Conquering is Easy, Being Conquered is Hard

by ChibiRenamon

First published

Rarity has conquered Equestria, but she is unsure how to deal with a cult led by Fluttershy and the cult's second-in-command, Twilight Sparkle, who seems to have plans of her own...

Rarity's quest for love led her from Tartarus to Canterlot. Now, wielding powers beyond comprehension, she rules over Equestria.

Now, if only she could understand how Fluttershy's little cult had gained thousands of members virtually overnight, or why the cult's second-in-command, Twilight Sparkle, always seems to be one step ahead of her...

Some RariTwi written for the December Crackship Contest. My prompt was "Heartless Dictator Rarity + Cult Meeting + Star Student Twilight" (and since she appears on the "Cult Meeting" card, I decided to also use "Cult Leader Fluttershy")

Cover art done by the amazing Earthsong9405 (Tumblr, DeviantArt). Given how her AUs (via Monochromatic's "The Sphinx's Riddle" and "The Princess's Choice") have warmed me up to RariTwi, I found it rather fitting to commission her to do the coverart for this RariTwi AU.

Sex tag might be overly cautious, but I prefer that over being banhammered. :twilightoops: Nothing explicit, no smut here, it's just being mentioned/discussed, and Rarity has some short fantasies that she is quick to shove aside.

The Children of Ugolhotll

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It was barely noon and Rarity was already in the mood for indiscriminate murder. How did Celestia do this? she asked herself as she glanced at the commission report. She wasn’t even sure which commission report it was, she just knew that she had already reviewed eight reports just like this one today. Still, you can’t have ponies executed just because you had a bad day. Well, okay, you can, but you shouldn’t. Your approval rating is already fairly low. She allowed herself a light smirk. Almost as if I seized the throne by force and put the rulers of the land in stasis. “But that’s totally not what happened, right?” she asked Celestia.

Princess Celestia didn’t answer. To be fair, it would have been a shock if she had answered, given that she was perfectly immobile. The frozen Celestia was giving her a scolding look, having successfully denied Rarity the pleasure of witnessing a scream or any other sign of agony. Still, Rarity got the last laugh: Celestia was now wearing a rather gaudy hat. It was plaid and made her look stupid. So there.

“You have to unfreeze her before asking your question,” Kibitz reminded her drily, and Rarity let out an exasperated gasp.

“I know that,” she muttered. “I was monologuing.”

“Very good, then.”

I should’ve just forced that old geezer to retire, Rarity thought and rolled her eyes. Then again, ruling over Equestria without him would be an even bigger nightmare. Who’d have thought that being the ruler of the land would be so much work? Running Carousel Boutique was so much easier. Fewer pleas by townsponies. Fewer commission reports.

The main door of her throne room suddenly burst open, and a single pony rushed in, performing a diving somersault to avoid any potential attacks by her guards. “DIE, DICTATOR!” he screamed and raised one hoof at her, causing the crossbow attached to it to release an arrow.

Fewer ponies trying to murder me. Rarity grimaced even as she tapped into a tiny fraction of her godlike powers to stop the arrow inches from her face. By now, the guards were forcing her would-be assassin onto the floor. Of course, it would have been more useful to have somepony stop the arrow, but they get points for enthusiasm at least. “Please, gentlecolts, give our guest some room to breathe,” she said loudly and made her way over to the struggling group, letting the arrow float next to her. I should have worn the red dress for this, she scolded herself. Her light blue gown didn’t exactly scream torture and violence, but she loved it because it matched her eyeshadow in just the right way. Oh well, less violence and more cold ruthlessness, then. The guards dragged the young stallion to his feet. Rarity quickly searched her memory, but came up empty. Nopony I ever met. Maybe hired help from outside? Or somepony from the suburbs? She reached out with her magic, wrapping the stallion in a blue aura. “Hello, darling,” she said and gave him a fake smile.


The stallion tried to open his mouth again, but her magic grip had become far too tight. “Okay, first of all, I am not Dictator Rarity. I am Queen Empress Rarity, and I would appreciate it if you called me that.” When the assassin gave her an incredulous look, she shrugged lightly. “It tested better with the focus groups,” she admitted. “Also, I do not appreciate ponies just bursting through my doors. I know it would be too much to ask you to make an appointment, but could you at least knock first?” She allowed him to consider her words while she gave the arrow a closer look. The tip had been coated in some sort of sticky liquid, and she nodded in approval. “Poison? Good, very thorough. Probably one that works quickly so that I’d be dead by the time my medical staff arrives.” She gave it another look. “This was expensive, wasn’t it? Finding and buying poison guaranteed to kill a pony in less than a minute or two can’t have been easy. And whoever had the funds and connections to buy it probably wasn’t dumb enough to carry out the deed personally.” She waved the arrow in front of his face and released her grip on his mouth. “Who sent you?”

“Go to Tartarus, you monster,” the assassin hissed. He also would have spat in her face, had she not clamped his muzzle shut again.

“I already did,” she told him and tapped the ruby attached to an intricate gold chain around her neck. “Where else would one find a Dominator Amulet?”

“Pah, I know about it,” the assassin sneered after she released his mouth again. “I know how it works. So now you’re going to be lazy and make a copy of it in order to enslave me and command me to talk?”

Her laughter caught him off guard. It wasn’t the cackling laugh of a megalomaniac dictator - which she wasn’t, of course - but rather the light-hearted laughter one would expect from a young noblemare. “Oh, goodness no! What makes you think I would do that?” Her smile turned into a cruel smirk. “Why would I waste my precious artifact on a worthless minion like you?” She held up a hoof, and the Captain of her Royal Guard approached. “Interrogation and torture may not work quite as quickly, but I’m not in a hurry to find out who sent you, so I can afford to be old-fashioned.” She turned to face her guard. “Shining Armor, I’ll leave him to you. Find out who sent him, then cut him into pieces and use them to spell out his boss’s name in the courtyard.”

The brief flash of revulsion on Shining Armor’s face reminded Rarity that he used to be Princess Celestia’s loyal guard. He’s a security risk. I should have jailed him. Or enslaved him. Should have brainwashed and turned him into a frantic pet. She licked her lips at the mental image. A guy like that could keep a girl like you busy for hours every night. But as usual, she banished the thought. No, no, no. You’re not going to do that. Shining Armor is technically loyal and useful to you with his mental faculties intact, even if he is just serving you so he can occasionally talk you out of leveling whatever neighboring country slighted you.

“Also, the amulet would clash badly with my mane color,” Shining Armor added.

“Yes, that, too,” Rarity admitted before blinking. “How-”

“You had that look again.” Her Captain was looking far too amused by her confusion. “You know. The one where you consider mind-controlling and then commanding me to boink you so hard that you forget Germaneigh is a country.”

“You’re lucky you’re useful.” She tried to project an aura of cold professionalism. “Speaking of which, why is this idiot not talking or dismembered yet?”

“Because I already know who sent him,” Shining Armor replied calmly, causing both Rarity and the assassin to give him looks of disbelief. The guard just shrugged. “He called you unworthy, and while your critics have found numerous ways to describe you, only one of them ever called you unworthy.”

Rarity narrowed her eyes and gave the assassin a glare. “Blueblood.” When the assassin merely lowered his eyes in defeat, she smirked. “Well, that saved us a lot of time. Any final words?” She held up the arrow for him to see. Poisoning somepony wasn’t quite as visually impressive as turning him into courtyard decoration, but why let a perfectly good arrow go to waste?

“Actually,” Shining Armor interrupted her in mid-stab by conjuring a shield between the arrow and its victim, “let’s keep him alive.”

It took a lot of willpower, but Rarity managed not to lash out at her guard. “You want to keep a guy alive who wanted to murder me?” She sighed. “Fine, I’ll give you a chance to state your reasoning, but if I don’t like your explanation, you’ll spend the foreseeable future chained to my bed post.”

Shining Armor pretended not to consider whether that was a threat or an invitation. “If we kill him, Blueblood will know he has given us a name. But if we keep him alive, he won’t be sure what else he may give us.”

Her eyes widened. “You want to make him nervous? Maybe in the hopes of luring him out, or to have him make a mistake? Yes... that might work...” She licked her lips. Blueblood was the reason why Rarity had taken over Equestria in the first place, and then he had had the audacity to flee into exile before she could exact her revenge on him. He called me unworthy of his attention! I came to him with nothing but unconditional love, and he laughed at me! Shot me down without even giving me another look! But then, when I obtained the power to prove myself worthy, when I proved I could take on Princess Celestia herself, when I was ready to be loved back, he RAN AWAY.

“Are you fantasizing again about what you will do to him?” Shining Armor asked after several seconds of silence.

“Not yet,” she snapped. “I was still in the flashback part.”

“Oh. Apologies.” He was smiling. Rarity tried to hate him for it.

“Never mind, darling. The moment’s passed.” She waved her hoof. “Drag him into a cell. Solitary. Yadda yadda, you know the drill.”

“Your wish is my command,” Shining Armor bowed dramatically and grabbed him with his own magic before making his exit, all the while ignoring the assassin’s accusations of him being a traitor.

Rarity allowed herself a smirk. “Well, that was amusing.” She incinerated the arrow with a thought before giving Kibitz a look. “Do we have anything left on our agenda?”

Much to his credit, her majordomo didn’t seem terribly bothered by the narrowly avoided regicide. The elderly unicorn had probably seen a lot of craziness in his time here. “Just a request by the Children of Ugolhotll to be officially recognized as a church.”

Rarity frowned. “Why does the name sound so familiar?”

Kibitz adjusted his glasses. “It’s young Miss Fluttershy’s cult.”

“Oh!” She sat upright. “Of course! Her little pet project to resurrect the entity she just calls Huggoth!” Talk about taking liberties in transcribing ancient runes.

“Indeed, that one.” He held up a form for her. “They are requesting to be recog-”

“Yes, yes, I heard you the first time...” She thought about it. “Hold on, is their request actually valid? I admit that I’m not familiar with the laws regarding how one establishes a church, but I doubt that anypony can just come up with one and have it officially recognized.”

Kibitz chuckled. “It used to be like that, actually! Ah, the good old times, when Princess Celestia tried to encourage spirituality and diversity of belief. She used to give just about anypony who filled out the forms her permission to call themselves priest of whatever church they had thought of. Of course, she quickly realized that most ponies just came up with their own churches to save on taxes, so she put a few rules in place. Nowadays, you must have at least fifty followers in your cult or church or whatever you want to call it. Once you got those, though, you can apply.”

Rarity tilted her head. “And Fluttershy’s little cult managed to get fifty ponies to sign up? Really?”

There was a pause as Kibitz pretended to consult his papers, and Rarity braced herself for the worst. “The Children of Ugolhotll currently have three thousand registered members, give or ta-”

“Three thousand members?” She did a double take. “THREE THOUSAND?”

“Give or take a few dozen, yes.”

The Queen Empress leaned back and cursed quietly. “But... how? There aren’t that many ponies in Ponyville...”


She gritted her teeth. “Don’t tell me she took her Elder God mumbo jumbo to the neighboring villages.”

“Miss Fluttershy set up her new base of operations here in Canterlot a few weeks ago, according to the documents she sent us.”

Rarity’s jaw dropped. “Fluttershy is here in Canterlot?” And she hasn’t even visited me? She knew that she had alienated her friends when she had gone on her little crusade to prove her worth to Blueblood, but that didn’t stop her from feeling mildly insulted. “So she is recruiting my citizens now?”

“You are the ruler over all of Equestria, so she has been recruiting your citizens since day one,” Kibitz reminded her, and she just waved her hoof impatiently.

“I still don’t understand it. This isn’t some established belief system that has been around for years. She only started her little cult weeks after my coronation.”

“Yes, it’s only a few months old. It appears that they have been recruiting in a more aggressive manner since moving here.”

“This is insanity,” Rarity whispered. “My friend is trying to summon an Elder God less than a mile away from the palace, and I only learn about this when they apply for-” She froze. “Wait, why are they even applying for this status? Are they forced to do so after reaching a certain size? Because if she succeeds, then tax benefits will be the least of Fluttershy’s worries.” Or mine.

For once, Kibitz was looking puzzled. “As a matter of fact... no, they don’t have to apply for anything. According to the laws, she could recruit everypony in Equestria without having to tell us.”

“So... just taxes and bragging rights, then?”

“I doubt one founds a church for bragging rights, Your Majesty.”

Rarity sighed. “You’re right. Especially not Fluttershy. Or at least not the Fluttershy I know. So why is she doing it? Why is she announcing her presence like-” She froze. “That’s it... she’s telling me she’s here.”

“Why would she want to tell you, though? From what I’ve heard, she is quite considerate, but isn’t her cause depending on you knowing as little as possible about it?”

“I don’t know.” She got up from her throne and started to pace until she was standing between two tall, frozen figures. “Do you have any ideas?” she asked Princess Celestia. She tended to ask Celestia out of reflex - the younger sister, the statue behind her, was also available, but she had only arrived in Canterlot a few months before Rarity had made her grand entrance.

“Again, you have to unfreeze-”


“Could you at least remove her hat? Last time somepony made her wear plaid, the cleaning staff had been busy for weeks.”

Relax, girl. Don’t toast him. Don’t give him the satisfaction. She took a deep breath. “Do we have anypony on the inside?”

“No, unfortunately.” Kibitz went through his papers. “We can probably get somepony in within a day, though. Miss Fluttershy was kind enough to fill in the address of her secret cult headquarter on the form.”

Rarity walked over to one of the windows overseeing Canterlot. “Talk to me,” she whispered, letting her head rest against the cool glass.

“The window is incapable of speech, and Miss Fluttershy probably can’t hear-” He stopped speaking to sidestep a chair Rarity had flung his way.

“Are you being contrary on purpose?” she snapped.


She blinked. “...yes?”

“Princess Celestia had a better sense of humor about it, I admit.” Kibitz sighed. “However, I know that with great power comes great potential for a disconnect from reality, so I make sure to establish the obvious in case my charge loses sight of things. Last time I failed to do so, Princess Celestia attempted to interrogate a sock for failing to address her properly.”

Rarity gave him a long look of disbelief. “Did you make this up?” she finally asked.

“Ha, I wish! Next time you think you have it rough, try to imagine arguing with somepony who insists that not only does her clothing communicate with her, but that it does so in a disrespectful way.”

“Wow, you are such a weirdo,” Rarity told the frozen princess with the gaudy hat before realizing the slight hypocrisy.

Kibitz opened his mouth.


“So, about infiltrating the cult,” he said after finally wiping the smirk off his face. “Should I send one of our agents?”

She glanced at the window again. Somewhere out there, her friend was preparing to summon an Elder God, and Rarity was not even quite sure why. “No,” she whispered. “I’ll do it myself.”

“Are we still talking about infiltration here?” Kibitz asked carefully after hesitating for a second. “Because as amusing as the results would be, it is my duty to remind you that Miss Fluttershy knows what you look like, and your Dominator Amulet is also somewhat conspicuous.”

“Duly noted, but worry not. I’ll look up a disguise spell to cast onto myself.”

“Such a spell usually does not cover any accessories, I think, so you would have to-”

“I won’t be wearing the Dominator Amulet.”

Neither pony spoke for several seconds as Kibitz considered the implications. “It’s a risk,” he finally said. “This is potentially hostile territory, and you want to go in alone and without your enhanced magic power?”

“I will be disguised.”

“It’s an enchantment, and enchantments can be dispelled.”

He’s right, this is madness, even by your standards. Breaking a spell is not too hard, if you can find a unicorn with a special talent for it or are simply willing to go through a few preparations in advance. If they are cautious, they might even hit any new member with one. And then what? You’ll be all alone, surrounded by possibly thousands of angry citizens, and with no way to defend yourself aside from your own magic. What are you going to do then? Sew them to death? She opened her mouth to agree. But... it’s Fluttershy. The kindest pony you know. Your friend... probably... Rarity thought back to the day she had shown Fluttershy what she had brought back from Tartarus. She had expected encouragement, but her friend had just been horrified. I pushed her away. I was right, but that doesn’t change what happened. “She deserves a chance to show me what she is up to without my armies breathing down her neck,” she finally decided.

“And what if her army starts breathing down yours?”

She turned to the door and motioned her guards to follow. “Then I probably deserve whatever I get,” she muttered.

It hadn’t taken her long to prepare. Two hours to look up a suitable disguise spell that altered her coat, mane, eye color and voice, another hour to select one of Princess Celestia’s numerous contingency personas, and then it was just a matter of lowering the sun, raising the moon and casting the spell.

