I remembered the time when I was a small colt and I had asked Cadence to marry me once we were older.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): You asked her WHAT?)
Well, I was still a colt and had just found out about how marriages and family lines were arranged a few centuries ago by nobles. I had learned how certain bloodlines should be brought together and adding an Alicorn into my bloodline would surely make Lady Pure… I mean mother proud. Instead my cousin slapped me.
I fell to the ground as Cadence stood there, looking down on me.
"Are you crazy? You're stuck-up, cowardly, rude and only think about yourself. I wouldn't marry you in a thousand years!"
"How can you dare… Oh, I forgot, you are the expert in love and spread love all over the last royal event, even to Princess Celestia herself."
I slowly rose from the ground starring daggers at the young Alicorn. She staggered away from me before collecting herself again. Her voice sounded sombre.
"No… I am not love. If there is one thing I learned from this disaster it's what I'm NOT. I learned that I can't force bonds on somepony. I need to truly understand my gift before I can share it with others."
It was almost unreal to hear a filly that looked so young talk like this. I simply had to ask her something.
"If you're not love, like everypony says, then what are you?"
Now her voice sounded almost kind, she looked at me like she was looking into my very soul.
"I am Harmony. When the love poison incident was over, I felt the pain of the bounds of everypony who was involved. I felt friendships shaken by one pony ignoring his or her best friends for the artificial love towards a stranger. I felt bounds between lovers nearly been broken by this behavior. And it was all my fault. Ever since then I tried to earn forgiveness and I hope that I will eventually be able to make up for my mistakes."
My eyes went wide as my young brain was trying to understand what she said. Was this the prize of being an Alicorn? She was so closely connected to… something that she could feel their pain.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): You didn't really understand what she was trying to say back then.)
Yes, I didn't fully understand it. But when I think about it now, she was willing to take responsibility for her actions. She was born as an Alicorn and she is still taking every single pony seriously. She didn't place herself above them.
I suddenly felt so… so lonely. I had always told myself I was the only company I truly needed, I was the best to have after all. Right? But after all the time I had spent with the other foals I noticed that I didn't even have a single picture of any pony besides myself in my room.
I began to think that maybe the Element of Honesty was right and I needed to change myself. But how do you change yourself?
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): This might be the most difficult question to answer.)
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): There was a stallion once without a cutie mark who traveled to every plane of existence trying to find that answer.)
In the following days I hardly left my room. Most of the diplomatic missions I had on my schedule were cancelled anyway after all many cities had to sort out what happened to them in the fog. I had a lot to think about.
But I followed the official declarations and news that spread around this time. I wasn't that surprised that Lady Fluttershy was the member of the group responsible for all of this.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Really? Most were almost unable to believe it.)
Well, I only met her once in person and then she unleashed a horde of animals on the unsuspecting Grand Galloping Gala.
(Interviewer's Notes (Earth Pony): Normally she is much different. She is kind, caring, forgiving and so wonderful.)
I already noticed this.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): When? You met her when she had an emotional breakdown and again when she tried to take over Equestria.)
That is true but even when she had the power to do practically anything to anypony, what did she chose to do? She made their dreams come true and then happy foalhoods later on. I know what it feels like to be the victim of someone abusing his godly powers for his own entertainment. Lady Fluttershy was nothing like Discord. Maybe it was some residue of her magic making me feel this way, but I didn't care.
But I had to force myself to leave the room again.
Mechanically I start to comb my mane and made myself at least somewhat presentable for the small gala we would have this evening. It was a good idea to start with something familiar before the next diplomatic mission would lead me away from Canterlot.
I looked around the room again. There were only my maps to keep me company. Journeys with nopony to share them with.
Suddenly I heard the hooves of somepony before my door. A quick scan later I knew it was the same maid again.
'You will not get away this time.' I rushed towards the door, opened it and the shocked maid turned almost red with embarrassment.
"I… I am sorry… I will just… It is not the right time…"
"You wanted to talk with me and here I am. Now say what you have to say!"
Now she looked like she was about to cry. Only now I began to take a closer look at her.
She was a white unicorn with light blue eyes and a deep purple mane. And she seemed so familiar. Suddenly my eyes went wide.
