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Found 8 results

  1. Sand. Sand everywhere. For the third time since coming out to the dig site, Princess Bluebelle tried to discreetly cast a little spell to banish every bit of grit from the interior of her fashionable khaki clothes. Her self-cleaning magic, developed over the years as the neat-freak of a unicorn royal dealt with the unavoidable contacts with the dirt and dust of the real world, was usually quite effective, but she felt now that there was always at least one bucking grain that was lodged somewhere sensitive. Perhaps it was just a psychosomatic reaction to seeing the vast plains of sand outside the habitable areas of Saddle Arabia. Normally, the Princess would never venture outside of the beautiful gardens, lush fields, and picturesque streets of the horse Sultanate, but as one of Equestria's most prominent diplomatic ponies, her visits usually were spent in the personal company of royalty or major leaders, the Sultana in this case. And among the duties this Sultana took upon herself was the ceremonial dedication and tourings of the many archaeological digs delving into the history of her country. And that history was fascinating, of course, but Bluebelle still silently lamented the geography. Still, ever the premier diplomat, she did not let her good grace or smile falter as she accompanied the ruler. "I'm afraid I haven't read too deeply into the myths surrounding this dig; your country just has so many. Wasn't there something involving some kind of... sphinx, was it?" Bright, curious eyes; interested smile, and temporarily pristine coat gave all present the impression of the Equestrian tourist, of the more respectful and respectable kind, of course!
  2. Scions of the Royal House of Blueblood had never been known for their patience, and as far as Princess Bluebelle was concerned, this whole thing had gone on long enough! All things considered, it was hard to impute her impatience as a vice. After all, when one has been born as a Prince, living contentedly as one for one's entire life, to suddenly be made a Princess by magical accident was a little disturbing, to say the least. Princess Twilight had been working on a reversal spell, but the unusual circumstances under which the transformation took place (involving a sneeze messing up a healing spell), made the research slow going. And in the meantime, several circumstances had been wearing down Bluebelle's ability to wait. First was the fact that the transformation was bizarrely inconsistent. While most of the time, she was a mare, from time to time she would revert back to her old body, which necessitated constant re-adjustment of everything from walking pace to wardrobes. It was quite trying. But perhaps even more disturbing was the fact that such reversals started out as very common, almost daily, but had slowly become more and more infrequent. This started to breed a worry in the Princess that if measures weren't taken soon, the transformation might turn out to be irreversible! Which would be terrible. *Gah! I need to focus! It's even starting to affect my mind now.* So it was, after a good few months of putting on a good show of taking her change calmly, Bluebelle took matters to rectify the situation into her own hooves. And, after an intensive few days of research (on the part of her secretary), she felt a solution might finally be within her grasp... ~***~ "We can't be lost, that's impossible!" Dressed impeccably in tailored khaki, Bluebelle frowned and fumed at the old map she was levitating in front of her. "I can find a small island in the trackless oceans! Surely one temple in one forest can't be hard to find..." The expedition to the Leota had not been hard to scrape together. She had royal funds, as well as an honor guard to serve as traveling companion and protector. But once she had let slip that she was going hunting for an ancient magical artifact, said to be held by an all-stallion tribe that once lived in the Leota, she unexpectedly found her party increased by one, a mare from EPIC. Not that she minded the extra protection, but she could not imagine what on earth any potential villains would want with a statuette that turned mares into stallions. Well, except smashing it to spite her. "Are either of you familiar with finding your way through forests? Because I think we've passed that tree before." She turned to her traveling companions, sizing them up for likelihoods. Star Crusader, Bluebelle's honor guard, had proved to be a resourceful mare in the past. It was this secure unflappability and readiness from the gigantic pegasus which had first caught the royal figure's admiration, even before Blueblood had seen what she looked like underneath the bulk of her armor. The help she had lately given her in dealing with her current situation only increased that admiration, and Blue had come to trust Star implicitly. The other mare, Rubble Rose, was more of a cipher. For one thing, she was neither talkative, nor silently expressive in much of any way. In addition to this strong, silent attitude was the fact that... it really didn't make a lot of sense for her to be here, as far as the Princess could see. EPIC surely had more members available that were better suited to wilderness adventures... unless they anticipated some difficulty in breaking into the temple. Then it would make sense to bring along an urban demolitionist. *Is there something else, though, that I'm not seeing? She had personally requested to come along as soon as she heard that we were going to an ancient temple....*
  3. Evening performance tickets? Check. Mailed invitation to a certain Ponyville Dressmaker? Check. Dress for the evening? ... well, hopefully that would be coming. Princess Bluebelle sighed, trying not to succumb to the vulgar temptation to pace. These past few weeks had been stressful enough, what with getting magically transformed between genders, but then she had added to it by trying to apologize and make up to one of the elements of Harmony! It had been a dicey proposition, given how long Rarity had kept up a hostile attitude towards the royal. Still, everything seemed to be working out. The Princess had put a dress on order, and was treating the fashionista to a play as well, in an attempt to actually make friends. At any rate, they would be able to tell if they could stand each other's company for more than a passing business transaction. And so, Bluebelle waited for the arrival of her guest. She'd told Rarity to come to the house early, so she would have time to see and put on the dress before heading out...
  4. Valen's mind was a flurry with the news of a new Princess. Well, not new as in the sense that somepony had been ascended. That would have been outrageously unlikely, but rather something far less world-shattering but perhaps even less expected. Prince Blueblood had undergone a transformation and was now Princess Bluebelle. There was a lot of mystery as to how or why, but the one thing that most were certain was that Bluebelle was anything but unhappy with this. It was such big news, almost every tabloid had it running as a day to day front page running story. Good for Valen in some sense- better than having a few sniffing around who Gilded Lilly really was. He had enough connections to make that a terrible day. But this was better. Valen was curious what it was like. How he felt. Why the change. Valen was a little confused himself but he didn't know what was confusing him exactly. But now there was a famous pony he could talk to. And that was good, because famous ponies were generally much better at the talking. So Valen looked at his schedule. He had a show in Canterlot soon. Not a big deal to do the show, sneak out as Valen, and hope to find him, right? So he planned on it. Going from Gilded to Valen took some effort. Hopefully the Prench accent would die on its own a little. He was having some issues with that lately. The day of, plan worked. Gilded did her show for a few hours, working herself to the bone. He showered, cleaned in the company of the few who knew, and made his exit. Not long afterwards, he was in front of Bluebelle's place. A nice estate to be sure, though living in Canterlot made one immune to the charms tha usually accompanies grandeur. Only one thing to do now- Valen knocked. ~ The door was answered, as per usual in this neighborhood, by a servant. But not the stiff-faced, gooseberry-eyed Butler of the smart set novels; no, this was an older colt or young stallion, only a few years older than Valen. He was dressed dapperly, but not ostentatiously, wearing a monocle through which he viewed the world with a kind of detached amusement. "May I ask, who is calling, and for whom?" ~ He had expected maids. Blueblood was famous for those. Maybe Bluebelle was wanting butlers now. Did preferences change along with the rest of the stuff that had changed? Interesting. "I am Valen Orange, here to see Princess Bluebelle. Please?" ~ "Ah. For a moment, I though you were an IMAGINE recruit. I am the secretary of that organization, as well as to hi- her majesty, at Present. You may call me Psmith." He bowed aside, letting Valen in. "I shall let her know that you are here to see her... shall I give a reason for your visit?" ~ IMAGINE? he'd heard of it. Hadn't really considered who'd have run the majority of operations, or at least the paperwork end of it. Makes sense to have a secretary once you really put your noggin to it. And also nice to hear that even the hired help was having some difficulties. It would make the conversation less awkward for all involved. "Thank you so much. Just tell her I have some questions about recent events. Not from any newspaper or tabloid, mind you. Just curious." ~ "Hm..." And here Valen would feel the look of Psmith a little less comfortably, as if the unicorn were trying to determine if the young colt was telling the truth or not. "We have had issues with journalists about the place. Some... unfortunate incidents, involving the housemaids, a skeleton key, and the koi pond. But, if you are here as a personal matter... Well, I shall see if she will come down to see you." And he stepped off, silently as a valet. Valen would find himself waiting for a moment or two, out of earshot of whatever conversation the secretary and Princess were having. Eventually, however, a different set of hooves could be heard coming down the stairs, and soon... the Princess entered the room. She was pretty much as the papers had described her; an equivalent in female attractiveness as the Prince had been in a male way. She was currently wearing a dark blue, almost business-like dress; apparently she had just finished some IMAGINE work. Closer examination would reveal the cloth to be cut and sewn by none other than Rarity. Before the guest could get so close, Bluebelle had fixed him with her own blue eyes. "Psmith said you had some questions for me?" Her tone was guarded, as if awaiting some unpleasant barrage which, nonetheless, politeness and social duty forbade avoidance. ~ She really was very fetching. If he was just a little older, perhaps he'd be enraptured. As it were, he noticed the signs of stress. A mane hair loose here or there. A scuff on a hoof from writing or signing. The tell tale bridging of the spine and placement of the weight on the back haunches to give the illusion of comfort. It was all something Valen was intimately familiar with in his modeling career. The Princess, it appeared, was busy. Perhaps with that organization Psmith spoke of. But it was telling that even while encumbered with activities