and applause.

“So that’s the lay of the land,” I concluded, raising my voice to slightly. “And if you would like to hear the full extent of the ode he’s written for you, that can certainly be arranged in short order. It’s—”

“Are you . . . out of . . . your MIND?” The duke must have been building up a good head of steam for a while, but the first I knew about it was when he surged forward, giving me a good view of the flames leaping in his eyes and the spinach still lodged in his teeth. “You think . . . you really think . . .” Here he reeled a bit, like an actor determined to wring the most out of a death scene.

“Now hang on,” I said, holding up a hoof. “I know poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this is some fairly heady stuff, and it all rhymes. Case in point: ‘Oh Sun Shimmer with your coat of gold, thy sweet nobility’s foretold’—”

“STOP!” he bellowed, a vein in his forehead throbbing impressively. Just as well since I couldn’t remember the rest of the verse. “Stop talking, stop bothering me, and STOP following me around!”

He started to stalk away, but I dodged around to intercept. “Look, just let me say my piece—”

“You’ve already said it!” he snapped. “So let me say my piece! If you think that I am interested in tying my fortune and future to a . . . a . . . an untitled nobody, then you are sadly mistaken, Mister Rooster!”

My heart bled freely for poor Seeker. “That’s a rather unenlightened view, isn’t it? ‘The rank is but the guinea stamp!’ A quotation that refers, you’ll be interested to know, to the way raw gold is transformed into coinage by—”

“I know exactly what the line refers to,” he answered (though his heated tone held no hint of pleasure at meeting another pony blessed with a classical education). “And it’s bunk. Complete BUNK. The gold that matters is the type stored in vaults, and the rank is the way to get it. So please let you friend know that he’s wasting his time and mine. If your friend is so desperate for companionship, perhaps your friend should find someone of his own meager social status to hobnob with—”

A dark shape suddenly burst out of the bushes to the right in a sort of explosion of leaves, barreling past us and up the garden path, accompanied by a mournful wail. Sun Shimmer, startled to find the shrubbery unexpectedly disgorging ponies, rocketed into the air like a disturbed pheasant while I—hardly any more sanguine, not having expected any action from the starboard—leapt sideways like a startled fawn, thereby crashing into Snow Shimmer.

“Wait a tick,” I hear you saying. “You mean Sun Shimmer, don’t you? Yellow unicorn, bad attitude, spinach in his teeth?” An understandable assumption, but no. Princette Snow Shimmer, backed by a small herd of the well-born and—oddly—a pegasus with a camera and a press card in his hat, chose that very moment to come strolling in along one of the other paths. She paid for it by getting involved in a two-pony collision that probably rattled her teeth and certainly rattled mine. She recovered swiftly, though, with more than enough time to get the first word in.

“Oh MY!” were the words in question.

“Oh no.” The duke’s expression was somewhere between appalled and furious. “Go AWAY, Snowy!” he hissed. She didn’t.

“Oh MY,” she repeated, gesturing broadly towards self and Sun Shimmer, but addressing the nobles who had crowded around to help her up. “Have you ever seen such a shameful sight?” Apparently they hadn’t. They shook their heads as the photographer surged forward to snap a few pictures. “Too shocking for words, finding my dear brother colluding with that . . . disreputable colt. Blueblood’s cousin.”

Having planted a hoof over my face, I didn’t actually see the pony in the back faint this time, but I heard the thud against the turf, though it was barely audible over the collective gasp of the crowd and the grinding of Sun Shimmer’s teeth. By the time I lowered my hoof, Sun Shimmer was stalking across the grass to confront his sister. I simultaneously decided it was wisest to back away from them.

“Snow Shimmer, if you don’t march your rabble out of here right this second—”

“I’m not the one associating with rabble, dear brother. You’re . . .”

Abruptly she broke off, her face that of a pony disgorging a racy tidbit of gossip just as an especially prudish aunt stalks in. Her eyes grew wide. Her face paled to a sicklier shade of purple. And suddenly her head dropped to point towards the turf.