"I know what this is about. Come inside."
Calmly we both went into my room and only now did I notice my image inside the mirror. The two of us did look somewhat similar. I guess this was how Discord got this sick idea. Her very familiar body was still absolutely gorgeous. Her cutie mark was a candle shaped like a heart.
She was still unable to talk. So I made the first move.
"Let me guess, the chaos monster turned you into the fire stallion?"
Now she broke down crying. I know that I just spelled it out without even trying to hide what she had almost done.
Auntie Luna was right back then. Discord had really turned somepony else into the fire th… the fire stallion that had hunted me down.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): This is…)
Why torture one pony if you can torture two at the same time? That sick bastard.
She as much a victim as I was. To my surprise I found myself putting a hoof on her shoulder. It took some time but eventually she stopped crying. Then everything erupted out of her.
"My name is Arcane Spell. I didn't even know the weather had turned strange, I work so much inside. I didn't even find it strange that a huge candle appeared before me and promised to make me a noble and let me experience what it is like to be born under a lucky star. 'Just like Prince Blueblood,' it said. I know it was insane but it was everything I had ever wished for. Which mare doesn't dream at least once in her life to be a princess in a fairy tale?"
I had to chuckle. She wasn't the first mare who dreamed of spending a perfect evening with a prince that made her feel like a princess.
This was how I was always able to get a young mare to accompany me to the Galas. And now I think that I could not even play this role right. I got my wish to have the perfect accessories for the evening but I awoke alone afterwards because I never saw a pony in them, just a decoration.
"The next thing I knew, the only thing I knew, was that I was a prince, I was on fire, I was fire, and that I wanted, needed my princess. My princess of ice. She'd fill me. She'd…" she shuddered, "complete me. My princess was coy and played hard to get. But that didn't matter. I didn't have a name or a past. I was there, I was you and I knew that we were destined to be… one.
"When I woke up next to you and you ran away in panic. I buried everything that happened. Then I spoke with the doctors. And I was made to remember. One pony had even taken a picture and I instantly recognized my body and was able to piece everything together."
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Which lunatic takes the time to take pictures while everything around him falls apart?)
Who knows? Maybe Discord made him do it to have some reminders after the 'fun' was over and the toy was completely broken.
I wondered if she would be better off not remembering anything of what the chaos creature had done to her. But psychologist ponies nearly always turned down memory erasure spells because they are just so Tartarus untrustworthy (reason why secret services stopped using them eons ago), and one said even if you make a pony forget a trauma, the damage remains anyway. And that uncertainly can make things worse.
"I wanted to say that I am sorry but… I was too much of a… coward."
She looked sadly to the polished marble on the floor.
They say seeing from the outside looking in can be an effective wake up call. So many ponies declared themselves brave and I just scoffed thinking of my own 'bravery.' But seeing this mare call herself a coward, I suddenly began to realize, the bravest I had ever been was when I had earned my cutie mark in that decaying treacherous crystal mine.
"And yet you kept trying to do it."
"Yes, but I can understand if you want to get me removed from the castle after I nearly killed you by… by…"
I thought back about how my cold body did even start to freeze Auntie Luna.
"I've had a lot of time to think about these events and I think not only would it have melted me but it would have extinguished your flames as well. Discord's chaos would have killed us both. And no, I see no reason to remove you from the castle. You were as much a victim as I was. The chaos monster could have just as well decided to make me the stalker and you the one running for your life."
Slowly she raised her head but she still seemed so sad.
"Thank you, Your Highness."
She was about to leave. Suddenly the memories of the carefree playing went through my head again.
It was my fault that she was dragged into this.
(Interviewer's notes (Unicorn): Discord would have just found another way to toy with her.)
Maybe, but I was used as bait for this way.
(Interviewer's Notes 'whispering' (Earth Pony): Did he just get taller?)
And if Princess Luna had followed my request, then I would have written Arcane's death sentence. Maybe I should… No, this is the time to try to make up for my mistakes.
"Wait a second. You said you wanted to feel like a princess for once?"
"Well, yes Your Highness, I am sorry if…"
"Now this is actually very easy. You just need to wear a pretty dress and follow a few rules and if you look into the mirror you will not be able to tell you apart from a princess."
