Letters from Canterlot

by wanderingbishop

First published

Fancypants relates his early years as a young businesspony making his first steps into high society.

Everyone knows Fancypants is Canterlot's most important pony - but when did he become the most important? How did he do it? And where did he begin his rise to prominence? When Rarity puts the question to him, Fancypants decides to tell her his history in a series of letters, detailing his triumphs and tribulations on the road to the top.


View Online

"Once again, I simply must thank you for a wonderful evening," Rarity gushed, shaking Fancypants' hoof.

“Most kind of you to say so,” Fancypants replied, opening the front door with a smile and a stately bow.

Do be sure to stop by next time you're in Canterlot,” Fleur-de-Lis added, lightly tossing her pale pink mane.

“Oh, I will,” Rarity replied. Not that she really needed to say so – this polite exchange of conversation at the conclusion of the three's evenings together had become something of a ritual.

Rarity had been travelling to Canterlot a great deal since she first met Fancypants – his endorsement of Twilight Sparkle's half-finished dress in front of the entire Garden Party had resulted in a sudden increase in orders from Canterlot, and over the last few months, she, Fancypants and Fleur had become firm friends. Fancypants and his wife had greatly appreciated having someone they could relax around, and Rarity had simply been thrilled to spend time with the two.

“Oh, I forgot to mention,” Fleur added as Rarity wrapped her scarf around her neck, “Upper Crust came to my soiree the other week. She's still wearing your dress like it was made of diamonds.”

Rarity gave a small giggle of amusement. The day after the garden party, Jet Set and Upper Crust had been hammering at the door of her suite to place their orders for a full set of dresses and suits. It was remarkable how quickly they had flip-flopped. Indeed, the more she saw of Canterlot high society, the more she was starting to think that Fancypants was just too... well spoken to be one of them.

"Is something the matter, Rarity?" Fancypants asked, noticing Rarity bite her lip in uncertainty.

"Oh, it's nothing really," Rarity replied with a smile. "Well, I say nothing... I mean, it's something, clearly, but it's not something important... not that I mean the question isn't important, but it's not important I know... you know?"

Fancypants raised a monocled eyebrow and gave a wry smile. "Come now, don't be coy – let's hear it."

"Well..." Rarity began, shifting her hooves, "You're the most important pony in Canterlot, everyone knows that, but... I was wondering how you became the most important pony. I mean, you just seem too... nice."

Fancypants and Fleur looked at each other, as if surprised by the question. Rarity began to stammer out an apology for being impertinent, but Fancypants turned and began to walk back towards the fireplace, talking quietly with Fleur. As they reached the mantlepiece, they seemed to come to an agreement. Fancypants came to a stop, looking up at the photos and paraphernalia that bedecked the mantlepiece.

"How I became Canterlot's most important pony... now that's going back quite a way," he said, more to himself than Rarity. "It's a long story, my dear, and if I'm to do it justice, I'll need to start from my very first days as a young businesspony. In any case, there are parts that I must ask permission to relate.”

"Oh, I see," Rarity said, apologetically, hanging her head. "No, that's quite alright, it was an idle curiosity, nothing m-"

"I have an idea," Fancypants announced, turning back to Rarity. "Why don't I tell it by correspondence?"

"Beg your pardon?" Rarity asked, nonplussed.

"It's a long story – probably longer than I could tell in a single sitting, even if you didn't have a ride to catch. And I was intending to stay in contact once you returned to Ponyville. Would you mind getting the story via letter, instead of in person?"

"Why, that would be wonderful!" Rarity enthused. Letters? From Fancypants? Her day couldn't possibly get any better! "Here, just let me give you my address..."

"It will probably take a while for me to write the first letter," Fancypants remarked as Rarity scrawled down a postal adress with a quill. "I have a few commitee meetings to attend. But I should have the first letter sent to you within the week."

"Oh, take all the time you need," Rarity replied, levitating the scrap of parchement over to Fancypants. "I look forward to hearing from you!"


"Hello, letter for Miss Rari- ooof!"

"Letter?! Where?!" Rarity exclaimed, looking out from her front porch, hoof held dramatically against the slammed-open door. The door wiggled a little and let out a muffled noise.

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Rarity apologised as the grey, blond-haired mail pegasus wobbled out from where she'd been squashed against the wall of the house.

"s'alright," Ditzy Doo replied vaguely, shaking her head to clear the stars from her vision. "Anyway, letter for you from Canterlot – intructions said to deliver it in person. If you could sign for it-"

Rarity levitated the clipboard out of Ditzy's mailbag, furiously scribbling out a signature, taking the letter and shutting the door in the space of a few seconds

"... here?" Ditzy Doo finished, a little confused at Rarity's odd behaviour. After a few seconds, she gave a shrug and tucked the clipboard back into her bag, flying off down the street on her mail run.


"Oh, Opal, this is such an honour!" Rarity said to her pedigree cat as she trotted into her inspiration room, clearing a stack of concept sketches off the drawing table and unfolding the envelope. "Fancypants is writing to me! Me! Oh I can't wait to find out how he did it – I'm sure it's a daring tale of intrigue and politics and daring rescues!"

"Mrrowll," Opal replied, unimpressed with Rarity's ability to speak in italics.

"Well, here we go," Rarity said to herself, unfolding the first sheet of letter paper and placing it on the desk. "Let's see what he's written..."

1st Letter

View Online

My dear friend Rarity

As I sit down to write this letter, I find myself reflecting on my past with a surprising amount of nostalgia. One forgets how the passage of time amplifies the emotions one associates with certain events. As such, this tale will probably take a few flights into romanticism. I'm sure you won't mind my embellishing of the tale with a little artistic rhetoric. Also, this story will have to be sent in more than one letter, as there is a lot to tell – and in any case, you may want to ask for elaboration on certain points. For now, here is the start of the story.

I began my career much as any son of the upper class does – a bright-eyed young stallion, with a newly printed degree in economics, a small inheritance from my parents, and a desire to make my name one to remember. My family was not one of the prestigious families, but they were well liked within their social circle. My family have always valued learning and education very highly. My father especially, was an avid tinkerer, and instilled in me a deep appreciation for invention and progress. I feel it is this, more than anything, that determined my business choices in those early years.

I began my career by investing in the airship industry – airships have always been a passion of mine, as you will remember from the trip Fleur and I gave you on our personal air yacht. Most investors were focusing their attention on land development and textiles that year, and so I had little competition – I was able to drive a good bargain, and made my money go as far as I could. Meanwhile, I started to make myself known in society. I attended dinners and races, paying attention to which ponies set the trends and which ponies followed them. Strange as it may sound, I was a nopony back then – a bright-eyed newcomer, eager to make a mark, but ultimately inexperienced (and to be perfectly honest, more than a little headstrong). I chose my friends carefully, keeping clear of the ambitious business tycoons and social climbers who would be willing to put aside gentlemany conduct to advance their careers.

It was here that I made one of my first and best friends – Rapier Wit, a handsome, charming young unicorn who always seemed to have a mare hanging off his shoulder. He was a picture of aristocracy – about the only thing bluer than his blood was his coat, and to this day, I'm not entirely sure how he was able to style his white mane so expertly when he was a self-described gentlepony bachelor. When I first met the pony, he was at an outdoor soiree, regaling his friends with his latest attempt to woo one of the wealthy socialites who had arrived in Canterlot that month. I was impressed by his unfazed attitude - his attempt had been an unmitigated failure, from what I could hear, but he still related the tale with all the energy and enthusiasm of someone who had won a lottery. Then, to my consternation, he noticed me eavesdropping and ushered me over, asking for my name and including me in the conversation as if I was an old childhood friend. I was suspicious of his motives at first, but from his mannerisms and the way he talked to everyone at the party, it quickly became apparent that he simply had an gregarious, extroverted personality. Not only that, but he had been to the same college as myself, and we were soon trading anecdotes about infamous lecturers and classes we had endured. We became firm friends, and I became one of the regulars at his fortnightly games of Blackjack.

At this time, I also began to establish my business headquarters, renting an office in the middle district of Canterlot. It was a touch on the expensive side, but I was confident that the social prestige would pay dividends in the long run. I spent the next year branching out my portfolio, investing in a number of places outside of my main focus, which remained the airship industry. One company in particular caught my eye – they were working on a prototype of a new design of airship which, if succesful, would result in a faster, more affordable model for future generations. Naturally, I was quite enthusiastic about the project, and went out of my way to pull strings in the background, opening avenues for the company, putting in a good word for them at the right place to the right ponies, and so on.

My workload quickly became more than a single pony could manage. As much as I wanted to oversee every aspect of my business, the need for a personal assistant became unavoidable, and so I employed a unicorn by the name of Crystal Curl – a teal mare with a cream-coloured mane that was always tied up in a very prim, proper hairstyle to match her prim, proper manner. She was the picture of professionalism, and a skilled businesspony. Leaving the more mundane aspects of my investing to her, I concentrated on my main projects and my attempts to advance in society.

