The Showmare’s Tale
The Great and Powerful Trixie sat alone at a table in the otherwise crowded Canterlot bar, hunched over a shot glass filled to the brim with salt. She took a long lick, just as the band on stage struck up another song. She turned to scowl at the performers, a young trio of colts with more enthusiasm than skill. Grimacing, she downed the entire salt shot in a single gulp, setting the empty glass next to a rapidly growing pile of its comrades. Raising her hoof, she waved the bartender over.
“One more of the same,” she grumbled as she gestured to the empty glasses. Rather than running off to fetch her salt like a proper publican, however, the bulky stallion frowned down at her.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough, miss?” he grunted, clearing away some of the dishes.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie belongs on that stage, wowing the plebeians and earning her and yourself alike countless bits,” Trixie shot back as she wobbled slightly on her stool. “However, you can plainly see that the Great and Powerful Trixie is not so engaged. That being the case, the Great and Powerful Trixie has determined that she shall seek refuge from the indignities which these cretins,” she gestured towards the band, “Are inflicting upon the Great and Powerful Trixie’s ears by salting the Great and Powerful Trixie into such a stupor that even their cacophony cannot disturb the Great and Powerful Trixie.”
The bartender snorted and said, “I’m not sure I should be letting you walk home as it is. I’m gonna go get you a glass of water. When I come back, we’re settling your tab.” Thankfully, he turned and walked away before he had time to see Trixie blanch at the thought of paying her bill.
While Trixie was frantically deciding whether it would be better to try and teleport away in her inebriated state, or if she should simply attempt to bolt for the door, a voice behind her asked, “So, I take it you’re a performer?” Turning, Trixie saw a milk-white earth pony mare with a soft pink mane standing at her shoulder. The latter took a seat next to Trixie and asked, “So, what do you do? are you a singer, or a comedian, or do you-”
“The Great and Powerful Trixie,” Trixie interrupted, in a voice slightly louder than was necessary, “Is a storyteller. She is also the most powerful unicorn in Equestria. As you can imagine, the combination is an incredibly potent one, leaving the unwashed masses quaking in awe as she seamlessly blends her verbal and literal magic to create a spectacle unlike any heretofore witnessed by ponykind!”
“Hey! Shut it, lady!” called one of the bar’s many patrons from a nearby table. Trixie bristled, but did not deign to respond directly.
The white pony grinned, oblivious to the hostility being directed towards them. “Wow, that sounds really neat! So, when’s your next performance?”
Trixie scowled, and answered in a slightly lower voice, “The Great and Powerful Trixie was supposed to be performing at this venue, this very night. However, the owner apparently decided, based on the trivial detail that the Great and Powerful Trixie-”
“You say your name a lot,” the white pony observed.
“The Great and Powerful Trixie is rightly proud of her name, and will say it as often as she pleases!” huffed Trixie. But a moment later, she conceded, “However, it has been brought to the Great and Powerful Trixie’s attention that she has, on occasion, become rather more grandiose than is strictly necessary when she’s had too much salt. As a gesture of goodwill previously unknown to an establishment of such ill repute as this, the Gre-Trixie will attempt to speak more succinctly, for your benefit.”
The pony smiled brightly. “So, why aren’t you performing tonight?”
Despite the lightness with which the question had been posed, Trixie scowled even more deeply. “As Trixie was saying, she arrived slightly late for her scheduled performance. A mere hour or two, that was all. By then, however, the manager had brought in this gaggle of blank-flanked poxes on the face of music.” She swung a hoof lazily back towards the stage, and the admittedly lackluster band. “That would have been bad enough, of course. A painfully low-quality opening act like this drives away audiences as surely as anything. However, the fool then compounded his error when Trixie did arrive by refusing to boot them and let Trixie perform her act! Now Trixie is receiving neither her commission nor the adoration which ought rightly to be heaped upon her, and this establishment is deprived of both her artistic and magical genius, and the massive influx of coins her performance was sure to bring!”
The white pony put her hooves on the table. “Aww, I’m sorry you didn’t get to go on stage! You can do your show for me, if you want!” she looked around, a thoughtful frown crossing her face. “Well, maybe you’d better not do the magic part. That might be too distracting to everypony else. But you could tell me a story! I’d love to hear one of your stories!”
Trixie lifted up her chin as high as she could, which was remarkably high given the long years of practice she’d had staring down her nose at everypony. “The Great and Powerful Trixie does not need your sympathy. The Great and Powerful Trixie will not debase herself by reciting like a trained parrot for your amusement! The Great and Powerful Trixie’s talents demand and deserve an adoring audience willing to shower her with fame and glory!”
