An MLP: FiM fanfic
CAROUSEL COUTURE IS EXPANDING
Up and coming clothing designer Rarity is opening a new store front in Canterlot!
Come and be a part of the fashion sensation that is sweeping the nation, Carousel Couture by Rarity (as seen in Hoity Toity’s weekly column, “Fashion Feedbag”). This location will provide a prime location for patrons to come and purchase the gowns of their dreams, as well as catalogues for custom orders. In addition, the shop will be fully stocked with all the equipment needed to patch, stitch, repair and restore worn clothing of all kinds.
We are looking for a capable pony with some experience as a seamstress and great customer service skills. Duties will include inventory, tending the register and providing repair services to damaged articles. Positive attitude is a must!
Compensation will be based on store earnings, apply in person at the Carousel Boutique in Ponyville.
Founder, Carousel Couture
Amber Weave looked up from the flyer to the purple door in front of her. She had arrived in Ponyville the night before and thought it better to wait till the next morning before asking about the job. Knowing the duties of a seamstress, last night would have either been sleep time or crunch time. Taking a deep breath, the earth pony lifted a hoof and knocked at the door.
“Come in,” called a melodic voice from inside. Nudging open the door, Amber stepped inside. Within the boutique, an enchanting spread of fabrics, needles, mannequins and equipment greated Amber’s purple eyes. Behind one of the sewing machines sat a white pony with purple locks. Peering up at her from behind red rimmed glasses, the seamstress smiled. “Welcome to Carousel Boutique, I’m Rarity. And what might your name be?”
“I’m Amber Weave, I’m here about the-“
“A pleasure to meet you, Amber Weave. I’m sure I have just the thing for you.” Rarity rushed from behind the sewing table and began to push Amber towards one of the many mirrors. “I simply love your hair, a wonderful shade of orange, and the way it compliments your white coat is simply divine! And your eyes… oh you simply MUST let me design something for you.”
Amber Weave found an opening in the conversation and dove in. “Actually, I was wanting to ask you about-“
“Hush now, Amber,” Rarity tutted. “I am in the zone!” Her horn glowing, Rarity began making all the necessary measurements. Sighing, Amber Weave resigned herself to the designer’s attentions.
After all the measurements were taken and Rarity had selected a color of fabric to form the basis of the dress, Rarity waved Amber away. “I think I have everything I need. I just finished a big order so I should have plenty of time to make you a fantastic piece. It should be ready by tomorrow.”
Amber nodded and smiled appreciatively. “That’s all well and good, miss Rarity, but I didn’t come here for a dress.”
The earth pony held up the flier and Rarity’s eyes widened.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “I had no idea you were interested in…” She looked Amber Weave over with a different, more appraising look. “I’m sorry, but you are an Earth Pony, yes?”
Rarity frowned. “I’m not quite sure how to put this without coming off as terribly rude but you did read the flier, didn’t you?”
Amber nodded. “Yep. Is there a problem?”
“Well, I’m not quite sure how an Earth Pony could manage the dexterity required to be a seamstress. It requires a very delicate touch and,” Rarity’s eyes flicked up to her horn and then back to Amber, “quite frankly I’m not sure how you’ll manage.”
Surveying the shop and its equipment, Amber turned back to the white Unicorn. “I can show you, if you like.”
Curiosity overcoming hesitation, Rarity bobbed her head in agreement and watched Amber go to work. The earth pony walked over the fabrics and made her selection, a black silk. She carefully measured out the amount she needed and picked up a pair of scissors in her mouth. Separating the blades a fraction of an inch, she slid the scissors down the edge of the roll, cutting the fabric neatly.
Lacking any of her usual patterns, Amber decided to take a risk and play this one by memory. She carefully undid one of the saddlebags she had brought with her and withdrew a razor. Using its single edge, she carefully made her incisions. Casting aside the extra material, the Earth Pony inspected her work and nodded approvingly. The sewing machine was the easy part. She kneaded the fabric under and past the needle with a deft hoof. Taking needle in mouth, she made the final few adjustments to her trial piece. It had taken more than a few hours, but the final product was satisfactory.
Looking up, Amber found Rarity hovering nearby with an intent look on her face. Motioning her over, Amber smiled. “Would you like to try it on?”
“Will it fit?”
“I read the article on those dresses you made for the Gala, they included your measurements. It’ll fit just fine.”
Rarity cautiously took the dress and disappeared behind a screen to try it on. Upon donning it, she returned from behind the screen and examined herself in the mirror. It was quite unlike any dress Rarity had ever seen. It had done away with any pretenses of being frilly or bulky, this dress was designed to more closely hug the body. The skirt divided neatly at the tail, allowing the black folds to cascade straight down the flank and down to the ankles. The effect was striking and alluring, but what stood out most of all was the simplicity of it. Rather than spend much time accessorizing and enhancing, this dress had been made sleek and plain, somehow enhancing the natural beauty of the pony wearing it. It took Rarity’s breathe away.
It had been a busy month. The Grand Galloping Gala was approaching again and Rarity’s fashions had caught on like wildfire thanks to the new storefront in Canterlot. Orders were coming in by the dozens, measurements and details being fired off to Ponyville with weekly shipments of ready-to-wear dresses arriving on the eve of every business week.
A bell tinkled as the front door swung open. Amber looked up from the counter and smiled as Rarity walked into the shop. “Here again, boss? Shouldn’t you be busy filling orders?” Listening for an answer, she resumed going over the transaction records.
Rarity snorted and gave a little half smile. “I like making the trips. It feels good to be in Canterlot. And besides,” she snuck a sideways glance at Amber who was still peering over the receipts, “you know me, I don’t like to let beautiful things out of my sight.”
Amber nodded, finishing up her number checking. “They are pretty dresses, miss Rarity.”
“Oh please, I’ve told you before. ‘Rarity’ is just fine.”
The Earth Pony blushed. “R-right, Rarity.”
Moving closer to Amber, Rarity caught her gaze. “I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
“And what would that be, mi-Rarity.”
“I was wondering if you could show me that design. The one you showed me when you applied for the job all those months ago?”
Amber’s ears perked up. “What do you need it for?”
Rarity grinned. “I want to add it to our lineup for next year. It’s good, Amber. Really good.”
“So… what?” Amber asked, a skeptical expression spreading across her face. “You use my design and take all the credit?”
“Ow, dear. That hurts.” Rarity put on a mock pout. “After all this time you really think I’d do that? I didn’t say we’d be adding it to my line up, I said we’d be adding it to our lineup. How would you like to be my partner?”
Surprised, Amber found herself at a loss for words. It took a few seconds of flapping her jaw wordlessly before she could finally put her thoughts into speech. “Seriously?”
Rarity nodded, looking the flabbergasted pony dead in the eyes. “Quite serious. We have a huge workload ahead of us and you have proven yourself more than competent enough. Unless of course you don’t want to be a partner. Then I suppose I’ll just have to find somepony else…”
Amber threw herself at Rarity’s hooves. “Don’t worry, I’ll do it! You don’t have to find anypony else.”
Laughing softly, Rarity leaned her face in close to Amber’s. “Well that’s certainly a relief. I don’t think I would be able to find another pony in all of Equestria as skilled as you.” She kissed the earth pony’s forehead. “None so beautiful either.”
Blushing furiously, Amber quickly stood and took a couple steps back. “Miss Rarity…”
“Please, just Rarity.” The white unicorn smiled and turned to leave. “I look forward to our partnership, Amber. See you next week.”
“I told you your designs would be a hit.” Rarity said softly. The two of them lay curled together in front of a blazing fireplace. Winter Wrap Up was only a few weeks away and it seemed the world was determined to deliver as much cold as possible until then. It had been over a year since they opened the Canterlot shop and things could not have been going any better. The partnership between Amber and Rarity had spawned dozens of new designs, each more popular than the last. So many orders were coming in each week that they finally had to start hiring seamstresses to produce the dresses just so that they could keep up. Even then if you wanted a dress for the Gala you had to order it months in advance.
As their business had grown, so too had their affections. The weekly day trips soon turned into overnighters. Now days Rarity was known to stay in Canterlot for weeks at a time. Most ponies wrote it off as the duties of a CEO. Nopony suspected the truth.
Amber lifted her head from the floor and gazed at Rarity, soft moonlight mixing with the light of the fire causing the Unicorn’s skin to practically glow. “Thanks to you of course. Without your help, I’d still be patching cloaks in Phillydelphia.”
Tilting her head up, Rarity nuzzled her lover’s chin. “Nonsense. Anypony with your talent would have found a way eventually.”
Amber relaxed and lowered her head, giving Rarity’s ear a soft nibble. “I say we leave the business talk for the day. The nights belong to us.”
Groaning and leaning into Amber, Rarity wordlessly agreed. Business could wait till morning, and she was determined to make the night last forever.
“I want to introduce you to a friend of mine,” Rarity called out as she entered the shop. Gala season was coming again so it was all hooves on deck. “A group of Diamond Dogs has been stalking the Ponyville/Canterlot road lately so I thought I could use some security.”
Amber smiled and, after checking on the seamstresses, walked out with Rarity to greet the new acquaintance.
“Amber, this is Spike. Spike, Amber.” Rarity introduced them.
Amber smiled and extended a hoof to the adolescent dragon before her. He was purple with green spikes, a little larger than the size of your standard pony. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Spike. I can see why Rarity chose you as security. Anypony would think twice before attacking something the likes of you.”
Spike returned the smile and extended a claw, shaking the mare’s hoof. “Me and Rarity go way back. I just couldn’t let her go by herself.”
Rarity sauntered past the two of them and looked back over her shoulder at them. “I have to see Photo Finish about next month’s fashion show. Ponies will want a preview of this year’s Gala lineup, after all. We won’t disappoint.” She shot Amber a look. “I’ll be back latter tonight to… go over the numbers with you.”
Amber nodded and concealed a smile. Spike gave the two of them a suspicious look before Rarity trotted off towards Photo Finish’s office. “So what’s the story between you two?” Spike asked, a cold edge creeping into his voice.
“What’s there to say?” Amber replied nonchalantly. “Two years ago I was patching old clothes for my father’s warehouse when I notice this flier asking for a seamstress. I showed up at the boutique, applied and… here I am.”
Spike showed no reaction. “So how has it been? Working with Rarity, I mean?”
“Fantastic. She’s got a keen eye for beauty, that’s for sure. She heaps a lot of praise on me but I don’t think I’ll ever be at her level.” A wistful look entered her eye. “Being able to work with her is the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Spike stood silent for a moment before turning to leave. “I’ve got to go. My friend Twilight will probably need me for something. After all, I am her number one assistant.” Stretching his wings, Spike launched into the air and turned in the direction of Ponyville. That night, Rarity decided to stay in Canterlot.
The dresses were done, the stage was set. Tonight was the night Rarity and Amber were to reveal their new Gala lineup for the year and everypony who was anypony would be there. The two of them had been in a state of euphoria all week. The days were busy, the nights were passionate. All of it was boiling down to this and the entire city was abuzz with speculation about what the dresses might be.
The sun had set and the show was scheduled to start in three hours. Amber trotted down the street towards the old storefront, now the primary boutique for the company. Her every step echoed excitement as the event drew nearer. All she had to do was pick up the dresses and bring them to the studio where the models hoof picked by Photo Finish herself waited to wear them. She didn’t notice the smell of smoke until she turned onto their street. Flames were licking out the windows of the boutique and climbing up the walls. The shop was on fire.
Common sense abandoning her, Amber broke into a gallop and burst through the door. The dresses would be in the back store room. She had to get the dresses, no matter what. Dodging debris and hungry tongues of fire, she began to quickly make her way there. Outside, a shadowy shape plunged from the sky and rammed into the roof, sending the structure collapsing down.
In a panic, Rarity dug, kicked and bucked at the burnt beams and remains of the boutique. Soot stains marred her dress and streaked across her coat, ash speckling her mane and tail. The Fire Pegasi had tried to keep her away from the site but soon found themselves pinned to the walls of neighboring buildings by a burst of telekinetic power. Finally, Rarity found her.
She lay underneath a beam, the weight of it crushing her hind quarters. Her mane was black and singed, her coat burned in stripes. Her skin was cracked, her lips bleeding. Miraculously, she still breathed.
“Amber?” Rarity called to her cautiously. “Amber!” She turned her head and released the Fire Pegasi. “SOMEPONY HELP ME.” The Pegasi rushed to see what could be done, a few of them began working out how to move the beam.
“It’s going to be okay, Amber. It’s going to be fine,” Rarity stuttered through her tears.
Amber croaked as she tried to speak. She weakly extended a hoof in front of her, trying to find the source of that wonderful, melodic voice. The fire had stolen her eyes.
Rarity took the mare’s outstretched hoof. “Don’t worry, darling. Rarity’s here. I’ve got you.”
Her laps cracking into a soft smile, Amber moved her hoof and caressed Rarity’s cheek. It’s going to be okay. Working together, the Pegasi lifted the beam and Amber went limp.
The funeral was small. Rarity had expressly forbidden press coverage, allowing only for close friends and family to attend. Twilight and the others were there, if only to support Rarity in her time of need. But none of them truly understood the depths of her grief.
She wore the black dress Amber had made for her those years ago, back when they had first met. Rarity had kept it safe, reserving it for special occasions. Today would be the last day she wore it.
Far back from the procession, a purple dragon watched with cold eyes as they lowered the closed casket into the ground. Without a word, he turned and flew off into the sunset. Nobody saw him go.
After the burial was complete, everypony offered Rarity their condolences. She accepted them with a nod and a smile. Her tears belonged to the night.
The sun was setting as Twilight Sparkle plodded through the fresh puddles alongside her mother. Around them the scent of fresh rain on the grass filled the air, and the fireflies danced about with their springtime light show on full display. At her side, her mother took the time to pause, yawn, and stretch; the wonderful dinner they’d both just finished settling comfortably in her stomach. The evening had been filled with many a hilarious moment, the laughter and confusion that only ensued when two mares shared the same name. Twilight Sparkle and Twilight Twinkle. With a roll of her eyes, ponyville’s resident magician stopped and waited for her mother to catch up.
“Come on, mom.”
“Oh now, there’s no need to be in such a hurry. Savor the small things, Sparkle.”
“The small things are big things when you’re late and somepony’s expecting you. I promised Rarity that we’d come and see her tonight! I’m sure she was heartbroken that she missed a chance to have dinner with everypony else we invited.”
Twilight Twinkle sighed and stared up at the first stars of the evening. High in the sky the first stars and planets to appear twinkled far away. When she looked back down at her daughter, she found her smile to be more even. They didn’t get to share much time together, and hadn’t since Twilight Sparkle had graduated Celestia’s school and taken on full residency in ponyville. If this was what her daughter wanted to do with the evening though... She wouldn’t put up much more resistance.
“Sparkle. Rarity probably doesn’t want us bothering her. You know, in my hayday as a dressmaker, I hated it when people came by in the dead of night to bother me out of my only relaxing moments. Your father never did understand. Always showing up... Distracting me... We should give the poor dear a break.”
