• Published 17th Oct 2018
  • 3,019 Views, 64 Comments

Moonlit Waltz - Carapace



A young woman catches the eye of a stunning vampiress and finds herself transfixed, longing for the undying embrace of Twilight Sparkle, the former Regent of the Night.

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3. Bringer of Light

It was difficult to put the splendor of Canterlot Castle to words upon seeing its interior for the first time, let alone the spotlight that shone upon the lucky souls who were important enough to earn something worth more than the usual public tour.

The inside, of course, was the subject of the fancies of every child in the city, if not the nation. Not a one came close. How could they?

Little kids didn’t exactly understand what polished marble, tile as pure white as fresh snow, the artistry of those banners of night and day hanging from the rafters, or the imagery portrayed in those beautiful stained glass windows came together to make. Hell, they didn’t understand coherent interior design for their own bedrooms, how could anyone honestly expect them to put together a vision of utmost perfection like those artisans who designed Canterlot Castle.

Those noblemen and women who came into her Fount of Fantasies always spoke of how important they felt when they were granted an audience. It instilled feelings as though the sun itself had shone its light down upon them like a spotlight, like Princess Celestia had picked them out of the crowd. Gaining audience with Princess Celestia or Lady Sparkle—well, Princess Luna, now—effectively put one on the map and let them stand head and shoulders above their peers.

What they probably didn’t tell their peers, though, was how their knees knocked, palms sweated, and entire world spun as they felt faint.

Or, at least, Rarity hoped that was the case. Surely, she wasn’t the only person who’d ever felt like she might just die the very instant she crossed through those tall oaken doors and stepped over the threshold into the Throne Room, into Princess Celestia’s court.

The mere thought alone was enough to make her heart leap and lodge itself in her throat. Why did nerves always have to pick the most inopportune moments to render one so stricken? Why here, now, as she sat seated on one of those plush, decorative chairs, waiting to be summoned on the very day of the social?

Well, that was just the nature of nerves, of course. Rarity knew that logically. But such things just made getting ready for these all-important meetings all the more troublesome—how ever was a girl to make an impression on royalty if she could do little more than croak when addressed?

“Miss Rarity,” the Princess’s seneschal, Raven, called in her stern, clipped tone.

Jolted from her thoughts, the young woman let out a startled squeak and shot off the chair so fast her ankle nearly rolled, leading to a most ungraceful stumble forth. “Y-Yes,” she replied, cursing her slip.

The elder woman arched a single coal-black brow, the only tell she gave. Raven held a hand out to gesture toward the door and said, “Her Highness is ready to receive you.”

Rarity gave a sheepish smile and bow of her head, then hurried to take her invitation into the Throne Room. At very least, she thought, she could try to look somewhat dignified before the Princess, if not her staff.

She strode past the guards standing at post, along the long red carpet leading up to the dais. Up to the golden throne where a woman considered by most to be a living goddess. And seeing her in person for the first time, it was rather clear why.

All the paintings, busts, sculptures, and statues dedicated to her image had fallen woefully short of capturing but a fraction of the woman herself, though not due to any failings of the artists themselves.

Even seated, Princess Celestia was a woman of great stature and almost unnatural beauty. Her skin was a lovely bronze, unblemished by scarring or marks despite the centuries of battle and stress which must have come with ruling. She was dressed in a long, flowing white dress with faded purple patterns of flame licking the hem, and three fingers on her right hand were adorned with glittering gold rings and her wrists and ankles with golden bracelets flecked with turquoise. The perfect match for the peytral around her neck. Most striking, though, were those ancient, piercing purple eyes and her mane of flowing, rainbow hair.

Whether or not such rumors of her divinity were true, Princess Celestia greeted the young woman with a sunny smile and welcoming nod.

Rarity came to a halt at the very end of the carpet and bowed her head, bending at the knee before the Princess of Day. “Your Highness,” she said softly.

