• Published 29th May 2020
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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 8: Rituals and Oaths.

Courtrooms always made Blueblood suspect that this was what religion would have looked like, if his aunts had allowed themselves to be worshipped. He also suspected that he wasn’t the only one.

At the front of the room was the judge’s bench. High and imposing, made from dark wood and darker stone. Its front was engraved with ornamental pillars that by tradition perfectly matched the design of the first altars in ancient Equestria, ages ago.

On the wall behind it hung the banner of Equestria, showing its princesses of sun and moon in their endless dance. To the right hung a massive embroidery of Celestia’s cutie mark; to the left hung one of Luna’s.

In front and to the right of the judge’s bench, lower than the judge’s seat, was the witness stand. There was no seat in the witness stand per se, though there was a low padded shelf for a witness to place their forelegs upon as they sat upon the floor. It thus encouraged a kneeling position; a suitable posture for a supplicant.

On the bench’s left side, the court scribe’s seat was tucked, easily forgotten. Surrounded by an intricate wooden mesh, few indeed would recognize the design of the scribe’s post as a holdover from the confessionals of the Graven Age.

In front of it all was the section of open floor simply called the well, monitored closely by humorless guard ponies who would tackle or worse anypony who sought to approach the bench, stand, or seat uninvited. Blueblood noted that, unlike Canterlot’s uniform black marble design, Ponyville had opted for a cheerful rosewood for the well’s floor.

At one time, of course, having the well made from a dark, stain proof material had been a necessity. But that had been aeons ago. Personally, Blueblood preferred Ponyville’s choice of décor.

Bordering the well were the wood-and-stone tables of the defense and the prosecution, also made in the same traditional design as the bench. To the right was the jury box, empty. Today was a hearing, after all, not a trial.

Behind the barristers as they faced the judge was an ornate wooden fence of the same rosewood as the floor. And beyond that, even as within the jury box, were the hardwood pews of the spectators. But while the jury box was empty, the spectator pews were full, their rosewood seats crammed to capacity with ponies of every color and tribe.

Almost all of them were from Ponyville, including Filthy’s widow and daughter, each with their own struggles etched across face and heart. But there were a few exceptions. A hoofful of Filthy’s business associates were in attendance, for example, as were a few of Canterlot’s high society ponies.

Also present were the press ponies who, good as Blueblood’s word, filled the second pews. Scribbling frantically, occasionally taking a photo with their magical cameras, capturing fleeting moments in images of light. Meanwhile, the ponies of Ponyville, every one of them, had made it abundantly clear that they supported the accused with all their hearts.

Until recently, much of the courtroom’s right wall had been taken up by a replica of the stained glass window in Canterlot Palace which showed Luna’s defeat at her sister’s hooves. After Luna’s first Nightmare Night, however, it had been quietly replaced with a stained glass mural of Luna’s emancipation from Nightmare Moon, and her joyful return to her proper place as Princess of Night. Not due to any royal mandate, it seemed, but simply because the Ponyville ponies loved her and didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Taking all this into careful consideration, Blueblood had come to a decision. He’d decided that he liked Ponyville. Very much.

Unfortunately, at the moment it was all he could do to maintain any degree of neutrality in his countenance. Normally he would at least have smiled and nodded at the press as their cameras went off again and again at his emerging from the judge’s chambers, and at least acknowledged the flood of questions they’d greeted him with as soon as he’d opened the courtroom door.

But not today. Not now.

He didn’t need to look to the prosecution’s table to know that Janus Serpentine was smirking contentedly as he prepared his briefs. If his own carefully controlled expression hadn’t given the game away, the court defender’s stricken look as the poor git shuffled hastily through unprepared briefs certainly had.

Damn it all to Tartarus, he thought.

He’d been so certain. They both had. And, to her credit, the judge had listened patiently to every argument and every cited reference and example that he and Sour Sweet had assembled the previous night.

And then, she’d just sat back and shaken her ancient head, and cast all their hopes into the waters.

I appreciate the time and effort that you’ve obviously put into your preparations, Her Ladyship had said, especially in light of the limited time you’ve had.