At that moment, the bartender returned. Setting a glass of water in front of Trixie, he grunted, “You’ve racked quite the tab, miss. I’d like my money now, please.” Although he said it with his usual detached gruffness, Trixie could not help but notice the way the large stallion towered over her.
She swallowed, then looked back and forth from the bartender on her right to the pink-maned pony on her left. Settling her eyes on the latter, a grin spread slowly across her face. “Say, um...”
“Sunny Days,” the earth pony supplied.
“Right, Sunny. You still want to hear that story?”
“Yes, of course!” Sunny cocked her head. “But what does-”
“Right then!” Trixie wrapped her hoof around Sunny Days and grinned lopsidedly up at the bartender. “Two more salts, put them and the rest of Trixie’s glasses on Sunny’s tab. Sunny here is Trixie’s designated carriage driver, so you can stop worrying about her walking home.”
The bartender looked to Sunny with a raised eyebrow. Sunny, for her part, gaped at the wildly grinning Trixie. Finally, she shook her head clear, then slowly nodded. “Yes, ah, that’s right. And um, just a water for me, please.”
The bartender’s snort made it clear what he thought of the whole matter, but he didn’t argue. Instead, he returned to the bar and began preparing Trixie’s shots.
The two ponies sat in silence for a moment, as the band finished the tune they were playing to a smattering of inattentive applause, then launched into a slow-paced balled. Although he gamely crooned into the microphone, the minimal and exposed melody made it more obvious than ever that the lead singer was not going to be earning a music-oriented cutie mark anytime soon.
“...Well?” prodded Sunny at last.
Trixie didn’t even look up. “Well, what?”
“Well? Aren’t you going to tell me a story?”
Trixie heaved a long-suffering sigh with all the drama she could muster. “Ugh, fine. What do you want to hear?”
Sunny tapped her hoof to her chin thoughtfully. “Hmm...I dunno. What kind of stories do you usually tell?”
“Oh, you know,” Trixie waved her hoof vaguely. “Tales of Trixie’s cunning, and valor, and incredible magical powers, mostly. Some monster stories--dragons, primarily. Those always go over well with audiences. Trixie used to do a historical set, but-”
“Oh, oh! Do one of those!” the white mare practically squealed. “I love stories about the olden days!”
“Ah, you probably don’t want to hear one of them, really,” Trixie stammered as she tried to backpedal. “Trixie used to do a set of folk tales, but they just didn’t draw much of a crowd. Now, her tale of Grondgolf the Fiery, that’s one you-”
Sunny Days clopped her hooves on the table. “No, no!” she cried, staring into Trixie’s eyes with a pleading expression. “Please can you do one of your history stories? I promise I’ll listen and be interested and pay attention! Nopony ever talks about the way things used to be anymore. Nopony even remembers the old stories.”
Something about the way she asked made Trixie pause. She was well acquainted with admiring fans, of course. She’d been begged to perform ‘one last set’ many a time. But this was different: this mare didn’t just want to hear a story because she thought it would be fun, or because she was bored, she wanted to hear it because... well, Trixie wasn’t really sure why this pony wanted to hear her tell a story, much less an old myth. But looking into Sunny’s eyes, she could tell it was important.
And the Great and Powerful Trixie never backed down from a challenge.
“Well, alright,” she acquiesced, and Sunny squealed again. The bartender chose this moment to arrive with Sunny’s water and Trixie’s salt. Trixie took a long lick from the first glass as she mentally reviewed the story she was about to share. It had been almost a year since she last told this tale, but it was one she could never forget.
“The story Trixie shall tell this night,” she began, unconsciously sliding from her inebriated slouch to a more upright position as she spoke, performer’s instincts taking over, “Is one which has been in her family for many generations.” She broke character for a moment to add, “Now Sunny, Trixie knows that every two-bit wannabe bard says as much to add a little gravity to their shows, but it actually is true in this case. My grandmother told it to me, and she learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother before her.”
“I didn’t doubt that you were telling the truth,” Sunny replied.
“Yes, well, certain recent events have forced Trixie to conclude that today’s audiences are singularly incapable of distinguishing fact from fiction,” Trixie grumbled, chasing away the unpleasant memories with a quick swig of salt.
“What about your mother?” Sunny asked.
Trixie nearly choked. “What did you say?” she coughed out.
“You said you learned the story from your grandmother, who learned it from her mother, who learned it from her mother. What about your mother?”
