The Prince's Bride

by Gabriel LaVedier

First published

Prince Blueblood and Connie the donkey maid intend to get married. That is a harder proposition than it seems.

The Principality hails and honors Prince Blueblood for standing up to bigots and openly embracing his love for Connie, the humble donkey palace maid who has won his heart. Their love is grand, their intentions clear and their hooves are set towards the altar. They will be married.

In the upper echelons of society.

A Royal Wedding is no small challenge. Blueblood has lived his life in the upper reaches and his great-aunts have as well. Connie... hasn't. The bride-to-be knows stern practicality, sensibility and the donkey desire for simple and effective solutions to ordinary problems. The world of gold-foil wedding gowns, fifty-layer cakes, and other inanities of the nobility are beyond her.

And then... there are parents...

The Formal(ity) Engagement

View Online

“Really? Seriously and truly?” Early morning at Canterlot palace, in one of the highest tower rooms. The whole space had been converted almost into a boutique. Dresses of every color and description filled the room, as did shoes, varieties of makeup, and accessories. Also in the room, packed into the clear center, were Connie, the light-gray, long-eared love of Prince Blueblood's life, Prince Blueblood, and Lime Sherbert, the green unicorn maid who usually served as Princess Luna's lady-in-waiting. Connie had spoken, and was giving an incredulous gaze to Blueblood and Lime in turn.

“It is simply the way of the nobility,” Blueblood explained with a comforting expression on his face.

“It's complicated on purpose, just to give them something to do, I guess,” Lime added.

“You proposed, I accepted, I nearly crushed your bones into powder with a hug,” Connie said. “The matter is done.”

“Yes. By general technicality we are engaged,” Blueblood noted with a nod. “However...” he started.

“You have to put on a show from the rest of the slack-jawed nobility,” Lime finished.

“There is a particular protocol,” Blueblood said strongly.

“'Protocol' is fancy for 'obstruction,'” Lime said. “Think of it like social constipation.”

“It promotes order and surety in life,” Blueblood said, glaring aside at Lime. “Better than chaos, yes?”

“A little chaos, properly minded, can be good. It's called chance, and her majesty loves it,” Lime said firmly back to Blueblood. “You know it. It's why she plays cards in her free time.”

“Yes, with preternatural skill,” Blueblood grumbled, earning soft chuckles from both Lime and Connie.

“But seriously...” Connie said, drawing attention back to her. “I have to stand on a stage in front of a bunch of gawking rich folks and have you propose to me again?”

“We do the whole thing, with proper lines and motions,” Blueblood said. “They cheer, some photographs are taken and we go on with our lives.”

“The catch?” Connie asked, a brow coming up.

“The what?” Blueblood asked.

“The catch,” Connie repeated. “What is it? Nothing could possibly be that easy with the upper echelons.”

“Especially since she's a commoner,” Lime noted.

“You don't have to say it like that,” Connie groused.

“I'm on your side,” Lime snapped. “But it's true. No noble heritage, legitimate or otherwise, no qualifications to join the noble orders, nothing.”

“How did that pretty-colt Shining Armor do it?” Connie mused. “He married a princess with actual power.”

“You don't have to say it like that,” Blueblood sniffed, with a lip-quiver.

“I mean, she had an empire ready for her, so she had a bigger profile and... okay, I'm digging myself deeper,” Connie said with a shake of her head. “The point is, how did he get off so easily?”

“I know that one,” Lime said. “His captaincy in the Royal Guard made him a de facto and, with a little paperwork, de jure knight. It barely makes a blip on the peerage scales but after reforms knights are no longer cut off from the ranks of the titled.”

“Then sign me up!” Connie cried.

“It isn't that simple,” Blueblood said. “Military ranks are not normally a path there. One must attain a particularly high rank, such as Centurion, Aquila or Captain, say, or attain an especially notable ceremonial position, and even then, barring special need, the status will only be conferred on retirement.”

“It's true,” Lime concurred. “Uncle Golden and Uncle Rosy tell me than when they retire they'll be bumped up to Centurion and Destrier, respectively, and also get to be called 'Sir.'”

“We're losing the point,” Connie said. “I'm a... commoner. I never thought about it, but I am. That seems to matter more than my being a donkey, which is good. But it still matters, which is bad. So what does that mean for us and this ridiculous little shadow-show we need to put on?”

“As a commoner you will have to be approved of by my near kin. Normally that means... parents...” Blueblood coughed after getting the word caught in his throat. “But if they have no title any longer or by my choosing, I may select a family member of higher rank. I chose this option, as great-auntie Celestia and great-auntie Luna really, really want me to marry you. Frankly, I'm in complete agreement with both of them.”

Connie gave a braying laugh and playfully nudged Blueblood, her natural strength sending him stumbling off nearly to the ground. “Okay, so they rubber-stamp me. Is that all? That's easy.”

“You... will need to project... a certain nature,” Blueblood said with hesitation.

“What nature do you mean?” Connie asked, suddenly serious.

“Nothing improper!” Blueblood cried. “Remember how you were before you showed me the fire in your heart? That sort of low, quiet nature.” He added, sotto voce “And you refuse me.”

“What was that?” Connied asked, one large ear wiggling. “'I refuse you'? Remember, these things aren't just for looks and one hundred brush strokes every night.”

