• 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 7 - Cheating on the Test

The Traveling Tutor and the Royal Exam
Cheating on the Test


Taking her place at the front of a large empty table which recently had been filled with puzzle pieces, Princess Celestia looked out into the warm eyes of several dozen ponies in the Orange Puzzle Room. They were friends, family, and a single pony who had rather arrogantly insisted on his right to attend the meeting when he found out about it, even though he had no idea what it was about, but they were all dear to Celestia’s heart, and would only grow closer as time went on. At her prompt, Green Grass and Twilight stepped slowly down the stairs and took their places at her side, with Greenie looking a bit like the lettuce in a squished Alicorn Sandwich as Twilight tried to edge nervously closer to Celestia.

“Friends and family, I have invited you all here today to announce an addition to my—” Celestia broke off with a short giggle. “Actually, I suppose it is two additions to my family, although the second will not be for several months yet.

“Anyway, as you all know, Lord Green Grass has been romantically pursuing my former student, Princess Twilight Sparkle, for quite some time now—”

“And she finally caught him!” cheered a voice from the back of the room. “Oopsies! Sorry. Go ahead.”

“Thank you,” said Celestia. “Today, we are proud to announce the engagement of Princess Twilight Sparkle to Lord Green Grass, with the wedding to be held on the evening of the upcoming Summer Sun Festival. Also, we would like to announce the upcoming birth from our newest royal couple, due sometime after Hearth’s Warming.” She paused a minute to allow the whistling and hoof-stomping to die down before continuing.

“Please note that these two joyous events are happening in the order announced, and that the law has been satisfied regarding the timing of both the engagement request and the birth announcement. If you meet with anypony who disagrees, please refer them to me.”

“Aunt Celly, you can’t be serious!” Prince Blueblood stood up and took a step forward, moving somewhat slowly with his tail tucked against his rear. “She’s a princess. You can’t just go marrying her off to some—” Blueblood spluttered in indignant rage “—school teacher!”

“The decision is not ours to make,” said Celestia in a perfectly ordinary tone that had several of Blueblood’s nearby observers quietly scoot their chairs or cushions away from any potential impact zone. “They both have chosen of their own free will to join their lives together, and neither I nor any other pony has the right to stand in their way. Will you accept their decision, my nephew?”

Blueblood did not respond at first, but stood sputtering in place until he turned his back and stalked from the room, ruining his exit only slightly as the sound of tripping hooves on the staircase indicated a more abrupt descent from the royal residence than expected.

“Before we have any more questions,” started Celestia, “I wanted to cover the rest of the new couple’s schedule. Papercut and Crosswind, will you please come forward?”

One formal unicorn and one hesitant pegasus stepped out of the audience and arranged themselves next to the royal couple, with Crosswind to Twilight’s side and Papercut giving only an abortive attempt at wedging himself in the nearly-nonexistent space between Green Grass and Celestia before simply scooting off to one side and attempting to vanish into the background.

“There are many things that need completed properly for a Royal Wedding on such short notice,” said Celestia. “There are preparations that need to be made in both Ponyville and Canterlot. With that in mind, Princess Twilight Sparkle will be spending the next few weeks in Ponyville while her fiancé, Lord Green Grass, will be responsible for preparations in Canterlot. I have seconded two of my best appointment secretaries to assist with the planning during this difficult time, and I hope to have all of your full cooperation with their efforts in the weeks to come. Are there any questions? Yes, you in the back.” Celestia gestured at one pink hoof waving frantically above the ponies gathered into the Orange Puzzle room.

“Now?”

Extending her wings to cover the ponies on either side, Celestia nodded. “Yes, Pinkie Pie.”

There was a tremendous explosion of confetti that filled the room with a blur of sparkling bits of paper and when it cleared, the tables were all covered with neat slices of cake and party hats with the strident blare of party music filling the air.

“Happy Engagement/Birth Announcement party!” screamed Pinkie Pie, bounding up from the back of the room to catch the lucky couple in a firm yet unyielding embrace.

