• Published 30th Oct 2011
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Canterlot Follies - LadyMoondancer



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

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Chapter 5: Loose Lips Sink (Relation)ships

Chapter 5: Loose Lips Sink (Relation)ships

“What-ho, Greaves,” I greeted the earth pony as I wandered in.

“Good afternoon, sir. Did you have an informative visit with Prince Blueblood?”

“Oh, absolutely. I learned that he’s determined to keep shut up in his room drinking himself to death, that he has no appreciation for his cousin Birdsong, and that he will glower at well-meaning ponies who offer to help him.” I tossed myself into a chair. “But if you mean did I gather any useful information, I’m afraid it was a bust.”

“I am sorry to hear that, sir.”

“If you ask me, he’s gone off his nut; he was yammering about sharks half the time, with eyes bloodshot and a-twitching. And what will Aunt Agate’s reaction be, I ask you, when I send her a message beginning ‘Sorry to inform you your only son has fewer marbles than advertised’?”

“Indeed, sir, one imagines she would be less than jubilant.”

“About the only useful tidbit I got out of my princely relation was that his troubles started at the Grand Galloping Gala, where he was shoved into a cake by none other than—”

“Miss Rarity, sir?”

“Ha! Quite. How did you know?”

“I have been pursuing my own sources in the Servants’ Hall, sir, though I must confess I first heard that particular tale quite soon after our arrival. It is a favourite to be told after dinner when the staff is in a light, cheerful mood.”

“Do tell! August was rather reticent about the turn of events.”

“Understandable, sir, as the tale does not portray him in a flattering light. It seems Prince Blueblood met the young lady at the Gala and invited her to accompany him for the evening. He made several less than chivalrous faux pas—for example, dropping her shawl on a puddle to avoid getting his hooves wet, rather than merely walking around it. But the coup de grace occurred when an eight layer apple cake was accidentally launched into the air. The prince saw it bearing down in his direction and, I am sorry to say, pushed Miss Rarity forward and used her as a blockade.”

“Good heavens, Greaves!”

“Yes, sir. The young lady was distressed.”

“No wonder!”

“She proceeded to vent her feelings loudly while transferring a good deal of frosting onto the prince’s person.”

“Well, well, well. That makes a good deal more sense than the version I wrung out of August.”

“Indeed, sir?”

“He made it sound like she was hurtling baked goods around for a bit of light entertainment.”

“No, sir.”

“Mmm. All the same, this knowledge does little to assist us with the Blueblood crisis, which is beginning to look rather hopeless, in my humble o.. I mean to say, if he refuses to do anything but sit on his rump clutching a bottle to his chest...”

“Very true, sir.”

“I ran into a hot-and-cold pair of the gentry who indicated some sort of feast was being prepared—”

“Yes sir, a state dinner. According to the castle’s domestic staff, Princess Celestia herself will be present. It may be informative for you to attend, sir.”

“You think I should crash the party?”

“I’m sure that will not be necessary. I will have a word with the butler; undoubtedly he can find room for you on the guest list.”

“Excellent. I say, you didn’t come up with any ideas about that ruddy blanket Aunt Dahlia keeps harping on about, did you?”

“It is still my opinion attempting to purloin the Border Blanket would be a grave mistake, sir. But should you wish to attempt it, I did discover that only two ponies guard the museum at night. By chance, the guards currently assigned to this task are the very two who stood outside the armoury room when we first toured the building, Silent Vigil and Seeker by name.”

“The glowering grey unicorn and his more chipper, though equally grey, compatriot? But they were there during the day when we saw them.”

“The guards rotate shifts every few weeks, sir—from day shift to night shift.”

“Ah, I see.” An idea struck. “I say, Greaves, you couldn’t drop a word in their ears, could you?”

“Sir?”

“You know—pal around with them and hint that they should take a night off. Like with these butlers and cooks and things you’re so chummy with.”

“That would not be productive, sir, and would only arouse their suspicions.”

“You don’t think it would appeal to their finer feelings—the plea of one servant to another?”

