• Published 1st Nov 2012
  • 10,111 Views, 232 Comments

Designing Intrigue - CvBrony

Rarity uses her wits and social skills in service to The Solar Throne as a spy.

  • ...

Amateur Mistakes

Last autumn in Canterlot…

“Oh, what a day!” Rarity said to herself. “Seventeen new dress designs, all critically important works, completely ruined!”

Despite her frustration and need to vent, she couldn’t blame the intern too much; the additions she put on some of them would likely have made little sense to anypony but herself. Still, she had made it clear to him and everypony she’d hired: her exquisite designs were to be executed to the most exacting detail with no exceptions. Consistency was important in a business, she’d say, although there were other reasons as well.

She pulled a decorative scarf off with her magic as she approached the brand-new penthouse, revealing a broach with a deep purple gem securing her cloak, cursing herself for choosing a light blue scarf on such a gloomy day. She’d read the weather plans and completely ignored them when choosing her clothes, a dark sweater and beret. It even clashed with the rest of her clothes; she just grabbed it when she felt the chill in the fall mountain air. It was an amateur mistake, which is something she simply could not afford in this line of work.

Without thought, she opened the door to her penthouse and quickly ducked inside. It wasn’t as big a place as she could afford now, but then it didn’t need to be. She’d even considered downgrading, since she spent almost all of her time either at work or travelling. Such was the life of one of the world’s top fashionistas.

Still, it was a nice enough place. The entrance was particularly stunning. After a short hallway, there were a couple of steps going down on the right into a lowered living room. It had giant floor-to-ceiling windows looking out, away from Canterlot and towards the little town where she got her start. In the center of the windows was a nice, magically-regulated fireplace that was always on and had no smoke emissions in order to comply with Canterlot ordinances. There was even a well-stocked bar filled with her favorite wines and liquors, especially her rare bottles of gin.

She tossed the scarf down on the floor and stopped in her tracks when she heard a sealing spell being cast on the door behind her. Turning to her right, towards the windows, she saw a pony in a black suit resting on the couch by the windows and a sword on the table.

She had just walked into her penthouse without needing to unlock it.

Amateur mistake, Rarity, she chided herself, grinding her teeth. Stupid, stupid amateur mistake.

“You should really pay more attention to your surroundings, Lady Rarity. It isn’t becoming of a spy to be so unawares.”

The mare on the couch would’ve been a dead-ringer for Photo Finish if not for the wrong colors and horn. She had a rich, forest-green coat and mint green mane, though was wearing clothes that really didn’t quite go with those colors. She even had those absurdly large sunglasses that the famous mare somehow had made popular again, but that wasn’t quite as important as the rest of the situation.

“I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean, ma’am, and I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of making your acquaintance before,” Rarity bluffed, recognizing the unicorn mare as having been in the background of a few of the recent soirées she’d been to. I’ve been followed! Celestia damnit!

“Drop the act. I figured you out fairly easily,” she said, pulling out a bundle of pictures from a pocket and laying them on a table with a splat.

Well, it was worth a shot. Rarity levitated a pair of the pictures over. They were of her and a “handler”, a pony that served as a contact to her extra “employers”, at a drop not an hour earlier.

“This,” the other mare said, waving at some of the other photos, “is why I’m a better spy. Superior attention to detail.”

Rarity’s eyes moved around quickly, trying to assess things while keeping as calm a demeanor as possible, even when seeing a glowing green barrier blocking her exit route. The door is sealed with magic, that sword has some incredible power in it, and I’ve been made. Damn it to Tartarus!

“I’ve been doing absolutely nothing else but follow you for the last two days. Once I had all I needed, I figured I would swing by and have a little... fun.”

Rarity’s control over her facial expression failed. She stared, wide-eyed with terror as the mare levitated her sword and unsheathed it. The pulsing red crystal at the base was radiating so much magical power she could feel it in her teeth and horn. She could make a telekinetic blade and use it fairly well, but she wasn’t a match for anything like that.