Of course, not everypony welcomed my entrance into the business sector. Many looked down their noses at the upstart young businesspony trying to climb the ladder. Most simply settled for haughty disdain or pointed indifference, but a small group of ponies from more prestigious families decided to nip a potential threat in the bud, so to speak. There weren't very many pegasi in Canterlot at that time, but those that did exist were quite ambitious. One such pegasus was Silver Podium, a steel-gray stallion with a mane the colour of slate. He was a proud sort, and didn't take kindly to competition. He and his friends made it a point to be belligerent, hoping to goad me into making some manner of social faux pas – alas, even in high society, schoolyard bullies have their corner. Rapier Wit was a boon in these situations – his unflappable attitude did much to deflect Silver Podium's attempts at goading. There were many nights when we took turns imagining what ridiculous insult the pegasus would come up with next, eventually making it a running bet between us to see who could most accurately predict his entourage's next insult. I'm sure I ended up funding the majority of Rapier Wit's wine cellar in those days.

One night, I was accosted by Silver Podium at a formal dinner being thrown in the palace ballroom, the night before a grand airshow, where the latest airship models would fly for the amusement of the spectators, and to showcase themselves before potential investors from the more prestigious firms. The company I had invested most of my shares in was trialing their protoype airship, participating in a regatta intended to show off the maneuverability of the craft. Silver Podium and his tagalongs started to call my business sense into question, making veiled insults about everything from my choice in companies to my choice in neckties. Unfortunately, Rapier Wit was not at that dinner – had he been there, I might have held my tongue. As it was, I took the bait, and said to them that at the regatta tomorrow, I would bring the airship over the line faster than any airship had ever gone before. This was, of course, what they had been hoping to achieve – goad me into making a rash promise that I would be unable to fulfill, embarrassing myself and calling my judgement into question, thus scuttling my fledgling reputation.

It would be misleading, however, to make out that I had spoken without thinking. I had in fact been intending to have the airship try to break the course record, and I had been following the ship's development quite closely. It was a truly remarkable design – not only were the propellors carefully shaped to provide as much power as possible, but they were enchanted to withstand the high stresses they would experience during operation. The enchantments in the dirigible to make it lightweight enough for the envelope to lift were supplemented by the envelope itself – the shape of the craft was designed to act like a sail, catching wind under the main body of the airship and funneling it between the bulges of the airship's skin to create an effect not unlike that of a bird's wing.

A truly remarkable piece of work, as I have said – but ultimately an untested one. The craft had taken some basic flight tests, but an attempt at the speed record was a risky gamble. Before, I had intended to keep the attempt a secret, so that if it turned out that the airship couldn't handle the speeds and sharp turns needed, we could ease up and go at a slower pace, playing it safe and still impressing the investors. Now, however, we had to break the record – Silver Podium had made sure to spread the news that I was making the attempt and would be piloting the airship in person. The crew of the airship were less than impressed when I arrived the next morning – most saw me as an upper class fool who had no business poking his nose into more technical affairs, and even the captain, with whom I was on speaking terms, thought that I had taken leave of my senses. I was able to smooth things out enough for him to agree to race, but he wasn't convinced that it would end in any way other than tears.

A few airships ran through the course ahead of us, giving the crew time to prepare, tightening up the rigging and oiling the engines. If they were going to be made fools in front of everypony, it wasn't going to be because they didn't do their jobs, as the captain told me at the time. When our turn came, tension on the ship was thicker than treacle. The captain fairly shouted at the skipper to go to full power. Now, I would be lying if I said that the airship tore through the course like a Wonderbolt – airships are not exactly known for their speed – but compared to the other entries, it was positively sprinting through the checkpoints. As feared, however, the ship struggled with the tighter turns. The rigging creaked ominously as the dirigible swung about beneath the envelope, and everypony struggled to stay on their feet. However, it was paying off – we were beating the course record on each and every checkpoint we went through. I was going to win my bet after all.

Then, on the last corner, the rigging on the main rudder jammed. The airship was now stuck in a gentle left curve which would result in it missing the finish line completely, and probably crashing into the auditorium. The captain was ready to give up and bring the ship to a complete stop, but I was having none of it. I had too much riding on this race – not just my reputation, but the survival of the company. If this failed, they would never get their design off the ground, and I would not be responsible for scuttling their project. I had a wild idea – it was chancy, but I was well acquainted with the airship's design and the principles on which it worked, and was confident that it would work .I didn't have time to explain it to the captain, so with a brief apology, I pushed him out of the way and took the wheel myself, pulling the airship into a sharp roll to starboard. The deck lurched to the right, nearly everypony on board lost their footing – I myself only stayed up by holding onto the wheel for dear life. An almighty groan came from the port rigging as it took the entire weight of the airship. The rudder was still stuck in position, but now the airship was tilted at steep angle – the lifting properties of the airship's envelope were now counteracting the pull of the rudder, keeping us almost straight. There was a terrible screeching crash as we passed through the finish line posts – the port stabilizer fins had shredded themselves on the posts, causing the airship to veer dangerously close to the auditorium. As the ship swooped over the crowd, I got a brief, tumbled view of a hundred stunned faces as the airship skimmed past the last of the auditorium seats. Now clear of obstacles, I let the airship roll back into a level position and cut power to the engines. The crew got to their feet, looking back in amazement as the crowd erupted into furious cheering and the announcer called out what I'd been waiting to hear – we had beaten the course record.

From there, things snowballed. Quite aside from our beating of the record, the dramatic display of the prototype's ability to handle extreme stresses resulted in a flood of new investors. The company's stocks boomed overnight, and soon I had amassed a fortune. I spread out my investments, putting money into a number of projects – residential and trade as well as technology. With my first big break, I was able to command a degree of attention at social gatherings, and soon began climbing the rungs to the next set of business contracts. The company with the prototype airship was a stunning success, and as gratitude for my part in getting them that success, they gifted me the first production model of their new airship – in fact, this was the very airship I invited you on during your stay in Canterlot. Every time I get behind the wheel, it's like I'm reliving that first breathtaking race all over again.

Now, that may seem to be the entire story, but I assure you that is not the case. I had become an important pony, true enough, but I was still very much in the middle of the social ladder. And, if you have been astute, you will note that I have not mentioned Fleur-de-Lis. Indeed, I had not even met her at this point in my life; that came later, after what may very well have been the hardest time of my career. And that part of the story will, unfortunately have to wait until next time.

I trust you have found this interesting so far – do let me know if you wish me to elaborate further on any points. And at the same time, be sure to tell me how life is going for you – I have had little experience socializing outside the city, and I am dying to hear what life in Ponyville is like.

Until my next correspondence,

Yours faithfully,


2nd Letter

View Online

My dear friend Rarity

In my last letter, I related my first years as a young business pony, and my first major step up the social ladder. The runaway success of the airship company I had invested in left me with enough capital to expand from a small business prospector, to an influential capitalist. My town office became the hub of a network of small businesses. While my own investments played the major role in my financial success, I cannot take all the credit. My loyal secretary Crystal Curl became my vice-president in everything but name – her prudent business sense, and vision unblinkered by ambition prevented me from making a number of investments that would have later proved disastrous. As well as an asset to my business, she was also a wonderful sounding board for the stress and demands of high society. Her down-to-earth manner and forthright honesty were an anchor in a world of fickle fashions and skin-deep friendships.

Of course, one should not take this to mean that I disliked the social maneuvering of the upper class. Far from it, I found the politics an invigorating challenge – much to the amused disbelief of my friends. My colleague Rapier Wit was forever making friendly jibes about which prickly gentleman I would be making enemies of next. While I did not go out of my way to find conflict, my ambitious business practices often brought me into competition with the established firms. At this point, I began to experience proper, directed competition – companies that I was attempting to gain shareholder majority on would be suddenly divvied up between a set of larger corporations, forcing me to seek opportunities elsewhere. Small startups that I had invested in would be bought up before they had a chance to flourish. These incidents were scattered, and often belated reactions, that did little more than cut off the source of profits I had already reaped, but it was clear that somepony didn't want me to have any say in Canterlot's economy.

At this point in my career, I began to take a greater interest in the social events of Canterlot, as much for their own sake as for the economic advantages. Rapier Wit was delighted at my renewed interest in what he liked to term “the game where everypony's a dealer, and no-pony holds the aces” I was never sure what he meant by that. Knowing Rapier Wit, he probably made up the phrase and then kept it ready to pull out at every opportunity. In any case, he was thrilled to be able to introduce me to the diversions and entertainments that I had been missing out on. I improved my skill at Blackjack, becoming a well-known patron of Canterlot's higher-class casinos, and I believe I still have the silver trophy I won for the croquet tournament that was hosted one year at the Grand Galloping Gala. However, the most significant event of my early career had yet to occur. That would have to wait for my first Canterlot Garden Party.