Then, with a slight smile, she added, I also appreciate the courtesy you’ve shown in having your manes styled into the proper peruke for your anticipated roles in court. Well done.

Then, she’d sighed.

Unfortunately, it remains that you have no legal experience in a court of criminal law, she’d said, and the gravity of this case is such that we have not seen for many years, and hopefully shall never see again.

As they both opened their mouths, the judge had raised a hoof, saying, I do appreciate your position, and I am truly sorry. But I simply cannot allow you, with no training or experience in criminal law, to defend a pony in a murder trial. Or, by extension, its pre-trial hearing. Even if you happen to have a law student to assist you. Nor are you qualified to assist in her defense, outside of the most rudimentary aid. It would be a violation of every legal standard there is.

Giving Blueblood a stern look over her glasses, she had continued, In recognition of your standing within pony society, and the unusual circumstances of this particular hearing, for today only I’m going to allow you to sit with counsel for the defense. And, for today’s hearing only, I’ll allow you to grant them access to whatever written preparations you have made. However, please be advised that should you attempt to take undue advantage of this courtesy, I will have little choice but to hold you in full contempt.

And then, just as they’d turned to go, Oh, and one more thing.

Looking at the object Sour Sweet wore at her waist, she’d added, You should probably be aware, young lady: bullwhips are not allowed in the courtroom.

Miraculously, Sour Sweet had been able to hold her tongue until they were in an outer hallway before fully venting her spleen. Which, as Blueblood thought of it, was probably what had actually tipped the ponies in the courtroom off in the first place. She hadn’t exactly been quiet.

But now, he simply sat in his designated place, his mane returned to its normal perfection. Sat, fumed, and tried to think while waiting for the hearing to begin. Next to him, Miss Rarity’s designated barrister was fumbling frantically through a variety of files, trying to prepare for the hearing in the short time remaining. And on the lawyer’s far side, Rarity simply sat, her head in her hooves.

And through it all, Blueblood struggled to find the calm he needed.

So many other ponies had come forward in different ways, to help Miss Rarity however they could. Her friends were there, supporting her and her sister with their presence. A pair of musicians had managed to raise nearly a thousand bits for her bail in a single day (Miss Rarity had asked it be donated to charity). Even Diamond Tiara – the daughter of the bloody deceased – was offering her support!

Auntie sent me here for a reason, he thought, again and again. I’ve only to figure it out. There’s a way I can help. There has to be. Think, damn you – think!

But in his heart, he knew that there didn’t have to be. After all, his aunt had certainly been wrong before. And even the most predictable-looking pattern could be undone by free will. Such as the free will of Judge Knotwork in refusing his request. Or that of Fallacy Brief, the pony next to him, in neglecting his duty as a defender so completely.

Idiot.

Blueblood snorted, his eyes drifting back towards his Aunt Luna’s mural. This was accomplishing nothing. There was a solution, whether it was something Auntie had sensed or not. And if anypony could find it, he could. There was always a way.

Ignoring the sounds of fumbling papers next to him, the prince closed his eyes and again attempted to clear his mind, still without success.

Sitting contentedly at the other table, his peruke-styled mane and tail silver with age, Janus Serpentine was quietly conversing with his assistant, doubtless going over a few last minute details. Blueblood sighed. At least the old devil had the decency to refrain from openly gloating.

At that moment, the door behind the judge’s bench opened, and the judge quietly entered the room.

“The court will now rise for Her Ladyship, the Right Honourable Judge Knotwork.”

At the bailiff’s words, there was a simultaneous hushing of the crowd and series of creaking wooden sounds as the crowd rose to their hooves.

“In this, the hearing to determine possible cause for trial in the case of the Crown vs. Rarity of Ponyville,” he recited, “in this Court of Ponyville, under the eternal protection of the princesses Celestia and Luna, let all assembled herein remember that speech is prohibited save when asked for by the court. That when speech is asked for, only truth is sought. And that when truth is sought in the names of Night and Day, any who seek to hinder their eternal gaze do so at their peril.”

