• Published 25th Apr 2014
  • 2,372 Views, 70 Comments

A Turnabout in Kind - alexmagnet



A dinner party gone awry; a priceless relic stolen; Rarity accused of grand larceny. All signs point to a conviction, but even with an ace Canterlot attorney on her side, she'll need more than a few "Objections!" to win the day.

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2 — A Gauntlet of Guests

“My dears, you look absolutely stunning!” Fancy Pants looked between the two mares, his eyes and smile shining.

“Well,” said Rarity, “the dress would be nothing without Fluttershy looking so beautiful in it.”

Fluttershy blushed. She had to admit, though, that was very true. Her gown was a rosy red, its fabric patterned with snowflake-like designs along the hem, cascading down around her rear legs in ample measure. The sleeves opened wide around the elbow, letting the silk lace underneath spill out above her fetlocks. With her mane braided and draped over her shoulder, and a small tiara on her head, she looked every inch the foreign princess come to call on the Canterlot nobility.

“I don’t like to brag,” Rarity continued, “but I think this is some of my best work yet.”

“Indeed,” said Fancy Pants. “The way you’ve combined both Equestrian and Snowbound fashion is remarkable.” Examining the fabric, he let out a soft whistle. “My, my, my, what did you use here? It’s incredibly fine.”

Rarity smiled proudly. “Ah, now that is a special silk I had imported from Saddle Arabia just for the occasion.”

“Well, that’s quite the expense for one little soiree. A far cry from that garden social many months back.”

“Oh, um…” Rarity looked away. “Yes, I suppose I did put a bit more time into this ensemble than usual. ‘Dress to impress’, as the saying goes.”

If Fluttershy was any judge, Rarity was the more impressive of the two of them. Her dress was cut along similar lines, but was deep violet in hue, neatly matching her mane and tail. In the absence of a tiara, she wore a bright sapphire around her neck, the same color as her cutie mark. The entire ensemble made her coat stand out all the more, even against the white carpet of the main foyer.

“And impressed I’m sure they’ll be, my dear.” Fancy Pants beamed at Fluttershy. “I daresay you’ll be the talk of the party.”

“Oh,” she said, ducking her gaze to the floor. “I’m sure if anypony’s going to be the talk of the party, it’s Rarity. I don’t think I even want to be the talk of anything.”

“Now, now,” Rarity said, “don’t be slipping back into stage fright again. Think of this like the modeling you did for Photo Finish.”

Fluttershy suppressed a shudder. “She… She’s not going to be here tonight, is she?”

“Perhaps. I don’t recall the entire guest list. There will be plenty of new faces, I’m sure.” She struck a pose. “A brand new audience for the art of Carousel Boutique!”

“You are most correct, my dear,” said Fancy Pants, taking Rarity by the hoof and leading her toward the door. “In fact, it’s high time for the guests to begin arriving. I’ll want to welcome them in person.” With a spark of his horn, the door opened wide, and they stepped onto the front patio.

The manor was nestled just on the edge of Canterlot proper, near the foot of the great mountain on which the city sat. Close enough to the hustle and bustle, yet far enough away to still allow a little breathing room for a proud set of palisades and a winding front drive. The trio, once outside, could see that a long string of carriages was even now clattering its way up toward the great house.

“Hmm, I think I recognize some of them already,” said Fancy Pants. “That white coach must be Fleur’s, that teal affair belongs to Jet Set and Upper Crust… Hoighty, Laureate, Sapphire, Arpeggio”—he counted off each carriage in turn—“and Doctor Sterling Hoof are all here…” he broke off into a chuckle. “And as for the bright red coach, well, I won’t spoil his appearance just yet.”

“Does everypony in Canterlot have their own carriages?” Fluttershy asked.

“Most, not all. It’s just another distinguishing mark. A little something to stand out from the crowd.” He grinned. “If I had my way, I’d attend every gathering by airship.”

Seems like that would be impractical, she thought, looking at the pointed towers of the city. One wrong move, and...

“Ah, here’s a good start to things.” Fancy Pants motioned to the first carriage that had pulled up, a handsome black coach with gold trim.

