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{Canterlot] Joust a Little Disagreement (PM for invite)

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"I was at the Pooflehoofs' cocktail party, one of the many social engagements I simply must attend when I noticed a group who were observing something over in the corner. I went to investigate, and was almost stabbed by a unicorn filly who was charging about in the most undignified manner."

Undignified indeed. Celestia had heard the name Lanceguard before, one of the champions in the local competitive jousting community, though her sort of joust was more oriented toward formal sport than historical reenactment. Still, the fact that Blueblood had begun with a disparaging remark of another was telling enough. This was going to be good.

"...Nevertheless, I requested politely that she restrict her antics to the jousting field, if she had to do it at all."

Politely. Of course. The last time that Blueblood had attempted to be polite, he had ended up with cake on his face in addition to the hooves of a very angry lady unicorn. As Blueblood continued, Celestia nodded at the keywords. Entirely reasonable. Demanded. Demeaning. All part of the vernacular of high society to be sure, but all codewords for “I made a faux pas but would rather push my blame upon another.” The Princess nodded sagely as Blueblood finished his tale of woe.

Celestia took a dainty sip from her teacup before gently setting it upon the conference table and thoughtfully putting a hoof to her chin. Despite his best efforts, Blueblood had telegraphed very clearly the fact that he wanted out of this comedy of errors via her intervention. Of course, the Princess would have none of this. It was a fact of life that a pony must be held accountable for his or her actions. Blueblood was not exempt from this.

Of course, the question remained. How would she best educate him in this fact of life? It would teach him nothing if she merely forbade the contest. It would also teach him nothing if the contest were resolved quietly and in private. Furthermore, it would be entirely rude and un-princess-like if she were to dismiss him without another word, though she very well could have done so. Oh what a dilemma!

But what was this? A little idea crept its way into Celestia’s mind, sparking all sorts of plots, plans, and pranks, titillating that little mischievous bit she had never fully shed from her youth. The Princess had a plan... the perfect plan.

Lanceguard’s jousting tour had been struggling with both poor advertising and lack of general interest in the sport. As it turned out, a local foals’ hospital had also been struggling with a recent dearth of donations, a matter which had been presented to her just a few hours ago in that same conference room. This would work beautifully.

A joust for charity! The honorable Blueblood against the grizzled veteran Lanceguard! The fight of the decade! The local promoters would be all over this! And the best part? It was all for a good cause, a cause that even Blueblood couldn’t worm his way out of. Regardless of the outcome, everypony would be a winner... except perhaps the Duke himself.

“I completely understand,” Celestia smiled, the mischievous lilt remaining in her voice. “Don’t worry one bit, my dear Blueblood! I will personally ensure that this matter is resolved. In fact, I will have the adjutant file a formal request for Lanceguard’s presence now.”

The princess picked up an idle quill from its inkwell and proceeded to scribble down instructions on a bit of palace stationery. Borne on the aether, the page folded itself neatly and vanished in a puff of green flame, bound for the adjutant’s desk out front.

“In the meantime,” the Princess said, replacing the quill in its inkwell, “Do continue your training. I think it suits you quite well. Besides, it would be quite rude to so abruptly terminate your lessons considering you have already committed both your trainer’s time and your own.”

(( A fundraiser for the foals’ hospital? Check. A promotional event for competition jousting? Check. A clueless Blueblood? Check. Mix ingredients. Bake in coliseum for a day. Profit.))

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(OOC: You do realise that I was cackling inanely the whole time i was reading that post. Perfect, just perfect. You have properly dropped the boom on him, and he doesn't even know it yet. Of course, I have a few taradiddles to throw at him myself.)

“I completely understand,” Celestia smiled, the mischievous lilt remaining in her voice. “Don’t worry one bit, my dear Blueblood! I will personally ensure that this matter is resolved. In fact, I will have the adjutant file a formal request for Lanceguard’s presence now.”

Blueblood's heart leapt at Princess Celestia's response. He was free! This whole untidy mess would be solved post haste. In fact, he'd gotten even more than he'd hoped for. He'd expected her to just forbid him to enter, leaving him to do the actual withdrawing but instead she was going to deal with Lanceguard personally. A small part of him felt guilty, just a little, maybe he'd overplayed his horn. He might not want to face Lanceguard in a joust, but he didn't actually want her in a prison on the moon for lese-majesty.

