• Published 26th Sep 2014
  • 25,197 Views, 548 Comments

Drawn With the Night Into the Day - Dan_s Comments

Fancy travels to Canterlot to fulfill a commission. She decided to toss a few stones in the placid waters to see what turns up.

  • ...

1) The Commission

Drawn With the Night Into the Day

by Dan's Comments

DISCLAIMER: My Little Pony is the property of Hasbro, Inc.

Fancy Thunder had been playing with her daughter. Actually, she'd been watching her daughter carefully and quietly bury Klein Bottle, her employer, in leaves. He was going over Fancy's designs, and was oblivious to his impending 'doom'. Then Fancy caught his glance and smile towards Dipper as she crept off to collect more leaves. Fancy felt a warmth towards this strange, nearly hairless, bipedal creature that she'd never felt for her own family, especially not her father who'd basically sent her off into exile, for wanting to raise her own foal.

But on the cusp of losing all hope, something delivered me to him, she thought as she watched Dipper deliver another load of leaves, and race away. He'd glance at the foal, then concentrate on the papers he was studying.

It did bother her how private Klein was. She knew more about the griffon king than she did about someone she worked with so much and so closely. Except the nightmares, she thought, Like the one he had after coming back from the toy fair. What could have happened that would have affected him like that?

She heard the squawk of alarm from Dipper, and tried to look deeply concerned that her quarry had vanished. As Klein hid in the tree above, she and Dipper searched the pile of leaves for the hole he'd dug to get away from her nefarious plan. Only after a bit of searching did she look up, and fall back on her haunches with a squawk of surprise at her quarry in a tree looking down on all the searching.

The appearance of a scroll materializing in their midst brought some consternation to the adults.

"I thought you needed a dragon to do that," he said as he slipped down out of the tree.

"It's a commission," Fancy said, collecting Dipper and noting him getting closer. Then her blood ran cold, even his hand on her shoulder couldn't warm it away. "From Discord."

"I never even wrote that letter," he said under his breath.

" 'As part of my nefarious plot to raise money for selected Equestrian Charities, see attachment one for complete list and contact information,'" Fancy said, then looked at the pages attached to the back of the scroll. " 'I would like to contract one Fancy Thunder to design, and oversee production of the collectible, commemorative figurines of all four Princesses. In solid material, in action poses. Details to be discussed with said Princesses in Canterlot. For your snoopy boss, who is probably reading this over your shoulder.'" She turned and looked at Klein. She grinned, but he was staring at the page. "Acceptance or refusal of this commission are not Darwin or Newbery Award moments.' What is that?"

"It means nothing bad will happen to you or Dipper," he said, nearly biting the words off. Such ferocity should have frightened her. Instead, she leaned back against him and she felt him relax slightly.

She nodded. " 'That your excellence in design, and the skilled metalsmiths, molders and finishers of your firm have brought you this commission. And your ability to meet deadlines you set. Rooms for you and a small staff have been arranged in the castle.' "

" 'Signed, Discord.'" She unrolled further. " 'P.S. Please!'". Little animated figures of a pleading Discord on his knees alongside the word 'please' in a dozen different fonts in the different colors. "Well?"

"Well what?" he said, "It's not exactly what you wanted, but if you want your return to be memorable, that will do it."

She glanced down, and all the figures of Discord were nodding. Dipper looked over at the page and waved to the figure, who obligingly waved back, then started playing peekaboo with the foal. She raised an eyebrow at that, but looked closely at Klein. "Should I take it?"

"Okay, to be perfectly clear, of course you should take it. From what I'm reading between the lines, Discord is betting we can get the measurements and drawings, get the proofs approved and get the production run complete and in their hands before some deadline they haven't mentioned that the Equestrians can't meet."

The Discord figures nodded, then went back to playing peekaboo with Dipper. Fancy looked at the figures, then at Klein and shrugged. "I guess the two of us are heading for Canterlot. I wonder what the climate is right now, and I don't mean the weather."

The airship ride had been fast, she suspected that the airship had some help. She looked over the small team she'd brought, one of the minotaur sculptors, a diamond dog mold maker, and a one-winged pegasus as a go-fer. She hadn't asked the young mare how she's lost her wing, or if she'd even been born without it, Shadow Lightning seemed to take after Klein in that respect. But the mare seemed eager to do whatever she had to both to please her bosses, and to get the job done.

She was amazed that the welcoming committee consisted of Discord, a butter-yellow pegasus with a pink mane, and one royal guard. No Princesses, and definitely none of her family. Their loss, she thought as she carried Dipper along down the gangplank. As soon as she got in range, she handed Dipper to Discord, along with the diaper & equipment bag. "See there's the real one and you get to spend time with him."

