• Published 4th Mar 2015
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The Traveling Tutor and the Royal Exam - Georg

A simple test with an unexpected result sends Princess Twilight Sparkle’s life in an unexpected direction, accelerating a high-speed collision course with the young magic tutor she met and fell in love with just over a year ago.

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Chapter 2 - Popping the Question

The Traveling Tutor and the Royal Exam
Popping the Question

The Canterlot train station seemed empty despite the crowds of ponies pushing and shoving to get on and off trains as Crosswind sat patiently at the edge of the station and waited on Princess Twilight Sparkle to emerge from the train. She was on the train, of all things. Instead of using her wings to fly to Canterlot, Princess Twilight Sparkle was riding the train. She could have sent a note to Canterlot by dragonfire and a Royal Guard chariot would have been in Ponyville within the hour to fly her away to wherever she wanted to go, but no. Princess Twilight Sparkle had to ride the train. How could she stand to crawl across the ground on such a beautiful day when she could be zooming through the clouds on a perfectly good set of wings? But no. She had to ride the train.

At least the Princess Twilight Sparkle Early Warning System had performed perfectly, as always. Upon watching her board the train in Ponyville and recording the event in his log, the stationmaster had raised a purple flag on top of the train station. Less than five minutes later, the Watch Guard in Canterlot had spotted the flag through his telescope and passed the news on. Five minutes after that, the Appointment Secretary to Her Royal Highness, Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Friendship, Bearer of the Element of Magic, et al, had been flagged down from a particularly fun flight to put on her work saddlebags and wait at the train station.

She really could not complain. The Royal Guard had paid Crosswind’s way through medical school and her career track to becoming a Wonderbolt Medical Officer (probationary) was well underway before the Student of the Sun abruptly sprouted wings one day and the sudden need for a trained pegasus had become apparent. The Royal Guard — pushed by a very unsubtle big brother — had argued for one of their combat veterans in full armor and weapons to be at her side to defend her every moment of the day, which would have tied up at least a dozen guards in rotation due to leave requirements and such.

Not to be outdone, the various royalty in the upper house of Parliament had ‘suggested’ that one of their number — either a unicorn or a pegasus depending on which number was talking — be assigned to her side on a rather permanent fashion that had little to do with romance but much to do with marriage, children, and inheritances. Oh, and a certain amount of family access to the Royal Treasury.

And Princess Celestia, in her own special way, had simply sent a single note to Cloudsdale requesting Spitfire to inquire about Crosswind’s availability to come to Canterlot for a ‘special opportunity.’ Well, a note from Celestia carried about the same weight as either one of the heavenly bodies the Royal Sisters tossed around on a daily basis, so less than a day later, Crosswind found herself in front of two someponies she had never expected to see up close, saying words like ‘Yes, Your Highness’ and ‘Of course, Your Highness’ as they described Twilight Sparkle and her special situation. It seemed perfectly rational at the time she agreed to the job, but afterwards, Crosswind had some serious reservations.

First of all, Princess Twilight could barely fly, although that particular deficiency was being remedied by one of the hottest fliers Crosswind had ever had the pleasure of wrapping a sprain for. Secondly, Crosswind had spent her entire life in Cloudsdale, and Canterlot was just so… pointy. She had seen unicorns before, but being surrounded by so many floating objects that were not flying on their own was more than a little distracting. And thirdly was… him.

A proper princess should attract a proper prince, in particular one of the nobility of the warrior pegasus clans who could trace their lineage back to Commander Hurricane. If that was not to Princess Twilight Sparkle’s taste, the least she could have done was troll through the vast collection of pointy-headed unicorn nobility who theoretically were required to track their lineage back to Princess Platinum. Either would be a proud stallion of noble pedigree and bearing who would carry themselves in the high circles of culture, both throwing and attending parties as well as all the other things that the nobility did.

A princess should not attract a mere school teacher who had a scroungy green coat the color of a neighties couch, as well as the ugliest hat that had ever brought dishonor to the concept of formal headwear. It was the weathered hat which had almost convinced Crosswind that he was a unicorn who was suffering from premature baldness or hiding his horn for some reason. That theory held until the earth pony had hung up his hat in a restaurant, at which point she had gone outside for a quick calming flight with the excuse of giving the mismatched couple some privacy.

It was a great relief to see Princess Twilight trot out of her train car this morning without her shabby green companion, although she carried a set of stuffed saddlebags with a look of perpetual worry that was becoming familiar. Crosswind had learned that a combination of these two signs was an indication that things were about to go weird in a hurry, and it was best to help her along or the weirdness would rub off on anypony nearby, frequently in a way that involved explosions.