“It's a part of the performance,” Blueblood explained. “You are so awed and amazed by my status and power and... you... feel... so unworthy...” He trailed off, withering under Connie's and Lime's glares.

“'Unworthy'?” Lime asked with a snort. “Is there a ritual 'hoof to the dangly bits' part because it sounds like it needs it.”

“Keep in mind, I still need him to be able to use those,” Connie noted. “But he only really needs one...”

“It's not my doing!” Blueblood shouted, voice going up an octave from pure fear. “It is the way of things. My status and power are meant to be shown as intimidating so you demurely refuse the first time and walk away. Then I must gallantly stop you, explain that you are my choice and asked again. And then you say 'yes'.”

“There must be a script. Right?” Lime asked.

“A... brief one...” Blueblood admitted.

“You brought her up here to pick out a dress and everything just to lay this on her, didn't you?” Lime questioned, giving Blueblood the hairy eyeball.

“I brought her here to show her this beauty and splendor which is free for her to choose!” Blueblood insisted. “She had an inkling there would be a more formal engagement. But I... did need to inform her of... certain realities.”

Connie hit Blueblood with a serious stinkeye before she rolled her eyes and blew out a frustrated breath. “It's a good thing you're sexy and good at kissing now.”

Blueblood wiped his brow and heaved a light sigh. “This is just the reality of the situation. You do still want to marry into this... complication, do you not?”

Connie sighed. “Yes...” she said with a tired tone.

“Welcome to our interesting world,” Lime said. “I just stand on the outside and look in. That's weird enough for me. You get a front-row seat.”

“That's such an encouraging thought,” Connie noted dryly.

“That's the reality. But it's okay. Marriage will probably make it easier to ignore,” Lime noted happily.

“So, shall we get to the task for which we have come here today?” Blueblood asked, looking around at the collection of items.

“Sure,” Connie said with a small smile. “As long as I'm going to be forced to endure a scripted second engagement, I might as well look good while I do it. This is all free and clear, right?”

“They are... consigned,” Lime said significantly, with a quick wink. “You know how that works, right?”

“Right. Wear it, but don't spill anything on it and then get it back here in time to sell it for double, as an 'as worn by Connie, affianced to Prince Blueblood' original,” Connie said with a nod.

“I know you don't like overly fancy things but... I want the whole of the nobility to despise you,” Blueblood said.

“Well, talk about an encouraging thought,” Connie said, a trifle shocked.

“I want you to stun them. I want them to feel almost ashamed that they're not you or me. Me, getting to marry you or you just being you,” Blueblood said.

“Still a bit bitter about how they tried to use you, eh honey?” Connie asked.

“I still blame them for how I treated you at first,” Blueblood said, before blushing softly. “But I... I understand it was my fault for letting my reactions color my treatment of you.”

“He's gotten good at that kind of thing, hasn't he?” Lime asked.

“He apologizes beautifully and takes responsibility like a pro,” Connie said proudly, nuzzling lovingly at Blueblood's cheek. “I make fun but I love him.”

Blueblood's chest puffed out a bit and a huge smile spread across his features. “With encouragement like that I shall be happy all the days of my life.”

“My ego's going to end up blowing up like a balloon,” Connie said with a laugh.

“Don't worry,” Lime said with a laugh, “We'll keep your head at a reasonable size. Don't think the rest of the palace staff will let you forget where you started.”

“I'm not apt to forget it, myself. I'm proud of where I came from,” Connie noted, nodding firmly.

“And so am I,” Blueblood concurred. “You're a pillar of strength and nobility.”

“I'll take the nobility, but I'll leave the 'pillars' to you,” Connie quipped, getting laughs from Blueblood and Lime.

“So, will you pick something grand and ostentatious to floor the gaping nobility?” Blueblood asked.

“My advice? Go with something complicated, showy and needlessly archaic,” Lime suggested. “It will amuse her majesty, and she does need amusement.”

“But wouldn't that mean that Princess Celestia will feel slighted?” Connie asked.

“Her co-equal majesty loves to see her sister smile. She actually silently approves of many of the more silly and harmless things her majesty does, or so I have been told,” Lime said with a grin.

“It's true,” Blueblood concurred. “Great-auntie Celestia loves it when great-auntie Luna makes the nobility look silly or does something that is plainly amusing.”

“Well, I'm sure eager to make Princess Luna happy,” Connie said, running a hoof over the dresses.

“Shall I assist you with your selection, my dear?” Blueblood asked, indicating a rack of extremely puffy dresses mixed with a few filmy, diaphanous selections.

“You're very a la mode, your highness,” Lime said, with a shake of her head. “But you know modern style.”

“Well, yes...” Blueblood said, looking confused. “Is that not the point?”

“It is useful, yes,” Lime noted, “But that's not the point. The point is to dress like her majesty. Heavy fabrics, brocaded fabrics, layering, ruffles and puffs and all the other outmoded things.”

“Oh... yes, of course!” Blueblood said, moving over to a rack and pulling out a dark purple corselet with embroidered swirls and stars. “Like this?”

Lime and Connie both looked on the thing with a critical eye.

“Wrong color for her. But you have the idea,” Lime finally said.

