• Published 29th May 2020
  • 566 Views, 141 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 3: An Introspective Carriage Ride.

“I tell you, mon ami,” the black unicorn tisked. “I tell you even then, that you ‘ave stuck your ‘oof in it.”

“She ain’t lyin’, Yer Grace. There’s burnin’ bridges, an’ then there’s tossin’ fireballs around.”

“All true,” Blueblood acknowledged. “But there’s hardly any help for it now.”

Falling silent, both mares exchanged rueful glances. Then, they went back to helping Blueblood ready himself for the day ahead.

The prince had always been somewhat careless with his reputation, more or less by design. But the debacle of his first meeting with Rarity had been unique. Never before had he gathered about himself the reputation of a cad. Nor had he ever felt, afterwards, that he had deserved it. And while his actions had certainly been readily and easily explained, that had hardly justified them.

Seeing Blueblood’s features fall somewhat, the ladies shared another glance. After a few moments, Akane cleared her throat.

“So, um,” she said quietly, “Maybe I could come along, put in a good word or somethin’? Me an’ Applejack’re cousins…”

But Blueblood only sighed, putting a grateful hoof on her shoulder.

“No, my dear,” he said sadly. “I thank you for the offer. But I dug myself into this yawning pit. And I shall clamber out of it again, or not, on my own.”

Blueblood glanced out his window as his private carriage ascended. The skies were blue and sported occasional fluffy white clouds, as was traditional after most celebrations. The occasional pegasus could be seen flitting about here and there, maintaining the winds: calm, continual and cooling against the summer sun.

Meanwhile, below, the grounds keepers were sleepily sweeping up the leftover detritus from the fireworks the previous night. While the formal holiday remained the Summer Sun Celebration, Midsummer Night had become a celebration of Luna’s return, with the inevitable late nights and late mornings that followed.

In fact, Midsummer Night was quickly evolving into its own holiday, one of reconciliation, forgiveness, and new beginnings... ranging from foals apologizing to parents for errors made (and vice versa) to engagements being declared. And this year there had been a special Tremblepike in the Park performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream, deliberately emphasizing the script’s coverage of dreams, reconciliation and love.

Aunt Luna, of course, had been both delighted and deeply touched.

When she had first returned from exile, Blueblood recalled how the Night Princess had been rather skittish. True, there had been an aloofness about her, but it had been an uncertain aloofness. Which was understandable: after all, the world she’d left had been far more suspicious of her than it was today.

Yet, for all that, Aunt Luna had dared the crowds of Nightmare Night her first year back. In fact, from what he’d heard she had decidedly dived in hooves first. And while it might have started off with every hallmark of a train wreck, Twilight had been there to save the day.

And all because, despite every possible hesitation, somehow Luna had ventured out that fateful Nightmare Night. And whatever had somehow persuaded her to take that risk and try to connect with the ponies of Ponyville, Aunt Celestia had certainly been grateful.

Blueblood smiled to himself. Yes, somehow. The young mare would never admit it, of course, but Raven Inkwell continued to be his prime suspect. It would have been completely in character for her to have privately reached out to the formerly exiled princess, emphasizing her genuine welcome in the strange land that her nation had become.

After all, Raven had done the same for him when he’d first arrived at Canterlot Palace, years ago.

So it was much to his personal irritation that it had not occurred to him to do the exact same thing as soon as Aunt Luna had returned, freed from her Nightmare Moon persona. A ridiculous oversight, he knew, and one he had no excuse for.

Granted, self-absorption had been a risk throughout his life. But it remained that any failure to overcome that risk was a source of severe annoyance. It showed a lack of awareness, a lack of thought. Such failings were unworthy of him. And, more to the point, they allowed opportunities of kindness to pass him by.

On the other hoof, he thought with a smile, this morning’s ambush went quite well.

It had not been a true ambush per se, of course. There was an old saying in Equestria that the sun and moon had both once been warriors, and a true surprise might have endangered not only himself but also his league of small soldiers.

Ah, but the look on Aunt Luna’s face! Even as she flipped on her room’s lights and saw the array of eager children from his house, all armed with pillows and looks of gleeful determination, just before he raised his own weapon and gave the command as fierce as any general in the field:

“Get ‘er!”

He smiled at the memory. Many pillows’ lives had been lost that day, most of them too young to have seen their own stuffing before. But in the course of pony events, sometimes such sacrifices had to be made. And in the end, of course, the foals had prevailed, Aunt Luna and himself falling in helpless laughter beneath their merciless barrage until the two finally cried ‘hold, enough.’

Apparently it had never occurred to Luna that, as he and she were kin, she therefore had any number of great–nieces and –nephews to play with whenever her schedule allowed. It had been his pleasure to correct that oversight.

So, yes. That had gone very well indeed.

Blueblood shook himself. Focus, he thought. Then, a new thought occurring to him, he tapped on the front of the carriage.

“Yes, Your Grace?” one of the team mares called back.

“Once we’re clear of the mountain’s crowds, would you be willing to do the rest of the trip on the ground?” he asked.

There was a pause, then, “It’ll take much longer, Your Grace.”

“I know, and I appreciate that. But I’d like to have my arrival a little less of a media event.”

He could hear the grin in the pegasus’ voice as she called back, “Well, I don’t think that’s terribly likely with Your Grace arriving much of anywhere, but we’ll do our best.”

“Thank you.”

A moment later, the carriage began a tight descending circle. A few moments after that there was a gentle touchdown on some nearby grass, and the prince’s carriage quickly moved onto the road. Even starting at the mountain’s base, traveling by ground had transformed the journey’s duration from minutes to hours. But the extra time would also give Blueblood time to reflect on what little he knew of the matter thus far. And, he admitted to himself, to dwell a bit on the loss of an old friend.

