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Has That Always Been There? · FiM Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Noblesse Oblige
Author's note: While sexual acts—and discussions of sexual acts—play a prominent role in this story, per Writeoff rules, there are no depictions of those acts.

Slouching over a cream-colored velvet sofa in the reception parlor of Prince Blueblood's office, I did my best to appear unconcerned. After all, why should I care about the five other sturdy white unicorn stallions with blonde manes who were lounging indolently across the rest of the room's furniture? They meant nothing to me, and as near as I could tell, they were each trying just as hard as I was to remain outwardly oblivious to their environs.

Still, the pungency of our collective nervousness tickled my nostrils like the aroma of fresh paint. And I do mean fresh: my careful non-looking was quickly leading me to believe that I was the oldest member of our little convocation, and I'd only just passed my twentieth birthday.

Now, a more discerning pony might've begun wondering what a well-known degenerate like Prince Blueblood had in mind for six stallions who looked like he himself must've looked five or six decades in the past. But then if I'd been a more discerning pony, I probably wouldn't've gotten myself kicked from every home I'd ever been offered until I'd "aged out" of the Canterlot foster family system and found my pert and pearly haunches sitting bereft upon the street.

All right, that's a bit melodramatic. In truth, the orphanage had arranged to get me a job as an usher at the Music Center downtown, and my salary there paid for the one room, fifth-floor, walk-up apartment I'd called home for more than two years. I'd been told often enough that I was handsome to look at, and many a panting mare had declared her appreciation for the way I deployed the skills I'd honed since puberty. So all in all it wasn't a bad life.

Much like I myself, I suppose: not bad, but not much of anything else, either. More and more of late, I'd taken to glaring at my compass rose cutie mark in the bathroom mirror after dragging my flanks out of bed at the crack of noon. What in the wide, wide world of Equestria was a mark like that supposed to mean to a pony like me? I didn't have clue one as to the direction destiny meant me to be taking!

And then two days ago the engraved invitation had arrived. Eleven AM, it had said with this day and this address. It had also enclosed a bank draft for a thousand bits and a promise of another similar bank draft should I show up at the aforementioned time and place bearing the small included card with the number four printed on it. In my non-looking, I'd noticed my associates glancing at their own small cards tucked into shirts, vests, or jackets, and I could only assume that they held the numbers one, two, three, five, and six.

We all continued pretending that we weren't paying close and exacting attention to the studied burps and yawns and stretches of our surrounding doppelgangers until the timepiece over the mantel of the unlit fireplace began chiming. As soon as the eleventh bell had sounded, a door opened among the bookshelves at the far end of the room, and a fully armored member of the Royal Guard stepped out with Prince Blueblood himself close behind.

That the old reprobate's coat was still white, his mane still blonde, and the single gold leaf of his cutie mark still shiny was likely more due to chemistry than anything else. Though I supposed one couldn't rule out magic for the one and only Prince of Equestria, our dear immortal princess's single living relative. Not that anypony had ever quite worked out when or how the Blueblood family had branched off from Princess Celestia's tree, but if only half the stories I'd heard about his wild and profligate ways were true, then his lack of any jail time alone proved that he had some strong connection to the crown.

Leaving his guard beside the door, His Highness glided forward, everything about him as clean and pressed as a freshly laundered linen napkin. His understated elegance showed clearly that a life of crime paid handsomely if one had enough money, and while he glanced around at the bunch of us with his eyes half closed, I found myself thinking that whatever sordid thing he might have in mind might just be worth it if I could grab an ashtray or a book to pawn afterwards.

"Good morning," he said in the rich baritone I'd heard rolling across the Music Center lobby on multiple occasions—though here and now he didn't appear for once to be drunk. "I'm sure the money's the reason you're all here, so I shan't insult you by thanking you for coming. I shall instead congratulate you on making a wise business decision and shall ask number one to join me in my inner sanctum."

His voice deepened on those last words, and with a waggling of eyebrows, he marched back into the room from which he'd just emerged, his guard following.

One of my stalwart companions gave a shrug that I believe was supposed to look careless but which instead made me think of somepony who'd gotten a bee caught in his jacket. He toddled over, passed through the doorway, and golden armor flashed as the door closed behind him.