- - -

“Sister? Have you liberty for parlay?” Luna gently nudged the door to Celestia's room open, looking around. It was as it ever was, bright, airy and open. The white marble reflected the ample sunlight allowed in through the huge open windows and doors. Gold and jewels glittered all about to create more reflected light. The linens, hangings, curtains and all other cloth objects were light-toned and appropriate for the season. Celestia's huge canopy bed was neatly made and not a thing on any of her tables, from sides to makeup to decorative, looked out of place.

Celestia herself was out on the small balcony, just through the glass double doors. She turned at the sound of her sister's voice and smiled. “Sister, you know that if my door is unlocked I'm free. And I always want to talk with you.”

“Aye, aye, sister, and it be locked you have your needs to tend,” Luna said with a soft chuckle.

“Luna!” Celestia squealed, looking scandalized, a blush burning on her white face. “Oh that was... I'm actually more surprised you know.”

“'Twas but a fancy, colored with thought. Deduction, as say the constabulary,” Luna said with a cheeky grin.

Celestia clicked her tongue and shook her head. “You certainly got me Luna. I guess I don't need to ask how you got so good at deduction and mental exercises.”

“I take not your meaning sister,” Luna said, putting on an innocent face. “I am but a sweet and artless princess that hath neither inclination nor capacity that she may be a coney-catcher.”

Celestia broke out into a high, powerful laugh, crossing the room to giver her sister a warm, tight hug. “I try to save that for special occasions.”

“Aye, for absence doth make the heart grow fond, and you have made plots that it should not be so. Well do you manage your loins, and judicious are you in visits to the mountain that you should try the strength of the Cult-Finder General, according to his inches.”

Celestia cleared her throat and blushed once again. “Well... I think that conversation has run its course.”

“Indeed, sister. Do forgive mine intemp'rate tongue. 'Twas but a sport with you, for I love you,” Luna said, giving Celestia another hug.

Celestia pressed her neck to her sister's neck and smiled. “And I love you, sister.” When the hug broke Celestia took a step back. “Why did you need to see me?”

“Yes, my purpose. Sister, must it be so that we require dear Connie and our now-loved great-nephew perform this farce 'pon the stage for the chattering nobles?” Luna asked.

“It's... a tradition. It's mostly harmless and inoffensive. Personally, I'm in favor of it. It keeps the nobles open and honest, at least about some things. And that is a good thing,” Celestia said.

“But we do know that Connie be affianced to our great-nephew,” Luna said. “He doth strut and sigh and tell all who would hear he hath intention to marry, as he saith, 'The greatest jenny that ever lived.' There be not need that they must make of themselves fools.”

“The custom does seem unnecessary in this case, but it just is as it is,” Celestia noted. “It's expected, particularly of a noble of Blueblood's stature. Honestly, I think he may be looking forward to it.”

“How now? He hath delight in this foolishness?” Luna asked.

“He has accepted it. But I mean I've seen him picking out attire, and I helped him gather a large selection of possibilities for Connie. I think he wants to show the other nobles his good fortune, wants them to see that he is going to marry a beautiful jenny and wants them to, perhaps, envy him.”

Luna nodded slowly. “Aye... you speak good sooth sister. 'Tis so he hath been roughly treated by the lower nobles. And 'tis so that he hath cause to trumpet his fortune. But still sister... this be such piffle.”

“I'm not saying it's not. I'm saying he may have a reason for taking part,” Celestia said.

“Again, you speak good sooth. You know best in matters such as these,” Luna said with a nod.

“I just had more time to learn how to navigate the silliness,” Celestia said with a small laugh. “There is a more important matter to consider.”

“What matter be that, sister?” Luna asked.

“We're obviously going, yes?” Celestia queried.

“Assuredly, sister. Blood he be not, yet he be family in our hearts. And Connie be most fine, she doth greatly please as...” Luna started, tripping over herself. “A... maid...”

“I know you brought her into your knightly order,” Celestia said, hiding a smile behind a hoof. “I'm sure she gets on well with you, Lime and Fleur.”

“She doth mix well 'mongst us. As Lime, she wast not born amongst the highborn yet she doth move with ease and grace,” Luna noted.

“That's good. But I digress. We're going. We need to decide on a wardrobe, and just how much notice we want. It's their night after all, but I think we should make it clear just how much approval we give to them,” Celestia said.

“I do have some fine dresses that serve to bring notice yet not overpower. I shall tire myself as ever I do. Doth that give answer to your query, sister?” Luna asked.

“Knowing your taste and usual outfits, it tells me what I need to know,” Celestia said with a nod. “I think this will be a success, even if it is completely ridiculous.”

- - -

The formal engagement party was set up in one of the gardens of Canterlot Palace, a small stage illuminated by large, powerful spotlights. Plush, embroidered cushions were set up in regular rows for the attendees, who all arrived in a steady stream.

The rich and noble ponies had been assigned seating, as indicated by the tickets they had to show. Cavalier Golden Stare and Miles Scutum Rosy Cranberry oversaw the security detail, which consisted entirely of Night Guards, given the timing of the occasion. Silver-barded unicons used their magical light to usher sharp-dressed ponies to their places.

