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The Canterlot Palace gardens were not open to the public at this hour. Not tonight, anyhow. Tonight was one of the nights when they were reserved for Royal Use only. That ordinance was meant to reserve them for the two ruling Princes... but technically, they allowed in Princess Bluebelle as well. Many ponies would come out here to admire the moon. And one might say that the mare was doing so... in it's reflection on the pond. Although, a more realistic observer would say that she was engaged in studying her own reflection... ~ Prince Artemis was out and about himself, enjoying the night sky, gazing up at the moon that long ago had been his prison, enjoying his peace, his silence his... Artemis turned his head slightly, and spotted the blob of white in the distance, and sighed, walking over quietly, leaning in to be behind his /dear/ niece (That's what Celeste said, but alas her birth was before Artemis's return...) "Good evening dear" ~ "Hm?" Bluebell had been often described as "vapid," which was a word that the commoners used when they didn't look as good as a noble. Of course, only half of her looks were due to noble blood. The other half came from constant effort! Hence, the attention paid at all times to it... "Oh, hello Uncle. I was just seeing how the moonlight affected my mane." She tossed her golden locks to show how the silver highlighted them... even Artemis would have to admit she used the Moon's light to great affect. "What do you think?" ~ "It looks very nice, but there are more important things for a young Princess to be dwelling on, for instance, how goes your studies?" Artemis was not one for vanity, not in himself, nor others, and despite his Niece's brilliant beauty, he was far more concerned about her education and brains, she did bare the title Princess after all.. ~ "Studies?" Bluebell got all the looks in her family... but there weren't enough brains for a sibling, so she was only filly. She was an academic nonentity, as far as grades were concerned. But, that wasn't to say that schooling was teaching her nothing. For example, she was learning the all-important art of delegation! In charming other students to write essays for her... "Oh, they're progressing quite well, I should say." It was something of a testament to her social skills that she could keep a straight face saying that. ~ Artemis just stared at her, in a look of utter deadpan irritation "I see, then you wouldn't mind telling me who invented the spell of teleportation?" He asked, starting to circle her then.. ~ Bluebelle's answer came swiftly, confidently,... and erroneously. "Starswirl the Beardless." That mare had been associated with so many spells that her name had managed to penetrate into even the Princesses' skull. It was usually a safe guess." ~ "Very good, and what is so important about Starswirl?" He asked, as he continued to circle around her.. "What is her true significance?" ~ Oh, had she got it right? Excellent! Soon, she'd have Uncle Artemis officially off her case! Except... now he had given her what amounted to an essay question. She wasn't good at answering those herself. But, as no pliable stallions were in sight, nothing for it. "Uh... if it wasn't the spells.... was it the fact that she was... er, a she?" The Princess remembered something vaguely about that; beyond was nothing but a frontier of pure ignorance. ~ "Correct, Starswirl was the first female unicorn to ever acquire the status of Wizard, it is very important for you to study about her, she is a wonderful rolemodel, for you see, alas in Equestria's darker times, before My brother and I took rule...the world was not kind to females who wished to advance their magic, since you have no such limitation it is wise to advance yours" He nodded "Not only for what it expands your mind to, but to honor those who worked hard so that you have this chance.." ~ Outwardly, Bluebelle presented the picture of the ever-diligent pupil. Inwardly, she was sighing in boredom. Really, the reward for a question well-answered was another lecture? And it was all pointless anyway. Magic wasn't her strong suit. She knew it. The tutors knew it. There was no point in letting oneself grow pale and wan in a library when the tools of beauty and social grace came more naturally to a pony. Just because some egghead in the past had done something great, now every female unicorn was expected to follow in her footsteps! The Princess' internal mood passed from boredom to anger, but she kept calm throughout, only saying, "Yes, uncle." ~ "I want you to make sure that other ponies know that you are not someone to be trifled with " He said sternly, THOUGH that was sugared with obvious affection "I do not like the thought of others thinking that you are some pretty bauble with more mane than brains" Oh he listened to rumors, he heard dreams, he knew that her best features seemed to be only skin deep. "Besides, learn the right spell and it can make your mane literally glimmer like the stars~" ~ If Bluebelle had minded the rumors, she wouldn't have leveraged them to her own advantage. Ponies were easier to manipulate if they thought they were smarter