• Published 29th May 2020
  • 549 Views, 136 Comments

Murder at the Rarity Boutique - Coyote de La Mancha



When Rarity is accused of murder, there is only one stallion who can prove her innocence. And yes, he is exactly the pony you’re thinking of. But he isn’t who you imagine him to be.

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Chapter 2: Tea and Cake.

“Honey?” Hepzibah asked with a smile.

“A drop,” Blueblood smiled back.

“Lemon?”

“A squeeze.”

“Milk?”

“A dribble.”

Dutifully, the black unicorn mixed the flavorings into the tea cup.

“Tea?” she offered at last.

Still smiling, Blueblood gave a dismissive wave. “Never touch it.”

While Celestia laughed, Hepzibah made herself comfy on a nearby table, contentedly sipping her tea. Akane, meanwhile, had already made tea for the princess, and was happily heaping confections onto the diarch’s plate.

Blueblood, of course, began pouring his own tea. Why an otherwise sensible pony like Hepzibah would ever want lemon and milk in the same cup, he’d never know.

The tearoom was beautifully decorated, as were all the rooms in Blueblood’s palace apartments. The amber hue of the antique furniture’s scrollwork nicely complimented the crimson rug covering most of the floor, the windows open just a crack to allow the fireplace opposite to continue burning merrily. Above the flames, hippogriffs rampant faced one another, surrounded by bas relief waves and foam. Outside, Celestia’s sun shone merrily, a breeze gently rustling through the gardens several stories below.

Like his breakfast room, the tearoom also lacked a mirror. Tea was for company, ideally. And Equestria’s prince was of the distinct opinion that, when entertaining company, one should be prepared to give them one’s complete and undivided attention.

Especially when that company was Aunt Celestia.

And most especially when something might be troubling the old girl.

Celestia was an expert at hiding her feelings, of course. The old saying about politicians having six faces and twelve hearts might have been coined specifically about her… at least, by ponies who didn’t know her. Some even whispered that she had learned her arts of subterfuge through being Luna’s sister. After all, they whispered further, if she could hide her heart from the Lady of Dream, she could hide anything from anypony.

Blueblood, for his part, had his own theory. It involved ponies who whispered such things being idiots.

And there was something about just how welcome that laugh had been that raised his concerns even more than they had been before. Something about how carefully she moved, as though unusually aware of just how delicate everything around her was. How easily she might crush something if she weren’t especially careful.

Raven had been quite right, he thought. This was not something that should wait. And whatever it was, it wasn’t just some diplomatic fuss-up. This was something deeply personal. Even a cursory glance told him that much.

Still, the three of them were helping the old girl to laugh. And hopefully, that would count for something.

As her laughter subsided, the Princess of Day shook her effervescent mane with a contented sigh.

“Why do I always wait so long before coming here? Oh, thank you, Akane,” she added, accepting her teacup with a grateful smile.

“I have no way of knowing, Auntie,” Blueblood replied easily. “It’s almost as if you were running a kingdom or something.”

“Mmm,” Celestia acknowledged, sipping her tea. “You know, occasionally one hears rumors about you, nephew. You’d be amazed some of the speculations you and your family have engendered.”

Blueblood smiled. “I very much doubt that I would. Why? Are any close to the mark?”

“Oh, none in spirit. I think the courtiers still underestimate your devotion to iconoclasm.”

“Those frescoes were an accident,” he objected, casually waving a scone for emphasis. “I have witnesses.”

“Of course they were. Just like the chaos you left in your wake that year I appointed you Inspector General.”

Celestia gave her nephew a fond look, adding, “Even as a colt, you never could keep from kicking at support pillars when you saw them.”

Adding butter to his scone, Blueblood shrugged, “Well, what are pillars for, if not for kicking? If anything, ponies should be thanking me. If their precious pillars survive, they’re just going to get stronger. Society benefits.”

