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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. 

Edited by Thunderbuck
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It was, of course, only natural that the Court of the Isle’s Duchess be there to give her blessing to her under-noble’s union.  After all, had not such a blessing been given, no such wedding could have taken place.  And wherever the interests of Heart Stopper’s court went, her pet chronicler was soon to follow.


Of course, technically Earth Writer was employed by an Equestrian newspaper, The Canterlot Chronicle, as the first, and so far only, foreign correspondent in Kastrot, and perhaps the whole of Maretonia.  But given that his room, board, and every attendant luxury was generously provided by Heart Stopper for the duration of his stay… well, it wasn’t hard to tell who his true paymaster was.  If the stallion saw this as a breach of his journalistic integrity, or if he continued to care about such a frippery at all, he never said.  The articles he sent back certainly put a positive spin on the current regime and status quo.


As the tan-coated unicorn entered the courtyard, one would be able to see that he, like Stormstride, had gone native.  His outfit was fully Kastrotian, a powder-blue toga of fine silk, the classic lines only distorted by the pocket necessary to carry his pen and notebook, tools of his trade and artifacts of a previous life.  While he remained more or less slender in frame, there was a look of… sleekness about his features, as if the rough Bohemian edges of his character had been softened and sanded down.  He would have no longer fit in with the cheap wine and raucous company of, say, the Veiled Garden tavern in Canterlot.


However much of his edge he could be said to have lost, Earth Writer still retained his skill in wordcraft and description, and he was currently drafting a sumptuous description of the courtyard, in preparation for an article on Kastrotian Wedding traditions, compairson with Equestrian ceremonies and public festivities, etc.  Bias aside, his work was very much informative; after all, who in seeing the glory of this city would not wish to render it fully to those at home, if only to counter-act negative propaganda.


Good Day!”  He gave a little smile and bow to Stormstride as she welcomed him, pausing to sketch the details of her dress.  “I do hope everything is going well so far; I’ve just had a look at the guest list.  My, but you’ve got quite a few high-placed arrivals!  Certainly a step up from when I last saw you.”  Which was not all that long ago, to be fair.  Still, having foreign royalty at one’s wedding, whatever their actual status and power, was certainly a buff to one’s prestige.  Her house, as they say, was on the ascendent, and Earth Writer entered to scout a position from which to observe and record the parade.




Prince Blueblood LVI of House Platinum.


That was his official title, and how he had been addressed in his wedding invitation.  It was an acknowledgement of his royal status, and yet not quite of his Equestrian nationality, as if he were a descendent of an overseas cadet branch of the Maretonian Royal family.  Which, given the intermarriages that had occurred over the generations, was not too crazy an interpretation.  


Not that it would be anything other than an odd fact of heredity, except for the fact that the current ‘king’ was sickly, old, and heirless.  While the position was largely without actual power, the legal status and prestige that royalty always carried with it meant that the succession would be disputed bitterly, both by claimants and by potential cabals seeking to install puppet rulers.  And it had to be said, that a handsome foreign Prince with little actual governing experience and a reputation for being a social gadfly made for an attractive proposition for a potential puppet…


As far as the Prince himself was concerned, this was not an attractive prospect.  Thus, he found himself caught between the twin needs to be as unattractive a prospect for a potential monarch as possible, while at the same time being as polite and approachable as a de facto ambassador.  The solution he hit upon was to play the role of an affable but naive Equestrian, blazing right through conventions of rank and precedence to make matters as socially awkward as possible for any local nobles he was around.


He’d begun by first addressing the dockworkers that came to moor the ship he arrived in before the official delegation on the jetty (How goes the work, my good stallion?  I hope you get bonus pay for your excellent handling today!”), and had continued from there.  It had to be said that this was somewhat contrary to his normal mode even at home, so the conversations he initiated could get a little stilted at times (“Ah, so you’re a costermonger, eh?  Jolly good!  So, what does that position entail, exactly?”)


Nevertheless, the point was made, he trusted.  And so, he approached the courtyard of the wedding party at the head of his own delegation, consisting of himself, his honor guard, and his secretary, accompanied by their respective ‘plus ones.’  If it hadn’t been for the fact that Stormstride had known both Blueblood and his secretary Psmith before all of this Maretonian business, it’s likely that neither would have come.  But as they had both been there for her, or him at the time of his greatest personal troubles, it was only right, they felt, that they should congratulate her after she had come out on the other side of them.