than you. Still, the idea of not being trifled with was something quite appealing to the young Princess. The part about the glimmering mane perked her interest too. "Really? I've been trying to get that effect for months. I thought it had something to do with a shampoo/conditioner combination. I experimented with... pretty much everything I could get. Including Mayonnaise." She shuddered. "I swear, the key lime shampoo actually made it fizz. Maybe it had something to do with... acid composition? They don't put that on the bottles, you have to just try it and see what happens." Bluebell wasn't without brains, or scientific skill. She just had a very narrow range of application. ~ "Oh do NOT use Mayonnaise! It is only for headlice, and if it's the brand of Key Lime shampoo I am thinking of? Oh it frizzes the mane dreadfully.." He said, turning to glance at her "Yes really, in fact it's a reletivly simple spell if you wish to learn it " True Artemis was not vain....except about his hair, then yes yes he was... Moving a hoof to lightly touch her locks "Hmm, it does look well kept but perhaps it could use a nice, creamy conditioner to add added silk?" ~ "Yes, well, that would have been helpful to know before, uncle." Bluebelle replied in mock irritation. Truth be told, she was quite happy to have discovered a point of vanity in her Uncle Artemis. The Princes could be downright oppressive with their airs of Perfection, if you didn't know the flaws... "Well, I certainly won't say no to the lesson." She smiled, narrowing her eyes as she took a quick look over her uncle's hair. "Hm... if it's texture you're going for, yes. Coconut is always popular, but I myself have always preferred shea butter." ~ "Oh goodness, I am allergic to Coconut" He wrinkled his muzzle, "Shea Butter can work wonders, come along, let's go inside and find a good spot to practice, it really is a wonderful spell, I also know one for changing mane color, I used to turn your Uncle Celeste's mane random colors all the time when we were younger~!" ~ "Oh?" Bluebelle filed that under 'useful information' as she walked in her uncle's wake. "I've never had much use for changing mane colors myself, mine works well with my coat. Of course, other ponies aren't so lucky." She tried to chuckle along as Artemis recounted his foalhood pranks, but honestly, she sympathized with Solaris in this matter. Imagine waking up to find your mane had turned puce! It didn't bear thinking about. ~ "Oh I'd always change it to match his outfit, though he did rather love the fire red I did his mane once, it looked very fetching on him, but alas he preffers looking like the pastels decided to coexist souly upon his scalp..." ~ Hm, fire red... tempting, but no. That color came with stereptypes that were not at all useful to her. She could see why her uncle would like it, though. "Interesting. Oh, the east court looks empty, why don't we try there?" ~ "Excellent idea" That area WAS always rather empty, perfect for study... "I do not care much to change my mane color, but if I can glitz it up a touch I tend to do so, a thousand years upon the moon makes one rather bored..." ~ As Bluebelle entered the court, she tried to imagine what a thousand years on the moon would be like. All things considered, she would prefer banishment to Tartarus. At least there one had others to be admired by if one took care of one's appearance. But alone... "I'm surprised you still bothered, after so many years of nopony actually seeing you. I honestly have to admire that kind of dedication to aesthetics." ~ "Darling" He flipped his mane then "We do not look good for the sake of OTHERS, We look good for ourselves~" He said, glancing at her as he kept walking through the halls, glancing out the windows "Them liking how we look is just a side benefit~" ~ Well, that was certainly a philosophy to live by, as far as Bluebelle was concerned. And upon reflection, even when alone, she would not consent to actually look bad. Or, at any rate, feel as if she was looking bad. Not necessarily the same thing. The opinions of others were a useful correction to self-delusion, in her experience. Vanity may be a vice, but it did at least value the opinions of others. "The results do speak for themselves." She said admiringly. "Now how about showing me how you did that?" ~ "Very well, first and foremost this spell requires a clear mind...and the basic knowledge of a light spell, like so" He raised his head up, horn pointing straight up, it glew with the cyan blue of his eyes, which were now closed, before turning into a bright light. ~ Right... Light Spell. She knew how to do that. Hers required a little more concentration, but soon her own horn was glowing the teal of her own irises, brightening into a white light. ~ "Now I want you to focus on that light, feel it's warmth around your horn, tip your head back just slightly, and focus on that glow, that warmth flowing through you, consuming your mane in it's brilliance" ~ Hm... this required not opening her eyes, as that would likely blind her. Just feel... the warmth spreading back behind her ears, lighting up and lifting her mane. Slowly, the glow suffused it, before releasing in