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It had taken nearly six months to get her little palace the way she wanted it again. The Cloud family crest on all the tapestries, the lovely carpet rugs laid out, nice and tidy. The vineyard was at least in decent shape. Having been tended by some pony at least. Taking over the books had been a chore in and of itself. However, Stormstride found it now to be simplistic and rather amusing. She had selected her own servants, bought a few that were "owned" and then set them to work in the household. Though she made certain that the servants had large spacious quarters. Well tended servants oft did far better work. As her mane dresser was brushing the last knots from her mane and tail, Stormstride looked upon herself in the mirror. She had become rather shapely and graceful since she had taken the title of minor noble. She had also indulged a bit in the local culture. Making well and certain to be seen and heard when she had the chance and it was her turn to speak. She had become a regular at Heart Stopper's court. Watching and snickering with the other unicorns. Her eyes cast to the lavish dress. the wedding dress she was going to wear today. It was a beautiful thing. A pure Kastrotian design. The soft, silken fabric that covered her from neck to hoof in a long soft draping. Golden tail bangles, engraved with both the Heart family crest, and the smaller Cloud family crest. Stormstride had her ears pierced now, displaying a rather elegant set of ruby and sapphire earrings. Having come from her personal bath to her private chambers for dressing she smiled in the mirror. Watching her mane dresser work her own magic. Stormstride was fair. Most of these ponies didn't make a wage. But in exchange, they had free room and board in a secure castle. Storm had selected several ponies as her own personal guards. Trained them in her style of combat and tactic. And added to that she saw too it that every foal on her lands was given a decent education. Beyond the basics, and into more socialite matters. Art, history, politics. She wanted every pony under her crest to understand how the laws worked and were made. Though many had no say so in such a matter, it was at least better to instruct them to a level they could easily understand and know the laws. This made matters much easier to deal with when it came time for Storm to handle her own court matters. IN six months the castle had gone from an over sized storehouse, to a rather lovely little castle. Housing surrounded the outer wall, made for servants and field workers alike. Each was set up for a small family. There was a large public bathhouse for them as well. But inside, things were more lavish. Stormstride kept a few of the prettier ponies on the top floor with herself. Ponies like her mane dresser and her interior designer. Housing them in comparably luxurious quarters. Feather Touch however, shared her room with her. Except for today. Today he was in a rather large guest room, being prepared by the castle tailor. Feather had it better here than he had ever had it in Canterlot. All the supplies he would ever need to make his candles, oils, and lotions were brought right to his own personal work space at no cost to him. He was tended nightly by a full bath treatment with Stormy. The food was amazingly good. Stormstride had hired a chef that knew both Equestrian and Kastrot styles of cooking. The castle had fireplaces in every room. And he and Storm often sampled the wine together. This was a rather amazing thing. And yet in the back of his mind, he felt this creeping feeling. That something was not right. That Stormstride was in danger of becoming something....evil. His ear perked to the sound of music floating up the stairwells. Thunderbuck was warming up his instruments. He had arrived a couple months ago with CaramelCream. The sweet young pony ran her hooves off. Up and down the stairs, learning and exploring everything she could find. Storm was content to let her do so as long as she tended to her lessons. And CaramelCream was always first one to class. Feather Touch had taken to the foal. He often awoke to find her snuggled between he and Stormy, cuddling under his wings. She had once called him daddy. It had startled Feather a fair bit. Being suddenly called her daddy like that. She had not said it since then. But he secretly wished she would. Today, she was serving an important role. She was the flower foal, and in charge of leading the guests to their places in the courtyard. Thunderbuck was set up on a proper stage. His home was in the courtyard, a small cottage with supplies for him to repair and maintain his instruments. Stormy gave him an allowance to purchase instruments, though he often bought the broken ones. He had begun to look into opening himself up to instrument repair for hire. This would allow him to generate greater income. The courtyard was very delightfully decorated, adorned with the Heart family crest on each seat and on the main podium. Under it was the Cloud family crest. Both were polished and gleaming in the bright warm sunlight. Stormstride had made certain the weather would be clear today. She had hired a cake maker on Heart Stopper's suggestion. Though her own chef would be providing the refreshments and foods aside form the cake. The table was set up with plenty