Rarity nodded to herself. She was still a female unicorn, but her coat was now a vibrant turquoise, and her mane had straightened and changed to a warm red color. Finally, her cutie mark had turned into two outlined and interlinked hearts. “Hello, Limerence,” she whispered and blinked when she realized that her voice had turned into a seductive husk. “Perfect.”

She performed a quick gesture with her left hoof, causing a set of numbers to briefly flash up on it. Twelve hours until the disguise enchantment runs out of power. Good.

With her disguise set up, there was only one thing left to do. She reached behind her neck with her magic and opened the small clasp holding the Dominator Amulet. Then she took it off and reached for a specially prepared box on-

Rarity cried out when her entire godlike power was drained from her body in less than a second. For a moment, the only indicator that she still had any magic left was the fact that she was still holding the Dominator Amulet. No! NO! You weren’t this powerless before, were you? WERE YOU? She tried to reach out beyond the castle walls, but found that her magic barely even reached the door of her room. You can’t go ON like this you are NOTHING you are POWERLESS you are INSIGNIFICANT and HELPLESS and MORTAL and- She took a long, wheezing breath. Calm down, Rarity! Calm down! Just take a deep breath, put the amulet back on and- She stopped herself. No! The amulet stays off! You need to learn to live without its power. It’s just a few hours. She looked from the amulet to the box. It had been built to withstand more or less any magical or physical assault and would be locked by the specific signature of her magic. It’ll be safe. It’ll be waiting for you. No worries. But maybe put it back on for just a moment? Just a quick check to see that it’s still working? She hesitated. Nopony would know. Just a brief moment of weakness. Just a tiny admission that she had gotten addicted to this power. “No!” She stuffed the amulet into the box and sealed it. Strangely, the sound of bolts sliding into place made it easier for her to accept that it was out of reach.

She pushed the doors open - had they always been this heavy? - and marched past Shining Armor. It felt strange to meet him like this, when she had no direct power over him, but she knew that he’d stay loyal to her since the Dominator Amulet - now safely locked away - was the only thing that had the power to free the two alicorns in the throne room. “Ah, went with the Limerence ID?” he casually asked and sorted through a few files. “I would have guessed that you’d go with Elusive or-”

“Elusive was a stallion with my exact cutie mark and coat and mane colors,” she cut him off. “If I had gone with a gender-swapped Rarity, I might as well have announced my presence with fireworks and skywriting.”

“A fair point,” he admitted and chuckled. “Let’s get you briefed on Limerence’s background, then. I doubt you will be interrogated, but you still don’t want to hesitate when somepony asks you what you do for a living.”

“Well, make it quick. According to our sources, tonight’s meeting is bound to start soon.”

Rarity knocked on the door and tried not to think about how many lashes Shining Armor would receive for not telling her that Limerence would have to walk from a hidden exit of the castle to the meeting place. Not even a cart! I had to walk like a peasant! I mean, Limerence is one, but still! She took a deep breath and tried to smile when she heard somepony approaching the door.

“Yes?” came a gruff voice, and a small slit at eye level was opened from the inside. The pony on the other side gave her a look.

“I-” Rarity froze. Somehow, she had not thought about how to actually get into the secret cult. “I-...”


“I... seek guidance?”

“Tourist office is to your right, down the street.”

Rarity gritted her teeth, struggling to keep her smile in place. “I was thinking about something more... spiritual?”

“Church is about half a mile west from-” He jumped slightly when she slammed her front hooves against the door.

“I will see to it that you will be conscious while your flesh will be torn from your bones!” she hissed. “You will watch as I set fire to your muscles and grind your bones to dust. And only then will I show mercy and let you embrace death!”

He let her catch her breath. “Great, you’re in the spirit of things!” he finally cheered and opened the door for her. “Come in, sister!”

“Very good, thank you!” She nodded politely, as if nothing had happened. Okay, you got impossibly lucky there, but next time, just stick to the skywriting or simply wear a “Definitely not your Queen Empress out for blood” sign - that’d be more subtle.

“Just pick a robe from the box and tell me your name so I can tell the High Priestess that we got a new follower.” The bouncer - she could see now that he was a unicorn with a dull green coat, mauve mane and a cutie mark resembling a lamp of all things - picked up a clipboard and quill.

Rarity tried not to grimace when she looked at the dirty box filled with carelessly bundled up clothes. She gently lifted one out of the pile with her magic and noted that the maroon item was not even a proper robe, but just a cape with a hood attached. I pray that it has been washed at least once during the last few weeks... Still, complaining about fashion, clothing quality or cleanliness was something Rarity would do, and she wasn’t sure where other ponies would draw the line, so she decided to play it safe and put on the robe. But even as she fiddled with the clasp at her throat, she made a mental note to spend the rest of the night in a bath tub. “Limerence,” she finally replied and barely stopped herself from asking how the cult had managed to get robes that would make even the worst bargain bin clothes feel like fine silk. “It’s Limerence.”

“Neat, come along then.” He gestured her to follow and led her down a corridor.

While they were walking in silence, Rarity questioned the operational security of this cult. Really, they just let in anypony that can belt out a little rant? No questions, no background checks? I could have given this guy any name, and nopony would have ever known the difference! Oh, Fluttershy, you were always too trusting. You always tried to see the best in everypony, but what would you do if one of those ponies betrayed you?

The bouncer opened a large door and motioned her to walk past him. “Welcome to the Children of Ugolhotll, Limerence.”

Rarity looked through the door and barely held back a curse. Oh, right, she’d probably just ask her thousands of loyal followers to tear the traitor to shreds, she thought when she saw the large hall filled almost completely with robed ponies. This is an army. There is a resistance army gathering less than a mile from the castle, and we only learned about it because they sent us a polite form letter. She reached for her Dominator Amulet, only to remember that it was locked away in her room in the castle. Easy. Relax. Your disguise spell is going to last several hours. You’re perfectly safe. Nopony will know it’s really you. She glanced at the door frame. Well, unless the doorway somehow automatically dispels all enchantments. WHICH IT ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT DO BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE RIDICULOUS, HA HA HA.

“You going in?” the bouncer asked and gave her a strange look. “I gotta go back to the front door, and you still gotta meet the High Priestess.”

“Ha! Ha ha!” She gave him a nervous grin. “Of course!” Her hoof trembled as she forced it through the doorway and onto the floor on the other side. When her coat didn’t spontaneously change back to white, she let out a sigh of relief. “Awfully sorry, darling,” she purred, “just a slight... ah... door phobia.”

He frowned and glanced over his shoulder, where she had previously moved through a door with no apparent trouble. Then his frown deepened. “...darling?”

Rarity’s nervous grin froze. I did not just call him that, did I? While her duties as Queen Empress admittedly gave her fewer chances to use the word nowadays, “darling” had still become her unofficial trademark. Why did I even bother with the disguise? She could practically see the gears starting to turn in his head. Okay, you can still save this, even if it means channeling even more of your old habits. “Oh, darling, relax!” She winked seductively and used her magic to lift her robe, revealing her magically altered cutie mark (and her perfectly round flank, no magic enhancements necessary). “Everypony is my darling. After all, my special talent is-”

“I don’t care about your talent or cutie mark, missy,” he dismissed her attempt at lying. “I’m married, so go call somepony else ‘darling,’ okay?”

Ah. “Ah.” She giggled sheepishly, her act and real persona acting in perfect sync for once. “My bad! Let’s get going then. My kindest regards to Mrs. Doorstop! And hail Ugolhotll!”

“My name isn’t-”

“Of course it’s not, darling!” Rarity cut off his protest and hurried inside.

He huffed and motioned her to follow again. “Let’s just get this over with,” he muttered, and she let out a quiet sigh when he had his back turned to her.

Mr. Totally-Not-Doorstop led her through the sea of ponies with practiced ease. Everypony was very polite, stepping aside without being asked to, and Rarity briefly forgot that this was an evil cult with the goal to summon a horror from beyond the realms of sanity. Finally, they reached a small group of ponies wearing robes of better quality. “High Priestess, I bring you a new follower!” he announced and bowed slightly.

The pony in front slowly turned to her before lifting her hood. “Oh, how wonderful!” Fluttershy, High Priestess of the Children of Ugolhotll, exclaimed with a happy smile.

Rarity resisted the urge to pull her old friend into a tight hug and to tell her that everything would be okay. For one, Limerence had never met this pony, so she would have had to make up something about being overtly affectionate again. And more importantly, it would have been a lie. For this was not the Fluttershy she had known in Ponyville, just like she was not the Rarity from that time anymore. As she had learned after the fact, Fluttershy had left Ponyville shortly after the coronation and ventured deeper into the Everfree Forest than anypony had ever done. Weeks later, long after Ponyville had declared her dead, she had returned, perfectly at peace again and telling everypony that she had found god. Unfortunately, nopony had had the common sense to ask which god.

“High Priestess,” Rarity whispered and bowed deeply, her nose almost touching the dirty floor, “I humbly submit to your leadership and pledge allegiance to Ugolhotll!”

“Oh! Ah, please get up...” Fluttershy giggled sheepishly, and for a moment, Rarity wanted to believe that this was indeed her friend from the good old days. “Lord Huggoth does not care about displays of submission, He is happy with just your blood and immortal soul.”

“I... my... uh...” Rarity stood back up and tried not to make it too obvious that she was looking for the closest exit.

“Well, not right now, don’t worry.” Fluttershy laughed as if one of her cutesy animal companions had just done something silly. “The mass sacrifice will only be announced once we are ready. Lord Huggoth will be so pleased...”

The bouncer snickered when he saw Rarity’s shocked expression. “Well, you folks have fun, I gotta get back to the door.”

“Thank you, and peace be!” Fluttershy waved happily before focusing back on Rarity. “It is always a delight to meet new ponies! Are you from Canterlot? We have had quite a few new members since moving our temple here.”

Temple? It’s a community hall. Rarity wisely decided not to argue the point. “Indeed, I hail from Canterlot, and I have felt a certain... emptiness in my life ever since the tragic downfall of the two princesses.” She knew that she needed to play into Fluttershy’s expectations if she wanted to get more information. “It’s marvelous that you managed to get so many ponies to join you in such short time since leaving Ponyville!” Fluttershy’s eyes widened just a little bit, and Rarity knew that she had said too much. Nopony mentioned Ponyville or how long she has been here! This time, Rarity didn’t even bother to look for an exit - she was surrounded by hundreds of cult members, and she had little combat training and a spell selection focusing on handling needles and finding rare gems. Images of being tossed into some sort of sacrificial fire pit flashed before her eyes, and in a brief bout of insanity, she wondered if the disguise spell would still work on her charred corpse.

“I see you’ve read the backside of the flyer, too!” Fluttershy suddenly said, all traces of suspicion wiped from her face. “I knew it wasn’t a waste of money to print on both sides!”

“Ah-ha-ha-ha-yes!” Rarity nodded a little too eagerly, unable to contain her euphoria of somehow having gotten away again with a terribly botched lie. “Indeed, it was such a great read!”

Fluttershy nodded happily and turned to one of the robed ponies behind her. “See, I told you we should tell our story! You said it would be more cost-efficient to only print on one side, but look, our newest recruit appreciated our efforts!”

Like Fluttershy, this pony was wearing a fancier robe, and she also had a custom-made clasp holding it together. Rarity took a closer look at them and realized that the clasps were apparently small versions of their cutie marks: Fluttershy’s robe had a clasp with three butterflies, and this other pony had a clasp depicting a star surrounded by five smaller stars. The unicorn lifted her hood, revealing a mare with a lavender coat and a neatly cut dark blue mane with purple and reddish streaks. “Lord Ugolhotll truly is fortunate to have a wise High Priestess such as you,” she intoned with a faint smile and bowed lightly.

Fluttershy seemed to shrink a bit and fidgeted with her robe - Rarity allowed herself a smile when she realized that, High Priestess or not, there was still a bit of good old Fluttershy here. “Ah, um...” She coughed quietly and composed herself. “Limerence, I would like you to meet Twilight Sparkle. She is the one who convinced me to relocate the temple, and I credit her with boosting our membership growth. Twilight, meet Limerence, our newest member. She’s from Canterlot, just like you!”

“Pleased to meet you,” Twilight Sparkle said and smiled politely. “The High Priestess is being too kind - I am nothing but a faithful student under her.”

A student? Something about that sounded fishy, and Rarity made a mental note about it. “Pleasure is all mine, Miss Sparkle.”

“You can just call me Twilight if you like,” the supposed student said and smiled warmly.

“Thank you, Twilight. If it wasn’t for your efforts, I probably wouldn’t be here tonight.” Rarity bowed lightly.

“Indeed,” Twilight Sparkle simply said, her smile widening just a little bit as her eyes seemed to focus on the mare behind the disguise spell.

Rarity trembled and forced herself not to check if her disguise was still intact. Even without the elaborate introductions, Rarity would have had no doubt that this mare was the reason behind the cult’s growth rate - Twilight Sparkle was clearly blessed with intelligence, but there was something else about her that made Rarity nervous: a ruthless intensity that reminded Rarity of the day she had taken over Canterlot. She is playing her own game. This cult means nothing to her.

“High Priestess,” Twilight said without breaking eye contact, “I will show Limerence around.”

“Yes, please do give her a tour!” Fluttershy agreed, apparently not realizing that Twilight hadn’t been asking her for permission... or for her opinion.

She is dangerous. Fluttershy is being used, and she probably doesn’t even realize it. Rarity faked a smile and followed her, torn between making a break for it and finding out as much as she could. The big question is whether or not my cover has been blown. She frowned. Okay, it probably has been blown, so the big question probably is what she knows and what her plans are. Oh, and how I will get out alive.

Twilight led her through the great hall, pointing out little pieces of decor here and there, but Rarity wasn’t really listening. She did start paying attention when the cultist opened a side door, revealing a staircase that led to the basement. “Follow.”

Okay, this is the point where you leave and call in the guards. Or just go home, get the amulet and then use the power of the two deities you enslaved to level the building yourself. Rarity bit her lower lip. Twilight was already moving down the stairs; apparently, she was taking Rarity’s obedience for granted. Taking a deep breath, Rarity followed her lead.

The door closed behind her, and Rarity wasn’t sure if it was an automatic enchantment or if Twilight’s magic was able to reach across this distance. Torches illuminated their descent, and after about a minute, Rarity realized that they were still moving down in a straight line. This isn’t the basement of the meeting hall. It’s also not just the basement. We’re probably three floors below the ground by now. She nodded to herself. Even if my guards knew what to look for, they would have a hard time scanning this far down, not to mention that they’d have to scan pretty much the entire block. Then another thought occurred to her: If this is a trap, nopony will hear or sense your final struggle.

“This is my little workshop, so to speak,” Twilight Sparkle announced when they finally reached a room the size of a small Canterlot apartment.

Rarity nodded even while she took it all in. There were a table and a few book shelves in one corner. The books were looking arcane and obscure; Rarity likely would have needed outside help in determining what they were even about. Beyond that little corner, the room looked more like an evil lair than a library. Multiple blackboards filled with lists and illustrations had been arranged like a gallery to her left, and to her right was- “Um.”

“Oh!” Twilight laughed when she saw Rarity staring at the obsidian altar.

“Is this... is this for the mass sacrifice?” She tilted her head. The altar looked like a large table, except that it was a bit too tall. And except that it was made out of smooth stone. And except that there was a long chain with a heavy-looking steel cuff attached to each corner. And except for the smaller shackle attached to one end. Okay, let’s just forget that bit about the table.

Twilight thought about it. “Bit small for that, isn’t it? I mean, you can fit maybe two ponies on there if they sit... maybe three small ones...” She seemed to weigh her options before laughing at a joke only she knew about. “But no, it’s not for the mass sacrifice. It’s actually not related to Fluttershy’s whole Elder God business at all.”

Shouldn’t you at least pretend to take Fluttershy’s crazy cult seriously? Rarity refrained from asking the question out loud since she could feel a good villain monologue coming up and felt that it would be disrespectful to interrupt.

“You see, this thing is special,” Twilight immediately proved her right as she cozied up to it, placing her front hooves on its top. “I created the altar just for my special somepony.” She smiled and stroked it lovingly. “I’ll chain her up, and from there on, it’s hours of the most sensual torture imaginable. She’s going to love this. Might need a bit of a push, but so far, everything is going according to plan. I might even offer her to switch places for our anniversaries...”