“Nonsense. You know Rarity loves getting the chance to talk to you and hear all about your dressmaking days.”
“I imagine she loves her sleep a tad bit more.”
“Sleep? I go by the boutique every night on my walks. She’s up until all hours! Even in the dead of midnight I can hear that machine of hers whirring and working. It’s a wonder nopony complains, honestly.”
“If she really has such a large project Sparkle, I still think we’d be best to leave her be... Nopony likes to be bothered while they’re working either.”
“But the work made her miss dinner! She needs a little sociability while the night’s still young. Sometimes being a good friend means pulling somepony out of their workaholic stride and-”
“Now Twilight Sparkle, isn’t that just the pot calling the kettle black?”
“The-what? No no no. Well, yes. But that’s how I know so well! Come on. We’re almost there now.”
And when Twinkle looked up, she discovered it to be true. The unique frame of the boutique silhouetted impressively against the quickly darkening sky, not a single light in the building daring to break the large black shape that filled the skyline of ponyville’s otherwise small houses. Even up the street she could hear the familiar and telltale whirs, hums, and clicks of a sewing machine hard at work.
“Goodness. In my day the models were so much smaller. Not nearly as much power to them.”
The younger Twilight knocked, but not a sound beyond the loud purr within issued from the boutique.
“I think it’s the new machine she’s got. They’re... really loud these days, I guess?”
“I... agree. But I think perhaps she doesn’t mean for us to come after all. You’re sure she won’t mind our going in, then? I think we should just come to call tomorrow.”
And with that, Twilight Sparkle hopped through the threshold of the door, knocking once more as it swung open to reveal a nearly lightless room. In the corner hard at work, under the glow of a lamp sat the frazzled yet fine fashionista. In its soft light her coat shone brilliantly, a sea of desert sand under the moon, and Twilight Twinkle felt a tightening in her stomach as she watched the mare at work. She stepped behind her daughter reflexively as the younger pony strode forward.
The ivory unicorn appraised them with a squint, night vision ruined by her proximity to the only light source until the two stepped into the edges of her limited vision.
“Twilight and Twilight! Oh goodness, I’d hardly recognized you!”
“If you don’t show up to more dinners, you won’t recognize us at all!”
“Now now. That’s hardly fair... It was a big order tonight, but I’m almost finished. I might even sleep this evening, and that will be...”
The white unicorn adjusted her glasses and smoothed her mane a bit before taking a quick sip from a glass resting on her workstation.
“Well, it’ll be what it’ll be, I suppose. How are you, Twilight Twinkle? I see your daughter all the time! You and I on the other hoof, why we simply must catch up more often! You look so lovely, you haven’t aged a day!”
Twilight Twinkle shifted slightly where she stood, forcing a smile and allowing her eyes to wander to anyplace other than the blushing designer’s face.
“Why, I bet you could put these designs of mine into reality far faster than I ever could, retirement or not!”
Twinkle couldn’t resist.
“Do you think so? It’s... been a while since I worked a sewing machine, I’m afraid. Too many buttons on the new ones. Probably couldn’t turn the thing on...”
“Nonsense! Here, I’ll just... show you... Twilight, can you fetch us two drinks from the kitchen? Three if you’d like one yourself, I suppose.”
Twilight Sparkle raised an eyebrow.
“Twilight? Which Twilight?”
“Oh, you of course. Give us a couple minutes to acquaint your mother with the newest machinery, and we’ll be positively churning out fabric.”
With a reluctant sigh Twilight Sparkle shifted through the familiar setting toward the kitchen as Rarity rose to give her mother a seat at the table.
“Here you are. Now... just... no... flip this switch... here.”
Twilight Twinkle suppressed a shiver as the alabaster mare’s hoof brushed her own. There was something present... wasn’t there? It had been so long since...
“There now. Just press your hoof here and move it forward like- oh what am I saying? The rest is elementary, you’ve done it a thousand times!”
And she had. With different hooves on her shoulders, different hooves sliding slowly down around her neck to play across her chest while she worked. Why she’d ever let the stallion go was beyond her, but gone he was, and had been for many years now. They’d held together until-
“Are you sure you haven’t been doing this privately, Twilight Twinkle? Why just look at those stitches, they’re looking positively spectacular!”
Twinkle looked down and couldn’t help a laugh. Was the designer being incredibly kind, or was she just deeper into the bottle than the aging mare had initially assumed? The stitches were crooked, all wrong, not even the same pattern as the ones Rarity had done only inches before them. Only one thing for it. She reached into the sewing basket.
“Sorry. Sorry, but...”
Only her hoof didn’t find the stitch remover. She blushed furiously at her discovery, dropping the rubbery tool back into the sewing box, hoof jerking back to her chest instinctively.
“I... That’s a very odd place to keep that, dearie... I’m sorry!”
Rarity scooped up the phallic object and appraised it in the light as if seeing it for the first time, lips pursed, before finally-
“Oh no need. Just knowledge between girls, I suppose. I do hope it didn’t make you... uncomfortable.”
“Oh... no... just... a little bit.”
“It’s been such a long time since I had time to... well, you know how it goes. Not that I particularly mind, of course. You know how it is...”
Rarity gently replaced the object back in the box. The sound of Twilight Sparkle’s return to the room drew both ponies attention toward the edges of their barely revealed vision. A bump and a swear told both mares where the young scholar was approaching from.
“Can’t we get some lights in here? I thought dressmaking involved good lighting!”
“I’ve already selected the fabric colors, sewing it isn’t that difficult.”
“So you sit here in the dark?”
“Not dark. It’s bright enough to see, and dark enough to ease my eyes.”
Beside Rarity, Twilight Twinkle chimed in, voice a bit higher land louder than her daughter recognized it being.
“She’s right, you know! Strain on the eyes being in a brightly lit room all day! No wonder she needs the glasses!”
“Mom, that’s not polite!”
“It’s true, dearie! No getting around it.”
“You sound like my mother, Miss Twinkle.”
“Oh, I sincerely hope not.”
And with a raising of eyebrows, she downed her drink. Rarity smiled over the edge of her whiskey glass as she and Twilight Sparkle politely drained theirs in kind. Beside her the less experienced bookworm coughed briefly.
“I assume you want me to get them again?”
“Well. I am having a rather enjoyable time with your mother. We can talk later Twilight. Not to worry!”
With a sigh and a roll of her eyes, Twilight left them once more. The two ponies shrugged and Rarity slid back into her seat.
“Here, let me show you some of the features of the DM 12,000.”
“Twelve thousand? Goodness, I owned a DM twelve.”
“Mmm. Sit here darling. Next to me, and push this down. Nothing wrong with age, at any rate.”
“Plenty wrong with age.”
“Nothing at all in the world of fashion. In fashion, age simply means experience.”
Twinkle looked into the mare’s slightly glassy eyes for a clue, the last word’s dual connotation filling the room and dripping with innuendo.
“Fashion and... a hoof full of other things, of course.”
There it was.
“Now... nopony wants an older mare, Rarity. We don’t know all the latest tricks-”
Twilight Sparkle was among them again. When she appeared and from whence she came nopony could say. Had time really flown past?
Rarity smiled up at Twilight as she took the glasses.
“It seemed to have taken longer the last time...”
“Got better at finding your liqueur cabinet. I assume we’re pounding these as well? I brought the expensive stuff so-”
In a flash the milky coated unicorn downed her drink and grinned her friend.
“Yes. And I’m bringing the bottle next time. Will save me a trip.”
With a flash of magic, Twilight Sparkle was gone, leaving the two mares alone again.
“Ahhh... Such a talent. So proud of her.”
Rarity shot a glance to her drinking partner before winking.
“What was that you were saying about older mares?”
Twilight Twinkle blushed and looked at the floor.
“Older mares can’t learn new tricks. It’s a fact of life.”
“I imagine I can revise that fact. Here, let me see your hoof.”
Twilight Twinkle’s hoof crept up Rarity’s leg, missing and resting on her stomach in the dark below the desk. She bit her lip, blush flooding her face up to her horn.
“I told you... not experienced... can’t learn new things.”
“I... here, let’s show you some more features of the new model, yes?”
“Reach back into the basket and get that tool you found not so long ago...”
“I think you should probably... I’d only mess it up.”
“Now now. Nothing wrong with making mistakes.”
“Twilight will be back soon...”
“Just showing you the new model... she can’t be mad over that... It’s got twelve thousand speed settings!”
Rarity clicked off the lamp as Twilight Twinkle sighed and leaned back in her chair expectantly... For a sensation that never came. In the dark she could hear a couple clicking noises, and then-
The room was bathed in sudden light as Twilight flicked the light switch.
“Not navigating in the total dark. Are you trying to prank me by turning off the lights? You two are such-”
Twilight Twinkle opened her eyes and snapped her legs shut as she heard her daughter’s voice. In front of her, mounted where once was a sewing machine arm, was the large rubber extension she had pulled out of the basket earlier.
“-the hell is going on in here?”
“Oh, Twilight! I was just showing your mother the latest feature of the DM12000!”
“Feature? Rarity, that’s a-”
“Oh, I’m positively in love with it.”
“You’re in love with... the sewing machine? Or is it the-”
Rarity’s hoof slid expectantly between Twilight Twinkle’s legs beneath the desk.
“With the dress maker twelve thousand, yes. I do believe I’ve fallen in love with my dress maker, Twilight.”
By Duplex Fields
"Stand still at once!" said Rarity, in a tone that brooked no dissension.
Pinkie Pie immediately stopped wiggling. "Sorry, Rarity. I'm just so excited about modeling for you, and I want everypony to see how wonderful and fantabulous and sensationriffic your new dresses are!"
Rarity could feel herself beginning to sweat as she finished putting the gown on her friend. "Now remember, Pinkie, you're not trying to make them laugh tonight."
"Of course I remember," said Pinkie, "I'm playing the part of a super-serious super-duper-model who does super-silly things like walking slowly and slinky, and making super-silly duckfaces at the crowd. It's like one big prank! I'll be laughing inside the entire time!"
Rarity smiled, still worried. The other two models stood next to them wearing Rarity's newest dresses, vogueing for each other. "I'm glad you're here for me," she said. "All the pink models here in Manehattan had been hired before I even received my invitation in the mail, and dyeing models' coats is so gauche. There, all done."
"Hey," said Pinkie, looking at herself in the mirrors, "I look so pretty! It's like I'm a big pink flower with petals and-"
The stage director popped his head backstage. "Showtime."
Rarity started to hyperventilate.
Rarity was aglow with pride at the afterparty. She swept through the ballroom, smiling and nodding her head at anyone who acknowledged her. These were her people: the fashion, the jewelry, the sophisticated patois. The room was abuzz with the consequential murmurs of high-powered deals being forged, and the inconsequential chatter of partygoers blowing off stress.
Pinkie walked alongside her, maintaining an air of class. Finally, it was too much for her, and with a tiny, high-pitched giggle, she said, "I'm gonna go get some or-dervs, 'kay?"
"For your performance tonight, you deserve nothing less," said Rarity magnanimously. Pinkie bounced off toward the nearest waiter.
Rarity sighed, shaking her head.
"Models, am I right?" asked a voice next to her ear. "Oh," said Rarity, and she turned.
Beside her stood a sky blue pegasus, with freckles across the bridge of his nose. His bright red mane was swept forward dramatically, accentuating the short cut.
"Whirlwind of Hoofington," he said in a tone of familiarity, "And you are Rarity, Hoity Toity's newest discovery." He brushed her side with his wing. She looked, and saw that his cutie mark resembled a tornado.
She smiled. "I saw your work during yesterday's runs. Those upper cuffs are an elegant solution for wings; I may have to license your design. Do you work exclusively with pegasi?"
"I appreciate the female form wherever it may be found," said Whirlwind, tilting his head. She noticed he had a small goatee beard under his chin, also red. "Earth pony, pegasus," he brushed a hoof against hers. "Unicorn. Oh, those are lovely lashes! Are they real?"
Rarity blanched at being caught out on her false eyelashes. "We.. simply must look our best in public, as members of the fashion community. I'm sure you understand."
"Oh yes," he said, picking up one of his forehooves. The light blue hair was trimmed back in a layered, ragged manner, showing the hoof to be contrasting orange. His pedicure was perfect. The effect was both masculine and elegant. "You know, I do think we'd work well together. Stay here for a moment." He headed toward the juice bar.
Rarity stayed where she was, in the middle of the room, while other ponies conversed. A few seconds after she started feeling awkward, Pinkie walked over. "Hey Rarity, the other models liked your designs."
"Oh, that's good to hear," said Rarity, a bit distracted.
"Yup! I don't think you'll have any trouble finding another pink model next time. But I'd like to do this again! This party isn't my kind of party. It's more of a game."
"Yeah!" said Pinkie, talking more excitedly. "Like, everypony wants to be fake friends real quick, and there's secret rules that you can't talk about, or else the game is over and nopony wants to play any more! You gotta pretend you're not even playing a game! I think I'm gonna win the 'being a model' game. I've already got a dozen offers of photo shoots!"
Rarity's eyebrows rose. "A dozen different dressmakers want you to model their dresses?" she said in a flat voice.
"Of course not, silly!" said Pinkie, tilting her head, "Only ten of them are dressmakers. Two are photographers!"
Rarity's mouth fell open, but she didn't say anything.
"I'm not going to take their offers, of course. It would be exhausting to play the game all day! Oh, I just hope Fluttershy is having a good time taking care of Gummy!" continued Pinkie, putting a hoof to her chin.
Inside a cottage on the edge of the Everfree Forest, a yellow pegasus mare grunted with effort as she held an alligator's mouth open. "Oh, come out please, little mousie! Gummy was just playing!"
The mouse skittered out and bolted into the hole in the wall. Gummy backpedaled and dove after it, but his snout got stuck halfway in the hole.
A rabbit kicked him on the tail. Gummy made a chittering noise as he tried to see what had hit him.
Fluttershy pouted. "I'm so sorry, Gummy, but that's what you deserve for trying to eat a poor, defenseless field mouse," she said, "I'll go get you some fish. You just stay right there. Angel, please leave our guest alone."
As soon as the door closed behind her, the rabbit kicked Gummy again for good measure.
"I'm sure they're fine, dear," said Rarity. Then she saw a red mane coming toward her through the crowd. "Stay a moment, won't you?"
Whirlwind returned, carrying a tray of drinks in his mouth. Rarity hovered it for him. "Why thank you, my good sir. I'd like to introduce a close friend of mine, Pinkie Pie. Pinkie, this is Whirlwind."
Whirlwind shook Pinkie's hoof. Pinkie, for her part, put the act back on. "Charmed."
"You," he said, "You were the one in that chiffon number with the cape. I must say, it fit your curves." He winked at her.
Pinkie smiled. "Why thank you." A rhythmic rumble started, and spotlights played over a section of floor. "Oh, will you excuse me? They're playing my song."
"Of course," said Rarity and Whirlwind simultaneously. Then they looked at each other and laughed.