“I would not describe them as servants, sir,” Greaves corrected in a rather emphatic tone, if emphatic is the word I mean. “They are guards.”

“Well, yes, but if you think about it, aren’t they a kind of—?”

“No, sir.”

I recognized a brick wall when I saw it, and one had definitely been mortared in front of further conversation on this subj.. “Ah. Not part of the guild in your opinion, eh Greaves?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, you know best on the matter, of course. I shall just have to think of some other way.”

“To return to the subject of the feast... with your permission, sir, I would like to join the castle servants in catering the event.”

“Try your hoof at a bit of waitering and catering, you mean?”

“Precisely, sir.”

“Fine, fine,” I said I as I opened the wardrobe and ran an eye over the contents. “An extra pair of eyes may well come in usef—”

“Not that dinner jacket, sir. If I might suggest this one, which has a cleaner cut.”

“Oh... quite. Yes, by circulating amongst the gentry, we may well discover—”

“Not that bow tie, sir.”

“Confound it, Greaves! Why not this bow tie?”

“It produces an unpleasing effect when taken in conjunction with your hair, sir. There is a clash.”

“But they must match. I mean, the tie’s blue and my hair’s blue, how could they—”

“Clashing shades of blue, sir. If I might instead suggest a deep burgundy—”

And so on.


When Greaves had critiqued my mode of dress to his satisfaction (which involved a brief but passionate argument over which handkerchief was “appropriate for a gentlecolt at a state dinner”), I left the evening clothes lying on my bed in readiness and—it being merely afternoon at this point—decided to stroll into downtown Canterlot and see if I couldn’t pick up another novel.

After browsing about the bookstore, I settled on Mystery at Mustang Manor. The front cover featured a goblet with steam roiling off it in the shape of a skull and a Whinndeyian blowpipe and a ruby necklace lying in a pool of blood. I mean to say, if that doesn’t promise quality reading then what does?

I paid the filly at the front counter the approp. number of bits and stepped out into the sunshine. When a glance down the street revealed that I was only half a block away from the shoe-shaped Satin Slipper Sweet Shoppe, my pal Plinker’s problems came back to me.

How was she doing, I wondered, and would I need to be present for that whole “Birdsong is a rake and scoundrel” act or could she pass it off to her parents as a soliloquy, as it were? I decided to drop by the S. S. S. Shoppe to see if she was on the premises goggling into Bon Bon’s eyes. To the pink and white takeout window I went.

“What-ho, Bon Bon!” I said, for none other was standing inside by the cash register. She was looking a bit frazzled, a few strands of pink and blue hair making a bid for freedom from her coiffure.

Nevertheless, she hoisted a smile onto her face. “Oh, hi. It’s Birdy, right? What’ll it be?”

“Well, I suppose I could do with a box of chocolate covered cherries, as long as I’m here,” I pushed some bits towards her. “But chiefly I was wondering if Plinker—that is to say, Lyra—is about anywhere.”

Her forehead furrowed. “I was about to ask you the same thing. I haven’t seen her in days. I hope she’s not sick.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about her.” I waved a hoof airily. “Probably being shoved facefirst into a pile of cakes and dresses by her parents. But I imagine she’ll get a respite from all that soon enough, and about time too, what?”

Bon Bon added some new furrows to her collection. “I don’t understand. Dresses? Cakes?”

“You know. For the engagement.”

She gave a polite laugh. “But Lyra’s parents don’t know we’re engaged.”

“Well, no, of course not that engagement, the other one. The one to...” Sudden, terrible misgivings welled up as I faced Bon Bon's gaze—equal parts puzzlement and inquisitiveness, with just a dash of suspicion thrown in. “...to sing,” I managed to croak out.

“What?”

“An engagement to sing at... the Londun Opera House,” I said, mentally grasping at the familiar venues of my homeland. It was sheer luck that I didn’t say she’d be kicking up her heels at the Gilded Gaskin Cabaret or the Mottled Oyster Club. “Yes, back in the merry old UQ. A fancy black tie affair, very posh. So of course she needed a dress of the appropriate caliber.”