Trixie fixed her eyes on the white pony. “Do you wish to hear Trixie’s story or not?”
The earth pony looked away. “Yes...”
“Then you will cease haranguing Trixie for irrelevant details about her personal life, and instead allow her to continue with her tale. Understood?”
Sunny nodded, and Trixie composed herself once more. “Right. Now then, let me ask you a simple question: why is the eldest Blueblood in each generation known as ‘Prince?’”
Sunny frowned. “Because the first Blueblood was Princess Celestia’s nephew. Everypony knows that.” She scratched her chin thoughtfully. “Or maybe he was her cousin or something, I forget. Anyway, they’re related.”
Trixie scoffed. “Pah. Nephew? Cousin? The Princesses are immortal alicorns. Where would a line of very mortal unicorns fit into their family tree?”
Sunny looked troubled, but ventured, “So... are you saying that they just made it up? That the first Blueblood wasn’t really her nephew?” Her face brightened as she had another idea. “Oh, or maybe he was adopted into the family!”
Trixie chuckled, a precise caliber of laughter she’d perfected over the years which was patronizing without being so offensive as to provoke a hostile reaction. “Not quite. As is often the case with the affairs of nobles, the truth is somewhat more complicated...”
In the ancient days after Strife and Discord had been banished from Equestria, the land was governed by the two Princesses: Celestia, the eldest sister, ruled over the day, while Luna, the younger, had as her charge the night. And so it remained for a time, the two ruling in harmony while their subjects prospered beneath their steady, loving guidance.
It was not long, however, before the idyll of those days was interrupted. For Celestia, when she slept at night, was troubled by dark and terrifying dreams. She went to her councilors, to her court mages, and to her royal physicians, but none of them could help her. Finally, she heard tell of a far-off land, where the ponies wielded strange magics. These ponies called themselves the zebra, and every single one of them sported the same black- and white-striped coat and mane.
“Every one of them?” mused Sunny. “Doesn’t that make it hard for them to tell each other apart?”
“Trixie has often wondered that herself,” admitted Trixie. “She supposes their cutie marks would still be different, but really! Can you imagine looking exactly like every other pony in Equestria?” Both ponies chuckled at the thought.
Trixie looked expectantly at Sunny, as their giggles subsided. “Well?” she asked.
Sunny looked at her blankly. “Well, what?”
“You said you like the old stories. Aren’t you going to ask Trixie how it is that her tale has Luna in it? After all, where would Trixie’s great-great-grandmother have heard of a Princess who only appeared last year?”
Sunny blinked. “Hey, that’s a good question! Did you add that part afterwords?”
Trixie smiled. “Not exactly. But the story my grandmother shared with me told of the Princess and of another--the Dark Princess. After Luna returned, I read the official story in the papers--about Nightmare Moon, and banishment, and all that--and I realized that the Dark Princess must be Luna.” Her smile widened. “In other words, I didn’t know it until recently, but this really is an old tale.
“When Luna reappeared, I tried incorporating the story back into my show,” she added, “I suppose I’d hoped it would go over better than it had in the past, what with the current events angle and all.” She shrugged and sighed. “But, no. Ponies still thought it was too boring. So now I mostly stick to magical light shows and monster stories.”
“You really loved your grandma, didn’t you?” asked Sunny.
Caught off-guard, Trixie could only stutter, “What?”
“It’s just that you stopped speaking in the third person when you mentioned your grandmother.”
Trixie glared daggers at Sunny, who gave her a small, sad smile that only made Trixie angrier. Downing her second glass of salt and signaling the bartender for more, she continued her tale...
The zebra who came to the royal court gave her name as Mwumizi, much to the chagrin of the pony who announced her presence to Princess Celestia. She appeared in body as all the zebra do, and was adorned with many piercings and clasps made of solid gold. When she came before the Princess, she bowed low, but did not speak. Instead, she waited for Celestia to tell of her dream.
And the dream Celestia spoke of was terrible indeed. “At night, I dream I am flying above the land, with the sun at my back,” she began. “Then, I am suddenly engulfed in darkness. I look up, and see an alicorn blocking the sun with her wings. I somehow know it is not my sister, although it appears to be her in body and form. She laughs, then dissolves into a cloud of white. The cloud disappears into the sky, but although the sun returns it now sheds no light. I feel the energy sapped from my wings by this new dark sun, and I find myself falling. I hit the ground with such force that it leaves a crater. When I look about, there are ten ponies surrounding me, and they each begin filling in the dirt on top of me, as though I were a corpse laid in grave. I try to call out to them, but I can no longer speak. There are five round stones ringing me, and I have become as stone myself, a sixth orb at the center of their circle, and together we are buried.” She had told this dream many times, but repetition did not lessen the impact it had on the court ponies. Although it’s meaning remained a mystery to them, there could be no doubt it was dire.