Still consciously acting his part for the Kastrotian audience, Blueblood disregarded local protocols of greetings and simply offered a hoofshake in the common Equestrian manner.  “Stormstride!  It’s good to see you again.  Looks like you’ve fallen on your feet here, eh?

Indeed.”  His secretary echoed, bowing in an exaggeratedly formal matter.  “The cry goes ‘round the castle walls: this is the day of restoration!  When those with true nobility shall outshine the false jade now set in their silver and gold.  And is that your family I see all gathered?  Truly, the House is restored, and made that nobler thing, a home.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

It had been some time since Naj had done any sort of wandering.  She still travelled around of course, but much of that was on 'official business' in some capacity or another.  It reminded her of a time before she'd met her fiancee, and while for the most part she'd be happier forgetting such a time, travelling was the one part she remembered fondly.  She was able to see and learn so much, and meet so many new and interesting ponies!  So when a good friend of hers mentioned that he'd been invited to a wedding in a foreign land, and that he was allowed to bring one more, Naj jumped at the chance.  After making sure he didn't have anyone else to bring, of course.


Naj had decided to use a disguise for the trip, at least to begin with.  She was tempted to go without, as she had one time before, but that was in more familiar company.  Now she was going to distant Kastrot, and she had no idea what their experiences with changelings had been.  Even if she did thing in the long term more exposure of her natural form was better, this was a wedding.  It might be in poor taste, and even if it wasn't she didn't want to risk tarnishing the wedding by showing up as something frightening.


So Naj was walking around in her typical disguise, of a black pegasus with a short, pale blue mane.  For the wedding itself she'd contemplated pulling out her Gala dress, even if she didn't know how appropriate it was, on the basis that it was the only dress she owned.  In the end she decided against it, decided to borrow a set of REA parade armour instead.  She'd heard that the bride-to-be was formerly a military pony, and so maybe would appreciate it, as well as seeming a little more true to Naj herself.


Arriving at the location of the wedding itself, Naj was initially keeping quiet and out of the way.  She was here as a guest of a guest, rather than someone who actually knew the couple, and so she wouldn't be doing a lot of talking until she was addressed.  She stood by as Blueblood and Wordsworth made their greetings.  She followed her friend's example, or at least half of it, and gave a wordless bow to the lady of the castle.


Though when they started moving further into the keep, Naj would walk beside Wordsworth and whisper a question.  “Was it the right idea to come in disguise?”

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Stormstride smiled happily, returning the hoof shake and chuckling to Blueblood. "Relax. No pony here is interested in dragging you into the political affairs. Besides, this is my castle. One pony and one pony alone has more power here than I do, and that is her ladyship Heart Stopper. She should be here soon." Hugging Wordsworth she smiled brightly. "indeed my friend. The circle has come to its completion and my house is once more whole. May my ancestors now rest in peace. Come, I want to introduce you both to my husband to be. He should be over here." She nodded to Naj gently. A respectful and kind greeting as she offered a simple salute. She did not hear that whispered question as she was currently speaking to Blueblood, "I had a lot of work getting this place back together. Whomever they had working here used the whole castle as wine storage. Very poor conditions for wine. SO many barrels had to be tossed away. A few turned to vinegar, which we used for cleaning and polishing at least. After that, it was a matter of finding the right tapestries and rugs. Though.. I have always been partial to the Fet Loch style of life myself. The upper floors boast pelts of large game, or dragon claws as decoration. And should you ever decide to take vacation here I have a wonderful set of guest rooms for you to use. As well, we will be having a wine tasting at the reception today. I have been working on getting a few varieties settled up. Not that swill they called wine. But proper wine fit for ponies to drink."


Leading them to the back of the main entrance she took them down a decorated corridor to a large door. Knocking gently she waited. The door swung in slowly as a servant smiled to them. "Lady Cloud, he is ready to see you." Inside, Feather Touch sat on his chair. He was looking over some things. "Dearest... I asked you not to work today." Storm said softly as she put a hoof to her nose. Feather looked up and blushed. "Forgive me. An idea struck me and i had to get it to paper. A new scent for our patrons. Something that soothes the mind and makes them much more relaxed. I believe Lady Heart Stopper would love it." He stood and moved to greet them. His long elegant wings decorated and his wedding attire clean and fresh. Coming to them he bowed gently and smiled. "It is a pleasure to meet you my lords." 


Caramel came to them then. She giggled and smiled up at them. Though she did not wear her bows on her ears as she normally did, she still wore a small pendant that would tell guests she was deaf. "Would you like me to lead you to the reception place for refreshments before the wedding?" Here she was, trying to act all proper. Stormstride smiled and pat the filly gently on the cheek. "Yes that would be best dear. Lead them on. I have to greet the other guests."