Looking up, he concluded, “And if not, well, you’re better off without them, aren’t you?”

Amused, Celestia asked, “I see. And the little dance you do in their scattered fragments when they crumble?”

An innocent look. “Well, what are scattered fragments for, if not for dancing?”

She chuckled, downing another muffin.

“You do have a talent for disruption,” she said.

Blueblood poured them both some more tea. “I do indeed.”

“How fortunate for us all that you use your powers solely for good,” Celestia teased, eyes shining. “If it weren’t for your own sense of obligation, you would make a formidable anarchist. Some say you still do.”

Blueblood grinned. “Hello, Pot. My name is Kettle. Lovely to meet you.”

The princess chuckled. “Fair enough. Certainly, neither Luna nor I exactly volunteered. And the one time we tried to distance ourselves…”

He nodded. “Instead of noble houses, we nearly had a caste of priests. I remember reading about the Graven Age, years ago. Frankly, I think you made the right call.”

“Mmm.”

“You know, it does occur to me,” Blueblood contemplated, “that there have been several would-be rebellions across the ages. You could have just stepped aside.”

Celestia nodded. “Yes. And if any one of them had been out for something besides personal power, we would have.”

Then she sighed, adding, “And anyway, the last revolt was well before my sister’s exile. The ponies still want a ruler, be she monarch or diarch, even with all the problems that come with that. And I’ll admit, there are parts of rulership I do enjoy, but…”

Then, the princess broke off with a delighted gasp, focusing upon her nephew again.

“I know!” she declared. “I’ll abdicate in your favor! You can rule Equestria!”

Blueblood’s eyebrows rose. “I beg your pardon?”

“Prince Blueblood, sole ruler of Equestria,” Celestia sang happily, helping herself to another scone. “All problems solved forever!”

Her nephew gave her a mock scowl. “Don’t you come in here and threaten me like that, young lady.”

His aunt gave a snort of laughter, helping herself to ample servings of butter and jam while the ladies giggled.

“Besides, I couldn’t possibly accept the kingdom as a gift,” Blueblood went on. “I’d need to stage a proper revolt, plunge the realm into a civil war for at least a year, or I wouldn’t feel I’d earned it.”

“But of course,” Celestia agreed with dignity, holding up her teacup in a toast. “Power to the ponies.”

“Burn weanling burn,” her nephew agreed, clinking his cup against hers.

“Fight the mare.”

“Up against the ceiling.”

She paused, looking at him quizzically. “I thought it was the wall?”

“Oh, good heavens, no, that’s not nearly radical enough.”

“Ah,” she nodded. “My mistake.”

“Think nothing of it. After all, we have nothing to lose but our reins.”

Celestia chuckled, then looked down into her teacup.

“Maybe someday,” she said.

“Look at it this way,” Blueblood suggested. “Nopony is trying to worship you anymore, they haven’t for centuries…”

“Only because I finally made it illegal,” Celestia pointed out. “Consider the irony of that.”

“I am, I’m basking in the irony of it right now,” Blueblood replied, leaning back as if enjoying a relaxing soak in a hot tub. “Ahhhhhhhh…”

The four ponies shared a comfortable laughter again, which ultimately trailed into silence.

Eventually, Blueblood gave his aunt a calculating smile. “Speaking of obligations…”

“Eyuuggghhhh.”

“Yes, yes, I quite agree,” the prince said with a dismissive wave. “But just the same, the sooner we address the woolly mammoth in the tearoom, the sooner we can get back to enjoying ourselves.”

The door quietly clicked shut behind the ladies as they made their discreet exit.

“You’d said you wanted to meet with me sooner than usual,” Blueblood went on, “and I got the impression there was something wrong. How can I help?”

Celestia took in a long breath, then let it out.

“I have a friend in trouble,” she said. “I need you to help her.”

“Of course. Who is it?”

“Rarity.”

Blueblood froze.

“Yes, I know, I know,” Celestia said.

