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Found 8 results

  1. 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?"
  2. To say that the expo showing off all of the ancient materials wasn't interesting would be down right hypocrisy. Walking around and seeing how the ponies of the very distant past did things was fascinating, and often times lead Ice Storm wondering why they still didn't use some of these methods. At least to her, they seemed more efficient than what was currently in place. There were many things from wooden pegs to hold everything in place, old tools that were used to make shelters and buildings, and even old books that showed what the earlier generations of ponies were interested in. There was so much culture in this expo that it was dripping with knowledge for those who wanted to find it. A series of older books caught Ice's Eyes as they were still legible for the most part and had an odd title, Expect the Unexpected. "Well, Nothing bad has ever come from reading a book right? Except for maybe a few nightmares," she said to herself with a small giggle. She opened it up and began to take a look inside not sure what she would find. She was hoping for some insight in how the earlier ponies thought so that she could perhaps apply some of their thought process to her own life and perhaps make things even easier. What she found though was a some odd phrasings that she really didn't understand, and some of it was in a language that she wasn't really familiar with. Most of it was fine and she could make it out easily, but the age of the book had made it to where some of the ink had smudged making it difficult to read. "Perhaps I can get somepony else to help me. Another pair of eyes can't hurt either," she concluded as she began to look around the room for somepony that looked like they could be interested in something like this to help her figure it out.
  3. Valen had grown by leaps and bounds in the short time that he had been interned at Sweet Apple Acres. Taken under the caring hooves of his relatives for a short spell, the physicality and emotional intensity that he experienced on a daily basis in this rustic envirtonment had taken it's pleasurable toll. He hadn't buffed up or become an expert in the workings of the farm, but he had lost some of his rounded corners and the chickens no longer chased him around. Well, that was a lie. They did and the Apples still thought he was playing and having fun: if nothing else, they were a positive bunch. Perhaps a bit mental but certain mental illnesses were probably good to have when you lived in such a small town. Or maybe he was the one with an illness if he couldn't trust as easy or openly as they. He had grown. But that didn't mean he was in control. Quite the opposite, in fact. Valen had felt control slip swiftly at first and ever since it had vanished slowly and agonizingly away. Back home he was used to being in control; he knew how the city operated and how he could in turn operate on it to produce the greatest of results. But here he was a fish out of water and this fish needed a distraction that could rip his attention from the lack of control around him. And few things could distract Valen so well as a wonderful dress, and fewer numbers of ponies could claim to live up to his standards. As fate would have it, the famous Rarity lived in Ponyville and through some good fortune he had made a good order. A few days had passed and he had returned and though she had made a simple mistake on his order(one that was to be corrected that very night, which was but an hour ago), that had oddly become a secondary concern. He didn't know how or why, but Sweetie Belle had been completely insistent that he was to ask her out to a fancy dance party. He had only briefly seen the filly before and hadn't spoken to her before, which put him at a sizable disadvantage in the discussion. He had eventually asked her out to a fancy dance party, which pleased her greatly. He had always tried to make other ponies happy and indeed should have chocked that up to a success. Plus, hey, she was a cutie. There were only a few nagging problems, the least of which was that he had no idea what fancy party she was speaking about. He had asked her out to a party that, as much as he was concerned, didn't exist. He had regretted his decision soon afterwards but he doubted that anypony had the intestinal fortitude to say no to her. So, after he had arrived back at Sweet Apple Acres and put away his suit and dress(ably snuck by the Apples, he believed) and had dinner, he sat on the porch and considered his options. They were slim; they were none, honestly. The time frame was too short as Sweetie was expecting a party tomorrow. Saturday. Thankfully, the most carefree day for the Apple family. Why- -Valen stood up on the porch and gasped. A solution! He shot back through the house which was by now growing a bit dark as the family went through their final nightly games and rituals before turning in. No Applejack in the main room. No Applejack in the kitchen. Valen ran up the stairs and found her door and at a full gallop- -knock knock knock, three light and polite knocks. [colour=#0033cc]"Applejack, may I enter?"[/colour]