Taking her own seat, the elderly pegasus nodded to the assembly, her judicial mane falling in ornate curls to either side of her face.

“You may be seated,” she said.

There was another chorus of creaking and shuffling sounds as everypony sat again. The judge looked over some papers for a moment. Then, taking a breath, she began the ancient ritual of law, addressing the defense’s table.

“Who here shall speak for the accused?”

Fallacy Brief stood a little too quickly and gave a nervous bow.

“I have that honour, My Lady,” he said.

“And is the accused here this day?”

“Yea, by my fay, she is, My Lady,” Fallacy intoned. Motioning for Rarity to rise, he continued, “She stands before you now.”

The judge nodded. “Very well. Let the accused please state their rightful name.”

The unicorn mare bowed. “Rarity, My Lady.”

“And do you swear upon the sanctity of your soul that you are the pony who stands accused this day?”

Rarity lowered her head. “Yea, by my fay, My Lady, I do.”

“Very well.” As Rarity and Fallacy sat, the judge turned to the prosecution’s table. “And who here shall speak for the Crowns?”

Janus Serpentine stood with an easy grace.

“I have that honour, My Lady,” he said.

“And do you swear upon the sanctity of your soul that you believe there to be just cause for this pony to face trial?”

“Yea, by my fay, My Lady, I do.”

“And are you prepared to present this cause?”

“Yea, by my fay, My Lady, I am.”

“Very well.” Adjusting her glasses, Judge Knotwork said, “Speaker for the Crowns, you may approach and present your argument.”

Janus bowed. “Thank you, My Lady.” Then, moving into the well, he began his address.

“My Lady, today the Crowns will demonstrate that probable cause exists for the trial of Miss Rarity for the murder of Mister Filthy Rich,” he said. “We will show that the motive for the alleged murder was rejected love. And that the rejected mare, the murderer, was Miss Rarity of Ponyville.

“The Crowns will produce evidence that Miss Rarity and Mister Rich had dated after graduation, years ago. But while he had put the past behind him, she never did. Recently, they had been seeing a great deal of each other late at night, initially as part of planning the Ponyville Museum of Fine Arts. And we will show that, as time went on, it became something more. And when Mister Rich determined to call it off before it went any further, being rejected for a second time was more than she could bear.

“Pursuant to this, the Crowns will show spectral evidence demonstrating that Mister Rich was killed, by a mare, in a wing of that very museum. A mare he held in high esteem, showing that old flames were being rekindled. ”

“The court reminds counsel that spectral evidence will not be admissible during trial,” Judge Knotwork interrupted.

“I am aware, My Lady, thank you,” Janus replied with a slight bow. “The Crowns are also in possession of physical evidence, but seek to use the art of optography to demonstrate the need for trial, being mindful of the court’s time.”

The old pegasus nodded. “Very well, you may proceed.”

“Thank you, My Lady. To continue, past events have shown that, in periods of extreme emotion, the accused is capable of powerful magical acts, empowered by her passions. And on the night of the murder, she did so again.

“Furious and hurt at his breaking off their affair, Miss Rarity killed the stallion she had been carrying a torch for throughout her life. Her overpowering love and rage and pain all combined, boosting her normally minor telekinetic ability into a force capable of ending a pony’s life. With the power of her horn and her broken heart, she magically thrust a sewing weight into his barrel with the force of an arrow fired from a composite bow.

“Miss Rarity has no knowledge of law, My Lady, and no previous experience in crime. Thus, she didn’t understand how easily the crime might be traced to her. All she knew was that she had killed him. And so, realizing what she had done… she panicked. She fled the scene, disposing of the rest of the sewing weight set to hide the evidence as best she could.

“In short, My Lady, the Crowns acknowledge that this was not a crime of cold premeditation, but of passion. However, the means of the crime was magic. And, as we all know, magic is ultimately a matter of symbolism, will, and intent… strengthened in this case through emotional power.

“The Crowns therefore hold that, at least at that moment, the killing of Filthy Rich was undeniably the intent. And, because of that criminal intent – no matter how fleeting it may have been – the only possible charge is murder. A murder charge which the Crowns will demonstrate within reason to be worthy of trial.”