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  • 2 weeks later...

(Bleah, sorry for post delays)


Blueblood smiled as he shook hooves with Stormstride, though internally he was not so assured that nopony here would be interested in dragging him into politics.  Besides the nobles who wanted a weak king, there were also the commoners who wanted a strong one, to save them from any oppression by the nobles.  The Dockworkers he had talked to were willing to tell that to him in so many words.  Hence, his 'friendly idiot' persona.  "Well, well, let's hope no one tries to talk about anything so tiresome while we're here.  Oh, by the way, have you met Star Crusader, my honor guard?  I know you've been under the Duchess before you came here; Star here is her daughter."


As his employer was introducing his companion, Psmith whispered to his own.  "If it were me, I would have gone without, but you have a greater share of prudence and caution, comrade.  I cannot but think your instincts more sound, though I will say, that I am fully confident in their eventual lack of sincerity.  But first, we must know the ground!  Reconnaissance is the sense and sensibility of all operations."  Leave it to Psmith to extend an aside to a small paragraph.  But that was nothing compared to what he could do in a formal greeting.


"Ah, my dear comrade Stormstride!  The stallion of the hour is near at hoof; the cry goes 'round the castle walls: 'Who, who was the one to prove worthy?  Let us crown him with the garland and the laurel!  Who-'"


"Psmith."  The Prince's tone was flat, but forceful.  Blueblood knew full well how the secretary could go on, and he knew that Storm knew it too.  "I look forward to sampling the new varietals, then.  Have you considered the Equestrian market for export?  I could put you in touch with a few reputable firms if so."


The company was then led on to meet the soon-to-be husband and current daughter of the lady of the House.  The Prince gave a polite bow to the former and a warm smile to the latter.  "Well now!  You're back home, with your whole family now, I hear?  I suppose that's been a right change for the better.  Your mother seems so much happier now."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Naj's face fell slightly when Wordsworth stated that he wouldn't have made the same choice, but her expression changed to amused when when he suggested that Naj had the stronger sense of self preservation.  “So,” she replied with a grin, “are you agreeing or making fun of me?”  All the same, it was comforting that he didn't think she'd made a serious mistake.  Her grin gave way to more somber expression.  “I appreciate the vote of confidence, though.”


Naj remained silent as Wordsworth addressed Stormstride herself, and the disguised changeling's attention was brought back to the present event.  Wordsworth began one of his typical, verbose greetings though was cut of by Blueblood, to Naj's amusement, though the only outward sign was a smile.  She mostly tuned out the following conversation which concerned things she didn't have a whole lot of experience in.


The group was led deeper into the keep, to a door that, when opened caused a pleasant aroma to waft out.  The stallion inside, the husband-to-be, explained that he'd been working on a new scent, though only after being mildly chastised by his fiance for working when he didn't need to.  The pegasus greeted the group, although as he addressed his greeting to the 'lords' Naj wasn't sure if she should respond or not.  If noticed, she would nod in turn.


A little filly arrived, wearing a small pendant proclaiming that she was deaf, and offered to lead them to where the wedding was set to happen.  Naj watching the filly for a moment, with a thoughtful expression.  She could swear she knew that filly from somewhere, but she wasn't quite placing it...  “Caramel?”  She could just barely remember the deaf filly she met in Stalliongrad some time ago, travelling with musician.  Remembering that the filly was deaf, and what that mean, Naj waiting until Caramel was looking her direction before trying again.  She grinned.  “Caramel!”

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Caramel bowed politely and smiled up at Blueblood. Stormy had told her he was a nice prince and to be respectful to him. "Yes. Momma is very happy. She's spent a lot of time putting things together for the ponies that work here. She even started a school of her own. She teaches magic to every pony. Though she cant teach it to the pegasi and earth ponies. She helps them understand how magic works and the way it should be used." Caramel Led them on, walking beside Blueblood to talk to him. She glanced up to Star Crusader, smiling. "I didn't get to meet the Dutchess. Momma didn't send for me and uncle Thunderbuck until she was here. She didn't think we would like Fet Loch. I don't like spending a lot of time in the cold."  She paused to wave at the musician on the stage. He was levitating several instruments, but he waved back. His face hidden by a rather ornate and beautiful mask. 