“Auntie, surely there’s somepony else—”

“There is,” Celestia interrupted. “But there’s nopony better.”

He made a sour face. “Well, you may have a point there, of course,” he conceded. Then, after a moment longer, he looked at her, puzzled.

She blinked. “What?”

Blueblood shook his head slightly.

“Nothing much, just trying to connect the dots,” he said. “On the one hoof, this is exactly the kind of match-up that would suit your sense of mischief. And I think there are some vestiges of that. Yet at the same time, I’m worried. This is plainly weighing heavily on you...”

“It is,” the diarch acknowledged. “I will confess, there were certain symmetries in seeing you as her rescuer that did amuse me at first.”

Then, her eyes serious again, she regarded him fully, saying, “But that was when I had been thinking that there had to have been been some mistake, that there had been no real death involved.”

“Wait! Death?”

She nodded. “Rarity is accused of murder.”

While Blueblood stared, she continued, “Then, I found out more about the case itself. And while some details are still confidential, it remains: there is most assuredly a body. There is most certainly a weapon. And all the available evidence apparently points to her. The first personal and deliberate murder in Ponyville or Canterlot in more than a generation, and Rarity is trapped at the heart of it.”

It took a moment, but Blueblood found his voice again.

“Very well, then,” he managed. “What can you tell me?”

As concisely as possible, Celestia outlined to her nephew the difficulties Rarity faced. Admittedly, with so little known about the case itself, it didn’t take long.

But in the short time she spoke, Blueblood’s frown only became more grim. As soon as she was finished, he stood, shaking his head.

“You should find someone else,” he said, “And as quickly as possible. I can make some recommendations. I hate to say this – stars, you know I hate to refuse you anything – but I can’t help you.”

“Blue,” she said softly, “I haven’t told you who died.”

He stared. “It… it wasn’t one of her friends, was it?” Nightmarish images of the white unicorn he’d met but briefly, standing in anguish over the corpse of another of the Mane Six, swam before his mind’s eye.

“Yes,” his aunt said grimly, “Although not in the way you mean. It was the entrepreneur, Filthy Rich.”

Silent, brow furrowed in thought, Blueblood sat down again.

“Can you still make recommendations?” she asked.

Ever so slightly, Blueblood shook his head, no.

With great and deliberate care, Celestia put her teacup down.

“As I said, at first I’d thought this would be a simple missing pony search,” she said. “But as things stand, you’re honestly the best hope Rarity has to get her life back. Without you, she has no hope at all.”

“Damn it all,” Blueblood muttered.

Rising, he began to pace. “Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn damn!

The Lady of Day tilted her head, genuinely perplexed.

“There must be somepony else!” he fumed, still pacing. “What about Twilight—no, never mind, I can see where that wouldn’t work… Raven? No… bloody hell…”

“I seem to have missed something,” his aunt observed. “Why are you so dead set against this?”

Frustration made the stallion’s voice louder than he’d intended. “Because, damn it all, I’m not qualified!”

She allowed herself a slight smile. “You underestimate yourself.”

“When!?!” he demanded, whirling to face her. “When do I underestimate myself?!? When does that ever happen?!?”

“You’ll have the assistance of a perfectly competent barrister, who’s already familiar with the case,” Celestia went on contentedly, pouring herself another cup. She took a sip, then inwardly sighed. It always got cold so quickly.

But out loud, she added, “Legally, you’ll be her assistant, of course. But I trust you to manage the situation.”

Blueblood pinched the bridge of his muzzle in an expression of pain.

“Oh, come now. It’s not as though you’re a stranger to law,” she pointed out. “Not to mention you’ll have your own talents to add to theirs…”

“Auntie, regardless of how much I may love conversing on the subject, my devastating intellect isn’t the point.”

Celestia sighed, putting the cup down again.