Fancy wasn't sure who was more shocked, the pegasus or Discord. She was just employing the trick Klein did, steamroller them, then make them want to follow along. Discord had taken the items reflexively. Dipper did her part by hugging the draconequus and going to maximum cute mode. From her little saddle bags, she pulled the letter and showed it to him.

"That's her favorite," Fancy said, "And I know you can show her all kinds of things. How clouds grow, and flowers, and if her diaper gets dirty, there's wipes and clean ones in the saddlebags. And don't you want to get back at all the pigeons for what they did to your statue?"

"But I," Discord began and looked down into that worshipful expression. Discord's brain made an amusing series of noises, which delighted Dipper.

"It's just for a little while, and she was so looking forward to meeting you in person," Fancy said, "And Discord." She gave him her own cute look, showing the apple hadn't fallen far from the tree. "I trust you." She vaguely wondered if there were certain words that worked on all adult males. Because Discord reacted exactly as Klein always had. He got a serious mein, checked the completeness of the supplies and set off.

The yellow pegasus, Fancy remembered was called Fluttershy, nodded, grinning ear-to-ear, then she followed him.

"You're one crazy," the diamond dog, Buzz, said.

"I handle Klein the same way," Fancy said. The others nodded in agreement as she waved a hoof in front of the stunned guard. "Fancy Thunder, party of four with child."

"Oh, ah yes, right this way," the guard said and kept glancing sideways at her.

The palace was what she remembered. Although she hadn't remembered the night guards. She'd been on the outs with her family at the time of Luna's return, so visits to the palace had fallen off considerably. She got everyone situated and checking out the baggage they'd brought before she was summoned to 'Their' Highnesses. She took her sketch pad and notebook, she wanted to get the exact details of the commission. She might trust Discord to look after Dipper, but she wanted someone less random to give her the details of the problem. She smirked and summoned a small sphere that let her look in on Discord and Dipper. They were sitting on a cloud and Discord was showing her how clouds worked. Even the pegasus was listening with rapt attention. That taken care of, she took on the visage of a cool, collected businesswoman dealing with high-ranking clients. Rather than a pony who'd fawn all over them and then fail to deliver what they were supposed to.

It was easier promised than accomplished when she encountered them face-to-face. She bowed. Since she'd been disowned, she was a commoner, and she too had studied what was required.

"Please don't!" Princess Celestia said. She sounded almost frightened.

What did Klein do? He didn't do that whole stupid thing that . . . of course he did, she thought, Well, I guess a little fun at what they did to me with the Royal Commission couldn't hurt.

"Oh course not," she said as she stood, but kept her head down, "I'm still an Equestrian citizen, there's no need to make a point over remembering protocols." She hid her smile at the nervous hoof shuffling. "I'm sure he was absolutely proper and correct." She gave them her best nervous grin, and found it unwillingly mirrored on all four princesses.

"We are changing those laws," Princess Luna said as if each word were a feather plucked from her wings.

"Well, that's nice," Fancy said, "I'd also like to thank all of you for participating in Discord's commission. It must mean a great deal to him."

The simultaneous 'hit in the face with a plank' look told her she'd scored a huge point.

"Discord?" Princess Sparkle said, "His commission?"

"He was the one who contacted me and requested the firm I work for handle the casting. Now I assume that since it is for the Equestrian Charities, that you can tell me size, metal composition, how large a run, how fine the work needs to be? I mean does each feather and curl need to be picked out, or is a smoother mass appropriate, and how realistic or abstract is the sculpture to be?"

The stunned expression on all the faces told her that she was talking to the wrong ponies. The last figurine of Celestia alone had been fifty years earlier, and her research hadn't determined what it was made of.

"Yes," she said, "I take it this was not discussed with you. Then exactly why are all of us here together?"

She waited for the four of them to put their heads together and begin discussing. From what little she overheard, they had taken Discord's promise to 'fix the problem' with a huge grain of salt. She took out her sketchpad. The four concerned princesses might make a good subject for the sculpture. It did show them cooperating. They should know that if someone is going to be truly unpredictable, they occasionally have to play one thing completely straight, she thought, Otherwise everyone knows when they promise the moon they don't mean it, or will never deliver.