Now she looked refreshingly annoyed.
(Interviewer's Notes (Unicorn): I never thought that you would have the same sense of humor as Princess Celestia.)
"You can't be serious!"
I opened one of the drawers and let the dress float towards her with telekinesis. This might be the perfect situation to use one of Miss Rarity's dresses. It was a blue- and silver-colored dress with several stars decorating it. I have seen something similar at the Grand Galloping Gala.
"I ensure you that I am very serious. Discord couldn't get this right if he had thousand years to practice. Servants don't look nobles in the face and most nobles are too concentrated on their own act to notice who they are talking to."
"It looks beautiful…"
"It will suit you. Just give it a try."
With a smile she takes the dress with her own telekinesis and vanishes inside my bathroom.
This smile… It has been a while since I have seen such a smile around me.
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Did you take the chance to use your see-through-walls spell to spy on her?)
No, actually I spend the time just repeating all the countless rules for royal behavior in my head.
I had learned a long time ago that while these rules are all needed to survive a prolonged time in high society, just lasting for a few hours there or fooling yourself in the mirror only takes a fraction of the rules.
She was already pretty enough for the dress to compliment her, after all, can't have ugly servants ruining the view on Canterlot.
Then the door to the bathroom opened again and for the very first time I am happy that unicorn horns don't do the thing pegasus wings do if the pony is exited.
I think one of the strengths of Miss Rarity's dresses is that they call attention to the face of the pony and use the mane to encircle their countenance.
Why are you three looking like this? I know that Miss Rarity's dresses are huge successes with the Canterlot elite and with several famous ponies. And you need to be able to talk about the more boring topics like fashion in high society as well. Yes it burns me on the inside that the bane of my existence has risen so high in spite of not being noble even outside of her status as a celebrity.
(Interview's Notes (Pegasus): She humiliates you once, tells you that you don't live up to your image, and she's the bane of your existence? You don't have much of a life do you?)
You…may not be wrong.
"I don't know… I feel ridiculous."
"Now just walk before the main mirror."
Carefully she moves before it and three…two…one…
I think she almost gave herself a heart attack.
"This… this is really me?"
"I hate to say that I told you so, but I told you so!"
Her smile is wonderful. Focus!
"Erm… Now for a few rules for easy survival in high society: Act like you know exactly what the other pony is talking about and that it is a very important matter. You give us the first topic."
"How about… Daring Do books?"
"That works perfectly. These are creative tales with enduring characters and will make the reader come back for more."
"But you can say that about almost every popular book series!"
"And that is the secret of talking about every topic in high society. Now it is my turn: The Elements of Harmony."
"Give me a second… They are the magnificent heroes that saved our beautiful world from certain destruction."
"You are learning fast. How about we talk about the relationship with the griffin nations?"
"After years of difficulty we were finally able to stabilize most relationships and under the wise rule of Princess Celestia and by having open minds we were able to form new friendships."
Now I had to laugh and she began to laugh with me. It felt wonderful.
"We need to be careful or you turn into a politician instead of a princess. Very good. But remember that ponies in high society are NOT stupid. They don't know every topic but will try to talk about it like they know everything to keep up the appearance. Yet sometimes you will meet somepony who really knows a lot of topics like Fancy Pants."
She walked over to the mirror again and repeated her last speeches to it without breaking down in laughter. Who knew that I had a talent for teaching and guiding?
Eventually she was ready for the next round: Discussions.
"And now I will share with you the secret of how you can avoid arguments. At first agree with what the other pony says and use what the pony said to move the conversation into a different direction. This is very handy to avoid this unicorn supremacy nonsense. Let us try to begin with something difficult…"
I change my voice into something warm and fatherly.
"Those earth ponies like them don't belong in Manehatten, they disgrace her beauty with their presence. They're donkeys with cutie marks. And if a cutie mark reflects the soul, then anything without a cutie mark doesn't have one. Their only purpose is to keep the wheels of trivial mundane tasks turning with their strength of body. We unicorns have strength of mind. The muscle should not dictate the mind. Manehatten is a jewel that doesn't need its gears and cogs showing."