“Miss Rarity,” the princess returned, gesturing her to rise. “I must say, I thought it a bit of a joke when I was told that such a big player in fashion was so young, yet here you are. Truly, carving a new path in history.”

“I—you’ve heard of me?”

“Quite a bit, yes.Your business partner, Fancy Pants, has been like a son to me since his parents first introduced us. He was five at the time. To this day, he’s still the same troublesome little boy I remember.” Amusement danced in those ancient eyes. “But perhaps that’s a tale for another day. I doubt you’ve come to hear an old woman spin her tales.”

“I—oh—I, um—” Again, she bowed, defaulting to respect. Off to a great start so far with that first impression. “Thank you for seeing me today on such short notice.”

“The Crown always has time for its subjects, whether Twilight or myself.” Pausing a moment in thought, Princess Celestia brought a hand to her lips to stifle a laugh. “Oh! Pardon me. I suppose I should say whether Luna or myself these days. I’ve gotten so used to Twilight’s company over the past thousand years it’s become somewhat of a habit to treat her as a fourth princess—though, in a sense, I suppose she is … hmmm.”

So surreal was it seeing the Princess of Day lost in her own thoughts, musing over whatever technicalities or otherwise occupied her ancient mind, that Rarity could do little more than stand in slack-jawed awe.

Everything that was supposed to be a certain way was just going to be turned upside down and jack-knifed right on its head.

She just changed everything the night she chose me, didn’t she?

Princess Celestia shook her head and offered a sheepish smile. “Forgive me, I sometimes do wander back to debates with my old friend and former student—especially one so spirited as that.” With a wistful sigh, she shifted about in her throne. “And you didn’t come to hear some old woman’s idle musings, I’m sure.”

“I don’t mind!” Rarity replied before she remembered herself. Her cheeks coloring, she tried her best to look small before the princess. “I-I mean, I’m happy to listen, Your Highness. You’re being quite gracious enough to take the time to consider my—er—question.”

“Ah, yes. Your question.” A hint of intrigue sparked in those ancient purple eyes. Princess Celestia drummed her fingers upon the arm of her throne. “I must admit, I hadn’t expected a dressmaker to take such an interest in Twilight’s history. Historians and scholars, of course, have asked after her for years, but never one in your area of expertise.”

Fidgeting beneath her gaze, Rarity had to force herself not to look down at her shoes. “The vampires have always been a subject of particular fascination,” she said softly, just barely loud enough to reach her ears. “Though my usual reading is, uh …”

“Fantasy romance novels?”

“Do you find that silly?”

“We all have our tastes, dear. Why should I find yours silly?” Her eyes twinkling, she leaned forward and winked. “The only thing I find silly about those books is their attempts at vampire culture. Otherwise, I’ve been known to enjoy an occasional read, especially when I can use it to tease Twilight and her brother.”

A weight seemed to lift from Rarity’s shoulders. She stood up a little straighter and clasped her hands behind her back, idly twiddling her thumbs. “Then, you don’t mind if I ask about her?”

With a low hum, the Princess gave a half shrug. “I suppose that would depend on your answer to my question.”

“Y-Your question?”

“Yes. Call it my price for answering yours about one so dear to my heart for so long.”

Of course. Why would information so precious come without some price? Not to mention about one so close. Rarity nodded once.

Princess Celestia’s smile fell, a calculating expression in its place. “Why does a dressmaker who’s never shown any interest in vampires outside a few harlequins with a glass of wine find herself here, asking about the most powerful and brilliant of them all? Why do I hear whispers of her asking around libraries for a week?” A single green brow arched and disappeared beneath her bangs. “Why Twilight Sparkle?”

Of the three questions, the last stuck out most.

Why Twilight Sparkle? Why not?

At least, that was her first thought. Impulsive, brash, and, most likely, an answer which would’ve seen her denied and turned away for bothering Princess Celestia with some flight of fancy.