Fancy Pants, resplendent in a pressed tuxedo was seated at a plum position in the front row. Beside him, and snuggled against his side, was his fiancee, Fleur. Their pillows were set slightly ahead and apart from those around them, giving them an air of extra prestige.

Two modest thrones were set up at the back of the while thing, and were occupied by Celestia and Luna. Celestia wore a tasteful and light gown that started white at her neck but slowly faded into seemingly undulating bands of soft pastel colors, like the aurorae of her mane and tail. Luna was more formally attired. She wore two layers, the under-layer a thick, terry-like red dress with many folds in the bell, which was closed at the chest by laced ribbons of dark wine red color. Over her upper body was a brocaded royal blue doublet with silver piping. She also carried a shield on her back, apropos of nothing.

“Shall we begin the proceedings, sister?” Celestia asked across to Luna.

“Aye, aye, we begin this farce...” Luna muttered. She then called forward with the Royal Canterlot Voice, “Commence ye the drama as hath been scribed!”

Prince Blueblood slowly stepped out onto the stage, to a polite smattering of stomping applause. He was as he ever way, in a white tuxedo dickey, his mane perfectly coiffured, a rose inn his lapel. He looked quite nervous, not the usual state for him. He almost seemed uncomfortable with the attention being paid to him.

Connie came onto the stage from the other side, in a creation that was distinctly not like her usual style, but which put across her Lunar affinity. The bottom layer was a royal blue satin dress, the bell reaching down to the floor. The second layer was a crushed black velvet, split down the front and not intended to close by itself, the secondary open bell reaching only half as low as the first bell. That second layer was secured by silver lacing at her neck and chest, and the third layer, a dark purple embroidered corselet, cinched securely around her lower chest and belly. Attached to the neck of her attire was a high collar that rose behind her head, the diaphanous material mostly black, but with silver threads running through it and silver stars woven into it to look like the night sky.

Fleur, Fancy and Celestia politely applauded Connie, the other guests not sure what to do. Luna did not settle for simple applause but slammed her hooves down and let out a raucous call. “Aye! Aye! 'Tis a grand sight! Truly she doth shew great and wond'rous glory in such tiring! Do ye see it not? Aye, it be invisible to ye that cheer not her raiment! Behold a countenance temperate and stern, in defiance of ye that hail her not! Cheer, ye miscreaunts! Cheer and ye desire our good graces!”

Great applause and calls of delight rang out from the audience, with an undertone of reluctance from the majority. Fancy and Celestia cheered sincerely, while Fleur whistled and whooped, calling up, “Very bold! Good show, Da- dear Connie! Good show!”

Blueblood looked almost stunned by Connie's appearance. The refined elegance of the archaic attire did not detract from the natural beauty she held. She was still very much herself, rabbit-ears to knob knees and every piece of perfection between.

“My word...” Blueblood whispered.

“Yeah, your words,” Connie hissed, sotto voce. “You've got a script. Let's get this idiocy over with and we can get to dinner.”

“Oh yes, yes, of course...” Blueblood said, quietly. He loudly cleared his throat and placed a hoof on his chest. “I suppose you are wondering why I asked to see you this day.”

Connie dipped her head, eyes rolling. “Yes. I wondered about that, oh grand Prince Blueblood.” She intoned her lines with stilted, mechanical disinterest.

Blueblood frowned, not in anger but in sadness. He could tell how much Connie hated it. He hated doing it to her. But he pressed on, with some passion. “I have a very important question which I must ask you.”

“And what question is that, grand Prince Blueblood?” Connie asked in her 'bad actress' voice.

“Well... I know that you love me, and with very good reason,” Blueblood said with a swell of his chest and a pretty-colt pose. He deflated a little when Connie shot him a withering glare. Too far. “Yes. Well, I also love you. Love you very deeply, and very powerfully. With all my heart and soul.”

Connie's look softened. She knew it was in the script. She also knew it was from the heart. “And I love you, with all the depth of my... commoner soul...” Connie fumbled over the line and snarled. “We love each other. We know this.”

Blueblood's self-loathing grew. It wasn't right. He was just doing his duty as a noble. But maybe it was easier for him to be so blithe because he got all the good lines and Connie's were self-deprecating. “Yes. We do. We love each other so very much, so deeply, truly and purely. Our souls join and our hearts become as one.”

Connie couldn't stop her smile, though she kept it small. “It's all true. These heights are strange to me, and I don't know how to move in this atmosphere. I don't understand what our love has moved you to,” she said, tapping her hoof impatiently.

“It has moved me to this!” Blueblood grandly posed, his magic taking out the engagement bracelet he had bought for Connie. “Connie, my love, commoner though you are...” He withered again under the hateful glare he got. “W-will you... marry me?”

“Marry you? This is so sudden, so unexpected. So improper,” Connie flatly stated, rolling her eyes. “You wish to marry me though I am... common?”

Blueblood's heart was a scuttled ship, sinking in his chest as he looked into Connie's angry face. Making her mad was depressing. He had promised he would make her happy. He really was bad as a coltfriend. “Y-yes. I do. Please give me an answer. Will you?”