The mare pulled a cloth out of a pocket, and ran it over the blade, cleaning it. “So, here’s how this plays out. You tell me everything you know, and I won’t start cutting you with acid. If you’re very good, my superior’s surprise will be a remarkably intact and breathing enemy. If not, well, then he’ll just be stunned to learn that the clothier of his clueless wife was the reason he was made. I can’t wait to see the look on his face.” She inhaled deep and gave a sigh that would be wistful if it wasn’t so menacing.

This is the worst--Wait! I’d be a ‘surprise’? A light turned on behind Rarity’s eyes, and she relaxed, smiling.

“Well, looks like you got me, darling. Congratulations are in order, I think. I’ll talk, if we can keep it pleasant.”

The enemy put down the sword and scratched her chin. “How odd. Most of Celestia’s lap dogs are more defiant.”

“Oh?” She asked, sauntering over to her bar.

“Unless, of course, they’re trying to find a way to escape.”

Rarity turned just slightly and looked at her out of the very corner of her right eye before correcting her poise and turning to face her properly. “Well, that should be a given, miss. Shall we see how this contest plays out?”

Her grin from behind the blade was bone chilling. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

With a slight smile, the fashionista stepped behind her bar. Her shoes clanked ever so slightly on the porcelain tile beneath them.

“You should take those off, Lady Rarity. Blades hidden in those are easy to burn through with this sword. And bars really should have mats, you could slip and hurt yourself.”

Damn, she thought, peering through her purple bang at her ‘guest’.

“Tell me, how did you figure me out?” she said, tossing her shoes off with her magic.

The enemy spy sneered. “It wasn’t hard. Even the most aggressive businessponies don’t use quite the same charms as you do. Your questions were too pointed, and far less personal than they should have been.”

Excellent information for the future, Rarity mused to herself. I shall endeavour to heed your advice.

“Scotch or gin, darling?” she asked politely, waving some bottles in the air with telekinesis.

“Gin and tonic,” her opponent in this battle of wits asserted. “But not with that bottle. Give me the factory sealed one.”

Rarity sighed, lifting a more expensive bottle and putting the other away. “Something tells me this isn’t just over your taste in gin.”

“I can tell you have advanced antitoxin wards on your skin, which means the open one is probably poisoned. Like I said, superior attention to detail.”

She lifted up a fresh bottle and twisted off the top with a loud pop, breaking the seal and pouring the liquor with a finish of tonic water, also from a sealed bottle. She made sure to do it in view, or no doubt her guest would demand a new glass and waste her precious gin.

Rarity levitated the glasses over and laid them down on the table between the couches, walking over to the seat opposite her counterpart. Just before sitting, she noticed the slightest of glows on the cushions. Glancing back towards the mare in the poorly thought out outfit, who was drinking from the glass placed farther away from her, she fired off an extra-fast cancelling spell, tearing apart the magical trap on the seat.

“Hmph. Not bad.”

“Thank you, darling. I like this citrus in this one. It’s not quite as harsh as some gins, which isn’t always a good thing, but it works here.”

“I was referring to finding the spell. A shame, really, it would have been fun to see you play this game with your magic sealed. Although now that you mention it, I suppose I can’t fault your taste in gin, either.”

“I’m rated as one of the top fashion designers in the world, darling.” she quipped. “Good taste is a job requirement. Well, my poor taste in scarves this morning notwithstanding. So, which of my illustrious clients were you referring to earlier?”

The other mare chuckled before taking a sip of her drink. “Tsk tsk, you know that’s not how it works. Be a good girl and I’ll let you meet him.”

Figures, she thought, smirking a little before continuing. “Well, I just thought we’d clear the air a little since only one of us is going to leave this room alive. It’s good to have the soul at peace, I think.”

“Well, then why don’t you go first? Also, lose the daggers hidden in your cloak.”