“What in Equestria . . .” the duke muttered as Snow Shimmer’s little throng suddenly gasped—not quite in sync, something had thrown them off their stride—and imitated the princette’s posture.

Brow furrowed, Sun Shimmer turned ‘round . . . and immediately his eyes grew large as dinner plates, or at least bread plates. For a few seconds I had the disagreeable feeling that he was staring at me; then I realized he was staring past me, at something to my aft, which was hardly any more pleasant. Bracing myself for the worst, I turned to see what was behind me. I’ll tell you frankly I was rather expecting it to be a wallaby. Not that that would make much sense—the proper thing to do when you see a wallaby is to speed away from it, not freeze and aim your nose at the grass—but past associations can be jolly strong, and my most unpleasant moment in the garden—excepting the time I’d spent in Sun Shimmer’s company on the present date—had involved an angry marsupial. Once kicked, twice shy.

Imagine my relief and delight when I instead found myself gazing across the dell at Princess Celestia, standing there on her long, graceful legs and wearing the most serene expression. Her white coat and flowing mane glowed like anything in the moonlight and the jewel in her crown, reflecting the fairy lanterns in the willows, couldn’t make up its mind if it wanted to be blue or purple.

“Auntie!” I burst out, giving a little rear before charging over to her. As I think I have mentioned, there’s something about the kindly smile of this noble relative that acts as an instant pick-me-up, filling the world with sunshine and song. And although a literal ration of sunlight was in short supply at this time of night, my heart was certainly sunny enough as she leaned down to drop her neck over mine in a hug.

“My dear nephew. Was that you hiding behind the centerpiece?”

“Right on the nose! Doing a bit of jungle recon, what what?”

“I see.” Chuckling, Great-Aunt Celly patted my head with the leading edge of her wing, knocking off my top hat in the process, not that I minded. “And have you found a place to stay, dear? If not . . .”

“Oh, that’s all taken care of, don’t worry. Er . . . I’ve been here a couple of weeks, actually. Tried to darken your doorstep, but a bligh—a secretary-looking chap told me in no uncertain terms that I was the last thing your doorstep needed as decoration.”

Understanding blossomed in her eyes. “That must have been Mr. Tock. Very efficient, but somewhat . . . overzealous at times. I’ll speak to him.”

“Right-ho! Thanks awfully!” I beamed up at her. She smiled down at me. The moths tumbled past in an approving sort of way. Perfect harmony, broken only by the fact that I could see Snow Shimmer and Sun Shimmer in my peripheral vision, the princette with her head bobbing up and down slightly as she tried to decide whether to stare or not and the duke boggling with his mouth open, like a pony seeing a vision.

Great-Aunt Celly probably saw them too—no, she certainly saw them, because Auntie’s sharp as a tack and it would take a better pair than an eavesdropping princette and boorish duke to get the better of her, by golly! And indeed, with a measured tread Princess Celestia moved across the clearing to get inspect the knot of nobles.

“Good evening, Lady Slipper, Duke Finch-Freely,” she said, examining the ponies who had entered the glade close on Snow Shimmer’s heels. “And how are you on this lovely night, Lord Star Dasher?”

The assorted gentry looked up, stammering out answers, with Star Dasher adding it was a beautiful night, incredibly beautiful, probably the most beautiful night he’d ever seen, not that every night wasn’t beautiful, of course, because they all were. Great-Aunt Celly simply nodded, just as though he wasn’t borderline incoherent.

“And you’re one of the princettes, aren’t you? Snow Shimmer, I think? Who’s your friend?” The Princess’ eyes slid to the white pegasus with the camera.

He pulled his hat off and held it to his chest, clearing his throat. “Uh, the . . . the name’s Paper Negative, Your Highness.”

“Paper Negative . . . Oh yes, I’ve heard of you.” Princess Celestia glanced at his cutie mark—a black-and-white photograph with the colours reversed from what they ought to be. “And are you enjoying the garden? Paper Negative?”