The door swung open, and out stepped a highly distinguished-looking stallion in a blue overcoat. The garment was accented with gold trim and buttons, and he wore a white ascot to complete the ensemble. He was a unicorn, with a tawny coat and long, wavy mane that was just beginning to gray and bald. On his nose was a set of round bifocals, framing his brown eyes.

The stallion turned to the carriage, offering his hoof to its occupant. The unicorn mare who stepped out was tall, or at least, seemed tall thanks to the way her mane was styled. Her crimson locks were piled high atop her head like the tangled branches of an overgrown thicket, capped with a headdress of colorful feathers. She wore a ponderously-wide dress that trailed far behind her, its many frocks all but trailing on the ground. There was an airy look in her magenta eyes as she took in the manor’s facade; if Fluttershy was any judge, she seemed to be looking at it in disapproval.

Drawing close, the pair made their way up to Fancy Pants, who grinned at the stallion. “Always fashionably early, aren’t we, Avant?”

He smiled back, producing a silver watch from his coat pocket. “Always remember that time is money. And if money must be spent, it pays to be on time.”

Fancy Pants chuckled. “A maxim for every occasion.” He held out a hoof, and the two shared a firm hoofshake. “It’s always good to see you, old friend.”

He bowed his head. “Likewise, Fancy.”

“Ladies,” Fancy Pants said, nodded to Rarity and Fluttershy, “may I introduce the esteemed polymath known as Avant Garde. He and I go all the way back to Canterlot University. As to the lovely lady beside him, however, I’m afraid I’m at a loss.”

“Ah, yes.” Avant Garde turned to his companion. Fluttershy caught a glimpse of his cutie mark: a cog, sheet of paper, and quill. “Silk Stocking, ma chérie, this is the stallion I was telling you about.” He stepped aside, giving her space to admit her dress.

Bonjour, Monsieur Pantalons.” She smiled sweetly, timidly offering her well-polished hoof. “It is an honor to finally meet you.”

“Ah, what a lovely accent!” He took her hoof in his, planting a kiss on it. “As befits such a lovely mare. My dear, it’s my honor to welcome you to my home. After all, it’s not often we have three beautiful ladies livening these halls.” He winked at Fluttershy and Rarity, his cheeks tugged into a cheery grin.

Rarity took the opportunity to step forward. She looked over Silk Stocking’s dress with a discerning eye. “I must say, that’s quite the ensemble you have, Miss Stocking, or is it ‘Missus’?”

Her eyes widened, and she held a hoof in front of her mouth. “Oh, non, non. It is simply ‘Miss.’”

“Yes, I’m afraid we’ve only known each other for a short time,” said Avant Garde. “Indeed, I wish we had met sooner.” A playful glint flickered across his eyes as he smiled. “It’s always a pleasure to meet new faces, especially if they be so beautiful. Ladies, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask your names.”

Rarity shook her head. “Oh, how silly of me, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Rarity.”

As Fancy Pants had done for Silk Stocking, Avant Garde took her hoof in his and kissed it. “Miss Rarity, it is an honor and a privilege.”

“And before I’m so foolish as to make the same mistake again, allow me to introduce you to my friend Fluttershy. She’ll be seeing to the arrangements for the animals this evening.” Rarity stepped to the side and allowed Fluttershy to come forward.

Avant Garde offered his hoof. “Fluttershy, is it? I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Fluttershy extended her own hoof, and whispered something that might have been a “Nice to meet you, too,” before averting her eyes.

He raised an eyebrow for a moment, before his smile returned. “Speak little, do much. A fine philosophy to be governed by.” He kissed her hoof. “Better to slip with foot than tongue, after all.”

I’d rather not slip at all, she thought. “Um, I’ll keep that in mind.”

He nodded, turning to Fancy Pants. “Fancy, my friend, I’m sure I will speak with you later. And I’m sure we’ll have much to discuss.”

“Of course,” Fancy Pants said. “Please, carry on. You’ll find hors d'oeuvres just past the door, and my servants are at your every beck and call.”