Rarity blushed. Oh, wow... so she’s just having a bad case of mad love? Maybe she joined Fluttershy’s cult to be able to make the altar, or maybe she’s hoping to seduce one of the cultists? Maybe Mr. Doorstop? She frowned as she replayed Twilight’s words in her head, causing her blush to intensify. No, wait, she’s after a mare. Images of some helpless damsel chained up on this altar wormed their way into her head, and she couldn’t say that she disliked them. My, that’s one lucky mare she’s courting. I wonder who she is... She suddenly frowned. “...are you talking about chaining up Fluttershy?”

“Fluttershy!?” Twilight Sparkle’s eyes widened, and for a moment, Rarity felt ashamed for suggesting that the High Priestess and former friend was involved in some sort of depraved relationship with her student. But then, her usual smile returned. “Goodness, no! Our relationship is purely professional, based on our shared interest of making Equestria a better place. We worship together, but we don’t howl together.”

Rarity slowly tilted her head at that. “Ponies... don’t... howl...”

Twilight’s smile widened ever so slightly. “You clearly have not read ‘The Six Constellations of Enlightenment.’ Oh, the things it could teach you...”

“Are you talking about-...” Yes, she is. Her brain needed several attempts to resume working, but finally, it managed to parse the rest of Twilight’s words. “But wait! If you’re going to annihilate the entire pony race, then your whole anniversary idea falls through.” this really the most coherent argument you are making when faced with an obviously insane cultist?

For long seconds, said insane cultist appeared to be genuinely puzzled by the question. “We’re not going to annihilate anything...”

“But you just said that-” Her eyes widened when Twilight’s magic wrapped itself around her muzzle and clamped it shut, just like she had done earlier with the assassin. Where is that strength coming from? She tried to fight the grip briefly, but gave up quickly. She is strong! A far cry from what I can do with the Dominator Amulet, but this is impressive for a mere unicorn with no discernible power amplifier.

“I said that Fluttershy and I will make Equestria a better place.” Twilight moved away from the altar and towards Rarity, who had no choice but to stand still. “A place that embraces life and love, not death and suffering. And this cult is our best shot at achieving this goal, even if it means performing the mass sacrifice to get there. The altar is just a welcome bonus.” Finally, she released her grip and beamed. “Come on, let’s go back up! You probably have more questions, but we’re on a schedule, so we’ll have to handle those on the way.”

Completely, freaking insane. Total nutcase. “Sure, sure.” Rarity gave the altar a last look and felt a shiver run down her spine. She was more into soft and comfortable furniture, but a sick part of her wanted to touch it, to pull on the chains. What would it feel like to lie on it, chained up and helpless while Twilight’s powerful magic grips me and pins me down before she- She gasped and quickly banished the thought. Why am I fantasizing about the insane cultist? I should just get out of here, summon the guards and stop thinking about writhing on the altar as Twilight- “HA, ANYWAY!” She giggled at her own, insane outburst. Just ask her anything before she thinks you’re crazier than she is! Keep her talking and then run! “So... um... once you remade Equestria in your image or whatever... who will rule over it?” Oh, as if that’s even up for debate. It’s going to be her.

Twilight gave her a knowing smile over her shoulder. “Why, Queen Empress Rarity, of course.” When she noticed Rarity’s wide-eyed stare, she giggled. “What, you thought we were plotting some violent coup? Please... let’s keep it at one per century or so.” Again, her smile widened. “Fluttershy and I will only act as advisors.”

Okay, didn’t see that coming. Though that doesn’t make her any less crazy, over-ambitious... or so damn confident! “What, no advisor post for your special somepony?” Yes, that’s a good angle. Keep her talking. The door to the great hall was in sight.

“Why would the Queen Empress be her own advisor? That doesn’t even make sense...”

Rarity tripped and had to grab the railing to avoid hitting the concrete stairs face-first. “WHAT?”

Twilight frowned, but it was just an act. “Oh, did I forget to mention that?”

“You want to seduce-” Me? “-Queen Empress Rarity?” And then chain me to an altar and do terrible, forbidden things to me? The thought was roughly shoved aside by her disbelief.

“Indeed. It’ll be great to be back to the castle!”

She’s been to the castle before? Rarity’s list of mental notes grew even longer. She decided to assert a bit control over the discussion again. “And how do you plan to do that? I doubt she even knows that either of us, or even this, ah, temple exists.”

Twilight wasn’t shaken. “Oh, she knows that the temple exists. After all, that’s why we sent a request to be formally recognized as a church.”

“ sent a letter to the Queen just in order to meet her?” Rarity couldn’t help but laugh at this. “Really? That’s your great plan? Wait here until the Queen shows up and then hit on her?”

For a moment, Rarity could see the intent to kill in Twilight’s eyes, but then it was quickly replaced by her usual, smug attitude. “Of course not. My great plan is for her to arrest me tomorrow. By that time, she will already be unable to deny my power over her. Then I will finish my seduction while she interrogates me. Then... the altar.”

Rarity’s expression was frozen somewhere between a smirk and utter disbelief. She’s delusional. Utterly delusional. That plan has so many weak links it’s not even funny anymore. “Okay, let’s assume that she somehow gets the idea to arrest you tomorrow,” she tried to break things down enough to get to what she regarded as the biggest logical failure. “And let’s also assume that she doesn’t use her magic amulet to cut the interrogation short. And let’s even assume that you somehow convince her to assume a submissive role for you, which I quite frankly find ridiculous.” She took a deep breath. “Do you really think you could overpower her and chain her to an altar? Her magic is stronger than yours, thanks to the Dominator Amulet! Even if the chain for the horn somehow inhibits magic, I doubt it will be strong enough to suppress the combined might of two alicorns!”

They stopped at the door. Twilight gave her a patient look. “Are you done?” When Rarity only shrugged, she allowed herself a thin-lipped smile. “Good, then allow me to lay out a few predictions. One, she will arrest me tomorrow. I made sure of that. Two, she will use her amulet on me, and it won’t matter. Three, by the time she interrogates me, she will be curious to at least try submitting to me. Four, I won’t have to overpower her since she will get on the altar willingly. And finally, for number five, she won’t be wearing the Dominator Amulet then.”

Rarity tried to reply, but her throat was unusually dry. Probably a side effect of the heating system - it’s been getting awfully warm in here all of a sudden! She licked her lips. “B-but the amulet-”

“-can’t be removed by anypony except the one wearing it, yes, I know.” Twilight’s tone indicated that she was getting tired of having to explain her master plan in such detail. “She will take it off for me.” She suddenly took a half-step towards Rarity, almost making their noses touch. “Mark my words: Queen Empress Rarity will surrender to me, I will be her most faithful student, and Equestria will become a better place.”

“You’re completely insane.” The words were out before Rarity could hold them back. She wasn’t even sure if she meant them - they were a blunt, last-resort defense against Twilight’s surprisingly elaborate plan and sheer will. “You will not be arrested tomorrow, and then your entire plan is going to fall apart.”

She was sure that this was the point where Twilight would go on a loud rant about crushing those who dare challenge her superior intellect, followed by an unceremonious magical beatdown to teach the non-believer a lesson to remember. But instead, Twilight switched gears again and gave her a friendly smile that would have made Fluttershy proud. “Would you like to engage in a friendly bet, then? I wager one bit that the Queen Empress is going to arrest me tomorrow, just as planned.”

Rarity smirked. “If it makes you happy, sure.” She held up her right hoof. Twilight touched it with her own to shake.

Before she could even comprehend what was happening, a tiny spark had jumped over from Twilight’s hoof - she hadn’t paid attention to see if Twilight had used magic or if she had enchanted her horseshoe hours in advance - and sent a shiver down her spine. “Wha-” Something had gone horribly wrong, and she had a hunch what it was when she felt a mad buzzing at her left hoof. Without even thinking about it, she performed the gesture to bring up the remaining time of the disguise spell.

The timer was still sitting at a comfortable nine hours and eighteen minutes.

Oh, phew, I was afraid-

Nine hours and seventeen minutes.

-that something had gone wrong with-

Nine hours and sixteen minutes.

-the spell?

Nine hours and fifteen minutes.

Rarity blanched. She fudged with the spell! She watched as each second, the timer lost a full minute. I have less than ten minutes to get out of here! She looked up in horror. “What have you-”

Twilight moved in and pressed her muzzle against Rarity’s. The kiss was soft, but somehow also fierce, and it was over before Rarity could even think about fighting back. “All hail the Queen Empress,” Twilight whispered before pushing open the door and disappearing in the crowd.

What the HAY!? Rarity tried to steady herself. A part of her wanted to find Twilight and use her body as a sledgehammer to tear down this entire building. Another part wanted her to kiss her again. Okay, first things first! You have just a few minutes to get past all these cultists and then out of here. Twilight’s long gone, so ignore her for now. She entered the great hall and tried to find a good route to the exit that wasn’t completely blocked off by cultists. At the other end of the hall, Fluttershy was holding a speech, her soft voice amplified by some sort of spell. Focus, Rarity! You need to get out. No time to listen to some motivational speech.

“And please remember,” the High Priestess said, “that tomorrow is the big day!”

Big day? Now what? Rarity hesitated and slowly turned her head to see Fluttershy standing on a table, looking awfully happy. Twilight was standing next to her, looking directly at Rarity with a knowing smile.

“Tomorrow night, we shall commence with the mass sacrifice! Lord Huggoth will pull us into his loving embrace as his tentacles cleanse this world of all the ponies who look down on us!”

“HAIL UGOLHOTLL!” all assembled cultists shouted as one.

“Hail Lord Huggoth,” Fluttershy added happily and nodded at the ponies she would murder less than a day from now.

Rarity tossed the robe back into the box as she dashed to the front door. “Whoa, where’s the fire?” Mr. Doorstop gave her a startled look.

Everywhere soon if I don’t get this runaway cult under control! “Sorry, just remembered that I gotta feed my cat!” She shoved him aside and yanked the front door open.

“Well, hail-”

“Yes, yes, yes, hail Hugthulhu, wonderful!” She practically threw herself through the door and made a mad dash down the road. Her mind was in perpetual deadlock as it tried to process all pieces of bad news simultaneously, especially since all of them somehow seemed connected to Twilight Sparkle, a mare she hadn’t even heard of an hour ago and who had suddenly established herself as the mastermind behind a plan that threatened to bathe her kingdom in blood within a day.

“Leaving so soon?” a stallion steering a carriage asked as he passed her.

For a terrifying moment, Rarity thought that Twilight had sent some cultist after her to bring her back in. “...Shining Armor!?” she asked when she finally dared to look up.

The Captain of the Royal Guards had traded his regular armor for a brown coat and floppy cap, and he was giving her his usual, charming smile. “Hop in, you seem to be in a hurry,” he invited her, and another guard popped open the door for her from inside the coach.

“Thank you!” she wheezed and climbed inside. The guard closed the door behind her and pulled the curtains to make sure nopony outside could see them. With a quick flick of the wrist, she brought up the timer. Less than two minutes remaining. “You were waiting for me? I thought this was supposed to be a solo scouting mission...”

“We always have contingency plans, Your Majesty,” the guard informed her.

“Especially when the original plan was unnecessarily risky!” Shining Armor added from the coach box, making Rarity roll her eyes.

“Fine, you can have a cookie once we get back,” she grumbled. “Speaking of which, be a dear and message the kitchen staff. I’ll require coffee.” She hesitated and narrowed her eyes. “And prepare a pot of tea. I’ll have to have a little chat with the sisters.”

Tea vs. Coffee

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Back in the castle, Rarity managed to put on the Dominator Amulet without setting her room on fire, aside from a slight scorch mark on her carpet. You’re getting better at this! she praised herself. The last time she had been subject to this influx of power, every flammable object around her had been reduced to ashes.

The amulet itself granted no power on its own, but it did allow her to force other ponies to obey her commands by making them wear a magically generated copy of it. And as a bonus, once she had taken control over a pony, most of their raw power then immediately became her own. Currently, there were two copies of the amulet in circulation, and each was worn by one of the two sisters who had ruled over Equestria.

She downed her first cup of coffee in one go as she entered her throne room. The two alicorns stood motionless in the middle of it, frozen in time by her - and in a way, their own - powers. Her eyes flicked from one sister to the other. Unlike Celestia, the younger sister had been frozen in mid-rant. Rarity always thought that she looked constipated, but it was just a side effect of her having been frozen in a weird moment. “Let’s see if I can get this done without waking the old hag,” she muttered. Dealing with Celestia was always unpleasant for her - either she was defiant and aloof or condescending and amused. Rarity’s horn lit up, and she sent a tiny spark over to the younger sister, who twitched almost immediately.

“-and your cat in a blender!” Nightmare Moon shrieked, ending a sentence she had started back when she had been frozen. It took her a moment to take in her surroundings. “...ah, you froze me in time again? This will never stop being weird. I mean, I’m never even aware I’m frozen. For me, the entire world changes from one moment to the next. Crazy.”

Rarity let her have this moment. “Terribly sorry to inconvenience you, darling,” she lied.

“It’s fine,” Nightmare Moon lied back and looked down at herself. She smirked when she spotted the amulet wrapped around her neck “Yep, still relying on my power, I see.” Then she glanced to her side. “And you haven’t woken up Celestia, so I presume the kingdom isn’t quite on fire yet.” Another glance at Rarity and the tea set on the cart next to her. “Tea. Two cups, plus your own cup of liquid garbage. You’re keeping your options open, but hope that my answers will be enough.”

Rarity smiled, but it was a mask to hide a slight tremble. Even while forced to obey her orders and without access to her full magic power, Nightmare Moon was clearly dangerous. She has been a politician longer than my entire bloodline has existed. Locking her up in a time prison was the only way to make sure that she wouldn’t directly interfere with my rule. “Tea, dear?”

Nightmare Moon sat down next to her frozen sister and smiled. “Gladly.” She still possessed enough magic to hold the cup and levitated it to her lips. “Mhhhh, you obviously didn’t fire the kitchen staff yet,” she whispered after taking a short sip. Then she frowned and gave her sister another look. “What’s with the gaudy hat?”

Rarity blinked - she had gotten so used to the hat that it didn’t even register as odd anymore. “Never mind that,” she replied airily and removed it, promising to herself to find an even worse item later on. “Anyway... I am facing a small problem.”

“Surprise, surprise!” Nightmare Moon smirked.

Rarity reminded herself that, while she had been reformed shortly after her return from the Moon, this was not the kind Princess Luna she had heard of. Could be worse, of course. After all, being evil-but-reformed apparently just added certain amounts of snark and casual cruelty to Luna’s base personality. It’s certainly a step up from night eternal. “One of my former friends is trying to summon Ugolhotll.”

Nightmare Moon stopped in mid-sip. “The tentacled abomination from beyond the realms of sanity?”

“Indeed, but I can manage that. I know where and when they will do their mass sacrifice, and-”

“Which isn’t how this works, but okay.” The alicorn took another sip of her tea. When she noticed Rarity’s look, she raised an eyebrow. “What, you think it’s that easy to end the world? Just kill a few hundred peasants and ta-da? Please...”

Well, that would explain a few things... the mass sacrifice doesn’t actually summon an Elder God. But then... why kill all those ponies in the first place? Is that a ruse? ...can I risk calling her bluff? Rarity frowned. “A fair point, but like I said, I can manage that. What bothers me is the presence of a unicorn who is assisting the High Priestess.”

“Mh?” Nightmare Moon asked, taking a big sip from her cup.

“Yes. Her name is Twilight Spakle and-”

Nightmare Moon barely managed to turn her head before doing a gigantic spit-take, coating the entire left side of Celestia’s face in tea. “WHAT?”

O...kay... didn’t expect that... Rarity looked from Nightmare Moon to Celestia, who was still sitting perfectly still as tea started to run down her cheek and muzzle. “T-Twilight... Sparkle...? Purple coat, neatly cut mane, mentioned having been here befo-”

“Wake up Celestia,” the alicorn interrupted her.

“Do you think the situation is dire enough to-”

Rarity stopped when she realized that Nightmare Moon was not nervous or shocked - she was grinning ear to ear. “C’mon, this is going to be worth it! Trust me!”

You could just command her to tell you what she’s up to, you know? She took a second to evaluate the potential risk of granting Nightmare Moon’s wish. Well, on the one hoof, it’s always a risk having either of them unfrozen, not to mention both. Then again, if they had some secret power to defeat me, they would have used it long ago. And I have total control and wield their combined magical power. “Fine, I’ll humor you,” she finally decided and flicked a spark of magic over to Celestia.

Unlike Nightmare Moon, the older sister hadn’t been frozen in mid-sentence, so she just sat for a moment and blinked as she processed that her personal time-stop had not just started, but also stopped. “Well, this better be good,“ she said, sounding bitter. Then she frowned. “Why is my left side wet?”