She concentrated on points of articulation, and considered if dolls of them might also be saleable. Yes I can see that, little fillies playing tea party with the princesses, or have them off fighting Sombra. Who knows? she thought as she sketched. She envied the ponies who could capture life in their drawings, hers only taught you how it was put together, how the 'machine' worked. As the princesses discussed, she took a moment to check up on Dipper. Her baby had utterly charmed Discord, and was using her horn to try to make a cloud rain. The rain she managed was dark brown, and the cloud itself was pink. Fancy started to dispel the image when she suddenly realized the little bijou had captured all four princesses' complete and undivided attention. They fell under Dipper's `spell` as thoroughly as Discord and Fluttershy had, and gasped with delight as Dipper made her cloud rain into a set of glasses Discord had conjured, then the three of them drank.

"I've only seen her that enthusiastic about chocolate milk," Fancy said, then noted the horrified expressions on the princesses' faces.

"You let Discord have your child?" Princess Sparkle said.

Fancy thought very little of her tone. "And the pegasus, Fluttershy," she answered, "When you become a mother, you get a sense about who is and is not a good babysitter, and he'll be able to keep her out of trouble. Almost no one else in Equestria could."

If she'd hit the princess with a lightning bolt, Fancy doubted she could have disheveled her mane that quickly or completely. "Ah heh heh," Princess Sparkle said as she backed away from Fancy and took cover behind Princess Celestia.

Fancy realized that in all the Equestrian stories and histories she'd ever heard, Princess Cadence was the only alicorn to take a mate. Neither Celestia nor Luna had, and that fueled endless and thoroughly depraved speculation about Celestia and her series of young and impressionable students, and now Celestia and her sister. Another thing she didn't miss about being around her family or the other nobles.

She glanced at them. "Okay, I know you're all busy, but I need to get started if we're going to meet your deadline, which is when by the way?"

"Three weeks," Celestia said, "Five hundred have to be ready in three weeks."

At least it's not five thousand, she thought as she considered, Several metal molds to create the wax molds and then we can produce the sets. It's the trimming that will take the time. I hope they aren't in iron.

"If you have a casting facility available, that shouldn't be a problem," she said, "What's the material?"

"Chocolate," the four princesses said.

Oh dear, she thought.

Cadence was the first available, so she posed. Mainly to demonstrate points of articulation. "I understand your company has developed those marvelous toys."

"Yes," Fancy said, "Klein Bottle comes up with the crazy ideas. I make them work, and we sell them like daisy sandwiches on a summer's day. Highness, please extend your foreleg, and drop your hoof."

"This is different than I'm used to. The royal sculptors would have me pose in the position they were going to sculpt," Cadence said.

"Yes Highness, but I'm making a smaller model, and I need to know what your skeleton can do, then I'll sketch out the pose. Now the other leg, same pose." Fancy had a dozen sketches of how the Empress of the Crystal Empire could move. She'd get a pose, and show it to her, then the mold maker would sculpt a rough.

She'd told her team to get some sleep now, because the days were going to get packed and scattered for a while. "Hoof straight out your Imperial Highness."

"Oh, just Cadence, please," Cadence said and giggled nervously.

"Considering the Crystal Empire isn't a signatory of the Multicursal treaty, I think I can do that," she said.

"Is that . . . ?" Cadence asked, "Well, your partner shocked Princess Celestia."

She looked up. "You can relax, I'll finish up these sketches. I can't imagine him doing anything improper."

"It was proper, just incredibly archaic," Cadence said as she trotted over and looked over the drawings. "These are unusual."

"I'm no artist, and I just need the details for the mold maker," she said, "What did you hear? Klein never told me anything, other than he'd been banished from Equestria by both Diarchs in concert." She looked at the stunned Princess. "What?"

"That isn't what I heard," she said, "Not that we discussed it in depth, but I did ask about the toy fair."

"Well, you can check Equestrian law. I don't know the details, but Klein has never lied to me."

"You care very much for him, don't you?" Cadence asked.

"He took me in when even my own family tossed me out. He trusted me with a lot of his secrets, but only going forward. His past he keeps to himself. I've traced it back to Canterlot. But there the trail disappears."

"Have you asked?" Cadence asked.

"Yes, he said 'you don't want to know', but I do," Fancy said.

"Chocolate?" Buzz, her moldmaker asked. She looked at the materials she'd brought for mold making and mournfully shook her head, "Lost wax not so good." She cocked her head. "Maybe make it by looking at lost wax to make molds. Complication."

Fancy nodded. "I know, the softness of the material works against us."

Buzz looked up as Discord entered. The draconequus arrived with Dipper and Fluttershy. The 'god' of chaos looked like he'd been dragged through a knothole straight into a meat grinder, and pounded flat by a steam roller. And would gladly crawl across a field of broken glass to do it again tomorrow.