“That part’s better with a little light show,” Trixie said. “Throw up a cackling black pony blocking the sun, create an illusion of a crater right under the audience--they eat that stuff up.”
“Well, it wouldn’t be fair to the band if we did that, would it?” asked Sunny. Trixie looked back at the trio of colts to see that they were now taking requests. In a gesture of supreme magnanimity, she refrained from ‘requesting’ that they get off the stage.
“Besides, I can picture the dream very clearly,” Sunny shivered. “What did the zebra say?”
Mwumizi pondered the Princess’s words for several minutes. Finally she answered, speaking entirely in rhyme:
What this reveals, I shall make clear
When only you and I are here,
For what your troubled dreams have shown
Is for your ears, and yours alone.
Celestia sent everypony from the room at once. In short order, the great hall was deserted, leaving only Celestia and Mwumizi in a space that could stand thousands comfortably. The zebra then revealed a prophesy to the Princess. What she told the Princess is not known, though the recent reappearance of Luna may give some clues.
“This is where Trixie usually lets the audience shout out a few suggestions. It helps wake them back up after the rhyme.” Trixie rolled her eyes. “Two couplets, and half the crowd is already bolting for the doors.”
Sunny wasn’t looking at her, however. “She knew Luna would be driven crazy because she felt so alone. The dream was about how she’d have to use the Elements of Harmony to banish her, because Luna didn’t realize what she was doing. She didn’t know how important she was to everypony.”
Trixie blinked. “Of all the times Trixie’s told this story, that may be the best segue an audience member has ever given her.” Sunny smiled bashfully as Trixie continued...
Whatever the fate that she was foretold, Celestia concluded that it could only be averted if her sister, Princess Luna, was given wisdom and insight beyond what even the immortal sisters can claim. She scoured the libraries of Equestria, sought council with the greatest sages and magicians in the land, and labored many a long night in search of an answer. Finally, she discovered what she was searching for.
She devised a means of giving Luna knowledge of all things in the world. All she needed to do was pick certain herbs which would hold and enhance the magic which she had learned, then boil them in a cauldron for a year and a day while pouring her magic into them. At the end of that period, three drops of the brew would spring from the cauldron, fall on the Princess, and fill her with total understanding.
Celestia gathered the herbs and-
Trixie rolled her eyes. “Really? You really want to know what the herbs Celestia harvested for the potion were?”
Sunny raised her hooves in a placating gesture. “If that isn’t part of the story, that’s okay. I was just wondering, is all.”
“The herbs are part of the story, it’s just that that’s one of the very first things Trixie cut when she tried to make this into one of her showpieces. Listing off plants? Trixie might as well just beg the audience to go find something more interesting to do.”
Sunny frowned. “Well, I want to know. And I’m your audience, aren’t I?”
Trixie shrugged. “If you really want to hear it...”
First, Celestia went to her garden and clipped three leaves of hemlock. Then she traveled far to the east, in which direction the empty lands stretch on for what seems an eternity. When she returned, she bore three buds of crimson sage. Next she traveled far to the south, where are found the deep deserts who’s noontime heat nopony can survive. When she returned, she bore three yellow creosote flowers. Next she traveled far to the west, where the great mountains rise far beyond the clouds. When she returned, she bore three slices of stem from the tall puya. And finally, the Princess traveled far to the north where the bitter cold and ice reign uncontested over a barren wasteland. When she returned, Celestia was empty-hoofed. Some ponies were surprised, while others merely clucked their tongues and asked what plant she had hoped to find, in the land of unbroken snow? But the Princess was smiling when she returned, and perhaps she had indeed found something, for it was that night that she deemed her gathering complete.
“There. Better?” asked Trixie.
“Yes, thank you,” beamed Sunny.
With the materials for her brew assembled, Celestia turned to the next phase of her plan. For a year and a day, she would have to infuse the cauldron’s contents with the complicated magic which she had learned. And for all that time, the mixture would have to be boiled and stirred constantly.
Since she could not remain by the pot all hours of the day and still attend to her royal duties, Celestia engaged an old blind pony to tend the cauldron. The old pony’s name is not important to the story. However, he had an orphan unicorn with him who served as his eyes, and that colt’s name was Radiant Brow.