“Hello, sister,” Nightmare Moon greeted her. She had by now managed to hide most traces of her grin.

Celestia raised an eyebrow at her sister, then at Rarity. Without missing a beat, she glanced at the tea set, Nightmare Moon’s floating cup, and finally at the throne room as a whole. “Let me guess; Canterlot is under siege, Equestria is on fire, and you need all the advice you can get?”

“Well, we’re facing the possibility of somepony summoning Ugolhotll, but other than that, she seems to be managing things.” Nightmare Moon immediately held up a hoof. “Not important right now. Guess who’s back in town?”

“Um.” Celestia shot Rarity a quick look before focusing on her sister again. “Is that actually more important than this Elder God thing? Because that sounds somewhat urgent to me...”

“Shhhh, trust me, they’re doing it wrong, anyway.” Nightmare Moon smiled widely. “Oh, but where are my manners? Before I tell you who’s in town, would you like to wet your whistle?”

Celestia hesitated. “Would I...” she touched her wet cheek before giving her sister a curious smile. “Yes, that sounds like a delightful suggestion!” She picked up the remaining cup with the few shreds of magic she had left and poured some tea. “I know I’ve been frozen in time, but I’m still feeling a little parched.”

“Of course! And I’ll tell you once you’ve had a bit to drink.”

“Yes. Just, you tell me who is in town-”

“-once you have taken a sip.”

“Because, you see, I’m a bit thirsty.”


Rarity looked from one sister to the other, her frown deepening. I knew there was another reason why I shouldn’t have unfrozen both of them. They’re playing off each other far too well, and I’m getting the stupid feeling that they’re not taking me all that seriously.

“Okay, so let me just have a drink, and then-”

“-I tell you the name.”

“Which I don’t know yet.”


Don’t murder them, Rarity told herself and gritted her teeth. At least not while you still need them.

“Okay, let’s do this, then.” Celestia raised the cup to her mouth and emptied it in one go.

Nightmare Moon didn’t bother to contain her grin. “It’s TWILIGHT SPARK-”

Celestia’s spit take doused the formerly evil alicorn from the tip of her horn all the way down to her hooves, and the younger sister snickered like a foal.

“WHAT?” Celestia gave first her sister, then Rarity a wide-eyed stare. “TWILIGHT?”

“I KNOW, RIGHT!?” Nightmare Moon was enjoying this way too much.

“But I thought... I mean...” Celestia shook her head in disbelief. “Why would she be back in-” She blinked. Then, slowly, she turned to face Rarity. Next to her, Nightmare Moon did the same. Both alicorns slowly started to grin.

“What are-” Rarity stopped herself when she realized that her voice was barely more than a high-pitched squeak. Easy, girl. Don’t let them rattle you. She coughed. “What are you talking about? You’ve had your fun, but unless I get an explanation, you are simply wasting my time here.“

“Twilight Sparkle is in Canterlot!” Celestia said, as if that explained everything.

“Well, yes, I know that, thank you very much. In fact, it was I who told Nightmare Moon about her presence.”

Celestia opened and closed her mouth several times before finally shaking her head, causing her ethereal mane to swish around in the most unmajestic way possible. “We’re going to need more tea. Kibitz?”

The elderly unicorn took a step towards them and bowed. “Very well, Your High-”

“No!” Rarity snapped. You unfreeze them for two minutes, and they immediately go and order your staff around! ...also, doesn’t this guy ever need to sleep? It’s the middle of the night! “You haven’t given me anything of value yet, so why should you deserve more tea?”

For a few moments, Celestia gave her the most terrifying glare Rarity had ever seen. “You dare string your pathetic demands to the Royal Tea Time?” she hissed and leaned down to bring her face closer to Rarity’s. “I have leveled city blocks for less grave reasons, you ungrateful foal! You think you’re so powerful with your stolen magic? It won’t make you live longer! You’re still going to die within the next hundred years or so, while I won’t have visibly aged a single day. Time is on my side, my little pony, and when the location of your burial site has finally become the stuff of ancient legends, I will take the greatest delight in planting a few peppermint plants on your grave. For my tea.

“Easy, easy,” Nightmare Moon gently pulled her sister back, giving both of them a nervous smile. “Kibitz will need a few minutes to get more tea, anyway. Why don’t we send him on his way now, and by the time he comes back, we’ll all be on the same page, okay?”

“...of course, dear!” Rarity said after hesitating just a moment too long. Goodness, she hadn’t been this intense when I yanked the crown from her stupid head. “Though I have to remark that I find it awfully strange that you go around treating tea so reverently and yet waste a full cup on slapstick comedy.”

Celestia huffed and pretended to look at the infinite sky - a gesture that would have been more meaningful if she had been closer to a window or outside. “I do not expect a pony with such limited experience to understand the actions of those who have outlived civilizations.”

“So... you’re just eccentric.”

“I’m just knowledgeable enough to be able to tell you more about Twilight Sparkle,” Celestia pointed out, taking obvious delight in the look of dawning horror on Rarity’s face, “but I suppose it’s not all that important, anyway. I’m just eccentric and reject cooperating with ponies who are denying me my tea, after all.”

ARGH! She lured me into a trap just by making me humor her insane rant! Was that rant about tea even real, or was this a trap from the very beginning? Rarity gritted her teeth. Well, I’m not going to apologize to a mare who tried to play mind games with me. Does she forget who has the upper hoof? “I can simply compel you to tell me all I need to know,” she replied, trying to look at ease.

“Oh, of course! I completely forgot that I am at your mercy! Under your power! Forced to tell you the absolute truth and answer every question you ask!” She pretended to swoon before giving Rarity a smirk. “Because that worked so well the last eight or so times, right?”

Rarity took a deep breath. Why was it easier to conquer this entire kingdom than it is to get this stubborn old mare to talk? She turned to Nightmare Moon. “Let me guess, you’re not going to talk, either?”

“And ruin Celestia’s fun? Tsk, tsk, tsk.” Nightmare Moon shook her head. “She’d never forgive me. In fact, that’s what made her send me to the Moon in the first place.”

“...I thought you threatened to make the night last forever, or something like that?”

“That’s nothing but pro-day propaganda!”

When Rarity just looked from one sister to the other in complete disbelief, both alicorns started to snicker. “Goodness, she’s almost too easy to distract!” Celestia laughed in a rather condescending manner.

“We can probably keep this going until-” Nightmare Moon froze in mid-taunt.

“Why does my country have to be ruled by somepony with such a thin skin...?” Celestia sighed quietly, making a visible effort not to look at her time-frozen sister. Instead, she gave Rarity her usual, scolding look. “You are aware that freezing ponies in time is the last refuge of the incompetent, right?”

“Whatever,” Rarity muttered and cast the time-stop spell a second time, freezing Celestia in almost exactly the same pose as she had been in before. Very good, you just re-freezed-... re-froze... froze again... - WHATEVER - the two ponies who could have told you more about Twilight. Very smart move, Rarity! Handled like a true ruler! “Damn you!” she hissed at the frozen Celestia and tossed one of the cups at the floor in front of her, shattering it in the process. “WHY DO YOU MAKE THIS SO HARD? EVERY SINGLE TIME I UNFREEZE YOU, YOU MOCK ME!” Her own cup hit the far wall. “I’m just so confused by this mare, and you CLEARLY could’ve helped me! Is this the price you make me pay for taking over your kingdom?” Okay, okay, hold it right there. This isn’t how you should act. Focus. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, trying to find her center.






A quiet cough behind her made her sigh. “I know I have to unfreeze her first, thank you,” she whispered.

“It’s okay, actually,” a female voice replied, “you can leave them frozen. It’s kinda kinky to have them watch us like this.”

Rarity whirled around and gasped. “You!”

Twilight Sparkle smiled politely. Behind her, the obsidian altar was looming, waiting for its victim. It seemed to have gotten bigger somehow. “I just figured we might have a quick warm-up round before we go through all the formalities tomorrow.”

Rarity’s eyes widened slightly at that. Warm-up round? Does she mean... She bit her tongue to stop herself from babbling, squeaking, or making any other undignified noises. “Y-you mean the formalities of the mass sacrifice?”

The other mare laughed quietly. “You know there won’t be a mass sacrifice.”

“Well, obviously there won’t be one! As Queen Empress, I simply cannot allow you to make thousands of my subjects commit suicide!” Also, I suspect you’re just bluffing, but no need to tell her that.

“Sure, let’s go with that,” Twilight said and rolled her eyes. Then she slowly walked towards Rarity.

“What’s your game?” Rarity stood perfectly still, using a lot of her willpower to fight the urge to back away.

“If you hadn’t let Princess Celestia and Princess Nightmare Moon derail you, you would know that already.” Twilight was now standing right in front of her for the second time within a few hours. She leaned forward just a bit and chuckled when Rarity instinctively did the same. “Tell me you want this.”

I want this. Rarity wasn’t entirely clear what “this” was, but she was certain she wanted whatever this enigmatic mare was offering. She trembled. Just say it! Give in to her! You can ask questions afterwards... Gathering her entire willpower, she pulled back just a little bit. “I want... answers.”

Twilight blinked in surprise, but then smiled again. “You’re not going to get any from me tonight, sorry. I suggest you just entertain your fantasies for now.”

The urge to simply agree was almost overwhelming, but the part of her that didn’t like to be contradicted vetoed it. “Excuse me, darling, but it is not polite to say no to your Queen Empress. So please don’t make this difficult and just tell me what I want to know.”

“I would if I could,” Twilight replied and shrugged helplessly, “but I can’t, so I shan’t.” When she saw Rarity’s confused look, her smile widened. “Oh, please, think about it. It makes no sense that I managed to not only sneak into the throne room, but to also get the altar in here without you noticing, does it?” She suddenly closed the distance and nuzzled Rarity’s cheek, making the supposedly more powerful mare shudder. “It’s almost as if this was just a...”

Rarity woke up with a start and took a quick look around. Twilight was gone, and so was the altar. “Dream,” she whispered, completing Twilight’s last sentence. None of this happened. She wasn’t here. She didn’t- Rarity touched her cheek with a trembling hoof, then took a deep breath. Calm down, get your priorities straight! “Kibitz, when did I fall asleep?”

“After breaking two mugs and ranting at Princess Celestia, but before I could point out that you have to unfreeze her first.”

Right. Fell asleep when I closed my eyes to calm down. “What a night to discover that I apparently developed a heightened caffeine tolerance,” she muttered and gave the coffee pot a quick glare before levitating a new cup over from a nearby room. She filled it and took a big gulp.

“This is decaf,” Kibitz helpfully pointed out, apparently having waited for just the right moment.

The third spit take of the night was almost strong enough to blast the mustache right off his face. “WHAT?”

“Decaffeinated coffee. It tastes virtually the same, but it contains no-”


“Ah.” Kibitz looked mildly uncomfortable. “Before I decide whether to tell you which kitchen staff member did this particular deed, can I have your promise that you won’t murder or eviscerate him?”

Rarity considered it.

For several seconds.

“Fine,” she finally hissed. “Actually, don’t bother telling me. Just assign him to... what’s the worst position there is in the palace?”

“Well, normally I would say that the worst task I can think of is cleaning up the Royal Chamber Pot,” the elderly stallion replied after thinking about the question for a moment. “However, you have assured me that your excrements are odorless, so...”

Rarity smirked. “Make it so, then. And tell him to do a good job, or I will make him do it without tools.”

“Very well. Oh, and speaking of sewage, shall I instruct the kitchen to brew a pot of ‘proper’ coffee?”

She tried to answer with a straight face, but even Rarity had her limits, especially after all the snark she had had to endure so far. Her laughing fit lasted almost a full minute, and Kibitz allowed himself a mild chuckle as well while using the opportunity to dry his face a little bit. “Ohhh, that was a good one, and well delivered!” Rarity finally said and wiped a few tears from her eyes. “But yes, I require regular coffee.” She gave the sisters a look. “And a large pot of tea. And new cups. And somepony should probably take care of the broken ones.”

“The works,” Kibitz translated drily and waved for a few servants. “Would you like to take a quick nap while we prepare everything? Preparing tea and coffee should take about fifteen minutes.”

“Yes, that-” Twilight will probably be waiting in your dreams, and this time you won’t be able to resist. She inhaled sharply and sat up straight. “Actually... I’ll just get some fresh air on the balcony, thank you.”

The cool night air helped to clear her head a bit, and Rarity started to go through possible scenarios in her head. By the time Kibitz coughed politely, she had settled on the plan that had the highest possibility of succeeding. “Everything has been prepared, Your Majesty.”

“Thank you, Kibitz,” Rarity whispered and slowly walked back into the throne room. The staff had outdone itself - aside from the two sisters still sitting in a small puddle of tea, there was no evidence left that suggested that cups had been flung around mere minutes ago. After taking a deep breath, Rarity lifted the time-stop spell from both princesses again.

“-sunrise!” Nightmare Moon finished her sentence, then blinked. “Froze me in mid-sentence again?” She took a quick look around in an attempt to puzzle out how much time had passed.

“It’s still the same night, yes,” Rarity said, reminding herself to remain calm no matter what.

“Hmph, you obviously-” Celestia began, but Rarity quickly held up a hoof.

“I want to offer you a deal.” The two sisters exchanged quick glances. She could see that they were amused by this turn of events. They saw this coming. Of course they did. They showed that Twilight Sparkle is important and influential enough to be known to both of them, turning my idle curiosity into a desperate craving for information. “You will tell me what you know about Twilight Sparkle, and I will give you the rest of the night off. You will be restricted to your private quarters, but you can take a bath, eat, gossip, or do whatever else you like, as long as it doesn’t hinder or influence my plans. That’s several hours of relaxation. You will be frozen again tomorrow morning.” She paused. “Also, we got some more tea here, so help yourself.”

Celestia actually raised an eyebrow - clearly, she hadn’t expected such a generous and risky proposal right from the start. But then she smiled knowingly and hovered a cup and the tea pot over to herself. “She has really gotten to you, hasn’t she?” When Rarity gritted her teeth, she quickly made a soothing gesture with one hoof. “I’m not trying to taunt you! It’s just amusing to see that she hasn’t lost her touch.”

“Or her preferences,” Nightmare Moon added. “Very well, you have our cooperation on this.”

“Agreed,” Celestia said and took a quick sip of her tea before floating over the pot to her sister. “I suppose we can do this chronologically, so I’ll start.” She took a moment to sort her thoughts. “Twilight Sparkle is a unicorn about your age, blessed with an affinity for magic itself. She lacks the specialization most unicorns develop and instead embraced the entire spectrum.”

“So she’s a jack of all trades, master of none?”

“In... a... way...” Celestia grimaced. “She indeed could accomplish more in any specialized field of magic if she focused on it. However, she possesses enormous raw potential and can channel more magic than most unicorns I have ever met. And she looks at magic as a science, not as an innate, creative expression of one’s self. She may lack the intuitive grasp to come up with new spells based on a quick feeling, but she can learn and dissect spells in order to cast them herself, even if there is no verbose explanation of all the details.”

“She sounds pretty smart.” Rarity tapped her chin. “That would explain why she seemed to be one step ahead of me the entire time when I met her.”

“Twilight Sparkle loves plans, lists and anything else that’s neatly organized.” Celestia hesitated. “She was my faithful student, and-” She stopped when she saw Rarity silently mouthing those two words. A thin-lipped smile appeared on her face. Next to her, Nightmare Moon laughed quietly. “I suppose I should tackle the more immediately interesting part. Twilight Sparkle has two major weaknesses. The first is a certain... let’s call it a fetish. A hunger. A passion. She is drawn to power. I had been her personal teacher for several years back when my sister had still been banished, so I suppose I’m not entirely blameless when it comes to this. I taught her everything I thought she could handle, and she experienced life at the royal court.”

“Let me guess - she tried to take over?”

Celestia’s smile widened - she had seen the question coming. “Twilight doesn’t want to rule over a nation. She is in this just for the challenge of the finer points that come up at the court and thus prefers the spot as the right hoof mare. The advisor. The faithful star student. And all would have been well... had she not been distracted by her second weakness. She... is a hopeless romantic and was completely convinced that she would find her special somepony at the royal court. You know. Dancing together at the Grand Galloping Gala. Hundreds of roses strewn on the floor. Howls echoing through the halls at night.”

Eighty percent of Rarity’s blood seemed to rush to her head. “H-howls? You mean that ‘The Six Constellations of Enlightenment’ actually exists?”

“I wrote it, so yes.” Celestia gave her a happy smile. “Which I suppose means that I was the one who - without even realizing it - shaped her romantic and sexual expectations. Of course, this meant that it only took her a few years to deduce that my court would not scratch that particular itch, no matter how much she enjoyed being a part of it.”