~ ~ ~ ~

Two unlikely collaborators gathered together in the back of the puzzle room under the aegis of exchanging information about the schedules of their respective charges, but with the added benefit of friendly conversation about their favorite topic.

“Disgusting,” said Papercut, a subtle false smile never leaving his lips as he looked out at the half-dozen or so ponies dancing around the blaring record player with the prospective groom and the awkward bride. “What does she see in him?”

“Agreed,” said Crosswind, tipping a glass to her lips with a nod to her conversational partner. “He’s as flightless as a dodo. If he had a horn, I might be able to see some sort of redeeming quality, but an earth pony? A proper princess deserves much more.” She nibbled one of the hor dourves with an honest smile. “By the way, Horn-Head, thanks for the cream puffs. They’re my favorite.”

“You’re welcome, Featherbrain. It was in your file.” He nodded at the dancing couple and took another drink. “Pity there isn’t much in his file that could make Princess Twilight see the light about him.”

“Good afternoon, my little ponies. Are you enjoying the party?” For an alicorn of Celestia’s size, she had an ability for sneaking that many cats would envy. Both Crosswind and Papercut jumped with a sloshing of their drinks that nearly left wet spots on the ancient floorboards of the puzzle room, turning to their sovereign with an embarrassed splutter of words that she cut off with a single raised hoof.

“Papercut, I was speaking with Lord Green Grass just now, and he tells me that you have not yet delivered his note.” There were sparkles of pure mischief in her violet eyes as she gestured across the room, and the green pony who had been embarrassing himself on the dance floor came trotting over, stopping with a regal bow worthy of any of the horned Canterlot royals.

The unicorn servant fumbled with the wrinkled note for a moment, trying to get the thick crease and the single hoofprint off the front before floating it over to Green Grass with an embarrassed, “Your letter, Lord Green Grass.” The tutor unwrapped it without any sign of irritation that any of the other members of the minor nobility would have expressed either verbally or through physical slights, which was both a little comforting and more proof at how the modest earth pony just did not fit in with proper Canterlot society. After reading the letter, Green Grass glanced once at Celestia before hoofing it back over to Papercut.

Greenie,
With all of the activity involved in preparing for a wedding, you’re going to need help. I’m assigning Papercut, my personal appointment secretary, as vassal secundus to you. As his liege, I expect him to be well-treated and returned intact upon the conclusion of your nuptial vows, and as your liege, I expect you to respect my wishes and not to just have him follow after you and carry your things. He is your first responsibility as a prospective Prince Consort.

Listen to his advice, and I believe you both will learn a great deal about each other.

Sincerely,
Princess Celestia

P.S. Give him the note when you are done reading it.

“She’s got your number,” said Crosswind, reading over his shoulder once Princess Celestia had drifted off to another cluster of happy party attendees.

Still feeling a bit like he was trapped in some horrible nightmare, Papercut looked at the reprehensible pony who was the cause for his current distress. “Please tell me Her Highness is having some horrible laugh at my expense, Lord Green Grass. This must be some sort of joke.”

“If this were a joke,” began Green Grass, “it would start out ‘A unicorn, a pegasus and an earth pony walk into a party. The unicorn says—’”

“This isn’t funny!” Papercut quickly lowered his voice as a number of nearby guests looked in their direction. “This isn’t funny,” he hissed again.

Green Grass shrugged. “So it is written by the sun, so let it be done. If you really seriously think you can talk her out of it, be my guest. I wouldn’t, if I were you. You’ll only irritate her.”

“Grouchy there could irritate a rock,” said Crosswind, obviously suppressing a laugh from the wing held across her mouth. “By the time the wedding rolls around, I’ll bet one of you will wind up strangled and the other will be sitting in jail.”

Neither of the two of them laughed, but Green Grass did crack a smile. “Would you be willing to put ten bits on that?”

“Deal.” Crosswind stuck out a hoof and shook before cocking her head sideways and grinning at the tutor. “Should I start saving up your bail money?”

Green Grass shook his head and smiled back. “I think we’re both pretty safe. What cannot be cured, must be endured. What else can I do?”