He was the first to speak. "Well, I think you have delightful taste in friends." He touched her hoof again. "It's rare to find models with manners, nowadays. They're all so entitled, thinking they should be mobbed by strangers wherever they go."
Rarity managed a fake smile, her own fantasy punctured by his words. "Yes. Well, I had a dress that worked perfectly with her. It's all curves and embellishments this season, isn't it?" She was suddenly, acutely aware of how dry her throat was. She hovered the drink tray closer, and separately hovered one of the fluted glasses to her lips. White sparkling grape juice, cool and refreshing.
"I am definitely on that trend," he said, gesturing toward himself with a hoof. Then he took a sip from the other glass, and maintained eye contact as they drank.
Over the next fifteen minutes or so, Rarity found herself fully engaged in the conversation. She and Whirlwind sparred briefly on topics of personal fashion preference, discussed fabrics and emerging trends, and other insider talk.
The discussion would have seemed needlessly detailed to her other friends. Rarity smiled at the thought of Rainbow Dash discussing the thread count on white cotton, or Pinkie Pie talking about the use of certain stitches for speed versus strength.
As she smiled, Rarity realized she was smiling about the whole evening. The perfect fashion show, the high class ponies, the beautiful clothing on display, and this conversation.
She was positively giddy, talking without much regard to what she said, yet certain that every sentence was a rose in bloom. And Whirlwind! Why, he was the most dazzling stallion she'd ever met! Every witty word was a gem, every glance a drop of water in a desert of ponies who cared nothing for her passion! Just thinking about him made her heart flutter.
Was this love?
Was this true love, a romance for the ages? A chance meeting at a fashion show? Were they destined to be together?
Suddenly Rarity found herself stumbling over words and blushing. She stopped talking, and Whirlwind smiled. "You look like you could use a drink. Stay right here."
As he left, Pinkie Pie came back. "Wow, Rarity, you've really got a thing for him, don't you?"
"Pinkie!" said Rarity, in a hushed but urgent tone. "I don't want him to know I have feelings for him!"
"Oh, this is great! I'm so happy tonight's gonna have a happy ending for you!"
"I know! Isn't he the most amazing stallion?" asked Rarity, doing her best to contain her excitement. "I think he's falling for me, too. Oh, but I don't want to rush it. I don't want to spoil this moment. It could be the beginning of a whole new life for me!"
Pinkie's eyebrow went up. "Wait, a whole new life? I thought he was just interested in tonight."
Rarity paused, then quietly said, "Beg pardon?"
Pinkie gestured at the ballroom around them. "We're at Couture Fashion Week Manehattan, in the famous Waldhoof-Astoria hotel! Only the hottest ponies in fashion are invited to this event! I only know that because you told me, but you said it like it was a dream of yours. Anyway, he's all over you, getting ready to show you a 'grand old time'," she said, in a mock British accent, "And you're doing a great job of showing him you're interested. Do you think you'll go to our room or his?"
Rarity pushed her away. "Eeew!” she whispered, “You must be kidding. I would never- He would never- We just met- You're just jealous!"
Pinkie's smile fell. "I thought that's what you wanted! You're showing all the signs, returning all his gestures. It's just another game, and you're playing your part perfectly."
"I find true love," Rarity said, still hushed, now furious, "And you dare to come to me telling me he's only interested in a- a fling?!?" She advanced on the pink pony, who backed up a step. "How dare you! And you call yourself my friend! Away with you! Away!" She made a brushing motion, although she only wanted to do something unladylike, like buck her in the face.
Pinkie frowned. "I don't think he wants what you want, Rarity."
"Away!" Rarity stopped trying to be quiet, and this drew some stares.
Pinkie turned, and walked away. The crowd closed in behind her.
Rarity turned her back. How could she say such things? How could she intimate that he was only trying to... get under her tail? Why would she display such rank jealousy?
"I believe these are for you," said a voice, and she turned again. Whirlwind stood there with another tray of drinks, this time perched on his open wings. "Is... is something wrong?"
Rarity calmed her breathing and levitated the tray. "Why don't we go over there?" she asked, gesturing toward tables around the edge of the room.
They made their way to an empty table, and Rarity set the drinks down. "I'm sorry, my friend was a bit argumentative just now, and I 'lost my cool,' as it were. So, where were we?"
This time, as they talked, Rarity found herself comforted by his words, his tones of voice, the gentle touches of his forehooves against hers.
This is how a husband should act, she thought, then smiled as she realized her choice of words. But courtship should last, she reminded herself.
As they talked, she found herself thinking that of course this wasn't too fast. He's forward, yes, and bold, but honest. They were forming a relationship, and this negotiatory sensation was natural for such a bond. He certainly wasn't playing a game.
As minutes passed, Rarity found herself forgetting Pinkie's words. Whirlwind was a gentleman, she insisted to herself. And the giddiness gradually returned. Soon, she was floating on his words once more.
"Can I ask you something?" said Whirlwind, swerving from the current topic. Suddenly, she noticed Pinkie Pie, standing two tables back, out of Whirlwind's sight. She was making a strange gesture with her arm, like she was pulling something to her face.
"Yes, of course." said Rarity, returning her attention to Whirlwind.
He walked around the table, and brought her close, kissing her softly on the lips.
Sparks flew, and Rarity felt dazed. "I'm sorry," she asked, in a breathy tone, "What were you going to ask?"
Over his shoulder, Pinkie made the gesture again. Rarity's brow furrowed.
Whirlwind kissed her again, this time more aggressively.
A warmth built in Rarity's chest. "I think the answer is clear, don't you?"
Whirlwind smiled. "Absolutely." And then he nuzzled her face, at the exact same time that Pinkie brushed her face against the table. Pinkie's hoof came up; Whirlwind's hoof came up and brushed Rarity's leg.
Rarity jerked away, bumping the table. The glasses tipped over, spilling the few drops remaining in them. She backed up. Whirlwind's eyebrows rose.
Then his smile returned, his casual smile which made Rarity's stomach turn. How could she not have seen it? How could she have been so blind? He hadn't been courting her! He just wanted to... to rut! To rut and run, most likely.
Rarity felt the evening's pleasures crash to the ground. She was about to turn on Whirlwind, call him out on every scummy thing he'd done. But Pinkie Pie stopped her with a wink. She came over and stood at the table too. "Hey, Rarity. Why hello, Mister Whirlwind, I see you're still here. Are you enjoying the party, 'cause I sure am."
He blinked, then recovered. "Your friend here is a delight, Miss Pie. She and I have gotten to know each other quite well. In fact, I thought we were about to retire for the evening."
"Oh, you can't go yet!" said Pinkie, "We haven't had all the fun this part has to offer!" She pulled out a tray of hors d'oeuvres. "I dare you to eat more of these than me. I betcha can't! I'm Ponyville's hotdog eating champion, three years running!" She put her hoof to her face in an aside, "And I'll tell you, a day after the contest, I sure am 'running'."
Whirlwind turned pale. Rarity suppressed a smile.
"Why don't we go somewhere more... private?" said Whirlwind to Rarity. He stepped a little closer to Rarity - or would have, if Pinkie Pie hadn't put a hoof right in the way. He tumbled ungracefully to the floor.
"Want a hoof up?" asked Pinkie. He grabbed her hoof, only to have a thoroughly unpleasant experience. She'd put on a hoofshake buzzer, goodness knows where she had hidden it.
"Well!" said Whirlwind, getting up on his own, then brushing himself off and flapping his wings in annoyance. "It seems I've wasted my evening."
"Yes," said Rarity, coolly, "It does seem so." She and Pinkie turned up their noses and walked out of the ballroom.
In the hallway, Rarity found herself shaking with rage. "How dare he! The cad! The fiend!" she said, pacing back and forth.
"Secret rules to social games," said Pinkie, with a shrug, "I didn't know you didn't know you were playing his game."
Rarity looked into Pinkie's eyes. "I'm sorry I doubted you. Thank you for helping me avoid a dreadful mistake. Can you forgive me for my harsh words and for pushing you away?"
"No problemo, sister!" said Pinkie, "That's what friends are for!"
Rarity reviewed the night's events. Whirlwind had convinced her that they were soulmates in under two hours. It made her positively sick to realize how close she'd come to being a conquest, a tally mark in some little black book. Why, the whole experience made her feel dirty. Compared to the pond scum she'd met tonight, Blueblood was indeed a prince charming.
"Hey!" said Pinkie, suddenly, "Do you think we could get a letter to Princess Celestia at this time of night?"
Rarity smiled. "No, Pinkie, I think this is one lesson on friendship we'll keep to ourselves. For now." The anger and anguish of being fooled so thoroughly was quickly fading. "I think I just need a good laugh."
"Oh, oh! I know a little comedy club just around the corner!" said Pinkie, bouncing, "And we're in luck! Janeane Giraffalo is playing this week!"
"I said a good laugh," said Rarity. "Her political views-" She saw Pinkie’s smile dip a bit. "Oh, what the hay. Lead the way, Miss Pie!"
Bonus: the player
The Art of the Dress
“You know dear, there’s much more to dress-making than the mechanics of putting needle to thread.”
“There is an elegance, a magnificent magic that must flow through you with each stitch. The vision of the final product that you must weave into being...”
“Sweetie Belle! Are you listening?”
She hadn’t been happy with them.
The dresses due that day, the fruit of a week’s unending labour, had been picked up early in the morning. A hefty price paid for the commission of her services, the gilded pockets of a Canterlot noble delivering a tidy sum of bits along with the removal of the beautiful gowns Rarity had sewn.
She hadn’t been happy with them.
Every creation was of course a new standard of beauty to be beholden to – each masterpiece must exceed the last, each facet of creativity and innovation must rival the brilliance of the sun’s illumination, striking out at the majesty of Celestia’s divine blessing with the audacity of their perfection. That is to say, in simpler terms, being ‘sufficient’ would not suffice. Rarity prided herself on her dresses. They were her livelihood, the craft that kept her boutique aloft in its reputation as the finest dress-making establishment in Ponyville, or in this half of Equestria for that matter. And yet...
She hadn’t been happy with them.
It was one thing to say that Rarity’s conceit in regards to her craft often led her to critique her own work to unreasonable standards. Every dress must be just so, if not perfect, then a thread`s width away. That the client was happy, yes, that was something, a noble aspiration for any crafts-pony – but what was the purpose of life and labour if not the pursuit of improvement?
Rhetoric. She had seen the flaws in each gown as they were carried out the door, the tiniest imperfections that kept them from the true beauty Rarity had envisioned as she crafted each one. Absolute perfection was of course ultimately unobtainable – to toil in the absurdity of such an aspiration would be foolishness, and Rarity was far from foolish. Pragmatic might be the best word in this case. Self-challenging. A holder of high standards.
Rarity cringed as her body’s weight lowered onto one hoof, sore and aching from a long night’s labour; a walk had seemed like such a good idea at the time.
She didn’t stop on the way home, forgoing the usual pauses normally in the sake of observing the lovely standard Ponyville scenery. The flowers especially, the way they grew.... there was something so sublime about the essence of their naturalism. The earth that birthed them could know nothing of their construction, yet yielded a swirling world of perfection in each delicate petal, enshrining the epicentre of the tiny flora’s existence, sprouting daintily from the dirt that it would eventually decompose to become. So pure, and such a reminder of nature’s irreverence for the toil of the ponies that lived along side.
Rarity did not stop that day, but as she passed the window, her eye caught the faintest shimmer of the delicate, sparkling fabric behind the shrouded panes of glass. A glimmer of the purest white, dotted with embroidery so reminiscent of flowers.
That day had been a turmoil. Guided by a force beyond her control, cresting hill and valley to the pinnacle of her destiny.
Her reaction had been unimpressed, to say the least.
But destiny had a mysterious way of playing its final hand, and before the next day’s end, a sparkling crest had appeared in its beset locale, catalyzing Rarity’s deepest desire into something tangible, a forever lasting mark in indication of her aspiration to perfection.
For weeks going forward, she saw the sparkles when she closed her eyes at night, before the dreams overtook her.
-“and here I thought you were interested and learning the art of dress-making, were you not?”
“No, I am sis, I’m sorry! I just got distracted by... something.”
“Well if a simple distraction is enough to keep your attention from the delicacy of such a divine craft, perhaps you’re not ready to learn after all.”
“No no no, I am, really! Please, teach me how, I want to learn, honest.”
“And why is it you wish to learn something so tedious? You are aware that many nights go by with your sister awake over a sewing machine, straining to fill yet another order.”
“Um... I don’t know.”
“If you have no purpose for your education then I see no reason for it to continue.”
“No! I mean... I wanna be like you, sis. I want to learn to make dresses just like you do.”
“Sweetie Belle, imitation is hardly due cause for taking up such an arduous pursuit. Do you have no further reasoning for your desire to learn?”
“Uh... um... I like... making pretty things?”
“Hardly more acceptable. Shall we conclude our lesson?”
“No! I, uh, I want to learn to make dresses so I can, uh... make lots of money-“
The impact of Rarity’s hoof on the work-table rang through the boutique, shaking the china on the shelves in the other room and the spools of thread in their sorted compartments.
“You do not understand! Dress making is not a job, nor is it a folly to be played at for your amusement! This is a craft, an art form! And if you cannot take it seriously, then it is not something I shall waste my time trying to teach you!”
Several seconds of silence passed, punctuated by Sweetie’s muffled sniffling. She managed to squeak a timid apology through the onset of tears.
“I’m... sorry... sis...”
Rarity felt herself swept over by a wave of context almost immediately.
“Oh dear... Sweetie, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean...”
The conclusion of the explanation was immaterial. Rarity wrapped her forelegs around her sister, stroking her mane and cooing softly to console her.
Rarity found herself compelled to another walk the next day. Though normally her opinion on any unnecessary amount of outdoor activity was middling at best, there was of course no harm in the occasional brisk constitutional. That, coupled with dietary guidelines, were the recipe for well-kept composure and finely modeled physique, after all.
The trek through town felt different this time, more focused. The path dictated by each subsequent hoofstep was guided around some kind of indiscernible center, like a singular influence of gravity guiding her every movement. The walk gave her time to think. Rumination on life in general, possibly, but more concretely, it gave her opportunity to worry. Instead of serving as a stress reliever, a way to escape the daily mental strain of operating her boutique, Rarity took her troubles with her – to battle with them in the confines of her mind, in the hopes that dealing with the demons of worry would make life easier on the other end of her exercise.
Rarity tried to spend less time remembering, and more time looking forward.
She did not recall with certainty, any longer, the day she had blossomed into her true talent. The ambience shone like a dim candle in the vast enterprise of her memories, but it was a flicker to be sought out only in the absolute darkness of remaining thoughts, an occasion than seldom arose – that, or to be called upon by request, like the time she had shared the tale with Sweetie Belle and her friends.
She did, occasionally, remember her dialogue with Sweetie. That was better to try and forget.
So as she walked, she worried. Another day, another set of concerns. More orders, more clients, more work. The customers that had come in earlier that day –
Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where everything is chic, unique, and magnifique!