Feather Touch followed as Caramel Cream led the way. "Shes such a tender foal. Oft do I now realize what i have missed having devoted my entire life to my craft. A pony is not whole without the love of others around him." he said. As they came to the reception area, they were greeted with the scents of many, many foods. One end of the buffet table had several delicacies from Equestira, though in much larger portions than would normally be served. The other end had Maretonian food. The kinds that nobles would oft find at their dinner tables. and in between was a massive sampling of fruits, sweets, and desserts. 


The whole thing arranged to resemble a shift in color spectrum. Much the way an artist would lay out their paints to see the colors in rows. On a smaller table one servant was preparing small plates to serve to guests until the wedding was ready. Seeing the ponies approaching, being led by Caramel herself, he hurried to get the plates on a tray and present them. Each was accompanied with a glass of wine. The plates held cheeses and fruits. A light sampling of the local fare. 


Feather shook his head, passing up the food though he did gesture the others to have some. "You should try the wine. Its our own brand. Storm insisted we open a couple of the reserve bottles. She found quite a nice store that were aged and bottled in the time of her ancestor. Still good. Not too strong, but very flavorful." 

Caramel was watching the others. Though Naj talking got her attention. Looking the guard up and down, she seemed puzzled. Squinting she looked much closer. Then her eyes went wide as she squealed in delight. Practically jumping on Naj and hugging her. The sound got the attention of Feather Touch, whom about jumped. He stared at her as she practically clung to Naj. "I take it you know my daughter and brother in law then?" he asked calmly. Though there was that tinge of nervousness in his voice. As if he had done something wrong. 

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On their way to meet Caramel, Psmith had continued his sotto voce conversation with Naj.  "What reason is there for it not to be both?  You would hardly maintain, comrade, that it is a bad thing to increase the amount of fun in the world.  Do we not every day see the tragedy of what happens when their is a shortage?  Indeed, this family has gone through such a phase in their life, I doubt the scars will heal for generations..."  And so on, through the loopy maze of exaggerations.  He barely skipped a beat, as he took up a sampling glass, and a plate of savory morsels, for himself.


Blueblood did so as well, taking the wine with all seriousness of the hobbyist, checking it against the light, inhaling a large noseful of the scent, and taking a small sip.  "Hm... a young wine from an old vine; sweet, only lightly touched by oak.  A lot of berry notes in this one.  Quite nice, if a little light."  He was slightly surprised at that moment to see Caramel suddenly leap to hug Naj, but Psmith was quick to explain.


"Naturally, comrade; we first made our acquaintance back when Private Stormstride was assigned to Canterlot.  Involving a case of thievery from a schoolhouse, which turned out fairly sticky, actually.  I should say that the memory sticks through all that, as the family was breaking up at the time, but through keeping steady with the helping hoof, all are now under one roof.  And so we celebrate, a toast!"  He raised his glass, encased in magic.  "To every pony's home, their rightful castle, with beds for their family and an open door to all friends!"

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  • 1 month later...

Naj only half understood Wordsworth's response.  This was common with things the stallion said, so much so that she'd gotten used to it, and didn't show more confusion that smiling and slightly shaking her head.  What she did pick up somehow meshed that banter could be both agreement and lighthearted mockery, with the idea that the family here could use some extra humour after...something.  Naj had faith that her friend was making sense, if only one had the ability to discern what he was getting at.  Sadly, yet again that one was not her.


As the group was offered food Naj resisted having more than a small sample of of the food when offered, and entirely avoided the wine.  Setting aside the fact her dietary needs were distinct from what was on offer, she took her role as a guard seriously.  Even if it had been largely a favour to allow her to see the country, she wasn't about to do a disservice to the position by getting inebriated or distracted by flavour.  For similar reasons, she payed only passing attention to the conversation about wines, although it was also because she wouldn't have much to add.


With a little perseverance, Naj was able to get Caramel's attention.  As she'd hoped, the filly did remember the disguised changeling, and fondly.  What she wasn't expecting was that the filly would get so excited as to launch into a hug.  It caught Naj off-guard, and it somewhat broke her airs as a guard when she laughed and wrapped a hoof around the filly's shoulders in turn.


This apparently made Feather Touch concerned though.  Was that a hint of anxiety Naj was picking up?  She supposed it was fair to be concerned that the foal knew a royal guard, even if she'd hoped her own relaxed attitude would set the pegasus at ease.  In that case, Naj decided she'd do so herself.  “Not from wearing the armour, I assure you.”  As she released Caramel from the hug, she used her now free hoof to motion waving away the concern.  “I happened to find her and her father while they were playing music in Stalliongrad.  I don't remember making quite this impression, but I'll never say no being seen as a friend.”

