• Published 25th Sep 2020
  • 2,541 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 3

Lustre Dawn led the group up the cobbled street towards Celestia’s office. Her heart was racing; she couldn’t remember being this anxious since her schooldays, when Twilight would set her tests at the end of every month to show what she’d learned.

A sizeable group clattered after her. Her mothers, of course, bickering gently about some new magic trick Trixie had designed. Sunburst and Twilight following behind, garnering many stares from passersby. The Princess and the Prince Consort were always a cause of excitement, no matter how often they went out and about in Canterlot. And behind them, at a slower pace, came all of her various grandparents. Her three grandfathers from both sides: Firelight, Jackpot and Big Bucks. And then behind them, Stellar Flare, Sunspot, and even Twilight Velvet and Night Light. Lustre Dawn had never seen all of them in one place before. A family gathering of this size was unprecedented.

She was just grateful that at least Cadence, Shining Armour and her cousin Flurry Heart had not had the invitation extended to them as well. Four alicorns in one place would have been enough to get every paparazzi pony in Equestria out of the woodwork. Lustre already felt like there was a huge spotlight shining directly on her and this one enormous decision. She did not need any more attention.

She stopped at the pastel blue door, and pushed it slowly open after a perfunctory knock.

At once, Celestia’s voice greeted her. “Lustre Dawn! Please come in.”

Lustre Dawn obeyed. The room had been considerably reorganised since she was last here. The small, intimate groupings of armchairs and sofas had been pushed back against the walls, to transform into one huge circle, with Celestia’s desk at the head. Lustre looked at all those seats and sighed. Her family would fill every single one.

Lustre reluctantly padded across the room and sat on the same plush armchair as last time. Behind her, her family filed in, claiming chairs one after another. Twilight was the only one to pause, casting about her uncertainly for a chair of suitable size. But Celestia had planned for this, and was ushering her towards a sturdy-looking sofa, reassuring Twilight that it bore her own weight often — “Which, despite everything, I think is still a little more than yours, my faithful student,” she laughed, embracing Twilight warmly.

It was true, Lustre Dawn noted. Celestia was still a full head taller than Twilight.

When everypony was seated, the room felt very small indeed. Aside from the crowd of ponies, the vast bulk of the two alicorns was almost oppressive, their horns nearer the ceiling than the level of the ponies’ heads, towering over everything. Their manes, waving independently of any breeze or airflow, were almost enough to fill the room.

Lustre Dawn felt her family’s eyes on her, and felt hot and uncomfortable. She felt sweat begin to bead along her spine. She wished they could somehow have done this part without her being present.

Celestia took the pile of papers from Raven Inkwell and stacked them neatly on the small table beside her. “Alright. I think, everypony, that we are ready to begin.” She looked around the room at all of them, her eyes resting briefly on each pony. “In this session we’ll discuss what we think Lustre Dawn needs in a partner, as well as what this family — not to mention Equestria as a whole — needs from them. This will help me to make my initial selection of matches for Lustre Dawn to make her own choice from.”

“That sounds like an excellent starting point,” Starlight said, establishing control of the room as she often did in discussions about Lustre’s future. Lustre Dawn had often thought privately that Starlight never quite wanted to allow Twilight the same standing as ‘parent’ that she and Trixie enjoyed. Lustre Dawn didn’t want to hurt her mothers; that was why, even after so many years, Lustre’s relationship with Twilight was closer to that of teacher and student than to parent and child.

“We want Lustre to be with somepony powerful, of course,” Trixie put in immediately. “Lustre is a very advanced mage. We want somepony who will be able to keep up with her skill.”

“I think we all agree on that,” Firelight chimed in. “A unicorn would absolutely be best for the family.”

Celestia smiled and nodded her head. “Do you all feel this way?”

There were nods and murmurs of assent from around the room. Lustre Dawn wanted nothing more than to crawl under a rock. It was somehow dreadful to have her grandparents, of all ponies, voicing their thoughts on who she should marry.

“I think aligning with our family’s values is the most important thing,” Sunburst spoke up now. “We want somepony loving, tolerant, somepony family-focused who can mesh well with our non-standard family structure.”

Twilight pricked her ears up as he spoke and raised a hoof. “We also think somepony — or somecreature — who aligns with Equestria’s values is vital.” She cleared her throat slightly and lit her horn, drawing a small scroll from under one wing. “I prepared a list.” She unrolled it, and was about to begin reading from it, when Celestia began to laugh.

All eyes turned in shock to the older alicorn, who hastily hid her mouth with one hoof. “Forgive me,” she said hurriedly. “Twilight, you just…never change. Please, do share your list with us.”