I couldn't quite read her expression. Was she surprised that I was not a follower of that moronic ideology that declared Princess Celestia the supreme unicorn ruling over all? It didn't help the tabloids kept blowing it up bigger than it ever had been and saying that earth ponies didn't dare step foot in Canterlot or get arrested for not having a horn, or unicorns not daring to set foot in Ponyville or be lynched for the crime of having one. I knew first hoof, this was all fantasy. Sunny Day seemed to print her most fantastic (and interesting) articles whenever the tabloids tried to make ponies think that 'the return of the three tribes' was upon us.
She was struggling with this one. Maybe it was a bit too difficult for the first example?
"So… you were in any of the major cities like Manehatten lately?"
This sounded promising. Okay, it is time to continue my act.
"Yes, Manehatten shines with magic, it doesn't need ponies without it."
"Did you visit the theatre? I heard that the program is simply lovely this year."
"N-No… I did not."
"Now you have simply to enjoy what the theatre has to offer. I heard that they have a wonderful variation of Romaro and Juliet this year."
Now I almost had to laugh.
"Perfect! Just perfect! Sorry for breaking character but I think you are more then ready for this. Let me guess, you have siblings?"
"Yes, a younger sister. She will soon start to work in this castle as well."
"That will surely turn out great for her as well. Do you really know how the presentation of Romaro and Juliet is like this year?"
"The House of Coltpulet is played only by earth ponies, the House of Maretague is played only be unicorns and the Ruling House of Airona is play only by pegasi."
"The image of a unicorn supremacy follower walking into this play without having any clue what is going on is priceless."
Then we repeated this lesson before the mirror as well. She is very good in switching between the polite smiles you have to show in high society and the genuinely happy ones you show your friends.
"Good now we just keep repeating and mixing these lessons until you think that you see a princess standing in the mirror."
We talked for hours. I can hardly remember when I last felt this good. Actually I do, it reminds me on the playing with the other foals when I was turned back into a colt. There was a refreshing openness in our conversation.
Like I said, the problem is not that members of high society are stupid, the problem is just that there are so many ponies that even somepony like me, who visits most of the galas and events, only knows half of them.
It is hard to talk about anything if you don't really know the person that you are talking with. You can talk for hours with a friend but sometimes you are unable to say anything to a stranger.
She told me about her family, how she and her sister had to take jobs in Canterlot castle to support their sick father. The medication he needed was very expensive. And she and her parents were very capable mage unicorns. Despite being an earth pony, her little sister dreamed about becoming a mage like the rest of the family while she actually has much more talent to be a designer.
Now that is just silly. How can foals be so obsessed with becoming like their family that they can not see their own…
(Interviewer's Notes (Pegasus): Sounds familiar, doesn't it?)
Irony strikes again. It takes some time to get used to thinking like this.
So if the little sister was an earth pony when the rest of the family members were unicorns, did that mean that she was adopted? When I think about it, I remember a very boring explanation Twilight Sparkle once gave me why this did happen from time to time in families. I asked her to write it down for me and whenever I can't sleep, I take a look and after two pages I usually fall asleep.
This pure happiness continued for hours. We talked about when to use these rules and when you had to change your tactics. You don't simply follow these rules under all circumstances. In spite of appearances to the contrary, the upper class weren't robots.
Then suddenly the door swung open and a nervous servant stood inside. I think I need to order somepony to install a better lock on this door.
"Prince Blueblood, the gala is about to start…"
He saw the mare I was talking with instantly.
"Oh, you already found your acquaintance for the evening. I am sorry to have disturbed you. The other guests will be delighted to see you, milady."
Politely he closed the door and left us two alone. The look on her face was worth more then an airship filled with gems.
"How about we take this game to the next level and try to impress the rest of high society as well?"
It took my brain a few seconds to process what she had just suggested. I felt like when I was exploring the caves under Canterlot for the first time. There were so many possibilities of what we two could do on this party.
Could it fail horribly? Of course but considering that most of the more important public events of the last two years ended in disaster this would hardly be that unusual. Just think about it. The Summer Sun Celebration and the Grand Galopping Gala were disasters. Even the last Best Young Flyers' Competition in Cloudsdale and Princess Celestia's latest visits in Ponyville ended horribly.
