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Easy Come, Caprese Go

by Heliopause

Even though they had been searching for hours, and their wagon held only a few handfuls of gems, Spike still towed it with unflagging enthusiasm. He’d happily perform any task, no matter how monotonous, if it meant he could spend that time with the lovely Rarity. Nor was his mood dampened by the desolate landscape—all jagged rocks and barren cliffs, vegetation that was tough and hardy but not beautiful in any way. The only beauty this land produced lay buried underground.

Rarity peered at the meagre haul. “Are you sure you haven’t been eating any of them, Spike?”

“No, Rarity! I know you need every one for your dress designs.” The little dragon paused and licked his lips. “Of course, if you’d let me, I’d love a little snack. Or two.”

But Rarity wasn’t listening; her attention was focused on her locator spell. Her unicorn horn fizzing and sparking, she strained her concentration to its limit, but as far as she could tell, there simply were no gems to be found anywhere near. It didn’t make sense. This particular field had supplied her with gems for years and had never shown any signs of running dry. Sighing, she dropped the spell. “We could try…” she began, looking across the Delamare River.

Spike gulped. “But… that’s Diamond Dog territory! You don’t want to deal with those mangy mutts again, do you? Although, I’d be happy to fight by your side, my lady!” Eager to demonstrate his fighting prowess, he dodged and weaved back and forth, throwing punches at imaginary opponents, working himself up and stopping only when Rarity held him in place with a hoof on his forehead.

“That won’t be necessary, Spike.” She looked up and down at her helper. Mostly down. “I think these will have to do, for now. Let’s get back to town.” Rarity counted the gems in the cart. There should be just enough to complete the outfits she had planned for the upcoming Fall Fashion Festival. That lifted her spirits. The Festival was the perfect stage where she would launch her latest line of gowns and dresses. Rarity might be wandering a barren wasteland in search of gemstones, but in her mind’s eye she was accepting praise and adulation from her peers and fans.

Rarity returned to her shop to find that she couldn’t even get through the door. Her little sister Sweetie Belle, along with her friends Scootaloo and Apple Bloom, had erected scaffolding around and over the front entrance—although the rickety boards and almost random connections between supports made climbing it a life-endangering proposition. Unconcerned with her impending demise, Scootaloo was perched atop the construction with a paintbrush in her mouth, scrawling wobbly letters in an arc over Rarity’s front door.

“We’re sign painters!” her sister proudly proclaimed. “We’re gonna add letters to every sign in Ponyville!”

Scootaloo paused in her painting, the paintbrush dripping silver paint. “Is ‘Boutique’ spelled E-E-K or E-A-K?” She turned her head to look at Apple Bloomthe brush spraying a crescent of paint across the unfinished signwho in turn looked up at Rarity, who was standing alarmingly still.

“Miss Rarity? Do ya know the right way to spell ‘Boutique’?” Rarity didn’t reply, and showed no indication she had even heard the filly. Apple Bloom tried waving a hoof in front of her face, but failed to get any reaction at all. Puzzled, she leaned in closer and heard Rarity whispering softly to herself. Apple Bloom turned back to Scootaloo on the scaffold. “She’s just counting, real slow like.”

They were saved by Twilight Sparkle, who poked her head out of the boutique door. “‘Boutique’,” she defined, “A small store selling fashionable clothes. B-O-U-T-I-Q-U-E. Boutique!”

“Thanks, Twilight!” said Apple Bloom, looking up at Scootaloo. “You get that?”

The pegasus filly just nodded her head, already adding the final shaky letters to the sign. Rarity plodded on through to her shop, and Twilight closed the door behind her. “Really, they do mean well,” she said, smiling.

“Oh, I know, Twilight. And I do love Sweetie Belle to pieces. But when she gets together with her friends, their enthusiasm can be a bit overwhelming.” Rarity had left the Boutique in the care of Twilight and Fluttershy, thinking that Twilight’s meticulousness, combined with Fluttershy’s fashion knowledge, would be perfect to manage her fashion boutique for a few hours. Instead, it appeared that Twilight had taken the opportunity to sort Rarity’s dresses by color instead of size, and Fluttershy was wearing—along with a guilty expression—a gown that had been featured in the front window display. As she talked, she sorted out the gems from her morning expedition into a wooden chest, itself decorated with matching jewels. “Thank you for watching the Boutique for me while I was out.” To Fluttershy, she added, “You know, dear, you’re welcome to try out any outfit you like, any time.”

From outside, the sounds of amateur sign construction began again: hammering, pounding, little hooves treading over unsteady platforms. “Oh, it was no problem! Fluttershy here was teaching me about the latest—” The hammering increased in volume, forcing Twilight to raise her voice. “THE LATEST FASHION…” One last bang was followed by a metallic clatter, and then an ominous silence. Twilight managed a weak smile. “We didn’t get many customers.”

Sweetie Belle nosed through the door, looking a bit sheepish, followed by the rest of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. “We um… sort of dropped our paint.”

“You mean Scootaloo dropped it,” Apple Bloom said.

“I did not! You bumped me!”

“Girls, please!” Twilight thought the boutique was getting crowded, with three ponies and three Crusaders all packed together, and the close quarters weren’t helping anypony’s temper.

Rarity eyed Scootaloo, who was wearing her old Cutie Mark Crusader cape, still torn from her earlier adventures. It was bad enough that there were children clambering about in her boutique, but dirty children were even worse. Somepony might think she was running an orphanage or something. “Take that off,” she said. “I’ll fix it for you.”

It was a good impulse, a generous impulse—quintessential Rarity. But as she held it suspended in mid-air, she realized it was beyond repair. She would have to make something new.

Designs darted through her mind in rapid succession. Perhaps she could make it better. Visualizing the final shape, Rarity grabbed two pieces of scrap cloth from the bin. If she could attach them like so, and hold them with space to move between, then—yes! She worked quickly, without any preliminary sketch; her stitchwork was guided by the pattern she held in her head. Start with the basic form of a cape, but extend it over the haunches. Pinch the fabric just so, strengthen it with reinforcing stitches, and it would hold its shape, so stylish! Lastly, a few finishing touches to enhance the overall silhouette, and voila!

What she had created was like nothing any pony had ever worn before. It started out like a cape, with a medium collar and a layer of fabric around the withers and breast. Unlike a cape, it continued down past the loin to the croup and tail, wrapping partially around the barrel like a dress. Unlike a dress, it had a slight flare upward at the hips, maintaining its shape through some creative reinforcing stitchwork.

It hadn’t taken her two minutes. But honestly, there was nothing to it—the innovation had all been in the initial design. Given that design, a child could assemble it.

Twilight Sparkle walked around Scootaloo, examining this new garment from all angles. “It's nice, but, what is it? It’s like… half dress, and half cape.”