The Canterlot Garden Party that year was a truly stunning affair – the organisers spared no expense in making it one to remember. A grand pavilion was erected over the lawn, and tables fit for the royal banquet hall itself were laid out. I and Rapier Wit attended, mingling politely and striking up idle conversation with old acquiantances. Then, dinner was served, and the party took their seats. I had sat down, and was preparing to inspect the appetizers the waiters were bringing out, when a pegasus mare sat down opposite me at the table.

I had never seen a more beautiful creature in all my days. She had a luxuriant, caramel-orange coat, with an expertly curled mane like milk chocolate. Her physique was lean and tall, and her wing feathers were combed in perfect Canterlot form. For a cutie mark, she had a green rose vine, with a blood-red rose in full bloom. Her olive-green eyes left me momentarily unable to say anything, so entrancing she was. In the end, she had to lean forwards and ask me what I was having for appetizers to remind me that I was still at the Garden Party.

For the rest of the party, I barely left her side, and she seemed more than happy to receive the attention. Her name was Liquid Satin, and she was a young socialite who had recently moved to Canterlot from Manehatten. She had a biting wit, something that I found most refreshing after years of Canterlot decorum and genteel behaviour. And though at first I thought I was imagining things, by the end of the night there was no doubt that she was just as interested in me. I had on occasion flirted with some of the more winsome mares of Canterlot, but with Liquid Satin, I did something I had never had the confidence to try before – I asked her to dinner. To my delight, she agreed. I spent the remainder of the Party in a state of euphoria, and had barely a wink of sleep before I was up the next morning, planning how to make this the most memorable outing I could.

The next evening when Liquid Satin arrived, I spared no expense. I took her out on my personal air yacht, with a complement of my personal staff to serve us dinner at the prow of the ship. Then, as evening approached, we berthed at the Canterlot mountain observatory. It is a beautiful place – beneath the dome of the astronomy telescope, a fountain garden winds its way down a shallow hill to a view which takes in eastern lands of Equestria. Ponyville is visible from there, and even the edge of the Everfree forest. It is a truly stunning sight now and it was just as stunning back then. Liquid Satin seemed to be content to stay as the sun set, and so we watched as the last golden rays of sunlight receded across the plains. Much of our conversation was idle and bore little purpose other than to enjoy talking with each other, but one particular exchange sticks in my mind to this day. As the sun disappeared from the sky, I commented on what a beautiful land we lived in. Liquid Satin replied by saying that looking at it all from up here made it seem like we owned everything we saw below us, and that she liked that feeling.

In hindsight, that should have been my first warning.

Over the next few months, Liquid Satin and I continued to see each other. More and more, I found myself setting time aside from my business to spend time with her. It was a storybook-perfect whirlwind romance, and by year's end I was convinced that I had found my soulmate. We publicly announced our engagement, to the congratulations of many and to the mock despair of my bachelor friends. Rapier Wit even held a memorial service at our next game of Blackjack, complete with a melodramatic eulogy.

Liquid Satin and I talked about everything together – her opinions on social politics, and my successes in the business sector. She began to take an interest in my business, asking what I looked for when buying up shares. Delighted to share my passion with an avid listener, I elaborated on various strategies that I employed, even giving some examples from companies I was currently investing in. She caught on quickly, and before long she was even suggesting possible avenues to explore over the dinner table. It wasn't long before she began to come into work to see me, checking on how I was doing and giving a constant stream of support.

One day, Liquid Satin again stopped by my office for a chat, this time about the ballet company I was investing a substantial sum of money into as part of a long-term strategy to strengthen my public image. We traded suggestions about it for a few minutes, before Crystal Curl came into the office, requesting a private conversation while glaring meaningfullly at my fiancee. Affronted by my secretary's manner, Liquid Satin left in a huff. I was disappointed that her visit was cut short, but I trusted Crystal Curl enough to know that she wouldn't interrupt unless it was something important. So you can imagine my surprise when she placed her hooves on the desk and declared that I had to break off my engagement with Liquid Satin.

Flabberghasted, I demanded to know her reasons. I was aware that Crystal Curl had never been particularly friendly towards Liquid Satin, but I had assumed that to be her normal, cordial manner – I have never expected her to be outright hostile to the pegasus. Crystal Curl was convinced that Liquid Satin was simply taking advantage of me, and had no feelings for me one way or the other. Naturally, I scoffed at this, and told her to be reasonable. She was resolute, however – and after arguing back and forth for a few minutes, her temper frayed, and she announced that she couldn't stay and watch as Liquid Satin destroyed everything that the two of us had built together, and if I couldn't give her up, then Crystal Curl would hand in her resignation . By this point I was properly angry, and I am ashamed to say I shouted at her to get out my office. It was not until the end of the day that I found she had gone straight from there to the front desk, tendered her immediate resignation, and walked out the door. I never saw her again.

I was upset with Crystal Curl's apparent deserting, but I was convinced she was wrong, and intended to apologize to Liquid Satin for her behaviour the next time we met. However, Liquid Satin did not come to our next scheduled dinner. Nor did she come into my office. At first I thought she simply had business to take care of, but after nearly a week with no contact, I became genuinely concerned. Then, eight days after Crystal Curl had stormed out of my office, my temporary assistant came in, looking like he had just been mugged. As he spilled sheets of graphs and stock market analyses on my desk, he began to paint a dreadful picture – my key investments, the major companies that my wealth was sunk into, had all suddenly crashed – a series of speculative purchases of shares and stock market juggling had resulted in half the companies filing for bankruptcy. And it was not a random coincidence. The purchases and sales that had caused my shares to collapse had been carefully timed and placed, often happening mere hours before my own purchases. It was almost as if someone had read my mind and then done exactly what was needed to bring my investments crashing down on my head. I had enough stable shares in smaller companies to survive the damage, but my business had taken a blow it would not recover from. I couldn't imagine what had happened, until my assistant mentioned the ballet company I had just invested in as one of the companies hit. The first suspicion of what had happened entered my mind, and an ice-cold knot of dread tightened around my heart.

I left my office, not even bothering to put on my waistcoat, and fairly galloped across town to Liquid Satin's apartment. I burst through the doors to the living room, ready for anything – except what I actually saw. My old rival, Silver Podium, was lying on the couch, with Liquid Satin draped across his shoulder. They were surprised by my sudden appearance, but they were not thrown off balance for an instant – indeed, Silver Podium declared my arrival a stroke of luck. He proceeded to tell me the whole story; how he had met Liquid Satin on one of his business trips, and they had discovered their shared ambition for power. Liquid Satin wanted to gain enough money to become a member of the Canterlot elite, and Silver Podium wanted revenge on me for making a fool of him at the airship regatta. They had joined forces, Liquid Satin gaining my trust, and Silver Podium using the business information she gleaned from me to set himself up for a coup. He would have preferred to wait until he could leave me in complete bankruptcy, but as it was, Liquid Satin had decided that Crystal Curl would throw too much suspicion on her, and so they had set their plan in motion prematurely. Even in abandoning me, my faithful secretary had saved me from complete disaster. Finally, Liquid Satin rubbed the last ounce of salt into the wound. She scoffed at me, commenting on how painfully easy it was to deceive and dupe me, and how she was glad she no longer had to feign interest in such a gullible colt. Then, right in front of me, she leaned over and fondly kissed Silver Podium's ear. This was as much as I could take. I left without a word.

I walked back to the office in a daze, unable to see anything past the anger and humiliation of it all. Barely acknowledging my employees as I entered my office, I sat down at the desk. In front of me was the pile of charts my assistant had brought in. At the front of the pile, directly facing me, was the bankruptcy filing claim of the ballet company I had put shares in but a week prior. The sight of this proved to be the final straw. I flew into a mad rage. My employees tell me it was a frightening sight – the desk reduced to splinters, and a tornado of magically levitated office equipment howling through the air. And when my anger was finally spent, I sank down to the floor. No longer able to keep my composure, I wept.

My business empire was in ruins. I had barely enough money to pay my outstanding expenses, and I would have to lay off half my staff just to stay afloat. I had lost one of my oldest and dearest friends because of my own foolishness and arrogance, and the mare I thought I had loved had stabbed me through the heart and twisted the knife until I was bled dry. On reflection, Liquid Satin's cutie mark was so fitting – a thorned vine, entangling and snaring those drawn in by the beauty of its flower.

I will have to finish the letter here. While I have moved past these events, they are still painful memories, and a part of my history I am not proud of. I needed to relay these events so that the next part of my career can be put in the correct context, but it will not benefit from being written down in a cynical frame of mind, so I will come back to it when I have regained my decorum. Hopefully my next letter will be a much more uplifting piece of correspondence.