Twilight cleared her throat. “Well, obviously we want somepony who values friendship, and embodies the elements at least to some degree. A kind, generous, honest, loyal pony, who can help Lustre laugh a little, and come out of her shell. Sometimes she can be a little serious.”

Lustre Dawn buried her head in her hooves. By all the stars, this was the most embarrassed she could remember ever being in her life.

“That’s quite a list there, Twilight,” Trixie said lightly, but with a small edge to her tone. “Don’t you think you’re setting a rather unattainable goal for Celestia? Somepony who embodies every virtue might be a little hard to find.”

Starlight placed a restraining hoof on her wife’s foreleg. “I think the real thing we are looking for is simple; somepony who makes Lustre happy. That’s the absolute most important criteria.”

Twilight rolled her list back up, looking a little disgruntled.

Celestia turned at last to Lustre Dawn. “Lustre, do you have any thoughts you’d like to share?”

Lustre peered out from behind her fringe, and immediately wished she had not. Everypony was staring at her, waiting for her to make a huge life decision right here, right now. Usually, she prided herself on her confidence and unflappable calm — her rationality — but this would be enough to scare anypony.

“Lustre Dawn?” Celestia prompted again.

Lustre groaned. “Stars, Auntie Tia, I don’t know — its like asking somepony who’s never eaten anything other than grass what they want to order at a five star restaurant.”

Celestia nodded understandingly. “Of course, of course. Everypony begins this process differently. Some ponies come to me blind, much as you are doing. Some ponies come to me to ask for guidance with somepony already in mind, like Trixie and Starlight Glimmer did. In some more unusual cases, ponies come to me thinking that they have nopony in mind, and then I help them to realise that they have somepony special ready and waiting, right in front of them.” She quirked one corner of her mouth. “That was what happened for Twilight and Sunburst.”

Lustre Dawn gaped and swung to look at her father and stepmother. Sunburst flushed a little, and placed his hoof atop the larger leg of his wife. Princess Twilight beamed down at him, her earlier grumbles about the list forgotten.

First her mothers, and now this. This was insane. Had Celestia had a hoof in the pie of every relationship in Lustre’s life? Lustre Dawn shook her head. For all she knew, Princess Celestia had arranged every single marriage in Equestria.

“But in terms of personality,” Celestia persisted, “Or hobbies, perhaps. Do you have anything you might like to look for?”

Lustre rubbed her neck, still uncomfortably aware of everypony’s eyes on her. “Well, I suppose — somepony independent? I’m very close to my friends. I don’t want a relationship to interfere with that.”

Celestia nodded and made a note on one of her pieces of paper.

“You never know, sweetie,” Trixie interjected. “Sometimes it can be the nicest when your special somepony is also one of your friends.”

Lustre Dawn groaned again. “Mum! I don’t want to marry one of my friends.”

Trixie raised her hooves in mock surrender. “I know, I know! I meant that the pony you marry — it’s good if they can become one of your friends, and mesh with your group, rather than the two of you living separate lives.”

“Let’s not derail Lustre Dawn’s preferences,” Celestia cautioned. “Her needs are very valid, and we must absolutely take them into account.” She turned back to Lustre Dawn. “What about your other interests, Lustre, besides your friends?”

Lustre Dawn tapped her hooves uncertainly against one another. “Uhm…well…I suppose there’s magic? I’ve always spent a lot of time on it, and I love learning new spells. Studying. Reading, generally. I like fiction as well as spellbooks.”

“What kind of fiction?” Celestia asked patiently.

“Romances,” Lustre Dawn said, blushing a little. “They’re silly, I know, but I like that they all have happy endings. And historical novels, too. I love the stories of old Equestria.”

Celestia suppressed another smile, and Lustre Dawn wanted to kick herself for saying something so stupid to one of the few living ponies who had seen old Equestria.

“That’s very good,” Celestia said, making another couple of notes on her page. “Can you think of anything else?”

Lustre Dawn cast about for something else she could say. It was so difficult to encapsulate oneself in a few words. “I like, uh, eating?” She offered weakly. “Restaurants and stuff. I can’t cook to save my life. And I like musicals.”

“Alright,” Celestia said smoothly. “So perhaps somepony who shares those interests. Is that all?”

Lustre flushed again. “I — I think so.”

Celestia put down her quill and raised the sheet of paper into the air so she could take a closer look at it. “Alright. So we have the following criteria: a unicorn, strong in magic, family-focused, open and loving, as virtuous as possible, independent, and possibly with interests including spending time with friends, learning, reading, fiction, fine dining, and the theatre. Does that about sum it up?”

