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[Sponsored] The Grand Ballroom

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While this had not been the first Grand Galloping Gala since the return of Princess Luna, or even since the ascendancies of Cadence and Twilight Sparkle, this was the first year that the organizers decided to truly emphasize all members of the Equestrian Crown, right down to the lighting and decorations.

The great vaulted roof of the Grand Ballroom was lit like an artificial sky, with artistic renditions of the movements of the heavenly bodies across it.  The Sun and Moon were depicted as arcs of light from horizon to horizon, flanked by the great candelabra of the Stars.  Each arc had its own coloration scheme, with the Sun shining in warm yellow, and the Moon in cool blue.  Thus, the great marble dance floor was lit in such a way that it seemed to transition from day to night from one end to the other.

The Dance Floor, too, was laid on in tribute to Royalty.  This time, it was the more recent Princess of Love that was honored; seen from above, the arrangement of the musician’s stage and tables around the edges would form the shape of the Crystal Heart.  The Musician’s stage itself was in tribute to the newly crowned Princess of Magic.  There were two colors of wood, with dark inlaid into lighter stains to form the shape of a six-pointed star. 

All these were subtle touches, ones that would take some effort to realize and appreciate.  The high-class guests that still largely made up the bulk of Gala attendance loved that sort of thing.  Even the ordinary pony could see at a glance the effort and elegance in the designs, even if they couldn’t detect the exact shape.

And there, in the center of it all, was Equestria’s fifth Princess…



Princess Bluebelle had not been nearly so nervous last year.  Of course, last year she had been Prince Blueblood, attending the Grand Galloping Gala in his own Grand fashion.  The difference this year was largely accounted for by a magical accident vis a vis Twilight Sparkle, which was simple enough to explain, but the Canterlot rumor mills were still grinding away at what it really all meant for the Prince.  Or Princess.  Which would he or she prefer?

Those sorts of questions could be rather irritating to a pony already in a confusing and disorienting position, as at least one maid in this hall could attest to.  There were likely to be a lot of such coming at her over the course of the evening, but the Princess steeled herself.  Tonight, she would put those rumors to bed, and make it clear to Canterlot, to the whole of Equestria, who she was going forward…

Of course, besides her own personal agenda, there was also her social duty tonight.  As the head of the Canterlot nobility, it was her responsibility to be a resplendent hostess, and gender-swap or not, she wasn’t about to shirk it now!  She wore a dress designed by the great fashionista Rarity, with whom the Royal had made some efforts in patching things up.  It was a dark blue number, flowing like the waves of nighttime seas over her feminine curves, offsetting like jewels her golden mane and alabaster coat.  She walked with practiced ease and dignity, looking every bit the natural-born Princess. 

One last difference from previous Galas, rivaling even Blue’s gender swap for significance, was the fact that she had not come alone.  Prince Blueblood had long been regarded as Canterlot’s most eligible bachelor; a title which had ultimately proved to be more of a headache than anything else.  So many mares, and the odd stallion, would come up to him at other Galas to try their luck that it had gotten irritating, up to the point where the Prince had made a game of driving them off.  Now, instead of resorting subtle or overt rudeness, Princess Bluebelle could simply point out the looming, ravishing amazon of a mare that was her “plus one” tonight.

Oh, yes, whether or not this would be her Best Night Ever, it would be a Night No-one could forget…

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Entering the ballroom was a lime green Earth mare with long, blonde mare and tail.  She wore a rough looking hoofmade dark blue demin ballgown, most certainly a 'one of a kind' creation by the Stalliongrad-born inventive mare.


"Here is ballroom, we have FUN here!" the mare spoke as she took a moment to glance all around.  "I, Tankena, do declare I will have a good time-ski tonight!"


Spotting a royal looking mare from a distance, Tankena gave out a loud yell as she galloped through the middle of the ballroom until she reached Princess Bluebelle.  The green Earth mare quickly bowed to show respect before she began to ramble:


"Greetings, your majesty!  I am Tankena, but friends call me Tank Mare.  I come from far country of Stalliongrad and it is pleasure to meet you, er, whoever you are!  We have great time at Gala tonight-ski, da?  I notice orchestra lacks a balalaika player!  I always bring mine with me to any fancy dance!  I am quite an inventor, by the way, Princess is it?  Perhaps everypony can do traditional Stalliongradian saber dance tonight, da?    You do have sabers in castle to use for dance?  Of course you do!  What castle has no swords?  Do you have Stalliongradian Apple Vodka?  Dis drink of my homeland packs quite a wallop!  Bet you are here with handsome date, da?  Nyet, I am not here with dashing stallion, maybe I leave with one before end of night!  You seem quiet for royal Princess, feel free to speak up!  The future belongs to the bold!  Dat is what father always says!"





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Valencia was here for many reasons, not the least of which was to ensure that the Princess had a pleasant evening. As her top servant, Valencia was happy to aid the Princess in having a night worthy of her title. As one of the royalty entrusted with maintaining the quality of the Gala despite any difficulties they may encounter, Valencia knew that the Princess was going to have to hob-knob and generally thrust herself upon the mercies of the guests this evening. This, despite the months of salacious tabloid news stories that slandered. This, despite the vicious rumor mongering against her character. Sure, Prince Blueblood was an oaf and a laughingstock, but Princess Bluebelle certainly wasn't. That wasn't just the company line. That was Valencia's own thoughts on the matter. She was a helpful Princess and she was helpful to be there to help.


She being the operative word there. Valencia was really Valen Orange, only son of the Orange family with a career in modelling as filly fashion superstar Gilded Lilly. News of what had happened to Blueblood- now Bluebelle- spread fast and hard, and as a colt who was harboring reservations, concerns, and questions of his own, Valen decided he needed to speak with the Prince turned Princess. What he had intended to be a simple conversation had morphed into something much more and ended with him taking the job of a maid-servant in her estate for a while. The intent was, several months into it, somewhat blurry, as were the reasons he didn't just say no and continue on with his life. Instead he had stayed and- well, he could think of worse ways to spend his summer vacation, even if it wouldn't make for a story he could tell when he was back at the academy.


Several months into it and he had become the model of a pleasant maid servant, and had done wonders to help settle the both of them. Now he was here to help serve her during the Gala. He- no, she, Valencia, had arrived early and helped set the Gala up. Every Princess sent a small team to help out and Valencia was no stranger to hard work, having spent considerable time at Sweet Apple Acres lately. After that had been finished she was technically clear of duty and could have left, but freshened up and instead endeavored to stay. The Princess had been very kind to her lately and Valencia wasn't about to leave her to the social wolves. And so Valencia had taken the drink order for both the Princess and her date, returning as ponies started to filter in.


"Your drink, Yah Highness, Missus," She said politely, hoofing over drinks to the two. Valencia was dressed like all other maids for the evening were, with the only noticeable difference being the sigil of Blueblood's estate as a pin on her dress. He made sure to do this after Tank was finished- you didn't want to interrupt the Stalliongrad pony in the middle of their speech.

