• Published 25th Sep 2020
  • 2,539 Views, 228 Comments

Auntie Tia's Matchmaking Service - Shaslan

Princess Celestia has retired, but that doesn't mean her little ponies have stopped needing her. She puts her skills to good use in her new business, but her new clients are tough customers. Have Celestia's matchmaking abilities met their match?

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Chapter 1

The pale pink mare shifted uncomfortably in her seat. The settee was plush and comfortable, but no amount of cushions could help her feel at ease today. Months of pushing from her parents had culminated in her walking through that tall, thin blue door on a back street of Canterlot.

The pastel blue door was unmarked, and there was no shop sign hanging above it. To advertise a business such as this would be vulgar, apparently. It had been explained that everything was done through word of mouth, one family to another. It was all very…personalised.

Lustre Dawn rubbed her forehooves together, nervousness writ large upon her face. She wasn’t at all sure that she wanted a personalised service. She was used to the spotlight, well accustomed to it from her usual place at Princess Twilight Sparkle’s right hoof. But this was a different sort of spotlight, an altogether more intimate one. One that might be able to pick out every flaw she had, if she let it. Right now, Lustre Dawn would have given almost anything to be able to fade quietly into these lush purple cushions and the thick pink rugs carpeting the floor, and be able to sneak her way back to the door and the blessed relief of escape.

It would be easy enough, if she wanted to try it. She did know one or two invisibility spells — she had even spent a summer in her teens refining Clover the Clever’s famous Indivisibly Invisible Pony spell, improving it to the point where she could now cast and hold it for five hours rather than Clover’s promised two.

And her friends would be waiting for her. She knew exactly where she could find them: Carrot Bran, Yurik, Grayson and Leaftail were all waiting in their favourite coffee shop in Canterlot’s food quarter, ready for a debrief just as soon as Lustre Dawn was done with this meeting. She had felt a little guilty about dragging them all the way out here to Canterlot — poor Yurik had been forced to get the overnight express from Yakyakistan — but she felt no regret at playing the ‘friend in need’ card. She might be a wreck after this, depending on how it went, and she felt certain that she would need every scrap of support she could get.

Because really, she knew that this was no longer something she could put off. Every time she went home, her mothers were asking if she had booked her appointment yet, if she had given it any thought — and with every visit, the questions grew more and more pointed. This was something they wanted for her, and Lustre Dawn loved her family too much to be immune to their prolonged sighs and hints. She had finally admitted defeat, and here she was.

A gentle clop of hooves made her muzzle jerk up, and then finally, the second pastel blue door at the back of the waiting room swung open to reveal the pony she had come to see.

The graceful white-coated figure — taller than even Princess Twilight — dipped her head to come through the door without knocking her horn on the lintel. The ceiling in the room was unusually high for an Equestrian building— built to the ‘Celestian Standard Height’ as all buildings in Canterlot had been for centuries now — but even so, she almost touched it.

Princess Celestia, now retired, smiled a warm welcome at the little pink pony before her and settled herself behind a large mahogany desk. She extended a gracious hoof to gesture Lustre Dawn into a fat armchair set closer to the desk. Lustre hurried to obey the gesture that looked like it would be more at home inviting ambassadors to discuss affairs of state, rather than…whatever shambles this was about to become.

Princess Celestia smiled beatifically, the same smile that Lustre Dawn knew the finest artists of the Re-neigh-ssance had tried and failed to capture in its full glory centuries ago. The same smile that had controlled the fate of millions, that had held the sun in place in the sky.

Celestia remained silent, smiling gently as Lustre fidgeted anxiously on the chair. Her vast mane flowed like a river, almost filling the suddenly-smaller room. The silence swelled. Lustre Dawn began to feel claustrophobic.

“Hi, Princess,” she began weakly. “My mother — Starlight, I mean — she says hi.” Inwardly, she kicked herself. What a way to begin this conversation!

Princess Celestia inclined her head a little. “Yes, it has been too long since I saw both of your mothers in a personal capacity,” she said, her melodious voice rich and powerful. “Though I believe I saw Trixie perform when last she came to Canterlot.” Her voice had a depth and a timbre that Lustre had never really heard in another pony. She dimly remembered reading somewhere that full-size alicorn lungs were over four times as large as pony lungs. She had come across a fascinating Old Ponish document written by a theatre-going courtier in the days when opera was a young and fashionable art form and Princess Luna had been its most devoted patron. One evening with a small circle of friends, she had performed a brief aria, and the author of Lustre Dawn’s treatise had sworn he had never heard any mortal, no matter how well-trained, achieve the notes that the Princess had.

