• Published 4th Jan 2012
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The Flight of the Alicorn - Ponydora Prancypants



Rarity finds herself forced into an unlikely alliance when her airship crashes far from home.

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XXVI. Predictions and Prophecies

XXVI. Predictions and Prophecies

“My dear, if you had not declined my offer at this point, I believe I would have to question your good judgment,” Fancypants said, then took a small sip of espresso from his ceramic demitasse.

Rarity sat opposite him at a small bistro table outside her favorite Canterlot café. Two weeks after returning from Stratusburg, she had felt up to visiting the capital once again.

Twilight had come along as well, and was most likely presently engaging the Princesses with her new theories about ancient pony history. Rainbow Dash, having decided to take a few tentative steps toward assuming some responsibility in her family’s business, had joined in on the trip to Canterlot to attend a meeting regarding the rebuilding efforts in Stratusburg. Pinkie was here to support Rainbow Dash, and more likely than not, to have a time of it cavorting about the capital in a highly inappropriate but undeniably entertaining fashion.

“In any case,” Fancypants continued, “I’m afraid I would have had to eliminate the position I offered you, even if you had not so graciously declined. This is not an ideal time for me to pursue any sort of political aspirations, given that my good name is not what it once was.”

“Pish posh,” Rarity declared. “You are still the most highly regarded pony in Canterlot, save Princess Celestia herself. Your entirely innocent association with a few bad actors is not going to change that. Surely you do not think that you have been implicated as responsible for any of their misdeeds? If so, then perish the thought!”

“Even if my good intentions are not in question, I must appear a naïve fool to have so completely surrounded myself with villains, all the while not suspecting a thing. At least, that is how the journalists will portray me – as a chump, a credulous naif. I shant be able to meaningfully advocate for reform of the royal government when I have lived for months in ignorance of a scandal that nearly brought down the entire country. No, my dear, it is far better that I quietly and inconspicuously keep to my business affairs for now, and leave politics to those better suited.”

“But you cannot simply disappear at a time like this,” Rarity protested. “Equestria needs you. I understand that our relationship with the griffons is still not completely repaired, and there is much to be done in terms of undoing the damage the conspirators inflicted on Gallopoli and Stratusburg.”

“Quite right, my dear, but the work you speak of can be accomplished more efficiently from a business perspective, I think. I have acquired the coal mining enterprise that was causing the griffons so much distress, and I am working to move it out of the Fluryfall Pass and well into our own territory. Also, I am already in the process of forming a joint venture with a few Canterlot companies, Skyworks, and a griffon corporation to rebuild the Stratusburg cloud mine. I envision that the way to a lasting accord in the region is to bring the griffons out of the eyries and into our cities, towns, and businesses – peacefully. As for Gallopoli, I understand that recent events have thrust it onto center stage, and ponies from the core cities are booking vacations in droves. It won’t be long before that town is fully rebuilt and inundated with tourists.”

“That is good to hear,” Rarity said. “But I do hope you will not give up on your greater dreams and aspirations. You are a truly good stallion, and not to be blamed for the actions of a few misguided associates. Everypony will suffer for it if you disappear behind your companies.”

“You are far too generous with your sentiments,” Fancypants replied, and smiled. “As I said, we shall see where life takes me. I still believe in getting all ponies involved in the government, but for now I must secure my interests, and throwing myself back into my work is the best way to do that. You need not worry that I shall become boring and staid, though, for there is never merely one iron in the fire as far as Fancypants is concerned.” The stallion softly chuckled, then paused briefly. “I should mention that one business venture with which I am no longer affiliated is airship engineering and construction. I reconveyed all interest in North Star back to Duke Polaris last week, along with a considerable sum of bits as reparations in lieu of a legal action. I have every intention of keeping all four hooves on the ground for a time.”

“Mm,” Rarity managed, before taking a sip from her own coffee cup. “You don’t say?” She made certain that her intonation and facial expression gave away nothing more than the most casual of interests before continuing. “I have heard nothing of the duke’s affairs since I returned to Ponyville.”

“He is busy - almost frantically so, if my limited interactions with him are any indication. As of three days ago, he seemed almost entirely physically recovered from his ordeal. Of course, I do not know how well he is coping otherwise. I imagine he feels a sense of betrayal even more acutely than I do, after having his own brother turn against him.”

Rarity wondered how Blueblood would react when he learned that Rarity had come to Canterlot in part to confront Princess Palladium, and learn how she might have been involved in the conspiracy. If it turned out that Blueblood’s brother and his only living parent had both been involved in plotting against him and against Equestria, she could only imagine that the discovery would be devastating.

Yet, she had no choice but to talk to Palladium and try to learn whatever she could about the supposed prophecy, and about the Heavenstone and its connection to her. The stone itself had been turned over to Princess Celestia for safekeeping, but now Rarity was forced to wonder if every innocent dream was in fact some kind of premonition. If she was not going to spend the rest of her life worrying that her destiny was being manipulated by a gemstone locked up in the Royal Archives, she needed answers.

“In any case,” Fancypants continued, “the duke seemed no fonder of me than usual, and was not entirely receptive to my profuse apologies for the harm done to his business. He still accepted my money, of course. One day, when this past crisis is not so fresh, I should very much like to hear you tell of your exploits in the jungle. It is certainly a testament to your infinite patience that you did not turn the duke over to the griffons, or use him to distract some jungle monster or other.” The stallion sighed. “I jest, you understand. You must have enjoyed some level of camaraderie with that pony to have accomplished so much, and escaped so many difficult scrapes.”

“It’s alright,” Rarity replied. “He can be an exasperating stallion, even in the best of times. Truly, I …”

“A-ha! There you are!”

Momentarily startled, Rarity quickly set her cup down and turned to greet the bright pink mare bounding toward her. “Hello, Pinkie Pie,” she said.

“Hi Rarity!” Pinkie replied enthusiastically. “Hey Mister Fancypants, it’s nice to see you again!”

“Good morning, my dear,” Fancypants replied, offering a warm smile.

“Fancypants is such a great name for you,” Pinkie Pie continued. “Your parents must have been geniuses or something. I mean, you’re so fancy, and I bet you have the fanciest darn pants in the whole pants world, and the craziest thing of all is that I’ve never even seen you wearing pants! It’s so humble of you not to show off those fancy, fancy pants! Anyway, Mister Fancypants, I’m so sorry to interrupt, but we’re here for Rarity.”

“Erm, ‘we?’” Rarity inquired.

“Whee!” Pinkie Pie exclaimed, leaping joyfully into the air. “Oh, I mean, ‘we,’ as in Dashie and me.”

“Look out below!” a new voice called out. Rarity instinctively threw one protective hoof over her head, and carefully braced her cup against the table with the other. Rainbow Dash, mercifully, avoided causing any property damage as she swooped out of the sky and landed beside Pinkie. “Hey Rarity,” the pegasus said, then turned to Fancypants. “We need to borrow Rarity. Um, please.”

“Rainbow Dash, Pinkie, I am enjoying coffee with a dear friend,” Rarity chided. “Whatever you want, I am absolutely certain it can wait.”

“Oh no, my dear,” Fancypants said. “Please do go on with your friends. Whatever they have in store for you, I suspect shall prove to be most entertaining.”

“It totally will!” Pinkie Pie proclaimed giddily.

Rarity regarded Fancypants uncertainly. “Are you sure you do not mind?”

“Quite sure. There will ample time for the two of us to reconvene later. After all, you are staying in Canterlot for the remainder of the week.”

“Well, alright then.” Rarity took one last sip of coffee and excused herself from the table. She levitated a trio of golden bits from her panni-purse toward the table, but no sooner had she set them down than Fancypants had returned them.

“You have treated me to your delightful company, and thus it is only fair that I should treat you to coffee.” He raised a hoof to forestall any argument on Rarity’s part. “Not another word, I insist. Now please have a lovely time with your friends.”

Rarity said a hasty thank you and extricated herself from her seat, even as Pinkie Pie was pushing and prodding her away from the café. She smiled helplessly and waved goodbye to Fancypants, then allowed the pink earth pony to guide her along. Rainbow Dash kept pace several lengths overhead.

“Really, you two, what is this all about?” Rarity demanded. “You know how much I value what little time I get to spend with Fancypants.”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Rainbow Dash called down. “But this is kind of a big deal.”

“And that hunky Prince Handsomeface really wants you to be there,” Pinkie Pie added. “And we promised we’d bring you!”

