• 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 7: Strategies of Brilliance.

To Princess Celestia, a bath was a moment of solace. A safe port, to recover from the daily storms. A refuge from the tempest. Any number of other weather-related metaphors that she liked. It was a time of quiet, reflection, and solitude. A time to truly be alone and just think.

Unfortunately, there were always exceptions. Some nights – more nights than she liked to admit, really – she was simply too tired to do anything but sleep. Other nights, she had meetings with foreign dignitaries who happened to be nocturnal (though with Luna’s return, that had become much less a concern).

And some nights were like tonight. For throughout the day, any number of events – including some resulting from having so brusquely dismissed court the previous day – had arisen or become overdue, demanding her attention through her nightly tea and well into her bath.


So it was that nighttime found the Diarch of Day, resignedly leaning on the edge of the swimming pool-sized sunken bathtub that was her almost-nightly joy. Reading and writing and signing dreary old documents, instead of splashing about, doing laps, and positioning her personal fleet of ships against their various imaginary foes as she rightly should have been.

(And no, those large, antique-looking boats on the shelves nearby aren’t bath toys. They’re expertly-made models of the Equestrian Royal Fleet, along with floating replicas of long-dead sea monsters made to her exact specification, ages ago. So of course Her Solar Majesty doesn’t play with toys in her bath. What a ridiculous question. She meticulously plans out marine strategies on how best to defend her subjects against unknown enemies, every night. With sound effects. Because she is just that dedicated to her ponies.)

With the signing of the final paper, Celestia gave an exhausted sigh.

“And that’s the last of them?” she asked.

“That’s the last of them,” Raven Inkwell assured her.

“No more?”

“No more.”



Celestia’s entire body sagged with relief. “Oh, Raven. You have no idea how…”

“Now, all that’s left is your nightly briefing.”

Celestia favored her with a sour look, sinking slowly beneath the suds that covered her massive tub.

With a contented smile, Raven finished tucking the completed documents into her bag.

“Now, Your Highness, you know you can’t put this off forever.”

The suds-covered surface of the tub burbled as the submerged princess blew bubbles at her.

Raven chuckled, and began reciting what updates remained to be told. Gossip, rumor, and hard fact, gathered from various ponies who answered to the major domo, both officially and unofficially. While she did, there was the occasional ripple as the White Sea Beast That Prowled the Royal Tub swam and rolled dangerously beneath the ocean foam.

Finally, she said, “And, lastly, there is of course the news on Rarity and Blueblood.”

At that, the princess slowly surfaced, her normally ethereal mane clinging elegantly to her head and neck while water ran gracefully down its pastel hues and across her coat, her amethyst eyes peering at her friend from between rivulets of mane and foam.

“What news?” she asked.

Raven blinked, then with effort refocused.

“Ah. Yes. Well, um.” Taking a breath, Raven reported, “Apparently they had dinner together at the Blue Coi Paloi, and it ended with her throwing wine in his face and leaving.”

Celestia winced. “Oh, dear.”

Raven nodded. “Yes. Naturally, rumor had already been circulating that he’d only taken up her cause in hopes of adding her to his herd. So now, the assumption is that he propositioned her, and she said no.”

Celestia chuckled. “Really? Oh, dear. I suppose I should have anticipated that.”

Raven shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry about it. The real problem will probably be the trial itself. The pre-trial’s been moved up to tomorrow morning, at the family’s insistence.”

The princess’ eyebrows shot up. “Her barrister agreed to that?”

“Apparently, Speaker for the Accused raised no objection. The most popular theory is that it was in part because they’re planning to hoof the whole thing over to Blue anyway, and in part because it’s just the preliminary hearing. There’s no way this won’t go to trial, after all.”

“Yes, of course. But then, that also bumps the trial up by default… hm. A strange concession, by any measure.”

“Well, remember that he may also think that Rarity is guilty. Nopony in Ponyville does, I’m sure. But there are plenty of ponies in Canterlot who knew and liked Filthy, especially among the well-to-do. That creates a bias, and that kind of bias can be contagious.”

“Mmm. True.” The Lady of Day considered for a moment, then shook her head. “Oh, well, it hardly matters. This is Blue we’re talking about, after all. He’s studied law, and he’s the best negotiator I know. It’s only a small hop from that to barrister.”

She leaned back into a lazy backstroke with a contented smile, adding, “I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.”

“I have no idea what I’m doing!”

The music room was a large, sunken affair, fully half of it being carpeted steps leading down to a floor perhaps thirty feet to a side. In theory, one could rehearse a full orchestra there without crowding. In practice, however, there were generally no more than three foals or adults practicing at a time.

The exception, of course, was when the household was in preparation for Hearths Warming Eve. During that last week before the holiday proper, the room might find itself stacked to the rafters with extended polyfamily, foals, and relations of relations, all happily singing or playing away in preparation for caroling and the family celebration.

Blueblood had once joked that the entire extended family should put on a concert for the city. Arpeggio, a hub for several relationships and the de facto music instructor of the family, had grinned and said something along the lines of What an excellent idea, Your Grace.

He’d been kidding, of course. Blueblood was sure he’d been kidding.

Regardless. At the moment, the room had only two occupants. Blueblood himself, feeling very much beset by circumstance; and Sour Sweet, who was staring at Blueblood while he railed at the various instruments surrounding them, his hooves dishevelling his previously flawless mane.

“I thought you studied law…” she started.

He whirled on her. “I did!”