Yours faithfully,


3rd Letter

View Online

My dear friend Rarity

At the end of my last letter, I left you with a picture of a pony broken and defeated, everything he had relied on ripped out from under him. My business was not completely dead, but I was starting from scratch – I had not had so little to work with since before my first major break with the airship prototype. The total extent of the collapse took a month to be fully realized, and at that point it became clear that I had lost so much that I could not even afford to keep my office anymore. I sold off most of my extraneous possessions, aware of the fact that every bit of finance would count now. My airship I kept, however – it served as a symbol of my past success, a reminder that even now, there was hope of recovery.

My social contacts dried up along with my money, and I was thankful that I had stayed friends with Rapier Wit – his support did a great deal to bolster my confidence and in the end it was friends of his that gave me my first significant break since Silver Podium's victory. Silver Podium himself quickly advanced into the highest ranks of Canterlot's aristocracy, and we ceased to see each other – a state of affairs I was quite happy with. My drive to take the fast, risky path had been killed by the whole affair, and I began to expand my business at a safer, more sedate pace.

For several years, nothing of note occurred - I felt I had aged a great deal in a short space of time, and was determined not to make the same mistake twice. I withdrew from most social contact, attending events only when I thought it necessary, and relying primarily on Rapier Wit's circle of friends for company – as always, his extroverted personality was a source of much strength. Time passed me by, and I was unconcerned; without realizing it, my business had all but stagnated. And without someone of Crystal Curl's caliber by my side, I had no-one to goad me into action. I was, to use the vernacular, in a rut.

After surviving the collapse of my early business, I did not attend another Garden party for a very long time. When I finally did, it was more for Rapier Wit's sake than my own – he had been quite concerned about me over the last few years, and he had made it his personal mission to ensure I did not succumb to apathy. It was a pleasant, albeit underwhelming, evening; indeed, it would not be worth mentioning, were it not for a certain meeting that took place.

An hour or so into the party, a hubbub swept the assembled guests, and attention seemed to focus on a point at the entrance to the gardens. Eventually the crowd parted enough to reveal a tall, thin unicorn, pearl-white with pale pink hair. I leaned over to Rapier Wit, asking if he knew who she was, that the guests were making such a fuss over her. He informed me that she was a new, up-and-coming socialite who had arrived from Mareseille – no-one knew anything about her past, but she spoke with a cultured, Canterlot accent so she must have been educated. Her name was as mysterious as the mare herself – Fleur-de-Lis.

You will be disappointed to hear that our eyes did not meet across a crowded room – indeed, I would have gone the entire night without giving her a second thought, had Rapier Wit not decided to try his infamously poor luck with mares yet again, and gone to offer her a drink. Fleur seemed, if not interested, at least amused by Rapier Wit's advances – she had no problem entertaining his offer of a drink, nor of staying to talk with him for a time. As was polite, Rapier Wit introduced her to me – I gave her a cordial nod and went back to my own drink. During the occasional lulls in her conversation with Rapier, she made some small talk, and I replied as civility demanded, but made no attempt to engage. As I said, I was there primarily for Rapier Wit's sake, and I was still a sober, embittered pony with no interest in socializing. To be frank, I found Fleur somewhat vapid, lacking in any real substance. Fleur eventually moved on to another section of the party. Rapier Wit and I finished our drinks, and made our separate ways home. By the next day I had completely forgotten about Fleur.

It was several months before our paths crossed again, and this time it was across a business table. I was bidding for a majority share in a company, and was surprised to find myself across the table from Fleur. The bidding process took several days, and during the intermissions, I voiced my curiosity – after all, from what I had seen, she was a purely social member of the elite. It turned out that she was in fact a resourceful, competent businessmare, and she had been buying up companies and shares from one end of Canterlot to the other. I was begrudgingly impressed, but was confident I would win the bidding – Fleur was young, and I had the advantage of years of experience.

The negotiations lasted longer than anyone, even the owner of the company, expected, and by the start of the second week, everyone's endurance was beginning to wear out. The company owner declared a day off negotiations, for everyone to regain their stamina. I, however, was still bright-eyed and eager to continue, so I took the opportunity to ask around the pony's staff to find out what his plans for the day off were. It turned out he was intending to go to one of Canterlot's more upmarket casinos with his wife, and I took the opportunity like a fish after a worm. I arrived at the Casino around lunch the next day, intending to bump into the owner, treat him to a few friendly rounds of Blackjack and get on his good side, improving my chances of getting the deal.

I was surprised (and a little annoyed), to discover that Fleur was already there, and had already challenged the owner to a game of Blackjack. I was about to make a surreptitious exit, when Fleur spotted me and waved me over to the table – "we're all friends here," as she put it. After my initial displeasure at being beaten to the punch, I decided that the afternoon wasn't a total loss – my skill at Blackjack was formidable, and beating Fleur at her own game could only be good for my chances with the company. So, with a cheerful smile, I took my place, added my first bid of chips to the pile, and the game began in earnest.

At first I did as well as I expected to, winning the majority of the hands. But then, inexplicably, Fleur began to pull ahead. As the game went on, her lead increased inexorably, despite my pulling every trick in the book to try and throw her off. By the end of the match, she had cleaned out the owner's stack of chips completely. Now marginalized, I watched on with as much good grace as I could muster while the owner congratulated Fleur on a game well played. The owner didn't say so at the time, but I knew that at that point Fleur had all but won the negotiations. Once he had left, I confronted Fleur. Her run had been too perfect, too exact – I suspected foul play. Fleur was disdainful, and at first didn't even acknowledge my presence. Then, swivelling the chair round to look at me, she asked the dealer to deal out the remaining cards, and put the unplayed hands of all the players next to them. Without once looking around, she recited exactly which cards were on the table.

She had used card-counting – a technique of play that involves memorizing which cards have been dealt out, and using that knowledge to guess which cards the other players have. As one would imagine, it is a very difficult technique to master. However, it is also frowned upon by most players of the game – while not technically against the rules, it is bad sportsmanship, and I personally saw it to be just as reprehensible as fixing the deck. Fleur, of course, saw differently, and was about to argue the point when the company owner's wife came back, shook Fleur by the hoof, and thanked her for recommending that she get her husband to take time off at the casino to clear his mind. Once she had left, I fixed Fleur with a look of utter contempt. Fleur was unashamed, lifting her chin defiantly and wordlessly daring me to call her out, all pretense of being an ineffectual social climber dropped to reveal the razor-sharp intellect beneath.

Earlier in my career, I might have congratulated Fleur on her canny business sense and ingenuity. However, I had still not recovered from Liquid Satin's betrayal, and in Fleur's ambitious, resourceful nature I saw all the manipulation and deceit of my former fiance. I declared that I would not let someone of such base morals and unprincipled character get the better of me. Fleur retorted that she would become a cafe waitress before she let a stale old nag like me stand in her way. With both of our tempers fully flared, we parted ways as enemies, each viewing the other as worse company than mildewed hay.

Fleur informs me that personally she would have said "worse company than a mattress stuffed with rusty tacks." Either way, I am sure you get the picture that we thought very little of each other.

For the next few years, I enaged in an aggressive campaign of economic expansion. Fleur had rekindled a flame of ambition in me. Granted, said flame was focused on keeping her downtrodden, but it had nonetheless been re-ignited, and Fleur kept it burning bright. She was not just a competent businessmare, she was a master – even though I had a decade of experience and business contacts on her, she matched my every move, keeping me off balance with aggressive takeovers of her own. Our business deals became something of an elaborate battle dance – we circled each other, tested for weaknesses and openings, striking hard at one area to expose a vulnerable spot in another, making a directed attack on one of our opponent's companies while shielding one of our own interests from a multi-pronged assault. And no matter how hard I tried to get ahead or hold her back, Fleur stayed neck and neck with me – indeed, if I swallow my pride, I will have to admit that more often than not, she was ahead.

Almost without my realising it, my business had grown past its previous levels, and was now one of the main middle-tier corporations in Canterlot. My deep rivalry with Fleur became the talk of the town, with many in the social elite speculating over the outcome more than the Wonderbolts' derbys. It would be disingenuous to say that I was truly at peace during those years, as my contempt for Fleur was constant and unending, but after the years of apathy following my great defeat, I was the closest to happy I had been in recent memory. For the first time in years, I felt truly alive.

This state of affairs continued for another year or so. Then, all at once, Fleur's company ceased expanding. The sudden drop in activity was so sudden and unexpected that it took a week before I realised that all my businesses' competition had dried up. In such a situation, most ponies would have capitalized on the lack of activity and expanded as much as possible – I on the other hand, was unable to shake the feeling that something wasn't right. Fleur and I had been at loggerheads for neary twenty months – why had she suddenly conceded defeat? It was completely out of character. Leaving the day to day running of my business in the hands of my subordinates, I began to investigate what had happened.