The greeting had become subconscious by now. She caught herself half-way through saying hello to her friends under the guise of her customer-service oriented business mandate on occasion. Words said so often they had begun to lose meaning.
What did it mean, to aspire to that level of creativity? Every garment was unique, she said… the others were descriptors, adjectives mired in subjectivity, but that one stuck in her mind sometimes. So much work to put into every creation in the interest of weaving together something never before imagined, each gown tailored to the specific needs of a client’s request, sometimes one they were never aware they had made. She remembered the dresses she had sold that day.
She hadn’t been happy with them.
It was a prevailing thought. She was Rarity, however. The pinnacle of grace and poise in Ponyville, and, if her aspirations carried her to a point further, in all of Equestria going past, if only for now in her dreams. So to that end, she must try her hardest, to make every design perfect. Every dress must be perfect. Lines, stitches, seams, patterns – perfect.
She was not, however, unrealistic. Perfection was a standard to set high in hopes of one day reaching – it was not a bastion of sane expectations to withhold one’s self to in every instance. So, she permitted to accept; she was only one pony after all. No one could expect her to be without flaw.
Expectations have the nasty habit of affording themselves to be circumvented, however.
She paused in her briskly paced trotting when she noticed she had passed the same house four or five times in the course of a single circuit – how long had she been walking, exactly?
The glimmer caught her eye as soon as her hooves settled on the ground.
Rarity found herself drawn to the window like a young filly bemused by the allure of a candy shop – the simple glass portal was unassuming, and entirely inelegant. This was no store, no presentation warehouse, the least ideal circumstance for showing what sat behind the window to the outside world. It made the discovery seem that much more significant.
Rarity’s hooves left prints against the glass as she pressed herself up against the window, peering inside. There was no light within the nonchalantly located building – the exterior was so insubstantial as to be unnoticeable, blending into the scenery of a stroll through town like flowers in the background of a pastoral spring sunset.
The lone inhabitant of the almost dilapidated interior. Pristine, the purest white, stitched in the majesty of a bed of perfect flowers.
Rarity’s breath caught in her throat, barring for a moment the fog it bestowed to the glass in the cool night air. She had lost track of time, mired in thought, and now the sun had set, leaving the sky shrouded in silvery moonlit night.
The metallic glow caught the edge of the window as it beamed downward, and shone upon the pearlescent fabric – and so the fabric shone back, returning the gesture of attention in kind, and near blinding Rarity with the majesty of its perfection.
“I’m sorry, so sorry Sweetie, I don’t know what came over me!”
Sweetie Belle had sniffed meekly as she nuzzled her tear-stained face into her sister’s coat. Rarity’s hoof traced through the young filly’s candy coloured mane soothingly.
Between diminishing suppressions of the last of her tears, Sweetie Belle had attempted to apologize.
“I’m… sorry I don’t… understand… about dresses…”
Rarity cut her off almost immediately.
“No no no, dear, it’s not your fault. You have nothing to apologize for.”
Rarity’s eyes fell to the crystal-laden gown in the corner of the boutique as she comforted her sister, peering over her head and locking in place for a moment, first on the dress, then far off into the distance.
“Dress-making is a… complicated subject.”
“Are you feeling alright, Rarity?”
Rarity’s attention was not fixed in the present. The plate of leafy greens in front of her was untouched, saved for the occasional idle prodding from one of her hooves, nudging the delicately laid out pieces of vegetation back and forth from the center of the bowl.
The voice that broached the inquiry belonged to Twilight Sparkle, sitting alongside her friend at the table of a local dining establishment. Eating outside seemed the ideal choice, given the brilliance of the sun overhead, and the picturesque background of spring-time accompaniment. Twilight had paused after a bite of her sandwich, furrowing her brow in evident concern.
“You just look kind of out of it.” Twilight smiled and gave a slight giggle as she spoke, trying to wave away any seriousness in her questioning with a light-hearted tone. She was always concerned when her friends seemed ‘off’, but undue fixation and worry were best reserved for more pressing problems when they eventually arose.
Rarity stared back blankly for a moment, taking a moment to process the information before speaking, her voice leaping from the blankness of her distracted thought into the occupied present.
“Oh, I’m sorry dear. Thank you for asking, truly... I’ve just been a bit... distracted lately. With work and such. I’m sure you know how it is.”
Twilight nodded sympathetically, taking the lull in the conversation as an opportunity to steal another bite of her sandwich. Rarity returned her gaze to the salad in front of her, poking at one of the protruding leaves with her nose before grabbing it with her teeth, and chewing it up demurely. Regardless of the quality of the greens or the level of preparation given to the dish, she could barely taste the fragments of the morsel as she swallowed.
Beside the dining table, a group of flowers swayed lazily in the wind, their petals swaying sideways in a lethargic half-wave.
Late night dress-making was the hallmark of her toil now – selling the garments and dealing with the customers was entirely disconnected, more automation than anything. At night was the time work was truly done – fevered designs and ideas that begged for implementation, some of which were discarded and revised as soon as they had been created. The tick of the sewing machine or delicate slipping of a needle through a half-finished gown were the metronomes that kept Rarity’s heart beating at the steady pace which drove her work forward.
Tonight was a new idea. Something experimental, inspired by the pastoral scenes Rarity took in every day during the spring, in particular the colourful natural bouquets that were located everywhere around the idyllic scenery of Ponyville.
Rarity tucked a needle between her teeth as she worked the sewing machine, biting down on the cool metal absent-mindedly as the tick-tick of the churning mechanism imparted stitch after stitch on the piece of fabric she held between her hooves. White was too plain, she had deduced. More colour, more vibrancy – the dress had to pop out, like the most evocative of flora springing exuberantly from the waving patches of grass. She paused for a moment to assess her work. The flaws leaped out at her almost immediately.
Wrong, all wrong. The design she had envisioned and sketched out... nothing like this. Terrible, so far away from what she had imagined. The stitching was fine, lines were precise, but the glow she had dreamt of the night before, that had inspired the creation of the piece in front of her – that was all gone, whisked away on the wind of her consciousness and forever lost to the aether of her dreams.
She grit her teeth in frustration. All that work... and for what? Even beyond the fastidiousness of her normal standards of quality, this was an abomination... not one shred of the magic she had imagined was in the mangled patches of fabric in front of her. It wasn’t what she had dreamt at all, nothing like...
She couldn’t obsess over that again. Rarity shook her head in an attempt at clearing the image from her mind, but the white weaving glow persisted, tugging her eyelids closed and shimmering behind the curtain of her vision.
Her hoof flew to the table in frustration – followed by a sharp shout, the pitch of her yell crackling at the height of her vocal range.
She drew her hoof upward and gave a brief glance – a lone needle errantly placed was protruding from just a bit further upward along her leg. Wincing, her horn shone and withdrew the pointed piece of metal, and she rose the injured area to her mouth, sucking on it timidly in an attempt to ease the sting. Her eyes closed distractedly for a moment – when they opened, she was half way to the door.
The night air was cold and biting, a startling contrast to the warmth of the day-time atmosphere. A pony could bask in the glow of the sun for hours without a care in the world – but the unwelcoming iciness of the night’s breath seemed to be a reminder that life was not always so accommodating.
Her hooves moved fast, given purpose without thought. Her body knew where to take her, even if her mind tried to blur the thought out. She had to see, again, and hope it was still there...
Though her familiarity with the town was born only out of obligation to awareness of local business, along with her years of residence, she found the house quite rapidly. She had never noticed before, but now the bland browns and grays of the painted wood practically jumped out at her, even amidst the darkness of the clouded sky overhead. Brazenly, she approached the window again, pressing her face to the glass like a filly leering at the candy-store counter.
There was a second one.
There was no light inside, but even in the purest darkness she could have spotted it – the design gave off its own radiance, surpassing any flicker of illumination a conventional light-source could hope to conjure. Still, she wanted a better look. A brief spark shone into a timid beam of light from the tip of her horn, casting its way through the window and to the interior of the building. There was no furniture, save a single ornate fireplace against the wall – and the two dresses. Those two magnificent dresses.
The first needed no attention – from the moment she saw it, the floral patterns and brilliant white designs had been burned into her mind – but the second was more than even a parallel of the beauty of the first. It was dark, darker than the pitch-black sky above, and strands of silver were woven through the gentle curves that made up the frame of the gown. The material shimmered with a blanket of thin misty sheen, like a wavy coat of metallic clouds framing the moonlight on a perfect night.
In spite of herself, Rarity’s mouth hung agape in amazement.
How... and from whom? In all her life of working with dresses and fashion, Rarity had never seen a work so elegant, so... perfect. Her mind reeled in search of a possible creator, in the expansive catalogue of her knowledge, but found nothing.
She had to come back. She had to know who was responsible for the dresses that stole her dreams and crept into the every thought of her wakefulness. It would have been wonderful, to stay and gaze upon the perfection through the fogged glass... but she knew it must wait. No matter the level of beauty, the world could not stop turning for a single piece to be admired.
She would have her dreams, however.
Rarity paused the rapid-fire clunk of the sewing machine and cast a glance behind her. Standing in the door-frame was her little sister in the gently-knit pajamas Rarity had made for her, clutching a stuffed animal between her hooves along the ground.
“Yes Sweetie, what is it? I’m a tad busy at the moment, and your bed-time was almost an hour ago...”
Sweetie Belle traced the ground bashfully with one hoof around the head of her stuffed brown bear.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t sleep. Could you read me a bed-time story?”
Rarity’s response tore in her mind half-way between irritation and sisterly sympathy, and settled on the latter. Her patience seemed more frayed than usual... but she couldn’t bring herself to lash out at the picture of youthful dependence and innocence in front of her.
The words echoed in her head for a moment, before she blinked and gave her head a slight shake.
Dress-making is a... complicated subject.
“Of course Sweetie, I’d be happy to. You go along to your room and I’ll meet you there in just a moment, alright?”
“Okay!” Sweetie Belle’s smile brightened her face as she bobbed to retrieve her bear from the floor, clutching it between her teeth as she ran off down the hall, the green patterned fabric of her sleep-wear becoming a mint-coloured blur as she dashed away. Rarity turned her attention back to the paper in front of her. Every page was littered with sketches, the majority of them scribbled out or blotted in apparent frustration.
She had given up replication, and perhaps even the aspiration to what she had seen through that window – the process of emulation was simply her natural reaction, and the designs that haunted her dreams needed at least an attempt to be brought to life in hopes of being rid of them. But now the concern was not with what she could never hope to recreate... it was with how those dresses had been brought to life in the first place. Who, in all of Equestria, could have composed such divine beauty through thread and fabric?
Rarity’s legs guided her towards Sweetie’s bedroom of their own accord, her thoughts drifting still elsewhere, but returning to an extent as soon as she entered the dimly lit sleeping quarters and spotted the wide-eyed filly tucked underneath her bright purple quilt. Rarity couldn’t help but smile – her sister was, sometimes, so perfectly adorable.
“So, a bed-time story then?” Sweetie Belle nodded enthusiastically as Rarity perused the book-self for a likely entry, before settling on a volume. “Ah, here we are...” she cleared her throat before continuing in a soothing and slightly elevated oration. “Howard the bear lived in a cottage at the edge of the forest-“
“Um, sis? If it’s okay, I was, um, wondering if you could read me one about a princess.”
Rarity glanced up questioningly over the glasses she wore for dress-work, but acquiesced almost immediately. With a warm smile, she placed the tale of Howard the bear back on the shelf, and selected another story – the same one she had been read so many times in her youth. The thin storybook shone with the glow of her magic as it settled in front of her, perched on the end of the bed. Again, she cleared her throat before beginning.
“Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess, the most beautiful in all of Equestria...”
Her thoughts went elsewhere as she narrated. The simple story of a princess, finding her prince... her match foretold by fate, perfect in every regard by virtue of existence. Two halves of an idyllic whole meeting together to form the most wonderful of unions.
Despite the aspirations that she had harboured since her earliest days, Rarity held no illusions about her significance in the world. She was no princess – a lady, to be certain, of well-refined culture and poise – but certainly not royalty. And in the storybooks, it was always the princess who got the prince.
Rarity was far from the paradigm of a ‘simple dressmaker’, sometimes whisked away by royalty in the occasional fairy tale. Perhaps it was her own fault for straddling the middle ground between the potential status divisions. She had no regrets for pursuing her dreams, nor for holding herself to the standard of etiquette befitting a proper lady. She certainly couldn’t see the sense in miring herself in poverty in hopes that one day her storybook saviour would swoop in and claim her from the never ending toil, whisking her away to a life of high-class and royalty the way she’d always dreamed. That was schoolgirl foolishness, and held no place in the real world.
She dreamed of him, sometimes. What her prince might be like. The affair with one ‘Prince’ Blueblood at the Grand Gala had left a sour taste for royalty in her mouth for some time – but the dreams persisted every now and then: a dashing stallion that would shield her from the harshness and uncouth nature of the world, and revel in her poise and beauty. The picture of composure and stately elegance, her perfect match in every way.
Lately, the dreams had been different. Rugged good looks had been replaced by timid shadowy proportions, hiding just away from the light. Instead of swooping into her dreamscape storefront and sweeping her off her feet, the mysterious gentleman had postulated from afar, begging her to come closer without using words, imparting her movement to meet him. A figure of simple and inelegant mystery, calling out to his princess. The thought made her heart ache more than anything before it.
The detail she knew – his hooves were toughened by work and dedication to his craft. They had seen countless swatches of fabric, guided endless needles, and woven thread after thread in pursuit of the beauty of his creations.
A simple dress-maker finding her love in another simple dress-maker. It was more wonderful in her mind now than any prince had ever been.
Two thirds through the story, Rarity took pause, noticing the soft snoring from the head of the bed. Sweetie’s head was nestled snugly against her lace-lined pillow. Her hooves still held the fluffy brown fuzz of her bear, bringing him close to her chest and nuzzling him with the tip of her nose as she slept.
Rarity smiled at the snoozing filly as she floated the storybook back into its place on the shelf, taking one last look at the cover before she did so. The picture depicted a majestic castle in the background, with two ponies in front – a beautiful princess alongside her prince.
The scene shifted as it slid back into the bookcase, grey stone replaced by brown wooden panels, castle walls morphing into a single fireplace and house-frame. The two dresses sparkled beside Rarity and her prince, both of them bathing in the beauty of their presence.
She had abandoned the pretence of working in the evenings now. Hours of toil only resulted in frustrated sketches and marred fabric lying in crumpled heaps throughout the boutique. Instead, work had been replaced by night time walks.
The dreams had been more insistent since the story – an ethereal voice calling out to her from the shadows of her subconscious. In the dreams she was weak, helpless, more than she had ever felt in reality, yearning for somepony to reach out and rescue her from the looming danger of the world – or from her own thoughts.