  4. Rarity gave a content sigh as she stared at the beauteous dress lying in front of her. With it's vibrant rose colour, elegant cut and the delicate inlay of glossy pink gemstones, it was nothing short of fabulous! Staring out of it, Rarity was filled with a bright surge of beaming pride. This was going to be the next step for her, she could feel it already! Today was going to be a good day for her. In her mind, there wasn't the sightly chance that something may go awry. The young, up and coming designer found herself at, Fashions of Equestria, a fashion show currently in Manehattan. She was no stranger to fashion shows; no, she tried her hardest to attend as many as she could. There was no better way to capture the attention of the world of glamour than by showing one's latest masterpiece. This show was a pretty notable one too, a traveling show that hit many cities. Normally Rarity would be opposed to anything that kept her away from the boutique for so long, but she was thinking she'd manage in this case. if not, she could always just pull out. Just staying with the first few shows would be enough to get new faces through Carousel Boutique's doors, she was sure. She had a lot of confidence. The only thing that concerned her somewhat is that the model she was to be working with evidently was a rather young one. This was not necessarily a bad thing, she supposed, though in some cases the young ones could be more details. She was also apparently going to be working with a photographer and neither they nor the model had shown yet. That was mildly concerning considering the show was to start relatively soon, but Rarity wouldn't worry just yet. No, she remained with optimism in her heart. Smiling and humming quietly to herself, Rarity adjusted her working glasses and started to once more look over her dress thoroughly. She reckoned she had just enough time to check for the fifty-seventh time that every inch of the gown was perfect down to the smallest of details.
  5. ((OOC: This thread is a continuation of the Gem Hunt thread found here.) "Of all the worst things that could happen, this is THE. WORST. POSSIBLE. THING!" Rarity stammered feebly, tears in her eyes, as she paced circles around a small colt, lying prone on a cold cave floor. The Ponyville top fashionista was quick to making such declarations, and usually they were admittedly overblown. She had a definite habit of over-exaggerating matters for dramatic effect, but in this case her words might indeed be accurate for once. Her current situation was just that dire. It had been a pleasant, uneventful day of gem hunting in the mountains and hills just outside of Ponyville. Spike had been off with Twilight Sparkle attending to business in Canterlot for the week, so Rarity had instead brought Applejack's young cousin, Valen Orange, along with her to assist her. Things had gone well at first. Valen had unearthed many gems, they had had a nice lunch and had some pleasant if rather elliptical conversations. That was when Rarity's gem finding magic brought her attention to an incredible bounty of buried gems which if successfully extracted would have sent them home early. Making what in hindsight was a critical mistake, Rarity had chosen to dig out those gems and in doing so a massive cave in had been triggered. Her and Valen had been swept up in an underground stream that both nearly drowned the young colt and saw his head collide with a concussion inducing rock. Rarity had managed to save herself and the colt, but while his breathing had steadied, he remained unconscious. The unicorn herself was bruised and battered, but still lucid and without critical injury. She was, however, in the depths of some deep, underground cave, all alone with an unconscious colt. Hours had passed. Several hours. Rarity wasn't really sure how many. She had long since stopped trying to keep track of such things. Instead she merely sat there and occasionally got up and paced, hoping Valen would return to her soon. Eventually she started to wonder if the colt would ever wake up. How could she ever explain it to Applejack if he didn't? How could she explain it to the colt's parents, whom she didn't even know? She was shackled with guilt at these thoughts, but they were not the worst that crossed her mind. At that moment, Rarity couldn't say for certain she'd ever see Applejack, any of her friends or even the light of day again. This underground cavern could very well be the end of her. Grim thoughts increased the rate of Rarity's current pacing. She was hungry. The food had been left in their saddlebags which had been left atop the wagon they left behind. If their friends did go after the two of them, that wagon would be the only clue they had to go on. Maybe that would be enough. After so long it was proving harder and harder to be hopeful. At the same time, Rarity was a pony who had faith in her friends. If any group of ponies could find her, it was them. Maybe, just maybe, they would come to the rescue. "Oh, Valen darling, you need to wake up," she muttered quietly, as she looked toward the colt and let out a small sigh.