After a week of probing Fleur's business dealings, and talking to a few ponies who worked in her city office, I discovered that her employees were as puzzled as I was. Fleur had suddenly become withdrawn, tired – they would have said she was stressed from work, but they had been with the business for long enough to know that Fleur never got stressed from work. Something was distracting her. Finally, I got the break I needed – one of Fleur's closed warehouses in the industrial section of Canterlot had recently had its water and electricity reconnected. It was being used, but there was no record of its owners or employees – at least, none that the secretaries could find. Clearly, Fleur was up to something.

I was determined to confront Fleur – find out what she was doing and put a stop to it, whatever it was. And so, I began to stake out the warehouse, renting an apartment down the street under an assumed name and keeping watch. It was a small building as warehouses went, but it was a two-story affair perched on the edge of Canterlot, next to a steep drop down the mountainside. An ideal place for a clandestine affair. After a few days keeping watch, Fleur arrived late one afternoon. I almost missed her – she was wearing a cloak, and only a brief flash of pink mane gave away her identity as she slipped into the building.

Smiling in satisfaction, I left my rented aparment, striding purposefully into the warehouse ready to walk in on a secret production line creating contraband merchandise, or some similar scandal-worthy scene. Instead, I walked into an empty space – the lower floor of the warehouse was utterly bare. Confused, I looked around. The only sign of occupation was an office at the far end of the warehouse floor, taking up the end wall. I was cautious, and made my way to the door while keeping as quiet as possible. Had I not made my approach silent, the events that followed might have proceeded very differently.

I opened the door, and was immediately greeted with the sound of a stallion talking. Slipping through the door, I crept through the office area. It was a small room, with bookcases and stacks of paper everywhere, and a small fireplace set in one corner, a small pile of coal glowing deep red. On one wall was an open entryway to a tea room at the back which had an open balcony looking over the mountainside. Hiding behind the doorframe, I observed what was happening. Fleur was talking to an earth pony, a bone-white stallion with jet black hair. He had a sallow, conspiratorial look, and spoke in a sibilant, grasping manner. Fleur was standing opposite him, and I was shocked at what I saw – she was no longer the ambitious headstrong mare I had known for over a year. Nor was she the vain, glamorous socialite that she presented herself as at social functions. Instead, she was meek, submissive, her ears drooping back, her neck barely upright. She didn't make eye contact with the stallion – she was looking down at the ground, with a look of apathy and defeat on her face.

The stallion was lecturing to her in a drawling, condescening manner. He was dictating a set of instructions to Fleur, to do with some kind of transfer of assets. Every now and then he would pause, look at Fleur expectantly, and ask her if she understood. Her response was always just a meek nod. As the conversation continued, I came to the inescapable conclusion that he was enjoying this charade – that he derived great satisfaction from belittling Fleur. I had seen enough. I strode through into the room, startling both of them, and demanded in my most imperious manner to know what was going on. The white stallion was utterly flabbergasted, and Fleur's expression could only be described as blank panic. The stallion recovered first – indeed, he seemed delighted at my appearance. Ignoring Fleur, he gave an exaggerated stately bow and introduced himself as Silver Snake. He seemed completely unconcerned by my presence, or my demand for information, and introduced himself as an old friend and business associate of "Elizabeth". Naturally, I was confused by this statement, as Silver Snake had expected, and with a cruel smile at Fleur, he began to tell his story.

He informed me Fleur-de-Lis was an assumed name, and that her true name was Elizabeth. She was indeed from Mareseille, but she was not an heiress as everyone had assumed. She had made her fortune in the casino, using the same card counting technique that I had lambasted her for. At this, I gave a satisfied nod and glanced at Fleur, vindicated in my view of her as an ambitious social climber with no respectability. If he had left it at that, Silver Snake might very well have gained me as an ally against Fleur. But instead, he chose to continue revealing Fleur's history. And what I heard next was utterly astonishing.

Fleur had made her fortune in the casinos of Mareseille – but in order to do so, she needed a significant sum of money to begin with. Well, she had gained it, by way of "a high paying job serving the aristocrats of the city". I was puzzled by this cryptic statement, and looked at Fleur for some kind of clarification. The expression on Fleur's face sticks in my mind to this day. All trace of the young, strong businessmare I knew was gone. In her place, was a scared, pleading filly, wordlessly begging Silver Snake to stop, even though she knew he wouldn't. I faltered at that, and for the first time I began to suspect that there was more going on than a clandestine business deal.

Silver Snake didn't elaborate further on his cryptic statement, instead leading me through to the office. There, he took his time bringing out a set of papers, even stopping to stoke the coals on the fire at one point, he was so assured and confident. Putting the last piece of paper on the stack, he offered it to me for my perusal. I took the stack, levitating it through to the tea room as I scanned the pages.

They were a series of invoices, business contracts and letters – a legal paper trail of some kind. At first, I could find no common thread, other than most of them mentioned the name Elizabeth. Eventually though, I noticed references to an agency of some kind, that went by the name "Hazel Street". It was strange that there was no reference anywhere to what kind of company they were, but I could find nothing inherently suspect about the information. I gave a quick glance at Silver Snake. His expectant expression told me I hadn't reached the part of the documents that he wanted me to, so I continued.

This continued for another five minutes or so, with nothing new surfacing in the pages – the rest of the papers were merely there to cement the fact that Fleur (or Elizabeth, it seemed), had been employed by this "Hazel Street" company, and seemed to get a great number of their clients. Finally, I turned over the last piece of paper. This was not a receipt or invoice – it was the front page of a newspaper, with the headline "Mayor Declares Hazel Street an 'Unseemly Bordello'."

Hazel Street was an escort agency. A high class one to be sure, that served only the most exacting and discreet of clients, and whose employees were also well versed in more traditional forms of social interaction such as elocution and education – but still an escort agency. Scarcely believing what I was reading, I looked at Fleur. She was looking at the ground, head hung limply in wretched defeat. Silver Snake, knowing now that I knew what he wanted me to know, explained his presence. He had been an associate of Fleur's back during her more disreputable years – indeed, he had been the one to introduce her to the Hazel Street establishment, when he found her as a young mare who had run foul of the world, destitute and up to her mane in debt. As is often the case with people such as Silver Snake, he had magnanimously "offered" to pay her intial debt – in exchange for a few years of indentured service while she paid the money off.

But the young Elizabeth had not given up on what many would have seen as a hopeless situation. She saved every penny she could, surviving on water and barley sugars for the most part, while honing her skills at card counting. Finally, she took her savings to the casinos and broke the bank. Now with a small fortune to call her own, she paid off her remaining debts, handed in her resignation, and left Mareseille far behind, changing her name and scrubbing out all trace of her history, before coming to Canterlot to start a new life. But Silver Snake was not finished with her. As he put it, he was responsible for getting her the job that let her earn that good fortune in the first place, and so he felt he deserved to reap the benefits.

And so, he had been meeting secretly with Fleur, using his knowledge and evidence of her past as leverage to get her to sign away a significant portion of her business empire. He dressed it up as repaying an old favour, but it was obvious to all three of us what was really happening – blackmail and extortion of the most heinous, underhanded kind. Silver Snake, knowing of my famed rivalry with Fleur, had been delighted to reveal the entire sordid affair. Quietly, containing my emotions as best I could, I inquired if these papers represented the only evidence of Fleur's past. Silver Snake happily confirmed that the papers in the office represented the sum total of the evidence against Fleur, of which there was a great deal. He was confident in his success, fully expecting me to help him in financially ruining Fleur now that I knew who she was. Judging from the look of resigned despair on Fleur's face, she expected no less from me either.

So I can say with certainty that neither of them saw my next action coming.

Setting the papers down on the table, I straightened my collar, stood up, and walked alongside Silver Snake. Then, I turned and kicked the blackmailer squarely in the barrel, sending him sprawling against the balcony. Overturning the tea table to clear my path, I lowered my head and charged straight at him, catching him in the chest and sending him head-over-hocks over the railing. Fortunately the balcony was not as far out over the mountainside as it could have been, or I might have very well killed the pony. As it was, he landed with a painful thud, and rolled away down the mountainside in a cloud of dust, dazed from the fall. I'm not sure how far down the mountain he ended up rolling, but it would not surprise me if he had got all the way to the base before he came to a stop.

Once I was sure he wouldn't be back any time soon, I turned back into the room, levitating up the papers that had been scattered when I overturned the tea table. Fleur attempted to talk to me, but I didn't respond – I was still on a warpath, and in no mood to stop and talk. Marching through to the office, I fed the papers into the fireplace, letting the first layer catch before I placed the next stack of papers on. Before long the glowing coals had become a roaring bonfire, into which I fed every single scrap of paper I could find in the office. Fleur again attempted to talk to me, but I ignored her, pulling out every drawer and shaking it over the fireplace, opening every cupboard, lifting up every filing cabinet to make sure that not a single page of evidence had escaped the fire. Finally, satisfied that I had disposed of everything, I turned and looked Fleur right in the eyes.