Giving a small bow to the bench, he finished with, “Thank you, My Lady.” And, turning, walked with victorious dignity back to the prosecution’s table.

Judge Knotwork glanced again to the defense’s table. “Speaker for the Accused, do you have just cause that this matter should not go to trial?”

“Yea, by my fay, My Lady, I do.” the defense pony replied.

“And are you prepared to present this cause?”

“Yea, by my—” as he spoke, a cascade of loose papers fell from the folder Fallacy Brief held. Fumbling, he gave a vain attempt to catch them, succeeding only in scattering them further as they fell.

The crowd gasped.

The judge frowned.

Janus Serpentine winced.

Blueblood looked upwards to the invisible stars in a silent plea for patience.

“Young stallion,” a still-frowning judge said, breaking from ritual, “Would you like a moment more to prepare?”

“Yea—I mean, yes, please, My Lady,” he managed.

“I trust the Crowns have no objection?”

Janus stood. “The Crowns have no objection, My Lady.”

“Very well.” Then, leaning forward slightly, the judge added, “I will give you five minutes to get your affairs in order, Mister Brief, and you may approach the bench enough to gather your things. I will also remind you of the enormity of these proceedings, and urge you to better remember your obligations to your client.”

His orange face turning greenish as he gathered the papers from the floor, the young barrister nodded. “Yes, My Lady. Thank you, My Lady.”

“Recess for five minutes.”

Returning quickly with his shuffled notes, Fallacy began quickly trying to sort through them when a dark grey hoof slammed a paper he’d missed onto the table before him. Looking up, he saw the visage of Janus Serpentine, seething.

“Tha—”

“Don’t you dare thank me!” the older barrister hissed through gritted teeth. “This is the hearing for the trial of the century, and you’re turning it into a farce! Now, get it together!”


The rest of the hearing, though more dignified, hadn’t fared much better.

Once proceedings had started again, Fallacy’s nerves had been so shattered that he could hardly find his way through his own notes. Rolling his eyes, Blueblood had held out to him the opening arguments that he and Sour Sweet had prepared together. The young stallion had managed to get through it, but he’d read it with presence of a limp dishrag caught in the act of shoplifting. Hardly a persuasive performance.

Then, there had been the evidence itself.

First, there had been a guard from the Canterlot palace, swearing under oath that during preparations for the Princess Summit, he had seen Rarity produce frost from her horn to save the life of Spike the Dragon, extinguishing a large blaze of magical fire almost instantly. It would have been even more devastating if Janus had called one of Miss Rarity’s fellow Elements, of course; even Princess Twilight herself. But that would also have been cruel, and begrudgingly, Blueblood had to admit that the old boy at least had class.

Then, the Crowns had presented a note that Filthy had written to Miss Rarity, allegedly proving both the affair and its abrupt end at Filthy’s insistence. It had been passed directly to the judge, and Blueblood hadn’t been allowed to approach and see it himself. But psychometry had apparently confirmed that Filthy had written it shortly before his death. It was found in his pocket, undelivered.

Psychometry had also confirmed, according to the Crown’s experts, that the only magical activity in the museum for at least a week had been Rarity’s.

And as for the sewing weight, being the murder weapon had of course overridden all impressions upon it aside from his moment of death. Thus, a simple object read couldn’t prove Rarity’s association with the sewing weight per se. But with the only telekinesis in the place being hers, there had seemed little doubt. And the singes left upon the silver object had left little doubt as to the depth of passion that had propelled it so.

Then had come the spectral evidence.

Optography had always been a vague art, and thus never admissible in and of itself in court. An image pulled from the eye of a dead creature offered no colors for identification, and was subject to the perceptions of the deceased rather than any objective standard. But, it could be enough to show just cause for a trial.

The image that had been shown before the court (amidst many gasps of shock from onlookers) was, quite simply, the most magnificent mare that Blueblood had ever seen. The image had been head-on, though obscured as though she were standing in a thin cloud. But there could be no doubt that a mare of great beauty, one who Filthy had plainly adored, had been the last thing he had seen before death.