Sweetie Belle tumbled the words around in her head, mumbling, “Dress… cape… So it’s a… drape?” Rarity frowned.

Scootaloo tried turning it around. “Capress?”

Caprese,” Fluttershy said, pronouncing it “cuh-PREE-zee.” Everypony in the shop turned to look at her, making her blush and gaze down at the floor. “It’s Italian,” she explained.

“It still needs something,” Rarity pondered aloud. She couldn’t add any gemstones to it—not for Scootaloo, and in any case she had none to spare—so it looked extraordinarily plain for a Rarity creation.

“I know!” Apple Bloom shouted. And then, oddly, she proceeded to jump up on Rarity’s embossed room divider and knock it to the floor.

Fluttershy gasped, “Apple Bloom!” but the filly had already dashed out of the boutique. Running back in with a can of paint in her mouth, she slowly tipped it into the divider.

The other ponies all looked at each other, and Fluttershy repeated, “Apple Bloom?” This was just weird. The youngest of the Apple family had always been a little odd, but this was incomprehensible. Nopony could figure out what she was doing. Had she lost her marbles?

The silver paint flowed neatly through the channels of Rarity’s embossed logo. Once the entire logo was filled with paint, Apple Bloom stopped pouring and asked Scootaloo to give her the new garment. Carefully laying it flat on the divider, she then closed the other section on top, making a sort of sandwich. Finally, she stamped down hard on top of it, pounding her hooves evenly across the entire surface.

Twilight decided this had gone on far enough. “All right, young—”

Apple Bloom opened her jerry-rigged contraption and showed the result. Rarity’s logo was now printed on the back, in glittering silvery lines. Scootaloo pulled it on and posed for everypony.

“Ooooooo,” they all cooed together.

“I want a caprese!” Sweetie Belle shouted.

“I want a caprese too!” Apple Bloom demanded, refusing to be left out.

Rarity sensed an opportunity. “All right. If I make capreses for both of you, will you play outside for the rest of the day and not interrupt me any more?”

“Yes, Miss Rarity.”

Two more sets of fabric scraps, a couple passes with the sewing machine, and a run through Apple Bloom’s…whatever it was, and they were done before the little foals had a chance to change their mind. Really, these things were too easy to make. “Now, shoo!” she said, practically pushing them out of the boutique.

Before they got to the door, Rarity stopped short, feeling her hoof step in something cold and wet. She was standing on the divider Apple Bloom had covered with paint, and now her left front hoof had a silver ring painted on it. Shaking her head—those children could drive anypony to distraction—she magicked a fabric scrap over to wipe clean her poni-pedi, standing on three hooves. The divider itself was unsalvageable; she had to cart it out to be picked up with the rest of the trash the Crusaders had left on her front porch.

Sanity having been restored[a][b], Rarity was able to get her real work done. The designs for the Fall Fashion Festival were nearly ready, and good thing, too, because the Festival judges were coming over tomorrow afternoon.

It was so quiet, in fact, that Rarity had forgotten Twilight was still here. Her unicorn friend was looking out the window, watching her sister’s friends playing. “What are they up to now?” Rarity asked.

The fillies were attacking a hedge, denuding it of its leaves. “I think they’re trying for cutie marks in… shrubbery destruction?” Twilight looked back at Rarity and gave her a “what can you do?” kind of look as Rarity joined her at the window. The Crusaders all still had their capreses on, each one boldly marked with her logo, pointing right back at her own shop. Each outfit was its own little advertisement, but it advertised the opposite of what she wanted Carousel Boutique to stand for.

“Those caprese things you designed really are kind of nifty.”

Rarity gave her mane a little toss. “Oh, please, dear. There’s hardly any flair in there at all.” She walked over to the nearly complete formal gown that was going to win her a spot in the Fashion Festival. “Now this—this is a Rarity design.” She caressed the pleated fabric, proud of her design, and justifiably so.

“You know the Fall Fashion Festival is coming here to judge my Carousel Boutique, right?”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “You’ve only mentioned it forty-three times. Why don’t you simply show them the dresses you made for the Gala?”

Rarity laughed at the suggestion. “Twilight darling, fashion is all about the new. To be a top designer, one must deliver a new look every season. If I repeat myself, everypony will know I’ve run out of ideas.

Not every designer can present at the Festival, you know. A Review Committee is coming here tomorrow to interview me, and I must have an entirely new line for them to evaluate. Only if I pass the review will I be admitted, and be able to launch this fabulous new line. Clotheshorse magazine will have a full issue dedicated to the Festival, so it’s the perfect place to show everypony my latest designs.”

Even in its incomplete state, Twilight could appreciate the shape of Rarity’s new dress and how it would move and flow as its owner walked. But then she looked back again out the window, at the three little fillies playing their games and wearing their capreses. They weren’t studded with gems, they weren’t overflowing with silk or chenille, they didn’t even have any buttons or fastenings. And yet, there was something of Rarity’s special talent in them, as well. Twilight looked back at her designer friend, who was now taking out and readjusting a seam on the new dress. Rarity knew more about couture than she could ever learn from the books in her library. If she said the caprese wasn’t something to be proud of, she must be right.

There were other ways she could help, though. The Crusaders had left the front of Rarity’s boutique in a frightful state, and Twilight bet she could find a spell that would fix that. A short research expedition to her library was called for. Magic she could handle; for fashion, Twilight had to trust Rarity’s instincts.

Rarity was soon lost again in fabric and thread. Everything was coming together nicely. But the capreses still nagged at her. It wouldn’t do to have them around for the Festival evaluation. “Twilight, darling, would you mind collecting those caprese things from the children, when they’re done playing?”

But Twilight wasn’t in the shop. She must not have wanted to bother me while I finished up, Rarity thought. I’ll tell the children as soon as I finish this next one.

The hours flew by as Rarity lost herself in her work. Not only were there dresses to design and finish, but she also had to make sure her whole shop was in perfect condition. The Review Committee would take everything into consideration.

The ringing bell over her front door alerted her to a new customer. “Welcome to Carousel Boutique!” she called out, looking up from her sewing. Browsing her displays were two pegasus ponies in light and dark blue, a mother and daughter. Rarity eyed their outfits—not bad, although the mother’s hat was a little tacky—as she reviewed her current inventory to find apparel they might like. “Oooh! I have the most darling set of matching ensembles in stock, would you like to try them on?”

The younger filly was scanning rapidly through the racks, searching for something. “I don’t see it, mama,” she said, turning to her mother with a frustrated look.

The dark blue pegasus—her flank was marked with a pair of hearts—smiled at her daughter and turned to Rarity. “We’re looking for a caprese…?”

The sewing machine lurched and growled as Rarity nearly sewed her own hoof into the fabric. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I heard you correctly?”