“Good morning, Princess Twilight,” said Crosswind with a practiced smile, landing beside her fast-moving charge on the train station platform. “Are you planning some shopping in Canterlot today, or just picking up a book order?” Crosswind pulled out Twilight’s schedule and made a show of studying it, even though she already knew there were no previous appointments in town for Equestria’s newest princess.

“No, I just need to get to Princess Celestia right away.”

“Great! Fly with me to the castle then.” Crosswind tucked away her clipboard and took to the air, pausing in hidden disgust as Twilight continued to trot at a fairly good clip in the direction of the castle. With a flick of her wings, Crosswind landed beside the still ground-bound Princess of Friendship and began trotting alongside with little suggestive glances up into the air that were supposed to remind her charge about her own wings and their ability to actually make “right away” a much shorter time. The gestures did little good other than to encourage the young alicorn to break into a fast canter, at which Crosswind winced in anticipation of just how sore her hooves were going to be at the end of the day.

~ ~ ~ ~

The path Twilight took between the train station and the castle was a familiar comfort to her hooves, which galloped along the cobbled streets with very little input needed from her overloaded mind. Everything in the entire universe seemed to be crowded into her head at the moment and all of it yammered endlessly for her full attention. It took a calm and reasoned mind to teleport with any accuracy, and with everything stuffed into her synapses this morning, she did not even dare to make the attempt for fear of winding up back in the safe and quiet library, under her sheets, and next to her now-depleted stash of emergency chocolate.

It normally was such a pleasure to greet Crosswind at the train station and chat as they trotted along to one of Twilight’s regular appointments in the castle, but today she could only hear the derisive laughter of the Royals and the disappointed sigh of Princess Celestia as they heard the news. Engagement came before the announcement of a pregnancy, or the foal would not be considered a legitimate product of the marriage. According to her mother, the question of Shining Armor’s legitimacy had been only by a matter of minutes. It seems that when Twilight Velvet had showed up with Uncle Shining Sword carrying the family sword behind her, Night Light had whipped out the engagement ring and proposed before she could even get a single word out. Twilight’s uncle had been terribly disappointed, as he had been practicing his threatening speech all day. Maybe if she asked her uncle nicely, he would drop by Green Grass’ home and give the reluctant stallion a little nudge. Without the sword, that is. But no, that would just be forcing his hoof, and they had agreed not to push each other any farther in their relationship than each was mutually willing to go. Of course, that was before seven.

She picked up the pace a little with a flick of her tail, trying to distract her mind from that evening and most of that night, as well as part of the morning. There were an uncomfortable number of books on… procreation in the Ponyville library, and as a unicorn, Twilight had heard a lot about the… habits of earth ponies being nearly, but not quite as… active as pegasi. Some of that theoretical information had been bolstered by indirect experience long ago when she was Princess Celestia’s student, as there had been one or two rare occasions out stargazing in the middle of the night when an occupied cloud would drift in front of their observations of a particularly interesting heavenly body. While Pegasi were noted for their romantic interludes in the clouds, Nocturne pegasi lived up to their reputation and then some, being both more energetic in such nighttime activities and fairly comfortable in the inability of the ponies of the day to be able to see just exactly what was going on up in the night sky. Whatever Princess Celestia had been lecturing to her student about that evening in the Royal Observatory was lost to history, but Twilight had been glued to the telescope while taking a dozen pages of notes just as fast as she could move a quill, and kept those notes at the very bottom of her desk drawer for several years afterwards.

The number of weeks after she had returned from her trip with her friends to the Crystal Empire when they defeated King Sombra and the symptoms that had driven her to Rich’s Barnyard Bargains pharmacy department matched almost exactly against the library’s reference section, although every time the thought rotated through her mind, it tied yet another muscle into knots. She was irritable when the book said she was supposed to be overly sensitive, had cramps on exactly the same weeks it had mentioned, and she had even gotten a teensy bit… bite-y around the library over the last few weeks. Although Rainbow Dash deserved it for dropping by and trying to steal the last blueberry muffin at breakfast yesterday.

She took the twelve steps up the Septenary Entrance of the castle at a near run, her wings stuck out only a little for balance so as not to knock the two guards on duty into the rosebushes like the last time, made the sharp corner at the bottom of the staircase without sliding the rug down the hallway again, and was up the stairs two at a time. This close to her goal, she had an almost unstoppable urge to break into a frantic gallop and catch Celestia around her warm middle, crying like she did during that one thunderstorm the first night she spent at the castle as a student. But she was a princess now. She was supposed to be a model for the rest of Equestria. When the familiar castle corridor in front of her was filled with several ponies moving unusually large boxes and her route back was blocked in the same way, as much as she wanted to just scream in frustration at the workponies and Prince Blueblood, she just held herself together and took some deep—

Prince Blueblood?