The audience held its breath as Connie swept her gaze from Blueblood to the observers. Most of them looked bored, knowing what was to come. A few looked a little too interested, as though wanting to see her efface herself. Fleur, Fancy and Celestia appeared rather distressed, all of them looking to the side. Luna, however, was looking straight at her. And she gave a small nod.

Connie nodded in return, head dropping slightly. “I... I am... I'm afraid I... oh forget this nonsense!”

The audience gasped, save for Luna, who sat up a bit higher in her throne.

“Wh-what is happening?” Blueblood asked.

“Look, this is dumb. I know it, you know it, the Princesses know it, but I'm the only one who will say it. You're too proper, and I like that about you but come on,” Connie said.

“But... but...” Blueblood stammered.

“You asked the first time. So I guess we're taking turns. So here...” Connie reached into her attire and pulled out a ring sized for Blueblood's horn. Like the one he had gotten for her it was a swirled mix of gold and silver, inset with precious gems. “I love you. I love you with all my heart. And you love me, we went through a lot of garbage to prove it. So... you were a whiny brat who turned into a decent stallion. We're a weird pair, but a pair. So, I said yes. How about you? Will you marry me?”

The nobles in the audience were shocked. Utterly scandalized by what they were witnessing. Traditions, defied. A commoner speaking down to a noble. She not only didn't refuse the proposal she offered her own. It was beyond the pale.

“Yes,” Blueblood said, clear and strong, with a goofy smile on his face. “Yes, Connie. If you'll have me, I'll marry you!”

“You're rough, but you'll do!” Connie cried, grabbing Blueblood up and planting a huge, powerful kiss on him. Her natural strength put her in command, his body following where she pushed.

“Huzzah! The romance hath been doubled!” Luna cried, flapping up from her throne to clap her hooves together. The applause was literally thunderous, sparks of lightning shooting from each clap of hooves.

“May you both be truly happy, and may this engagement proceed smoothly and beautifully to marriage,” Celestia said, rising grandly and sedately in contrast to her bombastic sister.

Fancy and Fleur took up the cause, stomping their hooves and calling up to the stage. “What a turn of events! So passionate and unique! Outstanding!”

“Applaud ye scraping pickthanks! Slugabed dullards! Applaud this happening or shall ye face our wrath!” Luna cried to the dumbfounded audience.

With no other choice, and the princess' threat hanging over their heads, the outraged and scandalized nobles began to applaud, and cheer the happy couple.

The kiss finally broke, and the pair looked out over the sea of faces. A lot of pique, and a few genuine looks of happiness.

“You know what this means now, don't you?” Blueblood asked.

“We're getting married?” Connie queried.

“We're having a noble wedding. A structured, formal engagement is only the beginning,” Blueblood said, with a hint of mirth. “Remember Princess Cadance?”

Connie looked stunned for a moment, before shoving Blueblood, her natural strength sending him staggering. “What did you get me into?”

The Irresistible Force and the Immovable Object

View Online

“Hie ye to us, our august Voivodes! E'en though this be not Umbratara it doth matter but a midge's weight 'gainst a hundredweight!” Princess Luna cried in the Royal Canterlot Voice. “As 'twas in ages past before our peace the Voivodeship wast in hooves of they that led the militia.”

The Princess was in a dark room, her shouts rattling the walls and rumbling the floor, yet her mighty voice was not really disturbing the ancient palace of Canterlot in the slightest. She stood by a table containing a map of Canterlot's many terraces, with molded pony figures standing in wait like an army in readiness. She was planning some operation of great size.

At Luna's call a small collection of figures rushed up to the table and regarded the map. Their faces and forms were hidden by the shadows of the room and the dark cloaks they were wearing. Whispers passed between several of them, while hooves or talons or fingers pointed at some part of the map, barely visible in what low light filtered into the room.

“Aye, aye, ye lot. Consult ye this chart of the city. Know ye the terraces intimately, know ye each trot 'twixt monger and palace. Let not one step be wasted, let naught pass thine eyes one chance that ye may save time, for naught be more precious in operation such as this,” Luna shouted, washing the collection of figures in force.

“Your majesty, a word? If it would be appropriate,” said one voice, the tone easily noted as being Lime Sherbert.

“Aye, 'tis ever appropriate, my maid,” Luna said, approaching Lime and drawing her aside with a grand sweep. “As thou beest mine able left hoof in thy daily work, mine eyes, ears and voice within the palace and near environs, keeper of the many schedules and needed items, of course in this endeavor thou art knyaz over these voivodes.”

Lime nodded slowly, looking over her shoulder at the group, which was still conversing in low tones. “It is my pride and honor to be your left hoof and local presence. That sounds strange to most but, you have two forehooves and your right one is the strong bringer of justice. And more, of course.”

Luna laughed and gave Lime a friendly rub over her green mane. “Aye aye, but let that pass. Our intelligencer be but the shadow of Celestia's Cult-Finder General, sans most color of law, save what little he may claim. He be my strong right hoof, mine eyes, ears and voice in the world.”

“Of course, your majesty. I am your sharp eyes everywhere in the palace but your bedroom in the morning,” Lime said with a laugh. “But to the point, you majesty... this gathering...”

“'Tis a grand assemblage, is't not?” Luna asked, sweeping a hoof to indicate the figures. “'Neath mine hoof, and at thy direction, this circle of voivodes shall muster forces, march from this palace and storm the city, that our design shall be so!”