Honestly, at that point, Rarity wouldn’t be surprised to find herself disinvited from the Winter Solstice Social.

She licked her lips. “Lady Sparkle was very … striking,” Rarity said slowly. “Very striking when she first visited me.”

“For my sister’s dress?” When she saw Rarity flinch, the Princess of Day chuckled. “Twilight tells me many things. That she designs to have a dress commissioned and will need my assistance forcing the issue with Luna was part of a rather lengthy planning session between the two of us. You’ve had it delivered to Twilight’s villa already, yes?”

“Just this morning,” Rarity replied with a nod.

“Good. Twilight will have plenty of time to cajole my sister.” Her sunny smiled returned. Princess Celestia rose from her throne and rolled her shoulders to work out a bit of stiffness. Then, she stepped off the dais and made to a side door leading outside, gesturing Rarity to follow with a little twitch of her fingers. “Walk with me, please. I tire of that silly thing and could use a bit of fresh air myself.”

Rarity hurried to follow in her wake, just a step behind, easily within conversational difference but not so close to look presumptive of their relationship.

As they stepped out into the warm sunlight, out into the splendorous Royal Gardens full of colorful flowers and creatures Rarity had neither seen nor heard before. It was just almost enough to distract from her little walk with the immortal princess.

“Striking,” Princess Celestia repeated with a short laugh. “I’ll admit, I’ve heard many artists, poets, and writers give flattery to her name, and enemies cursing or cowering its weight. But that? Not quite. Though, a bit funny, I suppose.”

“Funny? Why would you say that?”

“Oh, that, I think I’ll keep my little secret.” Princess Celestia clasped her hands behind her back and sighed. “I said I’d answer questions about her, but you can’t expect me to gossip about her.”

Her face flushed, Rarity ducked her head. “Of course not. My apologies.”

“Worry not. I don’t take offense. Though I will say she was quite happy when she returned.” She glanced back over her shoulder with an impish smile playing upon her lips. “Happier than I’ve seen in some time, for one so reserved.”

If she was trying to dissuade Rarity from prying, Princess Celestia was doing a terrible job. Then again, it didn’t sound so much like it. If anything, she sounded like a mother trying to dangle information in front of a prospective suitor, eager to see if they could think to seize it.

“That aside, your questions on her.” Princess Celestia stopped at the end of the pathway and turned to face her. “I suppose you’re curious as to why I chose her to rule in Luna’s stead.”

Rarity ducked her head and offered a sheepish smile. “Am I so transparent?”

“No more than any other who have wondered that in my presence, but most ask why I would think to put someone so powerful in place after my sister’s attempted coup. Even more now, as she returns and Twilight steps aside to allow her to return to her rightful place at my side.” She tilted her head to one side. “Would you care to guess?”

Blinking, the young woman let her confusion show. “I … what?”

“Would you care to guess why I chose Twilight?” Princess Celestia raised her brows. “Why a noble of a race so closely tied to the my sister’s court?”

Where was this going? Rarity could do little more than sputter and hold out her hands, her palms turned upward as if trying to grab some answer or reason out of thin air. “I—I couldn’t possibly—I wouldn’t know any more than anyone else! Aside from yourself, Your Highness!”

“I’m not asking for the right answer, I’m asking why you think I did. It’s rather simple.” Mischief shone in her eyes. “If you’ve paid attention to my little comments.”

More teasing. More coyness.

Memories of that conversation with Lady Twilight Sparkle herself flitted through her mind. The vampiress had been quite coy in her own right. The entire plan she’d hatched was something out of one of those silly plays where a girl finds that her family and friends have planned out the perfect way to get her man. Or woman, in some of the more modern ones.

And how she just stalked around Rarity like a predator—or, perhaps, how she circled and appraised her, rather. Yes, yes, that was it. Twilight Sparkle was a Lady after all.

A Lady didn’t stalk so openly.