  6. “Watch where you’re going, rube!” As always, the Upper Crust district of Manehatten and its inhabitants weren’t particularly inviting towards Babs Seed. A life-long (thus far) resident of the working-class East Side neighborhood, Babs felt a little out of place trotting past the expensive townhouses of Upper Crust and the fancily-dressed ponies who strolled by on the sidewalks. As the filly learned long ago though, the Manehatten elite didn’t mind her presence just as long as she didn’t accidentally get in their way. Babs had to admit however that if there was one good thing about the snobbish attitudes here, she wouldn’t have to maintain effort to avoid the sorts of annoying rabble-rousers that menaced East Side. Normally Babs Seed had no reason to wander through Upper Crust, seeing that the family business had rarely taken her and Big Sis through this part of Manehatten. Yet on this day, Babs had a very special reason to drop by the den of the town’s upper class. The young earth pony had returned from the quaint town of Ponyville a couple days ago, having earned the companionship of cousin Apple Bloom and her Cutie Mark Crusader pals, after some initial… unpleasantness. When she bid farewell to her new Ponyville friends, Babs promised to establish a Cutie Mark Crusader branch right here in Manehatten, and the filly already had a good candidate for her first recruit. Being a member of the humongous Apple family meant that Babs Seed had more cousins than she could ever possibly imagine, and that said cousins could be found in the most unexpected of places… even within the Orange family. That is to say, the pony in question was Valen Orange, the young son of orange tycoons Navel Orange and Cara Cara. Just like Babs, Valen was not only a blank flank himself, but he had spent time staying at Sweet Apple Acres. From what little Miss Seed had heard from his older Ponyville cousins, Valen didn’t have a particularly enjoyable time working at the apple orchard. Babs actually wasn’t surprised learning of Valen’s farm-misfortunes; from what time she had spent with her Manehatten cousin, she understood the colt to be rather… challenged when it came to performing laborious tasks. For the most part in the past, Miss Seed had barely related to the extraordinarily-pampered Valen at all. It didn’t help that each time Babs visited her cousin, Aunt Cara inevitably attempted to teach the East Side filly how to live the “sophisticated life”, something that always bothered the heck out of Babs. Yet today, Babs Seed felt encouraged to give her well-off cousin a second chance to be more than mere distant relatives; if Apple Bloom and pals willingly gave Babs a second chance to be close friends, who was Babs to deny cousin Valen that same friendly courtesy? No trouble befell Babs Seed (other than having to dodge one rather disgruntled stallion) as she easily found the posh townhouse containing the residence of the Orange family. Walking inside, the filly lingered outside an orange-marked door for a few moments to build up her determination. When she was ready, Babs confidently knocked on the Orange’s door and waited to see who’d answer.....
  7. I've had a bevy of nice post banners made by Alison and Starburst to name a few. These are what I currently use: These are all perfectly fine. However, for more than a few of these, I'd enjoy something along these lines: So this is an open call out to Canterlot: I would like some new post banners. You may watermark/otherwise make your mark on a banner and I'll leave it on. If you have further questions regarding specific characters, feel free to PM me or otherwise ask. This is a relatively open ended project and I may end up using various banners for many purposes.
  8. The following three nominees are for Best Earth Pony OC. For your consideration... Brianblackberry's OC, Carrot Fields - A mainstay of our forum practically since the beginning, this carrot farmer with his head in the stars has had more than enough time to make a lot of good impressions. Brianblackberry has imbued this Ponyville stallion with charisma to spare as he's expertly defined this memorable guy. Banhammer's OC, Martel - Strong, sturdy and striking, this Germane stallion is always bound to make quite the impression, especially as he is played so well by Bannhammer. With his trusty hammer Zornstahl at his side, he is imposing and talented mercenary more than able to make his enemy's squirm in fear. SteelEagle's OC, Valen Orange- This little Orange is nothing but sweet! A Manehattan youth with a bright attitude and an unfortunate knack for unearthing trouble wherever he goes, in the charming earth pony colt, SteelEagle has found a fantastic RP pony with hidden depth. There is a both a link to a log as well as the application for every character. Who is the best Earth Pony OC of them all?
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