She offered another hesitant smile to Princess Celestia by way of answer.

“I understand that you must be nervous, Lustre Dawn,” the Princess said kindly. “This is no small event in a young pony’s life.”

Lustre Dawn nodded mutely.

“Come now,” the Princess smiled. “I am here to help you, not to harm. Tell me — do you want to do this? In yourself, I mean?”

Lustre hesitated. “Well, Princess Celestia, I—”

She stopped short, biting off her words as the Princess raised a commanding hoof.

“Let us stop right there,” the Princess said, not cruelly, but with a hint more steel in her tone. “I am a Princess by right and by title still, but it is my faithful student Twilight Sparkle who rules Equestria now. She is the true princess.” Her tone lightened again and she crossed her front hooves on the desk. “Besides which, just as Twilight was my own student for many years, you are hers — which makes us closer to family than to formality, in my eyes. I insist that you call me Auntie.”

“A-Auntie?” Lustre Dawn fumbled the words. It felt very strange to be addressing an immortal goddess that one barely knew as ‘auntie’.

Celestia spread her hooves once more. “Even if we were not linked through Twilight Sparkle, I tell all my clients to call me Auntie Tia. This business that I am in…its a family business, and I find it so important to foster a family feeling throughout the process.”

Lustre Dawn chewed at her lip and nodded again. “I suppose so…”

“But because you are Twilight’s chosen student — and her stepdaughter besides — this case takes on a special relevance to me.” A wide, motherly smile spread across Celestia’s face. “I make sure all my clients are happy with what I can offer them, but with you, Lustre Dawn, I will take special care.”

Heat flooded Lustre’s face, and she ducked her head, not wanting to meet Celestia’s gaze. Stars, this was all so humiliating. Why couldn’t she just have met somepony in a normal way? Why did her mothers have to insist on this — this bizarre farce?

“Lustre Dawn,” Celestia chided, her tone still gentle. “There is no need to feel awkward with me. I appreciate that this must be difficult for a young pony like yourself, to be put in this position. But remember, everypony involved — myself, Starlight, Trixie, and even Sunburst and Twilight Sparkle — we all want what is best for you. We all want you to be happy. That’s why your parents came to me. My record—” she gestured to a wall behind her, covered in photos of a beaming Celestia standing beside different groups of joyous ponies, “—is unbroken. Even if it takes me a little time, I find somepony for everyone.”

Lustre Dawn rubbed hard at one ear with her hoof. “But a matchmaker—! It’s so old-fashioned! It’s so…so crude!”

Celestia smiled radiantly, seemingly thrilled to have broken through Lustre’s reserve at last. “It is not crude, Lustre, my dear. What is frequently forgotten by young ponies is that marriage, partners, they are not just about the couple. The couple represent a joining of two families, two families that must love and accept each other just as the young people must.” She paused, and lit her horn to levitate a pair of glass tumblers and a vase of crystal clear water over from a side table. She poured water into both glasses, and then floated one of them over to Lustre Dawn.

Lustre accepted it into her own magic and took a sip, hoping the cool water would quell the burning in her cheeks. She couldn’t believe she had been reduced to this. If she had just done what Carrot Bran and Grayson had and paired up straight out of college, she wouldn’t be in this mess. Her parents wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on if she had already found herself a mate. But because she had done as they asked, because she had been a good student, because she had devoted the first twenty years of her life to magic and the next eight to friendship — now she was here, sitting in the office of an ex-princess’ matchmaking service. She wanted to crawl into bed, pull the covers over her head and just die from embarrassment.

“You must remember, too,” Celestia was continuing, “That you have ultimate control in this process. I have made many matches over the centuries, that have created many families who still live today. I am without match — if you’ll excuse the pun — in this art form. And now I am retired, I find nothing amuses me so much as doing it for a living.”

That got Lustre’s attention. Her eyes flashed and she met Celestia’s gaze with a force that made the older mare raise her eyebrows in mild surprise.

“Amuse yourself?” Lustre Dawn said sharply. “Is this a game to you, Princ—Auntie? My life isn’t a toy to be played with.”