For a year and a day, in the depths of Celestia’s castle, the stallion and colt stirred the magic brew and kept the cauldron’s fire blazing. Every day Celestia would come down and work her magic, the power invested in the mixture growing ever stronger.
Finally, the year drew to a close. Celestia came down to the room with Luna in tow. She stationed Luna close to the cauldron and began to cast the final spell. The old stallion’s hooves were tired, so it was Radiant Brow who was tending the pot as Celestia began her work.
This proved to be the goddess’s undoing, for Radiant Brow was young and impetuous. He had tended this pot for a year and a day, feeding its fire and stirring its contents, and now he decided that he deserved to have the power which it was about to impart. And so, at the moment when the brew’s bubbling indicated that the magic had reached its final stages, Radiant Brow pushed Luna aside. Thus, when the three magical drops sprang from the cauldron they fell on him instead of on Celestia’s sister. With a wailing shriek the cauldron cracked, the liquid in it streaming into the fire below. The shriek was echoed by the Celestia’s own cry of anger and alarm.
Chaos followed. Radiant was now possessed of total knowledge, which told him that he must flee the castle at once. He turned and began-
“Wait, why did he have to run?” Sunny interrupted.
Trixie glanced around, but nopony else appeared to be listening to her tale. “Trixie has found that it’s best to gloss over that part. In the tale as Trixie first learned it, his newfound intuition told him that Celestia would kill him in her rage if he did not escape.”
Sunny nodded. “I can see why you’d want to leave that out of your shows.”
“Yes, Trixie nearly caused a riot when she got to that part of the story the first time she performed it.” Trixie laughed with a strange mix of bitterness and genuine mirth at the memory. “It was in Hoofington; Trixie remembers it very well. Even after all these years, it’s the second worst debacle Trixie has ever been subject to.”
“What was the worst?” asked Sunny.
Trixie shuddered. “We don’t speak of the worst.”
Tactfully changing back to the original topic, Sunny pondered aloud, “Why do you think ponies would be so defensive about something like that? Why do you suppose they would get so angry at you for suggesting that Celestia’s capable of...well, of that?”
“Fear, Trixie supposes,” Trixie shrugged. “After all, Princess Celestia is basically in charge of everything in Equestria. Everything. If she’s a perfect, happy, nice-all-the-time goddess, then that’s fine. But if she had a violent side... if she didn’t only use her powers for good...” Trixie stared at nothing for a moment, then nodded to herself. “Trixie can see why that would be scary to a lot of ponies. Really, she should have seen that one coming before she ever tried adapting the story for stage.”
“But it doesn’t scare you?”
“The Great and Powerful Trixie is made of sterner stuff than the unwashed masses,” Trixie snorted. “In any case, Trixie thinks it merely shows that Celestia is capable of emotion, not that she’s a raving murderer. Keep in mind, Celestia was trying to prevent Luna from going insane, from forcing Celestia to banish her own sister to the moon for a thousand years. Radiant’s deed consigned both sisters to terrible fates; a bit of mindless rage on the Princess’s part seems excusable to Trixie.”
“Understandable, maybe,” Sunny murmured, “But trying to kill a pony is never excusable.” She visibly forced herself to put away such dark thoughts, and turned to Trixie with a weak grin. “So, does the story say why she couldn’t just do the spell again? I mean, obviously she couldn’t or she wouldn’t be so upset.”
Trixie gave the white pony a condescending smile. “That is not part of the tale proper, but often when Trixie performed this story those ponies unfortunate enough to be born without horns were forced to ask. You see,” she took on the tone of a teacher dealing with a particularly slow student as she spoke, “Some magics can only be performed once. Simple things, like glowing lights and levitation, can be accomplished through equally simple exertion. Even fairly difficult spells which few unicorns can master, such as the ability to teleport, are achieved by the magical equivalent of brute effort.
“But other magic,” Trixie was warming to the subject, the steady stream of salt she was consuming no doubt adding to her loquaciousness, “All the truly earth-shattering spells of which tales are told and from which legends are sprung, require something more. They require an inner spark which cannot be replicated. Some ponies say that spark is a bit of the unicorn’s soul.” Trixie shrugged. “Trixie cares not for the semantics. However, the spark which Celestia’s poured into that cauldron along with her magic was like an acorn, and the spell she wove with it was the tree it grew into. Once the spell was cast, she could no more repeat the process than one can replant the acorn.”
“She could just plant another acorn,” Sunny pointed out.