that tired oneself she took the time to meet with a random colt at a random hour. Very kind of her. “It is an honor to meet you, Your- ooh, that's Rarity's stitching!” Valen noticed with excitement, bouncing over. He was good friends with the best designer in Equestria. He could tell her stitching and hoof-cut patterns from a mile away, especially since he had worn just about all of it. “Very well hoof-cut, even by her high standards. And look, she used the lagarage magnifique cut on this pattern! How excit-” he caught himself, “oh, excuse me, Your Highness. It's an honor to meet you.” ~ As much of a breach of social propriety it may have been, Valen's gushing outburst of Rarity's handiwork did apparently do something to relieve some of the apprehension in Bluebelle's face. At least it revealed a common name, and a place to start. "Yes, she does excellent work. I had this made personally... after offering an apology for, hm, well, I don't think we need to go into that." She pursed her lips a bit, waving past the subject. "In any case... may We ask to what do we owe this visit? Or rather, what you hoped to find out?" ~ Yes, yes. The more pertinent question. Valen straightened himself out, even as he saw the change in body language. At least they were onto something there. But for better or worse, that wasn't why he was there today. A somewhat more confusing subject than the dress, sadly. It would be nice to discuss stitching methods though he half suspected it was a lost subject on Bluebelle. “Yes, yes. Why I'm here. I apologize!” he cleared his throat, “I was just wondering...what it was like. Ya know. And stuff.” ~ A broad question, that. From the blankness of Bluebelle's expression, perhaps a little too broad. "What was... what like? I've... been through a lot lately." Which was true. The sudden change in gender was only the latest in a string of things that had put the Prince in the headlines. There was, for starters, his actions in the caribou attack, his founding of IMAGINE, testifying at the first High Treason trial in centuries, traveling to Whitescar and picking a fight with the High King of the Caribou, getting himself entangled yesterday's washing in the king's antlers... It took a few seconds for the Princess to realize that Valen was asking about the change. "Oh, this..." She looked down at herself, and then at the floor, almost in a kind of... embarrassment? "It's... rather a silly story, if I'm being honest. you have to understand, I didn't... intend for any of this to happen." ~ "You didn't?" Valen searched for why that could be. Well, did anypony really intend to such craziness to slam into them? No. So perhaps it wasn't as off-base as he originally though. "Well, I have time. Tell me this silly story, if you'd like to indulge a little colt." ~ "I'm... not sure I would classify it as a story entirely appropriate for little colts. It depends, we never really did figure out what exactly happened that night in Los Pegasus..." She trailed off, blinked, and then cleared her throat. Perhaps most of that could be skipped over anyhow. "Well, the upshot of it all was, after going out with Auntie Luna, I got very, very sick, and asked Twilight Sparkle to help accelerate the healing process. It worked... except I sneezed at the wrong time, and, well, the spell kind of messed up." Even in the abridged version, it sounded absolutely absurd. But that was par for the course as far as his, or her, life had been going lately. In fact, given how much had happened in the last few years, who could say what was truly crazy, or impossible? ~ What an unusual set of circumstances. A sneeze at the wrong time and suddenly, a mare? It would be unbelievable in the best of situations. Concerning the Princess of Friendship, noted a probably the best user of magic in generations if not ever? Well, that became a comedy Valen wasn't sure he was willing to buy into. It seemed just as likely that this had been requested but Bluebelle was having trouble herself. A hasty change based on desires, but wracked with concern? Such a quick event would have left no time for second guessing, after all. Quirks and curious decisions abound at such a high level of magic use. “I see. That's unfortunate, I guess. But you seem to be taking it rather well, though. I don't know how well I'd take it when-if the tabloids got something on me like that, hahah. What's your secret?” ~ As unusual as the circumstances might sound, they were true. Magic was a tricky business, as Bluebelle had found out. So far, Twilight had not been able to find any certain way of reversing the spell. Or, at least, said she hadn't... In any case, the new Princess had had to adjust as best she could, and, as Valen had observed, she had done so smoothly enough. "Well, I'm rather used to the tabloids. My parents taught me to read using the stories about my foalhood self. I suppose that's how I've handled it; It's just part of the world I grew up in." She shrugged, smiling at the colt as she added. "It probably doesn't hurt that I, or rather the Estate fund, hold shares in most of them. From time to time, when I was younger, I would act up in order to get an allowance boost. That was, until my parents figured out what I was doing." ~ Ha! That was a detail Valen was unaware of. Seemed like something somepony would have had in the rumor column at some point. Well, maybe not. That would ruin the whole charade if a tabloid ran a rumor saying that one of their biggest bit printers was acting up on purpose, wouldn't it? In any case, that helped explain it. And she moved so smooth. It was only making Valen think more and more that she was more than okay with the current situation. That made Valen wander more about the initial question he had asked, and the real answer he had been expecting. Not that this was a bad path for the conversation to take, mind you. Just not one h had all together expected so quickly! “Ha! Now that is something I did not know. Pretty funny, if you ask me. But- umm, let me repgrase my first question. What was the change like itself- ohhh, ahhh, what's it like being a mare compared to a stallion and...all that?” ~ Ah, yes. There it was. The 64,000 bit question. Also, the only one Bluebelle didn't have a pat answer for. Sure, she looked OK with the transition, but that was all part of being a noble. You couldn't look unsure about anything that you did, or you broke the whole spell, or illusion, that aristocracy rested upon. The Princess felt this more instinctually than intellectually, of course, and even if she could articulate it to herself, it would not have been politic to spill the secret. And in any case, there could be less harm in giving initial impressions. "Well... I'm not sure. It isn't like anything else that's happened to me, so there's nothing really to compare it with. I had to re-learn a lot of things; how to walk, even. My honor guard, actually, helped out a lot with that. I've noticed, too, that I've been turning more heads when I go out in public, though that could be more for novelty's sake... mares as well as stallions, now that I think about it. Besides that... well, there's certainly a lot more clothes to choose from!" ~ It wasn't as in depth as he had perhaps desired. Of course, how could he expect such an answer from Bluebelle? It must have been such a wild change, especially when it happened with no warning. Even if the story included a softer landing than had been leaked or preparation unheard of at the moment. So yeah, not an unexpected answer. There was a bit of positivty at the end, and one he could get behind. Filly and mare fashions certainly trounced the stallionware of Equestria. Anypony who thought otherwise was a bit of a kook. Valen laughed at that, one hoof to his mouth sheepishly as he tried to contain it. “Yes, that is most certainly the case. So many more designs! When did you get this one made? Miss Rarity has her time so consumed with shows like tonight's or her bevy of other orders. I would think this would have made bigger news! Was it an emergency, or made with some good time to work on it?” Valen asked, looking at the dress with a trained eye. ~ In actuality, Bluebelle was a little more ambivalent on the bevy of options presented to her upon her change. After all, when a stallion dresses himself, he values not having to dedicate too much effort in selection. Not to say that he minded variety, but when one had to deal with multiple occasions in a day, each of which had a separate level of dress formality... having one suit that fitted all was a blessing. Still, this young lad didn't look as if he had to deal with social realities like that yet, so she let it pass. "Well, I only had one dress made to order. The rest were taken off the rack, as it were, and trimmed to fit. I had to get a whole wardrobe in a hurry, after all." ~ "Well, I suppose when it is a Rarity you only ever need one dress made to order. She does have a way of making even a purpose made piece sparkle under almost any light," Valen began before resetting his mind on more pertient matters. "But yes, a hurry and all. Geez, how much did that cost?" ~ Cost? Beyond a certain height in the socioeconomic ladder, cost was a thing other ponies thought about. Bluebelle, for the life of her, could not even think of the ballpark figure. "Mm... how much do you think half a dozen outfits go for these days? ~ Hmm. Assuming five or six formal dresses, one made to specification, and a dozen extra sets of outfits...one thousand for the best, seven for the rest, four for the other outfits..."Oh, a mare of your stature? Hmm...ten thousand bits?" ~ Ten thousand? Ten thousand? She was certain it was closer to five than ten thousand. "Hm... I think that might be overstating it a bit. Rarity does excellent work, but I don't think she could keep as large a clientele as she does with prices in that range. She said herself, did she not, that it was not only high society that she made dresses for?" Sure, but the best were still reserved to the highest bidder. In any case, the Princess seemed to grow tired of the subject, or perhaps just tired of standing on her hooves. "Oh, I do beg your pardon, I've kept you standing in the parlor. Were you planning to stay longer? I could show you to a come comfortable seat, at least." ~ This was true, but..."Oh, of course not for the average consumer, but look at the patterns and the stitching- beyond perfect. No doubt she must have cut you a fair deal however, due to your situation. But that combination of seam, cut, pattern, the way it hugs the foreleg- well, no jewels or whatnot so maybe that is why it sinks below the value..." he laughed, realizing how much of a nerd he was. "She makes many dresses for many ponies, no doubt. And sure, let us find a place to sit! This is all so interesting. Thank you for your hospitality," Valen said with a slight bow, though truth be told he was unaffected by the standing. Models stood and posed, sometimes painfully, for hours after all. ~ Despite having the looks for it (to say the least) neither Blueblood nor Bluebelle had ever seriously considered modeling. Hence, her leading the colt to the comfortable seats in the drawing room. "I gather from the depth of your expertise you are interested in fashion. you're not with one of the magazines, are you?" ~ "Oh, Celestia no. I don't have the patience for any of that photo-tography stuff. I just happen to know Rarity well enough, I suppose," Valen replied simply, realizing the gaffe he had made. Nopony must find out about Gilded, after all. ~ "Oh? A friend, or protege?" Bluebell asked, not yet put off the