a bright flash. Bluebelle's mane held the glow just long enough for her to open her eyes, and see it fade. "Oh... this is going to take more work, I think..." ~ Of course Artemis's was glowing with the radiance as he had much more practice, but he looked proud "You did well for your first time, it requires focus to get it to stick, but once it does...It really does suit you, perhaps we can perfect it before the gala, and you can make quite the entrance hn?" ~ Failure was something Bluebelle had grown used to in magic. Never before, however, had she been so motivated to overcome it. That was the power of practical demonstration, and personalized tutoring. "I'll be sure to practice it, Uncle. I'll just... need a few minutes before I try again." ~ "Take all your time dear" He'd make a magic user out of her yet, one spell at a time.. ~ After a few deep breaths, the Princess was ready again. She gathered a glow to her horn, letting it grow gently this time. Soon, however, her magic was glowing even brighter than before. Bluebell began to infuse her mane with it... and her control slipped. BAM Once the smoke cleared, it revealed a slightly singed princess... with a mane styled like a dandelion. "Ow... Uncle, how bad is it?" ~ She was doing good.....doing...He grimaced at the boom... "Oh..Oh it's.." He focused , horn glowing "Oh hold still dear and I'll fix it..don't ask how it looks.." ~ Bluebell whimpered, as her imagination filled in the gap left by her uncle's lack of description. 'Bride of Frankenpony' immediately came to mind. She kept absolutely still as Artemis began to fix her mane. ~ Artemis came closer, and closed his eyes, her mane gently glowing as he focused on repairing the damage, infusing a bit of glow in it as he went, temporary ofcourse but after that disaster... "There..." ~ Bluebelle began to relax as she felt her mane being fixed. It was one of the instinctive reactions of ponies, known as the Brushie effect. Once Artemis was finished, the Princess sighed and smiled, opening her eyes... "Thank you, Uncle." She reached back to feel her mane, the glow tingling on her hoof. "Oh..." She immediately began looking for a reflective surface, finding one on the polished marble tiles of the floor. "It's... wonderful..." ~ He chuckled "You'll be able to do that yourself soon... come, shall we go back to the lake, so you can view it properly...?" After all the floors didn't quite do it justice.. ~ Bluebelle's expression was bright and hopeful, everything a teacher could want in a pupil. "Oh, yes!" She trotted out, humming to herself. Soon... soon she would be able make herself even more beautiful; a suitable look for a Princess. Upon arrival at the lake, she looked in... and saw the stars themselves in her mane, lit all by the light of the moon. The sight took her breath away... ~ Artemis was pleased, it was good to see her so bright and hopeful, true it was for a rather vain, and frivilous reason, but...well they seemed important to her, it wouldn't kill him to let her be herself... "I take it you like it then....?" He asked quietly. ~ When she next looked up, Bluebelle's eyes were shining like her mane. "Oh, yes Uncle Artemis! It's wonderful..." To her credit, she kept her head up for a few 10 seconds before her gaze was drawn back down... "Wow... when did you first come up with this?" ~ "When I went to my first Gala" He shrugged "I..I was a rather vain child, and I wished to make an entrance, I worked on the spell tirelessly, and made quite the dazzling entrance" He thought on it a bit,and smiled fondly, it really was a lovely memory.. ~ She nodded. It made perfect sense. Of course you would want to go all out for the biggest event in Equestria... "But how did you even get the idea? What made you think it was possible?" ~ "I...might..have been staring at my reflection, trying to think, and noticed the stars behind me, and that my mane matched the night sky...and.."He flushed "Oh don't let me prattle on, it makes me sound so..." So vain. ~ "Oh, don't be so hard on yourself, Uncle. It all sounds perfectly reasonable to me!" Not, perhaps, the most glowing of endorsements. Still, vanity had its advantages. A teacher could make good use of it as a lever, and Artemis had done so. Come next Monday, Bluebelle would be paying a good deal more attention in magic class. ~ He chuckled "Well it made a striking entrance, and in time..you will do so as well " He was glad to know he had interested her "It's really a beautiful night.." His wings itched to fly...but alas his dear Niece did not seem to posess wings... ~ The lake surface reflection held the night sky. Almost nothing else could, but even then it only held a small portion. Once again, Bluebelle's eyes were drawn upwards to the night... and how it framed Artemis. "You know, it's almost an unfair advantage for you, being able to shape the background as well as the show." She teased. ~ Artemis glanced at her and chuckled.. "I do suppose that is true, but mhm when you got it, you got it" He glanced at the moon again "...Bluebelle...would..." He paused. ~ 'When you got it...' yep, Artemis had it right. Bluebell smiled, but then tilted her head, curious, as her Uncle