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((OOC: Just gonna go with it for now. Assume no one else will join))

Caramel smiled and giggled up at Naj. Feather Touch looked at Naj a little confused, before it dawned on him. "OH! You mean Buck. He's not her father. He's her uncle. He had custody of her at that time." Feather Touch smiled and nodded to them, spreading his wings a bit to stretch them. The impressive span of his wings reached almost two ponies in length. But as he folded them carefully, he sighed with a smile. "Well I should get to my place. Don't want to keep the missus waiting you know." Giving a bow to them, he began to move off. 


Caramel lingered with them long enough that she noticed one of the servants coming toward them. He made a motion for Caramel toward the courtyard. "Oh! Must be time." Several other guests had arrived, though most were of minor nobility like Stormstride herself. The foal smiled and skipped a bit. "Come on! I can show you all to your special seats!" Leading them on, she brought them to their places of seating. Which was more or less the same for every other pony. More simply in design, but quite a comfortable seat. Helping them find their places she bowed and hurried off to the back aisle. Picking up her flower baskets, she levitated them in her magic. Buck, brought up his various instruments, and began playing. The air hummed softly with the vibrations, which were her cue. She could feel those vibrations, and began walking down the aisle, tossing flower petals. The scents soon filled the air, a lightly sweet scent. 


Feather Touch stood at the podium with the pony presiding over the marriage. He was a local magistrate, and seemed rather happy to be here. No doubt that was partly because it got him away from his other duties for some time. As Stormstride began her walk down the aisle, she smiled. Her veil covering her face in the traditional way. The long train of her dress trailing behind her. Smiling she took enough time to nod at ponies as she passed. Soon coming to the podium and turning to face Feather Touch. There was happiness in her eyes. She smiled, and it was obvious she was already crying. Feather Touch beamed, practically glowing. 

As the magistrate began, Feather and Storm only partly listened. Both having been lost in each other's eyes. CaramelCream stood to the side, having emptied her baskets of flowers, she had levitated up a plush pillow that had a pair of highly polished tail bangles. These were not the plain silver kind most ponies got, but solid gold and encrusted with gems. Gleaming in the sunlight, the jewelry was more than just wedding bands. They were symbols of status as well, proclaiming that the pony wearing them was married and wealthy. 


Caramel stole a glance at Blueblood and his group. They were set just far enough from the other nobles that they would have a better view, without being at an odd angle to the wedding. There were a few empty places as well, but not the private box. Which was reserved for HeartStopper and her troupe. Though the only pony there was Earth Writer and one of Stormstride's own guards. Though....the armor of the guard was strangely different from the standard. He was the first guard they could actually see. And he did not look friendly in the least. Full plate armor, layered and tightened to look more like dragon scales than metal. It was also made of a darker colored metal, and layered with furs and horns from various wild animals. He bore no shield, but a lance and on his side rested a heavy sword. His face was completely hidden by the helm, which only had openings for his ears, eyes, and nose.


Odd that there was only one guard for the entire castle. But then the magistrate spoke a bit louder. "Do you, Feather Touch, swear your life to your beloved mare? Honor to her, service to her life, and seeking only her? Enduring the pain of sickness and the joy of health? Until beyond death and the end of all time?" "I do, forever and always. I swear my life, and my love to my beautiful mare. Loving her for all time, placing her above all others in the world. Seeking only her happiness and love in return."

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It was rare that Psmith surfaced from his gentle torrent of logomachy enough to grasp the fact that he was being misunderstood.  That usually required other ponies to pay sufficient attention to what he was saying to try and fail to comprehend it, which most did not, for the sake of their own sanity.  He blinked, mouth slowing to a halt as he processed what Naj said.  "Ah, so you and I made acquaintance with them at different times.  Do forgive me, I had forgotten.  I believe I met up with comrade Stormstride rather near the time we first petitioned Princess Celestia for a grant of amnesty and citizenship.  Ah, such memories!  Truly does the past ennoble, for our hardships are made into rocky paths to progress, and the good times are sweet memories, laid down like fine wine."


And so he continued until shown to his seat.  He did, however, pause for one pointed remark.  "It is, of course, necessary that faults done to us are forgiven before we enjoy their recollection.  The buildup of resentment is like the buildup of tannins at the proverbial bottom of the wine barrel.  Neither healthy nor tasty, indulged only in the last sickness, when bitter is the only thing we can taste."  He shot a loot over at Stormstride, which was odd, given that she looked anything but bitter.  A literal bride on her wedding day, beaming with joy.