“A caprese,” the customer repeated, adding emphasis. “My daughter saw one of her friends wearing one, it was…”

“Apple Bloom,” the filly filled in for her Mom.

“Yes, Apple Bloom,” she continued. “Anyway, it was the most adorable little thing, so unique, and I recognized your logo on the back and so I thought, I’ll just pop over here and get one for my little Amethyst.” The young filly bounced up and down, her eyes bright with the promise of a new outfit. “Do you have them on display?”

Rarity shoved a rack of dresses in front of the customer and started tossing outfits at them. Perhaps if she showed them some real couture they’d forget about the caprese. “Why would you want a boring old caprese when you could have one of these? Look! It's a matching ensemble, mother and daughter! You would be so cute!”

Indeed, the outfits Rarity had selected were quite dazzling, thick with ruffled layers and encrusted with glittering gems. But the pegasus mother became apprehensive, shook her head and backed away. As more and more outfits started to fly in circles around her she started to panic. “We… we were just looking for the caprese…?”

The flying dresses all collapsed to the floor in heaps. “Madam, at the Carousel Boutique we stock only the latest in high fashion. The most glamorous, most chic, most fashionable outfits in all Equestria. That caprese you happened to see—it wasn’t exactly authorized…”

By now her customer was herding her daughter toward the exit. Who would buy anything from a shop with a crazed owner like this? “We’ll be back later!” she lied, as she pushed her filly out the door.

Rarity could only stare at the retreating customers, a confusing mix of anger and outrage building inside her. She couldn't concentrate, couldn't think, and she was in no state to prepare properly for her upcoming Fashion review. Peevishly, she yelled through the closed door, “And your hat is ugly, too!”

• • •

With her lasso[c][d] tight in her teeth, Applejack strained hard, her every muscle pulling, from the top of her neck to her hooves braced firmly in the dirt. She took one step back, and another, and then—pop!—the old tree stump finally came free from the ground, showering her with dirt. The dirt only made her smile wider; overall, a job well done. That was the last stump to be cleared in the whole top forty acres.

As the afternoon sun climbed higher in the sky, the palomino’s withers were starting to show the first sheen of sweat. Applejack decided it was time for a drink and a short break.

Besides, Rarity had been standing off by the water station for some time now, probably looking for a way to get closer without getting her hooves dirty. There wasn’t any way that was going to happen, so she might as well head over to see what the fashionista had to say.

The water in the trough was cool and refreshing. The workhorse took a deep breath, dunked her whole head in, and held it there as long as she could before coming up for air and letting the cool water course down her neck and back. “Afternoon, Rarity. Come to help with the tilling?” Applejack chuckled at her own joke. The pristine white unicorn was dressed in a sun hat and veil—not exactly the kind of outfit a pony would wear for farm work.

“Good afternoon, Applejack. Actually I’m out looking for Apple Bloom. Have you seen her today?”

“Apple Bloom, huh? Her and her friends stopped by their clubhouse maybe an hour ago. You ain’t seen Sweetie Belle either, I take it?”  Applejack replaced her cavalry crease hat and tied her mane back up. She was tempted to shake the excess water off and “accidentally” splatter Rarity, just to get a rise out of her. But she had work to get back to. “What sort of shenanigans have they got mixed up in this time?”

Rarity flashed a smile. “Nothing serious, really. It’s just—she’s wearing a design of mine—”

“Oh yeah! She took a right shine to it!” The water drained from her mane as she twisted it, squeezing it dry. “All her friends were wearing their capreses.”

“The thing is, I had a few customers—wait, you say she was still wearing it?” Applejack nodded, and Rarity sighed and closed her eyes for a moment, trying to regain her calm. Did those children ever change their clothes? “The thing is, it has my logo on it, and ponies will assume I’m the one who made it.”

“But you did make it, didn’t ya?”

Rarity paused to think of a way to phrase this delicately. “I suppose I did. But I’d rather not make any more of them. All these ponies keep coming to my boutique and asking for these caprese things, and with my Fashion review coming up it’s become something of a distraction.”

“These caprese things are pretty popular, eh?” Applejack had finished tying up her mane, and seemed more interested in the conversation now. “The ponies are lining up to buy them?”

“I don’t want them lining up outside my store, making it look like I run some sort of factory outlet. The longer those children are running about, flaunting their capreses, the bigger the problem will be. Really, Applejack, do you have any idea where they might be?”

Her mane was now almost completely dry. It wouldn’t hurt to put off the rest of the day’s planting a bit. “I did overhear some of their plans earlier, when they were up in that clubhouse of theirs. I reckon I can lead ya to ‘em.”

• • •

“Sweetie Belle, are you in there?”

The unicorn filly froze in the middle of her pogo stick practice; her older sister was using that tone that felt like getting jabbed by her horn. “I think we’re in trouble, girls.”

“Maybe we should have done this somewhere else,” Scootaloo said, looking around. In truth, Ponyville’s fine china shop was probably not the best place for such activity, even if it had cool things to jump over and its owner was away. She set the stick on the tiled floor, and then slyly slid it under a counter. “None of us saw anything, got it?”

“But we didn’t break nothin’!” Apple Bloom said, peeking over the bottom of the window sill to spy. “Aw, nuts. Applejack’s there too. Do you think they found out about the barber shop?”

Scootaloo pouted. “I don’t see what the big deal was. Their manes will grow back!” But whatever it was, they figured they had to have done something wrong. Reluctantly, they filed out of the store.

But Rarity wasn’t interested in pogo crashes, hairstyling mishaps, or any of today's adventures. Her only concern was what was on their backs. Applejack grabbed Apple Bloom’s caprese and pulled it up over her head. Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo’s capreses were captured in a purple sparkling glow and disappeared inside Rarity’s saddlebags.

The crusaders looked at each other in confusion. They had only just got their capreses this morning, and they had to give them back already? “What’s the big deal, Sis?”

Rarity paused a moment before answering. The whole story was too complicated for her kid sister and friends. She needed an explanation they would understand. “I just… need to make a few adjustments to them.” The Festival appraisal would be tomorrow; after that she would have time to deal with this properly. “I’ll get them back to you in a couple days, all right?”

That seemed to satisfy them; they were all smiling at the thought of new, improved capreses. “Hey,” Sweetie Belle asked, “do you want to see what we can do with a pogo stick?”

Their attention span couldn’t be more than ten minutes at best. Shaking her head, Rarity begged off. “I’m sorry, dearies. Still have so much work to do! And I’ll need to get started right away on your new outfits.” But from inside the shop, Rarity heard Scootaloo say, "All right, Sweetie Belle. This time, you're going to bounce from the counter, over this display, and land on this chair here, got it?" The Crusaders were already back at play.