paused. "...What? What is it?" ~ "..Would.. you like to go flying with me...?" He finally finished. ~ That... was unexpected. Bluebelle had never considered flying before in her life. It was what pegasi did... and ailerons too, she supposed. Which meant that it was royal, and she was royal... so why not? "I... would like to... but how?" ~ "It would be temporary" He assured her "Just..just till Celeste raises the sun...but I could do it.. for a few hours at least..if you truly wanted to" ~ It took a few minutes for it to dawn on the Princess. At first, she had just thought Artemis might carry her... but he was implying that he would actually give Bluebelle wings! "Oh! I... I would!" ~ A soft smile crossed his face "Very well, stand over there a bit please.."He wouldn't be able to do this EVERY night, but tonight, just a moment between them, it seemed like the perfect time to do so.. ~ Bluebell's eyes had been shining before, but not so brightly as now. For tonight, at least, she would be a full Princess. Horn, wings, beauty, no arguments from no pony! Why didn't she spend more time with Uncle Artemis? He was a really awesome relative! ~ It took a bit of focus, his horn glowing as he raised it up, spreading his midnight blue wings out, before lowering his head, aiming at Bluebelle, it lifted her off the floor, and the blue and white tinted magic swirled around her, causing a bright flash, when it cleared, she would have a lovely pair of white wings. ~ The change felt... weird. There was no other word for it in her vocabulary. How else do you describe the growing out of bones, the branching out of nerves, the overflowing sensation of becoming something new, something greater.... Once it was done, Bluebelle flapped her wings, feeling the air underneath as something almost solid, that she could just push against and be aloft. "Oh... my..." ~ He chuckled, wings still outspread "Now do remember, it's just for tonight..." He didn't want her hopes up too high.. ~ The knowledge that it was temporary may or may not have imprinted itself on Bluebelle's brain. In any case, she seemed in a hurry to go and see what she looked like. Rushing back to the lake, she saw.... Well, somepony that was not quite her. An ascended version, as it were. "That... is that me?" ~ Artemis walked over, looking down at her reflection and chuckled "Yes, yes that is you, that is all you could be ...." ~ "All I could be..." Her voice trailed off, as her gaze went from the present, to the possible future. Could... could this really be what she would become? If... she would... Bluebelle rocked back onto her haunches, wings automatically unfolding to catch her. "Whoa... uh... really?" ~ "Why yes, the world is different now, in order to be come as you see yourself now, you must understand yourself, you must find that one goal, that one destiny that seizes you, that helps you fufill your potential, that benefits not only you but all of Equestria," He said and chuckled, "Now come, we will discuss it later..~" ~ Her one goal... her destiny... up until tonight, Bluebelle hadn't thought of her destiny as being anything but the most beautiful and admired mare in Equestria. Maybe a little diplomatic work, but nothing major in her ambitions. But now, her imagination was stretching with her wings. She wanted to bite the air. She wanted to fly. "Alright. I want to get some use out of these before sunrise!" ~ Artemis bent his legs then and lept in the air, taking flight "Come along then, and perhaps come the end of the night, you might be interested in an offer I have for you" ~ The Princess had never flown before, but there was a magic in her wings. No surprise there, considering that magic had given them to her. In any case, her body knew what to do before her brain. With a bit of a running jump, she was airborne! Her wing flaps were frantic at first, tilting her to and fro as she sought balance. Eventually, however, her motions evened out, and she began to enjoy the ride. It was thrilling, to feel the wind in her sparkly mane as she sailed freely through the sky. "This... is amazing!" ~ "It is indeed, now keep your wings open, let the wind dance with you!" He turned to the side, dropping slowly and then twirling up, flying up into the light of the moon. ~ Bluebelle wasn't quite so confident as to try to mirror her uncle's moves, but she certainly let the wind dance with her! She dipped, swooped, and sailed in graceful arcs, laughing with delight. ~ Artemis watched her carefully, ready to spring into action should she show a moment of distress, but seeing her take to it so well... well he had to smile, she was quite the flyer.. ~ The joy of motion was obvious, but regaining a steady pace was a far more... awkward business. Bluebelle shed more than a few feathers with her desperate flaps to re-orient herself. "Wh-whoop! Whoa..." She got there at last, though, breathing heavily. "There! That was... fun alright..." She looked over to Artemis, smiling. "You... said something about an offer?" ~ Artemis glanced forward once she seemed to be stable "Well as you know..My Brother has a student, whom she teaches all of her magic, and skill to...one who she takes under her wing..." ~ Bluebelle