Blueblood, for his part, did notice and was slightly puzzled by Wordsworth's remark.  But, he was paying attention to a lot of things by then.  Like the reporter in the wings, always had to watch those.  Also, the reactions of his guard and marefriend to the wedding.  How Crusader took in all this would have some effect on his future plans, obviously.  Hm, but the over-noble wasn't here.  Well, all good then, less politics.  


And that guard!  By Faust, what hideous abomination was he wearing?  Didn't he know how to dress festively for a wedding?  Gold or silver armor, if one didn't have a snappy mess dress.  That barbaric look... well, this could be a rough part of the world, but still.  It looked practically villainous.  But, that's ridiculous.  Why would Stormstride present an aspect of villainy now?  Right now, as the magistrate was binding her to the love of her life, with her family all together at last?  *All you ever wanted, friend.  I'm glad I could do what I could to help you get it.*


And when the two at last kissed, the Prince cheered as loud as the rest of the crowd!

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  • 1 month later...

Naj blinked and smiled awkwardly at Feather Touch's explanation.  She supposed she was still learning how pony families worked, that she couldn't tell.  Still, she was embarrassed enough by the mistake to not say anything.  Better to just let it go and move on to other things, than to draw more attention to her own lack of knowledge.  And just as well, because the wedding was about to start anyways.  No need to drag down the atmosphere, this was a happy occasion!  Two ponies in love were being officially being recognized as such!


The Equestrian group was guided to their seats, which Naj noted were kept slightly separate from the main body of guests.  It seemed sensible enough, keeping the two cultures apart to avoid some sort of issue.  It wouldn't serve for long term diplomacy, but then this wasn't about bringing nations together as much as celebrating a couple coming together in love.  Diplomacy could wait, if it was even a relevant concern.


While glancing around Naj couldn't help but note the local guard, dressed in something that looked properly barbaric.  Presumably this was an agent of the local ruling lady, as Stormstride was both the bride-to-be and a former guardsmare herself, it seemed unlikely she'd desire such a presence.  That meant it was an obligation, rather than a true choice.  Naj had to wonder just what sort of relationship this lady had to make such things reasonable, but it was not her place to say.  She had no obvious reaction, but she did subtly, subconsciously shift herself to be between her ward and this warrior.


Speaking of her ward, Wordsworth said something else once the group was settled.  Yet again, Naj did not understand what he was saying.  This time though, she could tell through context clues that the reason was that she lacked information.  Naj would only be meeting the mare of the hour for the first time today, while Wordsworth clearly had a previous encounter. 


Naj didn't have any time to reflect on this development however, as the ceremony occurred.  She did not cheer as many of the crowd did.  For some reason that did not feel appropriate.  She did however pound her hooves against the ground, adding her own contribution to the thunderous applause with a wide grin.  A wedding, a celebration of love between a pair of ponies or other creatures, had a special significance to a changeling.  Before she came to Equestria, it would have been a sign of prosperity, and 'good hunting'.  Now, it was a sign of what she was determined to preserve and protect.

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As the kiss ended, Stromstride and Feather Touch stepped down to meet the crowd. Most of which was still cheering. Having now been pronounced As Lord and Lady Cloud, they seemed to enjoy the moment. After a bit Stormstride broadcast her voice with a soft spell that let them hear but not be deafened. "And now... The moment we all can enjoy together. The Reception!" Several of the local nobility that did attend chuckled and nodded as they began to move toward the food. Coming to her friends, Stormstride smiled and motioned the guard near Earth Writer to come over. He did as bade, and upon arriving removed his helmet. 


An Earth pony hidden under all that gear. He smiled and hugged her softly, shaking hooves with Feather gently. He nodded to the others and smiled, "Stormy, you want to introduce me?" "Oh! Sorry everypony. This is Heavyhoof. He and I served together in the same barracks. Apparently after I left Canterlot, Celestia herself came to the barracks and cleaned them out. Sent them all over to give them some different perspective. After I got things here settled for my ancestral home I heard. Those that were discharged by their new captains have found a place here in my personal guard. And judging by the looks on some faces I think the armor works its own magic, wouldnt you agree?" 


Feather Touch shook his head and sighed, "Darling, don't frighten the guests away. We still have the wine tasting we set up for them after the reception." "OH! I almost forgot that. I'm sorry. Heavy, remember to make certain the other guards attend as well." He saluted and flipped his helmet back up and on. Turning on hoof he marched back to his spot and remained there. "Pity Heart Stopper hadn't shown. I was so wanting her to be here. I think she would have certainly approved of the decorum inside the castle." Giving a light bow she turned to go join the group of other nobility that were chattering over the food provided. 