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The Grand Galloping Gala. Once upon a time the wistful sigh of a dreaming filly had left Rarity's lips at the simplest mention of the illustrious event. Then came the harrowing day of the first gala she was to attend and like so many things in her life through that period, it all changed in an instant as her expectations were betrayed in a storm of cake and chaos the likes of which she would never forget.


Galas had since come and gone, and while at least one of them had been as chaotic and messy as the first, on the whole things had leveled out. It was now something she looked forward to, especially in the light of her own swift climbing star. She was now the proprietor of three seperate and succesful boutiques. Ponies knew her name, even in Canterlot and Manehattan. From the heights she had reached, there was little reason for her to look backwards at what she had climbed.


And yet, a certain recent happening had her revisiting her first gala with considerable frequency. Somwhere between the opening of Canterlot Carouself and Rarity For You, she had met a pecuilar and pecuilarly beautiful mare. She had felt a deep connection to said mare as they talked and she had promised her then to meet her again when the Gala came.


It was only after the fact that the news of who the mare was reached Rarity. It had, of course, been right there in sight for Rarity to have grabbed if she wanted to, but her vision had bee obscufated by a lack of knowledge for the things magic made possible and perhaps an unwillingness to piece together the puzzle any more than she needed to.


She had been shocked to discover the truth behind Princess Bluebelle. it left her unsure how to feel or proceed. In reflecting on their conversation, however, Rarity felt neither betrayed nor angry. Prince Blueblood, after all, was not the only pony who had changed. By the time the Gala came around, Rarity was anticipating seeing her new friend again.


And so there she was, dressed in an elegant black dress with her hair done up nicely, striding through the grand ballroom, attracting eyes from fans and admirers while her own eyes sought the pony she had promised to meet there. She found the impossibly beautiful mare in time... only she wasn't the only familiar face present.


Rarity smiled at the sight of her young friend Valen Orange, dressed as a maid. Or was it Lily or Valencia Rarity should use? It had been far too long since Rarity had seen this young relation of Applejack's, who like Bluebelle, was a source of some gender confusion, that honestly she wasn't sure what was going on with the Orange. She found herself grateful for the chance to greet yet another friend of hers there regardless.


"Ooh my! I think not even another of your fellow princesses, could wear that dress of mine so well, dear," Rarity interjected as she approached Bluebelle, swallowing any uncertainty she had about the encounter. She gave a small smile and then added. "It's good to see you again."


She turned then to the young maid and giggled. "And you as well, darling," she said pulling the Orange into a hug. "it's been far too long since I've seen you last. I almost didn't recognize you."

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He really shouldn't be here.....


At all. Considering how much work he had at home since he stopped being 'dead'.. Starting not one but three new companies, announcing his choice to participate - as a candidate at that - in next Fillydelphia mayor election, and his EPIC work at top of that. Swift Squall seriously didn't had a time to attend the Gala.


But then his sweetheart, Fire asked him to come along. Saying that her family will be there, and they shared friends. He just couldn't say no to that, especially when she gave him those puppy eyes. The fact that Grant Galloping Gala recently started to getting a reputation of being anything but those 'boring as Tartarus' parties that he rejected attending.

Of course that didn't stopped him from violating the dress code for starters, attending the event in one of his usual dusters - this one happening to be pitch black - and bringing the sword to dangle in scabbard underneath on of the flaps. The only saving grace was the fact that his garments appeared new.


"I honestly have no idea why Bluebloo....Bluebel....whatever he or she decide to call him...err herself today send me an invitation." noblepony said to the crimson mare at his side. "You I understand Moto, you're friends. But what kind of connection she err he has with me? Let's see meeting as kids during that party our parents attended, that post Nightmare Night celebration aaaaaand....well and nothing after that." Squallcoast expressed his confusion. "Unless he....ohr screw it, I will call according to the looks. So, unless she wants to punch me to the face, or me being your glorified accessory - no offense sweetheart, I love being your accessory - I don't see a point." he added.

"Well better not mention the fact that his marefriend and I did a fair share of face punching to each other at that Whitescar Arena. Not that she has an idea but...."

he decided in his head.

His head shifted towards the door leading towards the Lounge. Swift knew some names of those who were attending the event....and he wasn't sure if he approved.

"I heard that she's still receiving treatment." he mused under address of Jarl of Askr. "Honestly, Sigrun shouldn't be here. Not like this, she should rest and focus on fully curing herself." he confessed. After the events in Whitescar, Squall dropped his antagonistic tone when talking about caribou. Now he was seriously and openly concerned about the health of his chosen rival. That and what consequences her altered presence would cause. Yes, her mind was back to being her own, and she wasn't a hulking behemoth that tried to crush them do death either....but, well....she wasn't exactly the most welcoming first impression either as she was right now.

"I have no idea what kind of message High King is trying to send here. It's not like he couldn't send any other representative..." he pointed out.

"And to add to all of that the we have this very important guest from Far East. [One who sits on Dragon Throne no less]" Squall added in perfect Long Sun.

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Ahh, this was a pleasant surprise! Miss Rarity's presence wasn't unexpected at the Gala by any stretch of the imagination, but to make a beeline straught for the Ballroom when there was so much out there to see, and with her friends in other places? Perish the thought that Vaen would have had the luxury of dealing with her in such high spirits and good tidings. Instead she had strode in full confidence and glamour into the ballroom, the finery of her own making spectacular and glimmering. She was without a doubt one of the most beautiful mares in Equestria and also a designer of near incomparable talent and skill. The world was her daisy and she plucked at it playfully when she so desired, and he was honored to have her as a friend.


But he had been somewhat negligent in trying to contact her. Less out of willful spit and more out of professional narrow-mindedness. Valencia had been so caught up in her duties that she had only infrequently penned letters to friends. This would be rectified, and the decision was made to start that as soon as possible. Like now, perhaps. "Rarity!" he said, keeping it in a feminine accent, though dropping large races of the implanted street accent that had been used as part of Valencia's cover as a maid. "It is a pleasure to see you here, Miss Rarity. I hope you are being treated well this evening? How is Ponyville? Has your store in Manehattan been as big a hit as I've heard? I've been dying to go there. Is it true there is a dance club iside of it? Very chic."

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The very first guest that Bluebelle had to receive was herself a true indicator of how much the Gala had changed over the years.  When Blueblood was a foal, mares like Tankena didn't really attend such affairs as this.  And when they did, they were rather more... circumspect?  Deferential?  Quiet?  Uptight?  Whatever you wanted to call it, it wasn't what she was doing now.


Still, all things must change and adapt; that was the new Princess' motto, or one of them, at any rate.  She kept her polite smile as she blinked in the face of the forceful flood of the Stalliongrad mare's personality, and replied with all the graciousness and charm of her station.  "I am Princess Bluebelle.  If you haven't heard of me... well, I attended last year as a Prince."  If that didn't clear matters up by reminding the guest of what she had read in the papers... Hm, well, actually, Tankena might not be the kind of mare who read those sorts of papers.  One shouldn't prejudge, of course.  "We do keep slots open for different dances in the late evening.  Perhaps if you were to go backstage, the conductor might let you lead a saber-dance.  I know a few guests from your own city would appreciate it."  The value of variety in the playlist had been demonstrated after one infamously memorable guest had hijacked the stage to get something more upbeat (and lowbrow) played.  Better to tucker them with music that was both fast and suitably excellent.