“No, no, of course not,” Celestia soothed her. “I mean only that to do this — to bring my little ponies joy in a more immediate and intimate way than I ever had time to do when I sat the throne — fills my days with happiness of my own. It gives my time meaning in a way nothing else could.” She drew herself up, and the tip of her lengthy horn nearly brushed the ceiling. A few scrapes on the wooden beams showed where it had happened before.

“I can honestly say,” Celestia went on, her golden-shod hoof tapping against the desk to punctuate her words, “That Auntie Tia’s Matchmaking Service brings me every bit as much pleasure — and I approach it with as much dedication! — as ever ruling my court did.” She paused and took a breath, and resettled herself in her chair. “That’s why my clients come to me. That’s why your own family came to me. They know that no one will treat the lives and futures of Equestria’s youth, and the futures of their families, with as much care as I will.”

Lustre Dawn nodded slowly, feeling a little mollified. The Princess was certainly sincere. She meant what she was saying, and she clearly believed in what she did. And both Starlight and Trixie did too. They had been very firm with Lustre that they expected her to at least attend this initial meeting with Celestia, and preferably to follow her guidance afterwards as well.

“Friendship is hugely important,” Starlight Glimmer had said firmly, as the family sat over tea and Ponopoly one evening, in the drawing room at the Castle of Friendship. “But having a special somepony is vital too. Somepony you can rely on, somepony you can talk to, wake up next to, and maybe even raise a family with.” She had paused to smile at Trixie, who rubbed her hoof supportively.

“We just want you to be happy, Lustre,” Trixie had added. “We were a love match, but we still went to take Princess Celestia’s advice before we finalised things. You haven’t met anyone under your own steam yet, and time is passing. We want you to have a secure future, somepony to love. Ponies who are lonely…well, they can turn down darker paths, even if they don’t intend to.”

Lustre Dawn scowled a little at the memory. It was bothersome, the way that ponies assumed you had to have a life like theirs in order to be as happy as they were. And okay, they had been right about friendship — she loved each and every one of her friends — but there was no guarantee they were right about romance. She didn’t need a special somepony to be happy. She had more than enough happiness already.

“So the purpose of this initial meeting is just for me to get to know you,” Princess Celestia’s gentle tones recalled Lustre to the present. “I want to learn your hobbies, your likes and dislikes, what you want your life to be long-term. What sort of thing you think you would prefer in a partner.”

Lustre Dawn slumped in her chair a little. “Those are all…very big questions, Auntie.”

“Big questions are only big until we know the answers,” Celestia smiled. “And we can find the answers to them together, Lustre, I promise you. Let’s start with something simple. Why are you here today?”

Lustre Dawn sighed. “Because my mothers asked me to come.”

“And why do you think they wanted you to come here?”

“They say they want me to be happy,” Lustre answered. “But honestly, I think they’re just a little hungry for grandfoals.”

Celestia laughed, a musical cascade of notes tumbling over one another like a little waterfall. “I see you have inherited Trixie’s sense of humour!”

Lustre allowed herself a small smile.

Celestia steepled her hooves against one another, her elbows resting on the desk. “Your family seems like a good place to begin, then. I know how important family can be. My own sister is my rock; I don’t know where I would be without her. And just like you must be, I’d be afraid to disappoint my sister. But she wants the best for me, and sometimes that means that she can see clearer than even I can about what the best choices for me are. I think its much the same in your family.”

Lustre nodded once.

“Both of your mothers, as well as Twilight Sparkle and Sunburst, are on board with the decision we are taking here today,” Celestia went on. “They’ll join us for our next discussion, if you decide you are ready to proceed. But why don’t we talk a little about them now? That might help me get to know you a little better.”

Lustre Dawn shifted again in her chair. “Um — I’m not sure where to begin, Princess.”

“Auntie Tia,” Celestia corrected her at once. “Lustre Dawn, all I’m asking is that you talk to me openly, and give this a chance, for your family’s sake. We’ll start off nice and simple. Why don’t you tell me about how your mothers met?”

Lustre Dawn sighed and pushed her mane back out of her face. It didn’t seem like she had any alternative. “Alright. Um. Well, they met in Ponyville — at the spa.”

Celestia brightened. “Ah yes — I’ve been there many times. Their masseuse is wonderful.”

“They got to talking over their…shared pasts,” Lustre went on, her face colouring a little. She was never quite sure how to introduce the topic of her mothers’ early careers when talking to new ponies. It wasn’t that she was ashamed of them, because she definitely wasn’t — one of Princess Twilight’s very first lessons was never to judge ponies for their past mistakes — but there was no getting around the fact it was a difficult subject.