Rarity sighed. “Very well.” A little click later, a black pack of silver throwing daggers fell to her side as she sat down. “You know, those were originally for protection when I was visiting Manehatten, not the spy work. Anyway, where to begin. The whole espionage thing came about far more naturally than one would ever think, really. It started after getting my first store in Canterlot. It felt like a dream come true, achieving that. I started getting invitations to parties all over, even some in Neighpon! Actually I just opened a new studio there. Anyway, after a while I started hearing things in the conversations being whispered in private corners. Things that made me a little worried. I kept quiet about it at first, though. After all, it’s bad for business to be objectionable, don’t you think?”

“Bad for spies, too,” her opponent retorted, taking another large sip.

Please, darling, spies are always objectionable to somepony. We could hardly be called spies if we weren’t. Anyway, this all changed when I heard something, well, downright disturbing said about one of my friends. You’ve certainly heard of her. Twilight Sparkle.”

“The princess’ personal protégé.”

“The same,” Rarity confirmed after accidentally drinking most of her drink in a single swig. She’d have to watch that, it made her look nervous. She looked at her glass, lamenting her failure to savor the taste or even the scent, when she saw a slight green glint being on in it. She gazed into the glass, and noticed that it was a reflection of something behind her. Like lightning she used her magic to toss the glass at the source and dropped herself to the floor. A little smirk crossed her face as a small dagger dropped after the impact of the glass broke its weak telekinetic field, and the sword being held where her head was not a half second ago halted its motion.

“What a delightful game,” Rarity chuckled with just a hint of nervousness.

“Isn’t it though?” the green mare laughed, causing Rarity to shiver just a little.

Slowly, the two took their seats again as the sword over her head was withdrawn.

The designer continued with a polite cough, “Ahem, anyway, Twilight is not just the princess’ student, but she is also the very best friend a pony could ever ask for, and somepony actually wanted to hurt her! I couldn’t believe it! I walked for a long time, wondering what to do. Eventually I coincidentally found myself next to the palace, so I decided to beg for an audience with the princess. Being an Element of Harmony and mentioning a threat to Twilight got me in right away, and she asked me to keep feeding her information. Over time, I found myself as a full-time spy, even sewing little extras into the dresses of certain important ponies so I can ID them to others as hostile. They don’t even realize they’ve been made.”

Her rival seemed surprised at this information, which was very good news. It meant they hadn’t realized what she’d done yet.

“I’m a little impressed, honestly. That’s a stroke of genius, there,” the hideously dressed enemy admitted after finishing the drink.

"Thank you, I appreciate it. Honestly, my experience in fashion and retail has provided me more help with spying than I would have thought possible. For instance, when somepony returns an item, I know magic that can restore it to new. As long as an item isn't missing huge pieces, I can resell like it was never opened," she confessed.

“Oh?” her opponent chuckled, spinning the glass in her telekinesis. "And what, exactly, can you do with that?"

Rarity indulged herself by exposing a sly, even lethal, grin. "Put factory seals back on bottles."

The mare inhaled sharply, bringing the glass to her face. A pulse of magic went through her horn, and the gin responded by turning jet black. The mare froze in place for several seconds, never taking her eyes off the color-devoid liquid, before her jaw began to tremble, as did her right leg.

The glass she was holding dropped to the ground with a crash. She scrambled off the couch and to her hooves, only to gag and fall over. Finally, if sloppily, she managed to stand while gasping and panting.

Rarity’s grin got wider. “Really good clarity on these photographs, darling, I’m ashamed to admit being caught. Still, you followed me all on your own and came straight here?” she queried, standing up with all of the photos in her magical grasp.

The viridian hostile lunged at her, swinging the blade with her magic, but slicing empty air as Rarity deftly dodged, switching their positions so the designer's back was to the window. “Moving a bit slow and clumsy, are we?” she taunted.

The telekinetically held blade shakily lifted up, and a glow from the crystal told Rarity that she absolutely needed to dodge this.