“Right, so…?”

“Archaic law!” he snapped. “I began as a history major!”

He pinched the bridge of his nose as he went on, “It was when I started taking classes in antiquated law that I got a real taste for other cultures, eventually becoming a diplomat for my aunt. Well, aunts, now that Aunt Luna’s finally back.

“Anyway, since then I’ve studied international law, trade law, the laws and traditions of seven different non-pony nations…”

Sour Sweet nodded slowly, understanding. “But never criminal law.”

“Exactly! Well, not in any modern sense, anyway.”

Blueblood sighed, his shoulders slumping while his mane fell back into its usual perfection.

“But to Auntie, if a pony’s studied something, then obviously they know all about it,” he said. “After all, her mind is like a binding circle etched in stone; nothing escapes it. Oh, she’s never condescending about it, of course. And intellectually, she does realize that other ponies don’t work like that. But when it comes right down to it, she just doesn’t know what it’s like to forget anything, or even what it’s like to need to study in the first place.

“Meanwhile, I’d have to learn literally decades – perhaps a century or more – of cases and precedents just to be qualified to assist in Miss Rarity’s defence,” he railed, his ire rising again. “And now, I find out that instead of a month or even a week to prepare, the pre-trial hearing is tomorrow! Honestly, how in the name of every star Aunt Luna knows and names am I supposed to save the damsel in distress, armed with only my keen intellect and a collection of lore that’s literally centuries out of date?”

Shrugging slightly, he added, “Well, aside from property law, I suppose.”

Then, his voice rising again, “But still…!”

Leaning an elbow on the piano’s keys (eliciting a dissonant chord in the process), Blueblood grumbled, “Might as well send a knight against a demon horde armed with a bouquet of roses and a hay sandwich.”

“So, wait a minute,” Sour Sweet frowned. “Why is all this on you? Doesn’t Rarity already have an attorney?”

Blueblood waved her question away. “Only in the most technical sense. No private firm would touch the case with tongs. Defend the accused murderer of Filthy Rich? And alienate the Rich family – along with all their allies, political and financial – forever? No. Oh no, they beg to be excused!

“And so, the fair lady has been stuck with a public attorney who is not only devastatingly inexperienced, but also firmly believes that he’s been saddled with a guilty client. That’s where I’m to come in, as a legal advisor for the accused.

“Except that Miss Rarity’s idiot defender has decided that since I was sent by the Crowns, he’s off the hook,” he growled. “He’s has all but completely ceded me control over the case. Not just investigation, mind you, but representation, arguments, everything! He didn’t even contest the advancement of tomorrow’s hearing. I haven’t even been approved to assist in the case yet, and he’s all but washed his hooves of the matter!

“Yet there’s no way that my qualifications – or, rather, lack thereof – won’t be weaponized against me, and thus against Miss Rarity. Especially with Janus involved.”

“Wait, go back. Janus?”

“Janus Serpentine. Counsel for the prosecution, and the only reason proceedings are moving forward so quickly. One of the best and most unscrupulous barristers to ever serve the Crowns with over twenty years of experience. Also a master orator, an excellent debater, and a fair singer.”

Her eyes narrowed. “He’s that good?”

Frowning, Blueblood nodded. “He’s almost as brilliant as I am.”

Then, as an afterthought, he added, “Though I daresay I have the old devil beat hooves-down in the looks department.”

Sour Sweet rolled her eyes. “Well, obviously.”

Blueblood stopped. “What?”

Sour Sweet reared up to lean on a large harp, snarling, “I said, you’re forgetting an obvious advantage!”

Blueblood cocked an eyebrow at her, genuinely curious.

“Very well,” he said with a gesture of invitation. “Illuminate me. Outside of my mastery of largely irrelevant lore, my devilish charm, my innate brilliance and my rapier wit, what am I overlooking?”

Coming back down to four hooves, she stepped forward, smiling.

“Blue, I was a criminal law student in the Crystal Empire, remember?” she said warmly. “And I’ve been studying modern law ever since I got to Canterlot, so I’d be ready to attend Canterlot U next fall.”

Blueblood had opened his mouth to speak when Sour Sweet roared, “So get up off your pampered ass, stop feeling sorry for yourself, and let’s go save your fucking FRIEND!”

There was a moment of stunned silence from them both. Blueblood, staring wide-eyed at the mare before him; Sour Sweet, eyes even wider, covering her mouth and feeling more mortified by the second.

Then, Blueblood started to laugh.

A moment later, Sour Sweet was laughing as well. She fought it at first, but the mirth insisted on wrenching free of her, breaking through her defenses as it did.

For several moments, the music room was filled with their laughter, his tenor blending with her soprano. Several times it would end for a moment… and then they would look at one another and laugh again, at their own mirth.

Finally, they fell into a companionable silence.

“You’re right, we can do this,” Blueblood said at last. “Between the two of us…”

“We’ve got this,” she smiled. “Rarity’s as good as saved.”

“Yes. Well.” He cleared his throat. “Shall we adjourn to the library? We could research, in preparation for the hearing.”

Still smiling, she nodded. “Sure.”

All in all, the entire business was a frustrating, fatiguing mess. Yet, as he finally retreated to his own bed, Blueblood found that it had also been the best evening he’d had in a very long time. Sour Sweet was brilliant at research, and was excellent company, as well. And they would be working together again tomorrow.

He was asleep as soon as his face struck his pillow, an exhausted smile on his face.