And now, just when Blueblood thought it couldn’t get any worse:

“And for the final witness, the Crowns call… Miss Rarity of Ponyville.”

Object, Blueblood thought furiously. Object, object, object…

But Speaker for the Accused was silent as Rarity took the stand, swearing upon the sanctity of her soul that she would speak only the truth, and omit nothing to the best of her ability.

Mercifully, old Janus kept it short. He had her confirm what she had already mentioned to both Blueblood and the arresting officers: that she and Filthy had dated after high school. And that in recent months, they had been spending long hours alone together in the fledgling museum, late at night.

When it was his turn to question her, Fallacy also kept it short.

“Miss Rarity, did you kill Filthy Rich?”

“Absolutely not!”

“Did you hate him?”

“No!”

“Did you love him?”

Rarity shook her head. “No more than anypony else did who met him. He was a dear friend. Nothing more.”

“Is there any oath you would not be prepared to take, magical or otherwise, that you did not kill him?”

“No.”

Judge Knotwork frowned. “The court reminds Speaker for the Accused that magical oaths are not allowed in court.”

“Thank you, My Lady, I am aware.” Turning to Rarity, he asked, “Were you aware of that when you answered my question?”

“No.”

Her barrister nodded. “No further questions, My Lady.”

The judge nodded. “Thank you, Speaker. Miss Rarity, you may step down.”

Yet, Rarity remained in her kneeling position, her head bowed, eyes closed.

“Miss Rarity, I said you may step down.”

The mare swallowed. She opened her eyes, still looking down, then turned her gaze outward to the ponies assembled there.

“No,” she said.

Judge Knotwork glared at her through slitted eyes. “I beg your pardon?”

Rarity swallowed again. “With respect, My Lady, I said no.”

“Miss Rarity, the court warns you—”

But Rarity ignored her. She stood, raising her trembling voice to be heard across the murmurs of the courtroom.

“There is someone else on trial today,” she said as the crowd’s voices quieted. “Someone who cannot defend himself. Someone whose name should be remembered with the respect that he deserves.

“Filthy Rich was a good stallion, and a beloved friend. But more than that, he was a stallion of morality and honor. He loved his family, and he was devoted to them.”

Skewering the Speaker for the Crowns with her glare, she went on, “The very idea that he would have involved himself in anything so sordid as has been intimated within these walls is so outrageous as to be practically obscene. And to utter such obvious lies in the presence of his family is to cross the line into true obscenity.”

She swallowed then, and looked at the judge again.

“That’s all I had to say, My Lady.”

As the judge nodded and gestured for the young mare to exit the witness stand, Blueblood could only stare.

“I’m a fool,” he heard himself whisper.

As Rarity walked back to her seat at the defense table, Blueblood again stood to address the bench.

“My Lady!”

Judge Knotwork barely bothered to wave the unicorn’s concerns away. “Court has already heard you, Your Grace. Your motion has been denied. Whatever else you may have can wait until its appropriate time.”

“But—”

“Let the record show that Miss Rarity shall be later admonished for her contempt of court. Has the defense anything to add?”

Standing, the defense council barely gave Rarity a glance as she sat. “Not at this time, My Lady,”

“Very well,” the ancient pegasus nodded. “Upon examination of the evidence presented, I hereby decree that circumstances reasonably demand that the accused shall be brought to trial. Until that time, the accused is to remain on her own recognizance under the bond of Princess Twilight Sparkle, who shall herself answer for any misdeeds by the accused between now and the conclusion of the aforementioned trial… including but not limited to flight to avoid prosecution.”

Blueblood’s eyes widened, his voice a hoarse whisper. “No…”

“This hearing is hereby concluded,” the judge intoned with a sharp rap of her gavel. “Jury selection to begin in a week’s time at 10am.”

Judge Knotwork rose.

“All rise,” the bailiff called.

The judge began slowly making her way to the room’s rear exit.