Applejack held her sister’s caprese in one hoof, turning it this way and that, looking at it quizzically. “What do you want me to do with this, Rarity?”

“Toss it, burn it, bury it—I don’t care!” A gust of wind tugged at Rarity’s hat; she pulled it down tightly on her head. “As long as she isn’t telling ponies they can buy that sort of thing at my boutique.”

That seemed to satisfy the work pony. “Consider it done.”

And that was that. Rarity took a deep, restorative breath. This caprese business was finally behind her. She still had plenty of time to prepare for the review judges. The Fall Fashion Festival was going to be wonderful, it would be her moment in the sun as she launched yet another fabulous fashion line. All of Equestria would know Rarity!

Her good mood was soon deflated by the sight of her front door, which was still a paint-splattered mess courtesy of the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Fortunately Twilight had a plan.

“I think I’ve found a new spell which will get your shop back in tip-top shape, Rarity,” she said as they walked in together. “The only problem is, it needs sunlight, and it’s getting a little late. I can do it first thing tomorrow morning, though!”

That should be soon enough, Rarity thought. The Review Committee wouldn’t arrive until after noon. “You’re a lifesaver, Twilight. I don’t know what I’d do—”

Her door bell rang to announce the arrival of a new customer. Turning to greet him, Rarity said, “Hello, sir. Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where everything you’ll—oh! Button Down!”

This new pony was dressed much more stylishly than the typical Ponyville resident. His chestnut mane was parted down one side, forming a cascade of waves down his neck; his flank was marked with a button triad. He was wearing buttoned cuffs on his front hooves (accented with silver cuff links), and a skinny silk tie knotted under a buttoned collar. He stood about two hands taller than Twilight and Rarity, looking down at them as he browsed through Rarity’s displays. Obviously he wasn’t looking to purchase anything for himself, but he reviewed each dress with a critical designer’s eye. These were the dresses that Rarity had used every last gem to finish—and with her gem supply apparently dried up, she had put everything she had into these outfits.

“Mr. Button Down, it is quite the honor to have you visit my little boutique!” Rarity turned to Twilight, introducing her. “Twilight, this is Button Down, one of the best new designers from Manehattan. He’s applied for the Fall Fashion Festival as well.”

Button Down smiled at the ponies, nodding his head. “In fact, I’ve already been accepted,” he informed Rarity. He never believed it could be otherwise.

Rarity whisked over glasses of bubbly punch for everypony. “Then I believe congratulations are in order!“ She hovered over him, looking over his shoulder and trying to glean which of her outfits he approved of. “The evaluation committee is visiting my little boutique tomorrow,” she said, batting her eyes. “Would you care to tell me what sort of questions they asked you?”

Twilight set her glass down without drinking. “What brings you to Ponyville, Mr. Button Down?”

“I do try to visit the countryside every so often. The rustic air does wonders for the constitution. Almost makes up for the lack of civil niceties. I wonder how a pony can survive out here, sometimes.”

Twilight chuckled. “Oh, I thought the same way at first, when I arrived here.” Button Down turned to look at Twilight for a moment, then resumed browsing Rarity’s offerings. “You’ll soon realize how nice it can be. Every pony is so friendly!”

Button Down never stopped for more than a few seconds over any one item of clothing. In just a few minutes, he had taken in the entire store without finding a single item that met his approval. Rarity hovered wordlessly behind him the whole time, too polite to interrupt. Eventually, the tension grew too much and she had to say something. “Are there any questions you might have?” She gave him her most solicitous smile. “I’d be happy to answer them.”

The colt slowly looked up from a hat display. “There is one thing I simply cannot understand: Why in Equestria would the Fall Fashion Festival want to consider a hack designer like you?”

The smile froze on Rarity’s face. “Excuse me?”

“I can’t believe I might have to display my own line next to yours. It’s a travesty, that I would have to share space with some filly from Ponyville.”

“Hey!” Twilight barged in. “Rarity is my friend! And she’s a great designer!”

That earned a smirk from Button Down. “I suppose by your limited standards, she’s a genius.” He browsed contemptuously through the last rack. “But clearly she doesn’t understand current fashion trends.”

“I’ll have you know my designs have been worn in Canterlot!” Rarity said, her voice rising.

“By whom, your friends?” That hit the mark, and Rarity and Twilight’s expressions showed it. “You may be a big fish in a small pond, here. But let me give you some advice. Don’t play with the big boys. You’ll only get hurt.”

Twilight looked back and forth between Rarity and this interloper. She expected Rarity to say something, to come back with a witty retort, to defend herself in some way. But something had broken inside her. She meekly hung her head, as Button Down left the boutique, smirking. It made Twilight angry, seeing Rarity like that. “Rarity! Snap out of it! What’s wrong with you?”

“It’s this whole caprese business,” she explained. “Ponies are starting to talk about it. And if word gets out, then… then he’s right. Then I am just a hack. They’re plain and ugly and—utilitarian!” She couldn’t think of anything worse to say about one of her designs. It made her shudder. “I never should have made them.”

“You have them back, right?” Twilight asked, and Rarity nodded. “I’m sure there weren’t many ponies who saw them. You’ve got to think positive! Tomorrow morning, I’ll have your shop front looking fabulous, everypony will have forgotten about the capreses, and you’ll get into the Festival for sure!”

Twilight’s optimism was so forceful that Rarity felt her old confidence returning. “Look at me, carrying on like this! You’re absolutely right, Twilight. That Button Down doesn’t know the first thing about fashion.”

“That’s the Rarity I know. Get a good night’s sleep. I’ll see you first thing tomorrow.”

Morning dawned. This was the big day.

It was as if Celestia herself had set the sun in just the right place to stream perfectly through her window, sending its rays to the canopied bed where Rarity slept, to dance across her face and wake her with their gentle warmth. Opening her eyes, she yawned and stretched, filling with excitement and anticipation.

She hopped out of bed to start her morning routine. Brushing the mane and tail. Curlers. Moisturizer for the face. Polish for the horn and hooves. Ordinarily it took Rarity a good hour just to make herself presentable—today’s exhibition called for additional, special treatment.

She studied her reflection in the vanity mirror as she worked through the one hundred brush strokes for her mane. It was around stroke eighty-four that she froze, catching something out of the corner of her eye, out the bedroom window.

It couldn’t be.

Her spell faltered and the hairbrush clattered to the floor. Her mane still a frightful mess, Rarity ran to the front door and peeked outside.

Ponies chatted across the street. Some ponies were enjoying an early breakfast at the café. A few were running errands, here to pick up supplies from the general store, or to drop off goods from the farms on the outskirts of town.

There were boy ponies and girl ponies, colts and fillies, unicorns and pegasi and earth ponies. Ponies in all the colors of the rainbow.