“It actually would have been fascinating to see her solution to that particular conundrum,” Nightmare Moon chimed in, “but then she found a certain prophecy about the return of Celestia’s poor, misunderstood sister...”

Rarity gave the younger sibling a wide-eyed look. “...she’s the one who reformed you?”

“Indeed,” Nightmare Moon confirmed and took a sip from her tea. “She predicted the date of my return and planned ahead accordingly. Imagine my surprise when I appeared in the throne room and saw this young unicorn instead of my sister.” She gave her sister a smile. “And imagine my surprise when she revealed that she had already mapped out plans to jumpstart the diarchy again.”

Celestia huffed. “She of course didn’t mention that she wanted a ’bad’ mare to create a much more... ‘interesting’ night court. Which is the reason why we only got a reformed Nightmare Moon and not Luna.”

“The difference is negligible, aside from the more badass look and a slightly more assertive streak.”

Celestia merely rolled her eyes. “Twilight is a force of nature when it comes to plotting and shaping entire kingdoms after her own vision,” she summarized. “She is dreaming of meeting her perfect date at a royal court, and if she is back in Canterlot, it means she intends to continue her search in yours.”

“So the important thing now is to determine her master plan,” Nightmare Moon added. “Because she will have one. Then it’s just a matter of deciding whether you can live with it or if you can convince her to find another kingdom.”

“Did she give you any hints so far?” Celestia asked.

“She...” Rarity’s blush somehow deepened. “She might have mentioned chaining me to an altar and... doing... um... things. To me. Howling may or may not have been brought up.”

Celestia and Nightmare Moon were giving her wide-eyed stares. “Oh... my...” Celestia whispered and bit her lower lip. “She not only wants to become your faithful student, but also your special somepony?”

“Ambitious, I like it!” Nightmare Moon agreed.

“We’ll see about that,” Rarity tried to play it cool. “Just because she has played her little power games with two royals doesn’t mean-”

“Three,” Nightmare Moon muttered.

“-that I’ll simply let her seize contr-... three?”

“Why else do you think you hadn’t met her when you barged in here?” The younger sister smiled ruefully. “Twilight quickly grew bored with the diarchy and moved on.”

“Moved on? Whatever do you mean, darling? There isn’t an abundance of kingdoms looking for advisors, I believe. A duchy, possibly, but I can’t imagine Twilight settling for that after life with two alicorn princesses.”

Nightmare Moon gave Celestia a subtle nod. The older mare smiled playfully. “Tell me, young one,” she prompted Rarity, “have you ever wondered why the Crystal Empire never even tried to attack its southern neighbors?”

Again with the random subject changes! Who cares if the Crystal Empire attacked or not! I remember there being a lot of worrying when it appeared out of nowhere, but that situation calmed down fairly quickly. I fail to see what King- Her thoughts screeched to a full stop. “’re joking,” she whispered. “Please tell me you’re joking. I’ll even pretend to find it funny.”

Celestia chuckled. “I already told you: Twilight excels at shaping entire kingdoms after her own vision, and she was itching for a proper ‘bad’ pony.”

“KING SOMBRA? Twilight Sparkle not only was involved with you and Nightmare Moon, but also with an actual tyrant? And she reformed him?”

The younger sister raised her hoof, as if asking her teacher for permission to speak. “I would like to point out that I actually was a very powerful tyrant who-”

“You know what? I don’t care!” Rarity shook her head, causing her perfectly coiffed mane to bounce in a somewhat undignified manner. “Twilight Sparkle may be ambitious, but I will not let her take over my kingdom just because she feels that regular dating is beneath her! If she wishes to court me, it will be on my terms!” She tried to ignore the way the two sisters were barely holding back their grins. “I’ve heard enough for now, and I need to prepare a raid for tomorrow night.” She turned to leave and waved a hoof dismissively. “Enjoy your night off, don’t try to murder me or each other, stay inside your rooms until morning, yadda yadda yadda.”

“Sweet dreams!” Nightmare Moon called after her, and the two sisters giggled when Rarity flinched.

The Raid

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Of course, the one thing that had worked out as intended had been the riskiest: Celestia and Nightmare Moon had not orchestrated any sort of rebellion or assassination attempt before being frozen again.

The rest had been a total failure: every time she had closed her eyes, Twilight and her cursed altar had been waiting for her. Twilight hadn’t even spoken a single word - she hadn’t had to. By the time Kibitz had come in to remind her to raise the sun, Rarity had been an emotional mess thanks to this enigmatic mare who had somehow planted horrible, amazing ideas in her mind.

She had replayed her encounter again and again, slowly realizing that she had fallen into Twilight’s trap long before putting on the disguise. There had been no coincidences, no strokes of luck. Everything had been carefully planned, and Rarity had played her part in this plan perfectly.

After raising the sun, she had finally caved in and asked Nightmare Moon for a spell that would allow her to sleep for at least eight hours without dreaming. Much to her credit, the former guardian of the night had only teased her a little bit before pointing her to the tome that contained such a spell.

Now it was early evening, but Rarity was feeling much more in control of the situation. She was well rested, Twilight’s kiss was a distant memory, and the presence of her troops reassured her that she was about to seize the initiative. And most importantly, she had put on a shorter, less frilly evening dress for the occasion, a daring combination of deep blue satin and charcoal accents.

Shining Armor gave her a look when he came in. “That’s what you’re going to wear for a raid while facing thousands of hostile cultists?”

“It’s tactical, darling,” Rarity told him as she was casting the time-freeze spell on the two sisters. This time, both were sitting perfectly still and smiling widely. “Besides, you will need more armor than I will - you’re going to fight the unwashed masses while I go for the leadership: Fluttershy has to be stopped from performing whatever ritual she thinks will summon her god, and Twilight Sparkle will-”


Rarity blinked slowly before turning around to face her guard. “...what was that?”

“Twily’s back in Canterlot?” Shining Armor was giving her a wide smile.

“Yes, little Miss Ambition is back.” She gave him a cautious look. “Is this going to be a problem for you?”

“Well...” He tilted his head. “I suppose there is a slight conflict of interest here, what with her being my sister and all that.”

“Wait, you waited this long to tell me she’s your SISTER?”

“Well, you just told me now that we’re doing this raid because of her!” Shining Armor snapped back. “Five minutes ago, I was convinced that she was still in the Crystal Empire, building snowponies with King Smoke-Monster!”

Rarity and Shining Armor exchanged angry looks for several seconds before the former held up a hoof. “Okay, we didn’t communicate properly, I suppose. Allow me to elaborate, then: your sister is supporting Fluttershy’s cult and may very well have caused it to reach critical mass faster than anypony would have thought. We need to neutralize it before it succeeds, and that includes your sister. If that is going to be a problem for you, then I must request that you sit this one out.”

He thought about it. “Well, if Twily’s involved, I’m actually not sure if we actually need heavy armaments. She’s not into murder or summoning things she can’t control.” He noticed her look and immediately held up a hoof. “Not saying we should abort, just pointing out that I’m a lot less worried about things right now. ...I presume she’s aiming to become your faithful student?”

“Yes,” Rarity replied, hoping that he wouldn’t notice her lie by omission.

Shining Armor sighed. “Well, that explains your behavior last night. She’s in scheming mode. You really should have debriefed with me.”

“Duly noted.”

“Okay, so... we know what she wants. The bigger question is what you want.”

If I knew that, this would be a lot easier! I don’t even know her beyond vague promises to make me howl. She didn’t meet his eyes.

Her Captain chuckled quietly. “Don’t sweat it. More experienced rulers than you have been rendered speechless by her. But this development may be for the best, really - maybe she can help me to turn you into a less... trigger-happy ruler.” He ignored her annoyed huff. “So, you want me to stay here? You obviously got a lot on your mind, so I don’t want you to worry about a biased guard.”

It’s fine, probably. Neither of us wants to hurt her. But... “Actually... work with me here. We both agree that we’re not actually going to walk into a mass sacrifice, right?”

“I’d be extremely surprised, at least.”

“Yes... same here. She’s up to something, and I refuse to just follow her plan. We need to be one step ahead of her.” She tapped her hoof against the floor. “Yes... that’s it...” She smiled, feeling confident that she was about to catch Twilight Sparkle by surprise. “Captain, I have a special assignment for you...”

The raid, just like everything Rarity did, was a work of beauty. Guards rushed towards the so-called temple with carts along every road leading to it, erecting several blockades along the way to make sure that nopony would be able to flee the scene. Within a minute, the entire city block had been secured, and Rarity was leading the charge towards the front door.

“GO!” she shouted a moment before she blasted the door with a jolt of magic. Her guards were inside the corridor before the dust had settled, and she quickly made her way towards the main hall. “CEASE YOUR-”

The hall was empty.

Rarity scanned the interior and frowned. The tables and chairs were all standing neatly arranged, and the entire hall looked impeccably clean. They didn’t evacuate. This hall hasn’t been used today. “Search the building,” she instructed the closest guard. “Secure everything that doesn’t look like it belongs. Arrest anypony you find.” They’re not going to find anything. She glanced at the small door off to the side. At least not up here. “You, you and you,” she hissed and pointed at three random guards, “follow me. And bring the special cuffs, just in case.” If nothing else, we can at least secure the altar. For science. Not for forbidden fantasies. Just... research. Securing evidence. The works. Yes.

The stairway was illuminated by torches, just like it had been yesterday. Rarity allowed herself a smile as she realized that lit torches were a sign that somepony was still here. The door to Twilight’s little workshop was ajar, and Rarity kicked it open without even slowing down.

The workshop was almost completely empty.

“What the-” Rarity gawked when she realized that there wasn’t any furniture in the room anymore. Not to mention the altar! ...not that I particular care for it or anything, but that thing didn’t even look as if it’d fit through the door! How did she get it out of here? She forced herself to calm down - after all, while there was no furniture in the room anymore, it was not entirely deserted: “Hello, darling,” she purred at the lone hooded pony sitting in the center of the room.

Twilight Sparkle slowly lifted her hood and gave her a wide smile. “Good evening, Your Majesty.” Then her smile widened. “I believe you owe me money.”

Rarity’s smile turned into a forced smirk, and she ignored Twilight’s quiet laughter when she held up a single bit and tossed the coin her way. “Cuff her. She’s a powerful magic user, so fit her with the horn cuff first to cut her off.”

It took her guards a few minutes to catch up to her outside of the building, but eventually, they dragged Twilight Sparkle out. Aside from the horn cuff that inhibited her magic, the unicorn was weighed down by four steel cuffs for her hooves, plus a heavy steel collar. All items were connected by lengths of chain. “Very good so far,” Twilight quipped, not looking intimidated at all. “Would you like to interrogate me tonight, or would you like to let your fantasies consume you some more before we get to the good part tomorrow?”

Rarity magically pulled on the chains connecting her collar to the front hoof cuffs, causing Twilight to stumble. “You think you’re so clever, don’t you?” she sneered.

“Well... yes,” Twilight admitted after a brief pause.

Would it hurt her to show a little bit of modesty? “I’ll admit that it was a neat trick you pulled last night. You made Fluttershy make this large proclamation about the mass sacrifice right after sabotaging my disguise spell to send me running, and then you undoubtedly told them that there won’t be a mass sacrifice after all since that’s not even how you summon an Elder God. You get what you want, and Fluttershy can proceed with her little cult project on her own.”

Twilight slowly tilted her head. “You got some things right, but-”

“WELL, THE JOKE’S ON YOU!” Rarity snapped and used her magic to shoot a bright red light into the night sky before causing it to explode like fireworks. “Your little game ends tonight, Twilight Sparkle.” She yanked the cutie mark pin from Twilight’s robe, causing it to drop to the ground. She tried not to ogle her figure - the unicorn looked a few pounds lighter than Rarity, revealing a surprisingly athletic build. I suppose trekking around frozen wastelands tends to burn quite a few calories. Her gaze was drawn upwards when a green light exploded in the night sky. Excellent! “I know you probably imagined a long interrogation session where you can use your knowledge of the cult as leverage or even bait, but I’m smarter than you. You will rot in a cell, and by the time I grant you an audience, you will fall to your knees and apologize for your hubris.” She leaned in close enough to be able to smell Twilight’s perfume. It was a terrible choice, fitting for a unicorn who was not as smart as Rarity, nor as knowledgeable in the world of style and fashion. “And then you will beg me to chain you to the altar,” she whispered. Once I find it, at least...

Twilight didn’t tremble. In fact, she wasn’t looking concerned at all. “There is an envelope in my robe,” she finally said. “I want you to read the note inside when your plan falls through.”

“Ha!” She gave the closest guard a look. “Take her away. Maximum security cell, fully magic-resistant.” When she was sure that Twilight was out of earshot, she gave the robe a look and tossed the pin onto it. “Secure that. And bring the letter to my room. Scan it for magic, but don’t open it.” I’ll keep it around, and then I’ll slap her with it when she begs for mercy. This time, her smile was forced, and she had to fight the terrible feeling that she was still being played. “Let’s go.”

Back in the palace, Rarity only stopped to change into her scarlet evening dress. Imposing, threatening, but still a lady. Perfect! She tossed her mane to one side and winked at her reflection in the full-length mirror. Then she headed down into the less glamorous part of the castle.

“Good evening, Mr. Ramnared!” she greeted the green-coated unicorn with the mauve mane as she entered the interrogation room. The room was featureless aside from a small table in the center and a large one-way mirror covering one wall. “How are you tonight?”

Ingared Ramnared - or, as Rarity liked to call him, Mr. Doorstop - appeared to be torn between scowling and cowering, resulting in a look that resembled a cornered rat. “Your guards dragged me out of my home in the middle of the night without telling me what I did wrong,” he finally answered. “So I’m fine.”

“Oh, I think you know what you did wrong,” she told him and quietly placed the two items she had been carrying on the table, giving him a moment to look at them. “This,” she said and held up the first item, a steel collar, “is the Band Of The Liar. It detects muscle movements, sweat and subtle changes in your heart rate to determine when you are lying.” She held up the second item. “This is the Orb Of Torment. Right now it’s connected to the collar, and it will go off when the collar detects a lie.”

Ingared looked appropriately frightened. “Look, it’s fine, I’ll tell you everything you want to know!”

Rarity smiled, but there was no feeling of joy behind it. Then she snapped the collar around his neck and locked it. “Yes, you will.” Ignoring his whimpers, she adjusted the magic field of the orb. “I have set it to 10% power. It’ll zap you, but it should have no long-term effects. Go ahead, give it a try.”

“I’d rather not,” he whispered, fully aware that any lie was going to hurt him now.

Rarity’s hollow smile turned into a cruel grimace. “Lie for me, or I’ll increase the level to 15%.”

He gritted his teeth. “You are as wise as you are kind,” he finally hissed.

Nothing happened.

It took Rarity a moment to parse this. “Oh, very funny,” she finally muttered and picked up the orb.

“NO WAIT YOU’RE SANE AND-GYAHHHHHHHH!” The shock made him jump and curse. Rarity nodded to herself - it indeed looked like he was in tremendous pain. “Sweet Louise, was that the higher setting?”

“No,” she told him and smiled. “That was still 10%, darling. Now... I’ll keep it that way, and you will tell me the truth. Deal?”

He considered his reply, probably careful not to accidentally lie. “What do you want to know?”

“Well, let’s start by establishing a proper baseline.” Her horn lit up, and her appearance changed rapidly. Within moments, Limerence was giving the stallion a victorious smile. “Remember me?”

He frowned. “”

Rarity mirrored his frown when he wasn’t zapped for that. “Let’s try that again.” She coughed and exaggerated her Limerence impression. “My name is Limerence, and everypony is my darling!”

Ingared slowly tilted his head in utter confusion. “...I have no idea what you’re talking about...” this thing on? Rarity wondered and gave the orb a look before undoing the disguise spell. “Where were you last night, Mr. Ramnared?”

“At home. ...why?”

“Clever, very clever. I suppose you were indeed at home during some portion of last night, making your statement technically true.”

“I was at home all night,” he clarified.

“No, he wasn’t!” Rarity hissed at the orb before looking up. “You were the bouncer at Fluttershy’s so-called temple!” When he gave her an incredulous look, she groaned. “The Children of Ugolhotll, you finicky doorstop!”

“Um, I really think you have the wrong pony, ma’am.” Ingared Ramnared was looking genuinely sorry. “I never heard of the Children of... You-Go-Hot’l or whatever before tonight.”