Rarity planted her hooves and ground to a halt. “Do you mean to say that Blueblood asked you two ponies to collect me?”

“Um, yeah,” Rainbow Dash answered, hovering in place and crossing her forelegs impatiently. “If you want to know why, just follow us, okay?”

“If this is one of your pranks, you are going to regret it, Rainbow Dash,” Rarity threatened, narrowing her gaze. She resumed following a bounding Pinkie Pie.

“Nope! No pranky-panky here,” the pink pony promised. “Oh, hey, would you look at that? We’re here!”

Rarity turned a corner and found herself standing in the broad thoroughfare that was Unicorn Street, only a short distance from the gleaming golden statuary and white marble pavement of Summer Square. The square, surrounded by stately government buildings and the magnificent estates of the Canterlot elite, was packed with ponies, and at the center of them stood Blueblood.

More precisely, he stood at the top of a flight of marble stairs leading to the hanging gardens in the center of the square, and was addressing a throng of onlookers. Many were journalists, carrying pens and stenographer’s pads, and a number of pegasus photographers hovered, great boxy cameras at the ready. Blueblood smiled as he made eye contact with Rarity.

“You all have my sincere gratitude for attending this press conference on such short notice,” Blueblood said, addressing the crowd while looking directly at Rarity. “As you know, I have refused to provide an interview since I returned to Canterlot. You must have thought me mortified, due to my brother’s key involvement with what you have so creatively dubbed 'the Heavenstone Conspiracy,’ or terribly distressed at his subsequent imprisonment. Of course, I am mortified, and I am distressed. I am also burdened with guilt, as it was centuries of selfishness on the part of my family, including me, which allowed the Heavenstone to be put to nefarious use. Even if nopony could have foreseen that it could be transformed into a weapon, I and each of my ancestors who had the opportunity should have relinquished it to the Royal Archive, where it belongs and where it now rests forever. More than anything, however, I am relieved.

“You see, since my return, I have been attending to the business of recovery - not only physically, but fiscally, with the reacquisition of North Star. Mostly, though, I have recovered my sense of self. Before, I was the Duke of Canterlot, the Twenty-Fourth Prince Blueblood, Unicorn Royal, Heir to the … you all have heard the litany. I was a series of names, none of which were my own, and I was the culmination of an endless cycle of futility, representing the final flickers of a dying flame, soon to be extinguished. I was a living tribute to the name of ancestors long gone, pursuing their dreams though time has passed them by. In my unquestioning reliance on bygone glory, and an unrelenting need to reinforce my destiny as restorer of greatness to the name Blueblood, I acted like an utter foal, disregarding others and my own country. I was loathsome, and I loathed myself for living each day in denial of my own individual identity apart from the family name and the meaningless honorifics.

“No longer. With Princess Celestia’s consent, I have relinquished my peerage and all titles.” Blueblood paused as a collective gasp emanated from the crowd, and blinked against the photographers’ popping flashbulbs. One of the bulbs burst, and bits of broken glass tinkled against the marble in the quiet following the announcement. Finally, Blueblood spoke again, “As my younger brother is otherwise indisposed, the titles, such as they are, have been conferred instead upon the elder of my younger sisters, now styled Princess Ruthenium, Duchess of Canterlot. I hope that she too will abandon this ancient burden someday, but that is her choice now. The pony standing before you, then, is not Prince Blueblood, nor a duke, nor heir to anything. I am simply a Canterlot stallion named Polaris, and from this day forward, I will be living for my own aspirations, and not the faded dreams of the past. I will care for myself, my friends, and for Equestria - not for a meaningless legacy.”

The moment Blueblood ceased his speech, a number of reporters in the audience began shouting questions.

“Will you be moving out of your castle?”

"So, does this make you a baron now, or a count?”

“Is it true that Fancypants hired a zebra warlock to have you killed?”

“Have you lost weight?”

"Tell us about the rumor that you are really Princess Celestia's nephew!"

“Are you seeing any special somepony these days? What about your sisters?”

“Is it true that in addition to the Heavenstone, your family is also hiding the mystical Princess Bridle of Dream Valley?”

“Can you confirm that you are planning to grow a goatee?”

Rarity was appalled, not by Blueblood, but by the fact that none of the so-called journalists seemed to have heard a word he had spoken. He had renounced his nobility, sacrificing that which made him significant and gave him notoriety. He had forsaken something that she had yearned for all her life.

“No questions,” Blueblood said firmly. “But there is one final thing. The Princesses have elected to pardon me and the rest of my still-living family, save my brother, for failing to disclose our possession of the Heavenstone over the long span of years. Yet something must be done to atone for the conceit, in this day and age, that we were entitled to secrete away something that was always meant as a gift for all ponykind, not a treasure to be hoarded by a single bloodline. Something must be done about the hubris and ill-manners which I unrepentantly displayed for so long. So, let us get this over with.” Blueblood looked to his left. “Blindfold please.”

Rarity was startled by the sight of Rainbow Dash alighting next to Blueblood, holding in her teeth a pair of goggles with the lenses blacked out. The unicorn stallion quickly levitated the eyewear away from Rainbow Dash and affixed the goggles snugly over his eyes.

“You all may want to keep to a safe distance,” Blueblood said. Rarity was startled a second time as she realized that not only had Rainbow Dash disappeared while she was listening to Blueblood speak, but so had Pinkie Pie. She gasped involuntarily, along with the crowd of onlookers, as she saw her friend wheeling a large-bored, stubby cannon toward Blueblood, its thick barrel painted a bright sunshine yellow.

“Any last words?” Pinkie Pie asked, then continued without pausing. “Nope, didn't think so.” She snapped the blackout goggles once against Blueblood’s face to make sure they were secure, causing him to wince, and then shoved a large, multicolored lollipop in the stallion’s mouth. “Goodnight, sweet prince,” Pinkie Pie intoned. “Or good afternoon I suppose. Whichever.” She shrugged, then pressed down hard with both hooves on a large red button atop the barrel of the cannon. The weapon immediately issued forth a tremendous blast.

“No! Wait!” Rarity found herself shouting, too late to do any good. She was familiar with Pinkie’s homemade artillery, and had never known the consequences to be dangerous, but she had also never seen Pinkie fire one of her cannons point blank at another pony before. She watched helplessly as Blueblood took the full force of the impact … and was completely covered in the crumbly, decadently gooey remains of a large chocolate cake, one which had clearly been liberally slathered with bright pink frosting.

“I officially declare my pastry cannon a success!” Pinkie Pie announced gleefully.

As dozens more flashbulbs went off, the crowd of journalists, tourists, and interested Canterlotians laughed uproariously at the sight of the cake-covered stallion. They had heard, Rarity knew, of the fiasco at the gala, but only a few select photographers had been allowed inside, and none of them had captured the most humiliating moment. This was what they had been hoping for ever since.

Rarity found herself giggling along with them, but then forced herself back into stoic silence. She knew that Blueblood had choreographed this scene not only to disarm the journalists who might otherwise be asking difficult questions about his family and his own involvement in the events precipitating the conspiracy, but also for her benefit, to try to make up for the gala by subjecting himself to mockery. Well, if he thought that a cheap trick like that was going to make a difference, not to mention getting her friends in on it …

Before she could think better of it, Rarity pushed through the crowd and trotted up the marble stairs. She hooked a foreleg under one of Blueblood’s own frosting-coated limbs, and dragged him away from the crowd, while gratefully observing that Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash stepped in to prevent anypony from following.

“What are you thinking, acting like a buffoon in front of the press and the whole city?” she demanded.

“Hey, look, it’s Rarity!” one of the photographers shouted from well behind her, and immediately another dozen flashbulbs popped, dashing Rarity's hope that they would have run out of bulbs by now. She rolled her eyes.

“I noticed that you made it,” Blueblood said, removing his goggles even as Rarity hauled him down the stairs on the other side of the square. “Thank you.”

“Allowing Pinkie Pie to douse you in dessert in no way cancels out the gala,” Rarity said. “Spectacular as the gesture might have been.”

“It was also spectacularly delicious,” Blueblood replied, licking clean as much of the area around his snout that his tongue could reach. “But really, this was what you wanted, wasn't it? Public embarrassment? Those pictures will make the front page of the Times tomorrow.”

Rarity pulled him around a corner into a quiet alley, then wheeled around on him. “You know full well that I wanted nothing of the sort. Did I not tell you before, back in the jungle, that no successful relationship can be based on keeping tallies and tit for tat?”