All around him, Blueblood could see the murmuring crowd of ponies rising, dispersing, meandering through the court’s various exits. The lawyers still sitting, organizing their briefs. On her attorney’s other side he could make out Rarity’s azure mane, bowing under the weight of her fate as her friends rushed to her side, her hope already surrendered to the inevitable.

And really, who could blame her? What evidence there was, was fatally against her. In everyone else’s mind, the trial would only be a formality. A tragic ending to a unicorn’s life spent reaching too far, too greedily. Nopony but her friends believed her innocence now.

Her friends… and him.

Soon, the room would be emptied. And he, himself, would be locked out from any chance to render aid.

It was one of those rare moments when everything around him snapped into perfect focus. Blueblood could see the judge’s deliberate, systematic indifference. Normally, she was genuinely motivated by a desire to see justice done. At the same time, she was also driven by a reverence for the law.

But it would be ritual that would guide her now, not compassion. She admired the Mane Six. She desperately wanted Rarity to be innocent, and she knew that desire would bias her. So, she would count upon the rites of court to insulate her from any errors of the heart. She would be so desperately cold in her rulings as to be reptilian.

Looking away from the judge, Blueblood could see the defense attorney’s resignation. His guiding star was the justice system, and that system had caught a hero who had fallen from glory. Oh, he’d be better prepared for the trial itself, make no mistake. But to him, the trial would just be a matter of going through the necessary motions. It was as good as done.

And, Blueblood saw Janus’ unconscious dismissal of Rarity as really being a pony, or even a living being. For all that Janus considered himself to be a pony of high ethics and morality, in the end only the game mattered. The strategies to be played out, the moves to be made. And Rarity’s defense was simply an obstacle between Janus and another perfect game played within the courtroom.

The crowd of ponies behind him were numb, for the moment. But Blueblood could see their adoration of the hero before them poised, ready to turn to resentment, even hate. Guided by their faith in their betters, they would lash out as, across the trial’s duration, Rarity’s pedestal inevitably crumbled into ruin.

Desperately, Blueblood looked from the prosecuting pony to the judge and back again. Janus would insist on the ultimate punishment as a matter of course. And, for Rarity’s perceived betrayal of the common faith, he would get it.

Blueblood stood.

There was no other option, and no time.

“Min blód sy hire blód!”

The crowd began to quiet into a puzzled buzz as both lawyers and magistrate stopped, the judge whipping around to stare at the prince.

“Min blód sy hire blód!” Blueblood cried, again and again. “Min blód sy hire blód!”

Seizing her gavel again, Knotwork struck the bench itself, plunging the room into near silence. The legal ponies continued to stare in shock, while the rest of the crowd, Rarity and Twilight included, could only look from one face to another in frank bewilderment.

The judge looked at Prince Blueblood with hard eyes. “Young stallion, you don’t know what you’re saying.”

But Blueblood stepped forward. “My Lady, in accordance to the laws of the First Realm, I claim the right of blódsihtan.”

At that, the prosecutor found his voice. “Objection!”

Blueblood whirled to face him. “On what ground?” he demanded.

“My Lady already concluded these hearings. The time for any fancy ideas before trial starts is past. If His Grace wants to—”

“According to the law, blódsihtan may be invoked at any time,” Blueblood replied.

“My Lady, this is preposterous!” Janus sputtered. “His Grace has a rudimentary understanding of law at best, and he’s showing his ignorance now!”

“My knowledge of law, or lack thereof, is irrelevant.”

“I disagree!” Turning to again face the bench, the older stallion went on, “My Lady, the tradition of blódsihtan is just a holdover from magistrate law. It hasn’t been invoked in over two hundred years. And even then it was antiquated, and summarily denied!”

“My Lady, blódsihtan is still law,” Blueblood pointed out. “It has never been stricken from the books,”

“Only as an oversight, because it’s so outdated!” Janus insisted. “And on that basis, precedent has been made for its immediate refusal. In the interest of the sanctity of this court, I therefore must insist that precedent be upheld today!”

Judge Knotwork narrowed her eyes dangerously at the prosecuting attorney. “You… insist?”

That cold anger was Blueblood’s opportunity, and he focused completely upon the ancient pegasus before him.