scent. After all, a high society figure had to be aware not only of designers, but their apprentices also. After all, knowing who might be up and coming before they up and came was essential to being ahead of the fashion curve. ~ "...A friend," was all Valen responded with, though it was more close to say protege. Between the modelling and his time in her shop, no doubt he knew more of her method than anypony else not related by blood. ~ "Well, she certainly has a lot of those." the unicorn mare shrugged, as a maid came in bearing a tray with two filled teacups. "Ah, thank you." Nodding to her servant, Bluebelle sent her off, levitating the teacup to her lips. "Now, tell me... did you really come all this way just to talk about fashion? Or was there something else you wanted to ask me?" The Princess' current working theory was that Rarity had sent him to check up on her, to make sure her apparent reform was genuine. ~ Well, that was the important question. Why was Valen here? He didn't really know. He had questions but they were intrusive. He was curious but polite, confused and enamored and scared and filled with excitement. He could do more than talk her ear off about fashion but he couldn't really detail his reasons for being here, especially to somepony who had such an in with the tabloid press. So, really, why was he here? He couldn't simply tell her but he couldn't be rude. He didn't want to lie but he couldn't tell the truth. There was some sort of middle ground? “Oh, not all about fashion. It is just so fascinating what happened. Could you imagine what this could do for ponies going through difficulties or who are confused? Oh, thank you,” Valen said to the maids. Even the maids were beautiful! “Your maids are really fetching.” ~ Curiosity about the situation in general seemed to be this colt's motive. Well, that couldn't be helped; after all, when you hear of a unique or odd situation, it's the natural response. Still, Bluebelle was still wondering what specifically drew Valen here. "I see. Well, I will say, most ponies don't take the direct route when they're curious about royalty. Most will ask everypony except me what I've been doing lately." She nodded and smiled at the remark about her maids. There was something else, though, in what he said. Something that rang a little odd. "I'm not sure how you think this will help, though. I mean, it isn't as if there are many ponies who suddenly wake up in a new body." ~ “I've always believed in asking the primary source whenever I want information. It may also help that I deal with several of the Elements on a regular basis,” Valen replied, focusing back on topic. “Well, think about it. Imagine a pony was having...ya know, gender issues or confusion. It would be interesting if they could see this all. That there was some sort of magic that could help them.” ~ Ah, right. Rarity was, as far as her importance to Equestria went, practically nobility. If she wanted an actual title, she could probably get one. As it was, any close associate of hers would be a close associate of Princess Twilight and... well, that would probably reduce the feeling of fear and majesty a pony generally felt in the presence of royalty. Never mind that only a few minutes in Blueblood's company would have done the same once upon a time... "I suppose... but it's not as if these sorts of spells haven't been around. the trouble is, so many of them are temporary in nature. A friend of mine, two of them, actually, got hit with one in Los Pegasus. Didn't last longer than a day. And even this..." Bluebell waved a hoof down at herself. "Isn't certain. The tabloids don't know about this, but the transformation isn't constant. It switches back and forth, and no one seems to have figured out why. Or, at least it did. Seems to have settled down now." She sighed, and took another sip of tea. That first week had been the toughest, not being able to get used to... well, any of it, frankly. ~ This was a new leap. “Oh, so it isn't consistent? Very interesting. Yet it has stabilized? What has happened? Has Twilight come to help you?” Valen asked, his mind buzzing. Why, if they found a way to contain the switches...that would be the holy grail of spells, wouldn't it? Permanent as long as you wanted it, but easily variable. So wonderfully organic a solution to all troubles. ~ Now Valen was heading straight through the fields of the Princess' experience to the deep miasmic swamp of her ignorance. Blueblood had never been a scholar, magical or otherwise, and was shaky even on basic theory. Complex spells like this were a nightmare for him to wrap his head around. "Well, yes, Twilight has come to help me, but it's... slow work, as I understand it. She had to snip off a piece of my... aura? Essence? I forget what she called it. Anyhow, new magic, new rules, we don't know what they are yet." She took another sip of tea, frowning. "The worst part is, I can't help but feel that its obvious, that I actually knew once, but forgot. But then, I don't know how my minds been working these days." ~ New revelations came at a consistent pace, Valen less enamored with the minutia of the matter as he was with the process of things. It was an amazing experiment if it was one. It was an amazing experience if it was simply that, but it was an imperfect model of the perfect solution iff it was as murky and ill-mantained as it seemed to be. Valen sighed. “Life can be rather confusing at times, can't it? Though I doubt may would have such issues remembering. Side effect or do you suspect more?” ~ "Well, technically, this whole gender-swap thing is the side effect." Bluebell felt it worth pointing out. At no point had he or she asked for this; it was just one of those accidental discoveries that happened all the time in magical research. Perhaps that was how it all happened, and magical research was essentially just a bunch of mad wizards casting random spells to see what happened. Wouldn't surprise Blue in the least. "See... honestly, I don't know how to feel about the whole business." She suddenly blurted out, after a moment of pondering the closed halls of academia. "It's as if... I'm not just one pony anymore. There's two of them in my head now, or at any rate, some kind of echo or... something." ~ Valen's ears drooped. There was a lot of troubling potential in that statement. “What do you mean?” Two ponies? Multiple personalities, or something more aetheral? Twilight wouldn't have done anything untoward to him. Her. That would mean that there was something more. Either some sort of magical mistake, in which case he imagined Twilight would have stuck it out a little more, or even sequestered him for safety and study. Or was it something more psychological, perhaps...? ~ What did she mean? That was a question tough even for Bluebelle to answer. The unicorn was no psychologist, and even as a regular pony, not much given to fruitful introspection. You didn't actually see all that much of yourself in a mirror, as it turned out. "Well... before all this happened, I was comfortable in my own skin. Never had any issues with who I was, even when ponies said I should have. But now... no matter what switch form I've got, there's always some part of me that feels... left out? I don't know." ~ Hypnosis was a lie. In reality, a pony could never be trained or told to do something they didn't want to do, if they apparently did so without being physically forced. That made it a useful way of gauging who a pony really was. In this case, maybe Twilight found something while doing the health spell and was making Blueblood confront something about himself that he had buried beneath his normally famously arrogant ways? “Very weird. Sometimes I feel the same way too- err, disregard” ~ Blueblood had a... thing, about other ponies assuming they knew more than they did about what was going on in his head. Usually, it was an overestimation; there were just some ponies who could not believe that a stallion could genuinely be thinking of "nothing" when asked. But they could, and Blueblood was quite notorious for not thinking. And the whole business had been an accident. There was nothing there before. But when you go through a sudden and dramatic situation... things come into you that weren't there before. Such as a spine, for instance. All very odd, she had to agree. "Mhm- wait, what was that you said?" ~ "Say? I didn't say anything. This tea is very good, by the way. Manechurian, I believe?" Valen said, his cool exterior betraying nothing of the panic he felt at having almost blown it. The topic was Bluebelle, not Valen, and what ponies could learn from Bluebell rather than what he could. Or that was what he told himself to distract from the selfish nature of this meeting, anyway, no matter what others thought. ~ Bluebell raised a delicate eyebrow at the young Orange colt. "Yes... it is Neighponese, actually." She gave him a good, long look, but he didn't buckle under it. Perhaps she had misheard, but it would be nice to be sure. Time for some conversational angling. "Well, it's good to think that this all might help somepony feel more comfortable; I can't say it's helped me yet. Although maybe that's the point you were trying to make; that the notion that somepony else feels the same sort of discomfort is, in a way, comforting?" ~ Valen nodded. “Yes. Not schadenfreude per se, since that means taking pleasure in the misery of others. This is more like taking pleasure in the knowledge that you are not alone in the same struggle, even if an element or two of it is perhaps dissimilar to your own. Companionship in struggles, if you were. If that makes any sense, anyway.” ~ Bluebelle nodded in turn. "That does make sense. I mean, it's what I meant." She sipped her tea, thoughtfully. "It's one of the reasons I rather think highly of my ancestors. They faced so many things, therefore proving they can be faced. Of course," She looked down at herself again. "They probably didn't face anything like this. At least, I don't think so." ~ “Well, pony history is very long and there is so much unknown. I remember when I was foal, being taught about the Mare in the Moon as a fairy tale. I didn't know Luna ever existed! That was the same for most of Equestria. A Princess condemned to the tombs of history, and yet that was more recent than many other elements of Pony history. And bigger. Yet forgotten. Maybe you are not nearly as alone as you think you are, yes?” ~ Bluebelle was beginning to suspect that she was very much not alone, that one who shared her situation, at least somewhat, was talking to her right now. But how to get Valen to come forward with that? "Well, it was a... pleasant, mostly, surprise to find I had a new Auntie. My own family can't come back like that, though. At least," She frowned at the memory of a certain incident at her summer house, "Not in any socially acceptable form. Ghosts and zombies are, well, vulgar is frankly too mild a term. But enough of that. Do you have somepony in mind, that you think I am helping?" ~ “Ghosts and zombies don't exist, no matter what my cousin says. But yes, it is always nice to feel like you have somepony else coming to your life with a special connection to you. That is how Rarity is to myself, in all honesty, though her emergence as important to me came with considerably less suddeness and global recognition,” Valen said, laughing while trying to think of an answer. “Oh, somepony in particular? Hmm..can't say. You know, I am speaking in global terms, of course,” he said, playing on whatever cruel ego remained. ~ "Pardon me, Valen, but they do." Bluebelle replied in