Everything had seemed pointless that past week. Dresses were flawed monstrosities, prompting worries for her own sanity – how had she put them out in the first place, hoping to beleaguer some poor unfortunate customer with the burden of wearing such a horrifying crime against fashion sensibility? She found herself talking ponies out of their purchases more often than not – Well, no, really, though I’m thrilled you find that particular garment to your liking, perhaps something more along these lines – though, this is a tad gauche, is it not? Maybe something more like this...
And so she found herself at the window of presentation to her would be prince.
There was a third dress today, upright on its stand alongside the other two. It was a perfect compliment to the set – the glimmer of white that had drawn her in, the veil of darkness that matched the pearly shimmer with a shroud of night – and now the third. A multi-hued crimson, arches and swirls of magenta in a painting brought to life, weaved together in an evening gown like dark red wine.
Rarity pictured herself in it – in each of them, though the majesty of the dresses was not in any desire to wear them. It was simply a fantasy – to be near to the apex of craftsmanship, and their creator as well. She would look at him, in any of the masterpieces he had created, and proffer her hoof timidly, not as a lady to be worshipped this time, but in a humble gesture of desire and acceptance – to let him know that she held him in the highest regard, and would offer her all to be near him. To see him at work, and bask in the radiance of his genius; her prince.
But fairy tales were never to be realized, were they?
The thought hit her hard, drawing breath away from the fogged pane of glass only inches away. Storybook romances, and dashing princes, no matter their nature – these were the vestiges of idealized times, imaginings that could never be real, lest the magic vanish completely. Could the suitor that had overtaken her dreams be only feet away, behind a door nearby his creations, waiting for her to throw herself to him and profess her undying love and admiration? In all likelihood…
Then what of her dreams? To discard a lifelong aspiration to be the perfect princess, found by her prince, throwing it all away in sight of the truest passion and admiration she had ever known, the highest standard of idolatry for this mysterious dress-maker – those too could be cast into nothingness, another idealized standard never to be brought to fruition? Could life be so cruel?
The first of several tears slowly made its way down Rarity’s cheek as she stared still longingly through the window.
Of course. How could I have been so foolish? I can picture the truth now…
A elderly mare, well into her golden years. Sitting with thread and needle, gown over her lap, rocking chair by the singular lonesome fireplace, swaying back and forth as she sewed by the firelight. A lifetime of experience and natural talented concentrated into her worn and gnarled hooves, creating perfect dresses never to be worn – that reminded her of her youth. The first the perfect purity and innocence of her first summer, brand new flowers springing from the earth and basking in the glory of their natural light. The second, the mystery of night, the dark alluring sky that beckoned to all beneath it, inviting them to adventure and mystery, the exploration of adolescence. And now the third, the sultry crimson of distinguished composure, storied through years of romance and passion to bloom in the matured beauty of rose-coloured satin.
Rarity’s heart broke a little… but the shards began to bloom just as quickly.
Reality was not ultimately cruel.
That notion – an aged and knowledgeable woman, distinguished and developed through a life’s trials and teachings, driven still to create through the glory of her calling. It was almost better.
Rarity had learned to cope with disappointment in the past, the most notable instance being the shattered expectations of the dashing stallion waiting for her on her ‘Best Night Ever’. She could meter her hopes here too – but along the way, turn them in something more realistic, and perhaps, more useful.
Her youthful aspirations – that was one thing, the lofty fantasy of true love, even in its newly permuted sense. But the opportunity to learn, and grow, and to better herself – that was the height of any aspiration.
The tears stopped as quickly as they had come. Rarity followed their departure, prying herself from the misty glass and beginning the walk back home. The moonlight sparkled at the edge of the glass. As it did so, the crest of violet gems on Rarity’s coat gleamed alongside.
Even Fluttershy’s yell was soft in nature, but Rarity managed to pick it out over the buzz of the crowd as she walked through town. She turned to face her friend with a greeting.
"Welcome to Carousel Bou- oh, dear. I’m sorry. Hello Fluttershy, how are you?"
"Rarity, I haven’t seen you in days. Are you feeling alright?" Past the normal aura of empathy the yellow Pegasus gave off, her face seemed additionally mired in concern, brow furrowing with worry as she questioned.
Rarity’s response was effusive and cagey, as her answer had been to all inquiries of recent on the state of her well-being.
"Oh, yes dear, I’m quite alright. Things have just been very busy at the shop, that’s all."
Fluttershy stepped closer, only inches away from her friend.
"Are you sure? You look so tired… please don’t overexert yourself."
"I’ll be fine, Fluttershy, really. Although…" Rarity gave a brief pause, and Fluttershy’s voice exploded with concern.
"Is there something else? You know you can talk to me about anything. I just want to make sure you’re doing alright."
The images that beset Rarity every night flashed through her mind. Those dresses. The featureless nouveau prince offering his hoof. The elderly and well-learned motherly figure beckoning her forward to an apprenticeship. Sparkles.
"Have you… have you ever dealt with bad dreams, Fluttershy?"
Fluttershy nodded sympathetically.
"Oh yes, all the time. When I was little I used to have nightmares about being chased by all sorts of monsters, or falling off clouds… I had trouble sleeping for the longest time."
The blandness of Fluttershy’s response reminded Rarity of the different nature of her particular night time visions.
"Er… yes. Something like that. I’m not sure if-"
"What I always found helped was having a nice warm glass of milk before bed. It also helps if you have something warm and snugly to cuddle up to – I have my forest friends, but a stuffed animal works just as well."
Not the advice she had been looking for, really.
"Mhm… thank you Fluttershy, truly. I do appreciate your concern."
"Not at all! You know you’re one of my dearest friends, Rarity. If there’s anything else you need, please don’t hesitate to come find me, okay?"
"Of course, dear"
The hustle and bustle of the crowd flowed like a river around the rock of the two pony conversation. Had she meant to go further… to confess her obsession to somepony finally offering understanding and solutions? And what would Fluttershy think, to be told she spent the nights she wasn’t tossing in a sleepless agony staring wide-eyed at the creations of a pony she had never met, but who haunted the dreams that came to her when slumber finally arrived?
"Warm milk. Yes, I’ll give that a try."
Fluttershy smiled brightly. Rarity’s attention was elsewhere, in place and time.
Hours later, her hooves pressed against a window again.
Rarity jolted upward from her bed into wakefulness. The sun languished in the sky, rays stretching through her bedroom window, illuminating dust motes as they flickered lazily towards the ground. She blinked groggily. How long had she slept?
Too long. A glance at the clock on her bed-side table told her that much.
She leapt from her bed in a panic. Being beholden to a particular standard of beauty and poise in presentation while working meant a vigorous regiment of preparation before venturing forward into the day – not a simple process, and certainly not one that could be condensed into fifteen minutes. Rarity couldn’t remember sleeping through her alarm before… the only thing she could remember at all, for the moment, was the trio of garments that had danced across the last throes of her dream, with two leering faces behind them. She had reached to them, forelegs outstretched, begging to be grasped, to be taken away – but they had left her there, alone in the darkness.
A quick hair brushing and face wash would have to suffice. Rarity’s mane was dishevelled beyond any state should recall it being in – her normally perfect purple coiffure was frazzled, in semi-permanent disarray. She noticed as she splashed a drought of cold water on to her face in front of the mirror, the bags that had taken up residence under her eyes. Far from the perfect picture of fabulosity.
Sighing, Rarity tossed the hairbrush sideways with a simple levitation, before making her way to the store floor. Two minutes before opening time.
The bell on the door rang seconds after it was unlocked. Rarity’s mouthed moved subconsciously.
“Welcome to Carousel Boutique, where everything is chic, unique, and magnifique! How can I help you?”
The colt who made his way inside with the ringing of the door as it closed gave a glance around the storefront, his eyes lingering momentarily on Rarity as she glowed with a smile to the best of her abilities. Her appearance raised an eyebrow, but nothing more.
Underneath the linen cape upon his back, the colt was a simple brown. His coat seemed trimmed and well groomed, and in accompaniment to the cowl from his neck, a fashionable beret sat atop his head.
“Good day, miss. I’ve come to peruse your wares, as I imagine you assumed.”
Something about his tone rubbed Rarity the wrong way, but she beamed back at him as convincingly as possible before answering.
“Of course, sir. Is there anything I can help you find?”
A derisive sneer answered the question for her.
“From the look of your displays, most likely not. Tell me, who is the designer for the majority of these dresses?”
“I am, sir. Miss Rarity, at your service.” She ignored the blithe and scathing commentary – something she was partially used to from her cultural aspirations.
“Hm. You have my condolences.”
Rarity blinked slowly, cobwebs in her mind still lingering from her awakening only moments ago.
“I’m sorry… your condolences? Whatever for?”
“Well… it’s not exactly polite to explain, but… surely the designer that created these can’t be in her best health, mental or otherwise.”
Rarity was torn between furious outrage and the pang of guilt at the stranger’s identification. She resolved to settle on the former… to keep up appearances.
“I never! I will not have you slandering my work while you are in my boutique, monsieur! Find your way to the door this instant!”
The colt smirked at her, but did as he was told, ambling towards the shop’s exit grinning the whole way at Rarity’s half-hearted fuming. Coupled with the frazzled strands of her mane protruding and the weary look of sleep embedded in her eyes, she was the picture of disarray – the complete opposite of her normally composed self.
Before he left, the would be customer spoke once more.
“I wouldn’t have stopped by, but I did hear such good things about your work… apparently I was misinformed. I imagine that when I set up for business, your days in this tawdry little shack will be quite numbered.”
The door slammed behind the colt with a brilliant white flash, Rarity’s horn glowing furiously at the force of her spell.
“The nerve of some ponies…”
Rarity busied herself with tidying the shop, taking note of the fact that the past few weeks of her fixation had taken a very visible toll on the upkeep of the store – dust bunnies the size of their real life companions hopped out from behind units of shelving, and scattered sewing implements had made their way from the workspace into the store proper.
The door rang once more with a sharp chime, drawing Rarity’s attention.
“Greetings! Welcome to-
-Carousel Boutique, where everything is, um… unique, and mag…mag… um… looks good!
Rarity’s eyes crawled open groggily. The ringing of the bell in hear ears faded away with the sound of the door closing.
Had she heard…
“Um, yeah, I think that one’s pretty too.”
Sweetie Belle’s voice?
The sun beamed brightly in the nearby window.
Rarity turned onto her side, still tucked in the scattered blankets of her bedding.
That couldn’t be right…
With undue effort, she dragged herself out of the comfort of the sheets, rising shakily to a standing position.
“Sweetie?” she called out her sister’s name. Everything felt so immaterial… was she awake now? The time seemed impossible. Everything was blurry and insubstantial.
Sweetie Belle’s hooves skidded on the floor as she zoomed into her sister’s bedroom.
“Rarity, you’re awake! I tried so hard to get you up, but you kept shaking and yelling and then it was time for the store to open and there were people outside and I didn’t know what to do, and I had to let them in and try to sell them dresses like you do-“
“What? How… long have I been asleep?”
“It’s already the afternoon! I kept trying, but you wouldn’t get up, and I couldn’t leave because there were so many customers showing up…”
Rarity blinked. Hard. The world unblurred ever so slightly.
She couldn’t find the words. Sweetie Belle was in tears now, dredged up in the flurry of her panic. The two sisters stood next to each other, Sweetie consumed in her distress, and Rarity staring off into the distance in puzzlement, her brain still processing the situation.
The door-chime rang loudly in the background.
The greeting began to play in her head.
“I… don’t worry, I’ll deal with that customer Sweetie. I’m very sorry… I’ll be right back, alright?”
Sweetie Belle sniffed and nodded, rubbing her face with her hoof to clear one of several streaks the tears had left on her cheek. Rarity didn’t pause to consider her appearance – she knew she must look horrible. Given the circumstance, however...
“Welcome to Carousel Boutique-”
She had apologized profusely of course. It felt strange, to prostrate herself so to her sister, but it was what the situation called for undeniably.
The height of irresponsibility. She still couldn’t believe it… replaying the events in her head, it seemed impossible. She had woken, she remembered, and dealt with that objectionable fashionista of a colt, who had left her bitter with rage at his uncouth admonishments…
The days were blurring together now. When she had slept, when she had eaten – if she had done either of those was now unclear. The thoughts kept her awake, and the dreams threw her back from sleep if she managed to drift there – or to crawl agonizingly, more accurately. It was no wonder she had slept for so long when she got there – and still, she been haunted by unpleasant visions – just more concrete, in this instance.
She went for another walk that evening, finding no solace in anything back at the boutique. Sweetie had been spoiled after work with all manner of sweets for her hard work, in an attempt to amend the disaster caused by Rarity’s over-sleeping – she expected a contact from Sweetie’s teacher in the future, demanding an explanation for her absence. That could be dealt with when it came.
And the dream had given her another possibility.
What if, instead of the ideal gentlecolt and perfect craftsman... what if, instead of the elderly and world-learned motherly mare… what if instead of either of these benevolent fantasies, the one responsible for the dresses was from the other side of her sleep-visions? A snide and cock-sure designer set out to bide his time until the perfect moment, upon which he would sweep the last regard for Rarity’s fashion catalogue out the window and gain the adoration of every dress-wearing pony in town. Someone who would crush the final frustrated embers of her dream under his hoof, laughing all the while.
She couldn’t bear the thought, but her walk took her there regardless. The glass was slightly frosted this evening, a very brisk chill in the air a contrast to the still vibrant heat that bathed the spring day. She counted the three gowns, pausing on each one to admire its beauty, the divine inspired grace that still bedazzled her, locking her eyes in place and stealing her breath away, giving a moment’s reprieve to the misty window-pane.
The glow of her horn shone to the back of the room, irreverent of the occupant. She did assume, of course, that somepony must live there – the creator of the dresses in the first place. Regardless of the spartan decoration, there were back rooms, other avenues to facilitate a theoretical occupation – and it couldn’t be any other way, it just couldn’t. Inside that home was her prince, her matron, or the end of her dreams.
There was a fourth dress, just there in the back. The glow of her horn didn’t stretch quite far enough.
She willed it brighter, needing to see. The motion wasn’t even a thought, but an immediate impulse. The three pieces of divinity she had dreamt of so many nights – she couldn’t leave the fourth out of sight. And so her horn shone brighter.
But still, the dress was out of reach.
Her eyes were so narrow, delirious. She had to see. Had to know what was at the back of that darkened room, behind the glass that held her weight every night for so many weeks. Her face scrunched in concentration, willing the magic from her horn brighter and brighter still, blinding from its point of emanation
Still, too far.
This couldn’t be. Couldn’t be allowed. She had to see it, had to know. Before she saw it, the image in her mind – what could it be to realize? Beyond every expectation, this dress was perfect. It was perfection. The pinnacle of all craftsmanship that had come before it, every thread guided by needle through time culminating in its creation. The apex of inspiration, at the very end of her light.
And the pony who had made it.
The glass gave way under the pounding of her hooves with more ease than she would have guessed. The shattering sound was piercing, but it reminded her of something. The tinkling of a bell, chiming entry.