“What can you do, you fortune-cookie spouting buffoon?” hissed Papercut with an additional glance to make sure Celestia was out of hearing range. “Go back and teach little foals. Leave the princess to wed a Royal. She is out of your league.” Papercut expected to see some sort of angry reaction at his unrestrained outburst, but the oaf just nodded, although his smile did fade into something more forced as he looked over at Crosswind.

“Miss Crosswind, you don’t appear to be surprised. Do you have the same low opinion of my suitability for Princess Twilight?”

She writhed a bit under his casual gaze, but after a quick look at Papercut for moral support, she stiffened her spine and held her head up as she answered, “Yes. She’s a princess and you’re just a school teacher. She deserves a far more eligible pairing for one of her social altitude. There must be dozens of royal pegasi with sons her age that—”

Using a level tone that cut off her words like a knife, Green Grass leaned forward without changing his pleasant expression one bit. “Then where were they? When she saved Princess Luna from Nightmare Moon, she was ‘just’ a low-ranking second child of a minor house. If one of the Royals of any of the three stables had set out to court her then, she would have been easy to wed. After she ascended into alicornhood, which still sounds as corny as heck, they could have beaten a path to her door in hopes of winning her hoof and her title. Where were they?”

“Prince Blueblood,” rasped Papercut, moving a little closer to the two of them as to keep his voice low. “He made it abundantly clear after Princess Twilight ascended to the crown that there was only one proper mate for a princess, and that was him. Now that his proposal has been rejected by Her Highness, there are going to be a lot of nobles with better claim on her than you coming out of the woodwork.”

“Blueblood may be a horrible prat,” added Crosswind, “and a twit and a philandering fool, but he has enough political power and funds to break any royal family who tries to buck with him. If you had the common sense of a housefly, you should just go running out that door and take a trip to Saddle Arabia for the rest of your life.”

Green Grass shook his head. “If any of the Royals actually wanted to court Twilight because of the pony that she is inside, do you really think Blueblood would have stopped them? And do you really think being married to Blueblood or any of his ilk would make Twilight happy?”

Both servants hesitated, looking at each other as if they were daring the other to go first.

“And if that’s not enough,” continued Green Grass, “do you really think that if Blueblood were the best choice for Twilight, that Princess Celestia would not have put the two of them together by now, and that I would be far, far away, probably in Zebrica?”

Both of them nodded, although with some reservations most probably involving a deep unmarked hole somewhere closer that lacked a tutor.

“Well, I’m certainly glad we got that out of the way.” Green Grass nodded at each of them. “Let’s take a look at our schedules and see what we’re up against for the next few weeks.”

Although Papercut pulled out his calendar at the same time as his counterpart, he could not help but ask, “Aren’t you going to tell Princess Celestia about this? I would think you would dismiss us from your service immediately.”

“Don’t you think she already knows?” asked Green Grass while flipping through the calendar of upcoming events. “You’ve got the job as long as you are willing to carry it out to the best of your abilities. You are willing, correct?” At Papercut’s rather short nod, Green Grass continued, “I would have to be a complete fool to dismiss Princess Celestia’s hoof-picked servant. I mean, can you think of the rumors that would fly? Not to mention that I trust Her Highness to have selected the absolute best pony for the job.”

“About that, sir.” Papercut fidgeted with a sideways glare at Crosswind that made him wish he had learned a good privacy spell. “I’m not. The best, that is. Princess Celestia informed me earlier today of my inferior ranking during the job selection process.”

“Ah. I see. Not exactly top in your class, I presume. That’s even better.”

“Beg pardon?”

“One of the side-effects of teaching is being able to recognize other teachers. Princess Celestia has this uncanny ability to look straight through a pony and see what they are going to become with a little encouragement instead of just who they are now. It doesn’t always seem to work out, and sometimes the pony in question may fight it, but in the end, they’re the better for it.” A bright purple aura formed around the tutor’s right ear and he began to stumble towards the dance floor where Twilight had somehow stuck one hoof into the wall and was gathering onlookers. “Whoops, duty calls. See if you two can work out some together time in our schedules over the next few weeks…”

After the future prince consort had vanished into the crowd surrounding Twilight, Papercut flipped his calendar back to the start and growled, “I still don’t like him.”