Lustre Dawn nodded hesitantly, and her family followed suit. She still wasn’t sure why all of her grandparents had needed to be here for this; none of them had said anything other than Grandpa Firelight. She imagined they were all just here for the thrill of it; despite their number, she was the only grandchild any of them had, and they were all eager for any scraps she offered, be that visits or letters. None of them would have wanted to miss out on this event, after her mothers had made the mistake of extending the invitation.

“Alright,” Celestia smiled, sounding genuinely happy. “Well, I think I am in a position to offer you some profiles right away. I know my client base fairly well, and I think I have three ponies who would fit this criteria quite well.”

Lustre Dawn’s heart sank. So soon? She had been about to get up and lead the way out of this chamber of horrors. She hadn’t expected to hear from Celestia for several weeks. All of that longed-for freedom was evaporating before her eyes. She’d never be able to get away to visit Yurik in Yakyakistan this weekend. Her family would be all over her, trying get her to make a choice.

Celestia tugged on a nearby bell-pull with her magic, and the door to the back office opened almost immediately, as though her assistant had been listening behind the door. Lustre Dawn scowled. It wouldn’t surprise her. It seemed everypony in Equestria was allowed to attend discussions of her impending nuptials.

“Yes, Pri- Auntie Tia?” The assistant caught herself before she used the wrong title.

Celestia seemed not to have noticed the slip. “Raven Inkwell, would you please fetch me the profiles for Silver Sun, Piaffe, and Sparkling Wine? They should all be in the filing cabinets.”

The assistant dipped her head respectfully. “Of course, Princess. I’ll be right back.”

There was an uncomfortable pause, but then Celestia busied herself in producing the same glass vase of water and stacks of drinking glasses. Everypony was soon engaged in passing the glasses around and pouring themselves some water, and the silence was broken. Lustre Dawn thanked Big Bucks, who served her with a glass, and levitated it to her mouth. At least if she was drinking nopony was expecting her to talk.

Before too long, Raven Inkwell returned, three slim folders in her teeth. She carefully laid them on the desk before Celestia, who fanned them out with her hooves.

“The process from here,” Celestia began, her hooves skimming over the pale pink cardboard of the folders, “is quite simple. I have three profiles for you to take away and read. I feel that each of these ponies would be a good match for you, based on what we have talked about today.”

“Okay.” Lustre Dawn’s first feeling was of relief. At least it seemed she would be able to take this next decision in private. She leaned across the desk to reach for the files, but Stellar Flare raised a hoof to stop her.

“Wait!”

Lustre Dawn flinched. Of all her grandparents, she dreaded her visits to Nana Stellar Flare the most. Stellar Flare had standards higher than Cloudsdale, and even Sunburst, her beloved son and the centre of her universe, often failed to live up to them. The sky only knew what she was going to say next.

Celestia inclined her head towards Stellar Flare, her ears politely swivelling to indicate her attention.

“I think we should discuss the potential matches now,” Stellar Flare said, her voice querulous with age, but no less strident for all that. “It’s important that all of Lustre Dawn’s family get a say.”

Lustre ground her teeth. She might have known Nana Flare would do this. It was completely typical of her.

“Is that what you all wish?” Celestia asked graciously, but her eyes moved to Lustre Dawn.

Lustre Dawn sighed and spread her hooves. Everypony else nodded enthusiastically. Celestia smiled and opened the first folder. “Very well. I shall give you a brief overview of the three potential matches, and then we will leave Lustre Dawn to make the final decision in her own time. We shall begin with Silver Sun. Silver Sun is a stallion from an old Manehattan family, I believe the same age as Lustre Dawn. He’s an accomplished mage; perhaps not to quite your level, Lustre Dawn, but he is a lecturer at Manehattan University, specialising in Magical Theory.”

Lustre nodded, hesitant.

Celestia continued to skim through the contents of the folder. “Silver Sun lives with his parents; he told me that he is very close to them. Family-focused, as you asked for, Sunburst. He spends his free time volunteering at my — I mean, the Manehattan shelter for homeless ponies. He has written several ground-breaking papers on higher magic.”

“My, he sounds marvellous,” Firelight said. “So talented!”

“And generous,” Twilight added eagerly. “Extending the hoof of friendship to the less fortunate.”

Lustre squirmed. She wasn’t so sure she wanted to date a pony who voluntarily chose to live with his parents. She often went to stay with her parents on weekends, but she still had her flat in Canterlot, her own life. And she might sound cold, but somepony whose only hobby was volunteering with the homeless sounded a little…dull. Like they might look down on her for not being equally selfless.

“What’s the next one?” Starlight asked swiftly, after a quick look at her daughter’s face.

Celestia opened the second file. “Piaffe is a ballerina; a unicorn born in Appleoosa and now living here in Canterlot. She tells me that her chief passion in life is her career. She’s a very independent pony, very ambitious. She’s starred in five major productions already. She lives in a flat in the east quarter with a group of friends.”