nodded. "Oh, yes... Dusk." The stallion in question was undeniably a prodigy, often at the Palace, but... well, never really talked to any pony. Always had his nose buried in a book, never going out, talking to any pony, or socializing in general. In fact, it was the impression that he'd left on her of what magical scholarship was like that had repelled Bluebelle from the subject. "What about him?" ~ "...Well...I have..recently been thinking of acquiring a ...Student of my own " He said, coughing a little bit as he kept his gaze forward. ~ "Yes....?" Either Bluebelle was slow on the uptake, or not wanting to accelerate the extension of the offer. Whether that was from reluctance, or simply because she liked to see her uncle stammer like that was hard to tell ~ "....Would..you be interested...?" ~ Well, there it was. The question... before tonight, Bluebelle would have refused out of hoof. but with the stars in her mane, and on the wing... well, how could she turn down studying under Artemis now? "You make a tempting offer!" She laughed, trilling like finely-crafted bells. "Let me think... why, of course!" She swooped once again, pulling out with more grace this time. ~ Artemis was practically glowing, turning to look at her, watching her swoop "Truly? You are not just agreeing to be polite?" Then again he'd seen her manners... ~ "Uncle, I don't do that sort of thing. If I don't want to do a thing, I'll let you know, all right!" Many ponies could testify to her curtness, even biting sarcasm, under those circumstances. ~ That seemed to satisfy his worry, and his smile returned... "Oh..Very well ~! I'm so glad! I've been wanting a student of my very own~" ~ "Ahaha, really? Well, I suppose you would, being such a good teacher and all." Bluebelle had been curious, though; as far as she could remember, Uncle Sol had been going to every entrance exam for his school, looking for promising talent. Artemis had been... more reclusive. Perhaps he didn't want to horn in on his brother's territory. ~ Artemis had a more..personal style 'Yes , I mean I am uncomfortable making students compete for well..such a position..I figured it would be best to simply find someone I care about and take them under my wing.." ~ "Well, you found me, so it worked!" The Princess wheeled about in the air, full of joy.... and possibly herself. Dear old Uncle had taken on a long-term project, alright! ~ After that flight and a good nights rest, Artemis was waiting the next day, what if she didn't show? What if she changed his mind? What if he wasn't cut out to TEACH!? ~ As for the student, her mind was less on the upcoming lesson, and more on the fact that... she was no longer an alicorn! True, Uncle Artemis had said that it would be temporary... but still! She wanted to be able to show off just a little! Oh, well. Only thing to do now was to figure out how Artemis cast that spell in the first place! And that started with knocking on his door. "Hello? It's your beautiful niece here!" ~ Artemis glanced at the door, and tried to not over eagerly spring towards it, magic throwing the door open 'Good Morning my dear! How did you sleep last night?" ~ "Oh..." She yawned, almost certainly on cue. "The excitement was a little much for me, I admit. You just can't stay still with a night like that behind you. And a possibility for more in front!" ~ Bluebelle stepped with excitement into the room, though being what she was, she moved with more of a sashay than a bounce. Still, for today, she was the eager student. "So... what's on your syllabus, Uncle Artemis?" ~ "Today I figured we'd go to the Starswirl the Beardless section of the Library" He said calmly, though there was a smirk on his face..a faint one. ~ Oh, a library day... Bluebelle's enthusiasm began to drain at the mention of the old wizard's name. "Um... OK, I guess." ~ He smirked as they entered the wing....there seemed to be a table with a box on it.. "Well I got you some supplies for your studies" ~ Bluebell's sashay had long since downgraded to a shuffle as they ended up in the library. "Supplies...?" She asked, lifting her head in the very mildest of curiosities ~ "Go on and have a look~" ~ Artemis' tone caught her attention, and she finally noticed the smirk on his face. "Hm? And just what are you up to?" She asked, but with a smile returning to her face as she opened the box... ~ Inside was a rather lovely broach, it was the color of the night sky, with glittering white diamonds all around it, though in the center very carefully etched in the very color of BlueBelle's eyes, was her cutie mark "I figured I'd start with a late birthday present, and then we could go into town for lunch, and plan how we shall do things..." ~ The Princess' mouth dropped open in surprise as she saw the broach, eyes sparkling as she lifted it out. "It's... beautiful..." She said, reverently, before looking up at her uncle. "You... you incorrigible prankster!" She shook her head at Artemis, pinning on the broach. "Thank you, though, that does sound lovely." ~ "The look on your face was utterly priceless~" He smirked and chuckled "I'm glad you like it" ~ "Hm, it was well chosen. Speaking of which... where did you plan lunch?"