"As it happens, I didn't come here with a stallion; I came here with a mare- oh, thank you Valencia."  She gave a smile to her servant as she magically lifted the flute of champagne from the maid's tray.  The Princess had been willing to give Valencia the night off, actually, after all the gala preparations were complete.  As much as Valen had been dealing with confusion about his desires lately, Bluebelle was reasonably certain he would have relished the chance to wear a very fine dress in such company!  But, like the true friend he/she was, they were willing to lend social support when needed.  It wasn't the most encouraging sign that it was needed so early, though...


Speaking of necessary social support, the next guest to greet her was none other than Rarity!  Goodness, how the both of them had changed.  Five years ago, she'd been Blueblood, a snob of a Prince with a deep cynicism about mares, and the fashionista had been practically unknown, there on the sudden extension of extra tickets by royal decree.  Their first meeting had gone about as well as one would expect.  

But tonight, they were meeting as friends, for the first time in a while.  Which was one big argument, in Blueblood's mind, for keeping Bluebelle as a permanent part of his life going forward.  "It is good to see you again as well, Lady Rarity!"  The Princess beamed and bowed, sailing past any initial awkwardness like a well-keeled yacht through the breakers.  "And I can hardly think of another designer who could show me up so well... in more than one sense."  It was only fair to throw in one last allusion to their initial meeting before leaving it to dip below the distant horizon of the past.  Any residue of irritation or embarrassment was subsumed by gratitude at this point.  After all, that gala had been the impetus to set Prince Blueblood on a new course in life.  And as crazy as that course had been so far, Bluebelle wouldn't have changed it for the world...


As Rarity greeted her other old friend, the Princess turned to Swift, a stallion she had invited for business reasons as much as social.  She was aware that he had plans, as did she.  Perhaps there was some possibility of combining efforts.  "Ah, Greetings Sir Squall.  If I may still call you by that name?"  She gave a little wink at him, a slight dig at his whole fake-my-death scheme.  It had been, somehow, both a little thin and a bit thick.  Fortunately, that rigamarole was over with.

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...Was she underdressed? She wasn't underdressed.


...Was she?!


Even if she was, there was little to be done about it now, and Mei resolutely stifled the instinct to find the nearest mirror in favor of continuing her strut forwards, head held high and tail extended its full length outwards. She drew some looks as ponies passed by - naturally - but most, Mei was disquieted to note, seemed focused on her attire. Which in and of itself wasn't a bad thing, not in the least bit...except some of the looks seemed...hesitant? Surprised? 


Maybe even a bit...disapproving?


...Which was just ridiculous, this was her finest cheongsam, woven by her mother and sent over seas as a gift. In fact, she had been all set to wear the traditional hanfu that was currently hanging up in her closet, but the old Pegasus Bright Blade had advised against it. He'd been the one to give her his invitation, in the first place - a courtesy invite sent to an old and retired member of the royal guard, it turned out - but he'd so graciously offered it to her instead, citing a need for 'you young whippersnappers need to get off your flowers and go be in the real world!' His generous gift had been accompanied by words of warning after viewing her planned outfit, citing that billowing dresses got in the way of some of the dances, and Mei had just about been settling into real panic when her mother's gift had arrived. 


With such impeccable timing. Her ancestors were surely looking down on her with favor!


The reminder of the support of friends and family was enough to clear the last doubts rolling around the inside of Mei's head, too, and with just the faintest tilt of her head upwards, the bright blue Qilin continued inside, careful to keep from brushing up against anything lest her white outfit get dirty. And good thing too - there was a plethora of ponies streaming into what looked like the central Ballroom, and despite that, the young Qilin couldn't help but give pause, gaping around herself like a rather inelegant fish. Canterlot itself had been more beautiful than it'd ever seemed from that far spot in Garden Gait, but this...this was magical. The ceiling looked so realistic that Mei was almost tricked into believing it opened to the sky, with both moon and sun hanging above, and the vast marble floor seemed almost too pristine. It was...straight out of a fairytale. 


And she was in it!


"Aah-mmph!" the bright blue Qilin squealed, sound only muffled at the last second by a hasty hoof to mouth. Mei glanced around herself, mortified at the outburst, but no one seemed any the wiser, all too busy gazing at the same sights that had overtaken her. Composing herself, the Qilin smoothed down the end strands of her hair once more, before continuing forward, head swiveling from left to right. There already seemed to be a small crowd forming around a white and gold Unicorn near the center, but Mei had her eyes peeled for more...familiar faces.


And if those faces happened to also be rather prince-like in nature, well. There was that, too.



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Social functions... were not Lími’s strong point. He had never been an extroverted caribou to begin with, always avoiding making contact with fellows clansbou back home. At least there, the Viking ways of celebration and merry-making were familiar and offered nostalgic comfort. The Grand Galloping Gala on the other hoof... it all seemed so alien; so..... artificial.


Yet Lími had chosen for himself a new life of peace inside the walls of Canterlot. Given that he had not forsaken his foster mother, Jarl Sigrun, in the process, this meant Grand Galloping Galas would be a reality of his new life for the foreseeable future. If the young bull was going to live among ponies and represent Clan Askr, then he might as well start immersing himself in their customs.


As he would have for an important Viking feast, Lími was garbed in a princely tunic underneath a green cloak. The caribou bore no armor or weapons, for he was no warrior. In fact, considering a lack of any threatening features on his form at all, Lími could easily pass for a reindeer stag and not earn any hint of trepidation from ponies. This allowed him to move through the crowd as he explored the strange Ballroom, taking particular note of how the equine conception of ballroom dancing seemed to adhere to a strict pattern of movement. It was nothing like a proper Viking dance, full of freeform passion intended to simulate the thrill of battle.


.....Or so Lími heard, anyway. It wasn’t like the introvert ever attempted a Viking dance for himself.


Lími’s observation came to an when he overheard a unicorn speaking ill of Sigrun. The caribou couldn’t put a name to the duster-wearing unicorn’s face from memory, but the stallion felt familiar somehow... and not in a good way either. As the pony walked onward, Lími tried his hardest to not interfere; to maintain discretion and not cause an incident. And yet... would the young bull be a good son if he let anypony whisper bad things about his mother behind her back, and not do anything to defend her?

After much mental consideration, Lími made up his mind. Drawing from his pool of courage, the antlered bull tracked down the unicorn, who was now busy in conversation with Princess Bluebelle. “Ummm, e-excuse me Sir Squall,” he hesitatingly interrupted, having heard his name being spoken by Bluebelle; “I... couldn’t help but eavesdrop as you spoke... comments about Jarl- well, my mother, and I beg of you that you,” the caribou broke eye contact for a moment before he turned back, this time with a new-found strength in his voice; “That you don’t spread undue fear and doubt about my mother’s well-being.”

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The Grand Galloping Gala! A time for the ritzy, beautiful, and rich to hobnob about and share in the presence of equally charming company. It was no surprise to see ponies and griffons and caribou and even dragons mingling in the courtyard or the ballroom or the gardens. And while it turned a few heads to see a couple of well dressed griffons wander in, it wasn't odd enough to spark any sort of confusion.