It was that part of him that added. "Your majesty, don't be _too_ hard on her. She is, after all, only a lesser noble, and clearly not fully aware of the niceties of Canterlot society."

“In the meantime,” the Princess said, replacing the quill in its inkwell, “Do continue your training. I think it suits you quite well. Besides, it would be quite rude to so abruptly terminate your lessons considering you have already committed both your trainer’s time and your own.”

That was less palatable. However, it was a royal command. He had intended to maintain his training as a show of eagerness anyway, the same day response had brought his plans forward. Though he was surprised she thought the armour suited him. Maybe she'd actually seen his several times great-grandfather wear it for real. That actually pleased him, that she saw his ancestry so clearly in him. Actually, with the charms going, and if he could do something about the dreadful case of helmet mane the helm gave him, not to mention the metal smell, the armour looked quite well on him. And the small part of him that still thrilled at the adventures in his father's journal found other reasons to be happy.

He bowed his head. "As you command, my liege."

(OOC: Blueblood is a jerk, but he's not evil. All he wants is a little respect.)

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That silly little grin on his face, the excited swish of his tail and little stamps of his rear hooves; it was immediately apparent that Blueblood was pleased with the results, inanely so. If only until he knew what was going on behind the scenes! With a little luck and a bit of creative scheduling, however, that wouldn’t be the problem.

"Your majesty, don't be too hard on her. She is, after all, only a lesser noble, and clearly not fully aware of the niceties of Canterlot society."

Celestia smiled but said nothing in reply. He honestly thought that Lanceguard would be punished? What a ridiculous n-- Celestia cleared her throat to stifle a giggle, taking another sip of her tea afterwards to complete her cover. It wouldn’t do to lose her composure now!

Blueblood responded to her instructions to continue his lessons accordingly, bowing his head as he spoke. "As you command, my liege."

“Very well. You are dismissed.”

As Blueblood made his exit, moving out of earshot, Celestia chortled merrily to herself. The Princess picked up her quill once again and began scribbling a series of notes, detailing logistics and cross-referencing event organizers and promoters who would be able to put something together on such short notice. It wouldn’t be easy, but what pony could say no to charity? Or the princess for that matter?

******

To Lanceguard, a proper palace summons:

Lady Lanceguard,

Your presence is requested with Her Solar Majesty, Princess Celestia. please report to the Rhododendron Room in the Southwest Colonnade of the palace complex at 4:30PM this afternoon. The Princess will see you there. If further arrangements are required or rescheduling is necessary, please contact the reception desk in the foyer of the palace proper.

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Lanceguard returned home from her errands and the meeting with True Strike, pondering what he mentioned earlier. A charity could help, and she was sure she'd heard of other events there giving to the needy. As for the pre-game events, she was on the fence. The whole battle scenario would be fun to see, yes, but she felt it would steal the thunder from the mane event. Perhaps with some more check-ins with True Strike, she could devise something that plays to the prince's strengths - assuming he actually has any - rather than trying to simply hide his weaknesses.

True Strike's last comment before heading back inside had Lanceguard curious. Could she train him in a disguise? Her comment was originally a joke, but now it had her thinking. She was born to a family of powerful spellcasters, and she could immediately think of a few who knew illusion spells. So, technically, yes, she could. As for whether or not she could stand being around him long enough to make an impact... that would be an entirely different matter.

As she arrived at her door, Lanceguard spotted an unusually official-looking letter waiting for her. She picked it up to look closer, dismayed as she recognized the royal seal on it. Lanceguard hurried inside and put down her bags, opening the letter. A summons from the princess herself?! Was this about the joust? What in Equestria did Blueblood do to get her into this? Glancing at the clock and then at the letter, she realized she didn't have time to dwell on the issue and would just have to see for herself why she was needed at the palace. With a sigh, Lanceguard took a moment to make herself presentable. She fixed up her mane and tail the best she could, and would go without her caparison- she didn't want to look like a brute in front of the Princess, now did she? The unicorn hurried to the palace, hoping her anxiety didn't show when she arrived.

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Despite the armour weighing him down, Blueblood was almost walking on air. It took all his considerable control not to sqeee like a little filly. Everything was going according to plan. Now for a long bath, and a meal, after he'd gotten out of this armour.