He bowed his head once more, and with Silk Stocking by his side, made his way into the manor. She offered a final “Merci, Monsieur,” in passing.

Rarity turned to Fancy Pants. “So, old friends, then?”

“He’s one of my oldest. We studied business together at Canterlot University.” He chuckled. “Well, ‘together’ is perhaps the wrong word. We were… intellectual rivals, you might say.”

“Really? Somepony to rival you, Fancy Pants?” Rarity grinned at him. “I find that hard to believe.”

“Oh, well, we’d both say we were better than the other. In fact, it was because of our locking horns that we realized we’d make better partners than foes. We started a business together right out of university.” He looked out at Canterlot, a distant look in his eyes. “Our paths diverged shortly thereafter, though. Ah, now here we are.” Fancy Pants indicated the bright red carriage that had just pulled up. “Brace yourselves, ladies.”

The carriage door swung open, and out leapt a riot of color. He was an earth pony, with a bright yellow coat and a curly purple mane and tail. He wore a jacket that matched the hue of his coach, and on his head was a wide bicorn. Both were emblazoned with the letters “P. P.” in gold embroidery, matching the gold hue of the gilded telescope on his flank. About the only thing that wasn’t over-the-top was the white feather stuck into his hat, and even that was comically over-sized. He took a few steps forward, and, upon spying Fancy Pants, zoomed forward with a speed that would have done Rainbow Dash proud.

“Fancy Pants, my good stallion!” he cried, seizing Fancy Pant’s hoof and giving it a vigorous shaking. “Words can hardly express the joy, the absolute elation that I feel to be here!”

Fancy Pants laughed. “It’s always a pleasure, Posh. Ladies,” he said, turning to Rarity and Fluttershy, “this is Posh Panache.”

“Ah, my good ladies!” he leapt forward, kissing each of their hooves in turn like a hummingbird among flowers. “Posh Panache, entrepreneur extraordinaire, at your service!”

Rarity blew a bit of feather from her nose, chuckling. “Well, it’s very good to make your acquaintance, Mr. Panache. My name is Rarity.”

“Please, Miss, call me Posh. Because I am!” He laughed, a high and warbling sound.

“Yes, well, Mr. Posh, I must say, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anypony of your… particular fashion sense.”

“Oh yes, I design all of my own outfits. It’s about the only way I can be sure they’re… me, you know?”

“Well,” said Fancy Pants, “it seems you two have something in common. Ms. Rarity also designed her own ensemble for this evening.”

“Really?” Posh’s blue eyes sparkled. “Well, you and I are going to have to compare notes, then, won’t we?”

“Um, yes, I suppose we shall.” Rarity looked away. “Oh, but first, you must meet my friend. This is Fluttershy.”

“Hm, and is she also a designer?”

No, I just work with animals.

“I’m sorry? Didn’t quite catch that.”

“I, um… I said no. I work with animals.”

“Oh, really? So do I! Have you ever ridden a Saddle Arabian sand worm? No quicker way to cross a desert, let me tell you. And the dirigible whales of the southern seas? Nothing more exciting than a day in their cavernous mouths. Unless its spending an afternoon having tea with the puffball toads of—”

Fancy Pants coughed into his hoof. “Posh, old boy, I’d save at least some stories for the rest of the party. There’ll be plenty of ponies to tell them to, as well.” He looked pointedly at the line of other guests that was making its way up the drive.

“Ah, but that implies I’ll ever run short of stories! No matter, my good stallion. I’ll simply make myself at home, then.” He started for the door. “Oh, but one more thing, is it alright if the lads join me?” He pointed a hoof at the team of stallions hitched to his carriage. “It’s not every day they get the chance to eat and be merry like this.”

Fancy Pants smiled. “My house is open. A few more guests won’t hurt a thing.”

“Thank you very much, sir. SUREFOOT!” he bellowed.

“Yes, sir?” came a response from down on the pavement.

“DRINKS’ ON, LADS!”

“Yes, sir!”

“Such a good colt.” He beamed, turning back to the Rarity and Fluttershy. “With that, ladies, I bid you farewell for now.” He pranced away inside, leaving the trio standing as though a whirlwind had just blown through.