"Discord, thank you," Fancy said as she took her sleeping daughter from his arms.

He almost protested, but instead looked wistfully at her.

"Are you available to look after her tomorrow?" Fancy asked. The draconequus brightened and nodded numbly.

"Let's get you tucked in to bed," Fluttershy said as she led him away.

"Poor Discord," Stone Blizzard, her sculptor said, "I'll work with Buzz on how to get the molds. You need to get some rest. Princess Luna is nocturnal, very early morning will be best."

Fancy nodded as she carried Dipper in and laid her down, then went to sleep herself. She left her team to do the work while she rested so she could do hers.

Night Court was essentially over, and the sun would rise in a few hours. Her 'Nightjesty' seemed surprised that Fancy had arrived with her sketch kit. Fancy bowed, and that was all.

Much to her Nightjesty's relief, Fancy thought as she straightened up, Even the bow was over the top for what most court functionaries do.

"Your Highness, I've come to get sketches for my mold makers," she explained.

Luna nodded. "My office, I would rather have privacy for this."

Fancy nodded and the functionaries filed out. A few guards accompanied them.

"You seem less intimidated than so many others," Luna said.

"My family are Canterlot nobles, I grew up walking the palace, your Highness," Fancy said, "I only fled because I was disowned and feared for my daughter."

"Feared?" Luna asked.

"Her sire was an artisan, not a noble. Having her around would taint the chances for a 'proper' marriage," Fancy said.

"Arranged marriages are illegal," Luna commented as she opened a large room and invited Fancy inside.

"There's illegal, and there's family pressure. Knowing your child might be spirited off to an orphanage at an unguarded moment. Threatening, then bribing a husband to relocate without leaving a forwarding address. Nothing that can be proven as criminal to a court of law, but all adding up to the same thing. So I fled with my daughter, Klein took me in, gave me work and a future." She hid her grin at Luna's discomfort with the male's name.

"That is to his credit," Luna said.

"How did you two meet?" Fancy asked, "He seems fairly brave, but he's terrified of you and Princess Celestia." Fancy used Luna's brief paralysis to begin sketching.

"There was an incident with my sister. He was mistakenly caught up in the dragnet," Luna explained, "He fled custody before the situation could be explained or remedied."

" 'Remedied?' So he lost his home and his job, and fled the country," Fancy said as she sketched, "That seems an awfully severe reaction to mere questioning by the authorities." Fancy paused to almost give Luna time to answer, then she interjected, "That would explain the nightmares."

Luna froze.

"If he were a pony, you could help him with that," Fancy said brightly, then frowned, "No, as scared as he is of you, it would make them worse. Forget I said anything your Highness, that was stupid."

Luna nodded weakly. "And your nightmares?" she offered, "With the concern for your child, I would think they would plague you."

"Nary a one since I hooked up with Klein. Except when I have too much sarsparilla in the evening. But those are more disorienting than frightening. Once I realize I'm asleep, I can just ignore the insane goings on and just watch them." Fancy kept sketching, catching a knee joint, the details of a wing, and the effect her chatter was having. "That's not to say I wouldn't deeply appreciate help if it ever came to that."

"I see," Luna said, "So are you and he . . . intimate?"

Fancy sighed and looked as depressed as she could. "I get hugs, but he sleeps alone. He says it's the nightmares, but I can see he's lonely. Something really hurt him and he's still deeply afraid." She perked up. "I guess just showing I can trust him helps. And maybe it is the nightmares. He had one after he came back from the toy fair." She snickered. "I shouldn't laugh but he was thrashing around and two of the office ladies came in to hold him so he wouldn't hurt himself. Now those were older ladies, but they were both fairly large minotaurs so you can imagine what it would be like to be asleep next to him when one hit."

"Yes," Luna said, her voice barely above a whisper.

"But he gives the best hugs, ones you never want to end," Fancy said, then giggled, "And the ear scratches, ooh! It feels so good you think your brain will run out your ears." She giggled again, more throatily. "Then the imp starts nibbling. Those pointy teeth. It's enough to put a mare into heat right then and there." Fancy noted Luna's blush. "But you must know."

"WHAT!?" Luna asked.

"Well, you knew him before I did, and he's so friendly and open. He would have seen you so sad and tense and well, helped? Privately and discreetly of course." Fancy said and looked at the stunned Princess. Fancy got a look of realization. "Is that what happened? He met you as Nightmare Moon and . . . well, that's none of my business what two adult ponies do together. But I'm sure if you sent him a letter explaining that you and Nightmare Moon are different ponies, he'd understand."

"That is not what happened!" Luna insisted.