And every last one was wearing a caprese, her glittering logo on every back.

It was her worst nightmare. Whirling around, she slammed the door shut and backed up against it, barricading it closed. Maybe it was a nightmare. Maybe she was still asleep in bed, about to wake up.

Harsh reality crashed into Rarity in the form of Rainbow Dash, flying into her door full force, slamming it open. “Rarity! These caprese things are totally cool!”

Rainbow turned this way and that, for once in her life eager to model clothing designed by Rarity. Ironically, this was the one ensemble Rarity didn’t want Rainbow to wear. “Rainbow Dash, I don’t think—“

“Look,” the multihued pegasus said. “It’s not all flowy like a dress, so you can actually wear it while flying!” She demonstrated with a few quick passes, scattering fabric samples in the process.

Rarity tried again. “Rainbow Dash. I’m asking you not to—“

“But it’s not all constrictive like the flightsuits the Wonderbolts use!” she continued. “Have you ever tried to get into one of those? Takes forever! Not to mention it’s all itchy. How do they stand it all day?”

Rarity raised her voice a little. “Rainbow Dash, if you please—“

“Plus it’s got style! Sometimes you wanna stand out a little, you know what I mean?”


Rainbow finally noticed Rarity was trying to talk to her. “Rarity? I really like your… ah…” The boisterous pegasus finally wilted under Rarity’s glare.

“It’s not my caprese, and I’d appreciate it if you took it off.”

Rainbow turned around to look at the Rarity logo on her back. “It’s not yours? But I thought—”

Rarity ran around her shop, pulling curtains shut. What if somepony saw that caprese, inside her boutique? Once she was safe from outside eyes, she turned to Rainbow and magicked the caprese right off her back.

Rainbow sat back on her haunches. The depth of her friend’s distress had finally penetrated. Rainbow Dash wasn’t the most sensitive pony, but if her friends were in trouble, she was there to help. “I don’t get it, Rarity. What’s wrong?”

Rarity wasn’t in the mood for long discussions. “You know I have the Fall Fashion Festival judges visiting today. This is not something I want them to see.”

“But it’s really cool, Rarity! I think—” Rarity was glaring again. “I think I’ll shut up now.”

Rarity stared at the caprese in disbelief. It was an exact duplicate of the design she had made yesterday, right down to the logo on the back. She even took out a square of tailor’s chalk and marked the proportions to be sure. “Rainbow Dash, where did you get this?”

“But… I thought you knew. Applejack’s selling them.

With neat, efficient strokes, the paintbrush danced on its own across the shopfront, creating clean white lines on the facade which had been marred with gouges and paint drippings. Below, Twilight Sparkle checked back and forth between the shop in reality and the drawing she had in front of her. In one—literal—stroke, she was helping Rarity, while at the same time challenging herself with a bit of complex spellcraft, adapting a Spell of Similarity to make the actual Carousel Boutique match the pristine version of her sketch.

“Your Boutique is picture-perfect and ready for your photo shoot, Rarity!” Twilight looked inside to see if Rarity needed help cleaning up after Rainbow Dash. “You can’t even tell the Cutie Mark Crusaders were ever here.”

Rarity nodded without looking up, still somewhat in shock that her friend Applejack could betray her like this. “Thank you so much, Twilight. I…” and then she trailed off, staring at the purple unicorn.

Twilight was wearing a caprese.

Oblivious, Twilight continued. “My spell worked perfectly! Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen your shop looking this good. It’s even…”

Rarity didn’t move, or say anything. Her tailor’s chalk spun slowly in mid-air as she just kept looking at Twilight, her stare growing cold and hard.

Finally, it dawned on Twilight that it was somewhat inappropriate to wear a caprese inside Rarity’s shop. “Oh, this…” she said, faking a look of surprise, as if it had somehow wrapped itself around her torso. “I managed to get one at Applejack’s…” Rarity’s stony silence pressed harder and harder on her. “I don’t usually… but everypony was…”

With a loud crack, the block of chalk snapped in two.

“How about I take it off?” she said, and with a small nervous laugh she magicked it out the door.

Rarity let out a soul-shattering wail and collapsed to the floor. “How is Applejack… what… why…” Twilight and Rainbow exchanged glances. “I have to stop this nonsense.” She went to her personal closet and began tossing outfits left and right, trying to find something to wear. “How can I even show my face in public? I’ll have to wear a disguise.”

Twilight inched a little closer to Rarity. “Nopony hates you for it. Even without the gems, it’s still a great design.”

“It’s not me, Twilight. It’s not Rarity. It’s not what I am known for, what I want to be known for.” She finally found a long cloak with a hood. “I have an image to maintain. That’s how the world of couture works.”

“I guess I understand,” said Twilight, who really didn’t understand at all.

Disguised underneath her poncho, Rarity took a deep breath to steel herself and cautiously opened her front door. “I’m going to see Applejack,” she said. “If I’m not back in an hour, you’ll know it’s possible for a pony to die of embarrassment.”

It was the ugliest outfit she had, but all the better to disguise herself with. Her glorious mane was covered under a hood, and her tail she kept tucked under the low cape. Incognito, she ventured out to survey how bad the damage was.

Merely navigating the streets of Ponyville was a trial in itself. She avoided ponies chatting, ponies gardening, ponies selling wares out of their shops, because all of them, every last one, was wearing a caprese. Rarity despaired of finding a single pony with the good taste not to get caught in this fashion behemoth she had unwittingly released.

Finally she spotted two ponies not wearing the dreaded caprese. But it was Button Down, with Khaki Casual, another Manehattan designer who had already been in the Festival last year. Of course they would have the fashion sense not to fall in with this herd. As Rarity cautiously approached the pair, she overheard a snippet of conversation that stopped her cold.

“I know,” Khaki was saying, “isn’t it just awful?”

“I remember when a Rarity design meant something.”

“It still means something. It means ‘I’m common and cheap!’” They shared a laugh, and Rarity pulled the strings on her hoodie tighter.

“It’s such a shame when a designer sells out like that,” Button Down said sarcastically.

“The fashion world is full of poseurs, dear. Some ponies are in it just for the money.”

Rarity had heard enough. No longer caring who might see her, she took off at a gallop towards Sweet Apple Acres. “I’m ruined!” she cried, “Utterly ruined!”

The place was mobbed. Applejack’s farm, usually an open space where a pony could run freely, today was filled with ponies packed so tight you couldn’t walk two paces without brushing up against somepony.

At the center of the throng, like horse apples surrounded with a swarm of flies, sat Applejack’s barn. Above the barn was a new sign sporting freshly-painted letters in a shaky script:

Capreses 25 bits

Or, 20 bits with purchase

of 1 bushel apples

Ignoring the rude remarks she caused, Rarity pushed her way to the front of the herd. There wasn’t much of a line—just a huge mass of pony flesh all trying to crowd together to the same spot. Armed with the force of her own indignation, she barged through and, reaching the front of the barn, spotted Apple Bloom at the counter.