Tarisio Goldplume, a renowned sky pirate both charming and daring strolled with confidence into the castle's ballroom dressed immaculately. His suit, a crimson red framed by gold hemming accentuated his form so well that it left several gala-goers with jaws agape...Though if that was from his suit or they recognized the pirate was up for debate. "And here we are, without a hitch." he said, seemingly to no one in particular at first, though he turned to glance over his shoulder. "I'm still unsure why you're so ner...Minerva?" Tarisio sighed and rolled his eyes. "Minerva get out here, per favore."


From just around the corner a low grumbling growl was heard before a griffoness stepped out from behind a pillar. The muscular and scarred griffon was clearly irate with what she was being forced into. Her arrival too turned many a head, more than she would have liked if her bright red cheeks were any indication. The dress she wore was breathtaking, while at first glance it looked to just be a plain white evening dress, when the lights hit it just right the fabric sparkled and glistened many colours. One of their latest...acquisitions from a ship bound from Long Guo. "How did I let you talk me into this. I look ridiculous, everyone's starring at me." Minerva grumbled as she plodded over to Tarisio's side, certainly not the picture of grace one would see in a dress so fine. Black tie affairs were NOT her cup fo tea. Breaking into them sure but being stuck in this dress, as comfy as it was, made her horribly uncomfortable.
"Nonsense, Minvera, you look absolutely fine. Besides, wasn't it you who just the other day was complaining about never having a break or time to enjoy the things we've earned?" Tarisio arched a questioning brow towards Minerva, before tossing a smile a maid as she passed by. "Now go, enjoy the gala, maybe you can make a good time for yourself!" with that Tarisio wandered off into the crowd to mingle and perhaps find some equally charming company for the evening.
Minerva rolled her eyes and growled again. "This is not what I had in mind, Tarisio, and you know it. I meant 'Hey, let's go to a bar or a club and forget about work for a day.' not 'Hey, let's get ritzed up and go to the fanciest event this side of Equestria.'. H-hey don't....ugh" the griffoness tried to huddle in on herself as the captain wandered off, she wasn't used to all the attention and by Dreamcrest's beak she did NOT like it one bit. "I'm going to get you back for this Tari, I swear it..." she mumbled as she stood there, unsure what to do with herself...

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Tankena had a very confused look on her face.


"Wait a minute-ski, Princess, I am confused.  You vere a PRINCE last year, now you are Princess?  I have heard legend of such things in Stalliongrad folklore, but how did you accomplish dis feat?  Magic potion?  Ancient artifact?  I am known as great inventor, but I have no knowledge of how to invent.."


The green Earth mare stopped in her tracks when she spotted Rarity.  Tankena was a HUGE fan of the famous fashion pony and she just HAD to speak to her!  The blonde mare had worked very hard on her rough looking dress, and she really wanted to hear the opinion of Equestria's most honored fashionista!  Pushing her way through the crowd, Tankena finally reached Rarity, waving her hoofs in the air and whistling loudly, attempting to get her attention using her 'tried and true' Stalliongradian methods.





Yes, Tankena is bold, loud and in the eyes of Equestria society, ill mannered.  However, all she is doing here is perfectly acceptable behavior in her native land.  Tankena's not exactly, well adjusted, to the ways of high society..


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Security detail was always a non-stop duty for an honor guard. Even if that honor guard was supposed to be –off- duty. The fact of the matter was that there were more royals present this year than any other Galla in this current generation, and an enemy who made their presence and intentions known. And while the guards were already on high alert for any suspicious activity. Star Crusader did take a moment to triangulate the patrols with some of the other COs.

She even had a handful of the lesser known guards undercover in the crowd proper. Incase anything happened that needed a response quickly. And had even made sure to weld some of the sewer grates shut, and to make sure some of the emergency exits were well guarded, and kept clear in case of an event. Yes… yes… definitely a never ending job.

Once she was done getting the last report, she exchanged a salute and turned away to join the main party proper.




Star Crusader might have been late due to her duties, but the party was just only beginning. She kept a bored and carefree look to her stance. Though her eyes betrayed every sense of that. They were pretty sharp and were scanning the crowd. Looking into each pony’s eyes to find anything that was out of place.

It wasn’t much longer before she happened upon her date for the night. The stoic mare’s eyes soften a bit and she approached with a faint smile. Though her head quickly recoiled as she caught an earful of some sort of absurd complaints about politicts. Which was annotated by an addition using a language that Crusader wasn’t familiar with enough to identify.


Still… the mare saw it best to ignore the commentary, and lean in to give her date – Princess Bluebelle – a loving nuzzle on the cheek. “Appologies about the tardiness. I was tending to some business.” She hummed softly before looking to the group.

To those seeing Star Crusader for the first time. She was a –big- mare. And not big as one that’s hit the table, even if she can eat more than her own weight. But big as in that it looks like she’s very capable of lifting up a train, plus it’s chain of cars all the way down to the caboose, and suplex it with ease. Or effortlessly crush a griffon’s head between her thighs.


The titan of a mare was significantly taller than the average stallion, with large wings to boot. The sort of wings that'll be needed to lift up heavy creatures, like her. You could hear each step she took, heck tip toeing for her would be normal trotting for most. Mind you, she does not look like a certain jacked Pegasus body wise. But her musculature is very much there and present. And her date had even gone as far as describing her as some sort of Amazonian goddess. A fitting description.

And as for the mare’s dress… she has a very elegant dress. It’s design was kept very simple, and it lacked most of the accessories that were adorned in some of the more common ones. It lacked the frills, the lace, and complex of layers. Instead, it was more like an elongated bolt of cloth that had been carefully tailored with some delicate patterns and a trim along the edges. And then wrapped around her body while making use of her body in it’s appearance in the process. There was a single long sleeve that started off tight on her fore right leg, and then flared open half way down. On the other side of her body, there was a clip locking one end of the cloth to a portion of the rest. And then a colored sash that complimented the dress’s colors around her waist.

Crusader's eye's soon fell on a green, and very excited mare.

"I believe I recall that accent. Stalliongrad," She hummed softly. Her eyes taking a moment to study the other's apperance. It seems that being a she-hulk isn't as rare Crusader thought. Maybe she'd be more comfortable about her relationship reveal now?