“I can appreciate the efficiency and effectiveness of military planning. I'm married to a guard, I know all about it,” Lime said, shuffling nervously on her hooves. “But the thing is... this isn't military planning. It's wedding planning.”

“How now? Be there gulf 'twixt the two? Nay, and both be seen as contest 'tween great forces. In battle do two warring states face one another. In plotting nuptials doth the architect of the artifice contest 'gainst th' fond and idle expectations of the guests. They come as an army and must leave in awful appreciation of how amusing and artificial the creation wast.”

Lime looked even more nervous, tapping a hoof on the floor. “It is... a noble endeavor, your majesty, most noble and wonderful. But your majesty, shouldn't Connie be involved in her own wedding?”

Luna laughed, loud and hearty, shaking the room and making the wedding planners stagger a bit. “Oh my dear maid Lime... hast though taken leave of thy senses? To think I would place 'pon mine impending grand-niece this great onus, this burden of unfathomable tedium and unpleasantness! 'Tis surely not for her that she should be crushed 'neath this weight.”

“To be fair, your majesty, it is her wedding after all,” Lime noted. “For example, Princess Cadance was involved in her wedding. True, it was Chrysalis but she participated.”

“'Tis so that Cadance had input upon certain matters but all operations had an army of helpers behind each aspect. She had not the burden of endless, picayune decisions and trivialities. Assistants had she aplenty, but not so organized as such thou seest here,” Luna said, again indicating the robed wedding planners.

“I do see how this could be very good, very useful and all of that. But I really think you should have at least asked,” Lime said.

“Nay, my maid, nay,” Luna said, waving a hoof. “Omnia bene. She shall luxuriate in peace and calm, all the long while these great minds, with their armies of assistants, shall have all the troubles and be well recompensed for their great effort.”

“So... would it be wrong of me to have told Connie that we were having this little tete-a-tete with the wedding planning staff, including time and location?” Lime asked, looking just a little sheepish.

Luna just looked at Lime, surprised. “Did I not swear thee to silence? Hast thou betrayed me?”

“It's Connie's wedding. Besides, we're Dames, and we shouldn't have secrets from one another, especially not secrets of this magnitude and type,” Lime explained.

Luna sighed softly, hanging her head a bit. “Aye... in some sense though speakest good sooth, but thou hast not seen the full panorama. There ought be no secrets 'twixt thee, yes. Neither Connie nor Fleur nor, indeed, me. Yet also I spake well. I did wish Connie lie at ease as her wedding wast designed to grand perfection.”

“I'm sure she would really appreciate the effort on her behalf, but Connie always seemed like the hooves-on, ovarian sort of jenny,” Lime said. “She doesn't run away from huge problems, she solves them. Look at what she did with the mess that was Prince Blueblood. She clearly works miracles.”

Luna shook her head while chuckling softly. “'Tis true, she doth work wonders with hard head and firm conviction. From simpering embarrassment to noble stallion, she hath molded my grand-nephew in a manner most meet. She doth do wonders but she doth deserve her rest. The task, after all, was great.”

“That's the truth...” Lime muttered. “Still, you majesty, she must have some input on this. Will you be willing to listen to her concerns no matter what she says?”

“But of course! I be but thinking of her comfort, not her disadvantage. And she have need or want, it shall be done, as said when said. She be recipient of this effort,” Luna said.

“You are ever gracious and understanding, your majesty,” Lime said with a smile.

“Thy words be sweetmeats to mine ears and warmth to mine heart, fair Lime. Thou hast great capacity for knowing thine hearer,” Luna said, patting Lime's mane. She then stopped to consider something. “Didst thou relate that Connie did know of this convocation?”

“Oh yes. I mentioned it to her while we were chatting as she washed dishes. She still does it, only now she makes Blueblood watch. Presumably he'll do them someday, if only once,” Lime said, looking thoughtful.

“How curious...” Lune said, shifting a glance to the door. “As thou sayst, mine impending grand-niece be much in possession of ovarian fortitude and great will. Surely she would be-”

“Now just hold on one minute!” With a shout, Connie burst into the room, startling the wedding planners and letting a great deal of light into the room from the open door.

“Connie! You're here. That's not a surprise. But you're a little late, and that kind of is,” Lime said, sliding between Connie and Luna.

Connie's indignant face twisted slightly with a shade of petulance. “I got lost, alright?”

Lime blinked at the confession. “But you're a...”

“I'm a scullery maid!” Connie shouted. “I stayed in the kitchen and low areas. The only reason I ever came up to this level was for Blueblood and I only know the way to his room. This palace is gigantic and the halls are intentionally confusing.”

Lime cleared her throat and tamped down a tiny laugh that had been developing. “But you're here now, and that's the important thing. We were honestly worried,” Lime said, looking to Luna. “So now that you're here I assume you have some input to share.”

“You bet I have some input for...” Connie's bold statement halted as she looked at the robed figures. “Who are all of these folks? I thought there were going to be one or two...”

Luna stomped a hoof loudly on the stone floor and shouted, “Voivodes of Matrimonial Design! Announce thyselves to she who shall be Princess!”