the stern tone of a mare who does not appreciate being called a liar. "I can produce four witnesses to that effect. Granted, they're almost nothing like what most ponies say they are, but not anything you want around the house." Not wanting to dwell on the subject too much, she put down her tea cup, taking a small biscuit and dunking it. "Special connection, you say? Do be careful how you speak. I know certain unscrupulous reporters who would take those words and twist them into a headline about Rarity being a cradle-robber." She shuddered, remembering dealing with certain rapscallions of the press. Owning part-shares did not give you sufficient control of the staff, in her opinion. ~ "What's a cradle robber?" ~ There was a slow realization of the vast gap of experience between the two of them. Long enough, at any rate, for the dunked biscuit to crumble in the tea. Bluebell sighed, putting the cup of sugary sludge aside. "It's a term referring to a pony who romances another pony much younger than themselves, possibly too young altogether. Not a thing that happens all that often, but it's one of those labels that always gets a shock reaction, and so the unscrupulous rumor-mongers look for opportunities to use it." ~ “Ahhhhhhhhhhh I see. That's creepy. Luckily, you're not an unscrupulous pony, right?” Valen said, drinking more tea. “Though I guess I should still say that I always did find the rumors of your wild behavior mostly unfounded beforehoof anyway. You do seem to have a much better reputation now. Sort of night and day. Inspiring!” ~ "Well, I should like to think I wasn't!" She replied, with some vehemence. "And you're right, my behavior was far from what you would call 'wild.' Not to say it wasn't, well, bad..." Bluebelle was a pony concerned over her image, but some things could not be covered over. "Just, not bad in an expansive way. Cowardice played a large part in that, but... well, you can't live like that, and keep a sense of self-respect. Or be any real kind of friend. That's all, really, that it stemmed from." She sat back, thinking over the past few years. "It really has been inspiring, I suppose. I will say, I think the change over the past few years in my life, with the friends I've made and the things I've managed to do, is really more of a dramatic change than this latest one. As far as my real person goes, at any rate. A change of soul, rather than of the body." ~ There was a quote that he loved regarding the nature of courage. “Falsehood is cowardice, the truth courage,” he replied, nodding his head both to the meaning and what she had said. It was very difficult to live life in the shadows of your own ill-temperment or worse, live it in fear of your own actions. Cowardice was a disease that could strike anyone and required nothing other than courage to fight. In that way, Bluebelle was a symbol of courage to many as whether or not she was a mare at heart or not, her recent transformation from one of the most selfish and ill-received ponies in Equestria to a paragon of justice was a sight to behold. “You've done such marvelous things already. Who knows what the future holds for a mare such as yourself? The bravery you've shown so far can only be equaled by what you'll do in the future. My mother always says we exist on a staircase, and we always ascend as long as we wish it. I think yiu are experiencing something very similar, if a bit off the beaten path, and inspiring all the same.” ~ "Hm, well, she wouldn't be the first to say things like that to me. I believe Rarity said something similar when I dropped by for the dresses." She gave a most charming and sweet smile to Valen. Reformed or not, the Princess was quite receptive and susceptible to praise. "So tell me, have I inspired you in any particular way?" ~ Well, the truth was he didn't know. It was so exciting to see somepony seemingly embrace an identity they had. But learning that this wasn't exactly the case, that there were elements to the story that had the hint of not necessarily being on the same page emotionally as she was now physically, dampened what it could mean. Unless that was all just a cover, which he wasn't about to say was an impossibility. “Well...hmm...maybe? It is hard to say, in all honesty. I can see some relations, but many differences.” ~ That was an answer so vague as to not actually be an answer. Valen had been giving these to Bluebelle every time she tried to enlighten herself about this colt, and it was beginning to rub her the wrong way. Was this what Auntie felt like every time they talked? The Princess was moved in sympathy for her adopted relative; transparent evasiveness irritated more than it concealed. "You know, there's not much that any pony can do to help you unless you're willing to be more up front about what you're feeling. Of course, I understand if you're discouraged by other ponies telling you what they think you are feeling, and not listening to your own account. I've had to deal with that several times over the past few weeks." ~ There was a great universal truth in there. Few things were as constantly irritating as ponies informing you who you were and what you thought. That seemed to be more his purview, didn't it? But that didn't stop ponies from doing it. His parents, Miss Rarity, Sweetie Belle and friends- all had opinions and all had thoughts and all shared everything, assuming they were his own views hidden deep inside. All that did was make it considerably more difficult to get a real answer out of himself. “I suppose that is true. I wish I knew myself, but I guess there is a starting point that would be easy enough to start at. Tell me, do you pay attention to the fashion scene at all?” Valen asked, an air of confidence born out of throwing away worry more than any actual bravery showing through. ~ "Oh, one has to keep up with it, in my position." Bluebelle replied to Valen's inquiry about the fashion scene. The Princess was beginning to sense that she had finally started to get at what was really eating at her guest. She felt confident in letting him take the lead on conversation. "At the consumer end, I mean. What names to look out for in design, where to go to get them, what ponies will think of you when you wear them. I don't have many ties in the industry itself, though I'd considered investing or sponsoring a show or two. I couldn't name more than a few models, for instance." ~ "And what models could you name?" ~ "Er..." Put on the spot, Bluebelle suddenly found herself blanking. "There's... Fluttershy, but she doesn't do that work anymore. Fleur de Lis... who hasn't done much either lately..." Alright, so a Princess was no industry figure, but this was embarrassing! "I believe Rarity also mentioned someone she was working with. A Prench mare? I can't recall her name right now, I... well, was distracted." The name had come up in conversation while she was getting fitted for the dress, but before Bluebelle had dropped the bombshell as to her true identity. Hence, her mind was not exactly paying attention.... ~ A mare? My my, was he that good? Hah. Not likely. Just a 'filly'. “Oh, let me guess. Did Miss Rarity mention...Gilded Lilly?” ~ The name ran up the belfry and rang the tower's bell. "Oh, yes, I believe that was the name." It began with G, that much the Princess was certain of. The rest of the name rang true, though he could have said Glitzen Glamour, and Bluebelle would have nodded. ~ Valen nodded, then tossed his name. “And tell me, Rarity said,”- Prench accent activated, “zat it was a Prench filly, oui?” ~ It probably shouldn't have taken Bluebelle by surprise, but it did. The shift in accent, carriage, poise, and mannerisms was almost as startling as a full transformation. It didn't take her long to put all the pieces together. "Ah... and now I think I see why you wanted to visit me..." ~ Valen laughed, relieved in a small way. There was more in common in confusion that certainty sometimes. “Yes! Though I must say, it takes some people so much more to believe it. And the accent can be hard to drop after a few weeks.” ~ "Really... I suppose it would be." Now that she knew what was what, somewhat, Bluebelle stood up to take another look at Valen. "Although, in my case, the switches tend to be quicker. I'm not sure why; but after half a day, I can walk and talk like my old self. Or new, for that matter." ~ Valen nodded. “I would think so. After a few hours of actually being a brand new body I'd guess whatever is causing it would probably help you adjust, especially with how...well formed it appears to have been. No need to hide or try and pull the wool over their eyes.” ~ After considering, Bluebelle nodded. It made sense, being able to transition fully, in front of ponies who knew what was going on, probably made it a lot easier. "I have to give credit to my friends and staff, then. It would be a lot harder to go through without their support..." She paused, looking at Valen with softened eyes, "I take it, then, that you do no enjoy similar advantages" ~ Valen put hoof to chin, putting thought to it. “Well...yes and no. But maybe yes? Miss Rarity knows. She is the one who first asked an has helped me become as qualified as I am. And though they don't know I am a colt, all the makeup artists are good to me. Though it is very nervewracking, seeing as if I make one small mistake I can ruin not only my career and reputation, butt Mis Rarity's.” ~ The Princess gave a sympathetic laugh. "Oh, I know that pressure. Although, technically, I rather have ruined a reputation, which I am now rehabilitating." She shrugged, taking her seat again. "Tabloids can make a tempest in a teapot; you'll just have to learn to weather the storm. Sugar helps, in moderation." She remarked, adding a lump to her cup. ~ This was true. His reputation had once been a shattered form of a progressively less tolerable stallion, who existed in whatever good graces he did because of his royal blood. “That is very true. Nopony liked you. Now a lot more do. There is always hope when you know the path, but for me I just feel...less aware, I'd say, of it," Valen said as he dutifully got more sugar. ~ "So, if I'm hearing you right, you're not sure of what you actually want to do? Or be known for?" Bluebelle wasn't sure how much she could help there. True, she had come up for the idea of IMAGINE, which was now her guiding star for all House Blueblood's public initiatives... but he'd come up with that idea while drunk. Therefore, Blue had a reasonable hesitation in offering himself up as an emulatable example. ~ Valen considered it. What was he after? Was he after anything, or did he just want to know about a pony who had been through what Bluebelle had? Valen sighed. “I wish I knew myself. I came here because of what happened to you. It seemed so...well, I'm sure this is hard for you, but so simple compared to the amount of effort that goes into my lies. To a certain extent, does that seem true?” ~ Bluebell tapped her chin. "Well, I suppose in a way, it is simpler. I was honestly surprised myself on how simple it was, when I got down to it. But I suppose the main difference is that I just had to deal with what was happening to me as best I could. I didn't have to fool anypony." Well, besides Rarity, temporarily, but that was beside the point. ~ Valen nodded. “You don't need to lie. My problem is I need to lie, and the lie is not just about what I am, but who I am. And I guess I worry about what I am, and even then, who I am.” ~ "The lie has obscured what the truth is for you?" Bluebelle asked softly, a little worry starting in the back of her mind. Valen might soon