Blueblood’s sticky face was crestfallen. “Then …”

“Just stop and listen to me,” Rarity continued. “I may have laughed at the sight of you covered in cake frosting just now, but it did not negate the way you have acted in the past. The other thing you did, though – that was truly remarkable. I can hardly believe you repudiated your titles.”

“Oh,” Blueblood said, then sighed deeply. “Well, you were right. You told me that I had to live for myself, and not repeat the same mistakes that my father, my grandfather, and Celestia knows how many of my ancestors made. Actually, she probably does know. I could not do that as a duke or as heir to an imaginary throne.”

“But you were the most important noble in Equestria, after the Princesses,” Rarity protested. “It must be have terribly difficult to give that up.”

“It was not as hard as you might think. Now, I can design my ships, run my company, and not spend my days worrying about the decline of my family name and wondering what new insult my mother will have invented to describe my ongoing failure to restore Princess Platinum's line to glory. I refuse to care about any of that.That is why I asked your friends to bring you here, so that you could see that the old Blueblood is gone. The stallion who treated you so badly has been sent out before the firing squad and is no more. The stallion who remains, though he may at present be somewhat stickier and more chocolaty than usual, is and will henceforth remain the stallion who came into being there in the Impenetrable Lands, with you.”

“So, you really are sincere,” Rarity said, her intonation that of a rhetorical question.

“Look at me,” Blueblood said, waving a foreleg to encompass his entire cake-and-frosting-covered body. “Can you imagine I would willingly do this, were I not sincere?”

Rarity sighed, then raised her own right foreleg to his face, and gently brushed away as much of the remaining cake residue as she could. “No, I suppose not. How did you manage to get Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash involved in your little performance, anyway?”

“I was the pony who requested the presence of your pegasus friend in Canterlot in the first place, as well as her cousins on the Skyworks board of directors. I have now invested a rather large amount of money in the rebuilding of the Stratusburg cloud mine, and also pledged sizable charitable sums toward mending other damage suffered in that town, and in Gallopoli as well. In return, I merely asked for a little favor. Miss Pie, I believe, simply wanted to cover somepony in cake.”

“So you are generous now, too,” Rarity said.

“The money in the cloud mine is an investment, and I suppose it would be fair to say the donations are as well, in their own way – investments in goodwill. Whether they will pay off, I do not know, but I will call it a calculated risk.”

“You are all about calculated risks these days, it seems.”

“Sometimes. In truth, I've bet everything on this latest venture, and I have no idea whether it will pay off at all.” Blueblood lifted a foreleg to touch Rarity’s own, at which point she realized that she was still unconsciously brushing his coat and mane.

“Which venture is that?” Rarity asked, slowly withdrawing her limb. She could feel the heat in her cheeks of a betraying blush.

“You, of course,” Blueblood said, flashing a tentative smile. “Do you care to give odds on whether I am likely to see a positive return?”

Rarity hesitated. “Well …”

“Come now, how can you resist the alluring scent of cake frosting?”

Rarity smiled. “It is good to see you,” she said, then leaned forward and rested her cheek against Blueblood’s strong neck. “And I am proud of the decisions you are making. I would not be averse to continuing to see you, from time to time, in a friendly manner.” She continued to rest against him, pondering whether to say anything else, and if she did, what to add. What she was doing was more than friendly, but at the same time, she could not think of a good reason to stop. Suddenly, she remembered why she had come to Canterlot in the first place and abruptly pulled away.

“I am sorry, Blueblood, but I must be completely honest with you before we get carried away. I should have told you at once, or better, by letter before I arrived, but I am here in Canterlot in large part to see your mother, Princess Palladium. I was planning to arrange a meeting with her for this evening, or tomorrow at the latest, before I asked to see you.”

“My mother?” Blueblood exclaimed in consternation, standing up stock straight. “My mother hates me for abandoning my royal claim, hates you for being a commoner, hates the Princesses, hates the modern world, and is in general a bottomless font of misery and despair. Moreover, she had been isolated in her chambers ever since Procyon was taken into custody. Why in the name of all that is green and growing do you want to see her?”

Rarity looked away. “I do not want to see her at all, believe me. Nevertheless, I feel I must. Before Windlass, well, exploded, she told me that your mother knows of a prophecy, and she claimed it somehow involves me.”

Blueblood laughed, which was not at all the reaction Rarity expected. “Oh, well, for a moment there you had me concerned. My mother spends all of her considerable free time reading about our family history and the old unicorn kingdoms, convincing herself over and over again of our supposed superiority. She must have memorized a hundred ancient ‘prophecies,’ not one of which has come true, so far as I know. Do you know that she is not even a blood descendant of Princess Platinum? Her lineage traces back to the royal seers – charlatans the lot of them. Perhaps that is part of the explanation for her fixation on the past, obsession with the future, and refusal to acknowledge the reality of the present. I am sure that when Windlass was in the castle with Procyon mother harangued her about some bit of ancient nonsense or other, and it simply stuck with her.”

“Well, even so,” Rarity began dubiously, “I feel that I must ask her about this.”

“Oh, by all means,” Blueblood said. “We should go there now and see if we can roust her from her depression long enough to convince you there is nothing to any of her so-called prophecies.”

“Alright,” Rarity agreed, “but first, let us become presentable. If I am not mistaken, there is a ‘Towels and Toboggans’ outlet in the next lane over.”

An hour later, she and Blueblood, their coats clean and dry, stepped out of a well-appointed private carriage and onto the front courtyard of the dreary stone castle that was the stallion’s home. Blueblood thanked and tipped the pair of teamsters pulling the conveyance, and they gaily trotted back toward the city.

“Let’s get this over with, shall we?” he proposed, motioning Rarity through the main door. “Mother will be in her chambers on the upper level.”

“I really do hope this is all just nonsense, as you say,” Rarity said.

“Complete codswallop, I promise. Hogwash. Balderd- ...”

“I get your point,” Rarity said, following Blueblood up a winding stone staircase. “To change the subject, I have a question that has not come up yet. Would you prefer I refer to you as Polaris now, because I am rather accustomed to Blueblood at this juncture.”

“When and if Ruthie has a son, he will be called Blueblood, and then it would be cumbersome to have two of us, I think.”

“Yes, well, it is rather presumptuous to think we should even be on friendly terms so far in the future, and besides, I was only making small talk. I am going to call you Blueblood regardless, because I want to.”

“Then I suppose that is what I would prefer. It is always easier to prefer the inevitable. Speaking of which, now it is time to learn about this prophecy that purportedly concerns you. The princess will be in her study.” Blueblood knocked on the centermost of three thick oak doors at the top of the stairs. “Mother! You have a visitor!”

A deep jade green aura enveloped the door, and it slowly swung open, revealing a high-ceilinged stone chamber fifteen lengths long and half as many across, lined with towering oak bookshelves that brimmed with thick tomes, yellowed scrolls, and ancient manuscripts. The room was lit only by flickering torchlight. Twilight Sparkle would be in ecstasy here, Rarity thought. To her, it was musty, dark, and more than a little creepy.

On the far side of the room, Princess Palladium sat in a high-backed wooden chair. She wore a black mourning cloak over her gray coat, and her snow white mane spilled carelessly over her shoulders. A black veil half covered her face, and she cradled an obviously ancient, deep-bowled mandolin in her forelegs. Rarity walked tentatively toward her, keeping close to Blueblood.

“A most unwelcome visitor, but not an unexpected one,” Palladium said, her voice echoing in the dark chamber. “I knew you would come, mare.”

“What are you talking about?” Blueblood asked. “And what are you wearing? Procyon is imprisoned, not dead.”

“Be silent!” the old mare shouted. “I am well aware of the pains you have taken to rid yourself of your family obligations. If you are not Prince Blueblood any longer, then you are of no consequence to me. Do you honestly believe a flighty thing like Ruthenium is going to bring us back the throne?”

“I believe she will have the good sense not to try. That empty dream has consumed enough lives,” Blueblood replied crossly.

“Ha! That is why I am in mourning,” Palladium said. “Not for my son, but for our family. You have in one fell swoop destroyed the ancient line of the royal unicorns, after all these thousands of years.”

“There have not been any royal unicorns since Celestia took the throne, mother!” Blueblood reported. “And there never will be again! Now, please explain what you meant about expecting Miss Rarity?”

“Yes, how could you have been expecting me?” Rarity asked. “I did not call ahead.”

“You already know how,” Palladium replied tersely. “Think, mare.”

“The Heavenstone,” Rarity replied immediately.