"Well, getting arrested seems such a trivial thing to be so scared about. I'll tell him to stay away from you then, no use bringing up bad memories," Fancy said, "Uh, your Highness, I do have to ask something, and it's kind of embarrassing."

Luna sighed. "Ask."

"I need a full body sketch of you rampant with your wings fully extended. Would you mind?" Fancy asked and enjoyed the almost painful expression on the Lunar Diarch's face.

"It is not a problem," Luna assured her.

Discord was there bright and early to pick up Dipper. Fluttershy was with him.

"I thought you had animals to feed," Fancy asked, then glanced at Discord, "Or did you take the express?"

Fluttershy grinned and nodded. "I knew it was important to Discord, so we took care of that before coming here. Would it be all right to take Dipper to see some of my animal friends?"

"Certainly. There aren't too many animals wandering about up north, so that would be wonderful. Just remember how she gets into everything."

Fluttershy glanced at Discord, who was enjoying getting his beard tugged. "I think I can handle it."

"Thank you," Fancy said, "Say, you wouldn't happen to know if the Princesses have figurines, or action figures, do you?" When Fluttershy shook her head, Fancy asked, "Discord?"

"No," he said, blinked, "Why didn't I think of that?"

"With your commission, I thought you had," Fancy said, "That's what we were prepared for."

"So, you could make them?" Discord asked.

"I'll bring it up with her Highness Celestia when I do her session. I just have to get an appointment," Fancy said.

She waved as Discord collected the baby supplies.

"Oh, we're also going to the art museum," Discord said.

Fancy considered. "Okay, that's fine."

What are they going to do there besides . . . freak out the curators and the guards, that's what, Fancy thought, By doing nothing but looking, of course.

"Have fun," she called out. She headed out to contact Celestia's secretary to get an appointment for a sketching.

Luna shifted at the breakfast table, chasing her food around with a fork rather than eating it. Celestia noted her unease. "Rough night?" she asked.

"That mare is an idiot," Luna said.

"Fancy?" Celestia asked, "She seemed quite charming to me. And cunning enough to intrigue Discord."

Luna glared at her sister. "She speculated that the human, Klein Bottle, what a name, and Nightmare Moon were romantically intimate, hence his terror of the Pony Sisters."

Celestia heard Luna's despondent tone and knew she should be sympathetic, but instead, she started laughing and had great difficulty stopping.

"Tia!" Luna complained, "I'm serious!"

After several minutes, and the pain from her ribs giving her something else to focus on, Celestia was able to regain her demeanor.

"Tia!" Luna repeated, "I am serious!"

"Yes, of course," Celestia said and struggled valiantly to maintain the composure such a deep wound to her sister's loftiness deserved. Celestia burst out laughing again.


"I'm sorry, but is it better than the rumor you and Twilight constructed him because you were 'lonely'?" Celestia asked.

Luna shuddered at that. "Slander most foul."

Celestia put a hoof under chin. "Considering Fancy's experience, perhaps you both could have benefitted."

"That's disgusting," Luna said.

"Well, I have a meeting with her. It will be interesting to see what questions she asks. As for her being stupid, Discord took up our flippant request to get the sculptures out. He chose her and her company to rub our noses in the ineffectiveness of the nobles. I don't think she's stupid."

"I can imagine what working with him must be like, just boiling over with new ideas," Princess Sparkle stood in the middle of the sun room and went on, and on, and on.

Fancy glanced up directly into the smiling countenance of Equestrian's newest Princess. She didn't jump, as she had the first five times, but still got shivers from the near demonic interest directed at her. "With respect your Highness, I already have a good sketch of your face, can you turn sideways so I can get the rest of you?"

The youngest alicorn suddenly realized what she was doing, took a step back and smiled. "Sorry," she apologized as she turned sideways. Within a few moments, she was nervously pacing again.

At least it lets me diagram her joints, Fancy thought as she sketched, I wonder if I should give her a completely frazzled mane, a manic expression and have her at a dead gallop? No.

"Not to worry Highness," Fancy said.

I think I figured out the nightmares, Fancy thought, He was locked in a room with this Princess, he mentioned one of his toy designs, and by the time they rescued him from her questions, he was probably ready to run to the back of beyond to get away from her.

"He doesn't talk about his past, so you'd know more than I would," Fancy said, "And you act like he's from another world, rather than just a clever inventor."

She glanced up at the stunned and visibly sweating princess. Yep, he had a run in with 'All Knowledge Must Be Mine' Sparkle, Fancy thought, No wonder he's traumatized.