“Hi, Rarity!” she called out. “How are you—hey wait, where’re you going?”

Rarity jumped the half-door, landing behind the filly inside the dark barn. Her eyes took a moment to adjust, and what she saw made her heart sink.

Sweetie Belle and a dozen of her school friends were cutting out caprese designs from bolts of cloth. Apple Bloom’s caprese had been taken apart and used as a pattern to create new cutouts for new capreses; the individual patterns themselves were simple enough for the children to replicate. These were then picked up by Scootaloo on her scooter and dropped off at the next station, where more fillies stitched them together to their final shape. At the last station, Apple Bloom’s printing contraption stamped them with Rarity’s glittering logo. She thought that thing had been tossed in the rubbish.

“You like the setup?” Applejack trotted up beside her, clearly proud of herself. “We got it humming like a gravy train on biscuit wheels. These caprese things are the best idea you’ve had since… well, ever!”

Rarity couldn’t believe what she was seeing. “You’re mass-producing capreses? And you’re doing it with… child labor?

Applejack winced and glanced around quickly to make sure nopony had overheard that. “C’mon over here,” she motioned as she led Rarity to a back corner of the barn. “Lemme let ya in on a little secret.” Applejack moved closer to the unicorn, gave another look around to make sure nopony was eavesdropping, and whispered, These fillies… if you tell ‘em there’s a chance they could earn their cutie marks, they’ll do anything[e] for ya!”

But instead of being grateful for the advice, Rarity stamped her hooves and shouted in frustration. “I can’t believe you would do this to me! You took Apple Bloom’s caprese and copied it?”

“It’s what you wanted, ain’t it? Now none of these ponies are gonna bother you at your little boutique. They can get all their capreses right here! They’re selling like hotcakes, too!”

“I wanted you to destroy that horrid caprese!”

“You said you didn’t care what I did with it.”

“I didn’t mean you could do this!”

Work in the converted barn had stopped as a dozen pairs of eyes turned to watch the two ponies arguing. Applejack noticed the silence and realized she needed to find yet another spot for this chat, so she herded Rarity out the barn’s back door and closed it behind them.

“Now Rarity, I’ve been selling capreses by the barrel and I don’t think—”

“Do you think the Fashion Festival judges award space to anypony who slaps a bit of paint on some fabric and gives it a fancy name? I’ve spent weeks designing a special line just for this one review, and if they’re upstaged by those unfabulous, ugly caprese things…”

“They ain’t ugly, they’re just different! If they’re so gosh darn awful, why do you think all these ponies want to buy them?”

Rarity let out a long breath. “Applejack, my reputation as a designer is on the line. Please, I’m asking you, please, shut this down.”

The earth pony looked into the unicorn’s eyes and saw something there, a measure of hurt and pain, and it melted away all her arguments. “You’re sure about that?” Rarity nodded. “All right then. If it means that much to ya.”

As Rarity left Applejack’s ranch, she heard in the distance a great moaning, as dozens of ponies all felt the disappointment of Ponyville’s only caprese store closing, and it lifted her spirits. It wasn’t their distress she celebrated, but she knew it meant that nopony was making those horrid things any more, and she could have her Festival review in peace.

She’d have to explain away any capreses in Ponyville. But at least there weren’t any more of them being made. With a bit of luck, by the time the Festival judges came by, the ponies already wearing them would disperse, unnoticed. The whole fad would quickly die out.

• • •

“Welcome to Carousel Boutique! Where everything is chic, unique, and très magnifique!

The review committee from the Fashion Festival was due any moment now, and Rarity was practicing lines, trying to find the perfect welcome to make the perfect start to a perfect interview.

“Hmm.. That’s a little too commercial. What about ‘You’ve finally arrived! Carousel Boutique welcomes you to the finest fashions in Ponyville!’”

Still not quite right. Pacing from one side of her shop to the other, she spied a piece of fabric out of place, crumpled on the floor. That wouldn’t do, not at all. Picking it up, she realized it was the caprese she had confiscated from Rainbow Dash. Good thing she found it—it would have been disastrous if the committee had noticed it. She would have to stash it in a closet.

“She’s got capreses!”

With a start, Rarity looked outside her window. A small crowd of ponies had gathered outside, and through the window they could see Rainbow’s caprese. “No, no!” she shouted. “You can’t buy this here! Go away!”

As a small herd of ponies converged on her boutique, Rarity realized her error. She had cut off the caprese supply, but she never could change the insatiable demand. Ponyville was now filled with ponies who wanted to buy a caprese, but had nowhere to get one. Until now.

The crowd quickly grew. She barricaded the door to prevent them from getting inside, but that only made them madder.

“You can’t buy those anywhere—it’s not fair for you to hoard them!”

“I’ll pay anything for it! Take my money!

In a panic, Rarity looked around for something, anything, to calm and disperse this crowd.

“We want capreses! We want capreses!” The crowd was chanting now, and the noise was drawing even more ponies. Already they were starting to kick at her front door, threatening to burst it open.

Rarity rushed to her window, opened it, and tossed out Rainbow’s caprese, along with the two she had confiscated from Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo. “Take these! They’re all I’ve got!”

Instead of satisfying them, the mob of ponies became frenzied as they fought for the precious capreses. “You just want to resell it on eBray!” one unicorn complained, playing caprese tug-of-war with a rival pegasus. From the safety of her shop window, Rarity stared, open-mouthed, at the vulgar display on her doorstep.

And then she looked up. Just past the mob, blocked by that mass of sale-crazed consumers, were the Fall Fashion Festival judges, who looked just as shocked and disgusted as Rarity was.

Trying to put a good face on things, she laughed and waved from her window. “Er, hello!” she called out. “Do you want to, maybe, come around back?”

One of the judges—she thought it was the interviewer—just shook her head in wonderment. They couldn’t hear Rarity over the din of the crowd.

The mad ponies in front of her boutique fought on.

The Festival pony representatives reached a decision and finished their conference. “Are you having a remnant sale or something? We can come back later!” they called back.

“No!” Rarity yelled, trying to be heard. But they had already turned around. “When will you be back?”

The interviewer pony said something Rarity couldn’t make out, but it made the other judges laugh.

Effectively barricaded inside her boutique, all Rarity could do was watch them walk away.

Rarity kept trying, even up to the very day of the Festival itself, but all of her messages went unanswered. The prestigious Fall Fashion Festival went on without her.

“You can try again next year,” Twilight said, trying to cheer up her friend.