“Yes, but she’d grow a different tree then, wouldn’t she?” Trixie spat. “Ugh. The point is, Celestia couldn’t cast the spell again. And so, Radiant turned and began to flee, with the enraged Celestia in hot pursuit...”
Through the empty corridors deep below the Royal Castle ran Radiant Brow, with the Princess ever close behind him. When he found his way out, he used his newfound knowledge to change his form to that of a hare, and sprinted off across the courtyard grass. But when he glanced back, he saw that Celestia was no longer at his heel. In her place was a fearsome-looking wolf with its teeth bared, running like the wind, stretched out lean and low to the ground. Radiant reached the castle’s open gate and dived into the river that served as the castle’s moat, changing himself into a fish as he leapt. He sped away among the swaying water reeds, but right behind him swam a deceptively sweet-faced otter. Its paw reached out and grazed his tail, and Radiant knew he had to act quickly. With a lunge, he hurled himself out of the water and into the air.
As he broke the water’s surface, he changed his form to that of a swift, the fleetest of birds. But even as he began to gain altitude he saw high above him a great hawk. With a screech, the hawk dived down toward him, and Radiant realized that he could not outrun the Princess.
Spying a recently harvested field below him, Radiant dropped toward the earth again, changing himself now into a grain of wheat. He lay on the field amid thousands upon thousands of other identical grains. All was still and quiet--for a moment. But a white hen appeared then, picking her way through the shafts littering the ground, cocking her head sideways to stare down at the abandoned kernels of wheat lying beneath her. She hunted, and she pecked, and all the while she cackled in a most un-henlike way. Finally, she came to the grain that was Radiant Brow, and with a triumphant cry the hen snatched the grain in her beak and swallowed it up.
“You know, it’s funny,” Trixie mused, as she idly swished the last dregs of salt around her latest glass. “I had to cut the part about how Celestia wanted to kill Radiant, but nopony ever complained when she actually ate him.”
“That’s not the end of the story, is it?” cried Sunny, the dismay in her voice evident. “I mean, it can’t just end with him getting eaten! There’s more, I know it!”
Trixie chuckled. “Yes, yes, of course there’s more. I promised you a story about why Blueblood is a Prince, didn’t I? Well, I haven’t gotten to the answer quite yet. When I used to tell this story as part of my shows, sometimes I’d pretend that that really was the end. But before I could walk off stage, some little filly or colt would always cry out ‘Radiant didn’t really die, did he?’ or ‘Don’t go yet! Tell us what happened next!’”
“That sounds cute,” Sunny agreed amicably.
“It’s the lowest form of pandering, is what it is,” Trixie scowled. “Trixie’s stories should be so sublime that she does not need to resort to such cheap tricks to keep an audience entertained. They should be enthralled by her stories and the spells with which she brings them to life!” Then she sighed and collapsed back onto her stool. “And anyway, Trixie had to stop using that routine after one particularly dense audience in Stalliongrad failed to recognize that they were supposed to call her back to finish her tale. In retrospect, Trixie should have realized right then that the story was a flop, if not sooner. If an audience can’t even tell when you’re finished...”
“I’m enjoying the story, Trixie,” soothed Sunny. “Now, will you tell me how it ended? Please?”
Trixie huffed, but was obviously pleased with the attentions of her ‘audience.’ “Oh, very well...”
The white hen shifted and grew, until it was once more Princess Celestia. But now she carried within her the seed that was Radiant Brow, and nine months later she delivered an exquisite foal. And even though she knew what harm he had wrought, even though she knew the fate he had consigned her and her sister to, the Princess found when she looked down at the child she had birthed that the only thing she felt towards him was love. For although the newborn foal was Radiant Brow, he was also a newborn in truth, transformed and made anew, and no more the scoundrel who robbed Luna of her wisdom than a caterpillar is the butterfly it one day becomes. He looked up at Celestia with guileless eyes, and the Princess knew what she had to do.
“This child,” she said, “Is my own, and yet he is not of me. He is not my son, yet what can I call he whom I have born these nine months save family? I shall name him Blueblood, and he shall take station like unto my sister and I. This is my decree.”
And so was founded the first of the long line of Bluebloods. Some have been valiant and noble, others kind and wise, and still others duplicitous scoundrels. But all share one thing in common: though they are not of her blood, they are in truth Celestia’s relatives. They may be mortal and fallible as anypony, yet they are her children, each and every one.