“He just doesn’t realize what is best for Equestria,” said Crosswind, moving shoulder to shoulder next to him so they could compare schedules. “The last Equestrian princess married a unicorn, so it’s only logical that the next one should marry a pegasus.”

“Au contraire,” said Papercut, tapping on his horn. “It only goes to show that unicorns are the proper mates for alicorns. Even—” he paused with a pained look as if he had just bitten into a green lemon “—Blueblood. In time, they will grow to be able to tolerate each other. The Blueblood estate is large, and has an enormous library. There should be no problem in finding a proper staff to look after their foals.”

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Princess Celestia just seemed to appear out of the nearby crowd and trotted over to the stunned servants with a crisp folded note in her magic. She floated it over to Crosswind with a wink, adding, “Please run that over to Twilight, Crosswind. She’s going to need an appointment secretary in Ponyville.”

As Her Royal Highness trotted off to her next conversational victim, Crosswind looked at the note as if it were a coiled snake. “Ponyville?”

~ ~ ~ ~

The next day dawned with all of the pomp and fanfare that Canterlot could muster, from a positive blizzard of newspapers filled with the news (carefully pre-read by the Office of Royal Correspondence and any factual or spelling errors quietly corrected), to an early-morning cloudwriting campaign on behalf of the Canterlot Weather Patrol that spelled out their happiness at Princess Twilight Sparkle’s engagement to Lord Gleen Grass (unfortunately, the Office of Royal Correspondence had not cleared their announcement). There was even an appearance of the newest royal couple at an early morning joint session of Parliament where they each said a few words, in particular, “Where are my note cards? I had them right here! Stall them, Greenie!” and “Um. Hi, Dad. There’s something I was meaning to tell you yesterday and I forgot all about it until now.”

After an unofficial announcement brunch at the Quaternary dining room, a quiet subdued affair for just the couple and a few hundred of their closest friends, a vast majority of which they had never met before, Princess Twilight Sparkle and her fiancé, Lord Green Grass, said goodbye to each other for a few more weeks at the Canterlot train station, in one of the most photographed moments in Equestrian history. There was a brief kiss, and an even briefer pause as the new couple put out the occasional singed hair caused by so many flashbulbs igniting at the same time. Then Twilight vanished into the train while Green Grass vanished into a Royal Coach, and the two of them departed in separate directions, leaving behind only the sounds of newspaper reporters scribbling frantic notes.

* *

“I don’t want to do it, Papercut.” Green Grass stood outside the door with one hoof on the doorknob while trying not to tremble.

“You must, sir. Princess Celestia insisted. But if you wish to call off the wedding…” The smugness fairly dripped off his appointment secretary as Green Grass took a deep breath.

“For Twilight,” he breathed, twisting the doorknob and striding inside the room with a confident trot and broad smile. Papercut could not help but notice from his perspective as he followed that the casual air was somewhat countered by the nervous twitch in the future groom’s tail.

“Good afternoon, Ladies. Gentlecolts. I understand you have some suggestions for Princess Twilight’s wedding, and if you would just form an orderly line—”

That was as far as he got before a wave of wedding planners, waving the multi-colored tools of their trade, surged forward.

* *

The Golden Oak Library had a very strict policy on silence. Patrons were encouraged (as much as Twilight was capable of only ‘encouraging’ a pony) to a respectful whisper while within the hallowed bark of the book-filled shrine of learning. Orderly lines (single-file only) at the checkout counter in front of neat boxes of library cards (because allowing patrons to take home their cards would allow loss and chaos to slip into the process) caused the rules to bend slightly as enthusiastic voices tended to raise during comparisons of particularly good examples of the library contents.

And then there was Applejack.

“Consarn it Spike, will you get out of the way so I can talk to Twi? There’s a darned fool lie floating around town after she went and gallivanted off this morning to Canterlot, and coming back all dolled up in some frilly outfit ain’t helpin’ matters none!” Applejack brought one heavy hoof down on the library floor with a tree-shaking thud and snorted at the little dragon blocking the doorway to Twilight’s bedroom.