For long seconds, Rarity just glared at him, breathing heavily. Then she pulled a folded page out from a hidden pocket of her dress. She rapidly unfolded it and placed it on the table between them. “This is part of the member list the Children of Ugolhotll attached to their request to be recognized as a church. It contains names, cutie marks and sign-up dates.” She tapped one entry. “According to this, you signed up two weeks ago. Is this your signature and your cutie mark?”

He inspected the document carefully. “That is my cutie mark, and that looks like my signature, but I don’t remember signing any list within the last couple of weeks.”

A horrible truth was starting to dawn on her. “And you don’t remember working as a bouncer for a cult?”

“Afraid not...”

“No memories of a young pegasus High Priestess? No secret cult meeting last night?”

“Sorry, but no...”

His memory has been wiped. Aghast, Rarity took off his collar, making the unicorn sigh in relief. “Hold that thought.” She reached into her hidden pocket again and pulled out the sealed envelope that had been in Twilight’s robe. She opened it and pulled out the note inside.

If you are reading this, you realized that the bouncer knows nothing.

“NO!” she screamed, making Ingared jump. SHE KNEW! SHE SAW THIS COMING! Then she took a look at the rest of it.

Also, you just realized that I predicted that you’d capture him.

Rarity barely held back a curse, but she couldn’t stop herself from incinerating the note. “GUARDS!” The door to the interrogation room was opened immediately, and a guard in full armor stepped inside. “Escort Mr. Ramnared back to his home and compensate him for his troubles. Couple hundred bits, whatever’s handy.” She scowled. “And bring me Twilight Sparkle.”

Twilight walked into the room with the smug grin of a pony who had just bested her opponent from within her prison cell. Rarity noticed that the guards had not cuffed her, but that she was still wearing the magic-suppressing ring around her horn. “Good evening, Your-”

Rarity snapped the Band Of The Liar around Twilight’s neck and roughly dragged her to the opposite side of the table. “Sit,” she snarled.

“I presume that’s the Band Of The Liar? And ohhh, is that the Orb Of Torment? I read about that!”

“Calibration run. Lie for me.”

“Ah, you’re mad. I apologize. Please don’t take it personally, I have been told I can be a bit of a know-it-all, but-”


Twilight smiled sheepishly. “Before I do, may I ask how strong the jolt will be?”


“FIFTY?” Her prisoner blanched. “Do you even realize that the average pony loses bowel control at settings higher than forty?”

Rarity’s eyes flicked from Twilight to the orb, then back. “Fine,” she hissed and adjusted the orb’s settings. “It’s set to 25% now. But that’s my only concession. Now lie for me.”

Twilight took a deep breath. “My name is Princess Celest-” Her entire body convulsed; her mouth was wide open, but she couldn’t even produce a sound. After a full second, she collapsed, and Rarity could hear a quiet sob from under the table.

For a few moments, Rarity couldn’t move. She had thought that she wanted Twilight to suffer for all the headaches she had caused her, but actually seeing the other mare in such pain had shaken her. “A-are you all right, darling?” She finally leaned down.

Tears were running down Twilight’s cheek, and her right hind leg was twitching uselessly. “I-I’m fine, jus-” The collar picked up the lie, and Twilight’s body was once again twitching under the orb’s assault.

Without even thinking about maintaining her image as the tough interrogator, Rarity unlocked the collar and pulled it away, making Twilight gasp loudly in what she hoped was relief. Twilight’s lips were moving rapidly, and Rarity wasn’t entirely sure if it was a prayer or a long stream of curses. Damn it. This is not how this was supposed to go! She grabbed the orb and the collar. “GUARDS! MEDICS!” She tried to look in control when her staff arrived. “Give her something for the pain and make sure there won’t be any permanent or long-term effects.” She tossed the magic items at one of the guards. “And return those to the vault.”

Rarity didn’t even flinch when she saw Shining Armor standing in the observation room. The bulkier unicorn was staring through the one-way mirror, watching the medical team care for his sister. “This isn’t what I wanted,” she whispered.

“I know,” he muttered without looking at her. “And that’s the only reason why you’re still standing.”

On any other day, in any other situation, she would have scolded or even punished him for this, but tonight, she just sighed and nodded. The two unicorns stood side by side in silence for almost a minute. “She claims that she wants to seduce me. The sisters implied that that means she honestly wants me to be her beloved, going by her specific expectations of how romance works.“

He slowly turned his head to look at her. Then he made a show of looking at the medics treating his sister. “I presume you’re not interested.”

“This isn’t about my interests! It’s... it’s... you wouldn’t understand...” There was a long pause. He didn’t even bother to look at her. “I never had anypony who loved me,” she finally confessed. “Aside from my parents and sister, of course. I mean in a romantic sense.” Shining Armor gave her a quick sideways glance. “She’s... no prince in shining armor, if you’ll excuse the pun. Everything she did so far, she seemingly did to taunt me. I wanted to... I think I wanted to prove myself to her. Show her that I’m in charge. It broke my heart to see her on the floor, crying and in pain. She is smart and passionate, and I’m tempted to let her sweep me away, but... I’m not sure if I should let her. I’m not sure if I can let her.”

He stepped backwards and turned towards the door, grunting dismissively.

“Wait, please!” Rarity bit her lower lip. “Is... is this love? Do you think this could work? you think I could make it work?”

He paused and half-turned towards her. She could see that he was at a loss for words. He finally shrugged before leaving the room.

Maybe I should’ve asked him that before tasering his sister. Rarity sighed and glanced through the one-way mirror. Twilight was back in a sitting position, and the medical staff was wrapping things up. She met them in the corridor and pointedly ignored their dirty looks, her Queen Empress mask firmly in place before her underlings. The door of the interrogation room clicked shut behind her, and the mask dropped. “Are you all right, darling?”

“Well, I can feel my legs again at least,” Twilight muttered and shook them experimentally. “Remind me to tell Princess Celestia that 25% is not ‘perfectly safe, albeit somewhat uncomfortable.’”

Rarity allowed herself a smirk. “Noted.” Her horn flashed up, and there was a slight hum coming from her Dominator Amulet as it produced a copy of itself. “Let’s try this on for size, shall we?”

“Oh no, I didn’t see this coming,” Twilight wailed mockingly before raising her chin. “Oh wait, I tota-” The golden chain wrapped itself around Twilight’s neck, and she wheezed slightly when she felt her willpower being overridden. “What a strange feeling...”

“I hereby compel you to tell me the full truth,” Rarity ordered, and she could see Twilight twitching slightly under the power of the amulet. “You can try to fight it, but not even the two princesses can resist this power.” Okay, not exactly true, but there is no need to tell her that those two are still openly mocking my power over them with their antics. “Let’s see if this works. Can you still tell a lie?”

“My name is Pri-... Priiiiiiuuuuhhhhh...” Twilight grimaced. “Priiiiii-” She took a deep breath. “Definitely feels weird... MY NAME IS PRRRRRR-TWILIGHT ASMODEUS SPARKLE.” She blinked.

Rarity did the same. “Twilight Asmodeus Sparkle?”

“My mother wanted a girl, my father wanted another boy. They decided to use both names, just in a gender-appropriate order.”

“...your father wanted to name his second son after a... what was it... a king of demons or something?”

“I know, right!?” Twilight was obviously happy that somepony shared her incredulity. “I’m not sure if that says more about my father or my brother, to be honest. I mean, Shining claims to be this icon of virtue, but by the time my parents had me, my father was ready to name me after a demon, so... yeah, no, not buying it.”

Rarity couldn’t help but smile at this. It was intriguing to see this mastermind suddenly be so... normal. “Well, if you play your cards well, you can ask him about this later. Until then, you will answer my questions.”

“You have questions?” Twilight immediately switched back into her cocky know-it-all mode. “And here I thought that you had managed to outwit me, and that I now had to beg you for the privilege of kissing your hooves.” She grinned. “Or did Ingared Ramnared somehow not tell you everything about my dastardly plans?”

Rarity’s smile froze. “You’re insufferable, you know that?”

“Yes, I do,” Twilight replied without hesitating, and Rarity wasn’t even sure if the Dominator Amulet had had to compel her. “I give you points for thinking far enough ahead to use the member list to your advantage. Did you also realize that the only real names on the list are Fluttershy’s, mine and his?” Her smile widened as Rarity’s vanished. “So you actually didn’t think to look for any other cutie marks aside from the one I delivered to you on a silver platter? That’s weak.”

Silver platter? What does she mean by-... Rarity’s eyes widened when she finally realized that she had only been able to take note of Mr. Doorstop’s cutie mark because he had been the only pony not wearing a robe for some reason. Also, the rest of the list is worthless. Thousands of cultists just slipped through my grasp unless I make her write down their names. ...although there is one pony left who might be more helpful... “Since you mentioned Fluttershy, darling... tell me where she’s hiding.” Twilight hesitated, undoubtedly trying to think of a way to dance around the question. Fortunately, Celestia and Nightmare Moon had pulled this trick so often on her that she recognized the tell-tale signs. “That’s a direct command. Answer the question.”

A shiver ran down the prisoner’s spine, and she gasped as the Dominator Amulet’s power surged through her mind. “I don’t know,” she finally wheezed.

“...what?” Rarity blinked and resisted the temptation to poke the amulet to check if it was broken.

Twilight laughed lightly. “I don’t know where she is. Told her to hide somewhere and not to tell me where to find her.”

“Because you anticipated that I’d use the amulet on you.” Heck, she had even told me as much last night. Well played, Twilight Sparkle...

“You know what’s really bad?” Twilight suddenly asked. “Being smart and not being challenged regularly. I think that’s the real reason why I keep gravitating towards ponies in power - you never run out of challenges when it comes to politics.” She shrugged. “Okay, and speaking of bad, there’s the issue where I had been looking for my special somepony, I suppose.” There was a pause, and Twilight was suddenly looking at something a hundred miles away. “I often cried myself to sleep. True loneliness is when you’re looking for your special somepony and know that all available candidates are just so... insignificant.” She looked down at the amulet. “Okay, wow, this enforced-truth thing is starting to become inconvenient...”

“Everything that happened so far had been part of your plan,” Rarity finally acknowledged the obvious truth, deciding to ignore Twilight’s sudden tangent.

“Well, aside from the Orb Of Torment part,” Twilight admitted. “I honestly didn’t see that one coming.”

“What about Fluttershy? Where does she fit into this?”

“Fluttershy is a wonderful pony who had somewhat eccentric visions for the future.” Twilight slowly tilted her head as she tried to put her feeling and experiences into just a few words. “She means well in the long run, but she was in desperate need of guidance when I ran into her. Stroke of luck, really. I had been on my way back here from the Crystal Empire when-” She stopped. “You know my backstory, right?”

“Celestia told me, yes.” She told me you pacified an immortal king while looking for a date.

“Ah, good! Well, I had been on my way back when I saw her handing out hoofwritten pamphlets inviting ponies to take part in blood sacrifice rituals. I was the first one who actually listened to her ramblings, and she showed me around. Can you imagine? She had actually drawn occult symbols on the floor of her cozy little cottage. Poor Angel bunny...”

Rarity gawked at that. “Fluttershy drew occult symbols with Angel’s blood?”

“What? No!” Twilight laughed lightly. “He was just trying to mop them up on his own because he at least had the common sense that you don’t sacrifice where you eat.”

“So you told her that-... no, wait. You didn’t tell her to organize a mass sacrifice because that’s not how it works.” She narrowed her eyes, trying to view all the events so far from the perspective of Twilight organizing a big show just for her. “The mass sacrifice was just a plan to force my hoof, wasn’t it?”

“Ah, it must be nice to have such limited vision...” Twilight blinked and looked down at the amulet. “Could you take this thing off? I’d like to be more subtle with my taunts.”

“You organized thousands of ponies into a cult and told them that there would be a mass sacrifice. You conned them. That is not limited vision, that’s just fact!”

“I didn’t con them. I conned you.”

“No,” Rarity hissed. “I knew a mass sacrifice would not summon Ugolhotll, I just didn’t know if you or Fluttershy were sane enough to know or care. I couldn’t risk you murdering the entire cult for nothing.”

“See?” Twilight beamed. “I conned you!”

“ARGH!” Rarity was sorely tempted to fling the table - or Twilight - across the room. “For the last time, you did not con me! I saw through it all, but for the sake of your cultists, I-”

“There are no cultists.”

“-couldn’t... risk... beg your pardon?”

“There are no cultists,” Twilight repeated patiently.

“...are you still compelled to tell the truth?”

“You ordered me to be, and there was no time limit, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t still be compelled. Then again, if I wasn’t, I could be lying right now, so-”


“We made up the cult!” Twilight grinned, and Rarity briefly considered the possibility that either one of them was delusional. When Rarity didn’t say anything, she shrugged. “I convinced Fluttershy to seek a more... spiritual path to Ugolhotll. She’s a nice mare who still cares about you and all other ponies. So we decided to work together and reform the kingdom while at the same time getting me closer to you. All it took was one con, one false premise. You see, when I want to con you, I present you with the illusion of a choice, based on a premise. You make your decision based on that premise and hope you picked the right one. Should you raid the temple, just to be sure that the cultists are safe? Should you bet on Fluttershy not sending thousands of ponies into a senseless sacrifice? Or should you interrogate one of the guys you recognized and whose information you had thanks to the member list?” She got up and started to pace. “But you see, the truth about any good con is that the premise is already false. You fell for the con the moment you accepted that there is a cult to infiltrate and ponies to save.”

“But-” Rarity struggled to wrap her head around all of this. “But there were cultists!”

“There were ponies.”

“Ponies in cultist robes in the middle of the night, praising some stupid god and being told that there’d be a mass sacrifice!” Then she cringed. “Those were actors. You paid them to fool me.”

“Now you’re going in the right direction!” Twilight nodded happily. “But no, they were not actors. Actors need to be paid, money can be traced, and good luck finding that many passable actors in this town. Also, have you seen Fluttershy’s cottage? She’s not exactly rich. No, we leveraged a little bit of magic to find deeply religious ponies and then used a tiny hypnotic suggestion to redirect their devotion for a couple of hours.”

“You used mind-control on hundreds of ponies just to court me!?” I’m not even sure if I should feel flattered or weirded out.

Twilight hesitated. “Not... the way I would have put it, really...”

“So now there are hundreds of religious ponies who have to live with the memory of worshipping a false god?”

“No, no, that’s taken care of, don’t worry...” There was a slight edge in her voice; it was obvious that Twilight was becoming grumpy when others questioned her brilliance. “Their conversion of short-term to long-term memory was blocked.”

“...are you telling me that you not only mind-controlled, but also memory-wiped hundreds of ponies?”

“I didn’t wipe any memories! This is more like you telling Kibitz to take a note, and he plays along, but doesn’t actually do it.”

“You fudged with minds and memories of hundreds of ponies just to impress me? Darling, would you terribly mind if I suggested you take a remedial class in ethics?”

“Well, at least I didn’t travel to Tartarus to find a forbidden artifact in order to take over the entire-”

“Yes, yes, yes...” There was an awkward pause, and Rarity was starting to realize that Twilight’s script and plan seemed to have gotten weaker after the big reveal of her plans. Or maybe she just didn’t like being called out for messing with my subjects.

“Well then!” Twilight still seemed determined to play her part. “Shall we discuss the terms of your surrender?”

My surrender?” Rarity smirked, unwilling to simply give up her position of power like that. “Darling, you are my prisoner, you just admitted that you have no cult to leverage against me, you have no magic, you are a slave to my commands... and you have not gotten into my head. I have a spell that lets me sleep without any silly dreams, and I can just let you rot in here until you accept who is in power here.” She held out a hoof, as if asking the other mare to kiss it.

There was a flicker of doubt in Twilight’s eyes, but it was quickly hidden behind a carefully neutral mask. “Oh, but you are wrong. I wield the most powerful magic of all!”

“Like what?” Rarity asked. “Friendship?”

“Oh, please...” Twilight once again moved in closer to bring her face close to Rarity’s. “The magic of love,” she finally whispered smiled warmly.

Rarity regretted her sharp laugh the moment it left her mouth. “The magic of love? Oh, darling!” She kept laughing even while her conscious mind was starting to realize that she was witnessing a defensive mechanism she hadn’t even known she possessed. “You executed a needlessly complicated plan, and this is the note you end it on? The magic of love?”

Twilight’s ears were pressed against her head, and Rarity could see that she had not just touched a nerve, but rammed a knife into it. “I-I thought-”

“Yes, wonderful.” Rarity turned to leave, ignoring the quiet voice inside her head that was begging her not to throw all of this away just because... Just because of what, actually? My fear of losing even the tiniest fraction of the power I have? I need to keep a cool head, and then we can talk this- “You think too much while some ponies here are quite busy doing things. But hey, maybe you can think of a way out of your cell.” -NO! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?