Suspicion had definitely come home to roost on Bon Bon’s visage. “And the cakes?”

“The cakes? Oh yes, the cakes! For afterwards. Makes you dashed hungry, singing. I remember one time Lala Blossom dared me to sing Minnie the Moocher six times straight through while standing on my head and by the time I finished—”

Minnie the Moocher was cutting no ice with Bon Bon. “She didn’t say anything about it to me and she always tells me about her performances. I collect,” she said in a deadly sort of tone, “the programmes.”

“Well, ah, well, perhaps she—”

“Prince Birdsong!”

I turned around despite the fact that the air had turned to molasses.

A dark pink unicorn stallion with green and blue hair was striding towards me. I had never met Plinker’s father before, but I had no doubt this was he. First, because he had rather the same colour and choppy style of mane as Plinker. Second, because he had a bugle cutie mark, which would explain where Plinker had inherited her musical prowess. Third, because Plinker’s mother was hurrying after him.

“Now Reveille, dear,” Mother Heartsong hissed at her b. and chain, “We mustn’t disturb the prince. He’s very sensitive about his privacy!”

“Nonsense,” Pa Heartsong boomed. “Prince Birdsong doesn’t mind having a little chat, do you, Prince?”

“Oh goodness, I didn’t know you were a prince,” Bon Bon’s voice floated from behind me, dashing all hopes that she had left, fainted, or been struck unconscious by a falling box of chocolates in the few seconds since I’d turned my back.

“Oh, rather,” I stuttered out, answering both questions in one go.

Some say Fate is the cruelest nemesis a pony faces in this world. I will not deny that it has a nasty habit of dealing a solid thump in the ribs to a pony who has already tripped over a cobblestone, fallen into a scorpion pit, and accidentally stepped between an Ursa Major and her Minor variant.

But I still maintain that Hindsight is worse. Because when Fate deals you a sharp blow to the head, you can stare skyward, shake your hoof, and curse the gods... but when Hindsight rears its ugly head, you find yourself staring in utter disgust at your past self while uttering futile cries of “if only!”.

Take my previous bit of dialogue, for example. “Oh, rather.” It was completely the wrong tack to take. What I should’ve done was leveled the Heartsongs with a haughty stare, drawn myself up, and said, “Jolly right I don’t like to be disturbed, so leg it out of here as quickly as your hooves will carry you, you nosey blighters.”

But alas, I was too frosted over with panic to think of that until later. Like a snake frozen by an approaching bird—or rather, the other way ‘round—I watched the Heartsongs approach.

“Well, I suppose we could chat for a minute,” Ma Heartsong said as she sailed up.

“Certainly we can!” Sir Heartsong bellowed into my ear—a rather deaf old coot, I think—as he slapped me rather too hard on the back. “I’m sure this young buck is itching to meet his future father-in-law!”

The silence from the take-out window behind me changed from the normal “watching with detached interest” version to more of a “deadly leopard crouched behind you in the steaming jungle preparing to strike” style of thing.

“Oh, quite!” I said, praying to be turned into a tree or snatched up by an eagle or offered some other avenue of escape like the chaps in mythology are always stumbling upon.

“You and Lyra make such a lovely couple,” Dame Heartsong said, digging my grave a bit deeper.

“Oh, yes?” I could feel two blue eyes boring into me from behind.

“It seems you have another admirer, Prince Birdsong,” Sir Heartsong chortled as he put a hoof around my shoulder and turned me around. Apparently he had mistaken Bon Bon’s look of frozen enmity for girlish adoration. I can only theorize the old stallion was blind as well as deaf, since Bon Bon’s visage looked like it would shortly be issuing forth peals of thunder and bolts of lightning.

“Sorry, girly, this one’s taken!” Pa Heartsong added; despite his playful tone this remark did not visibly lighten the filly’s mood. I wouldn't swear that steam began pouring from her ears, nor would I swear that it didn’t.