Sometimes I think if the next big public event in Canterlot will eventually take place, I should be as far away as possible.
Should Arcane and I be found out, I could just claim that it was my own idea to make the gala more interesting.
"I am ready, my dear."
We both took a final look into the mirror and walked towards the party.
It was a small party by Canterlot standards. Only about hundred ponies could be seen. Some were busy dancing, others talked and several were busy searching for something delicious to eat.
Many were talking about the recent events with the fog and how lucky Canterlot was to be protected by the fire of Celestia's pet phoenix. Most were shocked how much power Philomena wielded considering how she looked like when she was about to be reborn.
Appearances can be deceiving indeed.
I learned that Auntie Celestia was still busy to prepare the celebration about Flutteshy's day of innocence. If this group keeps up their pace and continues to save the world, we will run out of space for glass windows in their honor.
Arcane moved flawlessly through the crowd. And all it took was for me to give her a quick introduction into high society. But I can't claim this success all for myself. She learned so fast that she must have been a capable observer before my short lesson.
We had nice calming music, exactly what most ponies needed after the chaotic events and I seem to have lost track of her. Where was she?
Ah, there she is!
And she is talking with Jet Set and Upper Crust about Canterlot fashion. They both praise her own dress as a wonderful example of the superiority of Canterlot's fashion.
This is simply too good. I calmly walk next to the small group.
"Prince Blueblood, it is always an honor. Is this wonderful lady your acquaintance for the evening?"
"Indeed, we decided to enjoy this event together."
"You clearly always chose the most royal company you can find. We heard rumors that one of the Elements of Harmony was corrupted by the same mysterious black magic that was responsible for turning Princess Luna into Nightmare Moon. And this time Princess Celestia allowed it to happen to take all the credit for the idea of healing the emotional damage of ponies by letting them relive their foalhood for a day. But this is so hard to believe. Do you know anything about that?"
I have to give them credit for not instantly jump to the conclusion that Princess Celestia or the Elements of Harmony were evils trying to take control of Equestria. I took one glance to Arcane and it was clear that she thought that it was nonsense that one of the mares who saved her life or Princess Celestia would ever do something like this. In other words, she was totally ready to swallow a third party had to have been behind everything.
"I actually was there in order to try to help but I have to admit that I was not able to be of much assistance. I don't know any more details but the entire event was very different from what the chaos monster did."
They looked at me like I had told them that I was secretly having access to Alicorn powers. After all, since when had I done anything actually selfless or admitted I was no use at something?
"The ponies in the fog were not toys or puppets. I think that Lady Fluttershy actually meant well but was herself just as lost in the fog as everypony else. I am sure that the celebration will explain it to everypony in detail."
It feels strange to stand up for somepony I hardly knew. Did I do it for Lady Fluttershy? Did I do it for Arcane? Did I do it for myself? And they will switch their opinion in three… two… one…
"Of course! We will wait for what the Princess has to say in her own defense on this complex situation and it was really brave of you to come to the aid of the ponies who already had to suffer from living in such a backwater town as Ponyville."
Well that is still one of the nicest things they have ever said about Ponyville. Maybe I will eventually mention how often Princess Celestia visits that place.
Soon we moved over to the dance floor and Jet Set and Upper Crust began to dance with each other. Arcane looked into my eyes and smiled, the stars of the sky were reflected within her eyes. It was truly a sight to behold.
Octavia's band played one of the relaxing classical slow melodies. As we to moved in union I had to think back at the day of innocent playing I just had. Chasing after a ball with all your might and moving according to the tune with somepony else could be strangely similar. Both took coordination, concentration and a quick reaction. She spun towards me as I managed to catch her.
She was an excellent dancer, the complete opposite of Twilight Sparkle in this subject. The bookworm's dancing style was a different sight to behold. Some ponies claimed that it could cause bad weather for one week. Me personally? I was happy that there were a least a few things that I could do better then her. And the pegasi had only to keep rainclouds away from Canterlot for one day after Twilight had danced.
I don't know how long we just danced. Time didn't matter, nothing did. But eventually both of us were exhausted. Jet Set and Upper Crust looked like they could have danced until the next morning but they took a break to accompany us.