No scream rang out as I'd half expected, and in fact, the silence that settled over the remaining five of us seemed quieter than the silence of the previous few minutes. Not that it was actually silent, of course, with the tick-tick-tick of the clock above the mantelpiece seeming to rattle the whole room. Trying not to let my imagination swoop off into mad conjectures of what might be happening behind that door, I began counting the ticks in my head. Two of my twins started fidgeting, one of them openly sweating, and before I'd reached thirty in my tick tracking, the door opened again.

Mine weren't the only ears that perked, nor were they the only ones that fell when nopony but the guard emerged. "Number two!" he called in a voice that was more a bark than anything else.

The sweating fidgeter leaped to his hooves, wheeled toward the door we'd all entered by, and ran as if every hound of Tartarus was on his tail.

The guard just blinked. "Number three!" he called.

Another of my fellows lurched upward and swaggered through the office door, and I went back to my counting. A mere twenty seconds elapsed this time, the guard reappearing with a call of "Number four!"

For an instant, I'll admit, I considered following number two's example. But while a part of my brain registered that I'd just been summoned to enter a room into which two ponies of similar size, build, and age had stepped mere instants ago and possibly vanished, well, I'd long ago stopped paying a great deal of attention to that part of my brain. Through this same door, after all, lay the promise of another thousand bits, the first thousand of which I'd already spent on the blue and white silk blazer I was wearing and a variety of the bejeweled accessories that looked so very pretty when adorning the mares who consented to join me for a delicious bit of a tryst in the lounge I'd set up in a disused janitor's closet down one of the Music Center's back hallways.

Which is to say that I stood, brushed the stray strand of mane from my eyes, flashed the guard my best and most engaging smile, and slipped past him into the room.

A second gleam of armor showed me another guard beside another door in the wall to my left. The first door behind me closed with a barely audible click, and I turned my attention to the prince, seated at his desk a few paces away. A quill pen danced in the glow of his horn, his gaze focused on whatever he was writing. "Straight to it," he said, not looking up from his work. "Jonquil there has your second bank draft for a thousand bits." He waved a hoof vaguely at the second guard. "But there's a third thousand bit draft in it for you if you'll sashay on over here, drop to your knees, and give me a blowjob. Yes or no?"

Several more parts of my brain became very active all at once. The correct answer obviously wasn't "yes," or my predecessors along this route would still be at work down under the desk, and I couldn't believe they'd both said, "no," not with a third thousand bits at stake.

So instead of taking the proffered options, I gave a snort. "Make it ten thousand," I said, "and we might have a basis upon which to begin negotiations."

His quill pen scratched messily to a halt along the parchment, and he looked up with the expression of a stallion who'd heard the sweet call of a meadowlark when he'd been expecting the bray of a donkey. Which is to say he blinked three times and then smiled, but putting it that way lacks a certain panache.

I remained standing with head held high, with eyes partially lidded, and with absolutely no idea what I was going to do if he called my bluff. The best course, I decided, would be to keep raising the bid till he got either wise or tired and dismissed me.

Instead of speaking, though, His Highness rose to his hooves and began to circumnavigate me, his gaze so sharp and focused, I swear I could feel it comb across my hide. When he vanished around my south pole, I half expected to hear him command that my tail be switched aside so he could "view the goods" or some equally grotesque sort of cliché. But he completed his circuit in silence, not even the ticking of a clock here to keep me company.

Still, I'd already lasted longer than the others who'd taken this journey so far this morning. Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, however, I had no idea.

Standing almost nose-to-nose with me now, Prince Blueblood showed his age. Not that I had any idea what that age was, but he'd been the prince for my entire lifetime, and this close to him, I could plainly see the gray roots at the base of his blonde mane as well as the powder vainly attempting to fill the wrinkles that lined his cheeks and forehead.

The continued sharpness of his gaze, though, made me think of nothing but daggers. "You're the usher from the Music Center," he said after what seemed to me like half-an-hour of him looking at me and me trying not to shiver.

That he knew who I was forced the shiver out onto the surface, but I managed to turn it into a tossing of my mane. "I prefer to think of myself as a willing servant of the arts," I replied, somehow keeping my voice from shivering as well.

His smile broadened, and again, I had no idea what that might portend. "I thought you showed promise," he said, "the way you're so often escorting mares both young and not-so-young back to that little love nest of yours."