While I don't remember the exact words I used, Fleur remembers them to this day, and insists that I quote them verbatim. I said to her that I knew what it meant to lose everything, and to be humiliated and brought to nothing. Losing my business had been bad enough, but at least I had been able to recover. I might have been willing to hold Fleur back in an honest, above-board capacity, but to destroy the reputation of another beyond any hope of repair... that was an evil I would wish on nopony, not even my most bitter rival. And besides, I had to admit that while I disagreed with her methods, I had a begrudging respect for Fleur – she seemed to be the only pony in Canterlot who didn't treat me like a foolish colt.

With the physical evidence destroyed, Silver Snake had no more hold over Fleur – she returned to her business in high spirits, and before long we were back at it again, fighting each other for control of our corner of Canterlot's economy. Our business exchanges took on an altogether different tone, however – we were still just as aggressive, but we were more willing to give the other breathing room, and our directed attacks to damage the other's companies became more like casual jibes and prodding. Not only that, but we actually began to associate with each other socially, and found that we had more in common than we had first thought. As a pony who had not grown up in an upper class household, she drank up every detail of the aristocracy I could provide, and I was quite taken with her dry wit and sharp intellect – and in time I even grew to appreciate the subtle cleverness of presenting herself as little more than window dressing at social events in order to lull competitors into a false sense of security. This continued for nearly six months, with the two of us growing closer as the weeks went by. We became friends almost without realising it (and I was more than a little reluctant to admit to the fact).

Finally, one day, nearly three years after I had first met her, Fleur walked into my office for a friendly conversation. We traded banter for a few minutes, before Fleur leaned over the desk, looked me in the eye and asked why we weren't married. I tried to think of a reason, only to find I couldn't. Did our personalities clash? To a degree perhaps, but we actually liked it that way. Would we be constrained or hampered by such an arrangement? Hardly. Consolidating our companies would make us one of the largest conglomerates in Canterlot. Some members of Canterlot's elite would even put that forward as a good enough reason to marry on its own. Did we trust one another? After the incident with Silver Snake, that question wasn't even worth answering. The closest I could come to a reason was that we weren't in love – and as my experience with Liquid Satin had taught me, being in love was one of the most unreliable and dangerous justifications for marriage in existence.

After several minutes of pondering, I admitted that I couldn't think of a good reason. Fleur smiled, and said that she'd been trying to think of a reason for well over a fortnight, and the only one she could come up with was that I might not like the idea. And now that option was completely out the window.

We were married by year's end.

At this point, I shall finish the letter – it has gone on a full two pages longer than I anticipated, and the story is far from over. In my next letter, I shall relate how Fleur and I overcame the final set of hurdles in our rise to the top, and how I was finally able to lay claim to the title of "Canterlot's most important pony".

Yours faithfully,


4th Letter

View Online

My dear friend Rarity

In my last letter, I related the circumstances surrounding my meeting and eventual marriage to Fleur. In this, my final letter, I will relate the series of events that cemented my rise to prominence.

Given our past history, it is unsurprising that few anticipated our marriage announcement – even Rapier Wit had to enquire quite solemnly if I had taken leave of my senses. The merging of our two empires into one was also a complete surprise – and an unwelcome one to our competitors. From two of the major players in Canterlot's economy, we became a corporation that dominated the financial landscape of the city. Fleur and I also discovered that our personalities played off one another well. Fleur had become so used to steering a business alone that she hadn't realised how much of her energy it was consuming, while I once again had a canny business partner who could keep me in check and keep my ambitions focused. We were now, without a doubt, two of the most affluent ponies in Equestria.

Many assumed that I was spearheading the operation and that Fleur was simply a trophy wife – the public quickly and conveniently forgetting that she had owned a business at least as strong as mine before the merger. Fleur and I found this rather amusing – indeed, rather than correct the misconception, Fleur capitalized on it, and withdrew from a more prominent position in the business, deliberately playing up the role of vain socialite in order to improve her talent for surprising the unwary business rival. And, dare I say it, she relished having a legitimate excuse to show off.

With our meteoric rise in power, it was inevitable that we would eventually be invited into the folds of that most elite and desirable of social circles – high society. You might think that this marks the end of the story – nothing could be further from the truth. You see, over the years, I had forgotten about a pony who had risen to prominence well before I had. And now that Fleur and I were becoming members of high society, our paths would cross once again.

The event which could conceivably mark the "moment" that I became part of the elite was an art auction held a year after Fleur and I were married. Most of Canterlot's aristocracy were present, as the auction was being hosted by the palace. I had attended such functions on occasion before, but this time we received a formal invitation. We were both positively thrilled at the honour, and attended dressed in our best finery. We observed the proceedings, making a few modest bids on pieces that attracted our interest, but making no concerted effort to win anything – we were there to observe and be observed, not draw attention to ourselves. As it happened, we did so anyway.

In between two sessions of bidding, I looked around at the assembled aristocracy, to see who I could recognize. My gaze passed by an imperious unicorn stallion, slate-grey with a white mane. Next to him, a caramel-coloured pegasus with a chocolate-brown mane. It had been so many years, that at first I did not recognize them. But when the stallion turned his haughty, prideful visage in my direction, there could be no mistake – Silver Podium and his wife Liquid Satin had once again crossed my path. Silver Podium caught my eye, and the attempt to hide the contempt on his face was so poorly done as to be transparent.

The sudden appearance of my old enemies was a shock, to say the least. Fleur was aware of my past hardships, but this marked the first time that she had seen the two. She snapped me out of my daze and I turned back to talk to her while she continued to observe the two. I did not see the arrival of our next great shock of the evening until I saw Fleur's eyes widen. I turned back to my two rivals, and saw standing behind them the last pony I wanted to see – Silver Snake. How he had found the two of them, or even arranged for a meeting was beyond my comprehension. But there he was – Fleur's greatest enemy standing next to mine. We didn't even bother to try and work out if they knew of Fleur's past – that would have been one of the first things Silver Snake told them. We had seen enough for one night. We left the auction as quickly and quietly as we could.

That night, Fleur was beside herself, convinced that this was the end. I tried to be the pillar of courage for both of us, but the sight of Silver Podium and Liquid Satin had shattered my confidence, reducing me to the broken pony I had been after my last great defeat. We were a sorry sight. Finally, I proposed the only course of action that I could think of – confide in my friend Rapier Wit. Fleur was against the idea, but as I pointed out, if Silver Podium intended to go public with the information he had, evidence or no evidence, it would hardly make a difference when Rapier Wit heard the tale. And who knew? Maybe he could offer some advice.

At this point, I must make a confession – while I valued my friendship with Rapier, I had always thought of him as somewhat shallow – a bachelor with no interests beyond nights round the card table with his friends, and adding to his ever-increasing tally of failed wooing attempts. So when Rapier's first response after hearing the tale was to enquire if the escort agency Fleur had worked at was in the district surrounding the old Mareseille courthouse, we were both taken aback. Rapier Wit revealed that he had contacts in Mareseille – and more importantly, a distant cousin who worked as a private investigator in the city. For as he put it "whatever that mule of a unicorn is up to, it will all come back to Mareseille in the end".

On the advice of Rapier Wit, I penned a letter to this detective, explaining the situation in as discrete a manner as I could, and including a letter of reccomendation that Rapier himself had written. With that letter sent by mail pegasus, the three of us began to find out what we could here in Canterlot. Silver Podium and Liquid Satin would not be content to rest on their laurels – they would be finding some way to ruin myself and Fleur, socially if not financially. We put all our spare resources into finding out when and where Silver Snake had met my old rivals.

After a week of investigation, we discovered that the three had first met no more than a fortnight before the auction – the amount of lost ground we had to recover was mercifully small. It was no less deadly, unfortunately. Silver Snake had been in long-distance communication with Mareseille. Who he had contacted and what he had said, we did not know, but it was clear that something was being planned.

At this point, we received word back from Rapier Wit's investigator friend, who had agreed to help uncover what was going on. Communication was difficult over such long distances, but we managed to settle into a routine, sending each other an update on what we had discovered each week, along with a recommendation or two on what leads to follow next. For a month, we slowly uncovered Silver Podium and Silver Snake's plan. They were intending to publicly disgrace Fleur: hardly a surprise. Since I had destroyed all the physical evidence that Silver Snake had, they were resorting to less conventional methods. Our private investigator filled in the blanks, reporting that Silver Snake seemed to be calling in old favours in order to do some investigating of his own, looking for a specfic mare, the identity of whom we had yet to uncover. Meanwhile, we attempted to stay clear of Silver Podium and Liquid Satin at social functions. The state of affairs was stressfull enough without confronting the two of them.