“Ah, Princess Twilight. What a coincidence we both happen to be trapped in this corridor at the same time.” The prince fairly twinkled in the hallway light that cascaded in through the skylights, with his soft, white coat curried to a glossy shine, and his blonde mane thrown back in the most perfect hyperbolic curve that manespray could manage. With a glow of his golden magic, a side door opened and the prince gestured inside. “As fortune would have it, I’ve been unable to catch you during any of your other trips to Canterlot, and there’s something that I would really like to ask you in private. If you would walk this way, Princess?”

A certain non-ladylike word nearly fought its way to the surface as Twilight bit her bottom lip and trotted into the room, casting a despairing look backwards at the squabble her appointment secretary was having with the work ponies moving the boxes. Apparently Crosswind was verbalizing quite loudly the opinion that none of the workponies had parents who were married before they were born, which only churned Twilight’s nervous gut into more of a froth.

The room was one of the smaller exquisite meeting rooms off the Royal Quarter in which Princess Celestia had tea with supplicants, royalty, and on occasion the odd castle employee who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and who just happened to look like they were suffering from a lack of tea with biscuits. Celestia had explained the importance of the tea in such meetings as being the solvent into which all of the reagents of a conflict could dissolve without any unfortunate explosions or meltdowns, and although Twilight had nodded and taken note of the strange analogy, she had never really understood the reasoning behind it until now. With Prince Blueblood in the room gesturing to a soft cushion in just exactly her shade of purple, she had never felt the need for a cup of nice soothing jasmine tea more than at this exact minute, no matter what effect it might have on her… test.

“Princess Twilight Sparkle, or may I just call you Twilight, between us?” Not even pausing for a response, Blueblood continued. “Over the last few years, I can’t help but think of all the times I’ve marveled at your grace and beauty, so close to my own. Why, you’ve even been elevated to the peerage like my noble ancestor, Princess Platinum, although you do have quite a bit of commoner in your bloodline. Still, I’m certain the rest of the nobility will properly recognize my decision, despite your background.

“But before I go any further, has that rather ratty little earth pony colt that has been sniffing around actually proposed to you yet?”

“No!” blurted out Twilight in a panic. If Green Grass had already asked Prince Blueblood to be a groomstallion, did that mean he was going to propose when he arrived in Ponyville in three days? If he was asking royalty to be in the wedding already, did that mean she was supposed to ask Cadence to be a bridlemaid? The wedding couldn’t be happening this soon! There were pages worth of preparations that needed to be checkmarked before this stage! Green Grass had skipped a page, no, he had skipped several pages in their planning template. Her wedding was supposed to be an organized affair, with the proposal first, then the announcements and the invitations and the planning and maybe foals later as they had rather obscurely hinted to each other every time they had recently met. This was as bad as Shining Armor sending her a bucking note about his own upcoming wedding, even if he was mind-controlled by a nasty bug. Did this mean Green Grass had been replaced by a changeling? Had one of his students Flared and turned him into something that couldn’t be fixed? Was he dying? Had he been sent to another dimension? Had she accidently reversed time somehow again? The panic and worry stirred her mind into such a blur that she barely heard Prince Blueblood’s voice as he continued.

“Good, so we won’t have to duel for the honor of your hoof. After all, a true prince deserves a princess, no matter her humble origin.” Pulling a velvet box out from under the table with his magic, he opened the top to reveal an extraordinary ring: a thick band of gold that looked more like a manacle than an ornament for a mare’s horn sparkled with hundreds of tiny diamonds and rubies crafted together in shapes that looked like repeating patterns of ‘BB,’ and topped with a diamond so garish and large it could have gagged Spike for at least a minute.

“Princess Twilight Sparkle, will you accede to the honor of becoming my wife?” The golden aura of his magic floated the ring up past her nose as he stepped forward, frowning in concentration as he attempted to put the heavy object on a reluctant horn that kept darting back and forth.

Twilight was trying not to panic, but the close quarters of the room and the stress were making her breath come in short pants, and her impending panic was not reduced even the slightest by Blueblood’s clumsy attempts to cram that huge ring over her horn. Even the sight of that weighty mass of metal made the knots in her neck tie themselves into spasms. Walking around with that… thing on her horn would be like carrying Spike on her head, even without the consequences of accepting Blueblood’s offer.

Wait. His what?

The world took on a surreal aspect as all of her worries tangled together into one huge incomprehensible lump, blocking out any attempt at conscious thought or even respiration. She could see Blueblood’s lips moving, his soft, moist lips that smelled of raspberry lip gloss while saying words her ears refused to hear. His head darted from one side to another in front of her eyes like some sort of metronome every time he would attempt to push the ring onto her horn. The moment that giant lump of gold and crystallized carbon touched her horn, the world would end. He would move forward and try to kiss her as the future Princess Blueblood. It was too much for her mind to handle.

Twilight did the only thing she could think of doing.

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