Lustre Dawn sat forward in her chair. This seemed a bit more like it.

“Are you sure a mare is a wise choice?” Stellar Flare asked suddenly.

Everypony swung to look at her, and she clutched with wrinkled hooves at Sunspot’s leg for support.

“What do you mean?” Trixie asked, her tone making it clear that Stellar Flare was trading dangerous ground.

“Well,” Stellar Flare fished around for the words she so obviously wanted. “I know that it has worked marvellously well for you, Trixie, and for your fathers — but it does make the whole foals aspect quite complex.”

Lustre Dawn couldn’t believe what she was hearing — Stellar Flare had never expressed discontent at their family arrangements before.

“Mum, I don’t think this is a good time for that discussion,” Sunburst said hastily. “That’s not up for debate here.”

Stellar Flare shakily pushed her glasses up her nose. “It’s just that I know you have never liked having to share your daughter, Sunny.”

Lustre Dawn gasped and looked at her father. He paled and his eyes flicked to Starlight and Trixie, who looked grim and huddled closer to one another.

“That’s enough, Mum!” Sunburst said sharply, recovering himself. “I love Lustre Dawn, and Twilight and I have always been happy that she gets to have four loving parents instead of two.”

Trixie leaned forward in her seat. “Let’s get back to discussing matches for my daughter, shall we?” She shot a furious glare at Stellar Flare, who fell silent at last.

Celestia cleared her throat. “Ahem. Yes. Well, Piaffe’s hobbies mainly centre around dance. She is a professional ballerina, but in her spare time she enjoys Flamenco, hip hop, and capoeira.”

Lustre Dawn nodded briskly, wanting more than anything now to get this all over with and go home. To be alone. “And what about Sparkling Wine?”

Celestia seemed a bit surprised at the rapid progress, but took it in her stride, shuffling quickly to the final folder. “Sparkling Wine is another very magically strong unicorn, from a very old noble Canterlot family. They own the Canterlot Red vineyards. He says here that he loves his family and wants foals of his own some day. He’s a fireworks mage in Twilight’s royal fireworks corp. Generating fireworks that resemble moving images is his specialty. I’ve tried it myself; it takes a great deal of magical energy. His hobbies listed here include…hmm…going to the theatre often — he’s a big fan of Shake Spear, the playwright. He taught himself Old Ponish in his spare time so that he could read Shake Spear’s plays ‘as they were meant to be performed’.”

Lustre Dawn felt her hopes lift for the first time. He’d taught himself Old Ponish? And liked to read? If she had to meet with somepony, it may as well be somepony who liked studying and learning new things as much as she did. She didn’t even have to think about it. “That one! I’ll meet with Sparkling Wine.”

“You’ve decided already?” Celestia asked. “There’s plenty of time, if you wanted to go away and read the profiles for yourself, give it a little thought.” She offered the three files.

Lustre Dawn enveloped them in her own magic and pulled them over. She flipped all three open and looked at their portraits. Silver Sun was, as expected, pale grey with a white mane, a cutie mark of an old scroll on his flank. Piaffe’s photo showed her mid-dance, all lean toned muscle and long blonde mane. She was beautiful, but the expression of total focus on her face was…a little intimidating. Her cutie mark was a long, flowing dance ribbon. Finally, Sparkling Wine’s photo revealed a handsome stallion in a white tuxedo, pale blue fur with a light green mane, his cutie mark an explosion of green light. Huh. Better looking than she had expected. Yes, he would do nicely, for a first try at this arranged dating lark.

“I like the sound of him too,” Starlight said. “Magically strong, interested in theatre. Hobbies in common. You could go to a show with him, Lustre.”

“Yeah,” Lustre Dawn agreed, her dismal expectations for the coming week brightening a little. “We could see The Phantom of the Perilous Peak. It’s running again with a new cast.”

“Ah yes,” Celestia sighed. “Autumn Blaze really does produce the most wonderful musicals. Every time I see the show it reminds me how glad I am that we established contact with the kirin.”

Lustre Dawn nodded, in total agreement. The day that Twilight and Applejack had introduced her to Autumn Blaze, writer and composer of her favourite musical, had been one of the most exciting events of her childhood.

“Well, why don’t you mull the three options over for a few days?” Celestia suggested. “Then come and and tell me what you have decided. Then we can set up a first date.”

Lustre Dawn nodded once more. She got up from her chair, carrying the three files carefully, spines downward, so that none of the contents would spill. “I will. Thanks, Auntie Tia.” For the first time, she was feeling a little spark of optimism that this strange process could lead to somewhere good.