“Correct. I know all about your special bond. I too was briefly connected to the Heavenstone,” Palladium replied. “I feel echoes of its power still. I felt the twisted magic of its corruption, and the death of my former acolyte so many leagues away. After you confronted her, I knew it was only a matter of time before you came to me, seeking answers.”

“Acolyte?” Rarity repeated, wondering if she had heard correctly. “Windlass?”

“I know you cannot be talking about that lunatic mare,” Blueblood stated. “She was of no noble extraction. You of all ponies would have had as little to do with her as possible.”

“She was a great deceiver, Windlass,” Palladium said softly. “She convinced me that her blood was pure, just as she whispered poison into the ears of my sweet boy. While you were out gallivanting and wasting your life, she wormed her way into our home, all in order to steal our great treasure. I enabled her.”

“You taught her the secrets of the Heavenstone,” Rarity surmised. “That is how she was able to master it so quickly.”

“Yes,” Palladium admitted. “To my great shame. I believed that with Procyon’s blood and her ambition, she could convince all of Equestria to return to the old ways, and give the throne back to us. She would have been able to use the Heavenstone to bring forth day and night, and replace the usurper Princesses. The fool stallion now standing before me would have been paid in mares and money to abandon his own claim. I never suspected that Windlass intended to betray my trust, nor that she had brainwashed poor Procyon into supporting her insane ploy. I supplied the raw materials and the knowledge that fueled her madness.”

“Why?” Blueblood asked, clearly shocked. “I am hardly surprised that you think so little of me, but I cannot believe you could be so completely taken in by a mare who simply appeared out of the blue, that you would desecrate Princess Platinum’s tomb and dig up the Heavenstone for her?”

“No, Blueblood,” Rarity said, shaking her head. “If she was able to teach Windlass the secrets of the Heavenstone, she must have taken it from the crypt long before Windlass sought it.”

“This is why you are a failure, Polaris,” Palladium said to her son. “Even one such as this, whose veins carry not one drop of nobility in them, is cleverer than you.” She turned back to Rarity. “You are right, of course. After my husband was killed, the appointed task of restoring the true monarchy fell to my children, for I am not a direct descendant of the Blueblood line. They would need all the strength of their ancestors.”

“You mean, they would need the Heavenstone,” Rarity said.

“Just so, and in order for them to use it, I had to master it first. I spent years poring over the collections of past princes and princesses, and before them the kings and queens of the old kingdom. I reclaimed the Heavenstone from its resting place, and with the secrets of its former masters and mistresses at my hooves, I learned how to use it to amplify my magic.”

“But without the magic of other ponies on which to draw, the Heavenstone’s power would have been limited to a reflection of your special talent,” Rarity said.

“Again, correct. Do you know where my special talent lies?”

“Is your talent living in the past?” Blueblood offered. “It has always seemed that way.” Palladium ignored him.

“I haven’t the foggiest,” Rarity confessed.

“My talent lies in dreams,” Palladium said. “It was my name once, Salvia Dream of the Sage family. All my life I dreamed, first of finding a prince, and then of restoring him to the kingship he was born to hold. I dreamed for my future and my children’s future. You see, mare, I come from a long line of dreamers. I trace my line to Sage Whisper the Allseer, the royal prophet of the first King Blueblood’s court. Unlike my illustrious ancestor, I was never able to see the future as clearly as if it was the waking present, but still I dreamed. Then, finally, the Heavenstone fully awakened my sight. Tell me, mare, did it allow you to glimpse that which has yet to come to pass?”

Rarity thought of the dreams she had experienced, and how they foretold her confrontation in Stratusburg. If not for the Heavenstone preparing her for those moments, she certainly would have perished. “Yes,” she quietly replied.

“That is because the magic of the Heavenstone transcends time as we perceive it. So it was that the Heavenstone triggered what of the seer’s gift existed in my blood, and allowed me to experience a forgotten prophecy, perhaps the most important prediction ever made.”

“Windlass – she said it was a prophecy about … me,” Rarity managed.

“I told her to be wary of you before the race, after I realized what you were, there at the dinner,” Palladium said. “But she never truly listened to anything I told her. She was already lost to obsession and her paranoia. She had already chosen to see you as a romantic rival, and a convenient target that would enable her to neutralize the Elements, when the fact is that you represent the greatest threat the world has ever seen. You are the harbinger of the end.”

Blueblood guffawed. “A threat, mother? A harbinger? You are speaking of a hero, an Element Bearer, as you well know. You do not have to listen to her, Rarity. Let us leave her to her enfeeblement, and not pay her ravings any further mind.” He turned to go, but Rarity did not follow.

“Whatever you may have come to believe,” she addressed Palladium, “I assure you that I am a fashion designer and independent businessmare from Ponyville, not a sign of the end of days.”

“More importantly, there are no real prophecies!” Blueblood exclaimed angrily, returning to Rarity’s side as he realized she was not trailing behind him. “Go ahead, mother, let us hear this latest. Here is my prediction: it will be vague, unprovable, and sprinkled with just enough recognizable details to lend an air of plausibility. And it will be completely and utterly false.”

“There was the prophecy of Night Mare Moon’s return,” Rarity pointed out. “Twilight Sparkle found it in a book in the Royal Library, and it turned out to be true. That book led us to the Elements of Harmony.”

“Yes, many of the predictions of the seers and prophets of old have truth in them,” Palladium said. “Though you will not find this one in any edition of Predictions and Prophecies, for it came to me only after I had retrieved the Heavenstone, and gazed upon the eternal fire dancing within it.”

“Oh, even better,” Blueblood said, rolling his eyes. “This one you made up all by yourself.”

Palladium magically tugged on Blueblood’s ear until he yelped in pain. “I am your mother and you will respect me.”

“Leave him be,” Rarity said sternly. “He is right, you know. No matter how many predictions have come true, and no matter what visions the Heavenstone may grant, there cannot be any truth to any prophecy which suggests that I am somehow going to do Equestria harm. Tell me what it says, and then let us leave in peace.”

“You will know it soon,” Palladium replied, abandoning her magical hold on Blueblood’s ear. “But first a brief primer on pony history. What do you know of the Adamant Triskelion?”

Rarity started at the unexpected question. “As a designer, I know that a triskelion is a symbol of three elements in symmetry around a central point. As a pony with a bit of a weakness for gems, I can tell you that adamant suggests the finest form of diamond. I, however, have never heard those words used together.”

“Few ponies have who live today,” Palladium said. “The Adamant Triskelion was the symbol of a tribe of ponies who disappeared over fifteen thousand years ago, before even what we now call the paleopony period, and long before any of the history you learned in the classroom. Even by the time of the Great Exodus, the Triskelion, and what it represented, was nothing more than the stuff of a few half-remembered songs and oral legends. Before all knowledge of the Triskelion and what it represented disappeared from the world, one unicorn made it her mission to collect every fleeting scrap of information she could unearth. When Clover the Clever passed away, Princess Platinum carried on the mage’s work in secret, as a lasting tribute. They were lovers, you know. It is all in Platinum’s journals.”

“I most certainly did not know,” Rarity replied, blushing. “Nor do I see the relevance. Perhaps you can explain it to me.”

Palladium did not respond immediately, but instead magically strummed a few chords on her mandolin. “Within the bounds of these castle walls, all of Clover’s research on the Adamant Triskelion is safely stored, just as it was maintained by Princess Platinum and generations of my predecessors.”

She hummed several bars of melody before continuing. “Clover the Clever translated this ballad from some obscure and forgotten old dialect into Ancient Unicorn, and I translated it into the ugly earth pony tongue that has come into general parlance today. It was no easy task to keep the rhyme and meter intact.” Palladium proceeded to sing, her voice little more than a rasping whisper, but every note of the elegiac melody was perfectly on key.

In primal wastes silent and stark

The first one wound the springs of time

And ere she vanished in the dark

She left three gifts for ponykind

The first to be a source of might

Together gathering our will

To summon forth the day and night

The Heavenstone we treasure still

The second for our darkest hour

When magic fails and strength has died

Its promise faith, and hope, its pow’r

The Hopestone bearing seeds inside

The third to grant stability

To save us from chaos’ snare

This wondrous stone of harmony

The Balancestone, beyond compare

The three great diamonds shining bright

The relics of the ancient one

Our gift, our symbol, our birthright

The Adamant Triskelion

“This verse is all that survives of the Ballad of the Three,” Palladium concluded, lowering her mandolin. “The song speaks of the first one, Primordiala in Ancient Unicorn, called Fürstin or Faust in the old earth tongues, and Protalogo by the pegasi - one who was there at the beginning, and according to legend, will be there at the end. The three were her gift to us, or so the song claims, but then somehow they became separated and lost. Whether the first one is real, or not, the three diamonds surely are. Of that, Clover and Platinum were certain.”