“No, wait! Please-”

Rarity slammed the door to the interrogation room shut behind her and instructed the guards to bring her to the most secure cell the palace had.

YOU... IDIOT! You power-hungry, self-obsessed, uncompromising IDIOT!

The voice was going to quiet down eventually. She was sure of it. Everything would be fine. “All hail the Queen Empress,” she whispered and wiped away a tear.

Dropping the Masks

View Online

Half an hour later, Rarity was sitting on her throne. The voice had become mostly quiet, but only because it seemed to know it didn’t have to keep going non-stop.

In the middle of the night, the throne room was quiet. Most of the staff was asleep, and the palace was officially closed, so there were no official royal duties to fulfill. No disputes, no contracts, no diplomacy. Nothing to distract her from the fact that she had just shot down a pony who... who...

Who was in love with you.

“Shut up,” she hissed and cursed the voice.

Past tense.

“Shut up!”

Well, it could be worse, the voice of her self-loathing quipped. You could have reacted the way Blueblood reacted to your proclamation of love. At least you didn’t laugh in her face and mock her! ...oh wait, you did.

“Shut up shut up shut up!” Before the voice had a chance to speak up again, she got up from the throne and walked over to the two sisters, who were - of course - still smiling expectantly. She gave Celestia a glare. “You told me she was this amazingly intelligent pony who was willing to face evil tyrants just to find her special somepony! I... I expected better! I wanted her to make me swoon! I wanted her to break me! Or to submit to me! Anything but this weak resistance that brought out the worst in me! That allowed me to hurt her! But she’s... she’s so...”

“Normal? Imperfect?”

Rarity’s eye twitched. “You... you can hear me?” she asked Celestia and gave her an experimental nudge. The former Princess of the Day was still frozen solid. “Oh no, is this the point where I’m seriously starting to hallucinate?”

“Hardly,” the voice spoke up again, and this time, Rarity realized that it was not Princess Celestia who had spoken. She turned around. “Hey,” Shining Armor muttered.

“Oh.” Rarity paled. I’m dead. He knows I hurt his sister. Not just physically, but also emotionally. Short of incinerating him, I won’t be able to make him stop. “Hello.”

“So. How’s the romance going?”

“Captain, please listen to me,” she whispered. Yes, remind him of his rank, maybe that’ll make him snap out of his rage and act professionally! “I didn’t mean to hurt her.”

“You keep saying these things right after hurting her,” he said and slowly started to pace around her. She could see that he wasn’t armed, but she also knew that he didn’t have to be.

She let out a long sigh and started to slowly head back to her throne, allowing him to adjust his pacing accordingly. “Yes, I’m to blame here. I hurt her. She confessed her love to me, and I... I laughed. Looked her straight in the eyes and laughed at her.”

“You mean just like Prince Blue-”

“YES, EXACTLY LIKE PRINCE BLUEBLOOD!” Her outburst made him pause, and for a moment, she could see concern in his eyes. He... cares? He... cares. Not so much about me, but... “You’re not here to kill me, are you?”

He gritted his teeth and huffed angrily. “No,” he finally muttered and trotted over to her. “I’m really mad at you, but I know that Twily wouldn’t forgive me if I acted on my big brother instincts.”

“Also, you pledged your allegiance to the crown.”

“Don’t push your luck.”

They smiled weakly at each other for a moment.

“I’m well aware of the hypocrisy here,” she finally admitted. “Twilight is so much like I had been back then. She had fallen in love with an ideal, she had made these grand plans, and then... then she realized that her dream date was nothing but a conceited pile of garbage.”

“Here’s the thing, though.” Shining Armor gave her a look. “Blueblood is a flawed jerk, but he’s a good pony at heart. And I think you’re the same.”

“You mean I should’ve given romancing him another shot back then?” She frowned. “You’re saying I’m a flawed jerk?”

He shrugged. “Well, your immediate reaction to being shot down by him was to go to Tartarus to get the power you’d need to overthrow the entire kingdom. And your reaction to a confession of love was to mock her even though you seem to feel the same. I’d say calling you a ‘flawed jerk’ is me being nice.”

“...when you put it that way...” Rarity looked away. “She’s not what I imagined.”

“Of course not. You never got to actually know her.” When she gave him a questioning look, he sat down next to her throne. “At her peak, Twily effectively ran both the day court and the night court. She is used to being in control of this entire kingdom on a much more involved level than you currently are. Now add to this all her fantasies about how her special somepony should be seduced, and you got yourself a scheming pony under immense pressure to orchestrate the perfect performance.”

“Well, I know that.”

“Yes, but there is a young mare behind all this hype. A young mare who would constantly bicker with her older brother. A young mare who would spend hours freaking out about scientific books contradicting each other and then going on a day-long research trip into the library to determine whether one superseded the other.”

Rarity smiled weakly. “I’d love to meet this mare some day... could you introduce us?”

Shining Armor smiled gently. “I doubt she’d be interested in meeting the Queen Empress right now. But maybe she would be interested in talking to the young mare who keeps bickering with time-frozen princesses at late hours and who has rather unique ideas about what ‘tactical’ means in terms of clothing?”

“Heh...” Rarity took off her crown and inspected it. Like the throne, it felt too large right now.

“I know she can be difficult to deal with, especially when both sides are trying to be in charge, but I think both of you are smart enough to be able to work out a solution.”

“Maybe you’re right... thank you, Shining Armor.”

“Thank me after you made it work.”

Rarity smiled. Let’s see if I can still salvage this or if it’s too late to prevent my karmic punishment.

The last time Rarity had felt this underdressed had been when she had infiltrated the cultist headquarters. Her brain told her that that had been just a day ago, but it somehow felt much longer. Taking Shining Armor’s advice to heart, she had left her crown and dress in her room. Aside from the Dominator Amulet, she was just Rarity, plain and simple. Let’s just hope that that will be enough for her...

She wasn’t even sure why she was sneaking through her own dungeon. It somehow just felt appropriate, given her self-imposed incognito status. The effect was slightly diminished by her guards not only noticing, but also standing at attention for her.

However, her efforts paid off when she reached Twilight’s cell block.

“Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!” The prison cells were highly traditional, with the entire front, including the door, being of the iron bar type. Highly stable bars, too, judging from the way they resisted the angry kick coming from inside one of the cells.

Rarity smiled to herself and kept to the wall, staying out of sight of the cell as she crept closer.

“Oh, I wield the most powerful magic!” Twilight groaned before moving her self-deprecation an octave higher. “The magic of looooove!” Another kick aimed at the door. “Ugh! Seriously, Twilight? Seriously? You had years to prepare for this moment, and that’s what you went with?”

Well, this is about as far away from the cool master planner as you can get... Rarity bit her lower lip and smiled widely - this rant was rather cute!

“I swear, that was the corniest, most idiotic declaration of love EVER!”

“Oh, I could think of at least one that topped yours,” Rarity remarked and stepped into view.

Twilight’s reaction was worth all the sneaking: with a startled yelp, the unicorn jumped straight out of her depressed crouch, causing her to slip and stumble backwards. Only the bed behind her prevented her from completely falling to the floor. “NO, THAT-... I-I MEAN-...” She tried to make it look as if the last ten seconds hadn’t happened and haphazardly leaned against the bed. “What do you want?” she asked coolly.

Instead of answering directly, Rarity unlocked the door with the key a guard had given her. She didn’t bother to lock it behind her after she entered Twilight’s cell. Studying the other mare for any subtle sign of movement, she waved at the copy of the Dominator Amulet that was still wrapped around Twilight’s neck, causing it to hiss and crumple. Finally, she took off the ring that suppressed Twilight’s magic. “Better?”

She expected Twilight to be relieved, maybe even thankful. Instead, Celestia’s former student gave her a look of suspicion. “Is this the part where you shoot me in the back and claim that I tried to escape?”

About an hour earlier, this pony was unconditionally in love with me, Rarity reminded herself and tried not to curse. “Ahem. As I was saying, I can think of at least one declaration of love that topped yours.” When Twilight merely raised an eyebrow, she posed dramatically. “As infinite as the stars above the horizon, as eternal as the sun that grants us life, as deep as the blackest of all seas, hitherto is all my love for you!”

Much to her credit, Twilight didn’t laugh. That was, however, all the credit she deserved. “Wow, that was terrible! I don’t even think the word ‘hitherto’ makes any sense in that context. What idiot said that?”

“I did,” Rarity hissed through gritted teeth.

There was a pause. “...right...” Twilight lowered her eyes, inspecting the floor between them. Then she motioned at the door without looking up. “Would you like me to run first, or are you just going to pose my corpse wherever?”

“Can you stop talking about me shooting you for a moment?” Rarity gently reached out with one hoof and gently raised Twilight’s chin until they were looking at each other. For a long moment, she imagined just gazing into those violet eyes for hours while Twilight talked about something smart. Or something dumb. Or anything, really. And I tossed away the easiest path to that future because of some inane fear of not having complete control? I was a fool... “Unless you really force my hoof, nopony will ever hurt you again, darling.” When Twilight relaxed a bit, Rarity smiled. Okay. Now all you need to do is make some smalltalk. Get to know her! She’s obviously smart, resourceful and into you, so this should be trivial! She opened her mouth. And then she closed her mouth again when her brain completely missed its cue. Oh come on, just ask her something! Anything! Her brain finally tossed her a prompt, and she smiled. “Tea or coffee?” Wait, what?

Twilight gave her a baffled look of disbelief. “,” she finally muttered. “Princess Celestia must really miss me if you managed to ask her about me, and her first words weren’t a rant about me preferring coffee over whatever herbal garbage she enjoys.”

Rarity grinned widely. “Now that’s an answer I can work with!” She gave the door a nod. “Come on, darling!”

“ this the part where-”

I really made a terrible first impression on her! “For the last time, nopony is going to shoot you in the back, so could you please stop tempting me?” She gave the door another, more forceful nod. “I would like to get to know the real you better, and I would like to do it in a more... comfortable setting. We’re not that good at playing the roles of captor and captive. It brings out the worst in us.” She paused. “I mean... in me. I said some terrible things back there. Ugly things. Things I once condemned when they were used against me. I should know better. I should be better. And yet...” She shook her head and sighed. “I know the damage has been done, but I want you to know that I’m... I’m sorry, darling.”

“I...” There was a slight pause as Twilight seemed to wrap her head around the fact that the Queen Empress had just apologized to her. “I mean... we both know that I’m not without blame here,” she finally whispered. “We wouldn’t even be here if I hadn’t decided that I’d need to think of a stupid, overly complicated plan in order to get you where I thought I wanted you, so I should be the one to apologize.” She suddenly seemed hopelessly lost. “A-and then my plan... it didn’t work out towards the end and I screwed up and I made you say these things and I’m sorry and it made me look silly and then you laughed and-”

“Yes, yes, yes...” Rarity gently placed her hoof on Twilight’s lips to stop her from descending into complete madness. “It’s not about the plan, but the intent. Your heart is in the right place.” She smiled encouragingly. “Maybe next time, just skip the part where you brainwash hundreds of ponies to impress me and send me flowers instead?”

Twilight averted her eyes. “I... didn’t know which ones you like...”

Don’t giggle. Don’t laugh. This isn’t funny, so don’t make fun of her. Rarity struggled to keep her features under control in a desperate attempt not to jinx her current streak of good luck. “Just... ah... when you need to guess blindly, pick something that goes well with my coat or mane color?”

The advice seemed to do little to help. In fact, Twilight was looking more lost than before. “You mean... uh... something like...?”

Rarity let her stammer on for far too long without even meaning to. It was just so impressive to have found a subject which Twilight Sparkle, mastermind par excellence, apparently knew NOTHING about. “On second thought, go on and brainwash ponies. If in doubt, play to your strengths, right?” She gave her a completely unconvincing smile.

“My... strength... isn’t... brainwashing,” Twilight mumbled, clearly discouraged by her sudden display of ignorance.

You could be chained to an altar by now, but noooo, you had to make things complicated and insist on getting to know her! She forced herself not to laugh at the absurdity of what counted as a positive scenario. Then she frowned. “...where is that blasted thing, anyway?”

“Hm?” Twilight perked up. Clearly, questions and riddles were her thing. Also, she probably welcomed any distraction from Rarity accidentally pointing out her flaws.

“The altar. I didn’t really think about it before, but you moved it, and I don’t know where it went. Some warehouse, maybe?”

“Oh!” Twilight’s mood improved visibly. She opened her mouth to answer, but then stopped herself and touched the spot where the Dominator Amulet used to be. “Actually... why don’t I show you?” she asked and smiled.

“I-I didn’t want to use it right now, darling!” Rarity croaked and smiled sheepishly. “My mother told me not to offer myself for carnal rituals before the first date, after all.”

Twilight’s enigmatic smile faltered, and she was struggling visibly not to laugh. Her resolve lasted six long seconds, but finally, she let out a girlish laugh. “That was mean! Why must I always fall for these silly jokes?”

Okay, I definitely prefer her happy and with some confidence. Rarity relaxed slightly. “So... where is it?”

“I could tell you, but you wouldn’t believe me anyway, so I’ll have to show you.”

“Try me.” Rarity put her weight on her right front hoof and gave her the cockiest smile she could muster.

Twlight flashed her a grin. “It’s in the throne room.”

Again, Rarity couldn’t hold back her mocking laugh in time. “Yeah, right!” NO, NO, NO, NOT AGAIN! WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THAT!?

This time, fortunately, Twilight wasn’t fazed. “See, I told you. Come on.” She boldly walked out of her cell without turning around.

“I thought you were worried about me shooting you in the back, darling!” Rarity shouted as she hurried after her.

Twilight flashed her a grin over her shoulder. “Aha! I am holding myself hostage with the power of my superior intellect!”

“Okay, that was simultaneously the smartest and dumbest thing I heard today,” Rarity informed her while they were jogging up a flight of stairs. Also the cockiest.

Twilight just laughed and turned around a hard-to-see corner without even looking. It struck Rarity just how at home the other mare seemed to be. This castle is her home more than mine...

“Ahhhhhhh, castle, sweet castle...” Twilight pirouetted into the throne room, and Rarity half expected her to sit down on the throne. Instead, she went to the two princesses. “Princess Celestia!” she said and fell to her knees. “Your faithful student has returned.”

Rarity gave Kibitz a look and smirked. “You have to unfreeze her first,” both said in perfect unison.

Twilight looked up. Then she slowly, carefully poked Celestia. “, that...” She sat upright in front of her old mentor and tilted her head. “This is a time-stop, isn’t it?” She nodded without waiting for an answer and walked over to Rarity. “Is that Melody Mageghost’s Twisted Talker Temporal Thaumaturgy spell?”

“Ah... uh... yes, yes, that’s exactly it!” Rarity nodded eagerly.

She stopped nodding when she saw Twilight’s annoyed expression. “I just made that spell up,” she hissed. “You cast temporal magic without properly researching it!? Gah, why is everypony except for me always so careless when wielding magic that can potentially reset spacetime?” She huffed and shoved Rarity aside. “Minor miracle this place hasn’t been sucked into a void dimension yet,” she muttered. “Kibitz, please tell me you took note of whatever tome she got this spell from.”

“I believe it was a volume by Smallfox the Lazy,” Kibitz replied after just a moment of hesitation. “I believe the spell had the word ‘deadlines’ in it? Shall I send somepony to retrieve the book?”

Instead of answering, Twilight closed her eyes and quietly recited something. It took Rarity a moment to wrap her mind around what exactly she was whispering. “...did you commit all those spell names to memory, darl-”

“Divine Deadline Domination?” Twilight sighed when Kibitz and Rarity slowly nodded. “Okay, good. Smallfox was cautious and thorough the few times he got around to actually doing anything. So that spell’s not too bad. Bit on the wasteful side, but it doesn’t have any negative-” She blinked and gave Rarity a sudden smile. “Most fascinating! You simply must tell me how you worked around the spell’s restriction! That’s astounding!”

“...restriction?” You could be cuddling, you could be chained to an altar... but instead, the conversation derailed, and now you’re getting a lecture on time magic. She truly is Celestia’s student.

“Yeah, the restriction he mentioned in his book.” Twilight gave her a searching look. “Because you worked around it, didn’t you?”

Rarity suddenly felt reminded of her old school days. Especially the school days when she had forgotten to do her homework. “Um... could you... maybe... be a bit more... specific?”