That he knew about my hobby made all sorts of reactions want to break out over, under, and through me. But since he seemingly approved—or at least hadn't so far ratted me out to management—I found it a bit easier to dredge up a smile to show him. "Love," I said with a theatrical sigh. "It makes the world go 'round, I'm led to understand."

One of his eyebrows arched. "If by that you mean round and firm and fully-packed, then I'd say we're in agreement." His horn sprang to life, and I couldn't help tensing.

All that happened, though, was a drawer springing open on the other side of his desk and a small piece of paper drifting upward. "As I said," he went on, "Jonquil there has your thousand bits, but there'll be a draft for five thousand here tomorrow morning at eleven if you'll show up bearing this upon your large and lovely person." The paper wafted toward me, and when I caught it in my own magic, I saw that it bore a single golden star. "And don't worry," he was saying. "There'll be a great deal more money awaiting you even if you fail tomorrow's tests. And if you pass?"

This time, his smile not only widened but deepened as well. The perverse leer I'd seen so often while guiding the prince and his various companions to his private box at the Music Center vanished completely, and I could only stare at the expression of actual happiness that appeared on his face.

But then he shook himself, and the leer was back. "Just be here," he said, his words suddenly rough. "But for now, take your thousand and get out of my sight."

I didn't need to be told twice. Scooting past the guard, I snatched the bank draft from the feathers of his wing and trotted along the corridor beyond till I reached the street.

That thousand went quickly toward a large lunch for myself and the other lucky patrons who happened to be dining at Semolina's Bistro downtown, and the remainder bought some lovely trinkets for a few of my own favorite companions each of whom squealed in appreciation in their assorted boudoirs during the rest of that long and luscious afternoon. I stopped by my dingy flat long enough to change into my usher's uniform and grab a few of the brooches left over from the first thousand this little venture had so far brought my way, and I managed to make two new friends that evening, one a maiden attending her very first opera and the other a matron whom I'd noticed noticing me all season long but whose curvaceous figure and sweet face I'd been wanting to save for a special occasion.

It was rather a personal best for me, that day and the sheer volume of mutual pleasure I'd been party to, and as I clomped, tired but oh so satisfied, up the stairs to the only bed I'd ever used simply for sleeping, I experienced a sensation I couldn't remember ever experiencing before.

For the first time in my life, I knew what my future held.

Rising early the next morning, I washed, combed, and spritzed myself with just the proper amount of the gardenia scent an admirer had gifted to me a few months before. The blazer was still eminently presentable, and with my gold star tucked safely within, I made my way in a leisurely fashion to the west end of the Canterlot Tower district where Prince Blueblood kept his offices. With careful steps, I followed the same path I'd taken the day before, but this time I made sure I was applying my magic to the doorknob just as the clock within was striking eleven.

One mustn't appear too eager, after all. Especially when one had no idea how many bits more than the promised five thousand might be forthcoming.

With a slightly come-hither smile, I stepped into the reception parlor—

And very nearly stumbled over my own hooves to see another of my doubles settled in there as if he owned the place.

It took a great deal of effort not to glare—and even more effort to look as if I wasn't making any sort of effort. I stepped in, nodded to the fellow, and draped myself over a sofa as if I hadn't a care in the world. The initial shock was fading quickly, and I could see that the interloper was either number five or number six from yesterday, one of the two I'd left behind when I'd entered His Highness's office.

His jacket was different from the one I'd seen him in then, and while stylish enough, it was nowhere near as au courant as my blazer. He was a bit larger around the barrel than I, I had to admit, but shorter, too, stockier, not as streamlined. I wouldn't've called him handsome, but then I was already taking a dislike to him, and his snow globe cutie mark was so common among ponies with white coats, it was nearly a stereotype. I could only guess that he'd answered the prince's question correctly too and been called back for a second round the same way I had.

My musings were cut short by the office door opening, the guard tromping out with Prince Blueblood close behind. "Excellent!" he more purred than said, his horn crackling with light. The flap of the guard's saddlebag rose as did two slips of paper. "Five thousands bits, gentlecolts, as you were told." An oily grin oozed over his face. "There are further riches yet to come, of course, but you may take your draft and go right now if you'd like, no questions asked." The pale yellow waver of his magic rustled the slips toward us.