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Fire Walker glanced around the impressive Grand Ballroom in utter silence. She did not feel like she deserved to be here.  Especially with what happened to the poor Caribou. And while they as a species survived the whole ordeal that had happened what felt like just the other day, they would still face hardships far worse than anyone deserved. The officer wondered if she had pushed herself harder during the battle, and had cast away her childlike notions of honor and fair play, would they have fared better?
Her father talked her not only to go to this year's Grand Galloping Gala, but also as an attendee, not as a guard. The large stallion assured her that the best would be on patrol tonight.  And sure enough, Fire Walker spotted the heroic  Star Crusader. Was she attending the event and working at the same time? The red mare was sure that she could have done that as well! There was also a familiar face rocking a good deal of blue denim. Fire always noticed that the Stalliongrad mare always seemed to be at these events. Maybe if she had been with them back at the fight, things would have gone better? She had a feeling Miss Tankena would have no problem taking on that stupid Diamond Dog on her own and probably would have beaten the fluff out of his oversized hinder. 
She nodded her head as her stallion spoke. What in the world was he talking about? Blubloo? Bluebel? Had he been sneaking a few glasses of the Gala punch when she wasn't looking? A wave of confusion flooded the mare's mind for a moment. Thankfully he returned to a semblance of sanity for a moment. "Well dad pretty much begged me to go to this, and I just couldn't go alone.  And don't worry. No pony would dare to even think about punching my Swifty while I'm here." Her ears perked up as she was very sure she just overheard a mare state that she a prince during the previous Gala. Prince Blueblood? What the heck? Fire managed to keep her jaw from dropping when the good 'princess' shuffled over to greet her beloved. Had the officer fallen into a coma and not known it? What the heck happened?
Even worse, the good Prince Lími stepped into few and said a few words to Swift. Rumors? She would let Swift respond fully, but the red mare whispered back as her heart nearly sunk to the ground, "We are just worried about her. The worst of the worst tried to do great harm to your mother and your people, and while things could have gone a little better." Alright, things could have gone a great deal better. "The Caribou showed the world that they were not going down so easily."

OOC: Seriously! What the heck did I miss? What's going on with Blueblood? Is he just in drag? Or is he a mare? Fire would have to know how! Witches curse? Drank the wrong potion?



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Well, they had certainly gone to great lengths to decorate this year. Sunrise smiled to herself as she looked around at the varying decorations. It seemed to be a princess theme, from Celestia and Luna to at least Twilight. She was sure Cadence was represented as well, but she could not see where as of yet. 


In any case, the designer made her way into the ballroom in a new dress she made for the occasion, one that seemed to flow off of her as if it came out of her fur, transitioning from her coat color into a fiery red-orange by the end. The unicorn gazed around the room, her eyes spotting a rather sizable group before being drawn to a lone figure. Some strange creature in a lovely, if a bit simple, outfit. She approached the other female, noticing almost draconic characteristics as she got closer. 


"Greetings, I am Sunrise Skies. How are you enjoying yourself?" She asked, giving a friendly smile. 

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Even more ponies were streaming into the ballroom, too fast for Mei to keep up.


She tried her best however, eager to find the subjects of her interest that she hadn't seen in years. And more importantly, one which she hadn't seen since her recent coronation. Mei had supposed that the visiting dignitaries from Long Guo would have taken up station in the massive Ballroom so that they might engage in some friendly waltzes with Equestrian nobility - perhaps even entertain a few requests for courtship! - but to her consternation, no familiar faces were making themselves known. Certainly no princely ones!


...Though, that green cloak did look awfully familiar, for some reason, causing Mei to narrow her eyes on the figure. Currently situated amidst the bundle of ponies crowded around the center, the faint glimpse of brown she could see between bodies spoke of something...fluffy? Almost as if -


"Greetings, I am Sunrise Skies. How are you enjoying yourself?"


"Oh!" the vivid blue Qilin exclaimed in surprise, whirling around towards the brilliantly orange pony that had managed to sneak up on her during her perusal of the crowd. The surprised failed to cease, Mei noted with wide eyes, as she took in a spiraling red pattern that seemed to end right next to her eye, along with a beautifully incandescent dress that seemed to meld perfectly with her coat. Almost as if her fur itself was long enough to trail along the floor behind her. The effect was almost eerie, but spectacular. 


"Oh," Mei repeated, pink eyes continuing to eye the dress rather voraciously, "I've been having a wonderful time! I mean - I've only just arrived, you see, but this Gala is almost too perfect to be true!" As gusty sigh escaped the Qilin as she turned her gaze back towards the room, the magnificent pseudo sky twinkling above her head. "When I traveled over seas here, I never would have dreamt of attending such a opulent event...and look at me now!" Yes...her friends back home would be positively green with envy when she told them of her adventures in Canterlot, the royal city of ponykind. 


Visions of herself regaled in finery and strutting through the streets of her home village were almost enough to completely derail her thoughts, but luckily Mei realized she was being rude, after having been offered an introduction. "My name is Lián Mei," she was quick to rectify, "and may I just say, your dress is beautiful. Where did you get it from?"


...Not that she could afford to shop in Canterlot's expensive parlors and clothing stores at the moment, but...well. Perhaps one day. 


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It was right about now that the foreign visitors began to trickle in.  This was another change from previous years; ambassadors would sometimes attend the Gala, as their stationing in Canterlot made them a part of the social scene.  But 'regular' guests coming from further afield were much rarer.  Traditionally, the Grand Galloping Gala had been a gathering-place for the unicorn nobility, a rite which dated back to pre-unification days.  If the recent opening of the event to the rest of Equestria was a symbol of all society banding together, perhaps extending it globally could lead to more international bonds of harmony...


So Princess Bluebelle could hope, anyway.  Such things had become important to the royal, lately, hence why she had put her backing behind those extensions to the guest list.  She could see, out of the corner of her eye, a young Qilin mare, dressed elegantly in a dress of her native land.  *Ooh, a very nice design; I wonder if Rarity will take inspiration from that.*  In fact, why leave it up to chance?  "Oh Rarity, do you see what the teal Qilin is wearing?"  The Princess called over to the fashionista, nodding in Mei's direction.  "I think the cut and style would make an excellent addition to your line-up.  Long Guo dress is likely to be fashionable, especially after we've played hostess to the Empress!"


Having given her new friend a business tip, Blue turned her attention back, just in time to see a young caribou confront Swift about certain remarks concerning his mother.  Oh dear, that could turn out badly.  After having visited Whitescar twice, Blue was less inclined to hold to her earlier prejudices (forged under extreme duress, it had to be said), but one could hardly deny that to so poke a sensitive spot would be unwise.  Even the most peaceable of ungulates would raise a hoof to defend their mother's honor.  She wouldn't interfere, but this would be a matter of concern for her going forward...


Ah, but now Tankena had asked the question that many guests, no doubt, had been too polite to say aloud.  Ah well, perhaps she could explain for once and all.  Making sure to pitch her voice so that it would carry the answers to all present, the Princess gave an abridged explanation as to why she was no longer a Prince.  "Well... the long and short of it is, I fell very, very, ill several months ago, and therefore asked Princess Twilight Sparkle to help me out.  She, as it happened, had a spell which could restore anypony to a completely healthy body.  Which it did, although thanks to an ill-timed sneeze, she gave me the body of an extremely healthy mare."  She couldn't help but show off a bit at the last word, tossing her mane and presenting her figure.  An extremely healthy mare indeed.  "It's proven to be something of a permanent side-effect; there are means of switching between Stallion and Mare, but... I find that I can't really give either up."


The sound of heavy hoofsteps caused her ears to perk up, and her head to swing wildly towards the door, tossing her mane briefly into a cloud of gold.  It settled into a river, while Bluebelle's features rested in a very pleased smile.  Star Crusader, her honor guard and Gala date, had finally returned from patrol!    Returning the stoic mare's smile and muzzle, she whispered, "It's all right.  I just didn't want to miss the chance to show you off..."  Those who knew the Prince(ss) would see the significance in the fact that Blue was just as proud of her date's looks as she was of her own.