“My Lady,” he said urgently. “I acknowledge that, technically, everything that my learned colleague said is true. But I must ask the court: do you remember why the previous claim on blódsihtan was dismissed two centuries ago?”

“My Lady, that’s hardly relevant—!” the grey unicorn started.

“It’s because the claimant could not demonstrate a legal right of invocation,” Blueblood said over him. “A right which, during the First Realm…”

The wrinkled pegasus nodded slowly. “…was determined either by familial kinship, or by the claimant’s membership in a noble house which possessed rulership over the accused,” she finished for him.

The court prosecutor stared from Knotwork to Blueblood, and back again, becoming more aghast by the moment.

“My Lady, you can’t possibly be considering this!”

For his part, Blueblood kept his face as neutral as he could. He could see the war waging behind Judge Knotwork’s eyes. How, within her mind, would she resolve this new conflict?

The answer seemed obvious. Even inevitable. But he didn’t dare be certain until she spoke.

“Your Grace, you will please approach the bench.”

As the crowd murmured in confusion, Blueblood strode past the defense’s table and towards the judiciary seat, relief flooding through him.

The judge glowered down at him as he stood before her, waiting. From a drawer to her left, she pulled a small black square of cloth and placed it upon her mane. In response, Blueblood lowered his head, even as Janus’ expression became more and more stricken.

“As ye have blood in thy body, do ye hereby take on the mantle of blódgeótendes?” She intoned.

“Yea, by my fay,” Blueblood replied in the same solemn tone. “I do.”

“As ye have breath in thy body, shall ye be assuaged from this task?”

“Nay, by my fay, I shall not.”

“And, as ye have soul in thy heart, shall ye accept all burdens which are thy due?”

“Yea, by my fay, I shall.”

“Even to the last?”

“Yea, by my fay, I must,” Blueblood intoned. “Even had I a thousand souls, still would I swear them all to this task.”

“Very well.”

Raising her voice somewhat to address the court as a whole, the judge announced, “Let it be known this day that Blueblood, Prince of the Realm of Equestria and Nephew to the Thrones of Night and Day, hath laid claim to his right of blódsihtan in regard to this trial.

“Let it be further known,” she continued over the confused whispers of the crowd, “that as such, he hath full legal right to all witnesses, evidence, notes and records possessed by anyone involved with this court and its upcoming trial. Further, he hath the power of this court to interrogate, investigate, and bring all matters to bear dealing with the subject of this court, and the fate of its accused, Rarity. Only in punishment shall his hoof be stayed. By authority of sun, by authority of moon, and by authority of blood. So be it.”

As she brought down her gavel once more with grave finality, Blueblood smiled at the disbelieving unicorn next to him. “I trust that won’t be any problem?”

The prosecutor could only stare. “You can’t be serious! This is… My Lady, this is highly irregular—”

But the elderly pegasus shook her head, her expression grim.

“The law is clear. Prince Blueblood has laid claim to his rights, and we shall give him his due.”

Then, looking at the prince over her glasses, she added, “Even to the last.”

Prince Blueblood bowed. “Yes, My Lady. And thank you.”

The judge all but ripped the cloth from her mane and stuffed it back where it belonged, gratefully abandoning the rites the noblepony had invoked.

“Don’t thank me, Your Grace,” she said. “Believe me, I would spare you this mistake if I could.”

Then, looking out at the murmuring crowd, she pronounced in a louder voice, “These proceedings are adjourned.”

The judge rapped her gavel smartly, then turned and left the courtroom to erupt into pandemonium.

Meanwhile, Rarity turned back to her friends in pure bewilderment.

“Twilight, darling… what just happened?”

“I don’t know,” Twilight answered.

Craning her neck, she saw that Blueblood was already pushing his way through the throngs to a side exit, a young pink-and-blue maned mare close behind him. The legal ponies were also fleeing the newsponies who were calling their names, ignoring everything but their own escape.

“But from what I gather,” Twilight concluded, “Blue just invoked a very old and rare law. And I just happen to have an extensive library. Come on.”