"Not every brilliant person gets to go to Princess Celestia's School for Gifted Unicorns. Especially those who aren't," Fancy said as she sketched, "And some chose not to go, so they could see what interested them worked in the real world. The school's fine with theory, but if you want to see metal worked, you have to go to a blacksmith or a foundry."

"But you've noticed how many ideas he gets that never occurred to us here in Equestria," the princess said.

"Your Highness, I get ideas that 'never occurred to us here in Equestria' every day, from griffons, diamond dogs and minotaurs. Just walking the shop floor, talking with people who've done the work for twenty years," Fancy said, "So that my boss would occasionally get such flashes of insight is hardly Equestria-shattering."

"But don't you get the feeling that some of his ideas are . . . eerily unpony?" Sparkle said.

"Of course," Fancy said and watched the princess relax, "Just like the ideas I get from griffons, minotaurs, and diamond dogs I work with every day.". She glanced up at her horn. "Too many of us think a bit of bone you can't find on a zebra elevates us to the pinnacle of the intellectual achievement and anyone who has hands can't possibly match us. We're wrong every time we think it, but to assume a person has to have escaped from Tartarus or another dimension just because they can come up with ideas we haven't is the worst kind of intellectual laziness and cultural elitism. 'Wow they figured how to freeze fruit juices to make popsicles, ALIENS must have taught them that!' They couldn't possibly understand how ice freezes and have made the leap themselves. Pure and complete garbage."

Fancy noted the princess looking like she was ready to beat her head against the wall until one of them broke. Interesting, I thought the rumors that Twilight Sparkle and Princess Luna summoned a creature through magic was a load of malarkey, Fancy considered, I wonder what Klein's reaction to this will be. Maybe he'll whip off his disguise and eat my brain.

"I mean who'd believe that you and Princess Luna summoned him because you were so terribly lonely?" Fancy asked.

"Lonely?" Princess Sparkle asked.

Fancy turned to face away from her, wiggled her hips and let out a sigh. "You know, lonely?" With Sparkle paralyzed and wings at full extension, Fancy sketched as quickly as she could.

Celestia looked up from her delicious lunch. "Oh dear," she said as Twilight exclaimed.

"There are ponies who think Luna and I summoned him because we were, ah, lonely," the distraught former student gasped.

"How horrible," Cadence said, but was having as hard a time keeping a straight face as Celestia was. The guards were all outside the private dining room, and the servants were outside the 'privacy field' Celestia had cast.

"How dreadful," Celestia added, "She didn't accuse you of that, did she?"

"No," Twilight said and rested her chin on the table, "She suggested how silly it was that people thought that." She sat bolt upright. "But ponies think I'd do something like that? Yank an alien creature from another world just to . . . " She sank back down, putting her head on the table and covering it with her forelegs.

Cadence and Celestia exchanged looks over the overwrought, little alicorn.

"Well, you know it isn't true," Cadence offered, "Just like you realized Chrysalis wasn't really me."

Twilight perked up.

"Did anyone besides Applejack ever apologize for that?" Cadence asked.

Celestia realized she'd been outflanked.

"Not really," Twilight said.

"See, we all do things not out of malice but out of - what's the word?" Cadence said, hoof on her chin.

"Carelessness, foolishness, stupidity?" Twilight happily provided, turning the screws on her mentor.

"No, like pathos," Cadence said.

"Apathy?" Twilight said.

"Yes, apathy," Cadence said as Celestia felt lower than dust, "Like that Royal Commission Fancy and Klein got, and she applied for. I'm sure it wasn't malice that made Canterlot slam the door in her face. It just wasn't part of the policy."

Celestia noted that now Twilight looked as bad as she felt. "You sent the commission?"

"I thought it would be a clever way to get him here so we could explain, and maybe figure out a way to send him home," Twilight admitted and rubbed her hooves together, "Maybe I should apologize."

"Maybe you should," Cadence said and looked at Celestia, "Maybe a long-overdue apology is a good idea."

Celestia was suddenly aware that she was not the only strategist on the field. I think I need to take Fancy Thunder a good deal more seriously.

Celestia was getting more nervous by the minute. Fancy politely, always very politely, would ask her to move, hold a pose for a moment, then move to another one. She'd mentally prepared for a series of 'innocent' questions, as the others had been subjected to. The businesslike, near silence and expressionless demeanor was getting to her.

"I understand you had some interesting conversations with the others," Celestia said.

"Not interesting, your Majesty," Fancy began. No change in tone, no ear movement, and no deviation from her expression of concentration.

"You can call me Celestia, please."