Slowly we all approached the buffet for some horse d'oeuvres. The food looked slightly different today, I bet they had finally to replace the cooks. I was told that after Discord's short reign most of them were too traumatized to ever enter a kitchen again. Maybe that would change soon.
As Arcane began to enjoy a few of them somepony else caught my attention. Fancy Pants and Fleur de Lis were moving into our direction.
"Ah a wonderful evening, isn't it?"
Jet Set and Upper Crust agreed instantly.
I just wonder if there was anything Fancy Pants could say that they would not agree with. Could he order them to jump off a cliff?
Then Arcane knew that she had to say something as well.
"It is truly a special evening."
Fancy Pants fixated her. I know that he is likely one of the smartest ponies in high society and is well known for his excellent memory. Did he recognize her?
I needed a quick distraction.
"The day was something special from start to finish but say, did you hear something new from the celebration of Lady Fluttershy?"
"Unfortunately not, I heard about the dramatic events that did take place in many parts of Equestria. Most of those who were touched by the fog claimed that they finally felt better after all the things Discord did to them. Since she managed to heal that many, this event should be celebrated. How it will turn out in the end will likely all depend on how the Element of Kindness is facing this celebration herself."
Then Jet Set decided to repeat what I had said earlier.
"I am sure that we will get an official explanation at the festival."
The chat continued to switch topics and it continued for quite some time.
I guess by now Arcane was more bored of this royal experience then anything else. When I took another look at her, her eyes began to move slowly all over the place.
Was there something wrong?
Finally I took a bite from my horse d'oeuvres and noticed that the new cook must have used way too much saltwater to season the food.
It seemed that she was a lightweight in this case.
I had to get her out of here before she would embarrass herself. But how could I do that without getting any more unintentional attention to her?
Fancy Pants took another look at her and at me and stood up.
"I guess I will retire today a bit sooner and tomorrow we will know more about this matter."
Thank Celestia. This was exactly what I needed.
Jet Set and Upper Crust of course agreed with this and soon I was leading Arcane back to my room. I had completely forgotten to ask her for the location of her own room and by now she only giggled from time to time. I really felt like beating myself over the head for forgetting something obvious like this.
She really had no tolerance for salt water.
Eventually I placed her on my own bed and she smiles at me.
"Why don't we make this day perfect?"
I… this must be the effect of the salt water. That is the only reason she is offering to spend the night with me. I always awake alone.
"It was already perfect. And you haven't meet the real me yet. You don't know how much of a jerk and a coward I can be."
What can I say? Soon she fell asleep and I slept the night on my priceless decorative couch.
Eventually the warm sunlight awoke me.
The bed was empty. It was already made and the dress I had given her yesterday was lying on top of the bed.
She was gone. I was alone again.
But I was not surprised. Of course did she leave after finding out that the dream of being the glamorous princess is just a fairy tale. No pony made out of flesh and blood will ever be able to live up to that ideal.
I used to tell myself that was why the mares never came back. I wasn't their fairytale prince to make their fantasy reality, so they inconsiderately left me.
Now? I wonder if the cowpony's letter might have been right. And Arcane is the first mare I don't blame for leaving.
I wondered if I should talk with Princess Celestia how to fund somepony in a way that isn't possible to be traced back to me. It is no big secret to everypony who spends some time in the Canterlot Castle as part of Auntie's circle that she is sponsoring many, many cultural and philanthropic events and organizations under fake names. Strangely the tabloids always seem to miss that part.
I would like to aid the Spell family a bit, maybe get them better paid jobs. I heard that the payment in the Castle was good but I knew that Arcane could do more. She deserved something better.
As I opened my door, Arcane stood there in her maid uniform and in her telekinetic hold she had a plate with breakfast. She smiled at me.
I think I had a minor heart attack. Her eyes shined even brighter.
"Not so fast, you promised to show me how much of a jerk and a coward you can be."
I didn't overcome a dragon. I wasn't the hero who saved the day. But I didn't care at all as long as I was able to make her smile.
I wasn't sure if I would be able to overcome my own flaws but now when I look at her smile, I know that it is possible. I will not run away this time.
I feel like an Alicorn is smiling alongside us.
I feel free.