“Yes, next year,” Rarity replied, her voice flat. Next year was impossibly far away.

Trying a different tactic, Twilight said, “I know, Rarity! Why don’t you design a new dress for me? You can make it bold and glittering and I’ll wear it next time I visit Princess Celestia!”

“Oh, Twilight,” Rarity sighed. “I couldn’t design a new dress even if I wanted to. I’m all out of gems. My fields aren’t producing them any more. I don’t know why.”

“I’m sure you could find another spot to hunt gems?” But Rarity merely lifted her head, sighed theatrically again, and rested her chin on her workbench, staring off into space. She had lost something, some inner spark, and that worried Twilight. “Come on, Rarity!” she said, giving her a poke with her horn. “Let’s get outside. It’s a beautiful day, a perfect day to go gem hunting.”

“I don’t know,” she said as Twilight herded her out her door. “Perhaps tomorrow…” She stopped, looking down at her doorstep.

The morning mail had arrived, with the latest issue of Clotheshorse—the issue with the Fashion Festival feature article. Twilight noticed it too, but she wasn’t fast enough to stop Rarity from grabbing it and running back into her shop to flip through the pages. “Rarity, maybe it’s not such a good idea to…”

But she was already scanning the feature article. Page after page showcasing “the most exclusive designers in Equestria.” Twilight glanced down at it with trepidation, but then, recognizing one of Rarity’s dresses, her face lit up and she laughed. “Rarity! They did include your designs! Look! Isn’t it wonderful?”

For some reason, Rarity didn’t share Twilight’s delight. The white unicorn seemed instead to be shaking with barely contained rage. Confused, Twilight scanned the article again, until she finally saw what had made her friend so upset.

It was Rarity’s design all right. But underneath was the caption, “Designed by Button Down.”

“I’ve travelled all the way from Ponyville and I will see Mr Button Down. Now.”

The secretary didn’t seem all that impressed. “Ponyville? Must have been a very long trip.”

Rarity gave her a stare that threatened to melt her headset. “I will not be dismissed so—”

But the door to Button Down’s office opened, and the colt himself appeared. “It’s all right, Pintucks,” he said to the secretary, as he ushered Rarity into his personal office. “This won’t take long.”

Onto his desk Rarity threw down the incriminating issue of Clotheshorse, open to the page with her designs. Her designs, and his name. “Do you care to explain yourself? This.. This isn’t just plagiarism. This is criminal! Have you no shame? No decency?”

“Rarity, dear. Welcome to the world of high fashion.”

“I cannot believe anypony would stoop so low. To copy my designs so blatantly!”

“Well, darling, it isn’t as if you were going to make them yourself.”

Rarity stared at him, her mouth agape.

“I mean, all you do now is cheap sweatshirts and dollar discount fashion.”

“That is not true and you know it.”

“Oh, I know it. And I think you know it too. Every pony in Equestria knows it.”

Rarity reared up and thudded her front hooves down on his desk. “You take that back!”

Button Down merely smiled. He so loved pushing her buttons. “The truth hurts, doesn’t it? Face it, Rarity. You’re a has-been. Yesterday’s news. Old fashioned.”

“My designs are at the leading edge of high fashion. You are nothing more than a morally bankrupt thief!”

Oh, your designs are very good. That’s why I stole them, of course. But tell me, little pony, how are you going to create more dresses when you can’t get any more gems?

That froze Rarity mid-rant. “How… how do you know…?”

He shrugged. “I know that you can’t get gems out of your gem fields because I’ve been taking them all for myself! For weeks I’ve had teams of earth ponies combing that land, digging up the gems before you could find them. And you never realized it. You’re not a very smart little pony, are you?”

That was why she couldn’t find gems? “You… you’ve been trying to ruin me all this time?”

“You are the competition, my dear. Although I must admit, I didn’t see this caprese business coming. You’ve been quite helpful in destroying your own reputation.”

Rarity fought to control her rising anger. “This will not stand, sir. You will not make your name in this industry by using such shenanigans.”

Button Down gave her a dismissive laugh. “What can you do? I’ve copied all your designs. If you try to show them now, everypony will say you’re the one copying me. And even if you wanted to, you don’t have the gems to make new designs anyway.”

“There are other gem fields. Just across the Delamare River I can mine enough gems to last years.”

That prompted a frown. “I can have my crew strip gems from any area faster than you can find them,” he growled. “Give up, little pony. Go back to Ponyville. You’ve lost.”

Rarity locked gazes with her nemesis, determined not to display a trace of emotion. She turned to make her dramatic exit, but before she could slam the door closed, Button Down taunted her with one last bit of advice. “By the way, Rarity, you might want to consider a dye job. Purple is so last season.”

On the long train ride back to Ponyville Rarity had plenty of time to consider her situation. What Button Down had said was true. She couldn’t market any of her existing designs. Her gem supply was exhausted, and she now had no source of those rubies and emeralds that powered her every creation. He had taken everything from her. But she refused to concede.

Rarity’s cutie mark was the triple diamond. The first diamond represented the gemstone itself. Glittering gems were a part of her every creation. The second diamond represented the finest things in life. Her designs were special. The crème de la crème. The most deluxe of luxuries. But the third diamond—that was the most important. The third diamond represented Rarity’s inner strength. It resided at the center of this unicorn’s soul. When everything else was taken away, this diamond core would always remain intact.

Did Button Down think he could crush her? He should have known you can’t crush a diamond.

“Are you sure about this, Miss Rarity?”

She was more sure of it than she had ever been sure of anything her whole life. “For the tenth time, Spike: Yes, I am sure. Do it!”

The Carousel Boutique had been stripped to the floor. Pony mannequins, bolts of cloth, sewing machines, racks and displays to showcase clothing ensembles: all of these Rarity had shoved aside, clearing a large space in the middle. That center space was piled high with every dress that had previously been on display in the boutique. Dresses that had once been carefully hung, artfully displayed, spectacularly presented, were now piled in one rumpled heap on the floor. But not for long.

With one last worried glance at his crush, Spike the dragon took a deep breath… and let loose a giant blast of green flame, instantly incinerating every last one of Rarity’s creations.

Dragon flame burns hot. It only took a moment. Squinting, their eyes adjusting again to the darkness, every pony could see the pile of ash—all that remained from Rarity’s past.

Rarity stepped forward and dug her hoof into the ash pile. Smiling grimly, the little unicorn pulled out a glistening ruby gem.

“Your gems!” Spike said, suddenly understanding. “We can’t dig up gems from the gem fields any more, so you’re recycling these.” Rarity nodded, and Spike eagerly started digging through the ash pile to spare his beloved’s precious white fur from any further indignities. Soon a fountain of gems was streaming out of the ash pile, forming a second, smaller pile to the side.