But Princess Celestia knew about her family’s past — she had been there personally for much of it. “Princess Twilight didn’t approve, at first. But my parents were sure about each other from the very start. They were best friends from the first day they met.”

Celestia chuckled. “Yes, I remember the Moonshot Manticore Mouth Dive very well. I would struggle to forget a trick like that.”

Lustre nodded, her smile widening and becoming more genuine. “Yes, exactly! My parents trusted each other to put their lives in each others hooves. On the very first day they met.” She sighed. “Can you imagine trusting anypony that much?”

Celestia smiled. “Love truly is a wonderful thing. And when two ponies recognise it in each other like your mothers did, it can work miracles.” She paused and took a sip from her glass of water, her horn glowing. “Lustre Dawn, is there anypony you trust that much, that you could put your life into their keeping?” She looked up from her water as she spoke, directly into Lustre’s eyes, and Lustre jumped a little at the sudden eye contact.

“I— I’m not sure. I trust my friends of course, I care about all of them so much.” She blushed a little as she said it, but Celestia only smiled encouragingly. “But I’m not sure if I would have been able to do it on that very first day in Ponyville, when I first met them. It took me a whole term of attending Mum’s school to properly get to know them. Besides, Yurik, Grayson and Carrot Bran aren’t magical in the least, and the only magic Leaftail can do is transform into a nirik. I don’t think any of them could help me perform the Moonshot Manticore Mouth Dive, even if I wanted to do it.”

Celestia shook her head. “I don’t mean replicating your mothers’ exact meeting; every couple’s story is unique. No, what I mean is, have you ever met anypony — a special somepony — that you could imagine yourself feeling the same way about that your mothers feel about each other?”

Lustre Dawn’s heart sank within her. “No…no, Princess. I don’t think I have.” She suddenly felt a little sick. All this time, while her mothers had hinted that perhaps she was missing out on something, that perhaps she wasn’t living life to its fullest, she had shrugged it off. She had thought that her life was full and meaningful — certainly it felt as though it was. With her studies, her time with her family and with Princess Twilight Sparkle, and above all with her friends, she had almost no time to herself. But she never felt like she needed it. She loved her busy life, especially how much fuller it felt since she had discovered the magic of friendship. But from what the Princess was saying, it seemed like there was perhaps some vital experience she had been missing out on.

Carrot Bran and Grayson were married, of course — they had been boyfriends for years, and had tied the knot just last year. Their wedding had been beautiful. Lustre Dawn and Leaftail had been the mares of honour, and Yurik had been the officiant. Lustre was not ashamed to admit she had wept as she walked behind Carrot Bran and Grayson. Her mothers had attended, as Carrot Bran and Grayson’s ex-teachers, and it was only really after that their gentle prodding about Lustre’s own love life had taken on a sharper edge. That process had culminated in Lustre’s final reluctant consent to meet with ‘Auntie Tia’.

“Don’t worry, Lustre Dawn.” Celestia’s gentle tone cut into her thoughts once more. “Trixie and Starlight Glimmer made what I would call a ‘love match’. They found one another independently, and their feelings grew slowly into something more than friendship. All I am offering to do for you is provide a little help in that initial ‘finding’ stage. I help ponies connect the dots, that’s all.”

Lustre Dawn sighed and rubbed her hoof against her temple. “You make it sound so personal — but earlier, you said that this style of marriage was all about two families coming together, and not about the individual ponies at all.”

“It’s a delicate mixture of the two,” Celestia answered. She spread her hooves as she spoke. “You have the final choice of your life partner, of course, but your family should be consulted too.”

“But I want to marry somepony I like, not somepony my family likes,” Lustre insisted.

“And that’s what I intend,” Celestia replied smoothly. “But it is possible to have both. But like it or not, Lustre Dawn, you are the child of several very important ponies. Starlight Glimmer and Trixie Lulamoon run the Equestrian School of Friendship, our foremost method of outreach with the youth of other nations. Your birth father Sunburst is a close personal friend and advisor to the royal family of the Crystal Empire. You are stepdaughter and personal student to the Princess of Equestria. Choosing a mate not only that you can love, but who will also be suitable to mesh with your family, is a matter of vital importance to Equestria itself.”

Lustre Dawn sighed again. “That definitely doesn’t sound like what my parents did. Princess Twilight advised against them even being friends.”