While our investigation made progress, such progress was excruciatingly slow. I assured Fleur that we were gaining ground, but secretly I believed the situation to be nothing short of hopeless. Truthfully, everything may have been lost, if our enemies had not made one fatal mistake. The hubris of a foe who is assured of victory can be a powerful ally.

One snowy day, a month before Hearth's Warming Eve, an unexpected visitor barged into my office. It was none other than Liquid Satin – and I am not afraid to admit that the sight of her across my desk chilled me to the bone, even after so many years. As near as I could tell, they had become aware of our investigation, and now she was here to manipulate me into ceasing. At first she tried a teary, innocent facade, attempting to convince me that I had it all wrong and they had no intention of harming Fleur. I cordially requested her to stop insulting my intelligence.

At this, she switched to a hurt, offended persona, trying to make me feel guilty about my actions. This display almost succeeded – until I remembered how shamefully and cruelly she had treated me. I remained resolute, and returned her hurt looks with a stern, disapproving glare, until the charade became too much for me to endure without retort. I interrupted her stream of chatter by questioning her common sense, given her apparent amnesia of our previous relationship, ending with a comment on how childish she seemed to me.

This seemed to hit a nerve. Dropping all pretense of innocence, Liquid Satin began to berate me, calling into question everything from my intelligence to my parentage. She called me a fool for thinking I could stop them, called Fleur several things which I will not commit to paper, and declared that Lavender Rose would make sure I was never accepted into society again.

When I realised the incredible clue that Liquid Satin had let drop, I was ecstatic. It took all my self control to keep a solemn face and endure the rest of Liquid Satin's tirade. She probably would have continued for quite some time, had Fleur not arrived at the office. The silence that settled over the room was palpable, and the looks that Fleur and Satin gave each other would have curdled butter. Finally, Liquid Satin left with a toss of her mane, declaring that we should enjoy our final days as members of society.

Once Liquid Satin left, Fleur almost collapsed, sitting back with a look of crushed defeat on her face. I, however, was unrepentantly smug. It took Fleur a while to notice the wry smile on my face, and when she asked how I could possibly be in a good mood after a visit from Satin, I asked Fleur if the name "Lavender Rose" meant anything to her.

It was as I had suspected – Lavender Rose was the name of the pony that Silver Podium and Liquid Satin were seeking in Mareseille. An old work colleague of Fleur's who, if Fleur's estimation of her was right, would not be above publicly disrediting her for a hefty sum of money. With this name, we had the break we needed. Fleur formulated a plan – she kept the details close to her chest, and since it was her reputation on the line as much as mine, I had no issue with this. In our next letter to Rapier Wit's private investigator friend, we told him what we had learned, and requested that he put us in contact with two old colleagues of Fleur's – one, a matron of the Hazel Street establishment, the other a friend that Fleur had covered for in an altercation several years ago.

Included in the letter was a sealed piece of correspondence that Fleur had penned to the two of them, with instructions to deliver it to them once they were located. Fleur explained that the two would be distrustful of a private investigator, and would probably have trouble believing it truly was Fleur that was contacting them, especially since her name had been Elizabeth back when she knew them. The sealed letter was to gain their confidence – and to my surprise, it worked. Whatever Fleur had said to them, they had agreed to, and they confirmed that they would be travelling to Canterlot with all haste. We could expect them within a week.

Things seemed to have worked out for the best – Fleur was genuinely happy for the first time since we had seen Silver Podium and Liquid Satin in the art auction all those months ago. But alas, fate had one last surprise in store for us.

A week went by, and Fleur's friends did not turn up. A day went by with no word. Then another. Then, the third day after their expected arrival, we received a letter. It turned out that while enroute to Canterlot, the train that Fleur's friends had taken had been caught in a freak snowstorm, and the engine was now stuck in a snowdrift the size of the Wonderbolt's Derby stadium. While the passenger carriages had all been rescued and taken back to the previous stop along the line, they were now going to be stuck for a long time – certainly for another week. This letter was followed later in the day by the announcement that Silver Podium and Liquid Satin were holding a grand Hearth's Warming Eve party and inviting almost the entirety of Canterlot's upper class to the proceedings. Rumours were circulating that they had an announcement they intended to make after the traditional pageant, which only fueled interest. Fleur and I knew what this meant – they were ready to make their move. This would be the event where they would reveal their trump card, Lavender Rose, and have her confess to Fleur's past.

Fleur despaired. Even Rapier Wit's unflappable attitude was deflated at the news. Our one chance to turn the tables was now stuck in a small railway town halfway to the edge of Equestria. We were ready to give up and accept our defeat.

That night, unable to sleep, I lay awake, thinking the situation over in my head. It would have been close to two in the morning when an idea struck me. It was crazy. It was a stab in the dark. But it was the only possible solution.

The next day, I called Rapier Wit and Fleur to my office. When they arrived, I asked if there was anything they needed to take care of before leaving Equestria for an extended period. Fleur thought that I had given up and was preparing to flee Equestria, an idea which confused Rapier Wit, as he wasn't directly threatened by the whole business. I replied that I was not intending to run away. I explained my plan to them. We would leave Canterlot on my personal airship – the production model that had been gifted to me by the airship company after I had won them their first big break with the shareholders. All these years later, it was still one of the fastest airships in Equestria. It would be slower than going by train, but if conditions stayed favourable, we would be able to reach Fleur's friends, pick them up, and transport them back to Canterlot before Hearth's Warming Eve.

My plan was met with silence. For a moment, I thought that perhaps my idea had been too outrageous. Then, Rapier Wit asked if he could be skipper and get a fancy hat to wear during the voyage. Fleur tried and failed to suppress a laugh. With a broad grin, I announced in mock solemnity that I would personally assign Rapier Wit the rank of lieutenant if we managed to get back to Canterlot in time to stop Silver Podium.

We didn't waste another day – a few emergency purchases of supplies and fuel were the only delays before the three of us boarded my personal air yacht and left the Canterlot air docks, swinging the prow of the ship around towards the west. The setting sun led our way, and a brisk tailwind meant that we made good time. The night was clear, so I took first watch, navigating by the stars and the ship's compass – I did not want to waste a single minute of time.Rapier Wit took over for the second half of the night, and in the morning, Fleur and I checked the rigging and the engines, making sure that everything was in good order. The craftmanship of the vessel was superb, but I had never flown it for longer than an afternoon, so I was nervous about whether the ship would be up to the task. My fears proved unfounded, and we reached the station where Fleur's friends were staying within four days.

To say that everypony was surprised by our appearance would be a gross understatement. Nearly every pony in the town looked up in wonderment at the sleek, regal vessel that descended out of the morning clouds. Fleur spotted her old friends while we were still descending, and waved to get their attention. They had an elated conversation with each other, even as we touched down in the town's main square. We ushered them aboard and took off again, Rapier Wit cajoling a cheer from the crowd as the airship's engines spun up to full speed. I swung us about for Canterlot, spinning the wheel back into position with a flourish. We were halfway there, and we had a week to spare before Hearth's Warming Eve.

On the journey back, we got to know one another better. Fleur's friends were a charming pair of ladies – a young earth pony with a bright golden coat called Summer Shine, and an older, matronly pony with a forest green coat called Willow Spring. They were well-educated, intelligent mares, and one would never had guessed their profession simply by talking with them. Both were very pleased to see Fleur again after so many years, and were very consoling and supportive, promising that they'd move mountains before they let a spoiled Canterlot aristocrat (no offence to myself), ruin Fleur's hard-earned success. The tailwind that had carried us to Fleur's friends was no longer with us, so progress was slower, but by the end of the fourth day we beheld Canterlot, a shining beacon of ivory and plaster on the royal mountainside as the sun set behind us, turning the snow-covered ground below into a sea of blazing orange.. The cloud cover was thick, so we decided it best to stop for the night. Dropping anchor into a rock gorge, we secured the rigging and retired to bed, leaving Rapier Wit as sentry for the first half of the night.

We were woken by Rapier Wit pounding on the door of the cabin, shouting for us to get on deck. We came out to a howl of wind, and sheets of stinging hail whipping across the railings. A storm had come down from the north, and the first gust of wind had ripped the ship's anchor cable free from it's mooring. We were now being blown around by the winds, with no light to let us know which way we were going. I took hold of the wildy spinning wheel, struggling against the storm as I tried to pull the airship round to point east in the direction of Canterlot, relying entirely on the compass to navigate. I shouted for the others to get to the rigging and tighten it up – the last thing we needed was for the airship's envelope to come loose.