ask an important question that she did not feel at all qualified to answer. ~ “Maybe. But on the other hand, maybe I'm really good at the lie for a good reason? I was a crossdresser even before I had to go further.” ~ Bluebelle shrugged. "Maybe. I don't know what the inside of your head is, and I won't presume on it." She felt that was the right answer, but it felt distinctly unsatisfactory. The Princess tried to probe with a further question, "I couldn't have pulled off a dress so well myself, but then I didn't have the figure for it. How did you find out that you did?" ~ Valen laughed. “Oh, I was always a crossdresser. Just preferred the styles and my family had the money so I could order them to fit. Didn't know I could pass as well as I do or as easily as I do until Miss Rarity needed help. When did you figure out after your transformation that moving came so natural?” ~ "It... didn't, actually. My honor guard, wonderful mare, had to teach me how to walk without my own hips twisting my legs in a knot." It was true; Bluebelle had been a fast study, but the early days were... awkward, to say the least. "I suppose you had your own troubles at the beginning?" ~ Valen had to stifle a giggle. “I could imagine how difficult that was, what with the new body and everything. The real issue there is less the difference between how a mare and a stallion moves and carries the body, but how to work the muscles,” he nodded, “as for me, Miss Rarity helped me a lot. It was somewhat...embarrassing, of course. But she said I already carried myself with- how did she put it- 'feminine grace'? It came rather easily after a while. Now it is sometimes hard not to! Same with the accent.” ~ "Well, I'd long been of the opinion that grace, regality, and the like were not exclusively feminine, though..." And here she gave a half-wry smile, "Not everypony thought I proved my point." She stretched out on the couch, stress from bending over IMAGINE paperwork easing out out of her back. "Ah... forgive me for making myself a little more comfortable, but things have been piling up. I had to take a little time off of, well, everything to get used to this, and now I've had to deal with the backlog. And now you've entered the working world yourself, so to speak. What do you think of it?" ~ Valen nodded. “It seems like it piles up sometimes. I have two separate lives, but one needs to be compartmentalized from the other, Makes it difficult, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it. I'm really good it- I look great. I think I feel great...and I'm treated like a billion bits. Heck, I feel like royalty! No wonder it was so hard for you before.” ~ "Mmm... I won't deny, though it might sometimes have gotten a little tedious to have to show up to certain soiree's again and again, I loved that part of being born who I was." She giggled. "Still do, to be honest, though towards the end I was treated more like a joke than a Royal. My own fault, I suppose. I... really haven't gotten a sense of what the public thinks of me now. But I guess I don't care as much anymore." She didn't know if that would be helpful, but it was the most helpful thing she could think of from her recent experience. ~ “Well, that depends on who you're speaking with. Many ponies, because of how well you've carried yourself, think this isn't an accident and that you're comfortable. Your actions seem to them to be vindication- they look at you as a brave pony, if I am being honest. Those that believe it is an accident think it is just another point of shame, if a more comedic one, in a long line of one. Still others don't have much of an opinion and will justa ccept what you say, regardless of what the truth is.” ~ "You have a point there; the papers often give a false unanimity to public opinion." That was a truth which Blueblood had taken a while to learn, and still now required reminding of. "So... what exactly are you worried that ponies will think of *you*?" She asked, turning the question back upon Valen. ~ Valen looked down, his hoof slapping gently against the floor. “...That I'm weird, maybe. That what I do is weird or wrong, that I'm wrong, that something is off about me. I'm worried they'll think my family is awful for allowing me to do it, and that Miss Rarity needs to be punished. Also the opposite- that I'm better that way and need to stay the way, and the problem is I don't know if any of them are right.” ~ Hm, certainly a difficult issue. Bluebell wondered if there was anything from her experience that would help the colt; despite the superficial similarity of their situations, they were fundamentally different in that she was purely reacting to her situation. She, currently, had no power to choose one path over another. But... but Blue had chosen to not be the same sort of pony he'd chosen to be before. Maybe that would help? "Well... I don't see that you'd have to lock yourself into anything now. I mean, you're still figuring it all out, right? But... well, take it from me, this is not the sort of thing one can easily keep secret. Or that one should, really. Just having it all out in the open takes a load off of the mind." ~ Valen nodded, looking up at the Prince turned Princess. “That would be best. But no matter what, I don't know if I'm happy because I'm happy with myself or because I'm making others happy with my choices. I've always succored myself on the well-being of friends and family. I'm certain whatever my identity is I'll be comfortable with it, but I just wish there was a way to just get that solved already.” ~ Ah, so it was the simple fact of not knowing how things would shake out, and being impatient for the resolution. That Bluebelle could completely sympathize with. "You and me both, then! But there's no substitute for time in some things. You can't rush research, as Twilight told me when I asked how long a cure would take." Say, now there was a thought... "Maybe if you approached it like an experiment, taking notes of reactions, relations, and changes between the two, it would help? Break up a big problem into small questions? That's what I've had to do to get IMAGINE's projects off the ground." ~ Valen considered this. It would seem to work, and when it came to judging what others thought it could work. And since he did live on that sweet nectar of approval, it would seem to be a good method. “Well, I think that sounds brilliant. But how would that be done? I'm too close to the issue...” ~ Hm... so he needed some impartial monitoring? "Well... my staff have been keeping a pretty good watch on me. Maybe I could... have you borrow their services somehow?"
  5. 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?"
  6. Edit: Thread is open! http://www.canterlot.com/topic/21737-to-serve-a-princeess-open-see-ooc/ I've been thinking; I would really like to flesh out Prince Blueblood's household with something more than mere NPC servants. He already has an honor guard, but there are plenty of other positions available, from clerk to cook! During this thread, Blueblood will still be dealing with being Bluebelle. Hence, the traditional form application letter from the household was sent out: The household of Prince Princess Bluebelle is in need of trained, qualified staff to compliment itself over these coming months. Positions have opened up and will be open to all able-bodied (and spirited) creatures, as long as they are capable and willing to serve Princess Bluebelle. The following application must be completed and will be reviewed by the Royal Guard, so please answer truthfully in full: What position do you plan to occupy? In what way is your service exceptional? Any previous records of similar work? ​ In retrospect, some judicious proofreading and editing might not have been a bad idea...
  7. Princess Celestia was always slightly busy, never seeming to have any time to herself, or her family and friends. Between ruling Equestria in the day, to running a school, diplomacy and the like, it was tiresomework. She really only had time to interact with her sister, and even that seemed at times minimal. However, the one pony she never really seemed to have time for was her nephew Prince Blueblood, whom, apparently became a princess rather recently. She wore a devilish smirk as she decided it was time to catch up with her nephew and called upon him[or rather her] for a day out. Naturally because he was now a she, the princess booked a reservation at her favorite nondescript salon, and made her way to the Prince's home. Upon arriving she gave a knock at the door and announced herself to the staff at his home that she was there to pick him up. Naturally they tried to tell the princess what had happened, but Celestia, knowingly, cut them off and instructed them to just summon the Prince for their long awaited time together. ~ Prince Blueblood had, at best, a tense relationship with his Auntie Celestia, and this was mostly his fault. After all, when one claims familial relation based on royal rank, and then forgets to respect one's elders... well, let's just say that Celestia had exercised the patience of a saint in not disowning him. But, said patience was bearing its fruit, in making a certain pony less unbearable. Blueblood was changing, becoming a different pony altogether. For the most part, he was a willing participant in these changes, but this latest one, which involved him not exactly being a "him" was, to be fair, a little much. "Princess Bluebelle," as she had decided her current self would be called, sighed as the maid brought up word of Auntie's arrival. "I suppose it couldn't be put off forever. I hope she doesn't take the news... badly." What 'badly' would mean in this context, she hardly knew, but she went downstairs, trying not to look like a mare condemned to be hanged. "Oh, hello Auntie." She greeted Celestia, trying to be as casual as possible. Perhaps if she acted normal, this whole awkward business could be pasted over. Or maybe this was all a dream, prank of Auntie Luna. Whatever kept her from babbling ~ As the "prince" made his way to the recieving room of his estate, she very clearly tried to play it cool, which naturally, Celestia would have to do the opposite. All the while the butler trying to tell the Princess what had happened, eventually the Princess had to break character and whisper to him with a smirk "I know," and with a start the butler seemed to finally understand. As Blueblood, or rather Bluebelle came into view and greeted her auntie as cooly as she could, Princess Celestia wore a look of surprise as best as she could. "Greetings Blue...." there she stopped "Oh my! Whatever happened to my nephew?" She said with clearly forced surprise. "Are you sure you are Blueblood, or are you one of his mares?" She said playfully, while desperately trying to keep a straight face. ~ It had been a vain hope. Clearly, Celestia was not going to pass up the occasion to make a bit of a fuss. Really, Blue should have known better. She sighed, not looking forward to giving the explanation again. "Look, I don't know what you've heard, but this was all a magical accident- wait, hold on, what do you mean, one of 'my mares'?" The last phrase had struck a bit of nerve, as she was pretty sure it had reference to one of half a dozen completely unsubstantiated rumors that circulated in the tabloids. ~ Clearly offended the "prince" made reference to the jab that Celestia made. "Do you mean to tell me that the tabloids are comple..te..ly... false..." she couldn't keep the ruse up any more and she started to slowly giggle before finishing the sentence, and at the end finally breaking down almost into full tilt laughter. "My apologies my nephew... or is it niece now?" She said wiping away a tear. "I simply could not help pretending that I knew nothing. Honestly I had wanted to have Luna and Cady come along so we could have a girls day out together, but unfortunately neither was available." Celestia said playfully with a wink. "I have been looking forward to spending the day with you for sometime though, I've been hearing many good things about you lately and wished to catch up." Celestia switched to being rather sincere, honestly seeing the look on 'her' face was rather telling of how she felt about all of this, and even though this was not the last time she was going to have fun with her this day, she did not wish for it to eclipse the true nature, which was to catch up with her now neice. ~ So... she knew all along, did she? Blueblood had never been a chess player, but even he had known better than to challenge Celestia. There were just some sorts of beatings that a sense of self-respect never recovered from. Thus abandoning her attempt to out fox her auntie, Bluebelle sighed, and waited for the storm of laughter to pass. "Frankly, neither nephew nor niece seems to fit right in my head right now." She shook her head, running a hoof through her mane. she paused, looking at her locks. Limp, ragged. Something needed to be done about that. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. "Well, it has been a while, hasn't it?" She tried for and managed to produce a small smile. "I suppose I should get some fresh air, at least. I've been holed up, defending the house against reporters. It's been taking its toll on me." ~ Celestia said as she noticed Princess Bluebelle fiddling with her mane. She could only smile knowingly as she looked upon this. Even if Princess Bluebelle didn't know what to consider herself as right now, she clearly had at least some marish tendencies. With the remark about the reporters, which Celestia had been dealing with her entire trip there, and her Royal Guard escourt having their hooves full she decided to pull out her secret weapon. Celestia instantly opened up both of her saddle bags, revealing hooded cloaks. "Here, put this on, we have a ways to walk, and you and I both would rather avoid reporters, especially if we are going to ditch the escourts that followed me here." Celestia smiled "Naturally if you'd prefer we use the guards and ditch the cloaks we could do that as well" Celestia put on her cloak which concealed not only her wings and etheral mane but her cutie mark as well. She still had her height and horn, but there were still other unicorns in Canterlot that had a tall stature with a horn like Celestia's so she was not worried so long as her defining features as a princess were hidden. ~ It was a measure of the limits of Blue's imagination that she had never put any thought into concealing clothing. Perhaps it was because the hooded cloak is eternally unfashionable, at least when made with rough brown material. On the other hoof, no pony would ever suspect a pony from House Blueblood would ever wear such a thing... "You know, Auntie, that sounds like an excellent idea." She said, though her enthusiasm was tempered by the thought of having to wear something like that. But, she donned it anyhow. It certainly was good at concealing the figure, even one like Bluebelle's. With her somewhat closer-to-average height, almost no signifying features could be determined. "Is it... very far, to where we are going?" The 'princess' remarked, trying to avoid looking at her reflection. The change had done nothing to reduce her vanity, it seemed. Quite the opposite, if anything ~ Bluebelle seemed reluctant to wear the cloak, but did so anyway. Celestia giggled at the thought of such a simple cloak putting Bluebelle out of her comfort zone. At Bluebelle's query Celestia smiled and shook her head "It isn't terribly far, however to avoid people we aren't taking a direct route, so the path is a bit longer than it would normally be. I'm sure you remember the path we used to take from Canterlot Castle to the rear gate of this estate..." Celestia paused for a moment to allow Bluebelle to remember. "The path is an off shoot of that as the place we are heading is not too far from Canterlot Castle, and naturally we will enter through the 'secret' enterance of the place we are going." Celestia made a point to not reveal the details of where they were going, but if Bluebelle remembered that path there were only a few things on the way that they could goto together to have a nice outing. ~ Bluebelle did remember the path, though she couldn't quite recall what was on the way. Gardens? Maybe they were just going to smell the roses? Well, that made sense, she supposed. Auntie was always big on the simple pleasures. "Alright, then." Bluebell started to trot towards the door, but tripped on the hem of her robe and face-planted. "Oof!" She cried out from her very undignified position. "I... need to remember that walking is different in this body." She got up quickly enough, with dignity in tatters, but she pressed on bravely, without any further spillage. "Entrance... I suppose you're not talking about the gardens, then." ~ Seeing Bluebelle fall flat, even the princess had her limits, while she enjoyed pranking ponies, and playing with their misconceptions of her, laughing at a pony's misfortune was not something she would do. At least she wouldn't show it outwardly.... She dusted her off with her hoof gently after Bluebelle had gotten up. "Are you alright Bluebelle...?" Celestia paused, realizing that calling her by that name might be a surprise, though perhaps not considering that she was made privvy to the situation. Celestia naturally lead the way, ensuring to avoid, not only her guards, but also tha paparazzi that they were currently fending off. It was a lovely diversion really, but it wouldn't take long for the guards to realize that they were set up... again... and immediately send out a search party. A while later they arrived at a rather nondescript door with a sliding door for just eyes. With a rhythmic knock Celestia tapped on the door. The eye hole opened and upon setting eyes on the princess the door immediately opened. And the pony at the door graciously greeted the Princess thanking her once again for her patronage. Inside was a rather lavish beauty parlour and spa, with marble columns cascading falls and a rather scerene atmosphere. Celestia inquired to the pony whom opened the door if all the necessary arrangements for their visit had been made, which is to say that the place was rented out for two hours ensuring no other pony other than select staff would be around. Celestia turned to Bluebelle and whispered "I figured it would be best to do something outside of the public's eye" she said with a wink. ~ Upon hearing her new name on Auntie Celestia's lips, the Princess shot her a look, which was hidden under the shadows of her hood. "Did Twilight tell you about this?" It would make sense if she did, the former student being in good correspondence with her mentor and fellow Princess. But... that might mean the full circumstances might have gotten to her as well. Being sick invites pity, but when illness is resulting from having a compromised immune system from a wild night on the town with the Princess of the Night... well, one might say that an accidental gender swap was only karma. With those troubling thoughts, Blue followed her aunt through the twisting byways, not looking around, for fear that would attract the attention of the dreaded press. It was, therefore, a little while before she realized her surroundings. "Wait... I know this place..." She muttered, before the door was opened, admitting the two princesses into the salon. "Oh, yes! I've been here before..." She paused, realizing how that sounded. Clearing her throat, she specified. "They, ah, are good at giving lessons. And securing supplies. You need connections to get, ah, really good conditioner." ~ Celestia smirked at Bluebelle's query. It was true Princess Twilight contacted her about it. A gender swap from treating an ailment was not the most common of things, so Twilight had asked her mentor about it. She didn't go into the details, but it did not take long over all to find the full details. Still, it was not the worst Blueblood, or rather Bluebelle had ever done, so to bring it up was not a real concern. "I did hear it from Twilight, but fear not she did not disclose all the details... " Celestia stopped explaining there, as she heard the story of the night before from her sister, but left the question of how much she knew in the air. Upon arrival Bluebelle expressed that she knew the place. "You do?" Celestia asked with some surprise. As she followed up and tried to cover up how it sounded, Celestia figured out the real reason, and naturally decided to bring it forth. "So apparently you had a mareish side before you became Bluebelle." Celestia said with a devilish smirk "Had I known I would have invited you the previous occasion I patroned this establishment." ~ Hm, well, if Twilight didn't disclose all the details, than neither would Bluebelle. Not unless asked, of course; Auntie wouldn't appreciate prevarication. Nor would avoiding the question be any good anyway, from the way in which she had of getting at the heart of the matter. Blue sighed, partly at the relief of getting free of the tacky robe, and partly in frustration at her auntie's sense of humor. "I never particularly saw why a certain degree of care in one's looks should be exclusive to one sex. After all, if one's overall purpose is best served by looking good, one ought to make every effort. Noblesse oblige, and all that. I just wanted to be able to do the necessary maintenance in-house, so to speak, rather than having to go out every other week. I came here to learn how to do that." She gave a little wave to one of the staff, wondering if she would remember him. Her. Bleah, this was confusing. ~ Celestia smiled "You know you had ponies around who could have shown you such things... I can tell you it isn't easy taking care of my mane" She said with a smile, and really having an etheral mane was not easy to maintain. "There was no need to try and maintain your image among family" Celestia looked at her wave at a pony. "That said, there is nothing wrong with mares or stallions coming to places like these. Though, usually, when I come I do have the place to myself, like we do now, so it is not like I'm aware of the full clientelle of this spa." The time for small talk was almost coming to a close, but they could really engage in catching up when they actually started their spa day. "So since this is my treat to you, what would you like to start off with... just keep in mind I requested minimal staff considering you being Bluebelle." Celestia might be a prankster but she was at least conscientious... ~ "Hm... well, you will recall there was a time before we were really... close in any kind of way." It was true. Before his parents had died, Blueblood had regarded Celestia as a more distant figure, only vaguely associating them together based on rank. It was only after his parents died that he called her Auntie. She was, in fact, at that point the only thing left that he could call family. Even then, it took a while before they could talk candidly on any subject. At least, as equals. He'd gotten a couple of lectures on not being a pompous snob on certain memorable occasions. "In any case, there are some things a stallion prefers to do himself." Not that that applied anymore. Frankly, after the stress