Welcome to Carousel Boutique-
She had to see. She could see it, and meet them. Him, her, the one behind the dresses that had guided her through the spiral of failure that had been the last three weeks. None of it mattered any more – the store, her passion, the art of her dress-making – immaterial, childish dreams to be discarded. There was a single, brilliant point of light burning ahead, not the spell-weaved beam that was cast from her horn, but the glory of possibility. The glory of realizing what she had dreamt of for so long into reality.
She heard his voice call to her, and reached out.
“Please, everything I’ve ever dreamed-“
Dress making is not a job
She saw her there by the fireplace, a welcoming smile greeting her student.
-nor is it a folly to be played at for your amusement-
She heard the biting laugh and felt the swallowing darkness of her final competitor.
-it is a craft, an artform-
There was too much light. Too hard to see. The blinding brightness refracted in every shard of glass that fell around her like sparkling rain. Her body followed them to the wooden floor, landing amidst the pile of splintered bits and expectations. Her head was spinning, the spell from her horn flickering, but the light still caught in the many fractured facets, encircling her. She could almost reach out and touch the hem of the first dress. The pristine whiteness-
The first gown tugged away.
The alluring night-
The second followed
The sultry crimson-
And she was alone. With all of her imaginings and obsessions, in a cold, dark, empty room, amidst the last pieces of the dreams that had brought her there.
The brightness eked away as her eyelids fell, legs outstretched in yearning, the final effort to the knowledge that drifted away on its last fluttering footsteps. Unconsciousness greeted her swiftly.
Dress-making is a… complicated subject.
With the glow of the morning sun, they found her there; scratched and bleeding in the pile of broken glass, but alive, though unconscious. She was immediately brought to the local nurse, who assessed the situation, disclosing the breadth of her fatigue to no one, but instructing her friends to take good care of her.
She was buffeted by concerns. It was hard to explain, so she opted not to. To let her friends expectations of her problems remain in their minds – that was the greater grace, and she carried it through with poise.
She had gone back, of course. The house had been empty. Only the tiniest pieces of powdered fragments left behind by the not so meticulous cleaning crew. A lonely fireplace. The dresses were gone - but the back room was open, no door barring the way beyond the threshold of her inner light’s farthest reach.
After some time, Rarity made her way back home.
Several days passed before the tinkling of the Carousel Boutique’s bell rang once more.
She did feel a pang of regret, of course. But the thought of walking beyond that room, and seeing what might lay in store was something she couldn’t bring herself to do any longer.
What she had built up in her mind… the dreams, the pining, the aspirations, grounded in realism, fantasy, or in between…
That was the problem. She had been too happy with them.
But that was the abstract. The imagined. This was the real. The now.
The door chimed as it opened.
“Welcome to Carousel Boutique-“
On that day so many years ago, the stars had sparkled brightly overheard as Rarity watched the first creations she had loved presented on stage for the adoring crowd. She had dreamed of this moment – of her lifelong aspiration finally coming to fruition. Her smile had glowed as bright as the stars.
And the crest of jewels on her coat had sparkled even brighter.
She had been happy with them.
The package weighed heavy on the front step of the Carousel Boutique. To be sure she hadn't yet picked it up with her neat white clean hooves or waved it about with her magic yet, but its delivery had weighed heavily on her mind.
Upon returning from her errands, Rarity very deftly wafted the package through the front door, holding the burlap sack strong and straight, horn-height, avoiding this easy chair and that double-sofa.
With a delicate twist of a hoof, the sign on the front door flipped from a bold OPEN to an equally assured CLOSED. This was a special day for a special cloth sample. It'd taken some weeks to 'procure' the item, knowing this person and that pony and that dragon from back in her fashion-design days in Canterlot, but the rumors -- oh, the rumors! She felt a little faint now it was finally on her desk, smelling faintly of tobacco (packing material, she supposed.)
Throwing back the slim elastic cord set about the bolt on the side, pulling the cloth out its narrow package, Rarity's breath caught. Words would have failed her. The tiny pin-point sequins shone brilliantly in the bright light of the Boutique in the late afternoon. Not a single one felt 'out of place,' and the gentle variations in blue -- god but did it seem a shimmering night sky, just after sunset.
Rarity twisted her prize this way and that way, hoping to turn it into something … more. It was darling, it was elegant, it was the most exacting pattern-work she'd ever seen (come to think of it, she had no idea how they had so expertly strung three tiny beads per loop, creating a luxurious hoof-feel and impressing 'three dimensions' from all angles.) In all, she had perhaps a quarter-bolt of fabric. As she recalled she had to snipe several well-to-do ladies in Canterlot Society at auction by anonymous proxy, at great cost --
The circulars and rumors had all been true. This was some of the most gorgeous embroidery Rarity had ever seen as a dressmaker, as a lover of fashion, or as an equine being. She could -- and probably would -- stare at it for hours, putting it this way or that, wondering how to magic it into a scarf, into a bobbin-kerchief, into the broadcloth for buttons. The white-and-violet pony sighed contentedly.
… She then remembered a side-off rumor of this "Lady Pearl" creating full dresses. Anyone who could make small work such as this must have grand and wonderful designs, all sitting half-dashed and lying gorgeous about a boutique somewhere. Another fantastically fabulous female designer (who else could be a 'Miss Pearl'?) pining, aching to be discovered, a nascent new rising star o'er Equestrian fashion -- with Rarity to show her the way, the ropes, the bobbins …
Rarity's mind reeled with possibilities.
As her mind raced, so too did her hoof to her purse. More than enough for a ride out of town, by carriage or that new Friendship Express to Appaloosa, certainly, and meals, and another carriage ride at her destination--
What was her destination? Her magic flitted to the simple brown shipping envelope inside the 'simple, indiscreet' package.
MISS SNOWDEN PEARL
SOUTH SLOPE 1
NBPR 1, APPALOOSA ADJUNCT DISTRICT
The trip had taken longer than she'd thought. Though Rarity didn't relish the overnight car ride, the simple cucumber-and-cheese sandwiches served on the trolley car, the unexpected tips given to the carriage-boys, or the sudden oppressive heat "out West," at least she could look forward to meeting a new star.
Her sleep had been slight, but it was marbled in the same delicate blue as her swatch. Her bed unfortunately had been as lumpy as her hastily-packed day trip bag.
However, having given her address to the carriage-driver, the seats at least were comfortable. The scenery was beautiful if sparse, rolling red rock under a brilliant blue sky with scrawny green plants gripping at the road side. This little rock-farm here, a spittle of irrigated crops there; the orchards were far, far back in Appaloosa 'proper' as the bellhop had put it. The landscape stretched out for miles and miles, not a single thing breaking her reverie--
"Ah, s'up ahead there, miss," shot back the main driving pony. The drawing horses nodded in agreement, eyes all drawn to a large dingy roadside sign --
Native Buffalo Peoples Reservation One
Under the Authority of Brursar Brownbrush
And the Queendom of Equestria
And then suddenly she was there, at "South Slope One," which turned out to be a small cow-path the carriage could barely handle, brown and black broken rocks tumbling the wheels this way and that way, jarring Rarity something fierce. The men had taken a short walk to the nearest watering hole, making small conversation with some of the natives --
The rather … chubbier, hairy, hump-backed natives. With horns.
Rarity coughed out a little dust and made her way to the house 'proper.' Everyone here said 'proper,' including the Buffalo men with their rumbling accents and kind smiles to the strange pale Caballo from "Out East." The house, however, was very little 'proper'; it was somehow carved mud and chipped stone, leaning perilously into a bluff and tented in places with plastic bunting and corrugated steel plates here and there. Electric poles drew Rarity's eye away to a small generator and the pump the main driver was currently drinking from.
"Can I help you?" came an old broken voice.
In a corner, in a low cloud of acrid smoke, was an old crone of a buffalo, huddled over a bowl and staring at Rarity with the most ineffable expression.
"I'm looking for someone," piped Rarity, "I'm-"
"You're someone from out east looking for someone, mmm," hemmed the bent woman in low flat slow tones. Her bones seemed to prod through a shabby hoary carpet of skin, a simple sweat band drooping over one eye. "Have some water."
"I drank quite a bit before leaving town," Rarity offered, eyes darting around for a ladle nonetheless. It was so warm, and that woman wasn't exactly being gracious, her hooves darting round and about something. Must be some nervous tic of dementia, the poor dear.
"Mmm, well, who's this 'someone'?" A dry cackle rose a bit at the last word; she must have heard the way Rarity narrowly avoided 'some pony.' It wasn't polite, but neither was making light of being polite or correct in … tense racial circumstances.
"Snowden Pearl," Rarity bit. Nothing wrong in being forthcoming.
The figure began to keen and convulse, a low keening sound rumbling deep in her throat. Rarity stood stock still, not sure what to do -- the smoke from her short-barrel pipe seemed to waft and weave, making her look so terribly hellish and confusing in the borrowed light from the flagstones out back, a real horror in a small way -- until it rose to laughter as her bowl tumbled over.
"Ah, oh god, I swear," barked the old woman, hoof scraping at her little baubles, getting them back in the thick wooden bowl, "You people just can't damn well pronounce Buffalo, can you?"
"You're- Miss Pearl?"
Rarity was now acutely aware she was reeling on her hooves.
"Mmmm," nodded the old woman with a gleam in her cloudy green eyes, "And you have … clean hooves," she motioned with her chipped brown-black hooves through the soft earth, pulling back a hoof full of brilliant red squarish beads, pinprick-small.
“I came to look at some of your dresses,” Rarity offered quietly, reaching instinctively for her purse, “I mean, that’s to say you have the most luxurious fabrics, they catch quite a sum at Canterlot-”
“The scraps I give away get sold, the rest I really just do to kill time,” Snowden rumbled, pulling deep from a pipe. Her hooves had resumed to their invisible minutions on a slight strand. A low mutter, "After all, time's killing me."
Rarity gasped, "But all the articles on this newfound artist, they say you're up and coming--"
"They're being kind," a rasp, "I'm eighty. I won't be ninety, there's nothing 'new' about me and I'm not going anywhere," a pause, a snort, "nothing worse than being a goddamn 'found' artist."
The snowy-white pony with purple tresses looked about the room. An old stove on a far corner, a few 'primitive piece' furniture items, a deeply worn rug -- they could have been home to any part of the last century. There wasn't much new or hip or posh about this woman. She'd stood the test of time her sagging-bones look and her loving-grandmother hornpipe tobacco in this place for 20 years, maybe more, wittling away at her beautiful fabrics -- "to kill time."
"You make the most wonderful art," chimed Rarity. It came out a little thin.
No response but a shrug. It sounded loud in the silence of the settlement.
"I came from Ponyville to see what dresses you'd have made," Rarity admitted, making special notice of the ground at her hooves.
"Mmm," came noncommittal around that stem of a pipe.
The clock on the mantlepiece clicked slowly. Dead stony silence would be so much more comforting than the rustle of the beats, the ticking of the clock, the little rheumy noises Snowden made as she sucked at her terrible tobacco and bullied her lungs to work properly.
Rarity made her apologies to the driver, tucked back in her little carriage, and sped away from the old woman and her old hut and back to the new bright clean Apaloosan train station. She'd take a luxurious ride back with simple watercress-and-cheese sandwiches. A smaller carriage would drive her back down to her little boutique. As always she'd weave her own easy-breezy magic and stud her clients with her own horn-picked gems … And she'd love every clean smooth moment of it. She'd love going through all the steps and preparation and presentation and marketing and sales; the adulation of the crowds, the eventual rise to stardom she'd had dreamt of with Sparkle Shores' endorsement or Photo Finish's media machine. She'd be giddy and joyous at all her hard work coming to bear, to be represented, to be … recognized.
And yet … all the 'art' she'd seen, of all the fabrics she'd darn and mend and transmute, nothing was quite as well-crafted as that horrible old woman's Sunday-knitting project. She'd fallen in love with that fabric, just as she'd fallen in love with making her own art.
But they weren't the same, not at all. It wasn't glorious high fashion fabric, it was … It was killing time. Killing away time in a rough cold hot terrible desert world in a little hovel. It wasn’t high brow art, it was a way of surviving as a thinking thing.
In the present, the here and now, Rarity rolled down the window and lolled out her head, blue yes turned to the brilliant desert sky. She could feel the sand starting to fleck into her well-oiled hair, but it just didn't matter. Lolling out her suddenly very heavy head out the window, focusing her eyes half-lidded at the sparse clouds up above, it felt right.
Just killing time.
Rarity counted the sequins on the dress in the corner for what must have been the fiftieth time that morning. There were sixty seven. There were always sixty seven, she knew this by very well by this point, but there was really nothing else to do in her defence.
No one had been to Carousel Boutique in days. Well, that’s not exactly true, no one had been inside to buy anything in days would be a more accurate description. Pinkie Pie had been in and out all week, in an effort to drum up business. Though Rarity was fairly certain that the large sign she’d placed outside the shop was scaring more ponies away than it was welcoming. This was in part do to the fact that it resembled either a beautiful dress, or a hideous manticore depending on how you squinted at it. Rarity had tried to remove it, but apparently the pink pony had anchored it to the ground with cement. Where she got cement led to a whole other series of
questions Rarity couldn’t be bothered to address.
The rest of her friends had also tried their best to bring ponies through the door. Twilight and Applejack gave out flyers with every apple or book, Rainbow Dash had written messages in the sky, even Fluttershy had gone out and tried to spread the word, though in her case it was more or less spreading a whisper. They’d all tired their best, but nothing seemed to help.
She sighed, indeed, there were still sixty-seven sequins on the dress, and it had not in fact mysteriously grown a sixty eighth while she wasn’t looking. Rarity was beginning to worry, if there wasn’t a sale soon she wasn’t quite sure what she would do. Dressmaking was her love, one of the things she knew with certainty she could always do. She’d built her home, and life around it. Failing wasn’t an option, not only for her own reasons, but for Sweetie, whom she had supported since the small filly could remember.
She sighed again, looking towards the front door. Through the glass she could see all the ponies milling about the town square, none of them apparently in need of a dress. Opal sat sleeping on the doorstep, perfectly happy with the lull in activity.
Rarity let herself sink to the ground, tossing her hoofs up dejectedly. “Woe is me, the under appreciated artist! For what is art, without a viewer?”
Admittedly she was being a touch over dramatic, but with Rarity you were lucky if you got a touch instead of a hoof to the face when it came to dramatic.
She got to her hooves, walking towards the back of the store into the workshop eyeing all the lengths of fabric as though this was somehow their fault. Perhaps she just needed a new style? Something to make her clothing shine.
Rarity inspected the nearest mannequin, wearing one of the dresses she had made earlier that year for a royal ball.
“No, no, no,” she said fretfully. “You can’t improve upon perfection.”
It was obvious the other ponies simply had no taste. She would have to try harder to
sway them to her way of thinking. But how? She’d offered sales, put out ads in the local paper, gone out into the streets and asked politely-then later insisted quite a bit less politely. But nothing worked! How was a mare such as her suppose to get her art to the masses if the masses wouldn’t see reason?