Feather Touch remained behind, his eyes showing a hint of emotion, concern of some kind. Then he looked to them and it was gone. Smiling and taking a deep breath he spoke, "Would you like to taste the local fare or stick with the Equestrian foods you know best? She had the chef specially prepare a small but delightful selection of Equestrian foods she was familiar with you might find appealing. As well, I think she saved a bottle of brandy specifically for you all. OH! I almost forgot." He turned and called out. "Buck! Come and eat!" THe stallion on stage paused from his music, and lowered his various levitated instruments. As he started off the stage, Feather leaned over and whispered to Blueblood "He gets so wrapped up in his music he can forget to feed himself sometimes. We have a guard specifically assigned to him when he goes traveling to make certain he eats and gets sleep. Unicorn chap, I think you might like him. He's rather handy with sleep spells and making quick meals of barely a few ingredients. I think he came from the same place as Heavyhoof."


As Thunder moved to join the group, he slid his mask up, almost without hesitation. Pausing to smile and wave at the group, he took a plate and began to make his selections. As the servants walked the table, refilling cups and fetching extra food, one could see this knowing look passed between them all. The nobility of Kastrot may not treat their own servants like good friends, but Stormstride obviously did if their uniforms and jewelry was any indication. All of them had full pony pedies and were wearing gold or silver jewelry and tail bangles.

Feather led the group to their seats, which was beside his and Stormstride's seats. Thunderbuck sat at the end of the table. Stormstride took her time to eat slowly. She was enjoying the variety. CaramelCream was busy enjoying more of the desserts, as her pudgy middle told tale of already. Feather Touch paused form his food from time to time to interject his opinion with some of the more lax nobles. Stormstride commented to Naj softly, "So Caramel says you and she met back in Stalliongrad when she and Buck were performing. I was wondering if you would indulge me in telling me how that was?"

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With a pleasant hum of activity, the ceremony transitioned from the official wedding to the reception. The bottles were uncorked, the kegs tapped, and the platters were full of tasty treats for the grazing nobility.  Prince Blueblood kept a corner of his eye out to spot any 'butterflies,' as he called them; hangers-on to the nobility without any real fortune or titles themselves, but who managed to live luxuriously by finagling invitations to every single social gathering they could.  They were common enough in Canterlot; from time to time their schmoozing was done cleverly enough to leverage them into real positions of influence or power, either through business contacts, political appointments, or even marriages.  Thus do aristocracies prevent inbreeding.


Kastrot seemed to be rather more strict in this regard, as the professional butterfly was glaringly absent from his gaze.  Most of the non-nobility there stuck out, probably as special invites from Lady Stormstride herself.  Certainly, they weren't mingling with the upper-class guests.  Hm...


Shaking the political thoughts from his head once again, Blueblood looked up to see the barbarically garbed guard remove his helmet, revealing a much more attractive visage.  "Oh, well, pleased to meet you, old chap!  Glad to see you've gotten a veteran's post in an honor guard."  Such appointments were always prestigious, though admittedly they happened as much based on connection as by talent; as seemed to be the case here, actually.  The Prince diplomatically refrained from commenting upon that, however.


Psmith, meanwhile, had sidled himself over to the buffet table, near Feather Touch.  Though the lavender unicorn was a noble's son, his family was minor enough for him to find it necessarily to develop the skills of a 'butterfly.'  One of which was an open and complimentary tongue.  "Oh, pish, and as they say, tosh.  We did not brave the seven seas merely to confine ourselves to the familiar!  No, within our civilized chests beats the thrumming heart of adventure!  Bring upon us the delicacies local, so that we may feast!  Though, Comrade Feather Touch, we do as that you maintain a decent silence about the exact ingredients of each dish.  We wish to enjoy our food, not dissect it."  Which was a lot to say that he would like the Maretonian dishes, thank you.