It clicked. “You knew her before she became so powerful,” Rarity breathed. “Did … Princess Luna as well?”

Princess Celestia beamed. “She was the first student we taught together—before, she taught Shining while I taught Cadence. Her family had always been rather close with Luna, so placing her on the Throne seemed …” She gave a little shrug. “Well, I suppose it was my tribute to both my respect for her court and a hope that our bond would stay strong. The little vampire we taught friendship and love sitting on the Midnight Throne. There was no better choice.”

With a wistful sigh and snap of her fingers, a stone bench appeared in a shimmer of gold. She sat and beckoned Rarity to join her, then continued, “You’ve read some interesting accounts of her style of rule and how jealously she protects the realm, I hear.”

“Yes.” Rarity fidgeted beneath her gaze. “The stories paint a rather … graphic picture of her wrath when roused, and how chilling she can be when challenged.”

“A shame they don’t know the love that drives her so.” The princess shook her head sadly. “And what of you? What did you think when she came into your home?”

Naturally, nerves chose that precise moment to revisit her and spur her heart to leap and lodge itself in her throat. She could feel goosebumps upon her arms, all the way up to her shoulder, and a heat rising in her cheeks and spreading rapidly to the nape of her neck.

Mischief shone in those ancient eyes once more. “Ahhhh,” Princess Celestia said softly. “Striking, you say? I see.” The corner of her mouth twitched upward. “Perhaps you’d prefer that I send for my niece so she might give you some—aha—advice?”

A sound somewhere between a squeal and a shriek tore itself from the back of her throat. Rarity buried her face in her hands and shook her head. “No! Oh, please, don’t! If Lady Twilight hears, I’ll—”

“You’ll what? Never live it down? Die?” Delicate hands pried hers away from her face and guided her to look into Princess Celestia’s eyes once more. Right at that smile. “Dear, I fear you buy into my little student’s aloof façade as much as all the rest. But that is the way she loves it. In any case, worry not. She’s … warm to her friends. In her own way.”

Again, she squirmed. “Warm?” she repeated, trying to envision what a warm Twilight Sparkle might be like. The heat in her cheeks returned in force.

Those vampire romance novels had been quite—ahem—adventurous with how they portrayed any relations with their kind.

“In her own way.” Releasing Rarity’s hands, Princess Celestia folded her own neatly in her lap. “Though Luna and I did teach Twilight friendship, certain realities surrounding her situation caused her to develop a rather warped view over time.”

“Realities such as …”

“Consider what little vampire boys and girls must feel,” she said softly, “watching their dear friends grow old faster, realizing that one day, sooner than they’d like, they’ll stand by their friends’ deathbeds and kiss their forehead one last time when they pass on.”

Her breath caught in her throat. Mortality wasn’t so foreign to her own darker thoughts, even as a little girl. It was one of the earliest fears a child could know.

Death meant the end. Unless, of course, one wasn’t bound by the normal constraints of mortal life.

Like the princesses, the elves and fey in their forests, or the vampires.

Princess Celestia hummed an affirmative. “Exactly that,” she murmured. “And saying those goodbyes the first time hurt her quite a bit, and affected her as it so often does her kind.”

“Meaning?”

“Rarity, imagine if you could change that—remove the possibility of dying with age. Like a vampire can with little more than a simple trade of blood for blood.”

Oh.

Her sapphire eyes went wide. That, well, wasn’t something she’d been quite prepared to hear.

At least it made her heart dislodge from her throat, if only to take new residence in her stomach.

Princess Celestia turned to face away, looking out over the Royal Gardens. “Twilight’s definition of friendship is a tad warped, I’m afraid, because of that. Who she holds dearest, she aims to keep. Forever.” Closing her eyes, she drew in a deep breath through her nose, releasing it in a heavy sigh. “She just can’t stand the pain of watching them wither away. Something else she picked up from me, I suppose.”