Rarity’s big azure eyes sparkled with different colors, reflecting the flying gems. Now all I need are some new designs, she thought. But that was the easy part.

It wasn’t until the third knock, loud and insistent, before Rarity realized that the knocks were coming from her front door.

That was odd. It was well past midnight and the boutique was closed. Rarity had been in the zone, cranking out one design after another. Who could be knocking at her door at this late hour? She put down her shears and magicked the door open, calling, “Come in!”

It was Twilight Sparkle, leading, to Rarity’s surprise, a rather shamefaced Applejack. “What can I do for you ladies?”

Twilight looked around the shop, taking in her friend’s activity. “We wanted to apologize for all the trouble we caused you, Rarity.”

Rarity shook her head. “No, no, Twilight. Applejack. It was my own fault, really. I don’t blame you—you’re my friends!”

“It’s not just that,” Twilight continued. “I was doing some research into property rights, and I think Applejack has something to say to you.” She pushed the reluctant earth pony forward.

This was obviously very difficult for her. “I’m sorry I used yer logo without permission. That weren’t right of me….” As she trailed off, Twilight gave her a little kick. “I’m also sorry I used your little sister as slave labor[f],” she added in a very small voice.

Rarity had to giggle at that. “If you ask me, she could use a little character building.”

But it seemed Applejack wasn’t quite done apologizing. At Twilight’s prodding she pulled a large, heavy sack from her saddlebags. It landed on Rarity’s desk with the clinking of lots of bits. “Twilight says by law I oughta share the proceeds with you from all the capreses I sold.” She pushed it forward and it tipped on its side a little, the golden coins spilling out. “So this is yours.”

A tiny frown of distaste appeared on Rarity’s face as she looked down at the offering. Her boutique had never been about the money. She was an artiste after all! She was a designer! Such mundane matters like money and sales were beneath her concern. She was Rarity! She was…

She was being a stubborn old mule, that’s what she was.

Rarity looked up at Applejack and smiled. She took the money. Or she tried to—Applejack was still holding on to the bag of bits. “Thank you, Applejack,” she said as she tried to pry the bag loose from her friend’s grip. “I know how much this means to you…” She wrestled with the bag, trying to get it out from under Applejack’s hoof. “I said, Thank You..!”

“All right, all right,” Applejack said, finally relenting. “Just making sure you were sure, is all.” Letting go of a bag of money like that hurt!

“Well then,” said Twilight. “I’m glad that’s all settled. What are you going to do with all that money, Rarity?”

She had an idea. The photo spread in Clotheshorse magazine was no longer a possibility, but there were other ways to get her designs in print. “I wonder how much ad space these bits will buy…?”

Using her share of the proceeds from Applejack’s caprese sales, Rarity was able to buy every page of ad space in the next issue of Clotheshorse. She filled it with capreses[g][h]. Not just the original, plain design—oh no! Now a pony could purchase a caprese to match any outfit. Rarity designed capreses with diamonds, emeralds, and all the glittering fabulousness she was known for. Some capreses she added trails to, lines to define and accentuate a pony’s curves.

And some she kept to the original design. It wasn’t bad, she had to admit.

By opening day there was such a frenzy of demand that Rarity sold all her stock in under two hours. It was no longer enough to own a single caprese—now a well-dressed pony had to have one in all the available colors. It was positively diabolical.

From Ponyville, from Manehattan, from Fillydelphia, Canterlot and beyond, ponies across Equestria converged on the Carousel Boutique with one goal: to buy a caprese. A giant, thundering, churning herd filled the shop as ponies galloped in and out. And at the center of it all stood Rarity, tall and proud.

Ponies applaud by stamping their hooves in approval. But the sound is the same whether the ponies are standing still, as at a show, or if they are running madly through a fashion boutique. For two glorious hours, all of Equestria was applauding for Rarity.

Afterwards, Twilight Sparkle and Spike looked around the Boutique. Not a single outfit was left—empty hangers were all that remained. Even the display models had been sold. “Gee, Rarity,” Twilight said, “it looks like you’ve started a whole new fashion trend!”

“But of course, darling. I am Rarity, after all.”

It was good to hear her back to her old self.

“There’s one thing I don’t get,” Spike asked. “Button Down can still steal gems from the gem fields. How are you going to make more outfits if you can’t get gems?”

“Oh, I don’t think Button Down will be a problem.” Rarity smiled. “I might have accidentally mentioned to him that there’s an even bigger gem field across Delamare River.”

Spike frowned. “Across the river…? But that’s—”

“Ooooh,” Twilight gasped. “Oh, no, Rarity. You didn’t!”

East of the Delamare River, Button Down paced beside a freshly-dug hole. The wan light of a crescent moon was barely enough for him to check his watch, again. As he snapped it shut his grey colored henchman emerged from the ground, carrying a load of gems in his mouth.

“So that bothersome filly was telling the truth. I’ll have to have an excavation crew out here tomorrow morn—”

A few rocks and pebbles from the edge of the pit started to fall away, causing the hole’s edge to creep closer to where he was standing. Before he could step back to safety, the entire section of ground beneath his hooves gave way, and Button Down screamed in terror as he slid down, down to the caverns below, landing in a most undignified heap.

“Is another pony.” The raspy voice grated on his already frayed nerves.

Button Down got up, squinted into the darkness and demanded, “Who are you?” He tried to sound authoritative but his voice came out as a kind of squeak. The dust from his fall slowly cleared, and he could see tunnels teeming with grotesque creatures, twice as tall as a pony even as they hunched over; strongly built, with oversized paws ending in gnarled claws. He instinctively backed away. “What are you...?”

“We are Diamond Dogs,” the largest one, presumably the leader, said.

“We don’t like the ponies,” added another. All the while the dogs were creeping closer, and before he knew it Button Down was surrounded. Unable to back up further, or turn around, the dogs threw a dirty, rusty harness over his back. “Pony will pull the wagon!”

His skin crawled as they pawed at him. “I most certainly will not! Do you know who I am?”

The lead dog loomed over him, bringing his mangy, ratty face within inches of his own. The rank odor coming from the dog’s decaying teeth made it impossible to breathe. “Pony pulls the wagon!”[i] the lead dog screeched, and smacked Button Down hard on his flank, startling him into taking a step or two.

Throughout the vast maze of underground tunnels, the gleeful cries of the Diamond Dog pack echoed: “Pony pulls the wagon! Pony pulls the wagon!”[j][k][l][m][n][o]

This is my second fanfic. If you liked it, you might want to read my first effort:

Out of Sight, Out of Mind — Twilight Sparkle doesn’t know what to do when she loses Spike in a teleport mishap.

If you want to comment on the story overall, go to the Comments pulldown menu and Show Comment Stream. You can enter a new comment there[p][q].