“Then, there were three diamonds, each akin to the Heavenstone!” Rarity exclaimed. “My stars! Where are the missing stones now? If the wrong ponies find them, or worse, some beastly creature like Discord, the crisis could be far worse than Windlass’ conspiracy!”

Rarity did not add that she was positive she had encountered the very entity that had created the Heavenstone and the others. It – she – had given Rarity the power to restore the Heavenstone. Did she have some new plan for the world? Was that the substance of the prophecy?

“I know not where the other diamonds rest,” the old mare replied. “Nopony knows. The unicorn royals possessed the Heavenstone, of course, but even they did not remember how or when they obtained it. The civilization that was gifted the three had been gone already for many ages in Platinum’s time. Now, not even the songs of their time remain.”

“Perhaps then, if they are truly gone, there is nothing to fear,” Rarity posited..

“There is everything to fear!” Palladium said hotly, “You will seek them out, and gather them, and when you have succeeded in bringing the three together again, their joining will signal the end of the world. That is the prophecy – Princess Platinum’s one, only, and final prophecy – revealed to me through the Heavenstone, where she had hidden it so long ago! It is already in motion. When you claimed the Heavenstone’s power and defeated Windlass, you proved that nothing, not even all the magic in the world, can stop it.”

“I will do what?” Rarity asked, staring at Palladium in a state of shock.

“This is too low, even for you, mother!” Blueblood shouted. “This is the single most outrageous, scurrilous, cruel, and most assuredly untrue thing I do believe you have ever come up with. I may have had to endure years of you playing mind games on your own family, but you will not play your games with her!”

Princess Palladium set her mandolin on the floor and stood. Without acknowledging Blueblood, she calmly walked over to the high bookshelves to Rarity’s right. The old mare raised a foreleg and pressed it against a particularly thick tome, and then it felt to Rarity as though the entire castle was rumbling and shaking. Several lengths worth of bookshelves, and the stone wall behind them, sunk into the floor to reveal a previously hidden alcove.

“What is this?” Blueblood demanded.

Rarity stepped forward to get a better look, and saw that the alcove was filled with scrolls and loose parchment, as well as bits and pieces of artifacts, the identities of which she could not even begin to guess. The center of the alcove was dominated by a large stone slab, held upright by metal supports embedded in the pedestal on which it rested. A simple design was carved into the surface of the stone, worn but still clearly visible after many millennia.

“That is it, is it not?” Rarity asked, her voice barely above a whisper. Her heart was racing; it felt as though it was hammering against the walls of her chest. “The triskelion design of which you spoke?”

“Yes. This is the only surviving original representation of the Adamant Triskelion, found in the old country, and transported by order of Clover the Clever during the Exodus.”

“It is not what you think,” Rarity whispered.

“It is exactly what I think. I was assured of the prophecy’s verity the instant you stepped hoof in this room and I saw your mark.”

“That is not my cutie mark,” Rarity protested weakly. “It isn’t. My diamonds are arranged vertically, you see, not in symmetry like these. Not a triskelion.”

“The precise arrangement matters not, mare,” Palladium said. “The Adamant Triskelion is merely a symbol. It cannot be denied that you bear the mark of the three ancient diamonds, there on your flanks as plain as day, and it cannot be denied that you are the mare of the prophecy. I shall share its riddle with you now.” Platinum stood in front of the pedestal and spoke clearly, the words obviously having been long memorized.

Once three, now six, and two, and one

And so the world will be undone

A mare will bring us to our fate

Soon to unlock the crystal gate

After the encore of nightfall

After the mad king’s curtain call

The mare will bear our crown and name

Though with no rightful royal claim

The two, then six, but first the one

Her mark is the triskelion

A rarity, a crystal key, a sun-bereft ancient city

Will forge a bond to mend the three

And hasten forth eternity

“The mare is you!” Palladium declared. “Everything in the prophecy screams that it is so - there can be no question! ‘Nightfall’ refers to the dark princess’ foretold return. The mad king is Discord, defeated by you and your friends. You made a mockery of Princess Platinum in that despicably plebeian pageant, where you took her crown! Your very name appears in the prophecy, and so it was that I knew what you were there at the dinner. Now that I see your mark there can be no denying it. You, mare, will be the undoing of the world!”

“But that is not my cutie mark,” Rarity managed. “My mark is not the triskelion!” She felt like a force was constricting her body, rendering it difficult to breathe. Princess Platinum could not have made a prediction about her – surely not a prophecy such as this! Yet, there was no denying Palladium’s interpretation of Night Mare Moon, and Discord, and then there was the pageant! “What does it even mean?” she mumbled. “Those numbers - the city - the key. I don’t understand.”

“It means nothing,” Blueblood declared firmly. “Nothing except that my mother is cracking up in her dotage. Numerological gibberish? Vague references to magical knickknacks and mysterious locations? A few recognizable clues scattered amidst a garbled mishmash of nonsense? You said it yourself – your cutie mark is completely different from that symbol. And the mere presence of a noun which happens to match the letters of your name does not mean this prophecy has anything to do with you.”

“The numbers are clear enough,” Palladium said. “She will claim each of the diamonds, and bring about the end of the world.”

Blueblood continued. “Even setting aside all reason and reality for a moment and assuming that this is a genuine prophecy, now that you know it you are not bound by it. You are never going to cause the world to be undone, whatever that means.”

“Prophecies cannot be so easily circumvented,” Palladium said. “The more you squirm to free yourself from its inevitability, the more fate will conspire to ensure it comes to pass. The failure of all of Windlass’ vile machinations proved that nothing can stop it. This mare will bring about the end!”

The gray unicorn fiddled with something within the alcove and then stepped back into the center of the chamber as the shelves rose from the floor and concealed the secret alcove again. Palladium then returned to her wooden chair, retrieved her mandolin, and began to softly play, humming along with the chords.

Rarity had been standing completely still, unable to move while she struggled to process this new and terrible information. Finally, she turned to Blueblood, and softly spoke. “I want to go. Away. Anywhere. Now, please.”

“Yes, of course,” Blueblood replied hastily. “I know a place far enough from here.”

“Good.”

“You can have him,” Palladium called out, as Rarity and Blueblood exited the chamber. “He is a commoner now, no better than you, mare. Do with him what you will. Soon, it won’t matter anyway.” Rarity hurried down the stone staircase without once looking back.

They walked in silence for a time, out of the castle and through its grounds, finally arriving at a narrow, winding path that climbed the mountainside behind the castle. The path appeared to be poorly maintained, if maintained at all, and little traveled, but it was clear enough for a careful and sure-hooved pony to manage. Blueblood led the way, and Rarity followed numbly behind him, matching his hoofsteps but otherwise paying little attention to her surroundings. He was forced to catch her with his telekinesis twice.

When they arrived at the ordained spot, Rarity was still so distressed that she could barely see straight, and she had no idea where she now stood. It was not until Blueblood raised a forehoof to gently touch her cheek that the unanticipated contact jolted her back into the moment. She shuddered, and he hurriedly withdrew the appendage.

“I am sorry,” Blueblood said.

“No, no apologies necessary, I simply need a moment to gather myself.”

Rarity finally took in her surroundings. She stood on a narrow grass berm at the edge of a sheer drop, midway up one of the less imposing peaks surrounding the summit of Mount Royal. Canterlot Castle was visible in the distance, cantilevered out from the mountainside, and the alpine forest surrounding Blueblood’s castle lay spread out like a green carpet below her. In the middle distance the city of Canterlot blanketed the slopes, its spires gleaming in the sun. Half a dozen large airships were visible in the skies overhead, approaching and leaving the Skyport, and numerous smaller craft flitted among them. It was too far to see them, but Rarity knew there must be hundreds of pegasi in the air as well. It was a beautiful day for flying.

"What is this place?” she asked Blueblood. “It’s lovely."

"I would come here when I was younger, when I wanted to be alone. That was fairly often, as you can imagine. It was a good spot to watch the airships and dream of flying away forever."

“You know, I might have given you more credit in the beginning if I had known your mother all along. Even as atrocious as your manners were, you were not hateful.”