She collapsed as delicately as possible into a pile of fabric. Rarity didn’t know the answer to that question. But she did know one thing, she’d better figure it out pretty soon or she’d need help staying open, or, Celestia forbid charity.
“What am I going to do?...” she asked the shop miserably.
“You could stop talking to yourself. In my experience that’s a bad sign.”
Rarity got up with a start. She turned to find a grayish blue stallion standing int he doorway. He was an earth pony, wearing a brown saddlebag his mane and tail were black, a frankly boring color scheme, she noted. His cutie mark appeared to be four four leaf clovers.
She composed herself quickly, smoothing out her mane and tail.
“Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in. I was just...organizing my fabrics.”
“By laying in them?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Can I help you?” she asked, changing the subject.
The stallion trotted over to some unfinished dresses, poking them lightly with a hoof. “Well, no I don’t think you can. But I believe could be of some assistance, Button.”
She bristled at the name. “The name’s Rarity I will have you know. Miss, Rarity, or Lady Rarity to you. Certainly not ‘Button’ thank you very much.” She walked over, and pushed his hoof away from her work. “Now, just how is it you think that you could help me?”
He backed up a pace. “Oh, well ‘Lady Rarity’, the name’s Lucky thanks for asking.” he chuckled. “I noticed you haven’t had much in the way of business in the last couple of days.”
Rarity deflated a bit at this comment. “Well...yes, but it’s just a downswing. Nothing permanent I assure you.”
Lucky peered at the empty storefront. “Oh yes, nothing permanent at all.”
Rarity’s face burned a bit. “Look here, ‘Lucky’. I can manage on my own thank you very much! I don’t need some pompous, and frankly tacky, stallion putting his nose in my business. You can show yourself the door.” She turned her nose up, pivoting away from him.
When she didn’t hear him leaving, turned a bit farther.
“Oh, come on, Butto-
Lucky sighed. “Lady Rarity, I didn’t mean anything by it. I’ve just been noticing that you wonderful dresses are going unsold. Real shame if you ask me.”
Her ear twitched a bit at the word ‘Wonderful’.
Lucky smirked a bit. “Oh yes, it is quite sad, that such a wonderful artist should go unappreciated. It’s a down right crime if you ask me.” he turned to leave. “Alas, I spent some time as a dressmaker, and had a gift to bestow upon such a prodigious maker of fine clothes. But it appears I am unwanted, woe is me, I am unworthy. So long, Lady Rarity, as they say in Prance, see you later, so long and good bye!”
“Wait!” she held up a hoof. “Well...I wouldn’t be too hasty...I’ll at least hear you out my good stallion. What is this gift you have to offer?”
“Oh no, it’s obvious I was a fool to try and approach one such as yourself. I shall leave you to your...” He looked around the empty boutique. “Business, and not trouble you further.”
Rarity frowned. “Look, do you want to give me something or not?”
“Oh no! She’s seen through my evil plan,” Lucky said with mock dismay. “Yes, I’d like to give you something. May I?” he asked, nodding towards his saddlebag.
“If you must.” Rarity replied as nonchalantly as she could.
Lucky reached into the front pocket and produced something small and green he set it on the work table in front of her. “Here you are.”
“Button.” He smiled. “Fitting ain’t it? Still, this isn’t just any button. Let’s call it a memento from my days in the business. Bit of a good luck charm, eh?”
“Yes, yes it is.” he eyed his cutie mark. “Why, is there a problem with green?”
“Well...not exactly, it’s just a very hard color to match. It doesn’t go with lots of things, like grey.” she looked him up and down. “Or black.”
“Oh, you’ve cut me deep with that one, Button. Very deep, I am wounded!” he staggered comically for a moment.
“Very funny, I say to you again, that my name is not ‘Button’. And I fail to see how an actual button is going to help me.”
“You’d be surprised, let’s just say it’s a good luck charm and leave it at that.” he turned to leave. “In anycase, I’ve got to be moving along. You can thank me whenever you like.”
As he walked out into the store front, Opal sauntered in. Lucky reached down to pet her.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Rarity said with a slight smile. “Opal is hardly friendly towards anyone who isn’t m-”
She was interrupted by the sound of Opal purring as she rubbed against Lucky’s leg.
“There’s a good kitty.” Lucky rubbed behind her ears.
“....B-but she’s never...and you...”
Lucky looked back at Rarity. “Guess I’m just lucky.” he gesture towards the worktable. “But seriously. Keep that button, I really want you to hold on to it. It’s important to me.”
“Then why are you giving it to m-”
He was already out the door. “I’ll catch you later, Button.”
“It’s Lady Rarity!” she yelled, but he was already gone.
“The nerve!” Rarity stomped back into the workshop. “Who does he think he is. Waltzing into my store and telling me how my business is doing. The ruffian! The cad! The charlatan! The.....the.....Something!” she growled with frustration and tossed herself back into the pile of fabrics in the corner. “Button indeed,” she scoffed.
The sound of the door opening interrupted her thoughts.
“Oh, and he returns,” she said getting up. “What, do you want to give me a zipper this time?”
She froze as walked into the storefront. There was a tall blue mare standing near one of the displays, she had green mane and tail, done up in curls, and wore a hat that looked a bit like a firework that hadn’t quite finished exploding.
“Oh..oh my I apologize, I thought you were someone else. May I help you?”
“I think you may.” said the mare, looking up from one of Rarity’s dresses. “I was on my way to Cantorlot when my carriage wheel broke. Fortunate accident I must say. I was going to ask if you knew were I might get it fixed, but that is the least of my concerns now my dear!”
Rarity stood shocked for a moment....Blue mare, green mane and tail, opulent hats... “Oh my stars...You’re....you’re...”
The mare smiled. “Fedora, that’s right, and I must say I am in love with your style, child! This stitching is exquisite, and the colors! My dear, this could be the next big thing! You simply must give me a portfolio to bring back to Cantorlot once my wheel is fixed, my colleagues have got to see this! What do you say?
Princess Luna later attested that Rarity was over the moon with joy. Fedora’s carriage creaked under the weight of all the samples Rarity loaded into back as it made it’s way to Cantorlot. She told Rarity that she would send word of how things went after she showed Rarity’s samples to her peers. She was sure it would be good news, and told the bouncing unicorn not to worry there was sure to be lots of buzz over her designs over the next few months.
Rarity danced around the store, twirling mannequins, and filling her various sketchbooks with plans and patterns for new designs. She told anypony would would listen, her friends, the delivery pony who brought in the fabrics, random ponies walking along the street, she was so happy she didn’t even get offended when some of them ran away screaming. It was all just too much to take in! This was what she had been waiting for, and it was finally happening. It seemed like a dream.
As she waltzed her way into the workshop, something caught her eye. The small green button sitting on the worktable glinted in the light. The four leaf clover adorning it’s face, shimmering slightly. She’d forgotten all about that, and about him after everything that had happened since.
It glowed a faint purple as she picked it up, inspecting it closely. There didn’t seem to be anything special about it. It was really rather garish in her opinion. Buttons should not draw the eye away from the rest of the outfit with any kind of emblem, let alone one as tacky as this. She couldn’t even use it. Some gift.
“I certainly won’t get into Cantorlot using you,” she mumbled. “Good riddance to bad rubbish I say.”
She was about to throw the button away when the shop door opened for the third time that day.
“Rarity?” asked a small voice. “I’m home.”
Rarity rushed to the door, all other things forgotten. “Sweetie!” she hugged her shocked sister, who was not use to this level outward affection. “You’ll never guessed what happened!”
“What happened!?” she asked, still completely bewildered.
“Well, you know how there’s been a tiny lull in sales as of late?”
“You mean how nopony’s bought anything for we-”
“That’s beside the point!” Rarity interrupted. “Our troubles are over my dear sister, for earlier today, I was graced by a visit from none other than the great Fedora, can you believe it?!”
“I can believe it.” Sweetie said smiling. “That’s a good thing right?”
Rarity sighed. “Oh Sweetie, you haven’t been reading those magazines I gave you at all have you?”
“Well....” Sweetie twiddled her hooves. “I’ve skimmed them...”
“Well, in anycase, Fedora is a famous designer to all the stars of Cantorlot! She was interested in my designs!” Rarity paused. “Of course that’s no great wonder, they are amazing after all, I’m just so happy somepony finally noticed my brilliance!”
Sweetie’s smile grew a bit wider. “That’s fantastic!”
“I know!” Rarity squealed with delight. “This is the break we’ve been waiting for, and it’s here! It’s finally here!” She hugged her sister again. “This requires a celebration!”
Rarity and Sweetie booth jumped as the the shop door burst open. There was a flash of pink, and in the space of what couldn’t have been more than a few seconds the entire shop was done up in balloons and streamers.
Pinkie Pie pressed her nose against Rarity’s.
“Hi.” she said.
Rarity made several shocked noises.
“What?” the pink pony asked. “My Pinkie Sense tells me there’s a reason to party. I goes where the Pinkie Sense’a tells me!”
Pinkie was off like a rocket, and in the space of a blink there was a cake on the table then she was out the door, presumably to deliver invitations.
“She scares me a little...” said Sweetie.
“Me too...” said Rarity. “But I must say she has excellent taste in decorations.
They jumped again as Pinkie’s head popped back into the doorway.
“Oh, and you never told me if the sign helped.”
The party was in full swing by the time the sun went down. All of Rarity’s friends were there. Pinkie served the punch while Twilight Applejack and Rainbow Dash danced in the corner. What Fluttershy was doing couldn’t necessarily be called dancing, as she never seemed to move more than one leg, and when she did she quickly pulled it back in fear she was doing it wrong.
Sweetie sat at a small table with Applebloom and Scootaloo, apparently planing their next scheme to get a cutie mark. Something involving Nurse Redheart and possibly a scalpel, which while deeply troubling, was not to be worried about tonight. Tonight Rarity wasn’t going to worry worry about anything.
“Congratulations again Rarity!” said Twilight, “We’re really happy for you.”
Rarity chuckled. “Why thank you Twilight. But really, I would like to thank you all for your help as well. You all tried your best to help when I needed you, and I won’t forget you when I’m rich and famous. Well...more so anyway.”
“Oh Celestia...she’s gonna be insufferable” Rainbow Dash whispered.
Applejack gave her a sharp hoof in the side. “What she means to say is, thank you kindly sugarcube. We were happy to help.”
“Yes...” said Fluttershy. “Anything for a friend.”
“Oh...You girls are going to make me smear my makeup.” Rarity wiped the side of her eye with a tissue. “Really, from the bottom of my heart, you’re the best friends I could ask for.”
“Group hug!” yelled Pinkie.
She embraced the six of them, and the party continued throughout the night.
Sweetie shifted a bit on the floor, having fallen asleep during the party. Rarity paused fastidious cleaning to collect the small filly from the floor, and head up the stairs to deliver her to her bedroom. She stirred slightly, but didn’t wake up.
Rarity smiled at her little sister, she looked so peaceful. She carefully layed the small filly onto the bed, and tucked the covers snugly under her chin.
“Goodnight Sweetie.” she kissed her on the cheek, and headed back down stairs as quietly as possible to finish cleaning.
The shop door opened as she reached the bottom.
“Hello Button.” said a familiar, if somewhat muffled voice.
Lucky walked into the store, holding a small daisy in his mouth.
“Oh dear Celestia.” Rarity sighed. “Not you again.”
“Aw, Button, can’t we be nice? I really am trying here.” He offered her the Daisy.
“Well, it would be ‘Nice’ if you could call me by my name for once.” Rarity turned her nose up at his small offering. “Now, state your business, and be on your way, Mr..what was it?”
For the first time since she’d met him Lucky’s ears drooped a bit. “Lucky,” he said. “But not with you apparently.”
“It will take far more than luck to sway me, Lucky.” she said curtly. “Now, do you have a reason to be here?”
Lucky opened his mouth, the daisy fluttered through the air, when a gust of wind picked it up, it twirled around for a few moments before landing in a nearby vase.
“That was lucky” he remarked. “Well....I just wanted to congratulate you on your success. I heard you got a visit from none other than Fedora herself very swanky. I must say, if you get in with her then you’ll go places Butto-”
Rarity eyes shot daggers so sharp they might have drawn blood
“I mean Lady Rarity.” he corrected. “It seems that button I gave you is a bit of a good luck charm eh?”
Rarity was taken aback. She had completely forgotten about the button sitting in the workshop. She’d meant to throw that awful thing away.
“I’ll have you know, that you’re little button had nothing to do with this! It was my designs that earned this, nothing less.”
Lucky nodded. “Oh, but of course. If your designs weren’t good she wouldn’t be interested...but it was pretty lucky she happened upon them wouldn’t you say?” he noticed her expression, which did not bode well for the conversation. He sighed. “Look, I swear I didn’t have anything to do with the carriage thing.” He looked her in the eye for a moment. She nodded briefly, and he continued. “Did you ever wonder why my cutie mark is four four leaf clovers?”
“Excuse me if I don’t spend my time wondering about you Mr.Lucky.”
“Fair enough, but just in case you were, my mark looks like that because that’s my talent. I’m lucky. When I’m around...things just happen. Like a bit on the street corner, or winning a contest. That kind of stuff just follows me around. I generally try not to let anyone know for obvious reasons...but I had a good one this time. You following?”
“Yes, but I’m hoping there’s a point soon.”
“Well....A couple days ago, I see a mare in a shop. I think to myself, ‘Oh look, it’s the nob-’ if you’ll excuse the term. ‘who runs that boutique, I bet she’s stuck up.”
Rarity’s eyes shot several more daggers at Lucky’s hide.
“Wait! Let me finish!” he held up a hoof. “The thing is, I see her around town some more, and each time, she’s doing something nice. Like helping her sister, or giving something to someone who needs it. And I think, maybe I was wrong about this mare, maybe she’s different than I thought she was.” He looked up at her. “And...well, then I noticed you weren’t doing so well. So I thought, ‘There’s a pony who deserves a little luck.’ so...I came in. Because, I you’re a good person. I gave you that button, and you know why?”
Rarity shook her head.
“Because it’s my good luck charm, and if I’m lucky, it is too. It’s magic of sorts I always had. Though I’m not a unicorn or anything. Figured you could use it, and...perhaps if, you know I did something nice I might be lucky enough to get to know just how badly I misjudged you at first?”
Rarity was silent for a moment.
Lucky stared at her, hoping her reply might be something good.
When she finally did open her mouth, she was interrupted by a knock at the door. She closed it, and walked over to answer. There was a small exchange between her, and a pony in a dress suit. When she returned she was reading a letter.
“What does it say?” asked Lucky.
“It says they love my designs...” Rarity said quietly.
“That’s great!” said Lucky.
“But it says they want me there...with them...in Cantorlot. They have a studio all set up for me with all the materials I could want.”
“Oh...” said Lucky,
“Indeed.” Rarity looked up from the paper. “I’d have to move away.”
“Well...isn’t that what you wanted?”
Rarity looked around for a moment. “Why yes....yes I suppose it is. Yes, this is exactly what i”
Lucky sighed. “You may not be as bad of a nob as I thought at first. But you’re a terrible liar.”