The figures announced themselves in an orderly fashion, as though they had practiced. It sounded like the knightly roll call of an old chivalric romance, which was appropriate given that Luna had convoked them. Mostly ponies, with a Diamond Dog and a griffin in the bunch. The Dog was some kind of mechanical expert, to tackle the audio and lighting, while the griffin was an animal trainer, to deal with the doves to be released on being married. The rest of them were pony specialists in some field, such as flowers, pastry, entrees, and even a master calligrapher and a paper maven, for invitations.

Connie stared, nonplussed. “You hired... a paper maven? I didn't even know there was such a thing.”

“I assure you, I am most important,” the mare said. She was a bright white unicorn of somewhat advanced age. “The right paper stock sets the right tone of every possible sort of archival treasure or personal correspondence.”

“And then the content!” The calligrapher interjected. He was a similarly old unicorn, his coat a reddish black color. “The flow and twist of the letters, the way the ink sits on the page. The viscosity of the ink, the change of thickness from the twist of the pen, and how the dried ink sits, pushed into a divot or raised just slightly to give a tactile experience.”

“I'm not disrespecting the specialty,” Connie said, holding up a hoof. “Just surprised there is such a thing.”

“Aye, my grand-niece to be, there be such and many more as thou hast thus seen. They have much to recommend them, as each be only finest that may be found in each of their divers tasks, while each, like mistress or master of a guild, do employ only finest journeymare workers and all manner of 'prentices to finish,” Luna said, with some pride.

“So... these are the ones that will make my wedding happen?” Connie asked, looking at the vast collection of experts, each one looking proud and confident.

“They are the best. I should know, I checked all the references before her majesty picked them,” Lime said.

“They'll do it, and not me?” Connie queried, furrowing her bow slightly.

“By all means, shalt thou have much control. Shall I step aside and unto thine hoof pass position as Czarina, Lime as thy knyaz o'er these voivodes and their divers labor-militiaponies,” Luna said, standing beside Connie and giving a proud look to the gathering.

Connie tried to muster up indignation but had no luck. She could see how much Luna cared for her and her wedding. “Your majesty...”

“Nay, nay my soon-to-be grand-niece,” Princess Luna interrupted, shaking her head. “Shalt thou not call me such. Blood we be not, but thou art family to be. As does thy betrothed, call me great-auntie, in such affection as doth he.”

“A-alright yo- great-auntie,” Connie said, with some hesitation. “I can see just how much you care about me, and the success of my wedding...”

“Shall it be the grand success of the season!” Luna shouted joyously. “Beyond the Gala, or any other fête in the Principality. Shall all be envious should they not have the pleasure of attendance, and all that do shall speak in awful tones and hushed whispers that their eyes were blessed to behold such grandeur and majesty!”

“That's what I thought,” Connie said with a sigh. “I wanted to hold on to my usual donkey indignation but you're just so wonderful and earnest...”

“How now? What doth ail thee, my grand-niece?” Luna asked, placing a fetlock against Connie's forehead. “Hast thou taken on ill vapors, or what term the learned physicians have concocted?”

“I'm not sick. I can just see you're excited and, that makes me happy. I didn't think ponies would get excited about me and things I had going on,” Connie said.

“I can sense there's a 'but' coming up up. You were upset, now you seem both sad and disappointed. Your emotions are all over the place,” Lime noted.

“I'm used to obnoxious jerks, so I've gotten used to having that kind of response to folks fiddling with my life,” Connie said softly. “I'm really good at being a hard-headed type. Or just looking really meek, like when I was working here. I was a little down on myself then. Blueblood's attention sort of awakened the old me.”

“And 'tis a fine 'thee' that has been 'wakened by my grand-nephew,” Luna noted. “Thou hast much to speak of thee. But why dost thou regard this gathering with spleen and melancholy?”

Connie stepped slightly away from Luna, eyes cast to the ground. “When Lime first told me about this, I thought it would be a small collection of folks pontificating about my wedding, just generalists drawing up a plan based on fashion and trends. But these are professions with an army of assistants. You want perfection, and wonder, and to make the folks of Canterlot remember it. That's admirable. Frankly, I think my objection is a little petty now.”

“Object thee in any form thou wishest, for thou hast that power and shall ne'er be forced to yield such personal force,” Luna softly said, coming around to Connie's side again. “Come now, my grand-niece. Be so grand and speakest thou thy mind.”

“I used to dream about what my wedding would be like,” Connie said, with a smile playing on her lips. “I grew up like Lime, but not in a terrace. I was from a mountain community. So I thought about a little wedding by the waterfall base, or under a big tree, with some jenny or jack who could see past my giant ears. Maybe, maybe sometimes I thought about a mare or stallion now and again. Just a normal fantasy of a nice, little wedding.”

“Admittedly, I used to think about a small wedding too,” Lime confessed. “Just an office wedding. Then I married Dark and I got my nice, important military wedding, at the garrison attached to the palace. Quite a thing for a low-terrace mare.”

“When I came up here, to the palace, I considered being married in a nice office, or even somewhere pretty in Canterlot like one of the gardens of the middle terraces, or the historical district,” Connie said. “But it was always going to be small. And it was always going to be... mine.”