I intercepted mine and tucked it into my inner pocket, and my rival did the same. But other than that, neither of us moved.

After all, his Highness had already paid me seven thousand bits just to stroll into two rooms. Honestly, my only thought at that moment was to squeeze every last drop out of the situation while trying my utmost to skate out ahead of its inevitable collapse.

Prince Blueblood's smile flickered the way it had yesterday: for the briefest of instants, it became an actual smile before squirming back into something much more serpentine. "Excellent," he said again, and he turned with a flip of his tail. "We'll go in reverse order today, so come along, whichever of you has the two gold stars."

Two? I glanced at my not-quite-mirror-image, and the haughtiness in the glance he was giving me was almost more than I could bear. I somehow kept myself from sending a bit of magic out to tangle his hooves and make him trip as he sauntered into the office, then the door closed, and I began counting clock ticks.

Sixty made a minute, and another sixty made the minute after that. Tests, the prince had mentioned in passing yesterday, tests that a pony could pass or fail, and for the first time, it occurred to me to wonder just what exactly was going on in this place.

His Highness was evidently looking for something quite particular, a pony who resembled himself not just physically but also in attitude. So was he looking for an heir? He'd certainly never married, and none of the numerous sex scandals I could recall over the years had mentioned a resulting foal. Perhaps he felt the sudden need for some likely youngster to debauch before he died, somepony to keep the name of Blueblood burning like a dumpster fire into the next generation.

I had to stifle a few more shivers. It made as much sense as anything else, and I entertained myself for some time after that with fantasies about how I would spend my time were I to become Prince Blueblood.

They were surprisingly tame fantasies, I have to admit, especially when I found myself recalling some of the Blueblood-related gossip I'd heard the matrons at the orphanage muttering to each other over the years.

Which led me to wonder what these tests might consist of. Would I be given a whip and told to apply it to the flank of some dew-eyed young mare? Would I have to burn my initials into the side of some priceless piece of Equestrian antiquity?

With the sudden sensation of ants scurrying across my hide, I almost leaped to my hooves. But I forced myself to remain relaxed and lolling in case the prince might have his agents watching me.

It was a near thing, though. For the entirety of my life, Prince Blueblood had always been held up as an example of how not to live. If this whole process in which I'd become enmeshed was truly designed to find the pony he wanted as his heir—

Was that something I wanted?

The rattling of a doorknob roused my from my reverie, and I stole a quick glance at the clock. Forty-five minutes had gone by somehow, and I smoothed my expression into something that I hoped would suggest amused boredom rather than any sort of unhappiness or impatience.

The guard opened the door, and Prince Blueblood glided through, his expression suggesting nothing whatsoever. "So," he said. "We come to you." He turned, headed back in, and I—

Well, I'd like to say that I surged upright and demanded to know what was going on. I'd like to say that I refused to have anything more to do with this peculiar set-up and simply would not budge until and unless I got a few answers.

I'd like to say that. But what happened was: I rose and followed him.

Inside, the office looked exactly the same. Well, except for the way that Princess Celestia was sitting at the prince's desk, a quill pen wrapped in her magic and her attention turned toward the parchment upon which she was writing.

That I froze in the doorway is understandable, I hope, and my eyes went so wide, I'm surprised they didn't drop out onto the floor. I'd seen Her Highness from a distance many times over the years, but being in the same room as her was nothing I'd ever thought I'd experience: the fresh rainwater scent of her; the flannel-blanket-on-a-cold-night warmth she exuded; the slight stirring of the air from the breeze constantly caressing her mane; her sheer physicality—as if everything else I'd ever seen in my life till now had been a crudely rendered cartoon, and here for the first time, I was seeing what roundness and depth truly looked like.

So, yes. I froze in the doorway.

Her Highness continued writing for another moment, then she looked up, her gaze nearly knocking me over backwards. "Come in," she said, and the way her words nestled gently into my ears, I couldn't've disobeyed even if I'd wanted to.

How I took those two steps forward without collapsing, I'll never know. I did bow, though, all the way down to the ground and would've gone further if the carpeting hadn't been there to stop me.