“I claim no excuses,” Blueblood said. He walked close to the edge, not more than two lengths away, and sat on his haunches on the grass. Rarity hesitated just for a moment, wishing for some approximation of a blanket in order to preserve her pristine coat, and then set down her panni-purse and took a seat beside him anyway. “You know,” Blueblood continued, “that prophecy could just as easily have referred to Windlass.”

“I do not want to speak of it,” Rarity said crossly.

“She planned to wear a crown and call herself queen, which is the title Platinum held in the end. She claimed the Heavenstone, and would have gladly seized the other diamonds if she had known of them and could find them, and she may very well have brought about the end of the world if she had been allowed to continue. With her gone, I suspect the prophecy is now meaningless.”

“Yes, but her cutie mark was a weather-vane, not these three miserable diamonds!” Rarity gestured at her right thigh. “Now those words will haunt me day and night, probably forever. What is the meaning of three, six, two and one? There were three gems, three tribes, and three rulers at the time of the Exodus. There are two Princesses today, but one for the last thousand years. There are six Element Bearers and six Elements, and there are probably a hundred more potential meanings to ponder as I lay in bed. Where is the crystal gate? Am I the “rarity” of which she spoke? When will my life cease to be my own, and become merely part of some prediction made before even Princess Celestia lived? It is not fair.”

"You should put this prophecy business right out of your mind. If there ever any truth to it, now that you know of it, you can simply choose to stay away from any mystical, magical gems that come your way."

"I am responsible for bearing the Element of Generosity, Blueblood. I am afraid that magical gems are going to be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. Now that it is clear that there is some intellect within them, and some entity out there who created them, I wonder if someone else has not been steering the course of my life all along. How did I come to be an Element Bearer? How was it that I was in exactly the right place and time to connect with the Heavenstone? Do I have any free will at all, or am I nothing more than somepony's doll to be played with, acting out a story that has already been written?"

"Of course you have free will. You have built a life for yourself using only your wits, talent, and dedication. You found your way into the highest circles in Canterlot, and are thrice a national hero now. How could you doubt that it was you who made that possible?"

"I have diamonds on my flanks," Rarity said. "You have a compass rose. Who put them there? Why? Do we not deserve an explanation for these marks that adorn us for all the days of our lives, and define our talents? Why create these gems that have so much potential for destruction and give them to ponies who would use them for ill? Is it a game? Are we game pieces? If so, I do not want to play, or be played with.”

"You are important and unique,” Blueblood said. “Just as your name declares. You are nopony’s game piece.”

"The prophecy, whatever it means, will turn out to be true," Rarity said dejectedly. "Just as the prophecy of Night Mare Moon came to pass, and the Elements manifested, as foretold. Perhaps Windlass was right to lash out against a world in which so much of our lives and experiences are foreordained. She believed that she would be able to replace cutie marks and destiny with her own mad will, which is not particularly a better outcome, but at least she attempted to fight back. Of course, she lost. Your mother was right - nopony can fight destiny. Once the course of things is set, it cannot be changed."

"You’re wrong. Look at me. I was destined to make the same mistakes as my father and his father, and spend my days absorbed in their hopeless, pointless dreams. I was callow, vainglorious, and generally a miserable twit. Would you have believed that I could change the course of my life? You made it possible for me to do so.”

Rarity felt a chill from the wind blowing against the side of the mountain, and moved closer to Blueblood. She allowed herself to lean against him, and had to admit that it felt wonderful to have somepony else supporting her.

“Cutie marks and prophecies exist in this world,” Blueblood continued. “But they are just parts of lives that are filled with choices left to us to make. I could have been an explorer or a cartographer, but I chose to design airships instead. You could have been a gemologist, a jeweler, or perhaps even a treasure hunter with your skills, yet you chose to become a fashion designer, because it is your passion. You choose to be generous to those who do not deserve your generosity, and I have chosen to be a better stallion.”

Blueblood paused for a moment, and Rarity suddenly realized that he was idly stroking her mane with a forehoof. Had he just begun doing so, or had he been doing it all the while he had been speaking? She could not be sure, but she made no move to stop him.

"Life is really nothing but choices, one after the other,” Blueblood concluded.

"Even if you are right, how could I prove that I have free will?” Rarity asked, looking up at him. "There is no way to be certain that any thought, any act, is my own and not simply what was meant to be."

"I suppose that, at that extreme, you must simply beli–...“

Blueblood was cut off as Rarity threw her forelegs over his shoulders and pressed her lips against his. She gave the experimental kiss all of the passion and energy she could muster, and when she broke it off seconds later, both ponies were left breathless.

“What was that?” Blueblood gasped.

“Spontaneity,” Rarity replied. “Free will. No intelligent designer of the universe would have expected something so absurd as for me to kiss you.”

“Ah, right. Okay. A true exercise of freedom of expression that was. I wonder, though, perhaps a second ...“

Rarity kissed him again, with even more ardor than before, permitting herself to give in to every whim and guilty desire that she had suppressed. Blueblood fell back on the grass and she toppled with him.

“Take that, prophecy,” Blueblood gasped, looking up at her with wide blue eyes.

“Well, I for one refuse to believe that anypony could have predicted this eventuality,” Rarity said.

“In the interest of really sticking it to the mysterious powers that be, would you consider making this a sort of indefinitely continuing protest? Like going on strike against fate.”

“But then it would eventually become predictable,” Rarity pointed out, still pinning him to the grass.

“I suspect I can keep things interesting, if I put my mind to it,” Blueblood replied. He was close enough that Rarity could feel the warmth of his breath on her face, and the warmth of his body merging with her own. It felt wonderful. “I'll build you a new airship," he said, "and fly you anywhere you want to go. Or maybe I’ll keep the destination a surprise, in the interest of randomization.”

“Let’s go to Ponyville,” Rarity said.

“Ponyville?” Blueblood asked with a quizzical look.

“Yes. That is where I want to go. You see, there is a lovely spa there, and I have a darling house, and my boutique on the ground floor.”

“Well, it is not exactly the most exotic destination.”

“My cat is there,” Rarity continued. “She is a bit like your mother in temperament, though at least Opal’s claws retract on occasion. And my family is there too – my sister and parents. Have you ever visited?”

“Actually, I don’t believe I have.”

“Let’s go then. You are a common pony now, and I am oh-so-common, a simple mare born and bred in the countryside, surely not the sort of pony about whom anypony would prophesy. And we common folk are hardly Canterlot ponies, am I right? At least, we do not always have to be Canterlot ponies. Right now, I would rather not be one.”

“I suppose a visit could be arranged,” Blueblood said.

Rarity sat up immediately. “Wonderful! How quickly can we get to the train station? I will have to send a note to Fancypants apologizing for leaving town so abruptly, but I am certain he will understand.”

“Now?”

“Yes, now. Canterlot is too full of big things at the moment, like destiny and ancient, magical gemstones. We might be able to catch a very late supper if we make the Express.”

“Ah, are you certain you would rather not retire to my place?” Blueblood asked, gathering himself. “I know of a chamber on the ground level where the mustiness of the air is overpowered by the staleness, and I've always found the draft to be part of the charm.”

Rarity only glared at him.

"Right then. To the train station.”

Rarity prepared to stand, but then noticed that the sun was beginning to sink low over Mount Royal, and the blue sky was giving way to rich reds, oranges, and pinks that reached out toward her from the horizon. It was beautiful.

"Maybe we can catch the late evening train,” she proposed. “I hear they have added a bar car."

"That would not be so bad,” Blueblood said, and gently pulled her close. “Be honest. If I go with you, are you sure you will not end up disappointed, now that I am no longer royalty?”

“I had really hoped to find myself a prince,” Rarity admitted, "and it is true that you no longer fit the bill, as it were.”

“I am still rich and famous, if that helps.”

“Mm,” Rarity mused. “A little.”

“And fiendishly handsome.”

“Mm.”

“And terribly clever, and … ouch!” Blueblood looked up, where she had lightly rapped his horn. “I am surprised I got that far.”

Together, the two ponies watched the sun set behind the mountain. They could use magic to light the way back down the path, and the evening train to Ponyville did not depart for another two hours.

“This is … good,” Rarity said at last. “Going home will be good. I need to be absolutely certain that I am in control of my...”

She did not notice Blueblood leaning toward her until his lips met her own, but the surprise did not prevent her from closing her eyes and committing wholeheartedly to the kiss. It was an overeager, uncoordinated sort of kiss, but it was nonetheless delightful in every way.