Fancy Pants chuckled. “Yes, that was indeed Posh Panache. As he said, he’s the owner of a rather successful merchant company. He’s quite famous for bringing the first hourglass mushrooms to Canterlot. Finicky things, those. They grow only in the northern reaches of the Unicorn Range, and if they’re not—ah, my dear Fleur!”

Fluttershy turned her attention from Fancy Pants, and found a beautiful unicorn mare had waltzed up the steps. From her snow-white coat to her peach mane to her elegant lavender gown, she radiated an aura of sophistication and grace that, if Fluttershy was any judge, would have rivaled any of the Princesses.

Or perhaps that was simply the aura of her perfume, which smelled like an army of daisies on the warpath. Fluttershy fought to keep from sneezing.

“Ah, my darling Fancy Pants,” said Fleur de Lis. “It’s wonderful to see you again. How long has it been? It seems like it’s been ages.”

Fancy Pants pondered that. “Really? It felt more like weeks, my dear. I trust your latest tour went well?”

“Oh, it was dreadful.” She waved a hoof in dismissal. “No matter what they say, Los Pegasus is not beautiful this time of year.”

“Really? I should think the summers would be fantastic out there.”

She rolled her eyes. “If your idea of ‘fantastic’ is to spend your every waking moment in a tightly-packed sweatbox of unbearable heat and insufferable ponies, then yes, I suppose it was fantastic. But enough about me. How are you, Fancy Pants?” She batted her long lashes sweetly.

“Well, you know, just working to get this whole affair off the ground. And I’ve not been alone in that endeavor.” He held a hoof out toward Rarity and Fluttershy. “These two have been—”

“Oh yes, I’m sure you must have been worked to the bone! Imagine, forging an alliance between two great nations! I only wish I could have been with you.” Her gaze rolled airly upward.

“Yes, well, as I was saying, I’ve not been alone. These two—”

“And to orchestrate such a fantastic gathering! All of Canterlot is turning out for this! But then, who wouldn’t heed the call of such a gentlecolt like yourself?”

“Well, there are a few who won’t be present. The Princesses politely declined, of course. Chancellor Bright Stone, as well.”

“Hmph.” Fleur turned her nose upward. “I suppose that’s their loss. Well, I’ll see you inside, my darling. I’m sure you have plenty of other guests to greet.”

“Ah, Fleur, wait.” Fancy Pants held out a hoof. “I couldn’t let you leave without introducing these two upstanding mares to you.”

Fleur looked at the pair, as if only just noticing they were not, in fact, part of the manor walls. “Oh, I suppose that’s true. How do you do, Miss…?”

Rarity cleared her throat, a sour expression on her face. “It’s Rarity. We met once before.”

“Did we? Oh, yes, I suppose we did.” She turned to Fluttershy. “And forgive me if I’m forgetting your name, as well, Miss.”

I wouldn’t be surprised. “Um, no. We’ve never met. I’m Fluttershy.”

“Fluttershy? Well, I’ve no doubt I’ll be seeing more of you and… Rarity, at the party. And of course, I’ll be seeing you, Fancy Pants.” With final fluttering of her long lashes, Fleur spun around and disappeared through the front doors. Rarity looked after her with a narrow-lidded expression.

“You’ll have to forgive her, my dears,” said Fancy Pants. “She tends to be a little… how shall I say…”

“Airheaded?” Rarity deadpanned.

Fancy Pants barked a quick laugh. “I suppose that’s one way of putting it. I’ve often wondered if she wouldn’t have made a better pegasus, considering how often she has her head in the clouds. She means no offense, I assure you.”

Rarity let out a quick breath. “I suppose I’ll have to take your word for that. I just hope the rest of your guests aren’t so… distracted.”

As it happened, the remainder of the guests were very focused, arriving, exchanging pleasantries, and moving onto the mingling with the practiced efficiency of the well-to-do. While most were new acquaintances, a few familiar faces did turn up; Rarity was pleased to speak with Hoighty Toighty again, as well as Sapphire Shores. And though the appearance of Jet Set and Upper Crust set things on edge once again, the tension deflated immediately once Photo Finish arrived and, to Fluttershy’s bashful surprise, both remembered her and held no hard feelings.