of chairs in case other guests arrived late or were to happen upon the wedding. Back in her room, Stormstride looked at herself in the mirror. The gold and silk dress upon her body. It was simple, but lavish at the same time. It was had several gem studded necklaces and anklets at her hooves. Stormstride had allowed her mane dresser to do her make up today, making her look more the part of both a noble lady, and a ravishing bride. Stormstride thanked her mane dresser and let her go for the day. She was going to have the rest of the day off, to relax after several hours of hard work. Storm moved to her balcony. Looking out over the courtyard. She saw her brother below. He was already dressed in a new tux and wearing his mask. She had had it polished for him and repainted the way he liked. It made him comfortable and she thought it made him look like a mysterious stallion like that. He had also put on a bit of weight. Not fat, but enough that he no longer looked as though he was hungry all the time. She saw the guests beginning to arrive and smiled, moving down to the main hall to greet them and offer wine until the ceremony started. As she came to the entry way, she looked up. The chandelier was still off to the left a touch. Her horn glowed faintly as she used her magic to move it into the proper place. She would have to have a construction pony in here soon to fix that. She did not want that rather expensive piece to crash to the ground. She saw CaramelCream looking in one of the large mirrors. Smoothing out her dress and making certain her orcid mane piece was in the proper place. Coming over she gently nuzzled the foal on the ear. "Hello my sweet foal. how are you feeling?" Caramel smiled at Storm, whom mouthed her words again. CaramelCream, being deaf, had to rad lips, and had grown very skilled at it. Once she understood what Stormy said, she smiled and spoke. "Im happy Momma. You and daddy are getting married today!" Storm smiled happily to the foal. "Indeed little one. Now you go prepare your flower basket. The guests are arriving and soon you will help them to find their seats." Caramel smiled and trotted off happily. Stormstride walked to the doors of her castle, magically opening them and smiling brightly as she greeted her first guests. "Welcome to Castle Cloud!" she said cheerfully.
[colour=#9966cc] [/colour]Lilac Briolette stared down over the crowd and felt tears welling in her light pink eyes. There were so many ponies, and not just crystal ponies! Earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns all milled about the crowd that filled the Trillion Ballet Company’s main hall, and Lilac could not be happier. It felt as though it had been an eternity since her last dance, and in many ways it truly was – seeing the energy and warmth of these ponies filled her with a joy she could hardly describe, especially knowing they had all attended the evening’s event due to love and appreciation for the art of ballet. Her art. She was even willing to bet that the number of ponies who were attending the after party was very close to the number of those who had seen the evening’s performance. It was overwhelming. The prima ballerina had experienced her first emotional fit when the performance had ended: with her chest heaving and muscles burning, she felt the tears gather, only to begin streaming the moment the audience rose from their seats and roared with a standing ovation. This was the very moment she lived for – the moment when all of her years of pushing herself and pushing, spending every day rehearsing ballet, came to life on stage to be met with applause tantamount to the fierce roaring she felt in her heart with every plié and passé, every sissone and pas de poisson! It only made her heart swell that much more that this was her company’s first performance since the Crystal Heart returned and the crystal ponies had awoken; she just knew the future would be bright!The prima ballerina did not think that her emotions would swarm her heart and threaten to spill down her checks (ruining her lovely powder job for the evening) again, but seeing all of these ponies gathered together in celebration of the Trillion Company, especially the ponies from outside the Crystal Empire – it was encouraging. Finally, one of the suited servers for the evening’s caterer let out a little ‘Ahem’ nearby and brought Lilac Briolette back to reality. Oh my! It seemed as though she was frozen at the top of the stairs that lead into the foyer, and she was beginning to gather some looks. She handled the minor awkward moment with great aplomb; without missing a beat, the slender mare lifted her head and beamed widely, blinking a few times to clear the tears from her eyes. Then, with the impeccable grace and fluidity that only a ballerina of her esteem could produce, she stepped down the stairs, the sheer golds and white of her long train flowing behind her like a stream. She wore a streamlined gown tonight, one that accentuated her dancer’s figure. The accessories were rather scarce – her usual pink gold necklace with matching shoes, plus a few pink gold and pearl pins that held her hair in an elaborate up-do, leaving a curled lock to hang behind her left ear. When she made it to the bottom of the stairs, she did a quick scan of her surroundings. The other dancers were already mingling, as were the director of Trillion and the conductor. Everypony else was a stranger! Lilac was just deciding who she should approach first when, all of a sudden, there was a blue-grey and terribly fetching presence already at her side. Hoity Toity! She had met him earlier in the week while the company was still preparing for their opening. The earth pony, though his eye for fashion was critical, was friendly in his own unique way, and he was appreciative of beauty to boot! The two had hit it off instantly when she had run into him, and he seemed very grateful for her tour around the Crystal Empire. “Hoity Toity,” she said smoothly, dipping her head in greeting, “How did you enjoy the night’s performance?”