“Oh yes! Beautiful flowers! I thought I’d . . . take some pictures of them,” the pegasus said, grinning and shifting rapidly from hoof to hoof. “I love flowers!!”

“Hwuh!” Sun Shimmer interjected, his first contribution to the conversation though not a particularly valuable one. Everyone gazed curiously at him, and his ears wilted . . . though he did finally manage to close his mouth, at least.

“Have you met Birdsong, Princette Shimmer?” Great-Aunt Celly inquired, patting my back with her wing. (Very nice, very gentle. I’ve often wished Aunt Dahlia would follow Great-Auntie’s example, instead of slapping me so heartily on the back that my hooves sink into the ground like tent stakes.) “My dear nephew is here visiting from the Queendom. How are my nieces doing these days, Birdy? They’re well, I hope?”

“Oh, buzzing along like anything, Auntie.”

“Duchess Traverse?”

“Fit as a fiddle.”

“Duchess Chanticleer?”

“Healthy as a horse. And Cousin Angel,” I added, “is just finishing up her treatise on sharks.”

“Well, well! Good for her.” She paused to once more regard Duke Sun Shimmer, who had just made a gurgling noise deep in his throat. But when no further business resulted, the Princess gave up on that quarter and turned back to the assembled.

“I must be going now, my little ponies.” She inclined her head with a smile to acknowledge their (collective) bow, to which I added a hasty bow of my own, just a bit after the fact. She moved to the edge of the clearing before inquiring over her shoulder, “Would you care to join me, nephew?”

“Rather!” I gamboled over to her—if not quite like a lamb in spring, then at least close enough that a lamb of that season would nod approvingly at my technique. I had just reached her side when it suddenly struck me . . . my hat was still back there, lying in the grass. “Oh! But I should really—” I started to pivot, but a shimmering white wing gently turned me back towards the path.

“Not just now, my dear,” Great-Aunt Celly whispered, her neck a graceful arch. “Give him some time to think about what you’ve said.” She straightened and ruffled my forelock. “And what I’ve said.”

Puzzled, I followed her, casting one more glance over my shoulder. The nobleponies were watching our departure in their usual cluster, aside from Sun Shimmer, who was off on his own a bit. He no longer looked aghast.

Instead he looked thoughtful.


Next chapter: Princess Celestia to the rescue . . . ?


I came across “dream-rabbit” in one of Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle books and just had to use it. It seems to mean the same thing as “baa-lamb.” If you want to know what a baa-lamb is, you will have to ask Birdy’s friend Lala.

Aunt Charade (pronounced, of course, as "SHUH-rahd") is vaguely based on Bertie Wooster's Aunt Charlotte, whom he referred to a couple times in less-than-loving tones. I decided the pony version was the youngest and most fashionable of his aunts, who had a tendency to regard him as a sort of accessory, like a purse-dog, when he was a small foal.

Sorry once again that it takes me so long between chapters! My life is super busy at the moment, so my writing time is sporadic. On the upside, I finally broke 50,000 words and this is the longest chapter to date!

Comments ( 28 )

"I believe the word begins with an 'f' Jeeves."
"Indeed sir?"
"Something about initiating the process of commenting."
Jeeves cleared his throat in the manner of one having spotted something that looks exactly like a landmine, and is about to probe at it to discover whether or not it will send one in multiple directions with an almighty b.
"It could be, sir, that you are thinking of the convention of commenting 'first' when one believes oneself to be the first person to view an item of interest online. I would not recommend such a course of action."
"Not a good idea Jeeves?"
"It is a frowned upon practice sir, it might be rather injudicious."

I was saddened. Here was a bit of literature which had managed to rather capture the old imagination with it's highly relatable characters. But us Woosters are willing to accept counsel.

"I must say though Jeeves, she really has hit the nail on the head with some of these characters, what? "
"Indeed sir. The young lady in question has an ear for conversation sir."
"Do you see a parallel with us Jeeves?"
He cleared his throat. "Perhaps a small resemblance sir."
"Because I think I'm rather like this Greeves fellow. Always a plan up my sleeve what?"