Even in Canterlot, the Rich family had been known of for generations, with a tradition of entrepreneurship passed down almost since the founding of Ponyville. But it had been Filthy who had built his family’s small fortune onto a large one, Filthy who had raised his house’s name from simple commerce into high society. And, ironically, anypony who had not met him would likely remember him for that alone.

But while that had partly been Filthy’s own business acumen, it had also been the simple fact that, well… everyone who had ever met the stallion had liked him.

When a newly-graduated Filthy Rich had needed a loan to expand his family’s business, naturally Blueblood had offered. But Filthy had politely declined, wanting to make or break his fortune on his own terms. And he had done just that, negotiating a loan at one of the best rates in recent history, the bank president herself later stating how it had been a real pleasure to deal with the young stallion.

And then there was his generosity. As the Rich family’s fortune had increased, so had Filthy’s activity in charity work. Most ponies were unaware of just how much; he tended to keep his involvement as anonymous as possible.

But it remained that many times, when towns needed extra funds to repair after magical battles in recent years, or when individual ponies needed aid after some disaster or other, Filthy had been there… often before the Two Sisters even knew there was need. Somehow, no matter how far-removed the matter might have been, inevitably someone there knew Filthy Rich, had dealt with him, and knew they could ask for help.

And while Blueblood may have proposed making acts of charity tax-deductible throughout Equestria, it had been Filthy’s idea. And, true to form, he’d refused to be mentioned in its proposal, or its signing into law. Between that and their shared love of travel, Blueblood had once jested to his friend that if he wasn’t careful, he would end up with a position as a royal diplomat himself. Filthy had laughed and asked him to kindly never threaten him with a paid position again. He vastly preferred, as he’d explained, to be his own diplomat.

So, while Filthy Rich might have had the occasional rival, he’d certainly had no enemies. At least, none that Blueblood knew about. Granted, the two of them hadn’t spoken in years, so possibly that had changed. But that particular lapse was only thanks to Filthy’s wife, Spoiled.

The memories assailed him then. Filthy, in his wedding best, nervously taking Blueblood aside, looking only at the polished floor as he spoke.

Blue, I’m so sorry… I don’t even… I’m so…

For my dear aunt’s sake, old bean, what is it?

Well, it’s Spoiled. It’s…

Filthy closing his eyes in shame, forcing the words out: I mean, it means so much to her, what ponies think…

In the present, Blueblood sat in his carriage, his own eyes closed in pain for several minutes. Filthy’s wedding had been the first and only time in his life he’d ever regretted his reputation. It had always been a joke until then. But that night, against all reason or logic, it had suddenly come between himself and one of his oldest friends.

It had taken an uncomfortably long time for both of them, for Blueblood to decipher what his friend’s uncertain stammering had been about. And for a moment after that, the young prince had only been able to stare, dumbfounded. But in the end, he had managed to put a hoof on Filthy’s shoulder, eliciting silence from him at last.

It’s alright, Blueblood had said. You just do what you need to do.

The other stallion had begun stammering again, but Blueblood had managed a convincing smile.

You worry too much, old boy, he’d whispered with a wink. I’m indestructible. Now, go on. Your lady’s waiting.

Still looking down, Filthy had nodded. He’d turned to go, and then suddenly spun back and grabbed Blueblood in an embrace that had knocked the wind out of the unicorn completely.

And then, Filthy had been gone. The music had begun playing for the new couple to dance for the first time as married mare and stallion, and Blueblood had quietly made his exit while they’d danced.

Blueblood shook his head. He’d never understood it. Any of it. In the end, all he’d been able to feel towards Spoiled Rich had been pity; and towards Filthy, a kind of puzzled sadness.

Of course, most ponies of the upper crust didn’t share his point of view. When the two earth ponies had first married, there had been a few jokes quietly circling around the couple, mostly centering on Filthy marrying beneath himself. It must be true love, one courtier had quipped, she certainly doesn’t have anything else going for her.

Which could have been lived down in fairly short order. Should have been, honestly. There had been so many opportunities for Spoiled to shine over the years. But her own strange obsessions kept tearing her back down.

And time and again, Filthy had been there for her. Gently guiding his wife through the labyrinths of high society as best he could, giving continual quiet cues to her and those around her of how to keep the waters calm. Yielding always to her strange fears about how they would be perceived by high society, all without her ever understanding how much she was harming her own cause.

Blueblood snorted. As if the opinions of the court harpies truly mattered to anyone with an ounce of sense.

Suddenly, his head snapped up. They’d had a daughter, he recalled. Diamond Tiara. Heavens, what a name to live up to.

Still, young Diamond should be around her mid-teens by now, he considered. And knowing Filthy, no doubt he’d doted on her endlessly.

The prince smiled briefly at the thought.

But the smile faded almost immediately. After all, he could guess what she was going through. And far from being a source of stability in the foal’s life, Spoiled Rich would be lost herself. Cast adrift without her husband, drowning in her own desperation and fear.

Frowning, Blueblood shook himself. There would be ample time to help Filthy’s family if they needed it. Likewise, there would be time later to properly mourn. And, perhaps, to figure out why anypony would murder a stallion who’d never made anything in his life but friends.

But right now, there was the matter of Miss Rarity herself.

Looking out the carriage window, he saw that they were entering Ponyville proper. The boutique would be only a short distance further. And then, he could begin dealing with this disaster as best he could.