Blueblood at this time noticed Thunderbuck lift his mask, and as one who knew the stallion's story, it was good to see his shyness overcome, for the most part.  All the while, he smiled at the servants, sipped and nibbled daintily at everything presented to him, and was content for the most part to observe the ebb and flow of the social tides before him.  It was just... happy, and the family at the center of it all had gone through so much to reach such happiness.  "This is the sort of thing one always pictures at the end of Fairy Tales, isn't it?  The lady and stallion married, the family back together, all restored to rights and looking forward to a happily ever after..."  He mused aloud,  having finished one full cup between all the samples of wine, and now diving deep into the second.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Much to Naj's surprise, the local guard wearing that...peculiar getup turned out to be an Equestrian.  She learned this when he was introduced to the group.  A former guardspony apparently, having been dismissed following some sort of shakeup in the Equestrian Royal Guard, and soldier of Stormstride herself rather than a native leader.  The way Stormstride told it made it sound like the guard was dismissed unfairly, although Naj had to wonder what the other side of the story might be.  The revelation did make her reconsider her previous conclusion about the guard, who it turned out was not the enforcer Naj had taken him to be.  All the same, she wondered why such an imposing getup would be thought appropriate at a wedding.  Was there some local mindset rubbing off of the lady?


As it was clear he wasn't attempting to be threatening however, Naj payed him no more mind once the reception itself began.  The array of foods on display didn't tempt Naj out of hunger, she'd already had her fill from simply being at the wedding, but the variety did catch her interest.  Having survived on a limited and very different diet for some time in the past she was unafraid of the foreign dishes, and took a few samples onto a plate for herself.  Of course, some of the Equestrian meals were relatively foreign to her as well, and so she nabbed a few of those as well.  With her plate of culinary curiosities assembled, Naj took a seat next to Wordsworth.  She wasn't particularly likely to participate in the conversation, but she was interested in hearing what sort of things were discussed.


As such, it caught Naj by surprise to be addressed by Stormstride directly, even if she had to admit the question was reasonable.  She blinked.  “Fair enough, I guess” she replied after a bit of hesitation, “though I'm afraid it's not that interesting of a story.  My coltfriend and I were wandering around Stalliongrad, when we happened to find Buck playing.  I didn't get a lot of exposure to music where I grew up, so I was especially curious.  I stopped for a while to listen, and that's when I met Caramel.”  She paused for a moment, and what would have been a awkward pause was softened but the cheerful voices surrounding them.  “That's all there is to it, I think.”


Naj did realize, as she was making her explanation, that Caramel had also learned what her species was during that time.  Her actual species, not the one she currently appeared as.  Did Stormstride have that information too?  There was a part of her that wanted to simply state it, to 'get it off her chest' such as it was.  But she also knew that would be unsafe.  How would Stormstride react if she suddenly learned?  How would Kastrot natives?  She tensed slightly, almost imperceptible as she tried to keep it contained.

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Stromstride nodded to Naj, a knowing smile upon her lips as she ate her meal. Even as the reception wound down and the majority of the guests left, Stormstride continued to indulge in conversation with her friends. Hearing how their lives had been over the last six months, including their own adventures and gains, as well as any of their losses. When the last of the Kastrot nobility left, she seemed to relax and levitated off the headpiece of her wedding gown. Letting it rest upon the table, she stood and moved to the side where she motioned a couple servants. As they hurried off, Stormstride smiled and came back to the table.


"And now that wine tasting I promised you. We only had two varieties here when I arrived to take over. Now that we sorted out what was available, we were able to spice a few up with some added ingredients to their barrels and set them back to age a bit longer. You all shall have the first taste of it all. Well, aside from my darling husband and myself." She said, shooting Feather Touch a rather coy and delightfully teasing look. Feather tried to hide in his wings, moaning out a complaint. 

"Darling... No.... You promised you wouldn't tell them about that incident," he whined as she giggled. Her tail swishing as she moved closer to him, teasingly bumping his wings aside gently to reveal the very embarrassed look upon his face. There were still a few younger Kastrot nobles that hung around, and they all giggled with her. Obviously this was a game to them all, and it happened to be Feather Touch's turn for a bit of teasing. As they were talking, multiple guards and servants came to the table. Seating themselves and beginning to help their own plates. Caramel Cream hurried to join them at the dessert table and explain what each of the creations was and how she had tried to make a few herself. Their reactions were not that of servant to master, but kindly babysitters to the daughter of a dear friend. 


The two servants that had left returned now, pushing a large cart that had some soft crackers and a variety of bottles in ice. The second shelf of the cart had multiple glasses, at least ten for each guest still present. Stormstride smiled as she uncorked the first bottle, levitating it up and using her magic to fetch some of the glasses. as she began pouring, the mare explained how this was their main flavor, using a specific mix of woods in the cask to add hints to the wine without disrupting the sweetness of the grapes. 


((OOC: I think this is a good place to end it. Agreed? Or would you both like to continue the wine tasting?))

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