“I”m not moving and you can’t make me!” declared Spike with his back to the door.

Applejack narrowed her eyes.

Two minutes later, the door to the library bedroom creaked open and Applejack stuck her nose inside. “Twi? Are you… crying?”

“No,” sniffed Equestria’s newest princess as she burrowed deeper under her covers.

“So… the rumor’s true? Applejack moved closer to the bed and pulled a few tissues out of the box on the nightstand before stuffing them under the damp sheets.

“Yes!” wailed Twilight from somewhere near the center of the bedlump. “I never thought it would happen this way.”

“Well, me neither,” said Applejack. “Seems to be a little late in life to be getting a royal bun in the oven, but ah suppose bein’ a princess means age ain’t no barrier to birth.”

“Wha?” Twilight fought with the covers before giving up and simply flinging them all off the bed. “What do you mean, old? I’m not even thirty! My mother was well over forty when she gave birth to the twins! Although the possibility of foaling issues with older ponies is a concern, unicorns and earth ponies can easily have an uncomplicated pregnancy all the way up until…” She trailed off at the stunned look in Applejack’s eyes.

“So, you’re the one who’s got a pie in the oven?” Applejack took off her hat and wiped her brow. “Whew-whee, that’s a lot more sensible there. So when are you and Greenie tying the knot so I can get the farm ready for the wedding?”

“Of course, I’m the one who’s pregnant,” snapped Twilight. “Who did you think was pregnant, Celestia?”

“Well…” Applejack held her hat across her chest as if to hide behind it while talking. “You did buy out every pregnancy test in Rich’s Bargain Barn, and then took off for Canterlot like your tail was on fire. And you’re Princess Celestia’s private student, so if there was something she didn’t want anypony to know, you’d be the one to buy the pregnancy tests for her.” A look of concern briefly passed across Applejack’s face and she scowled. “Although why my idjit brother seemed so nervous when he heard the rumor, ah just don’t want to know.”

Twilight pawed the air with one hoof and gaped as if she had somehow managed to wind up trapped in a bubble of vacuum, finally managing to gasp out four words she never thought she would ever say in her life. “Celestia is not pregnant.”

“Um…”

There was a certain contemplative look on Applejack’s face that only a good friend would be able to recognize, and Twilight immediately added, “Neither is Luna. Or Cadence. Well, I don’t know about Cadence. Knowing my brother’s history with keeping me informed about his life, I won’t find out until she’s in labor.”

Applejack chuckled and put her hat back on. “Ah’ll go tell the girls and we’ll be right back. Ain’t nopony deserve to be alone in times like this. In the meantimes, you better untie Spike so you can write your brother a letter. That is, lessen you want him to find out on his own.”

~ ~ ~ ~

The walls of the Crystal Castle rang with joyous laughter as Princess Cadence swooped and darted around the ceilings of the enormous rooms, the resulting amplification drawing Prince Consort Shining Armor out of his rather stuffy afternoon meeting with a group of rather stuffy crystal ponies who were seeking reassurance again that he had no intent to A) transform into a being of pure evil and enslave them all to work in the crystal mines or B) raise taxes on crystal berries above the rate they were a thousand years ago.

“Shiny! Shiny! Guess what?” An exuberant alicorn dropping down in a dive from the top of a tall room develops significant inertia, and the resulting impact knocked them both across the room, winding up with Cadence standing on his chest and doing a little happy dance with all four hooves.

He was still trying to catch his breath when Cadence kissed him with all the intensity that only an Alicorn of Love could muster. That didn’t help. Well, not with catching his breath.

“Twilight’s getting married! And she’s engaged! And she’s pregnant! Not necessarily in that order, but isn’t this great, Shiny? We can have the wedding right here in the Crystal Empire in the castle with all of the crystal pony traditions. Just like the Crystal Games, it will be a glorious way for Equestria to show our return to all of the visitors from every nation, and Twilight will be so happy! Isn’t this great!”