“Well what do you know!” she yelled. “I always wanted to be a famous fashion designer, and with this I can be!”
“Yep, that’s certainly true. It’s your lucky break I suppose.” he said quietly. “But luck doesn’t always give you exactly what you want.” he turned to leave. “I know that better than anypony.”
Suddenly there was another knock at the door.
“Oh, who could it be this time?” Rarity asked angrily.
There was another knock, louder this time.
“Oh no.” said Lucky.
“What, it’s just a visitor, probably Fluttershy, she’s always forgetting things.” Rarity started towards the door, but found Lucky blocking the way.
“Look, you know all that stuff I said earlier?
“Yes...” she said slowly.
“Well you know how I said I don’t normally tell anyone about that whole luck thing?”
“Yes, I didn’t believe a word of it.”
“Well even if you didn’t, let’s imagine for a minute it’s true. Some might want that kind of luck.”
Rarity pushed passed him. “Stop your rambling, I have enough trouble without you adding to it. Let me answer the door”
“No!” he said quickly. “Look, fine don’t believe me but please, don’t get mixed up in this.”
“See you later, Button.” he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.
Rarity pulled back in shock. “How dare you!”
Lucky just smiled. The door flew off it’s hinges. Two large ponies barged their way inside. Lucky pushed Rarity out of the way, as they grabbed him. Before she knew what was happening they were out the door and into the night.
Rarity stood there, stunned for a moment. Behind her, she heard something on the staircase.
“Rarity?” asked Sweetie. “I heard a noise.”
Rarity turned, heading into the workshop. She returned with a green button, wearing a saddlebag, and a large sunhat.
She turned to her sister. “Go back to bed Sweetie,” she said calmingly.
“I’ve got an errand to run.”
Then she ran out into the night, running after the sound of a wagon disappearing in the distance.
Rarity hurried down the road, her hooves clipping sharply against the coblestones. The wagon came into view, speeding towards the everfree forest. Rarity was terribly out of breath, but she kept going. She could see the sack Lucky was in sitting in the bed of the wagon, one of the ponies who grabbed him sitting beside it while the other pulled.
“Give him back!” she yelled.
The one in the back turned to look. Upon seeing who it was, he tapped his companion, who glanced over his shoulder. He stopped short and they both stared for a moment.
“Are you seein this?” asked one.
“Yeah, but I ain’t belivin it.” said the other.
They both broke out into fits of laughter.
“And just what are you going to do darling?”
“Well, first, I was going to ask politely that you return the pony you have in that sack. He may be annoying, but that does not give you the right to kidnap him.”
They stifled a laugh. “And if that doesn’t work?”
“Then I’m going to have to make you give him back.”
They stopped laughing and stared at the small unicorn in front of them. “You are going to make us give him back?” The one who had been pulling the cart tapped the other one the back “She is going to make us give him back.”
They burst out into new fits of laughter.
“Look miss.” said the one sitting in the wagon bed. “This here pony is very lucky. You know what we could do with luck like that?”
The other one chimed in. “We won’t have stop goin’ round stealin’ things.”
“Yeah! We could stop stealin’.” he paused. “We’re not really going to stop stealin’ are we?”
“Well...no, We’ll just be a lot better at it. But we could stop. It’s the principle of the thing.”
“Oh yes, the principle’s important that is.”
“Indeed.” The one in the wagon turned to Rarity, bending down to look her in the eye. “Now little missy, it’s against my...what is it?...”
“Moral code” said the other.
“Yeah, that’s right, moral code, to go hurting ladies, so just find your way to going home, and I won’t have to break that code. Got it?”
Rarity put a hoof to her chin in thought. “Oh, oh yes I got it. But you see my dear gentlemen, there’s something you’re not factoring in.”
They looked confused for a moment. “And what’s that miss?”
Rarity smiled slightly. “My moral code.”
Rarity’s horn glowed for a moment. A length of thread shot from her saddlebag and tied itself around both of their hind legs. The two thieves yelped with surprise, falling flat on their faces. Before they could react further Rarity sent another length of fabric hurtling from her bag, and tied it tightly around their mouths and eyes. Rendering them blind and mute.
“Now, I hate to ruin my manicure...but I doubt this will hold you brutes long.” Rarity turned, and delivered two sharp bucks to each of their heads. Their bodies slumped to the ground, unconscious.
Quickly she hopping up into the wagon, and with a pair of scissors made quick work of the sack holding Lucky.
“Wow....” he said quietly.
“Lucky thing I came.” Rarity said with a slight smile.
They hopped onto the ground. Turning back Lucky eyed the two ponies who had kidnapped him.
“What do we do with these two? They’ll try again you know.”
“Let the guards take care of them. I happen to know the Princess, I doubt they’ll be bothering you again any time soon.”
They headed back towards ponyville.
Lucky was silent for a moment. When he finally opened his mouth he asked. “So, what are you going to do?”
“About the letter?”
Rarity sighed. “Fedora will simply have to find someone else I suppose. My friends are in Ponyville.” she turned to him. “Among other things.”
“Oh....” he paused. Then a smile spread across his face “Oh. You mean it? Lady Rarity?”
“That’s Button to you.” she returned his smile. “And besides. Who knows, I might get lucky.”
Where the wild roses grow
Dawn was breaking over Ponyville. The cool autumn breeze blew an array of golden purple leaves around the storefront, freshly dropped from now bare tree branches. Outside was a small troop of ponies, each one patiently waiting for Carousal Boutique to open its doors and allow entry inside to let each pony begin their shopping for Raritys new fall line. Contrary to past years punctual openings this morning the store still had its doors locked fifty minutes past it’s eight o’clock opening. The ponies outside weren’t just about to up and leave though, especially since the majority had arrived by rail specifically to get these new bridles and saddles. Amongst idle chatter about the beautiful color of the fall leaves and their vacation lodgings one dull orange Earth pony wrapped in a fleece coat wondered aloud the circumstances of the pony inside and her unusual absence…
“WHAH!” Rarity jerked her head off her work desk, sketches of dress’ that had glued themselves to her face gently falling to the desk. A pencil fell off her ear, clattering to the floor.
“Sorry!” apologized Sweetie Belle, grabbing the pencil and placing it on the desk.
Raritys horn flared to life, “It’s quite alright Sweetie,” the pencil levitated itself back into the small jar where she kept her sketching utensils, “Is something the matter?”
“No…well,” the little unicorn shifted nervously on her hooves “Uhm…”
“Spit it out darling! Is there a problem?”
“No, but I think you have custom-“
“CUSTOMERS!?” screeched Rarity. She darted over to the dresser, combs and curling irons levitating to attention. “Goodness gracious to think I was up all night again poring over my…never mind,” she glanced over at Sweetie Belle “Would you…like to help me out?”
Sweetie Belle gasped, “Really? OOH OOH! What can I do?”
“Head down to the ground floor. Turn on all of the lights. Switch the closed sign to open. Once you hear me coming down you can unlock the front door. Can you do this Sweetie?”
“YOU BET!” Sweetie saluted her sister, then bounded out the room. Rarity sighed, magically straightening out her purple hair and letting them twist into their coily strands. It was completely irresponsible of her to forget about the autumn sale she held every year. To her own credence she had been distracted by a wholly remarkable book.
The book in question, a slim jet-black tome with a golden strand of a bookmark, glowed turquoise and gingerly floated over to her. Rarity turned her attention to it, the title shimmering a brilliant silver cursive. With a quick flip she had open the last page of the book. Inside was the portrait of a handsome dark blue stallion, his long, luscious mane framing his proud visage. The mirthful expression on his face only served to make Raritys heart melt as she stared into his deep golden eyes.
“I’ll show you my designs soon,” she whispered quietly. “I’ve got a ticket to Trottingham to come meet you. I’ve drawn so much from your work. You inspire me so. The commentary on trends, your insights on fashion…”
“RARITY I’M READY!” cried Sweetie Belle from downstairs. The shout caught her by surprise, and the book fell to the floor.
“Coming! Sweetie!” she yelled (faintly) down the stairwell. Rarity delicately lifted the text back to its spot on her work desk. Next week would come soon enough. As of now there were sales to be attended to. She smiled as she walked downstairs to her patiently waiting customers, the title of the book surfacing quickly in her mind.
Fashion comes first.
“That’s a jolly fine bonnet atop your noggin miss! Is it a piece from one of Montagues collection?” asked a grey colt, giving her a smile.
Rarity smiled back “The design alludes to Windmere Silvertrots original sketches on headwear but no, this happens to be one of MY original designs.”
“Ah! A lovely mare such as yourself! Pardon my lack of foresight, I should have realized right off the bat that you are a high class designer!” he respectfully tipped his black bowler hat.
Rarity giggled “Oh do stop I…appreciate the compliment,” the train rattled along the rails, grinding to a halt.
“ROTHSGUARD! NEXT STOP EMMERY HILL!” blared the conductor from the front. Rarity glanced at her ticket, the letters ‘EH’ printed in black typeface near the snipped rectangular edge.
“In town for business or pleasure miss?” continued the colt politely after the train slowly began to lurch forwards.
“A little of both if I can find the time. I’ve left my little sister back home in Ponyville under the care of a good friend of mine. A little filly like her has no interest coming along on such a droll excursion. I rather doubt she has any concern for the stallion I’m meeting either. It’s one appointment I simply cannot be late for,” said Rarity briskly.
The colts’ ears drooped, but otherwise remained chipper “Ah! Good to hear you are keeping the youth in mind. Always a darned shame when you read in them papers about neglect innit?”
“Quite,” said Rarity, keen on having the conversation over with. The colt obliged, remaining silent as she shifted her eyes out to the window.
The setting sun cast a pallid orange glow to the worn cobblestone of Hoofingtons streets, the train cars moving along at a steady pace. The spires of the distant clocktower were tinged with orange, as was the clock face itself being lit up like a fiery lamp due in part to the sunlight bouncing off the alabaster surface. Rarity drank it all in, the beautiful town was something she could stand to live in had she ever had cause to move away from Ponyville. Absently she floated her book, flipping though the pages until she arrived at the photograph of her dream stallion pictured on the last page.
“EMMERY HILL! NEXT STOP CLOVEN HEIGHTS!” the conductor announced in his usual loud monotone.
“I’ll see you soon…” she whispered to the picture, the grey colt seated across from her raising an unseen eyebrow.
Emmery Hill was beautiful as Silvertrot had described. The winding trail that snaked through the park was punctuated by beautiful marble sculptures of ponies, colorful murals depicting tasteful scenes from history, tall proud maple trees bearing golden leaves and a plethora of ornate of ornate fountains spitting the clearest water Rarity had ever seen.
Rarity appreciated the sights, but she didn’t stop at Emmery Hill to play distracted tourist. She had a destination in mind. A pony to meet.
“Pardon me!” she called over to an old goat gently pruning a hedge sculpture with his teeth “Do you happen to know where I can find Treachers Hollow? It’s not marked here on the pamphlet…”
“Oh-HO! Headin’ to the hallah eh?” bleated the goat. He waggled his eyebrows “Yah kinda old to be snoggin’ under the waterfall aint’cheh?”
Raritys complexion went from alabaster white to tomato red instantly, blue eyes narrowing into tiny pinpricks.
“Come…again?” she hissed through gritted teeth.
If looks could kill the gardener would have been vaporized on the spot from the intensity of that glare. The goat balked, suddenly wishing he hadn’t implied the things he just did.
“Uhuh, eheh, jes’ uh, beyond the bend back thar where, uh, the wild roses grow. Pleasure to meetcha!” he stammered gesticulating behind her, then turning tail and bolting out of sight.
Rarity harrumphed, stamping a hoof into the ground. She resolved to pay the park employees a visit later to give them a piece of her mind. It made no sense to explode over a silly old goat. Turning to where the goat was pointing she could make out a small cluster of red rose poking out from a patch of dark green grass. There was a small rocky outcrop nearby that nearly blended in with the stone protrusion behind it. Rarity smiled; at last she would meet her dream stallion.
The grove was picturesque. The small waterfall in the corner rushed vigorously down a quartet of broken boulders into a clear blue pool that filled a quarter of the hollow. The sunlight trickled through the twisted oak perched above the hollows open roof, casting mottled shadows over the multitude of wild roses growing from the loosely packed soil. Rarity scrunched her nose at the empty Sarsaparilla bottles littering the ground in various spots. Clearly this patch of the park was not given much attention. Rarity tutted to herself, then spotted her dream stallion in the corner of the grove, right by the gangly roots of the old oak.
Her heart stopped, her mouth felt dry. Rarity pulled the text out of her embroidered saddlebag. The picture matched the face she was looking at.
Rarity gulped “Hello Windmere, it’s so nice to finally meet the Pegasus pony that spearheaded fashion in the modern direction.”
She walked over to the roots, ever careful to not accidently crush a rose under her hoof.
“You…a visionary. Somepony that completely understands color theory down to a ‘T’. There’s many more colts involved in fashion nowadays. As such your later designs have achieved much notoriety and there are to this day many colts and mares who strive to mimic them as closely as possible.” Rarity reached the roots, sitting down on the soft grass that grew there.
“Most of them don’t even remember your name…”
The obsidian caricature of Windmere Silverhoof smiled back at her, his thin lips pursed knowingly, as if his answers were on the tip of his tongue and he would speak at any moment. Rarity took out a rag, pushing the drink cup off the silver top of the gravestone and wiping it clean of dirt.
“I do. When I was just starting out I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing…I-I had know what I wanted to achieve. Where those goals were…but despite all my experimenting I lacked good direction, proper construction of materials and a way to design something that didn’t involve drowning it in gemstones,” she said with a slight chuckle in her voice.
With a flick of her horn she finished polishing the tombstone. There were no words inscribed save for Windmere’s stylized signature below his face. Rarity admired it, even now his mantra of simplicity in style rung true.
“I drowned myself in your works. All of your recorded addresses, published work, every editorial. If it weren’t for you I may have never gotten my head out of the ground,” she sniffed, feeling her eyes watering. “It would have taken my ages to get where I am now, you helped me open my eyes.”
Rarity leaned forwards, pressing her lips to the cool black stone, for only a second, then drawing away.
“I only wish that you hadn’t departed so early, so that this one unicorn could have had the pleasure of your company,” she said quietly “To say thank you, to the handsome Pegasus that guided my needle through the threads of my life.
A tear rolled down her cheek, onto the black book she had brought with her. Rarity didn’t wipe it away. She sat there in the grove, staring quietly at the tombstone. Celestias sun slid further down the horizon, giving way to a pink sky amongst the first glittering stars of the evening. Darkness overcoming the grove, the squattish memorial practically disappeared into the inky background. Rarity breathed easy, picking up the thin black book that had led her to her stallions early workspace. She trotted over to the exit, shooting a parting glance to the memorial. Rarity smiled, thankful that she had taken the time to finally spend with her greatest idol.
Leaving the grove she vowed to return one day, knowing all it would take was one train ticket, and an attentive eye to follow the wild roses growing in the cove.