“That’s the end of the story,” concluded Trixie, finishing the glass of salt before her. She looked up to signal the bartender for another round, and found to her surprise that she and Sunny were sitting alone in the otherwise empty bar. “Um, where’d everypony go?”
“Closing time was fifteen minutes ago,” snapped the bartender, popping up from behind the counter. “If your little story’s over, then you two’d best be on your way.” He glared at Trixie. “I was going to kick you out, but I figured that if you suckered this poor mare into paying your tab, she deserved to at least hear you finish.” He turned his gaze to Sunny. “I hope it was worth it. Now, if you’d be so kind as to pay up before you leave?”
“Be right there!” Sunny cheerfully told the bartender. Turning back to her companion, she said, “Trixie, I’m really glad I got to hear your story. I’m sorry it doesn’t go over better with crowds, and I’m truly sorry that you don’t do it anymore, because I think that’s the kind of story that ponies really need to hear. Not stuff about monsters or made-up adventures, but stories like this! Stories that are real. Stories that mean something. Stories that are about something.”
Trixie leaned down suddenly, nearly smacking her nose into Sunny’s haunch. Sunny pulled back quickly, as Trixie mumbled, “Sorry, the Great and Powerful Trixie had to make sure your cutie mark wasn’t a set of blinders. Ponies don’t care about history and important stories,” whatever sense of professionalism had allowed Trixie to finish her tale had vanished; the blue unicorn was now resting her head on the table as she slurred her words, “Ponies just want cheap thrills and cheaper laughs when they go see a performer. Well, if that’s what they want, that’s what the Great and Powerful Trixie’s gonna give ‘em!” She poked her hoof at Sunny. “You know what, you’re alright. The Great and Powerful Trixie thinks you’re alright. If there were more ponies like you out there, maybe I could do some of grandma’s stories. I’d like that. I bet grandma would’ve liked that too...”
“Um, Trixie?” Sunny hesitantly ventured. “I’ve got to go pay the bartender now. Do you need a place to stay? They have rooms upstairs...”
“The Great and Powerful Trixie doesn’t need your pity!” shouted Trixie. “Just...just drop me off in the park. I’ve got a...a place. Near there. Yeah.”
“Alright,” Sunny nervously laughed. “Well, I’m sure your ‘place’ is lovely, but why don’t you stay here tonight anyway? It’s a long walk all the way to the park, after all.”
“It is a long walk...” Trixie repeated, as though the words held some profound wisdom.
“That’s the spirit. I’ll be right back, after I get you paid up.”
Sunny approached the bartender and asked for the bill, plus a night’s stay for the blue showmare. She blanched slightly at the astounding tab Trixie had managed to rack up during the evening, but paid without complaining. By then, Trixie had fallen asleep at the table.
“Don’t worry about it,” the bartender assured Sunny, seeing the way she was eying the sleeping unicorn. “I’ll take care of her. I’ve got plenty of experience hauling drunks up those stairs.”
“Thank you,” sighed Sunny. “She really is a character, isn’t she?”
“She’s a stuck up prima-donna is what she is,” he grunted, but a moment later he acknowledged, “Though she did perform here once, a couple of years back. She’s good at what she does, I’ll give her that much. Hope she gave you a good story.”
“Yes,” murmured Sunny, seemingly speaking to herself, “She really did.”
At breakfast the next morning, Princesses Celestia and Luna of Equestria sat across from each other at the small oak table where they often ate. Most mornings, they would discuss their respective days, gossip about foreign politics, go over Twilight Sparkle’s latest letter--in other words, they would make idle banter. This morning, however, found the two sisters sitting in silence. Luna wore a huge grin on her face as she stared directly at her sister, while Celestia did her best to eat a croissant without noticing Luna’s attentions.
Celestia broke first. Looking up, she sighed, “Alright Luna, I’ll bite. What are you so exited about?”
Luna’s grin grew even wider, though whether because she had just won the unspoken game or because of what she was about to say was unclear. Turning to one of the ever-present guards at the door, she imperiously (albeit mirthfully) declared, “My sister and I require total privacy so that we may discuss state secrets. Go out and watch the exits; see to it that we are alone.” The guard snapped a swift salute, and the few cooks and waiters present quickly emptied from the room. With one last look behind to make sure the area was secure, the guard saluted the Princesses again, then ducked out and closed the door behind him.
“And what ‘state secrets’ could you possibly want to discuss that are so sensitive we must dismiss the waitstaff?” Celestia asked mildly.