“Your parents were a love match, as I said,” Princess Celestia rejoined. “But when they realised they were growing closer, they did the right thing. They came to Twilight and I, and they asked our opinions. We were able to talk with them, and with their families too, and ensure that everypony was on the same page.”

She paused, and took another sip of water. “I know that this seems rather…traditional and old-fashioned, Lustre Dawn. Honestly, I know. But the reason I have been employing this method for so long is because it works. It genuinely gets results. The families I work with, the couples I match — they very rarely have problems like strife with the in-laws, clashes over the way foals should be raised. The careful process I take my clients through helps to eliminate that risk. And even after the match is made, I continue to help. Your parents came to me before you were conceived, you know.”

Lustre Dawn sat up straighter. “What?”

Celestia grinned, an uncharacteristically playful expression. She was clearly pleased to be able to share knowledge that Lustre Dawn had not previously possessed. “Yes, it’s true. Your mothers wanted a foal, and they needed a sperm donor. I put out some feelers, delicately asked around, and eventually I was able to match up Trixie and Starlight Glimmer with Sunburst and Twilight Sparkle. Their parents were also consulted — if I remember correctly, your grandfather Firelight and Sunburst’s mother were particularly thrilled at the prospect of sharing a grandchild. Every party involved was enthusiastic, and so we went ahead. And so you were born. And your large and — hmm, unconventional — family has always functioned in an exemplary way, hasn’t it?”

Still stunned, Lustre could only nod. Sunburst and Twilight had always been a part of her life. She had spent one weekend a month with them during her early childhood, and had thought of them as a particularly loving uncle and aunt. Then, when she turned ten and got her cutie mark, she had showed enough magical promise that her mothers thought it best to send her to Twilight’s Magical School for Gifted Unicorns. After that she had grown much closer to Sunburst and Twilight, and had viewed them almost as a second set of parents.

Celestia nodded back, that same gentle smile still on her muzzle. “There was no jealousy, no anger or acrimonious dispute. Everypony knew exactly what their role was, and everypony wanted to be involved. It was just a big, loving family, all waiting to welcome one little foal.”

It was just so strange, to know that she had been planned and debated, like a party or a battle. Lustre Dawn couldn’t quite get her head around it. Her parents and grandparents had all sat in one room with Princess Celestia presiding, and had agreed on her creation. It was almost as though Celestia had made her — certainly she had orchestrated her making. And from the sound of it, the Princess had also played a large part in the manner in which she had been raised.

“Does everypony get married like this?” she blurted.

Celestia raised a hoof to her mouth to hide her small, ladylike giggle. “No, no, Lustre Dawn — it isn’t anything sinister; there is no great conspiracy. But many of my subjects do choose to take the route of going to a matchmaker. They recognise the wisdom of involving somepony older and wiser than themselves, to help advise in what is, after all, the biggest decision of their lives. Some of my oldest client families have been coming to me for generations.”

Lustre ran a hoof through her mane again. “Huh.”

Celestia placed her hooves flat on the desktop, either side of her glass, and leaned forward. Her mane rippled with the movement, flowing out behind and to her left. “So. Tell me — what do you think? Are you willing to give this a shot, to let me help you and your family find somepony who you can learn to love — somepony who you can build a life with?”

Lustre Dawn bit down on a groan. She wasn’t sure she wanted to meet somepony, or have her freedom curtailed. And she definitely wasn’t sure she wanted to get married. Moreover, this matchmaking thing was inherently weird, and nothing could dissuade her of that feeling. But Celestia’s arguments, much as she hated to admit it, were much more rational and persuasive than she had anticipated. And her parents were desperate for her to try this. They seemed convinced that her life was missing something that they had in abundance. And she was curious now. Before she had believed in friendship, she had been certain that she wasn’t missing out on anything. But Princess Twilight had shown her the error of that. So maybe — just maybe — Princess Celestia could show her a similar lesson here. Maybe she would be willing to see what Auntie Tia’s patented matchmaking service had to offer.

Slowly, reluctantly, she dipped her head in assent. “Okay. I’ll give it a try.”

Celestia reared her head back and clopped her hooves together in glee. The motions sent little ripples eddying down her mane and made it float and flow even faster. “Wonderful! I’ll have Raven Inkwell set up a meeting with the whole family.”

Lustre Dawn huffed air out through her nostrils, sending her own forelock bouncing in an unintentional imitation of Celestia’s. The prospect of all four of her parents and all eight of her grandparents coming together in this little room to discuss her love life was…not an appealing one.