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"Hmph. Looks who's talking. At least I don't switch between dead or alive on the drop of a hat. And please, drop the Sir." count answered Bluebelle with a friendly jab of his own. "To be honest Blue, I never really understood your instance to attend every single one of those...." Swift looked left and right meaningfully, before shrugging. "....but then again, I guess everyone has it's own element they feel most comfortable." one of unicorn's hooves slight drifted towards the weapon hidden underneath a duster.

Squall gaze suddenly turned more serious. His eyes seemed to bombard the Princess with the x-rays as he spoken again.

"Let's cut to the chase. Why you wanted to see me today Blue? Besides checking how much cake you can stuff into everyone that is." his voice didn't change his tone, but Swift expression become softer again during the last few words.


Before he could get his answer from the royal pony he was approached by somewhat familiar looking caribou. Squall eyebrows rose up in confusion. Spreading fear? There were no need for words for that. Sigurn only needed to step out of the Lounge for others to ask 'Sweet Aunt Petunia, what Eocene time-displaced creature is that?'. One said that you shouldn't judge the book by it's cover, but when you political leader it's better to not have face that make potential partner think 'Is she going to eat me? She totally is going to eat me isn't it?'. Especially when you weren't born looking like that.


But before Squall could anything, his sweetheart gave answer of her own. While the way that she worded it could be considered....understatement he could only nod in agreement.

"Like mother like son i see." swordstallion mused. "And look, your mom is made of iron, we know that. We both had good taste of that, when we helped to hold her down. Honestly you should do better then forget us." Swift thought shifted towards image of mutated juggernaut that Sigurn become at the time. Unicorn shook his head and dissmised the unpleasant memory, while refocusing on young bull before him.

"Our point is, Iron Cow she may be, but it's dented iron right now. Surly there is other caribou that could fill for her as Askr representative? Oh wait, I am talking. to him right now."

noblepony said sarcastically. However when he spoke again, his words were much warmer and filled with concern.

"You want to fulfill son's duty Lími? Make sure that Sigurn fixes herself. And if she can't, come to me and I will do everything in my power to help. Allowing her to remain as she is not an option."

With this offer, Swift head turned back towards Bluebelle. Or it would if not for his gaze to catch the Princess maid. Squall always had an ability to deduce great amount of information simply by observing how the others moved. But right now his observation kind of give him contradicting information. Something was off with a Princess servant, but he couldn't pinpoint what.

"It's just me or do Blue maid moves a little...strange?"  he asked in his head, while gazing straight at Valencia. After a second he just shrugged and dismissed the thought. It wasn't really his businesses who Blubelle hired. Still he couldn't help but give a passing glances towards orange maid every now and then.

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Lími could forgive the good-hearted concern of the red pegasus standing with Sir Squall. Heck, it was in Lími’s nature to fret about Jarl Sigrun every now and then, ever since the... changes happened. But ever since that horrifying climatic day when the Berserker Plague was finally stopped dead in its tracks, Sigrun had not given any room for doubt concerning her fitness to lead Clan Askr. Like the mare acknowledged, caribou don’t go down easily without a fight. Such reassuring words were almost enough to solicit a smile out of Lími.


.....Right up until Squall opened that mouth of his again.


Whatever this unicorn did to help Lími’s people was irrelevant, when Squall essentially said to the young bull’s face that his mother was not fit to perform her duties. Lími didn’t buy Squall’s concerned tone one bit; it was impossible to do so right after the unicorn’s bit of mockery just before. Adding insult to injury, Squall dared turned his back on the caribou, as if the pony was so high and mighty that he only he was worthy of getting the last word in.


Under normal circumstances, Lími was not one to feel emotions of anger. He was of a kind heart, who never wished to bring hurt to anyone or anything. That prerogative however was slowly dwindling away in the face of Squall’s sheer condescension. Lími hated conflict, but even he wasn’t immune from the primal instinct to defend the honor of a loved one.


“YOU LISTEN HERE,” the caribou spoke in an uncharacteristically authoritative voice, a metaphorical fire burning in his eyes. “What gives you the authority to declare what Jarl Sigrun can or cannot d-d-do…?" Lími’s moment of unleashed bravery didn’t last long, for he had finally caught a glimpse of Squall’s sheathed sword. The young bull gulped; he had to tread carefully, lest he provoke a rash action from the pony. Undoubtedly, this Squall was an anomaly to most other sentients; Viking Caribou might have been fond of parading everywhere in armor, but not even Lími’s own kind would bring themselves to sully a joyous feast by openly bearing weapons. Did that unicorn lack any respect for the Sacred Laws of Hospitality too?


“Em, I mean,” Lími found his courage again; “Unless you’ve been at my mother’s side... everyday since that horrible crisis came to an end, then how would you know... anything about her current condition?” Emotion started seeping into the caribou’s voice; it wasn’t easy reliving all the hardship the infernal pestilence brought upon his adoptive clan. “Yes, Sigrun has been... physically altered. She... doesn’t look like the cow that ponies are accustomed to. But as her son, I can give you my assurance that Jarl Sigrun is as noble, and wise, as she’s ever been.”

Swiftly, solemnity gave way to a manufactured serenity; “I’ve read much about ponykind from our scrolls. Our lore speaks of how ponies never make those who have been wrongfully disfigured to feel unwelcome. How your kind can look past any grotesque appearance... to a fault, even.” Lími knew better than anyone however that caribou lore sometimes didn’t mesh too well with reality, but it couldn’t hurt to shame Sir Squall into submission regardless. “If that is indeed a trait that ponies embrace... then I humbly ask that you extend the same courtesy to my mother.....”

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Sunrise's eyes traveled over the mare's body, taking in her form. She looked nice, exotic. The designer smiled a bit as she spoke, giving a name and complimenting her dress.


"Yes, they certainly did do a wonderful job decorating this event. As for my dress, I designed it and made it myself. It is good to hear that you like it, thank you. If you are in Manehatten and are in need of an outfit, do not hesitate to stop by." She said, smiling a bit. "Of course, your current outfit is lovely as well, though I can not say I have seen it around. Where are you from, if you don't mind me asking?"


Really, she was quite curious about Mei's species, they looked wonderful, if she was any indication. Perhaps she could go on a vacation to their land and come back with all sorts of new ideas for outfits! Just the thought had her smiling happily at Mei.

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Apparently unable to attract the attention of Rarity, Tankena quickly zipped through the crowd, returning to Princess Bluebelle just in time to hear her question to the question the Stalliongradian Earth mare had pose previously.  She listened quite intently, genuinely curious and concerned about the Princess' current situation.


"Bey!  Tragicheskiy!  Dat is sad story, your highness.  It was magic accident dat changed you.  It is my misfortune that I am not skilled in magic or magical relics.  I am metalsmith but that skill will not help you.  And I agree with you, comrade, do not give up!  There must be solution out there somewhere.  If I only had some of the old books in Great Stalliongrad Library!  There is section on old magic and legends.  Perhaps your answer is there.  In meantime, I will play you favorite  balalaika tune to cheer you up and inspire you to never surrender!"