He arrived at his private chambers and rang for one of the servants. He ordered a light dinner from the kitchens to be brought up in half an hour, and for a bath to be drawn in his private bathroom. He begun to strip his caparison and armour only to discover that underneath it, he smelled, no smelled wasn't strong enough, he reeked.

The underpadding smelled of sweat and iron, and he did too when he stripped it off. He got a second servant to take the caparison and underpadding away to be washed and readied for tomorrow, and to tell the kitchens to deliver his meal in an hour. It was going to take time to scrub this fug out of his coat. The hauberk and armour pieces had been laid to one side, and he started to put them back on the ponyquin. Since he was going to have to wear this, and continue the training, he'd need to get them polished up too...

Suddenly he noticed something he hadn't before on the ponyquin, the castle and cutie-marks of the ducal emblem placed on it's chest of all places. He touched it with a hoof, wondering why it was there and soon found out. A cunningly concealed drawer popped open, it's seams invisible until then, and in it was a book. It was old, but well made, and it had the legend, 'The Arte of Chivalrie' on the spine.

Blueblood lifted it out of it's recess reverentially. He'd read the modern, abridged version of course, practically memorised it, as it was the basis of the rules which governed the nobility, and had been incorporated into the common law for centuries. But this looked to be an original, unabridged version. Which was impossible, if there'd been a copy anywhere he'd have moved Cloudsdale and Canterlot both to get his horn on it. Even the Royal Canterlot archives didn't have a copy.

Well, it looked like he had some light reading for after dinner. However it had started, it looked to be turning out to be a good day after all.

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Celestia smiled as she finished writing up her latest note, neatly folding it up before placing it in an envelope and stamping the wax seal with the royal signet. The first round of letters was complete! The foal’s hospital would be notified and the caterers, the show organizers, and the promoters would all begin their work shortly. Now all that was left was to “inform” the trainers and the star of the show!

Lanceguard would arrive to find the Rhododendron room empty save for the low mahogany conference table at its center. Cushions ringed the table, providing seating for any of the ponies who would be in attendence. The table itself was graced with a platter upon which a delicious-looking raspberry cheesecake sat. Dishes and a tea set accompanied it. At the table’s head, resided the monarch herself, rainbow mane floating lazily in the aetheric breeze.

Celestia nodded in acknowledgement to Lanceguard’s entrance, a fresh teacup floating by her head and a small dessert plate with a single slice of cheesecake off to the side of the table. The day was not over quite yet, but the princess was willing to indulge in a bit of refreshment.

“Good afternoon,” Celestia said. “Lady Lanceguard I presume? Please have a seat. We have quite a bit to discuss! Would you like a slice of cheese cake? Some tea perhaps?”

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Lanceguard nearly froze as she saw the princess awaiting her. Though she was expecting some hostility for her business with Blueblood, the setup gave no such indication. There was even a tea set at the table! This meeting looked like it was going to be a lot more pleasant than she had first thought. This only eased her nerves slightly though, as it was still her first time meeting a princess in person, of course. She bowed her head at Celestia's presence, rising again as she spoke.

"It is an honor to meet you, my princess. Tea would be lovely, thank you. Oh, and apologies if my appearance is less than ideal, princess, as I had little time to prepare." Lanceguard gingerly seated herself. She was doing her best to hide any signs of nervousness, though her eyes occasionally darted around the room. "What did you wish to discuss with me, your highness?" Lanceguard asked, wanting the princess to lead the conversation. She didn't want to risk saying anything that could get her in trouble if it wasn't necessary.

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After a long relaxing soak that really took the ache out of his muscles, and a substantial (if carefully calorifcally balanced) dinner, Blueblood lay prone on his suite's chaise lounge, wearing a finely embroidered and quilted dressing gown with his ducal symbol on it's flanks. 'The Art of Chivarie' hovered in front of him, and a tray with a steaming cup of cocoa with marshmallows sat on the low table beside him. He manifested a ball of light just beyond the tip of his horn as a reading lamp and dug in, turning the ancient pages with care.

The book was a treasure trove! There were explanations of rules of ettiquette that had passed down to modern times as pure tradition, accounts of famous unicorns and their deeds that exemplified certain laws and customs, so many things the modern nobility took for granted. The marshmallows melted into the cocoa unheeded as it cooled down (and that was in itself remarkable, as it was a treat the diet consious unicorn rarely allowed himself) so fascinated was he by the contents of the ancient book.