Hooray! Pip-pip! Tally-ho and whatnot!

Anyway, nice to see Birdy making the ancient classical "I have this friend" mistake of his astral humanoid double! Bra-vo, and rightly so!

519331 At least Sun Shimmer doesn't believe that the stars are God's (Celestia's? . . . Luna's?) daisy chains.

As far as we know.

519305 Oh my ponies. This . . . this should be framed.

"With all the Jeeves and Wooster in this comment, it's sure to be . . . the best first EVER!" :twilightsmile:

It's been so long since this updated that I'm gona have to reread the story just to GET what happened here...

I knew, I just knew this was going to happen. He just had to act not only like a bumbling fool, but a bumbling lovestruck fool.

God, I'm liking Birdy more and more. And I wouldn't be surprised if even Celestia now believed Birdsong has his heart set on Sun Shimmer; along with the rest of Canterlot.

Edit: That is to say, in believing Birdy loves Sun Shimmer. I doubt the Duke is popular enough to have all of Canterlot pining for him.

Addendum: They're colliding, Princette. Not colluding.

I'm enjoying this story very much. And I have to say, Birdy's reaction to Celestia says a lot of positive things about his character. He can be a bit shallow and silly, but he genuinely cares for people, doesn't he? He's a good little pony.

Oh, good show, ser, very well written indeed! So well written, in fact, that you appear to have reduced my less pleasant and more critical self inarticulate - a feat unaccomplished by any but the most talented of wordsmiths, I assure you.

Enter Trollestia... :trollestia:

Huzzah an update how lovely! Indeed even more exciting than the last one! Truly I must tip my hat to you for such utterly spiffing work.

As an ardent Wodehouse-reader, I've wanted to look at this story for a very long time, but so far its length always deterred me. Until now.

Well, it looks like after its long, but uneventful reign, 6 Angry Mares was pushed down to second place on my "Favorite Crossovers Ever" list.
Others pretty much summarized everything I could say; I just want to point out that you nailed down Wodehouse's style brilliantly. You managed to make me feel exactly like I'm reading a novel from him, even though I haven't read his works in original English. You're just that good. :raritywink:
Also, Princette Snow Shimmer is best OC. I imagine her as a grown-up Diamond Tiara...
Favourited, by the way.

On the other hand, now I have to wait months to figure out what happens to poor Birdy! :raritydespair:

And lastly, I have a question. I was probably inattentive, but why is our fearless hero so close to the Princess herself? I mean, he's practically hugging her, while everypony else is trying to seem as submissive as possible. I know he's the cousin of Blueblood, but Blueblood himself is only a great-great-great-great-etc. nephew. Or does Celestia have so few relatives that even distant relationships, like this, count as serious business? Or have I skipped over something?

557192 Hello, and thank you kindly for your comment! :D I am always chuffed to find out I've been doing justice to the wonderful Mr. Wodehouse. :pinkiehappy: Out of curiosity, what language have you read Wodehouse in, and does the wacky 1930s slang translate well? (I've heard his books are enormously popular in India.)

The funny thing is originally Snow Shimmer and Sun Shimmer's only purpose was to drop a few tidbits of information in Birdy's path and then disappear forever. But after they made their first appearence, things spiraled. :rainbowwild:

Regarding Birdy and Princess Celestia, no, you haven't missed anything . . . More will be revealed on this front. It would not occur to Birdy that it would be something he'd need to explain, but the ponies around him are going to be wondering the same thing. As far as he's concerned, anypony could canter straight up his wonderful, kindly, perfect great-aunt. Birdy being Birdy, he does not think to ask himself why no one else does this. :trollestia:

557482
Ah, good - I was afraid I have misunderstood something, but I'm glad I haven't. I'm curious whether a (real of imaginary) close relationship with the Princess could save Birdy from the total social stigma...