Unlike her mate, Ma Heartsong did not take such a jovial view of the situation. With a stiff frown she said, “Please do not STARE at the prince, girl. He does not appreciate being gawked at by commoners.”

“Of course not,” Bon Bon said in tones that would have made a polar bear shiver and toss a few more logs on the fire. She slapped a box down on the counter. “Your cherry cordials, your highness. I’m sure Miss Lyra will... will LOVE them!” And with that a flood of tears broke over the dam and she ran into the depths of the sweet shop.

“Right-ho,” I said miserably to nopony in partic., stuffing the box in my saddlebags.

“What an extraordinary girl,” Dame Heartsong said, staring after the unfortunate waitress.

“Chocolate fumes cause hysterics. Well known fact.” Sir Heartsong nodded several times. “I remember once when I was in school I broke into a cocoa factory on a dare and—”

The female of the species must have decided this particular tale was unfit for princely ears, because she said, “Well, we must be going now, your highness. Right now. Come along, Reveille.”

“Goodbye, young fellow!”

“Toodle-pip,” I returned, but my heart wasn’t in it. You didn’t have to be the brainiest of ponies to see that this little scene had thrown a hefty spanner into the workings of Bon Bon and Plinker’s engagement.

As I stood looking at the empty take-out window, wondering whether dropping in for a quick word of explanation would do more harm than good, Fate played one of its jolly little gags by sending Plinker herself trotting up to me.

“Birdy, hi! Or should I say what-ho?” She chuckled.

“Oh, what-ho old thing!” I said, wheeling around to face her and hurriedly pasting on a smile. “How... how are things?”

“Well, Mother dragged me off to Fence and shoved me into about a hundred bridal shops, which was unbelievably tedious. But now she’s finally moved on to the next stage of her plans, namely bragging to everypony she knows. That should keep her occupied for weeks.” She clapped her hooves together. “And I can finally get back to my sugary sweet Bon Bon. Yay!”

“Plinker.” I hardly knew where to begin.

“What’s wrong, Birdy? You look like somepony just bonked you over the head with a two-by-four. ”

“Plinker,” I tried again, only to get hung up on her name.

She waited, looking at me. But I had stalled.

I gave it another go. “Plinker.”

“Birdy, I’m really sorry but I’ve been gone all week and I’ve just GOT to see Bon Bon right now. I’m just so excited!” More clapping. “I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

And while I stood there numbly, she toddled off into the candy shop. Her tail disappeared through the door and there was a moment of silence before muffled howls of rage and the crash of breaking china began issuing from the interior. That was all it took for the instincts of self-preservation to awaken my muscles and ligaments, and I strove for home at a rapid pace.


It took a bit for my panic to settle into mere malaise; I trudged down the avenue with a weary gait, wondering if Lyra could calm down her sweetheart and hoping that Bon Bon wouldn’t loose a cobra into my room at night, like the homicidal gardener in The Mystery of the Pink Cupcake.

I could picture the scene quite clearly... Self, lying pale on the floor—well, my coat’s pale to begin with, but pale and lifeless is what I’m trying to get across—next to the sinister, hissing snake while Bon Bon, with mud on her hooves and a battered felt hat on her head, let out a coarse chuckle. The garden would be empty at that midnight hour; no one would see her shoving a suspiciously large burlap sack into the deep, deep hole that she had dug “fer ta plant a pear tree fer tha missus.”

And then in the morning Aunt Dahlia—supposing she was visiting Canterlot for some reason—would wonder aloud where her favourite nephew was, and Great-Aunt Celly would reply, “You know, Aunt, I mean Niece Dahlia, I was wondering the same thing. Where could the dear boy be?” And months later, when pale white roses bloomed on that very spot—atop the hole, I mean—Great-Aunt Celly would pick a bloom and sigh sadly and a single tear would run down Aunt Dahlia’s cheek, or perhaps vice versa—

“Ow!” yelped a voice, just as I walked straight into something prickly at chest level.

“Oh, sorry,” I said, jumping back.

“It’s okay,” said the bush.

Next chapter: Conversations with, in, and about shrubbery!