of the past week or so, it would take very little inducement for her to surrender herself into the care of the staff entirely. "I think... a massage, to start with. I've been running on nervous energy for too long now." ~ Celestia nodded at her words. It was true, they never really were close. The prince was more or less brought up by the castle staff. Celestia was always too busy, especially since Luna was not around to raise the moon and take care of the night, so often Celestia pulled double duty and nary had time to rest. Celestia wasn't exactly sure how to respond to Bluebelle's response to doing things on her own. Celestia knew the feeling all too well, especially since for so long she didn't really ask for any help after StarSwirl the Bearded had passed on, and her most trusted adviser was no longer by her side. She did nod at the request for a massage though. "A massage does sound nice. I'm sure becoming a mare has been rough for you. You know, if you'd like I could place a few more guards at your estate to deal with the paparazzi until Twilight's magic wears off..." ~ The staff, bless them, had probably been able to predict her preferences just by the look of her. They must have seen enough stressed mares in their time to be able to determine Bluebelle's own state, and the proper remedy. Thus, it took very little time for the tables to be prepped, and the warm room to admit the pair into the caring hooves of the two masseuses. "Ah... Pumice, was it? Yes, I remember you from before. Do you still do that wonderful thing with the hit rocks? Perfect." She sighed, finally starting to relax under the care of the Salon. "Hmmm... more guards... yes, that would be nice, as long as they were willing to take orders from my own Honor Guard captain. You know her, Star Crusader? Duchess of Fet Loch's daughter?" There was a pause, and then a sigh. "You saw her fish me out of the High King's antlers." ~ Perhaps it was the massage, or perhaps it was the stress, but for Blueblood, or in this case, Bluebelle to bring up a memory of her own shortcoming, it was rather rare. "That would be only natural. Much like how my personal guards know my needs..." Celestia paused and said under her breath "and disregard my request for time alone at times"... Clearing her throat and continuing as normal "your honor guard is the same. And it wouldn't be like I'd be sending ranking officers whom would take issue with that." Celestia said with a smile. "Speaking of the High King, he did offer you a rematch if you so desired... are you planning on taking him up on that? Though I'm not sure that would be conducive to IMAGINE." Celestia continued talking as the masseuse used heated rocks to relax the princess of the sun. A treatment she often requested as it does wonders for loosening tense muscles. As the princess melted into what seemed a puddle of relaxation as the massage progressed she looked over at Bluebelle having her massage "Have you ever had them use the heated rocks? It is rather lovely." ~ Bluebelle nodded. She didn't think it would be any trouble, but then, one had to be sure. It was important that she have peace in her house, given all the chaos that seemed to be trying to invade it at every opportunity. "I'll say she is!" The Princess was apparently going to wax effusive on the subject of Star Crusader. "I don't know whether it was you, or the Duchess that assigned her to me, but that was inspired, let me tell you. Sure, she may not smile much, but she's steady as a mooring post, and that means a lot when you're battered by the waves of life. I mean, after this transformation, she didn't even bat an eye, but showed me how to walk without tripping over my back hooves." It must have been the massage; no other explanation could be for Bluebelle opening up. Unless there was something in the fact that a niece and aunt could talk more freely than a nephew and aunt. "As for a rematch... no, thank you. I've had enough of such stuff. Oooohhhh...." Pumice had apparently started the hot rocks on her own back. "Mmmm... once before, yes. She wasn't quite so good at it last time, though. Left a red mark I noticed afterwards."
  8. Rackenhammer: The flyer had gone out to most towns and villages in Equestria: "IMAGINE a future where war is a thing of the past. IMAGINE a world where there are none starved or oppressed. IMAGINE yourself, making this dream come true..." The opening lines were a fair sample of the content. There was a little about the history of the organization, how it was founded after a Viking attack on the Crystal Empire, with a blurb on how the scarcity of resources in the Caribou lands bred fighting and war, and how much more reasonable it would be to make their land richer than deal with periodic attacks and death. That was about it for substance, but it did direct those interested in joining to Blueblood Manor to apply... Honeywing: Honeywing tapped his chin as he read over the flyer. This was certainly intriguing. He had missed the first few round of these, apparently, due to one of his missions. And of course he was always on the lookout for ways to improve his standing. The notice lacked substance, but it was a flyer, not a novel. And every Courier in Equestria knew exactly where to find Blueblood Manor. It was something of a hazing tradition to post newbies to the manor to attend the staff's demands. One short flight later and Honeywing was knocking on the servants entrance. Rackenhammer: Answering the door was the kitchen maid, a mare formidably stiff with propriety. Very few outside of Canterlot knew this, but the higher-ranked servantry had a hierarchy every bit as exact as the nobility itself. The Kitchen-Maid was ranked under the Cook, but not very much far under. Say, #4 or #5 overall. "Here to deliver a message? The master's-" And here she hesitated, "A little indisposed." Honeywing: "Not today, ma'am. I saw this flyer at the headquarters." he said, rolling a wing to shift a satchel forward, out of which he pulled the IMAGINE advertisement. He straightened his shoulders and tossed his mane over to the other side, drawing himself to his full height in the process. It wasn't terribly impressive, really, but he knew how to bear himself, at any rate. "Honestly, came to this door out of habit, but I'm confident you'll get me where I need to be. You seem a capable mare." Rackenhammer: The maid peered down at the flyer, suspiciously at first, but then her eyes opened wide in recognition. "Oh, you're here about that. Usually recruits come through the front door." She looked around, thinking. On the one hand, the Prince had requested no visitors. On the other hand, recruits were in a different class altogether. Maybe it wouldn't hurt. "Look, if you'll go up into the foyer, I'll pass along that you're here, alright?" Honeywing: Recognising a failed attempt when he saw one, Honeywing bowed his head gracefully and trotted off toward the main foyer. It was another room a courier was usually well acquainted with. He didn't recognise the décor, but that was Blueblood, of course. Honeywing was well aware of the prince's reputation. The art was usually the most interesting thing about the room, so Honeywing took his time examining it while he waited. Rackenhammer: The art was... odd. Not in of itself, no, everything was generally of good taste... but it looked as if someone had stopped halfway through in redecorating. There were a mixture old family portraits, and classic collectors pieces... with a set of new paintings, all from one artist of growing talent. Including, oddly enough, a painting that looked like a female version of Prince Blueblood, lying in a bed of roses... Honeywing: Honeywing lingered on this one. He'd heard of gender-reversing effects, usually in hushed whispers around the headquarters as something that had happened to a friend of a friend of a friend, but generally he discredited those as urban legends, not unlike those that said the zebras could bend the workings of a unicorn's spell mid-cast. Instead, he was assuming the artist was either quite imaginative or had found a near-double who happened to be a mare. Although given how masculine the prince was, it was odd to think of any mare as being considered a 'near-double'. Rackenhammer: Indeed, in terms of figure, there was a great contrast between the overall quite masculine sculpted shape of the Prince's body, and the exquisitely feminine curves the painter had captured. but the eyes... the eyes were the same, along with the cutie mark. And over all expression, of a habitual haughtiness covering an inward vulnerability... "Ahem." Behind him was a soft cough, and turning around, Honeywing would see... the mare from the painting. "You were here... as a recruit, am I right?" Honeywing: Nope. Honeywing's brain couldn't accept that. Had to be a trick of the lighting. No, her voice was off, too. Was he having a daydream? No, he wasn't that into mares, and he REALLY wasn't that into Blueblood. Another nightmare? No, he was pretty sure he was awake, and besides, he could track a clear line from the flyer to the foyer. The stallion closed his eyes, took a deep breath, let it out, then opened them ag-nope, still a mare. Well then. He had just lost sixteen bits on a bet. "Recruit? Yes. My name is Honeywing, I'm a courier with the Diplomatic Courier Corps, your grace." Rackenhammer: Bluebell had apparently been waiting for ancillary questions. Things like, "What happened to you?" Or "How long has this been a thing?" or even "Did you fall in love when you looked in a mirror?" But no, this stallion seemed to be on point still, and for that, the mare was grateful. "A messenger? And with experience in the corps! Well, we would be glad to have you. If you'll just follow me to the study, we can go over the details." Honeywing: Honeywing clicked his hooves professionally and drew himself up behind the prince...ss? ready to follow. How did that happen? How long was that a thing? She probably spent hours in front of the mirror, if she was half the pony her reputation said she was. Then again, maybe being a mare changed her? Was this a voluntary thing? Honeywing's mind raced from one question to the next, but he'd have to wait for a more polite time to find answers, or a more diplomatic one, at any rate. One did not join a diplomatic corps without learning tact. Leastwise, one did not stay in one for long. Rackenhammer: However many personal questions the courier may have had, the answers would have to wait, either until the Princess was ready to answer... or until he figured them out for himself. From the sheen of her coat and mane, Bluebelle certainly took no less care of her appearance, however long it took her to get ready in the morning. Still, one could hardly blame the royal person from using their main advantage; after all, Blue would have to rely on brains otherwise, and Faust knew the Prince had shown precious little evidence of those before. In any case, she took a seat behind a desk, looking at Honeywing across it. "I suppose you might want some more information on what you're getting into, if you came from the flier. Wordsworth Psmith has a way with fine words, but he packs so many syllables into so few meanings sometimes..." Honeywing: "I hadn't noticed, your grace." Honeywing lied, blatantly. "But I was curious, yes. Your organisation sounds very philanthropic, but the flyers are sparse on details. Or even the proposed goals or methods, if you'll pardon my bluntness." He had taken a seat and crossed his legs in a very formal pose. Not perhaps the tense eagerness usually found in a servant, especially in a glorified