I read Wodehouse in Hungarian - that's pretty far from Indian, and yes, it does have a very unique atmosphere (fun fact for bronies: "old thing" translates roughly into "old warhorse"). Although it depends on the translator, of course: I met Wodehouse books so blandly translated I couldn't even finish them, but usually I can't put them down. Literally: I used to walk on the streets with a book in my hand, barely avoiding walking into lampposts and such! :pinkiehappy:

I can see Sun Shimmer starting as a running gag (Birdy running into him, that is), and then slowly growing in importance. I only wonder what did he want with Bench... My Wodehouse-senses telling me those two will have a role together later, possibly something with the soon-to-be-stolen artifact. I know it doesn't make sense, just a feeling. :rainbowwild:

I may be unique in that I actually became interested in the Wodehouse books and the BBC series thanks to your excellent fic.

The whole air of misadventure after misadventure and things all corkscrewing to disaster or triumph is fantastic. A mastervork.

I'm up to Chapter Ten now, and totally enchanted. I am very hard to please with Wodehouse adaptations. If they are bad, I want to chuck the Infant Samuel at Prayer at the author's head. If they are good, I'm tempted to go off and read the original instead. This didn't make me want to do either.

Poor, poor Seeker. I hardly know what to hope for him. Actually attaining the heart of Sun Shimmer seems more like a punishment than anything else.

I don't know if long posts are what you're looking for, so I'll keep this one short. This fic is excellent, publisher-worthy excellent, and a great Wodehouse tribute. I've started reading the series (beginning with Right Ho, Jeeves, FYI) and got the DVD set of the series with Fry and Laurie. Reading about the relationship juggling, the characterisation, the comedic asides and astute observations, twists, turns, and general air of things getting rapidly out of the hero's hooves is like sipping a jolly good cocktail where the ingredients mix exquisitely and the flavour leaves you with a lovely aftertaste.:raritystarry:

I know it's been nearly 3 months since you updated this, so I'll just say that I'm very much looking forward to the next chapter. I hope you continue to write and uphold such an impeccable standard, because I'm enjoying this story immensely and I think you have a lot of talent.:pinkiehappy:

I must say, I've become quite taken with this story....it is superb! A bit of a different writing style, but in a way that makes it even more entertaining :pinkiehappy:

Will there be more on the horizon? I really, really hope so!

(Don't make me unleash the Rarity pout...:duck:)

:twilightsmile:

Ohmigawsh! STORY WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!? P.G. Wodehouse is my favorite author, EVER, and I have literally seen every episode of Jeeves and Wooster twice or more... Oh lor'. This shall be epic.

Carry on, Greaves!

Right Ho, Greaves!

Stiff Upper Lip, Greaves!

The Inimitable Greaves

Greaves in the Morning...

I could go on and on and on...

Oh you make me happy.:heart:

Please say you will continue this. It is so splendid!

Oh dear.
Oh dearie me.

This seems a bit of a mix-up.

So.... any plans for continuation?

I don't quite have the words for how good this is, but the last chapter was so long ago... If it doesn't get continued, this will be the WORST. POSSIBLE. THING! :raritycry:

When is this getting updated? I've grown an addiction to these words. Update it ASAP

If I beg piteously is there a chance more of this fic will appear? You've been getting some lovely referrals from Author Insert by Warren Hutch and that reminded me of how much I adore this fic.:twilightsmile:

God f*** it, I accidentally read another eternally incomplete fic. And it was damn good, too!

I think I see where this is going. I'm going to mark my prediction as spoilers: The whole assembled crowd of nobles, made fully aware of Birdy's connection to Blueblood and having marked him as a pariah-by-association, are now witnessing him being all chummy with the princess. Just as Blueblood's status as an equus non grata reflected onto his cousin, Birdy's oblivious friendliness with Auntie Cellie and obvious acceptance by same will transfer the other way. Without him so much as lifting a hoof. Not sure how things will turn out re the Border Blanket, though.

Login or register to comment