“No, I suppose it’s not,” she acknowledged. “Blue, I realize you have any number of excellent arguments as to why you shouldn’t be the one to render aid. And I’m sure they’re all very well thought out. And I know you could present them all with extreme grace and bearing, and be devastatingly convincing. But I’ve looked the patterns over thoroughly, and you genuinely are Rarity’s best chance.”

The prince sighed.

“I know you have, Auntie. You wouldn’t be asking otherwise,” he said. “But you also have a bias. A powerful one, in this case. And that can interfere with any perception, even yours.”

For a moment, he thought she was going to argue further. Then, instead, she closed her mouth and looked down.

“Yes,” Celestia said. “Yes, I do. Rarity is a beloved friend, and she’s in terrible trouble. And I want to help her.”

Looking away, she went on, “It would be so easy, you know. There are a thousand ways I could just wrap this up in a neat little bow and be done with it. I could grant her a royal pardon. I could insist on ruling in the judge’s stead. I could bar the courts from bringing her to trial…”

“…but you won’t,” he finished.

“No,” she affirmed sadly. “I won’t. I recently finished explaining to Twilight why neither of us will, ironically enough.”

She rose, walked over to the window nearby.

“Sometimes I wonder if she realizes how often, when I speak to her about such things, I’m also speaking to myself.”

“I’m sure she does.”

For a moment, she watched the golden sunlight play across the perfect green leaves of the trees, the ivy clinging to the castle’s alabaster walls. The view brought back memories of Blue as a colt, of course. These were still his chambers, though with rooms added through tesseracts here and there as he’d grown into young stallionhood… and then in recent years even more added as his family had increased. She’d looked out these same windows multiple times during her nephew’s young life, though admittedly not often.

But by default, that same view also faced the gardens below, bringing back far more memories of Twilight’s and Cadence’s foalhoods. So many more recollections of the rambunctious violet foal and dragon hatchling, and the pink filly who had later joined them, than of the quiet white colt who’d kept to himself, thrust into all their lives against his will.

Blueblood’s voice broke into her reverie. “You’re doing it again,” he said.

“Doing what?”

“Regretting.”

Celestia looked down, saying nothing.

“You know that I was happy, growing up here,” he pointed out. “That I never begrudged you the time you spent with your other charges.”

There was a long silence.

Sensing her nephew’s magic, Celestia turned to find a new cup of tea floating in Blueblood’s almost-steady aura of gold. As she accepted it in her own magic with a sad smile, another of his spells heated its contents to the near-boiling temperature she preferred.

“Just for the record,” Blueblood said, “I still think this is a terrible idea.”

Then, he made a dismissive gesture, adding, “But that being said, I have no more arguments. If it’s important to you, of course I’ll do everything I can for the lady.”

Her smile turned to one of both sadness and relief. “I know you will, Nephew. Thank you.”

Crossing the room to her, he shrugged, adding, “Besides which, it’s an opportunity to make right an error of mine. One which I’ll admit has been vexing me of late.

“And who knows?” he winked. “The trial might even be easy. After all, it’s not as though the lady is guilty.”

Celestia smiled a little more as she sipped her tea. “Well, I’m glad we can at least agree on that much,” she teased.

“Oh, but of course,” he grinned. “You know I’m never wrong about these things.”

Even as the phrase fell from his tongue, Blueblood inwardly winced, his grin vanishing.

Celestia took another sip. Then, her eyes again drifted towards the golden window, and the memories beyond it.

“No,” she sighed. “You never are.”

Blueblood sighed as well, silently cursing himself as he did.

“Celestia,” he said softly, “I know it’s asking a great deal. But you’re asking a very great deal of me, so I feel somewhat justified.”

He moved forward, and put a gentle hoof on her shoulder. She looked back to him with uncertain violet eyes.

“Just for today, just until you set the sun… don’t look back in remorse. Will you try?”

There was a quiet rustling of wings, and the two of them embraced. After another moment, she stroked his mane, prompting him to look up at her again.

“I’ll try,” she said.