mailcarrier, but certainly not with any undue familiarity with the mare or the situation. Rackenhammer: "Well, there aren't many details. At least, not details set in stone." The Princess had settled down into a practiced explanation, though she managed to deliver it naturally. It didn't sound like a mechanical repetition of rote phrases, as sometimes happened when the upper class talked about their philanthropy. "The three founders, that is, Miss Snowfall of Northern Storm Industries, Countess Frostlace of Stalliongrad, and myself decided to pool our resources and influence to make the world more peaceful. Essentially, we want to look for non-violent solutions for potential or past conflicts. Usually this has to do with scarcity, which can be solved with development and trade. We are currently starting two efforts, one in Whitescar with the caribou, and in Griffonstone, with the, well, griffons." Honeywing: Honeywing listened intently, nodding every now and again. "So you're establishing trade routes, looking for stable merchant relationships, and developing the regions' own industries?" He asked, organising thoughts in his head. He did note that she didn't seem to be using rote or that really annoying voice aristocrats liked to use when talking about 'helping the peasantry'. Maybe her reputation had been inflated, or maybe being a mare had actually changed her. Or maybe she was just really good with the political game. Honeywing wasn't sure yet, but he was also willing to play his cards close to the vest, not that he wore one usually, and find out. Rackenhammer: "More or less. Essentially, if you can't get oranges, we'll make sure you can." The off-hoof, and somewhat cryptic remark was followed up by a question. "Do you know what it takes for you to get an orange in this city?" This was apparently some kind of test, gauging from the way that the Princess was looking at Honeywing, waiting for the answer.. Honeywing: "Foreign oranges or domestic, your grace? Domestic come by way of the train, with the proper produce procurement papers and licenses, I believe the Orange family owns most of the orchards? Foreign requires an additional set of tariffs and a waiting period while Customs examines them to ensure no foreign parasites or diseases are present. As such they're usually not as fresh when they reach the merchants or buyers, unless great care was taken to preserve them, either magical or through carefully controlled temperatures, and therefore most merchants and suppliers charge a premium for their strains." Honeywing says, offhoof. He then coughs and offers "My father's a restraunteur, your grace." Rackenhammer: After listening for a bit, Bluebelle nodded. "So, you have some idea of everything that needs to happen in order for a caribou have orange juice with breakfast. Well, IMAGINE is meant to facilitate all that. Setting it up and getting it running, so to speak. It's a hard task, and we can use all sorts to do it." She got up, lifting a few papers out of the drawer. "There are multiple options, depending upon whether you wish to join us part-time or full time. I can make arrangements with the corps for your transfer, if you wish the latter." Honeywing: Honeywing paused and considered the offer. He could always use the extra bits, and the prestige, of course. Oh, and...wait, why was he hesitating again..? "Hmm...I'll need to consider that, your Grace. Though I may be able to offer some assistance even within the corps if need be. My primary concern is my coltfriend, honestly, but I'm sure he wouldn't mind having me out from under-hoof for a while at any rate." He was going to accept one offer or the other, the only question was how much time he could devote to things. Rackenhammer: "Well, as far as personal considerations go..." Bluebelle looked down at herself, betraying a consciousness of her transformation for the first time this meeting. "Well, I can't say we will be any less demanding than your current position. More so, actually; you'll be applying for hazard pay more often, for one thing." The Princess sighed, and leaned back, rubbing her eyes. "I don't want to sound like I'm dissuading you at the last minute, but frankly I didn't know what I was getting into when I started this. So... I suppose you shouldn't feel frightened if you're unsure yourself." Honeywing: Honeywing shook his head. "Oh, I'm not afraid of either hard work or hazards. My father is a restrauntuer, I mentioned, so I learned early on how to make myself useful. And my mother's family has been guards since as far back as they can trace records, up until my uncle's passing." he said. He considered for another moment before adding, "To be quite frank, your grace, I was expecting to work hard for the position. The Diplomatic Corps favours the silver tongue, but you don't get far without learning how to get things done. Even your household typically has a Courier or two running errands, I would wager." Rackenhammer: "Hm? Well, yes, I suppose so. I have ponies that take care of those sorts of details for me..." Blueblood had been born into a household where there were so many servants that there were servants who managed the servants. IMAGINE probably represented the first time he, or she, had actually been in charge of other ponies in a real position of leadership. "In any case, as you seem up for the work, I don't see why we can't sign you on today. Ah, which sort of shift were you looking for? We'll have more important things for you to do full-time, setting up appointments with high-ranking Caribou for our first big investment meeting." Honeywing: "Most likely part-time for a month or so, to get everything in order, and facilitate a transfer. There were a couple of assignments I really should finish myself if only because the recipients are particular about how their documents are handled, and I can train a replacement more easily than the corps can find somepony else to." Honeywing replied. In truth, he was probably going to spend most of the personal time studying the Caribou, but a good diplomat never let on to either party how long research took. "In the mean time, if there is work that needs doing in the capital, I'm more than willing to do it." Rackenhammer: "Excellent! We'll sign you for a month of part-time, and I'll have Psmith talk to his counterpart in the Corps to co-ordinate your out-processing." Bluebelle selected a few papers from among her stack, and presented them to Honeywing. In truth, he hadn't committed to the long haul quite yet, but the Princess had an instinct about him. Or was attempting to manipulate him in a desperate attempt to get sufficient personnel to accomplish her mission. Honeywing: Honeywing took a few moments to scan through the documents, reading over the finer points and trying to get a sense of the minutiae contained therein. He actually didn't have much of a head for legalese, so tended to overthink contracts, but even still, this one looked fairly straightforward. Salary seemed fair, hazard pay, insurance, everything looked to be in order. "Is there somepony to ask about budgeting?" He asked without much preamble, "I recall you mentioning facilitating trade and tariffs, and I was curious as to how that was going to work, and whether agents needed to work from their stipends." Rackenhammer: "Budgeting?" The question seemed to catch Bluebelle off-guard for a moment, before she heard Honey's explanation. She blinked a bit. "Well, I suppose that'd be me, at present, unless you know an accountant with higher ambitions than dying a bean-counter. At the moment, the founders are funding everything out-of-pocket, pay-as-we-go. We don't actually know how much money would be needed to do these sorts of things yet, so setting a hard budget would be rather pointless. Just... don't be extravagant in your expense sheet, and I think you'll be fine." The Princess let out a whoosh of breath, settling back. Altogether, that had gone well. She'd given the information, practically acquired a recruit, all without the elephant in the room being addressed. Honeywing: Honeywing signed the necessary portions of the application, then separated out his copy and started rolling it up to put in a document tube he had in his saddlebags. Time for the elephant in the room, he supposed. "Your grace, how public is the knowledge of your current condition?" he asked. It wasn't his personal business, though he was extremely curious, but if he was to be working as an attaché of the Princess's political work, he did need to know if he'd need to deflect questions about it, he reasoned to himself. Rackenhammer: Well, there it was. The other hoof, dropping. It wasn't exactly welcome, but it was expected. Though, when it did come, it came slantwise. Bluebell raised an eyebrow at the question itself. "You don't read the tabloids much, do you? It was all over them last weekend. It was as much as I could do, in my position, to let my friends know before the rest of the world." That was no doubt annoying, but if you were a royal, journalistic attention was just part and parcel with the work and rank. Honeywing: Honeywing actually didn't. He'd also been out of town though, so even if he normally did read tabloids he probably wouldn't have known. He cleared his throat and deflected the issue by replying, "May I rephrase it then, to 'How would you prefer any questions asked of me be answered?'? It's likely none of my business how you ended up this way, I mean, but if I'll be working for you..." Rackenhammer: "Change the subject. If they insist, refer them to my calendar. If I don't want to see them, I'll tell them. If they continue to impinge upon my time, I will leave them to what remains of the tender mercies of my butler." From the flatness of her tone, it sounded like the stories last weekend had been produced at the cost of much irritation. Honeywing: Honeywing dipped his head in acknowledgement and resumed securing his copy of the offer in the document tube. "Understood, your grace." he said as he popped the cap on and slid it back into his bag. He went through a mental checklist of things to go over with Glitzen as well, aware that he'd pushed rather past the line of propriety already and more than willing to drop a clearly touchy subject. Rackenhammer: Bluebelle had been, perhaps, a little brusque in dealing with the subject. Then again, this was not the sort of thing she was prepared to talk about with near strangers just at this very moment. Perhaps, when the two of them were better acquainted... the whole story could be told. In any case, once the subject was dropped, her expression softened. "Welcome aboard, Honeywing. I promise you, that by the end of this, we'll have made the world at least a little bit better." Honeywing: Honeywing didn't doubt that, and bowed graciously. "Thank you, your grace. I'll go see to some of my preparations. May I excuse myself, your grace? I can remember the way out." He couldn't, but he was a Pegasus, all he really needed to do was find a balcony no pony was watching and he'd be on his way. Rackenhammer: Bluebelle nodded assent and smiled at Honeywing. "Alright then, go ahead. I'll know where to reach you when we need you. Good day." If the Princess knew he was flying out, she didn't care. She did get up and reach over to shake his hoof. "Until next time." Honeywing: Honeywing was unaccustomed to royalty using the gesture, but he took the princess's hoof and shook it, then bowed again and made his way out of the room, out of the building, and off to his possibly last assignments with the Couriers.
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