“Really, ze’re vas no loss vhen you left. After all, ze magicks do not cling to any one pony.”

Fluttershy smiled, slightly. “Well, I’m glad you found somepony else to model for you.”

Photo Finish harrumphed. “Ze’re is always somepony to model for me. Ze world is but a frame in my camera’s lens!” Abruptly, she turned to Fancy Pants. “And thank you again, dahling, for inviting me. I vill take many photos to commemorate ze evening.”

Fancy Pants grinned wide. “I am in your debt, Miss. Please, enjoy yourself.”

As she sauntered into the manor, Fancy Pants looked around. “Well, I believe that’s the entire roster filled. Shall we mosey into the foyer?”

Rarity all but jumped up and down in joy. “I believe that’s a lovely idea.”

He nodded. “Come along then, we’ll wait for them inside. And as long as we have time to kill, we can have some fun mingling.”

Mingling. Fluttershy swallowed heavily. Here it was, the moment she’d been dreading. She could feel her breath quicken, could feel the shivering in her knees at the thought. It was one thing to have unfamiliar faces pass her by one-by-one, but entirely another to have them all there at once. As Fancy Pants and Rarity turned towards the door, Fluttershy found herself failing to follow.

And as luck would have it, that was when she caught sight of something unexpected. Another carriage was steadily making its way up the drive. It was deep red with gold trim, and was pulled by a team of heavy-set stallions dressed in sleek coats.

“Um, Mr. Pants?” she called. “It looks like there’s one more.”

“Hm?” He turned, his eyebrow raised. “So there is. Odd. Who could we have forgotten?”

The carriage pulled up to the manor, and its driver—a pegasus—fluttered down from his perch and opened the door. The coach’s lone occupant exited with his head held high. He looked to be a younger stallion—lean, and with his maroon mane gathered in a simple tail. He wore a burgundy tailcoat with a pale lavender vest and wine-red puff tie. His amber eyes swept across the manor, Fancy Pants, Rarity, and Fluttershy all at once, and, after flipping a bit to the cab driver, made his way to them.

“Who is that?” Rarity asked, a sly smile on her lips. “I daresay I should like to meet him.”

“Ah, that would be—” Fancy Pants cut off as the stallion in question drew up before them.

He smiled at Fancy Pants, thinly. “Well, don’t let me interrupt the introductions, Fancy Pants. Or were you expecting me to introduce myself? I can certainly do that, and at length.”

Fancy Pants looked him in the eye, and without breaking his gaze, said, “Ladies, this is Cavalier Cairn.”

“Short, sweet, and to the point. I have always appreciated your candor, Mr. Pants.” Turning to Rarity, he took her hoof in his. “And how do you do, Miss…?”

“Rarity,” she said, looking like a mare who had just won the lottery.

“Lady Rarity.” He set her hoof back down. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

Her expression quickly shifted to one of confusion. “If it’s truly a pleasure, then surely you can be more polite? I daresay the lack of a kiss is a faux pas no other stallion here tonight has committed.”

“Well, I’m afraid those other stallions have been playing fast and light with the rules. Generally, one reserves that sort of behavior for ponies of… equal standing.”

Rarity’s mouth fell open, but before she could retort, he turned back to Fancy Pants. “Mr. Pants, I do apologize for being late. But, you can thank the Chancellor for urging me here while he is indisposed. I trust my presence will be welcome?”

Fancy Pants worked his jaw for a second. “My doors are open for any guests.”

“Excellent. So who else is here? The usuals, I’m sure.” He shrugged. “I suppose we’ll see. Take care, would you?” And with that, he swept into the manor without a single glance at any of them.

Fluttershy blinked. Throughout that entire exchange, he’d never once looked at her. Looking at Rarity, whose jaw was still open, she found it difficult to determine whether that was a good or bad thing.

All of a sudden, Rarity stirred. “I… He… How…” she seethed, looking at Fancy Pants.

He shrugged. “No further explanation necessary. That was Cavalier Cairn.”

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