With a wide roll and weight shift, Rarity tossed herself out to the side to avoid the strike. Her heart skipped beats when she saw the blade glow and throw acid at where she had been. A hole in the window formed in seconds; that could have just as easily been her head.

Rarity readied her knees for another leaping dodge from the blade, but relaxed when the hostile stumbled and doubled over, coughing and gasping for air.

A smile returned to her lips and she continued, “I’m relieved to hear all that, honestly. It means I can keep this up a bit longer, because you’re the only pony that knows what I do.”

She tossed the photographs in the fireplace with her magic while the mare dove weakly for them, falling far short and on her stomach, sending her glasses flying off and clutching her stomach after the landing.

“How very tragic, truly,” Rarity admitted sincerely.

The spy still had some fight in her as she dragged herself to her hooves, lifting the blade again with magic and straining to get air. Her amber eyes were squinting in pain.

“Get... antidote... kill... you...”

Rarity shook her head. “I can only assume you think I used Angel Extract, since it’s tasteless and spies seem to like it, despite there being an antidote. I very much regret to inform you, there is no antidote, because that is not what I used.”

In a burst of speed, the mare leapt toward her with a yell and a driving thrust from the sword aimed right at her neck. Unlike before, this time Rarity did not dodge. She simply breathed in, and stood up as straight as she could.

The tip of the blade barely touched the purple gem fastening her cloak, holding steady in mid-air. Both enemy and weapon were frozen in place while the room drenched itself in silence.

“Since you sealed my door, I needed something to disrupt your magic. I apologize, but the gin contained a Thanatos Tear.”

Rarity stood defiant and confident, with a cool gaze emanating from her and washing over the room. Although it went against her better instincts, she turned her head away from the frozen, terrified shock evident on her victim’s face. A small, faint, pained sound came from her as the telekinetic field around the sword failed, and it fell to the floor with a ‘whump’ on the deep carpeting. The sound was followed by a static discharge as the seal on the door followed suit.

The fashionista exhaled and walked up the two steps to the hall closet. Just before opening it, she looked down at her foreleg. The ward under her skin was glowing a light blue as it protected her. The design was surprisingly elegant: it was an almost double-helix-like shape swirling over her body, with small symbols along the pattern lines. “You know, it doesn’t glow like this for anything but the Tear. If I had gotten this from anypony but Princess Luna herself, I’d imagine I’d be joining you.”

She opened the door with her magic and it gave a small squeak from the hinge. “Looks like I need to meet my handler again. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him to make sure to give you a normal burial. Nopony need know of this other life, it’s the least I can do for you.”

Rarity put on a much more suitable scarf for the season, and then flinched just a bit as she heard a second ‘whump’ from the spy collapsing to the ground.

She turned and looked at her rapidly dying body. A mint green clump of hair was separated from her on the ground, exposing a true goldenrod mane on her head. A wig!? Why would you hide such a lovely- ah, a spy, right. Oh, the wonders I could have done for you with a mane like that, you poor thing... no. No, I can’t dwell on such matters.

She could only turn to look at her for a moment more before the pony began to convulse, and her stomach lurched, forcing her to turn her gaze away. The white unicorn started towards the door, stopping and sitting back down just before exiting the room. She stood frozen, thinking for just a moment as the wards’ blue glow faded.

“I’m sorry I had to do this,” she confessed.

She couldn’t look like she had just killed a mare when in public, so she fixed her poise and visage as well as any professional actor and began a confident stride out of her penthouse. Just before stepping out, she whispered “And I’m sorry I never learned your name.”

Author's Note:

Author's Notes

Edited most recently on 10/26/2013. I added Dandan's fantastic title image, and fixed up a few more formatting bits I missed. The new Rites formatting standards also demanded I modify a couple lines for clarity.

Edited 10/29/2013. Took Runoratsu's advice on the wording for the gin bottles. Because gin martinis are awesome. No other changes.

Edited 10/31/2013. Updated the title image with a new version from Dandan.