Instantly, as if by magic, Tankena produced her large, triangular based Stalliongradian guitar.  After a quick 'warm up', the determined blonde Earth mare began to play her favorite song for the Princess, hoping it would make her smile.  For the moment, Tankena's desire to meet and chat with Rarity would have to wait, in Tankena's mind, a new friend needed help and she was going to give it to her!



this is the song Tankena is playing for Princess Bluebelle






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The amount of excitement that was coursing though Ice Storm. She had been a part of many Galas in her life so far, and she's even hosted one! But despite every gala she's been to, or the gala that she hosted there wasn't a gala in Equestria that held a candle to the Grand Galloping Gala that the princesses put on every year! Sure she had heard of the last few galas that they had held. Discord had made a mess of things in the last one with some sort of slime monster thing, and then of course the fiasco from the one a couple years ago when Twilight and her friends had helped set it up. She didn't get to go to that one, as she was still just a simple pony in Ponyville at the time. Now, she was still a simple pony, but she lived in Canterlot, and worked under the night hours working under the princess, when she could analyzing and working with the stars. More recently though, she actually hadn't been Equestria side at all.


Over the last few months, she had actually been in Whitescar helping serve an emergency recovery mission for EPIC. Apparently WRAITH was experimenting with biological warfare and it had taken a huge toll on the Askr clan. It was her unit's responsibility to make sure that they could subdue what bou that they could while their science team found and administered the cure. Everyone in her unit had taken a beating from the bou and it reminded them of just how ferocious of warriors they were. The fact that she was still standing here was a testament to their success. However after everything that they had accomplished outside of Equestria, there was still one thing that she always loved coming home to at the end of those missions. And that would be the pony that she was currently waiting for as she entered the ballroom Ice Storm was supposed to be meeting her marefriend Fireheart here.


Ice Storm had taken a bit longer to get ready than usual due to the new dress that she was wearing. Instead of the normal white dress that she normally wear to such an event like this, she wore a dress that was made from black satin, that wrapped snuggly around her chest and tummy. The over-lapping icy-black sequins gave the dress a light blue glimmer in the light, almost making the dress appear to have been made from the scales of a dragon. The sequins followed down to a four-tiered dress tail that rested just behind her back hooves, and transitioned from the sequin satin black through a dark gradient blue to a snow white around the bottom. The only part of her body that was actually exposed, was her neck and face. Even her her legs consisted of black socks with icy-blue archaic designs running through them, as well as enough small lines that flowed through the fabric to simulate cracking ice with just enough glitter into the outer fabric to keep the visual illusion up. Around her hooves, the black followed the same gradient as it got closer to their base, reaching the white that trailed around the bottom of her dress right at her hooflets that she wore. Both were white gold, and the one on her right hoof was inlaid with diamond with the hooflet on her left hoof was sapphire inlaid. Her hooves were dressed in a pair of exquisite frosted white dress shoes that had her cutie mark engraved in the front of them.


Likewise, since she was wearing a new dress today as well, Ice Storm was also trying out a new mane style just for the Gala. her mane still had her bangs that came just down to her eyes, but was cut smooth rather than let flow like she normally did, and she had the rest of her mane wound up into a bun. It was a bit heavier than she was used to and she was glad that this style was only for the one night, but she did have to admit that she liked how it looked, especially with the one part of her traditional dress that she borrowed which was her topaz ear pieces and hair ties that kept everything in line. 


Without further adieu, Ice Storm made her way into the ballroom where most of the main event would be taking place. OR at least, where she presumed that mostof the main event would be taking place. When she entered she saw the layout of the ceiling above them and how the it depicted the symbiotic relationship between the sun and the moon. It showed both of the celestial bodies arching across the proverbial sky. Both sides also reflected the color pallet that a pony would normally associate with both the sun and the moon. The dance floor itself seemed to be a patronage to the Princess of Love, and The princess of Friendship seemed to be honored in the musical stage. She could definitely notice the over arching theme of the decor was to pay homage to the princesses that protected them. As she peered over to the lounge just beyond the floor, she saw that Sigrin herself had made an appearance. She would have to make sure that she made her way over there to see her and pay her respects for the aftermath of what happened to her clan.


Of course, just as she saw Sigrin, an all too familiar voice popped into her head, along with one that she hadn't heard, but she knew who it was. Or at least she did after she heard him say. It seemed that Swift Squall was putting his nose into things that he shouldn't be again. This had been a very common thing with him in EPIC. She remembered when they were in the initial meeting of the members in Savarneigho how he tried to sound smart but listing off the commanders decorations only to be proven wrong by him. He seemed to have been questioning whether Sigrin should even be here and that the bou that was calling himself her son should have known better than to let her come to something like this. She would have interjected, if the bou wouldn't have already done so and said everything that she would have said in defense of the Jarl. "Careful Squall, I'd just hate to see you get reported for having an unauthorized weapon at a formal event. Last time I checked, we aren't actual guards, and I don't think they'd like just anypony walking around with a sword while the princesses are around. That and the fact you're not even in formal attire. You'd do well to remember that before you start bickering about who should and shouldn't be here like that again," Ice Storm spoke to him before continuing on into the ball room, not even wasting time waiting for what she knew would be some sort of cancerous lined retort.


As she passed him by, paying him no more attention that she would a cool breeze on a winter morning, she spotted something, or rather... some griffon in the center of the room. The dress that this griffoness wore was... immaculate, and made hers look like something that was just stitched together in a few minutes. That said, the one thing that she did notice, is that she was pretty much all alone. It didn't seem like any pony was looking like they were interested in interacting with her. Perhaps they were to intimidated by her appearance? Ice Shook her head, regardless of why the others weren't flocking to her, she wasn't going to let anypony, or griffon spend the night at such a prestigious event alone. Of course, if she wanted to be alone, then she would honor the wish, but no pony knew until they went over to say hi right? She made her way over to where the griffoness stood and extended a hoof after politely removing the horseshoe first. "Good evening, and welcome to Equestria, and our Grand Galloping Gala. I couldn't help but notice that well, you seemed to be a bit lonely, so I figured I'd try and fix that. The name's Ice Storm," she smiled holding her hoof out to the griffon.

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Rather than even attempting to make an enjoyable time out of this event, Minerva had opted to stand where she stood and grumble to herself. Who knew what kind of stupidty the crew was going to get into while she wasn't there to keep them on track. If she came back to one more broken over or one more impromptu saloon one more time, beaks were going to roll! Not to mention Tarisio! Dragging her all this way just to wander off and do 'what he does best'. It made the griffoness roll her eyes. He was such a child sometimes, the least he could have done was point her to the punch bowl so maybe she could have something to do other than listen to nearby bickering over someone's mother and cows and iron or something equally unimportant to her.