“Well, I suppose I do not need to control absolutely every aspect of my life,” Rarity said after a long moment. “You know, even if there is no free will, even if all of this is somehow exactly what was meant to happen, tonight I don’t care a whit. Tonight, I am going to permit myself to be happy to be alive. I believe I have earned it.”

She stood up and brushed a few loose blades of grass from her coat, and then proceeded to give Blueblood one more quick peck on the lips for good measure. “Now let’s go see about that bar car, shall we?”

END OF BOOK ONE

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Comments ( 247 )

Thanks for sticking with me for so long, everyone. It's been a lot of fun, and extremely fulfilling to write this story. Expect forthcoming announcements regarding the printed hardcover version, new art and content, and the sequel. :raritystarry:

Wow... I'm assuming that the sequel picks up after the Crystal Empire episodes? :D

GAAAA so many stories i wan to read so little time. this is going on the list though, that first chapter was excellent

And so it ends. Well done. I await more of your work.

Awesome! This was such a good intro to the trilogy! Great work!

Well, the Balancestone is obviously the Elements of Harmony, and we know where the Heavenstone is. So where're the two pieces of the Hopestone?

I had a feeling about the peerage & title renunciation about a paragraph before it happened.

Miss Pie, I believe, simply wanted to cover somepony in cake.

:pinkiehappy:

Oooo, things are looking up for Blueblood it seems. Oh man, the dialog between the two of them is as wonderful as always.

Okay, two more Stones. Hmn, if the Balancestone had to do with harmony and saving them from Chaos, I'm guessing it's the source of the Elements? Or maybe it became the Elements?

Once three, now six, and two, and one

Yeah, no doubt in my mind, the third Stone somehow turned into the Elements.

Yes!! Love that ending.

Thank you so much for writing this Ponydora, it is my favorite story in the entire fandom.

Looking forward to the sequel!

Finally complete, now I can put this on my kindle and read it properly.
There was much rejoicing!

And an excellent first book it was indeed! I'm looking forward to the second one.

1437354

The elements are one stone and the princess's are the other, I would presume. Or the "two" are something that is coming from the Crystal Empire. Or the Crystal Empire is the final gateway of sorts. Perhaps they are the descendants of the original tribe from where the stones came from?

I don't know if words can adequately describe my reaction to this final chapter, so I'm just going to list events and emoticons to go with them.

Blueblood's press conference and symbolic execution: :pinkiehappy:

The whole prophecy thing, complete with rhyme schemes and just enough hints to give me an idea how the trilogy will go, if you do, in fact, write one: :rainbowderp: :pinkiegasp: :raritywink:

The whole final scene:
i112.photobucket.com/albums/n197/TheNovak/CheerileeAwesome_zpsa70724fc.jpg

I don't know what else there is to say, except that you have my absolute respect as an author, and goddamn it, Flight of the Alicorn is amazing.

Yes! That was definitely satisfying. I am totally looking forward to the next story.

IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!

...or the beginning.
End, begin, all the same: Big Change.
Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
-Aughra

1437326
I'm thinking the answer to your question lies in the peytrals of the Sun and Moon.

Seriously, book one? How many books are there?
Also I totally predicted that Rarity would end up with Blueblood at the start, which must mean that she doesn't have any control over her life.
I'm looking forward to the sequel.

At what point should we start worrying about Rarity's drinking... the bar-car bit was hilarious, especially how you underplayed it :duck:.

Cursed time zones. I should be going to bed now!!! :twilightangry2::twilightangry2::twilightangry2:

EDIT:
*read it*

Ahem...
suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive/13311710/images/1293575553872.gif

Ah, Rarity: Harbinger of Eternity. Wonder what more the seaponies will have to say about her? I'm guessing that her role is a lot less sinister than being a pony of the Apocalypse, and that she is more of the "ushering in the Millenium" type of harbinger. :pinkiehappy:

I liked the idea that the princesses are the Hopestone embodied, although that implies that two parts of one stone used six parts of another. :trollestia:

A fitting end to book one if there can be one. Now I'm watching you so I can see the new titles in the trilogy as soon as the figurative ink dries.

Wow! The prophesy gave me goose bumps!
The first three represent Rarity's cities mark.
The six represent the Elements of Harmony.
The two represent Rarity and Blueblood.
The one represents the wedding of Rarity to Blueblood.

Or I could be wrong.

NTL

Those last two chapters were a great way to bring this wonderful tale to its end.

The showdown chapter wasn't just epic in length but also in the events portrayed. It had everything an action/adventure fan can hope for. The "Here is what happend"-speech by Rarity (fabulously delivered), the final plot twist (I so didn't have Chancellor Ninetalons on the radar, I really saw him as a victim, even though I should have suspected it with the trick the griffions played on Rarity and Blueblood in the jungle), the villain getting desperate and lashing out at everypony, a power-up for our heroine, a chase, and a transformation into something huge and monstrous, which is still taken care of in mere moments (I think that's a trope of its own... I'll have to look it up and put on the tvtrope page).

I even felt sorry for Windlass at the end. No, she did not redeem herself, even by saving Fancypants, she was evil and the villain of this piece. But I can understand her reasoning a little and in the end she was also a victim of powers far beyond her grasp. The way you described her at the end, with her horn exploding and red light bursting out of her, send a chill down my spine. Another of those instances where you craft this powerful images with your words and send them right to my inner eye. :raritystarry:

Concerning Procyon I was completely wrong. Until the end I believed him to be an innocent victim. Yes, he still was just a pawn, but he was just as much involved as Rarity and Blueblood suspected from the beginning. I guess I expected another twist there (and maybe Fancypants being an a lot more shady character).

Now the final chapter started out funny with Blueblood's public frosting. Despite being a tale with dark and grim moments, scenes like that put the story right back down to the foundations of its source material without hurting the atmosphere of it all.

Some of those questions asked by the reporters were simply hilarious, and it was nice to see some of the other mane six's shenanigans.

Then came scene with Palladium and the prophecy and we're back in full mystery adventure mode with plenty of foreshadowing. Let me just say, you already have me hooked for the sequel. Coming to think of it, I think this is the first pony story I read where an ancient prophecy doesn't center around Twilight Sparkle (or all of the Elements) but Rarity. That's a welcome and fresh idea. I believe our poor fashionista is still in for quite the ride. And I'm looking forward to read all about it. :twilightsheepish:

I have to ask: How old is Palladium? I picture her as this ancient, angry crone spewing poison and prophecies, but then again Blueblood's sisters are around the pony equivalent of teenage years, aren't they? So she can't be that old, right?

As for the final scene. That one just made me smile. I told you from the beginning the announced shipping of Rarity and Blueblood was the one thing I had a hard time with in this story. But you did it, you made me a believer. It worked out and made perfect sense in the end. I even did a little cheer when they kissed. Bravo, good sir! :yay:

And them heading to Ponyville made me smile even more. Now I kind of want to read about commoner Blueblood adjusting to life in the countryside (maybe a little oneshot? :raritywink:)

In conclusion, let me thank you for crafting this wonderful tale and sharing it with us. I also have to congratulate you on finishing it in the time you did, that takes dedication, especially with real life obligations like a demanding full time job (I'm going by the information your DA profile here). I now what I'm talking about. Finishing a story of similar length took me almost six years, so I'm a bit envious as well.

I'm eagerly waiting for new material by you, but I'd also understand if you took a little break now to recharge your batteries.

And for one final time, let me say: GREAT JOB! :twilightsmile:

Your faithful reader,
NTL

1437736 Well, consider that Rarity arguably got dragged into the whole thing because she'd been drinking a bit much. And then there's our author's avatar...

As to the prophecy: Hastening forth eternity is, ipso facto, the end of the world? I rather doubt it. Although I suppose that Faust could be 'eternity.' On the other hand, it's worth pointing out that this is a translated prophecy, and has furthermore been mangled to come out as poetry in the new tongue, which means that Palladium's interpretation has the benefit of having read the original, while locking those of us who haven't into her interpretation, which surely colored her translation.

To answer your question at the end of the last chapter: I never twigged to the idea that Fancypants had introduced the two sides of the conspiracy to each other inadvertently. Nor did I see the One Winged Angel showdown, although that may be partially because it's not a trope I like in text. It worked, though; no problems there. What I expected was a magic showdown, possibly within the Heavenstone, rather than the more physical fight we got.