"As you wish, Princess Celestia," Fancy said, glancing up from her sketch pad, "Not interesting, more like terrifying. Um, left rear forward, right rear back, and the reverse for the front, just a walking pose. Thank you, your - Princess Celestia." She sketched.

"Why horrifying?" Celestia asked.

"Well, Princess Celestia, when I arrived, I wanted to ferret out why my dearest friend would be so nervous about Equestria, and terrified of Canterlot, especially the Princesses. I couldn't even figure out how he knew the Princesses."

"We are rather famous," Celestia countered.

"Most people don't have terrified screaming, violently thrashing about nightmares about you. And this from a male who has little problem with me or Dipper, will negotiate with dragons, and doesn't seem to have an enemy in the world." She looked up. "Would you mind looking behind you? Yes, just like that."

"And now?" Celestia asked, feeling her pose was appro, her looking in the wrong direction and about to be hit by a train. "What do you think?"

"Princess Celestia, you can relax, I've got to finish these up. I'll have the first proofs out in the morning. Then we can adjust the poses, make detail corrections and the like."

"Oh, thank you," Celestia said and felt like smiling, but still heard the oncoming train, "What about your investigation?"

"When the answer became multiple-choice, I decided I didn't want to know," Fancy said as she concentrated on the paper.

Celestia walked over to look at the sketches. "Multiple choice?" she asked as she looked at scattered bits and pieces of her surrounding an over all 'framework' of joints and ranges of motion.

"Yes, her Lunar Majesty is angry that she successfully terrified him and he's still frightened of her. Or maybe that he never tried to hit her back, like a filly punching a colt to get his attention and he ignores her. Her Highness Twilight Sparkle thinks he is an alien creature silently plotting to eat her brain. Her Imperial Highness Cadence doesn't know anything about the events, despite them happening in or around the week of your 'enforced rest', so that means she either knows the real story, and has been sworn to silence, or is so appalled she doesn't want to talk about it, or she's been actively denied access to the information. Combine that with the terror I've seen in his eyes on waking from one of his nightmares." Fancy looked at Celestia. "Can you imagine looking into the eyes of someone you love more than life itself, who rescued someone you love more than your own life, and seeing only abject terror? Not random terror, but directed straight at you?" Fancy returned her attention to the sketches and her notes. "I don't want to know what caused it. I just hope by being a good friend I can help cure it."

Celestia stifled the urge to hug the mare. "If you could face who did it, what would you do?"

To her surprise, Fancy started laughing.

"Do?" Fancy asked as she wiped her eyes, "Do? Thank you, your Highness, I needed that. You do tell funny jokes, let no one tell you different." She blew out a breath. "I wasn't expecting that. Do? Nothing. There's nothing to do. A commoner from another country bringing charges against a Canterlot noble, in a Canterlot court?" She gave a hiccup of laughter. "The commoner would get a free trip back to their homeland by Bailiff Air when they got punted out of there. Highness, I have noble friends, and I'm hiding at the back end of beyond to keep out of the reach of the Canterlot nobility. The only record of Klein's existence is his arrival in Minotaura and his tax records in Multicursal. Nothing in Equestria. I know, I checked."

"I was serious," Celestia said, "If you could confront who hurt him, what would you do?"

"I wouldn't, Your Highness. While almost no one in Equestria is above the law, there are a whole host of people who are above being annoyed."

Celestia flinched at the fatalistic tone coming from one of her ponies.

"The coalition of nobles who were supposed to do the job my team is doing are not going to be punished for wasting the crowns' time and bits. Nearly every one of the princesses has remarked how speedily the process is going. I'm going to do my job, collect my bits, and have the thanks of the crowns and Discord for a job well done. I am not going to do a big reconciliation with my family for what they did, nor any other entity in Canterlot for what I've suffered as part of their games. Highness, I have a life waiting for me in Multicursal. I have a male who treats my daughter as his own, I have a boss that I love, work I am very good at, more money than I could spend in a frugal lifetime, and more important than that, I have hope. Hope I never had as a filly. That I and my daughter will be judged by our accomplishments, not by our proximity to the crown."

"I see," Celestia said as she bowed her head.

"Please don't take this the wrong way. I am doing this job because I believe you deserve it. Not for that expensive chunk of metal on your head, but because the person Celestia deserves to have something she wants done right."

Celestia felt a tear on her cheek.

Fancy looked up. "Come here, no one to see but us." She spread her arms, and when Celestia bowed her head, Fancy hugged her, stroking her neck. "It's all right, let it out, let it all out. He's forgiven you, now you have to forgive yourself for what was done in your name."

Celestia let herself cry.

"What a morose group this is," Cadence said as she entered the banquet hall for dinner and surveyed her fellow princesses.