Summer Shine and Willow Spring were clearly terrified, but they helped as best they could, hanging for dear life to the rigging as Rapier Wit and Fleur shifted the ballast bags to keep the airship level. I was almost blinded by the sleet and hail, but I held onto the wheel with a deathgrip, never taking my eyes off the ship's compass. The wind howled around us as the night wore on, when the storm finally abated an hour or so before dawn, most of the others fell asleep from exhaustion where they stood. I myself had barely enough energy to drag everypony into the warm and dry of the cabin, and throw the anchor back over the side to moor us to the ground, before I slid down against the forecastle and fell asleep.

I was woken by Fleur some time around noon the next day, to find myself back in the cabin. The rest of the crew had been flying the ship for a few hours already, and had given me the opportunity to rest and recover. Fleur didn't hide the truth – things were looking grim. We had been blown well off course, and had lost nearly a day of ground. Not only that, but the engines had been damaged from the strain of fighting the storm, and we couldn't risk pushing them at full speed anymore. And finally, all our reserve fuel had been lost overboard. With the lost ground from the storm, we had no gaurantee that we would be able to reach Canterlot at all, let alone in time to stop Silver Podium. We discussed what to do throughout the afternoon, and as the sun set, we reached a consensus.

That night, we came down to land. Rapier Wit and Fleur disembarked, and we unloaded everything we could afford to. We left only the most meagre of rations and water, all funishings, mattresses and containers were removed, and the gold edgings of the railing were stripped. Fleur and Rapier would travel by foot back to Canterlot, while I would continue on in the airship with Summer Shine and Willow Spring. With the reduced weight, we might just be fast enough to make it back to Canterlot before Hearth's Warming Eve. Fleur explained to me what needed to be done to let Summer Shine and Willow Spring do their job, and at first light, we continued on.

We made some conversation as Canterlot slowly came closer, but the atmosphere on board was very much one of quiet pensiveness, that only increased as Hearth's Warming Eve drew close. The morning of Hearth's Warming Eve arrived, and we set out before the sun rose, so anxious we were to arrive in time. Noon passed, and we were not yet there. Late afternoon: still we did not arrive. One of the starboard engines let out an ominous sputtering noise, as the fuel line was briefly interrupted – the tank was running low. Early evening, and still we flew. The sun was leaving the sky as my airship drifted into the Canterlot air docks, all finery stripped from its deck, the engines coughing and spluttering as they used up the last fumes of fuel to nudge us past the pier. The three of us ran down the gangplank and out of the dock, leaving the dockmaster to call after us and demand payment for docking our ship without prior arrangment. Silver Podium's Hearth's Warming Eve pageant was scheduled for sundown – it would have already begun, and it would take a full half hour to get from the docks to the venue of the pageant. Summer Shine and Willow Spring had trouble keeping up with me, but I spurred them on – we were so close to succeeeding, and every minute counted.

We arrived at the pageant to the sound of applause as the final curtain fell. Willow Spring told me to join the audience – she and Summer Shine would take it from there. I was too out of breath to reply, so I merely nodded my acknowledgement and slipped into the audience as the actors took their curtain call. Once the applause had died down, Silver Podium and Liquid Satin came onstage to hand the actors their congratulatory boquets, before calling for silence as Silver Podium prepared to make a speech. He began by thaking the audience for attending, before proceeding to relay apologies from well-known personalities who had been unable to attend, but sent their regards. I was surprised to hear Fleur and myself listed, seeing as how we had done no such thing. Before Silver Podium could read out what we had 'said', however, he was interrupted by a commotion coming from the audience.

An earth pony with a deep purple coat forced her way on stage, tossing her bright red mane as she demanded to be heard – no doubt, this was Lavender Rose. Silver Podium feigned surprise at her apperance, asking what reason she could possibly have to interrupt the proceedings. Lavender Rose replied by saying that she could not stand idly by after hearing Fleur-de-Lis' name read out. She proceeded with exactly what we had expected her to say – that Fleur was in fact Elizabeth, and that her past was one that no respectable mare of Canterlot society could have. As the details were declared across the room, the audience began to murmur amongst themselves, clearly unsure what to make of the whole business. Silver Podium made a few feeble attempts to stop Lavender's speech, just to keep up appearences, but there was no stopping her. I was beginning to think that Fleur had made a terrible mistake, and that Summer Shine and Willow Spring had betrayed us at the last second.

My fear was, thankfully, completely unfounded, for at that moment the two ponies burst through the doors, looking as if they'd just run across Canterlot (which, to be fair, they had). Willow Spring expressed melodramatic relief at finding Lavender Rose safe and sound, followed by a demand to know just what the meaning of her sudden depature from Mareseille was about. Lavender Rose was clearly unprepared for something like this, and floundered, unable to answer. Willow Spring continued to keep Lavender off balance, recounting Lavender Rose's sudden disappearance and how it had left everypony in so worried – having established for the audience that the whistle-blower on stage had come up especially for the pageant, Willow Spring turned to a hapless member of the audience and asked what was going on.

The pony stammered out a rough summary of Lavender's shocking revelation, to which the surrounding audience nodded in agreement. Willow Spring and Summer Shine reacted to this with a twittering laugh of amusement. Willow Spring asked Lavender if she had quite taken leave of her senses, and Summer Shine commented that she had never used the name Fleur-de-Lis before. This left everypony confused, myself included, until Willow Spring explained that the pony with her was in fact the Elizabeth from Lavender's story, and they had come to Canterlot after Lavender Rose had received a letter, a large sum of money, and had taken a fast train to Canterlot the next day.

By this point the audience was thoroughly confused, and a number were angrily demanding to know just what was going on. Lavender Rose nervously tried to demy Willow Spring's claims, but the mare had already moved on to a new target. With a sudden dramatic cry of "YOU!" she pointed at Silver Snake with a flourish. Silver Snake had been standing in a coner of the audience hall, staying out of the way as he observed the proceedings. Willow Spring declared that she should have known a criminal of Silver Snake's caliber was behind this all, and demanded to know which aristocrat he'd been trying to frame this time. Willow Spring then cleared up the matter for the audience by stating that Silver Snake was known to the 'girls' in Mareseille, as somepony who took advantage of them and used them to blackmail and disgrace aristocrats of that city in order to get money out of them. He had disapppeared in recent months – clearly he had moved to Canterlot to try his hand there.

Silver Podium tried to take control of the situation by saying that they couldn't accept the word of a pony who was clearly of base and disreputable standing, but at that point Lavender Rose herself provided the final blow to Silver Podium's credibility. The shouting and arguing proved too much for the pony and she broke down into tears. She admitted between sobs that Silver Snake had convinced her to come to Canterlot, get up on stage and help him ruin Fleur's repuation. Thankfully, she said it in such a way that made it seem like Fleur had been wrongly framed, and with Silver Snake exposed as the criminal that he was, Silver Podium and Liquid Satin had no cards left to play. The audience began to shout angrily about this shameful and laughable attempt to slander a member of the Canterlot aristocracy, and the police were called in to put a lid on the riot that threatened to break out. I slipped out of the audience before things got too ugly, and met Willow Spring and Summer Shine as they came out again. Summer Shine asked me if she'd been convincing. I assured her that after her performance, not a single pony in Canterlot would believe Silver Podium.

Sure enough, Silver Podium and Liquid Satin were socially ruined. Not only had they acted in a most disgraceful manner, but the revelation that Silver Snake was a criminal meant that their business contacts were all severed, leaving them very firmly in the lower levels of Canterlot's economy. Never again would they be able to threaten myself and Fleur. I had mixed feelings about this – having been on the receiving end of a similar crushing defeat, I could not in all good conscience feel happy about their fate. However, as Fleur reminded me once she and Rapier Wit arrived back in Canterlot, they had chosen to consort with a criminal and use blackmail and extortion – they had left Fleur no choice but to fight fire with fire. And I had to admit that the knowledge that Silver Podium and Liquid Satin would never have any kind of power over me again was a tremendous relief.

With Silver Podium and Liquid Satin forcibly removed from the aristocracy, the ponies who had formed their social circle needed a new center to congregate around. With my own successful business empire, and the added pity points of having to suffer such an ignoble attack on my wife's credibility, I found myself the center of attention. There was more work to be done – several social functions and business deals to cement my position – but Silver Podium's defeat was the event that truly signified my reaching the top. I was now the center of attention, and the pony in every topic of gossip. I was, truly, Canterlot's most important pony.

And there you have it, my dear Rarity – quite a tale, if I may be permitted a modicum of pride. I trust that you found it both informative and interesting. To be able to tell the tale to another has been a surprisingly liberating experience for myself, and I gather from your own correspondence that you are immensely flattered to have been trusted with the tale. We look forward to your next visit to Canterlot, and invite you to stay a few nights, if you can afford to spend that much time away from your work. Wishing you the best of health.

Yours Faithfully,