For the most part Minerva finally swallowed the nagging nerves that kept biting at her. She was still getting rather sick of all the gawking, she was sure others thought she looked just as ridiculous as she did. Who was this dress even for before they stole it, she wondered.  It wasn't even the slightest bit too tight and accentuated her frame like it was...made...Tarisio had some explaining to do. Her train of thought however derailed before her vengeance could leave the station, as a pony approached her in greetings. That...threw her off. "Huh? Me? Oh uh. Thanks." the griffoness glanced around, Tarisio was nowhere to be seen. Probably off flirting with who knows who. She sighed heavily before shaking the pony's hoof. "My boss dragged me along to this thing. I didn't even want to be here, I look absolutely ridiculous. The name's Minerva Sheartalon. Uhm...what do they say at ritzy events? Charmed I'm sure? Something like that. Nice to meet you I guess."

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Princess Bluebelle forced herself to swallow down a slight twinge of panic.  Already, there were more guests here that she was able to easily extend a personal greeting and welcome to!  Already, out of the corner of her eyes, she could detect a pair of griffons looking lonely.  How did Auntie manage this?  *By stationing herself at the door, of course.*  A much sounder tactic than starting from the center of a large dance floor; the mare was going to have to do some circulating...


Unfortunately, the Aquellian delegation would have to be left in the hooves of ad-hoc hospitality for now.  Swift Squall had called for her attention again, apparently wanting to know why he was here.  He seemed to have no patience for the social niceties... or any niceties at all, as the Princess was beginning to realize from the drama unfolding around the green stallion.  Goodness gracious by Faust!  Bluebelle made a mental note to never invite Swift along as an international diplomatic envoy; they'd be sent packing with an army behind them in less than two weeks!  Even random guests stopping by had ill words to spare for the chap; this could turn ugly if not lanced immediately.

Stepping into the fray, between the green stallion and everypony else, the Princess gave her answer.  "I wanted to talk with you about certain political projects in Fillydelphia that you were having trouble with; I was curious as to what your difficulties were, and if I could do anything to help.  I must say, you've been very swift in satisfying my curiosity on both counts."  Her voice remained even and charming throughout, though to her the answers were readily clear: 1, Swift Squall was just not suited for this kind of work; 2, fuhgeddaboudit!


Turning away, she gave Limi what she hoped was a calming smile and a nod.  "I do hope you will pay my respects, at least, to your mother.  I don't know if we'll be able to meet in person this evening, unless she comes out the dance floor.  Actually, could you ask her?  It won't all be Equestrian waltzes-"  They were interrupted by the re-arrival of Tankena, bringing consolation at the top of her lungs, with balalaika accompaniment.   "Case in point!"  The Princess giggled, turning to the musical mare.


"I thank you for your concern.  However, as you can see, I would hardly call my current state a tragedy.  I mean, just look, darling!"  Bluebelle did one turn in front of her, to reveal a view from all angles.  No doubt about it, the mare a bombshell, alright!  Blueblood wouldn't have held himself to any less of a standard.  "But you must excuse me, I'm afraid I've been neglecting my guests.  Come along Star, we have social duties..."


She brought her date over to the crowd, her first stop being the male griffon, Tarisio.  "Ah, good evening..."  She wagered a guess from the cut of his cloth and bearing.  "...Captain?  What brings you to our fair shores?"

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When the griffon extended her claw out to shake Ice's hoof, she noticed the heavy sigh. She released the hoof and slipped her horseshoe back one and listened to the griffon. She could sense that there was something that was bothering her a bit, and after hearing her speak she immediately knew why. The griffoness just simply wasn't the gala type. She knew many ponies like this who just didn't do well in Galas because there was too much around them. She could very much tell that she didn't really want to be here, so perhaps Ice could at least make the time that she is here a good time for her. She listened when the griffon told her that her name was Minerva Shearlton. When she said that she looked absolutely ridiculous Ice shook her head though.


"Actually you look simply amazing! The hoofsmanship of that dress makes many dresses here look like they were just stitched together hastily. And I know that's not the case for these. I can definitely tell that it's not Equestrian hoofsmanship. That said, I myself wouldn't know how all the ritzy ponies act here in the city, or rather, I do but I don't associate myself with them. Unfortunately with our class of nobility, they seem to think themselves above everypony else, and forget about what it took to get them where they are at now. I am one such pony that now owns four shops, but I still remember where my roots are, and what happens when nobles let something as silly and fruitless as a name and bits destroy a family. My own family was torn apart this way when I was a foal so I've vowed to never let myself get like that," she said with a smile. "That being said, where are you from? You said that your boss dragged you here, which means your not from here, and I've always wanted to learn more about griffon culture, as it's one of the few outer-lying areas of Equestria I haven't been to yet."

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The fiery mare had made her own outfit? The thought was almost enough to make her utterly envious.


For fabric craft had never been a particularly special talent of hers, especially considering that she had only learned some of it after moving to Whitetail Woods. Growing up, her mother had handled all clothing needs for the family, and while most young fillies had learned to imitate their mothers' handiwork as they became older, Mei had...not. Oh certainly, she knew how to patch up a gown without leaving an unsightly seam running straight through the middle, but aside from that? She may as well have been as knowledgable as a toadstool.


Just imagining the amount of effort sewing a gown like the one glittering before her was enough to make her tired. Exactly why an Empress needed to have the finest shimmersilk craft ponies on hoof. 


"You've great skill with fabrics," is what Mei ended up saying aloud, envy coating her voice alongside the compliment. She ignored the mentioning of a...Main Hatten? The city sounded familiar, but from what she could recall, was so far removed from her current location that traveling there would be nothing more than a flight of fancy. And perhaps, well...Canterlot itself had been almost more than the Qilin could bear, so many beautiful new sights and sounds to become accustom to. It would probably do to wait a bit before venturing into yet another new city, wouldn't it? Couldn't be too careful in a foreign land.


The vivid blue Qilin didn't miss the compliment paid to her own outfit, however, and promptly preened in response. "Why thank you," she exclaimed, turning a bit to the side to better show off said outfit. If her tail wasn't already held out at a perfect ninety degree angle, it certainly was now. "It is a dress design from Long Guo, the country of my birthplace," Mei explained, only too eager to provide information on her species to curious onlookers. "The Qilin are the finest masters of silk in the entire world, you know - in fact, I've another robe even more breathtaking at home." 


Not that this cheongsam was a robe, technically, but still.


Before Mei could continue gushing on the wonders of Long Guo, however, more raised voices originated from the center of the ballroom, causing the Qilin to falter in her words and glance over towards the commotion in annoyance. The small crowd that had formed seemed only to have gotten larger - and judging by the heated voices rising above the general murmur of the party, perhaps that was not so much a good thing. Mei sniffed delicately, disapproving of a potential scene in the middle of the opulent ballroom - but the filly in her couldn't help but be curious for the rumors and gossip, wondering exactly what was going on.


"Aiya, I hope no one is intending to start a scene," Mei commented disapprovingly, though her pink eyes remained fixed on the small gathering, "we wouldn't want anything to ruin this elegant party. Though I do wonder what in ancestor's name is going on over there..." It would be rather rude to eavesdrop on them, true...but even as she was thinking it, her hooves seemed to move on their own accord, two tiny steps that placed her just a little bit closer to the huddle of bodies. 


It was a ballroom floor, after all - only natural to move around a bit.



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