"We are not morose," Luna said, "We are concerned."

"I'm just thoughtful," Celestia said and smiled a bit.

"And Twilight thinks we're all doomed," Cadence said and chuckled at Twilight's frown. "As I understand it, they'll be working the molds tonight, and have the first set of proofs tomorrow morning around breakfast. If someone found a chocolate pouring house." Cadence stared at Twilight. "We could start work in the afternoon."

"Uh, yes, I'm getting right on that," Twilight said and left, her meal untouched.

"You're going to give the chefs a complex," Cadence said as she dug into the food, "They're going to think you three not eating is their fault."

"Cadence," Celestia said, "What do you know, really know about the events of my 'enforced vacation'?"

"You were put under a doctor's care after something damaged a large chunk of the palace," Cadence said, "That's all. The rest is third-hand rumors and speculation. Some of the speculation I trust almost as much as the facts. That something attacked you in your quarters. When you tried to subdue it, it blew itself up, and not completely successfully. That it was interrogated before it died, and it raved like a madmare about things I've never even heard of. Maybe Twilight could explain some of them, they're gibberish to me."

"Then know we used magic to trace back where it came from and kidnaped another of its kind to interrogate," Luna said, "We were expecting something just as mad and as hostile."

"It wasn't anything of the kind. Fancy dotes on it, and it had the opportunity to fling its claims and charges against us out into the international community. Instead, it requested to simply be let alone," Celestia said and picked at her food, "We granted that request. It seemed the only decent thing we could do."

"Return it home?" Cadence asked.

"Luna and Twilight were certain it was an active participant in that world's plan to attack me," Celestia said, "I think you can guess why it, he, would want to avoid all contact with Equestrian Royalty."

Cadence looked at the shame-filled Lunar Diarch and nodded. "Yes, I can imagine. I read a transcript of his 'calculus of rulership' speech. A sobering thought. As a rebuke, it's about as gentle as you can get and still be considered one. So why pick at the scab? He doesn't trust us, but he won't attack us, even verbally. This can't be the first time someone hated you just for who you are. In this case, he is more justified."

"But how do we make amends?" Luna asked.

"You want forgiveness and absolution? He's already forgiven you. Forgiveness is for the giver, not the recipient. But absolution, learn to live without it. Despite forgiving him a thousand times, Shining can't forgive himself for the Changeling Invasion, or falling for Chrysalis' trick. If this Klein Bottle wouldn't spit on you if you were on fire, live with it. Forcing him to do anything, even accept your friendship, is a tyranny worthy of Sombra, or Nightmare Moon."

Celestia nodded. Luna kept staring at the floor. Cadence left them to their thoughts and finished her dinner.

Morning came, and so did the promised proofs. Fancy looked over the dour faces of the princesses. "Well, you look like you had the same dream I did, except you took it seriously." She'd had several bottles of sarsparilla specifically to promote those dreams.

"What did you dream?" Cadence asked, ignoring Luna's head shaking.

"The siege of the Spider People of Canterlot by the Cheeses of the Southern Lands. The spiders were losing because pony armor doesn't fit spiders, even if their bodies are the size of a piglet, and spider venom really doesn't work on cheese," Fancy said, "Although the real horror was the songs before and after a fight. The spiders couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, and the cheeses' singing was more pungent than some of their bouquets."

"Did you negotiate a peace?" Celestia asked as Fancy carefully unpacked the proofs for the princesses to look at. She ignored Luna's frantic hoof waving and added, "As would befit a heroine out of stories?"

As Luna facehoofed, Fancy passed out the first proof to their respective princesses. "I convinced them that the Spiders of Canterlot weren't their real enemy, but the great Fondue Wizards of the Deepest North." Fancy glanced at Cadence. "Farther north than the Crystal Empire."

"My subjects thank you for your thoughtfulness," Cadence said as she looked over the wax figure. "This is very good."

"They also all fit together as a sort of diorama," Fancy said, "So the whole kit and caboodle packed up their siege train and headed north. The spiders sang their victory song," Fancy said.

Luna let out an anguished groan.

"And the cheeses sang some truly awful marching songs," Fancy said. She looked at the princesses trying to figure out how the various figures fit together. They settled on Celestia in the center, Luna on her right, but sheltered under Celestia's outstretched wings, with Cadence and Twilight en echelon on the left, also under Celestia's wing.

"That's charming," Celestia said, "It's too bad that these are cast in chocolate."

Fancy grinned and pulled out some cleaned up sketches. "Actually," she said as she passed them out, "I wanted to talk to you about that."