“Thine own...” Luna said, suddenly understanding. “At thy command, shaped and chipped, flake on flake, like a sculptor creating a marble masterpiece. Aye, by thy will formed and molded into a contour to be fired into precise shape. Well do I remember it, though 'twas long ago, and I and sister were still 'we' as Order. But remember I also when we were cleaved from one another, and shaped I the wonders of Umbratara and mine august capitol. There be grand pleasure, inestimable delight, in shaping beneath one's hoof, whether 'tis sky, soil and sea, a nation, or plans for some glorious doing. How could I do such an injury to one I will call family? To steal from thee, mine soon-to-be grand-niece, that joy, all for sake of show and ego. Mine own, and not thine.”

“You had good intentions, and I can respect that. I even like it. I like that you care, and really want to stick it to those rich snobs that thought I was gonna debase myself for tradition's sake,” Connie said, a grin crossing her features. “I don't fault you, but I really wanted to do this myself, my way. Without the army of experts. I don't mind input but I'm the one getting Blueblood down the aisle.”

“Thou art cause for this, 'tis true,” Luna said, nodding sagely. She turned to the collection of experts and motioned to the door. “We do humbly beg thine indulgence for this theft of thy time. 'Twas not our intent we be cutpurse to thy businesses.”

“Please see the palace accountant and submit a written bill for your time,” Lime said, shuffling out the grumbling collection of folks. “And please realize that there will be an audit, so don't try to get more out than your standard consultation fee. We can check those things, and do. And don't grumble so loud. Connie may still want to hire one or two of you for the detail work. So keep your hopes up.”

“Sorry to have ruined your plans, but I really have wanted to arrange my own wedding all my life. You only get married once, generally. So this is my one chance to do it exactly how I want,” Connie said, looking up at Luna with her ears hanging down apologetically.

“'Tis of little matter,” Luna said, grandly. “Thou wast well in thy rights. Thou hast liberty to chose how thou shalt present thy nuptials to the Principality. I only ask that thou hast mind to awe. As is said, living well be best revenge.”

“I'm a donkey. Hardy and strong. And that stereotype about us being the cultural equivalent of boiled roasted grain isn't offensively wrong but only slightly broad,” Connie confessed.

“I know you, Connie, and I know all that is true... though the fact that you can put up with Fireclay's stories tells me you're not innocent or very bland,” Lime said with a smile.

Connie chuckled softly, strolling over to the map of Canterlot, noting that a few places had been marked, all on the upper terraces. “But all of this is very pricey stuff. Certainly not what I would get for myself.”

“Aye, mayhap I did intend overmuch,” Luna said, looking over the map herself. “Gilding the lily, as is said, and who may eat golden lilies? A royal wedding be royal, but be a wedding. Thy wedding, thy will.”

“I know what I want,” Connie noted, “But not what I'll need. I know what a little wedding will entail, how much food, how many invites and I know who I'll invite. But I'm sure the guest list will be a bit bigger for Blueblood's sake.”

“They be not his blood relations... save those two we may not bar,” Luna said, with a growing look of distaste. “But let that pass! We must needs bring they of the nobility, they that have warrant to pass through to such a gathering, they to whom we owe some desert, they to whom we give praise. Neither kith nor kin, but by necessity.”

“Oh there are those we actually like. If that's alright, Dame Connie,” Lime said. “Dame Fleur, of course, and her plus-one betrothed, Fancy. Platinum Shine and her groom-to-be as well. There won't be much time for glad-hoofing but it'll be a nice gesture.”

“I know exactly what I want, but just can't wrangle the scope of it. I doubt my cake choice would be enough,” Connie said, stroking her chin.

“Now, when you said boiled roasted grain..?” Lime started.

“I like regular cake,” Connie said, with a roll of her eyes. “Chocolate, actually. And buttercream frosting. Not ganache, not fondant, not royal icing. And actual cake, not chocolate-flavored marzipan.” She noticed that Luna and Lime were looking at her in some confusion, and a blush sprang up over the bridge of her snout. “I work in the kitchen. There are a lot of desserts and I get first dibs on the leftovers.”

Lime chuckled politely behind a hoof and cleared her throat. “Fair enough. I just hope you know there's more to it than cakes and dresses.”

Connie thumped her chest in a good imitation of a guard salute. “Hardy donkey practicality. I understand folks need things to eat, desserts to munch, something to drink, entertainment, and then the decorations for it all. I can do it all with a practical eye.”

“I hope it doesn't end up looking like a Stalliongrad wedding. Nothing against the Stalliongradi folk, but talk about boiled roasted grain...” Lime said with a shake of her head. “Still, you are going to make it look nice.”

“As nice as I can make it,” Connie said. She gave that thought a moment of consideration and gave a sheepish look to Lime and Luna. “So, while I don't need all of those folks back...”

“Dread naught, my soon-to-be grand-niece. As thou sayest, so shall it be when thou choosest what form shall thy nuptials take. Thy wedding, thy will,” Luna said.

Lime passed off a thick-looking scroll and smiled. “A small office or outdoor wedding is one thing. A royal wedding is this. These are all the things that have to be there. Now you choose what they all look like specifically, but this is the stuff that you need to have.”

Connie opened the scroll and goggled as it hit the ground and rolled a short distance. “Well... I guess I asked for it...”