Even more surprising, there was a section dealing specifically with his family. It had even been marked by an ancient scrap of parchment, which fluttered to the floor as he opened the page. It was remarkable. His title as Defender of the Princesses came from the fact that his ultimate ancestor had been the Duke of Canter and therefore commander in chief of the royal castle. Effectively, he had handled the task of administering and protecting Canter and it's environs, leaving the Princesses free to rule the rest of Equestria. Which also meant he was ultimately responsible for the Princesses safety too.

He'd always believed that the title was merely honorary, and extra piece of fruit salad to garnish his name, but there it was. Some quick cross-checking showed that the modern version didn't repeal it, and a further check of some history books showed that the transfer of responsibility to the present Honor Guard was by special order and by permission of the then Duke of Canter, not by statute. Since 'The Art of Chivalrie' _was_ a part of Common Law, that meant that theoretically he could go up to Shining Armour or any of the guards of the Princesses protective details and give them orders. Not that he'd attempt it, the Captain of the Guard made him nervous, and his recent marriage to Princess Cadence made him part of the Royal family (though micro-metrically lower than Bluebood as it was by marriage).

Still it was amusing, and the unicorn grinned as he imagined being able to drop that little titbit at his next soiree. That would be... Suddenly he stopped dead as he read the next paragraph, and his reading light flared and guttered out as he lost control of his magic. The book dropped, and he barely recovered in time to catch it before it thudded onto the chaise-lounge. He forced himself to calm down and re-read the offending paragraph.

"An the Duke of Canter, as Defendere of the Princesses shalt be the Mightyest Knight on Lyfe. That being, he shalt defend his honoure from all besmirchment or calumny. Should his skill in combat be impugned, he must defend it by the giving and recieving of blows upon the field of honoure. No substitution may be made, and should he fail in this endevoure, his title is forfeit, to be given at the Princeses' pleasure to his challenger or such other as they deem worthy of it."

Uh oh. One of Lanceguard's taunts had been that he was unworthy of his title, and that meant... Oh no!

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“That is quite all right,” Celestia said, nodding in acknowledgement at the curt bow. “This was, after all, on very short notice.”

"What did you wish to discuss with me, your highness?"

It was immediately apparent that Lanceguard was less than comfortable with the circumstances, though panicked would be far too strong of a word. Then again, the circumstances were ambiguous and when confronted with a royal summons, most ponies were wont to let their imaginations run rampant. Sipping gingerly at her tea, Celestia wasted little time.

"You see, a little bird told me that you needed assistance in promoting your sport. It seems that history has been lost upon the ponies of modern Equestria and I am all for the promotion of culture and history.”

As she spoke, the tea set glowed faint gold, rearranging itself to accommodate Lanceguard’s chosen seat. An ornate saucer inlaid with gold wisps and artistic representations of flying pegasi lifted off from a stack on the tea tray, touching down to Lanceguard’s left. The saucer was topped by a similarly-decorated teacup which was soon filled with piping hot tea smelling faintly of chrysanthemums.

The princess continued as tea was poured. “I was also informed of a foal's hospital that was sorely in need of donations earlier today. I am all for the support of worthy causes; and I can think of no worthier cause than providing affordable health care to sick children.”

Small dessert plates floated from another stack on the tea tray, floating patiently by the cheesecake as small slices liberated themselves from the cake body and deposited themselves neatly on the plates. Their task complete, the plates floated to set themselves before the princess and the athlete. Celestia thoughtfully took a bite of cheesecake before continuing.

“Finally, I am sure you are aware of a certain Duke of Canter who has taken it upon himself to become a jousting champion in less time than most athletes would spend on their daily warmups.” A wry smile crept across the princess’ face as she continued. “It appears we have a confluence of events that will be mutually beneficial. If you're half as clever as I trust you to be I suspect you'll have figured it out already.”

“So The foal’s hospital is in need of a fundraiser. You and your company are in need of some publicity. My dear duke is in need of a lesson. I have access to the resources necessary to make this happen. All I need is someone with the drive and the personal leverage to ensure that everything runs smoothly. I’m sure you’ll find the terms agreeable. How do they say it these days? ‘Are you in?’”

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