[colour=#9966cc] [/colour][colour=#6666CC] [/colour]How marvelous. How stunning. How absolutely enchanting! Hoity Toity was one of the first to rise to his hooves when the ballet had come to a close. La Bayamare! Who would have thought that one of his absolute favourite ballets (despite being very old, La Bayamare had a timeless, elegant story - not to mention choreography!) would be opening in the Crystal Empire the very week he decided to visit? The Fashion Authority Hoity Toity finally managed to take time away from Bouclé Boutique in order to visit the dazzling crystalline metropolis in the frigid reaches of the north. After all, it was his duty as one of Equestria’s top fashion minds to know anything and everything there was to know about pony fashion, and with the Crystal Empire now just a train ride away, he was obligated to visit the glittering paradise and learn everything he could about their fashions. So far, he was not disappointed. Crystal ponies had a keen eye for finery – elaborate hairstyles, intricate embroidery, sheer materials that reflected the translucent qualities of the ponies themselves – what impeccable taste! Hoity Toity – the Hoity Toity – was dazzled.He had met Lilac Briolette by chance and immediately approached her. A beautiful crystal mare with excellent style and poise – he knew that befriending her would only further his education in crystal fashions! And what a clever move that had been! He didn’t just learn about fashion, he learned all about the art of the Crystal Empire to finally learn of the Trillion Company’s opening night for their performance of La Bayamare. Hoity Toity was not disappointed by the performance. The costumes sparkled, the dancers were flawless, and Lilac Briolette herself was a sparkling gem. The sheer emotion she conveyed was supported brilliantly by her technique – truly a prima ballerina! She danced her role so well – the heartache, the tragedy, the drama of it all was brought to life by the crystal mare. Ah, La Bayamare! The story of two lovers separated by status, ultimately doomed to be separated forever. Such an intense story, such a spectacle! When he watched her make her graceful entrance (albeit a rather delayed one, which he suspected had something to do with those watery eyes of hers), Hoity Toity made sure he was the first to approach her. “Lilac my darling you were fabulous,” he replied, extending a hoof for her to shake. Hoity Toity, in celebration of his love for the Crystal Empire, was sporting his usual attire, though made from shimmering sheer fabrics tailored by a local artisan earlier in the week. “What an enchanting display of pure artistry. You should all be proud of the night’s performance. It was not a perfect show mind you – perfection is nigh impossible. But it was spectacular – I have no doubt it will bring nothing but success to your company.”[colour=#6666CC] [/colour][colour=#9966cc] [/colour]Lilac found herself a little overwhelmed once more. It stung a bit, hearing the performance had not been perfect (Lilac Briolette always aimed for perfection), but perhaps the fashionable Hoity Toity was correct and perfection was a little more difficult than she imagined it to be. Nonetheless, his compliments filled her with yet another wave of emotions, and with watering eyes she reached a shoed hoof towards his to shake. With a little smile, he stood back, though he didn’t look as though he was about to leave. Instead, it seemed as though he was clearing the way for the Prima Ballerina in case there were other ponies who wished to approach her and speak to her about the ballet!Anticipation began to mount once more for Lilac. Would she get to speak to more ponies from outside the Empire? Were the ballets very different there? What would she learn? Lilac looked about the massive, gilded foyer of the Trillion Company’s ballet house. Glittering Trillion, the stallion who inherited the ballet company, spared no expense for finery. The amethyst and lazuli building was bedecked in golden trimmings, with marble statues of dancing ponies and birds in flight tucked into every nook and cranny. Coloured lanterns made of crystal lit the interior and covered in with rainbow lights, creating a breathtaking and ethereal atmosphere that made a perfect partner for the fanciful nature of the ballet. Suited crystal mares and stallions darted about the place, balancing trays of Crystal Empire delicacies and sparkling wines made from crystal berries, and Lilac had to wonder which ponies lost in the grandeur of this celebration she would get to speak with next! There was no doubt: this was going to be the best night ever.[colour=#9966cc] [/colour]