“Oh?” The young woman couldn’t help but lean forward just a bit. Sure, it did make her seem a bit too much like a gossip in the presence of royalty, but she wouldn’t spread anything like this in her circles.

And, come on, who could possibly blame her with something so intriguing dangled in front of her like a carrot?

Unfortunately, Princess Celestia shook her head, denying her curiosity. “It’s not my place to share that tale,” she murmured. With a cough, she rose and smoothed out her lovely dress. Aloud, she said, “Thank you for taking that commission. I await the chance to witness the fruits of your labor with bated breath.”

The young woman scrambled to stand and bow lest she appear rude. Did all the princesses just move without warning and leave their subjects hastening to follow?

None of her noble clients made any mention of such a habit.

Swallowing the lump which formed in her throat, Rarity managed to fix what she hoped was a polite smile upon her face. “I, er, hope I’m able to meet your expectations, then, your Highness.”

“Oh, I’m familiar with your work. I’m sure you’ll exceed them.” A coy smile played upon her lips, Princess Celestia turned to face her castle, humming a low note. “I suspect it’s Twilight’s expectations you’ll have to meet, since she’s rendered you so—ah—stricken.”

“I—but—what—Princess!” Again, where was the warning that the royals were like this?

She laughed. “Ah! I can see now why she was so animated that night, and why she’s so eager for this one.”

Rarity’s very breath hitched. Lady Twilight Sparkle, former Regent of the Night, animated? Eager?

For her?

Why did her mouth feel so dry all of the sudden?

And why, when Princess Celestia glanced back and chuckled, did she feel like a mouse walking through an alleyway of cats?

“If you decide to pursue that affection, just remember: some offers warrant careful consideration.” She turned and began to walk back to the castle. “Sometimes it’s worth considering the right to be selfish against those around you.”

Only after she’d made it to the end of the path did Rarity remember she was supposed to keep pace. Running in heels, she noted, still wasn’t fun.


Glittering blue stilettos clicked against the cobblestone pathway leading up to Canterlot Castle. Fancy carriages bearing the crests and colors of noble houses and rich companies of varying industry lined the driveway, and the voices and polite laughter of the attendees floated through the air as they all made their way to the beautiful castle, lit up like a beacon of splendorous light against the canvas of the night sky.

It was hardly her first social event. Certainly, Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis had been quite keen on exposing her to the high-end, glitz and glam that would so comprise her clientele. Not to mention how to interact with and best relate to those old family heirs who had more money than they could ever hope to spend—some quite literally so.

I think that stallion might cost more than I’ll make this season, she mused with a wry look at a rather gorgeous palomino. The little girl, the same one who still clung to those childhood fantasies and tales, almost managed to spark the want to reach out and run a hand through his mane.

A single stern look from the driver was enough to send little Rarity scampering to hide behind her adult self’s dress.

With an awkward smile, she hurried along until she found herself in line with the rest. Glancing toward the front, she noticed a pair of guards in the ceremonial armor of the courts checking the guests in—the representative of Princess Luna’s sporting the same haunting crimson eyes as Lady Twilight, and a pair of dangerous fangs poking down from behind his upper lip.

Rarity quickly delved into her purse and fished out the card. Just in time, too, as she looked up just in time to be met with the vampire guard’s eyes.

He almost seemed to pierce straight into her very being. The guard held out his hand to accept the card, his eyes only flitting down to check for a bare instant before they returned to capture heres again. A hint of recognition flashed in his eyes, the corner of his mouth twitched before he gestured her inside.

“Welcome the the Winter Solstice Social,” he murmured. “Their Highnesses and Lady Sparkle are delighted you could join us.”

Rarity tried to pretend her heart hadn’t fluttered at the sound of her name. She tried to tell herself she just gave a little bow of her head, then strode inside with all the practiced grace and pageantry Fleur had drilled into her head.

The way the guard’s eyes glittered told of how her face betrayed her feeling.