“Welllll,” Luna continued to grin like a madmare as she spoke, “Night Court finished up early yesterday, so I thought I would go check and see if you were in bed yet. I grabbed the chessboard and headed over to your suite, where a very nice guardpony informed me that you had already retired for the night. Well, I poked my head in your room, to make sure you weren’t still up reading, and when I did I couldn’t help but notice that a certain goddess who shall remain nameless had absented herself from her royal chambers without informing anypony.”
Celestia rubbed the bridge of her nose with her hoof. “Luna, please tell me you didn’t-”
Luna’s laughter cut her off, “Oh, Celly, of course I didn’t tell the guards you were gone! Why do you think I sent everypony out of the room just now? If they knew you had gone out by yourself, it would only make them feel useless, anyway. This way, everypony’s happier.”
Celestia breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Luna.”
Luna held up a hoof. “Don’t thank me so fast! There’s a catch, you know.” Leaning in conspiratorially, she asked, “So, what did you do with your night out? I want to hear all about it.”
Celestia smiled. “Oh, no doubt nothing as interesting as what you’re imagining. I just visited a few of our little ponies--incognito, of course--to see how our beloved subjects are doing. It can be hard to tell when everypony is busy bowing and scraping before you, as you know.” The two shared a chuckle over their shared experiences with others’ excessive deference.
“But, was there anything really exiting? Anything interesting?” Luna pressed.
Celestia smiled enigmatically. “Oh, just a little ancient history.”
Once her breakfast was finished, Celestia made two stops before going to the great hall and bringing Day Court to session. The first was to stop by the office of her events secretary. Popping her head in the door, she said without preamble, “Mike, could you do me a favor? There’s a unicorn who calls herself ‘The Great and Powerful Trixie’ in town at the moment. I believe she was at the Soft Sun Inn recently. I’d like her to come perform for the court at her earliest convenience. I’ll leave the details to you, but let her know that I’d like to see her do her ‘historical set.’ So, be a dear and have someone track her down and offer her the opportunity, won’t you?”
Open Mic was used to these sorts of seemingly out-of-the-blue requests from the Princess. Without even looking up from his paperwork, he nodded. “Trixie, Soft Sun, historical set. I’ll get on it.”
Celestia beamed; Mike was one of the only ponies she’d ever met who knew exactly who she was and what she was capable of, yet still treated her like an equal. She left him to his work, and went on to her second stop.
Prince Blueblood the 64th was in his private chamber, practicing his rakish grin in the mirror. He considered it one of the more potent tools in his vast arsenal of suitably princely expressions, but the dedication to continue working on a technique until it was not only mastered, but perfected, was what separated the colts from the stallions.
He jumped when Princess Celestia marched through the door, but quickly recovered. Bowing slightly, he greeted her with a voice that positively oozed his particular brand of charismatic sleaze, “Ah, my darling aunt. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
“Blueblood,” she said, looking him up and down. The inflection she put into that single word sent a shiver down the Prince’s spine. That tone of voice meant that Celestia had something serious to say.
In Blueblood’s extensive experience, it was never a good thing when Celestia got serious.
“Blueblood,” she repeated, “I’ve told you many times that your behaviour is wholly unacceptable to me. I have spoken to you at length about your inability to perform even the most basic duties required of you by your station.”
“Yes auntie, you have,” Blueblood did a commendable job of looking appropriately ashamed. He’d had plenty of practice over the years.
“Yet this perhaps I could put aside if you were a good pony. You are not. You are petty, vindictive, elitist, and utterly insufferable to anypony whom you perceive to be beneath your attention. And so far as I can tell, those ponies whom you deign to treat with a modicum of civility comprise only myself and your mother.”
“I know, ma'am. I’m sorry.”
“You are not sorry, and it is thoroughly unbecoming for you to pretend that you are.” Celestia didn’t put any malice behind the words, but Blueblood shrunk back nevertheless.
“All of this, I’ve told you a hundred times. I don’t know why I bothered repeating myself, as it was clear from the first that my disapproval was not going to change the way you act. However, of all the times I’ve berated you, of all the times I’ve compared you unfavorably to your ancestors, of all the times I’ve let you know what a failure you are in my eyes, there’s one thing I don’t believe I’ve ever said to you.”
Blueblood cringed as Celestia stepped forward, closing his eyes in anticipation of whatever was to come next. To his surprise, he felt a long, gentle pair of hooves wrap around his neck. He opened his eyes as the Princess hugged him tightly to her chest. Unsure what else to do, he slowly returned her embrace.
“Prince Blueblood,” she whispered, as her eyes misted over, “I love you.”