“To who?” gasped Shining Armor, still a little concussed, stunned, and suffering (well, not exactly suffering) from the aftereffects of the kiss.

“Why, Greenie, of course. It will be such a boost to the morale of the Crystal Empire ponies to have an earth pony as a Prince Consort and a little foal who could be one too.” Cadence nuzzled her husband under the chin, placing a series of kisses up his nose to the base of his horn. “You’re going to be Uncle Shiny, and I’m going to be Auntie Cadence.” She gave a little squeal and dropped down to gaze longingly into her husband’s eyes. “I want to try again.”

~ ~ ~ ~

Darkness had settled in over the outside of the Canterlot castle by the time Green Grass had managed to shed his annoying companion and trudge up the steps to his reserved suite, only to discover one more substantial obstacle between him and blessed solitary slumber.

“Good evening, Lord Green Grass.” Princess Luna nodded while Green Grass bowed, nearly tipping over on his nose from fatigue. “We hath a gift for thee tonight. Follow.”

The Princess of the Night strode into and through Green Grass’ room, flinging open the curtains with her magic to reveal a dark wagon done entirely in shades of violet and indigo with four bat-winged ponies flapping in front of it to hold it up up at the level of the balcony. Four sets of golden eyes regarded the stallion with interest, and four feminine faces turned up in quiet smiles, five if you were to count the princess. The Nocturne mares at the harness were each dressed in the minimalistic Equestrian Postal Service uniforms, with a number of lumpy bags in the large wagon that most probably contained Overnight Postal Service things.

Expecting at any moment to have a stamp stuck on his forehead along with an address label for someplace arctic, Green Grass turned to Princess Luna and asked, in his most polite and erudite voice, “Huh?”

“The evening is made for lovers, Lord Green Grass,” said Luna, “and for the proper prompt delivery of important things. There is nothing more important than time spent with the ones you cherish. Thou shalt spend thy evenings with the love of thy life and be returned forthwith in the morrow before any within these walls are aware you were gone.”

The green tutor made a few token protests before allowing himself to be bundled into the back of the floating wagon, vanishing off into the night with the whisper of wings. And the occasional feminine giggle from the drivers.

~ ~ ~ ~

On the roof of a building far away from the castle, a newspaper reporter paused with his hoof over the shutter of an expensive camera with an expensive telephoto lens.

“The Night Has a Thousand Lies,” murmured Blotter, gently manipulating the focus of the lens to sharpen the edges of his targets. “Catchy, but not accurate. Princess Luna aids Prince Consort Green Grass in Nighttime Romantic Rendezvous? No, the Canterlot Times is going to write the headline for the article anyway. Probably something like Equestria’s Newest Princess Cuckolded by Consort. Why in Tartarus did I get talked into doing this? They’re just a couple of young kids in love.”

He held his hoof over the shutter and remained motionless until the freight wagon had passed out of sight and the curtains over the window were closed again. Only then did he push the button, taking a perfect picture of the closed window. “Getting soft in your old age,” he muttered while starting to take the camera apart and store it.

“I think it just shows you’re learning,” said a deep voice from the shadows that nearly made him embarrass himself in a way he hadn’t done since he was a foal. Two large Night Guards came gliding out of the darkness to take their places by his sides, followed by a somewhat larger one who stopped in front of him and nodded with a wry smile on his craggy face. “Good evening, Mister Blotter.”

“G-good evening, Optio Pumpernickel,” he stammered in response, unable to control his eyes as he traced the dense patchwork of pink scars that spread all across the charcoal-grey guard in parallel lines about the width of griffon claws. “C-can I help you?”

He watched in abject terror as the big Nocturne just stood there and smiled, the night breeze trailing through his short-cropped mane to reveal even more ragged scars. Blotter had just managed to screw up the courage to ask another question when a gentle breeze behind him froze droplets of nervous sweat on the back of his neck.

“I commend thee for thy discretion, Blotter of the Canterlot Times” whispered a soft voice in his ear. “I have a need for one such as thyself. Let us talk.”

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