Speaking of, I still doubt that Palladium has completely leveled with Rarity. She's awfully invested in the whole prophecy thing; end of the world or no (especially since she's despairing about returning her family to the throne) I think she wants it to happen; another reason to get an independent translation of Platinum's prophecy.

*Gets onto his hooves and gives a standing ovation!* BRavo!! :D Can't wait for the next book! :D

not sure if it's supposed to or not, but the cover image reminded me of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and it looked very awesome, so I decided I'd read it. From the looks of it, lots of other people love it, so I'm sure I will too :pinkiehappy:

Ms. Prancypants, I have noticed that you tend to not reply to comments, therefore I don't know if you will even read this, but... bravo. In all honesty, this work is amazing. The characters, the action, suspense, drama, romance. ALL of it come together to make this truly an amazing piece of work. I wish I was more verbose so I could put into words how much I love this story, but my paltry words would fail, so I will simply say this: this story is... inspirational. I read this, then I look at my own work, and I realize that I have a long way to go. You make me want to be better, so hopefully I can write something as epic as this. Please don't lose interest. Please keep writing. I said before that this is one of the best stories in the fandom, and I meant it. This is an achievement of the highest order. It's almost funny that a work as lovingly crafted as this is about pastel-colored talking ponies. :pinkiehappy:

Bravo, Ms. Prancypants. Bravo.

26 chapters later, "End of Book One" it says. Are you trying to surpass Fallout: Equestria as the biggest MLP:FiM Fanfic to date?

Please says yes.:raritystarry:

This was an exceptionally well written story that I feel puts many bookstore novels to shame. Please continue to create such fantastic works. I will follow you henceforth.

This was an exceptionally well written story that I feel puts many bookstore novels to shame. Please continue to create such fantastic works. I will follow you henceforth.
:ajsmug::yay::twilightblush::raritystarry::heart:

I always hope that 'end of the world' is simply the interpretation of the ignorant and refers more to a sea change in the world order - which of course for those comfortable in the status quo may well be the end of the world. Unless someone gets their hooves on a nuclear stockpile, then all bets are off.

Still, it's fascinating, truly, how many story hooks you've created just from the small things about one character.

As always, one of the best, and looking forward to more

I'll make this short and sweet...Thank you for this wonderfully amazing story! It's turned out to be one of the most entertaining works of fiction I've ever read. Not just in this fandom, but anywhere. And I read a lot.

Count me in among the many clamouring for more!!

Wanderer D
Moderator

This was an amazing ride and a beautiful story, Ponydora! Many, many thanks for writing it! Truly inspirational, and amazingly written, I cannot wait for the next book! Is this to be a trilogy? Because I might just build a shrine to your trilogy in my user page! :pinkiehappy:

Omg this was amazing :rainbowkiss:
I can't believe it's over. It ended quite beautifully though and I loved how you tied all the loose ends together. I still want more though!:pinkiesmile:
Please keep writing!:heart::raritywink:

Holy crap that was an awesome story - this has been one of my favourite stories in the fandom and you haven't disappointed me yet. The fact that there's now going to be not just a sequel but a trilogy (?) makes me even happier.

Looking forward to where you're going to take the story next.

PS. I'm currently about as excited as Derpy is in Spectrumancer's post above...

>Towels and Toboggans
I don't think I'll ever get tired of that joke.
>called Fürstin or Faust in the old earth tongues
Hooray, it's not just me who sees old earth pony language as pseudo-Germanic! :rainbowkiss:
1437971
What about 'And so the world will be undone'?

Dang. So much to think about at the end of this. Now I'm too excited for the sequel. But once again this was fantastic. I cannot really say there was anythung I didn't like. Your semi-cliffhanger ending is sure to bring us all back for more. So until later my good author.

completely, utterly, perfect. one of the best fics ever made.

I don't think I've ever read the words end of book one with so much glee.

RARITY

will return in

THE ABYSSAL FORGE

Brilliant allusion to the Crystal Kingdom there! :pinkiehappy:

Man, what a ride! And to think, this is only the first story! :rainbowkiss: Epicness, stunning character development and incredible world-building like this are a rare treat, so I can only look forward to where you go with this story (after you take a well-deserved rest, of course).

A great story.
I can't wait for the next part. :pinkiehappy:

Beautifully written. Look forward to the sequel. Well that scratches one off of the read list........................................just 462 to go.................................

I have so very eagerly awaited for this :pinkiehappy:

Well you certainly didn't dissappoint. A thoroughly complete ending that both satisfies and wraps up the plots of book one and leads well into the rest of the trilogy.

I think you pulled off success with the whole idea of prophecy here. Able to illustrate both sides against and in support of believable prophecies, and Rarity's struggle and somewhat triumph over the whole idea was wonderful. It was also greatly endearing to have Blueblood try to spare her from it.

And I am oh so happy that the romantic subplot ended as it is. You really made Blueblood a likeable fellow, and the romantic in me swooned. I hope we get some of Blueblood in ponyville in one way or another; I'm eager to see the reactions to Rarity's calculated risk.

Onward, to the rest of this brilliant story. I am eagerly interested in this hardcover version as well.

That was fantastic! Really enjoyed reading that from start to finish. You're great at what you do.
Looking forward to a sequel!

WHY CAN'T I GIVE MORE THUMBS UP?

Seriously, the wait for the sequel to this is gonna be worse than the wait for season 3

A wonderful ending to an extraordinary story. I didn't foresee Blueblood's decision, but immediately when I read about it, it just rang true. I'm glad the things are working out between him and Rarity; they both deserve good things coming their way, especially with all the foreshadowing and mysterious prophecies you put into this chapter! :raritywink:

I have seen this on EQD for a long time now. I'm finally going to start reading it. I'm looking forward to something really good.

AND THEN THEY KISSED!!! God damn bro why did u have to put it at the very end....?! So many tears of happiness at this great story...no this is single handedly my favorite story on fimfiction....and PLZ PLZ PLZ...not too much of a wait for book two??....thank you very much ponydora

You fine sir/madam have real talent. You've accomplished what few authors ever manage for me. I actually LIKE your depiction of Rarity here. Of the Mane Six Rarity has always occupied bottom of the list. Here with the conclusion to what is revealed to be merely part one of an epic I find myself hooked and eagerly awaiting the next part featuring Rarity of all ponies.

Congratulations on reaching the rousing and satisfying end to your massive first volume! This truly was a treat to read in its entirety, and I have to thank you for the many hours of reading fun you delivered, as well as the quality of the story that occupied that time. Rarity was a delightful protagonist, and following her well outside her comfort zone to the edge of Equestria and back turned out to be the perfect kind of adventure to expand on the show's themes, characters and tone. The whole thing has such a great, pulpy adventure feeling to it that just makes it a joy, right down to the leads kissing as the sun sets on their first adventure.

This final chapter showcased so many of the strengths of the story, from the wonderful use of established characters like Fancypants, Dash and Pinkie to the intriguing and well-situated original characters like Blueblood's mother, who add new and unpredictable direction to the events. I have to applaud you for masterful use of OCs throughout, giving them just enough to do to make them entertaining in their own right but always keeping them firmly in the service of advancing the plotline for the lead characters.

A few praises for that plotline are in order as well... You have everyone chomping at the bit (appropriately enough) for the next installment, as the prophecies introduced here intrigue in all of the right ways. I have to agree with those above, it would seem the Heavenstone is the first "one", the elements the "six" (and the former Balancestone), which suggests that the Hopestone was split into being the seeds of the "two", although seeds that grew into what? I note that if the Hopestone did somehow lead to the two Alicorn sister Princesses, then Rarity has already played a role in gathering all three pieces of the Adamant Triskelion into the palace at Canterlot, as Luna has been restored and the Elements are kept in the vault there. Now she just needs to cram 'em all together!

Or not. Hard to say where/what the Hopestone is at this point. And while the first sequence "Once three, now six, and two, and one" safely seems to refer to the Triskelion, my suspicion is that the second sequence of " The two, then six, but first the one" all refer to ponies instead... or characters rather, not to get all species-ist.. Honestly, I don't know... but it's fun to mull it over and try and figure it out.

In any event, thanks and congrats again on such an excellent story that clearly deserves the high praise and esteem that it holds among pony fans! Something that is only going to grow, I suspect, from here on out.

1438830 Arguably, that already happened when the stones were broken into six and two and one.

Of course, repairing the world at this late date might have nasty consequences, too, but that just gives our well-intentioned extremist an excuse to be all extreme.

1438164 At this point, I don't think Fallout: Equestria is even the longest Fallout: Equestria fanfic.

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