Twilight’s look was so far into disbelief territory that she didn’t even seem mad at Rarity for abusing the fabric of the universe without completely reading the manual. “The restriction that you can only cast it on a single object or creature.”

“I... just did it? I suppose Smallpox-”


“-the Hazy-”


“-just didn’t... could you please stop interrupting me, darling?”

“Sorry, force of habit,” Twilight admitted and briefly avoided her eyes.

“Right. Well, as I was saying, he probably didn’t have the magical power I currently wield. Because I did cast it on two ponies.”

Twilight frowned. “But... this isn’t a power restriction. Spacetime just doesn’t work like that when you’re following the spell mechanics Smallfox leveraged. You can only freeze a single pony or object. If you try to go beyond that number, the universe effectively rolls dice to decide which one remains frozen.”

“Pah!” Rarity smirked. “That’s laughable! I mean, if that was true, then one of these two would-” She froze in mid-taunt as a horrible truth was starting to dawn on her. “No... no...”

Nightmare Moon’s frozen smile started to widen.

“NO!” Rarity screamed when she realized that the longest game of freeze tag in the history of Canterlot was coming to an end. “YOU HAVEN’T ACTUALLY BEEN FROZEN!?”

“YOU SHOULD SEE THE LOOK ON YOUR FACE RIGHT NOW!” Nightmare Moon nearly fell over laughing. “OHHHhhh Celestia is going to be so mad when she realizes she missed this!”

“I-... BUT-... ARGH!” Rarity stomped the ground, forcing herself not to throw anything or anypony out through the window. “HOW? HOW EVEN?”

“Well, most of the times, Celestia happened to stay unfrozen. Which also explains why she arranged to be frozen while sitting still.” Nightmare Moon waved her hoof. “Of course, I was the one who had to hold still while covered with tea.”

“...covered with tea?” Twilight asked, giving first Nightmare Moon, then Rarity a look.

“Oh, where are my manners!?” Nightmare Moon leaned down and gave Twilight a quick hug. “It’s good to see you again, Twilight Sparkle.”

“Pleasure’s all mine. It seems that I’m not a day too soon.”

Rarity gritted her teeth, barely bothering to contain the anger that was building up in her. “YOU KNOW WHAT?” she snapped, ignoring the tiny voice at the back of her head that pointed out that this situation was completely her own fault for not reading the notes that had come with the spell. “GO TO TARTARUS, ALL THREE OF YOU!” Whoa, hold on, darling, Twilight’s the least to blame for this, don’t drag her into- “I’LL LOOK UP A BETTER SPELL AND THEN I’LL FREEZE ALL OF YOU AND THEN I’LL PLACE YOU IN THE PALACE GARDENS WHERE THE PIGEONS WILL POOP ON YOU. FOREVER.” She turned around and stomped towards the exit.

“Yes, it’s good that you’re back, Twilight,” Nightmare Moon quipped. “Also, she’s not usually this high-strung. Probably just excited that you’re seducing her.” A pause. “How is that going, by the way?”

“’s an uphill battle to say the least.” Twilight sighed. “Love is hard.”

“OHHH, LOVE IS HARD, PITY MEEE!” Rarity screamed, still making her way through the unreasonably long throne room. WHO EVEN DESIGNED THIS ROOM? She yanked the main door open and entered the throne room through one of the side entrances. PROBABLY CELESTIA, WITH HER STUPID LONG LEGS. She had almost reached Celestia, Nightmare Moon and Twilight again before she realized that something was amiss.

Nightmare Moon was looking simultaneously impressed and annoyed. “You know, you could have just talked to her instead of warping the space around the throne room,” she pointed out to Twilight.

“ make that sound like talking is easier,” Twilight muttered.

“Did-...” Rarity looked over her shoulder. She could see the door leading out of the throne room, and beyond that she saw... herself... standing in the throne room.

“Just try to look at it like a diplomatic inquiry. A request for parley, if you will.” Nightmare Moon was clearly not fazed by the fundamentals of Euclidean geometry being out for lunch.

“Did you-...” The large main entrance of the throne room was somehow connected to one of the side entrances, as if the universe had somehow forgotten how doors were supposed to work.

“That was always Blueblood’s specialty. I was the one who-”


Nightmare Moon gave Rarity a look of disapproval. “Again with the shouting...” When the latter just waved frantically at the door, she gave Twilight a pointed look.

“Yes, yes...” Twilight’s horn flashed up, and Rarity saw the doorway flickering briefly before the regular corridor appeared again. “Okay... I’m starting to see our problem,” she said quietly, and Rarity turned to face her. “I mean, I knew this would be an issue, but I was really hoping that-... no, that was selfish, I see that now...”

Looking at Twilight, Rarity realized that she found Twilight’s little moments of self-doubt extremely endearing. Oh, why can’t I stay mad at her? “Anything you wish to share with the rest of the class, darling?” She asked softly and tried to ignore Nightmare Moon’s knowing smile.

“Hm?” Twilight’s head jerked up, as if she had just realized that her soliloquy had actually been a monologue. “Oh! Um.” She took a deep breath. “I... I mean... we both are used to being in charge, in control, however you would like to phrase it. That makes it... ah... not without complications when we try to interact... especially romantically...” She started fidgeting, and Rarity felt reminded of Fluttershy’s mannerisms for a moment.

Okay, she’s probably right. I mean, this is what Shining Armor also tried to tell me, isn’t it? Now... let’s try to not screw this up. We’re making progress, after all. “So...” She sat down and considered her options before settling on one she normally wouldn’t have considered. “What do you suggest?”

Twilight blinked in surprise - she probably hadn’t anticipated Rarity ceding control so easily. “I... um...” She shot Nightmare Moon a look, but the alicorn just shrugged, clearly happy to sit this one out.

“Don’t act so surprised, darling,” Rarity teased her. “You want to establish yourself as my advisor, so try to act like one.”

Twilight narrowed her eyes, but Rarity could tell that it was an act of concentration, not annoyance. “Well,” she finally said, “reviewing our interactions so far, we both tend to struggle for control whenever we feel challenged or unsure on how to proceed. This clearly sabotages our capabilities of properly engaging in flirtatious behavior.”

“Would you like me to fetch you a blackboard?”

“Oh, that would be rather help-” Twilight blinked, and Rarity could barely hold back her grin. “Funny.”

“Sorry, darling, I just couldn’t help it! You just seem so in your element when you’re being overly analytical.”

“I... suppose so...” To her credit, she managed to snap out of her embarrassed phase quickly. “Anyway. This is hopefully something we will sort out intuitively as we get to know each other. Love is a constant give and take, anyway. As a short-term solution, I suggest that we decide now who gets to be the one to call the shots until sunrise.” She smirked. “Or, if you prefer the phrasing, who gets to be on top for the rest of the night.”

Rarity glanced briefly at the windows - it was somehow getting warmer in the throne room again. “V-very well, then,” she replied, praying that Twilight hadn’t noticed her slight increase in pitch. “And how should we decide who gets to... ah... call the shots?”

There was an intensity in Twilight’s look that Rarity hadn’t seen since their first meeting. “Kissing,” she husked. “Last mare standing wins.”

The temperature seemed to jump another ten degrees or so as Rarity recalled the last time Twilight had kissed her. Yes, that had been a pretty good kiss... but I know what’s coming now, and I have read plenty of novels. I know how a passionate kiss should work. She smiled confidently. Yeah. She just got lucky last time and caught me by surprise. “Fine, we have a deal.”

“This is almost unfair,” Twilight pointed out as the two mares moved towards each other. “You win either way.”

“I intend to win all the way,” Rarity whispered, trying to find the mystical middle ground between sounding menacing and cute. “I will get the best kiss you can muster, and then I will show you how it’s really done. And once you’re floored by my passion, I will-”

“READY, SET, JUST KISS ALREADY!” Nightmare Moon snapped, and they giggled sheepishly before closing the distance.

Rarity’s faint smile as their lips met was short-lived: Twilight had anticipated her intent to be the one on top and immediately lowered her body to give in, making Rarity almost stumble forwards. Oh, she’s not bad! At this distance, Twilight’s scent was incredibly strong, and she broke the kiss to let out a quick gasp.

It was her first mistake.

Twilight changed her position with the speed and determination of a predator that had smelled blood, and before she could react, Rarity could feel Twilight’s hoof gently brushing her neck, starting just below the jaw and working its way down with agonizing slowness. At the same time, she could feel Twilight’s lips moving downwards at the same, glacial pace. Inch after inch of her throat was covered with kisses, and Rarity’s right hind leg trembled and twitched helplessly. Wh-wh-whaaaaa-...? Thinking was much harder than it should have been, and Rarity moved a step away to prepare for her own attack.

Twilight calmly continued to kiss her throat, completely unfazed by the fact that Rarity was well out of reach and that what she was doing was clearly impossible.

Whuuuu-...? It took Rarity a moment that she apparently hadn’t moved an inch despite clearly instructing her body to move. A confused whimper escaped her throat, and she decided to focus on what Twilight was doing.

It was her last mistake.

So far, she had managed to maintain at least the faintest pretense of mental distance from the action, even if her body was starting to betray her. Now, however, she allowed herself to feel everything, to take in every detail. Twilight’s hoof had left a trail of fire down the side of her neck, and each small kiss along her throat made her shudder.

There was no possible way to fight back, Rarity finally realized. Even if she had been able to think of how to kiss Twilight in a way that would allow her to push back, her body was clearly not under her full control anymore. I already lost this contest, and we both know it. This here is just her showing off.

After what felt like months, kisses finally reached her chest, and Twilight took a step back to appreciate her handiwork. Rarity stood on trembling legs, with her right hind leg still kicking uselessly. Her eyes were focused on something miles above the roof of the palace and her breaths were coming in short, desperate gasps. Twilight gently reached out and pushed Rarity’s head slightly downwards until they were looking into each other’s eyes again. “All hail the Queen Empress,” Twilight whispered, and all of a sudden, Rarity’s mind was catapulted back to their first night, their first kiss, the urge to know this mare better, the urge to beg her to chain her to the altar, the urge to submit. But even if her body had obeyed her enough to talk in coherent sentences, Rarity would not have known how to put all of her desires into words.

Thankfully, she didn’t have to.

Twilight moved in for the kill, and Rarity couldn’t help but whimper in gratitude when their lips touched again. A hoof gently nudged the side of her neck and she obeyed blindly, letting her legs give out. A warm field of magic expertly caught her and guided her to the floor. All the while, Twilight kept kissing her, breaking contact only when Rarity was lying on the floor.

The cool tiles of the throne room floor helped Rarity to slowly regain control over her senses. Twilight gave her all the time she needed, and both mares just looked at each other, catching their breath and grinning like idiots. “Take it slow,” Twilight advised her when she finally tried to get up again, helping a little bit with her magic.

“I’m fine, darling,” Rarity told her even though she found herself leaning into the warmth of Twilight’s magic. “But goodness, where did you learn to kiss like that?”

“Oh, there are plenty of tips in ‘The Six Constellations of Enlightenment.’ I mean, there’s an entire chapter on-...” She suddenly blushed. “ANYWAY. I also decided to bring in some knowledge of the nervous system and associated reflexes, taking advantage of the fact that you wouldn’t mind me stroking your neck. Just to make sure you wouldn’t interrupt me.”

“That’s borderline cheating, you know?”

“Would you like to go for a second round with more specific rules?”

The offer seemed genuine, which startled Rarity. Shouldn’t she be more defensive about this? Or is she just so sure that she would win without this extra insurance? She sighed. She probably is. And she is probably right. “It’s fine, darling. You get to call the shots for the next couple of hours.”

“Great!” Twilight’s horn flashed up briefly, and a scroll appeared out of nowhere. “I took the liberty of compiling a list of things we should wrap up for maximized peace of mind and-”

“Wait, hold on!” Rarity gestured at the scroll. There were indeed several items on it. She tried not to openly admire the impeccable hoofwriting. “When did you have the time to write this? And don’t tell me you predicted this entire evening!”

There was a brief flash of annoyance on Twilight’s face, but she eventually just shrugged. “A) I’m very efficient at creating lists. B) You just allowed me to call the shots tonight, and I’m invoking said authority now to postpone this discussion.”

Well, that was blunt. “Very well, Dictator,” she muttered and stuck out her tongue.

“Okay, first of all, I am not Dictator Twilight Sparkle. I am Royal Advisor Twilight Sparkle, and I would appreciate it if you called me that.”

“Let me guess, it tested better with the focus groups?” Rarity asked, indulging her sense of déjà vu.

“Secondly, you literally gave me this authority a minute ago, so shush.” Twilight huffed playfully and made a show of consulting the list. “First item: the altar’s location.”

“Yes, the one you allegedly hid in this very room.” Instead of answering, Twilight just looked at the throne and pulled a hidden lever on its side with her magic. “What did you-” Rarity started to ask when she realized that a large part of the floor in the middle of the room was sliding to the side. “What-”

The altar slowly rose out of its hidden space.

“...why is there a lever on my throne to make a sacrificial altar rise out of the floor!?” Rarity asked nopony in particular.

“Well, normally, that’s where we keep the strategic map of Equestria,” Nightmare Moon explained. “You know, in case of war, you can plan troop movements there.”

“Which we won’t be doing anytime soon if I can help it,” Twilight muttered. “I specifically ordered the altar in the same size as the map table, by the way, because yes, hiding it here was indeed part of my plan. All bow before my supreme intellect or something.”

Rarity tried desperately not to look at the altar. She knew her willpower well enough to not test it any further. “How did you manage to get it in here between our first meeting and the raid, though?”

Again, Twilight made a show of checking her list. “Ahhhh, I’m afraid that’s not on the list.” She flashed her a quick grin. “Besides, I enjoy to keep a few secrets to myself if I can.” When Rarity just pouted, she glanced at the list again. “Next, you will order Kibitz to prepare my contracts to reinstate me as Royal Advisor as well as Her Majesty’s star student. Same conditions as the previous ones. You’ll get a chance to inspect them once they’re drafted.”

Goodness, she really doesn’t kid around when it comes to formalizing her power here. Rarity gave Kibitz a quick look and waved her hoof. “What she said, yes, yes, yes...”

“Great! We’re making excellent progress!” Twilight checked off list items with a quill that hadn’t been there a moment before. “Third item... Kibitz, how much sleep did you get during the last couple of nights?”

“Significantly less than the recommended amount,” Kibitz replied diplomatically.

“Then your vacation will start tomorrow. Let’s say a week off, full pay, and the kingdom will take care of your travel expenses. Priority booking, first-class, the works.”

“Um, darling...” Rarity timidly held up a hoof. I sort of need this guy, so could you not just give him a week off? I don’t like to admit it, but he pretty much ran this kingdom beyond the sweeping changes I decreed.

“Oh, of course, you’re right!” Twilight grimaced. “What was I thinking? Two weeks off! I mean, what can you really do in just a week, right?”

“Two weeks? Are you mental? I rely on his schedules and-”

“Your Majesty,” Kibitz spoke up and smiled gently. “You fail to realize two things. First of all, Miss Sparkle is both capable and eager to assist you in managing the day-to-day tasks. I very much look forward to her taking this particular burden off my back. And secondly, I believe your to-do lists will have only one item on them for the next couple of days, and that item is standing in front of you.”

Rarity looked at Twilight, and both mares blushed crimson. “F-fine, enjoy your vacation...”

“Your Majesty is too kind,” Kibitz bowed slightly.

“Okay, only two items left, wonderful!” Twilight tapped her list. “Kibitz, since you will technically be on vacation by then, please tell Shining Armor to wake Rarity up when it’s time to raise the sun. She will be in the Celestial Sitting Room.”

“Celestial Sitting Room?” Rarity hadn’t bothered to familiarize herself with the various rooms the castle had to offer - to her, the most important locations had been the throne room and her personal chambers.

“Large room, mood lighting, several dozen pillows, and around-the-clock room service.” Twilight beamed.

When Rarity just blinked in confusion, she showed her the last item on the list: “Getting to know my love.”

“You said it yourself, we should get to know each other better and without the masks we tend to wear. I will be happy to answer any question you have, and I hope you will return the favor when you feel like it.”

“Well, this is a plan I can get behind, darling.” Rarity held out her hoof, and the other mare gently placed hers on it.

Twilight was gently steering her towards one of the side exits when Nightmare Moon coughed. “And what about me?”

Rarity looked over her shoulder. “Please don’t do anything bad, dear! Enjoy your night off!” Goodness knows I will...

“Your wish is my command!” Nightmare Moon bowed dramatically before flashing Rarity a knowing smile. “All hail the Queen Empress!”

No, Rarity thought and smiled back, all hail my most faithful student.