When I straightened up, the princess had returned her attention to her paperwork. "Now," she said. "I'll be offering you two more opportunities to leave. The first comes right now. You can go with Jonquil, receive another bank draft for ten thousand bits, and Dr. Pineal in the next room will remove all memory of you having seen me here. Blueblood will never bother you again, and you'll have seventeen thousand bits for your trouble." Her head came up, and what I perceived in her face, I simply don't have the words for. She was calm, of course, was in control, of course, but—

She wanted something. The only alicorn in the known world, the sole monarchy and undying Sun Princess of Equestria, she wanted something. From me. I could smell it more than see it, could taste it when I inhaled the breath she'd just exhaled.

I had no idea what that something might be.

But I knew I could never live with myself if I didn't find out.

"Your Highness," I said, displaying my most fetching smile. "You seem to have gone to a great deal of effort if your aim was merely to send me away. So I'll thank you for your kind offer, but I fear I must decline." I bowed again, and when I straightened up this time, she and I were alone in the room.

Or rather, we were alone in a completely different room, a larger one and more shadowy, too. She was still at the desk, but that was really all I could make out despite the glow that seemed to radiate from her. "Thank you," she said, and while her voice sounded the same, the way it settled over me made the fine hairs along the base of my mane stand up. "I'll now explain to you what's going to happen next. Once I've done explaining it, you'll have one last opportunity to leave before we get started. If you take that opportunity, I'll send you back to Blueblood's office where Dr. Pineal will do her work. The only memory you'll retain of this day is of you coming to see Blueblood, of him giving you a bank draft for one hundred thousand bits, and you leaving."

As hard as I was trying to retain the air of cool detachment that had gotten me through this thing so far, I couldn't help gasping, "One hundred thousand?"

"Yes," she said simply. A smile pulled at her mouth, and the aromas I caught this time made me think of thunderstorms in the distance. "For your troubles," she added.

My head and chest seemed to be full of whirling wind. I forced my breathing to slow, bowed in order to once more break eye contact with her, and managed to squeak out, "What trouble could possibly come from meeting the beloved princess of Equestria?" I swallowed to clear my throat, raised my head slowly—

And this time the desk had vanished, Princess Celestia standing massive and majestic in the light she herself was casting. "We will be playing a scene, you and I." Her voice seemed tighter, her whole body more solid as if she'd become a marble statue of herself. Her mane still flowed, however, her chest still expanding and contracting. "You will be playing Prince Blueblood, my nephew." Her tongue darted out to touch the center of her upper lip. "The scene will end in only one of two ways. Either I'll tell you it's over, whereupon you will go back to Blueblood's office to receive Pineal's ministrations and a bank draft for two hundred thousand bits. Or—" She took a deep breath, and behind her, part of a wall faded into view, something on the floor against it, something large and round and slightly lumpy.

"Or you and I will have sex," she finished, and I realized I was looking at her bed, piled with white satin pillows and covered with gold-embroidered blankets.

Now, perhaps I'd been wandering through this entire scenario so far with a child's naiveté, but this revelation of hers came as a complete shock to me. Even as I stood there gaping, though, the part of my mind that devoted itself to my little hobby sprang joyfully to life, taking everything I knew about Princess Celestia as well as everything I'd learned in the last two days and collating it all into a profile of what she was likely to enjoy and what she was likely not to enjoy.

The princess began speaking again, and the useful bit of my brain drank deeply of the information while the rest of my consciousness flailed and sputtered in incomprehension. "With this scene," she said, "there will be no stops, no breaks, no safe words. I've done this sort of thing hundreds of thousands of times over the past ten centuries, so I know your capabilities more thoroughly than you do yourself. No shame will accrue should you wish to end the scene now before it begins or if I should end the scene at some point prematurely. Playing the role of my nephew can be daunting, but you've been highly recommended by the pony currently bearing the Blueblood name." Her tongue darted out to touch her upper lip again. "And I very much like what I've seen of you so far."

"Your Highness is too kind," I heard a voice that sounded somewhat like mine say, but when her lips tightened and her nostrils flared, I put that particular phrase on my list of things to avoid.

"So." Whatever annoyance she'd felt didn't come out in her tone at all. "If you'd like to leave, tell me now. Otherwise, the scene will begin."

My mind spun with inferences and leaped to conclusions. The original Blueblood a millennium or so ago: her actual nephew and a bit of a bad boy? She'd been attracted to this bad boy, and whatever had happened between them way back then, she'd been recruiting unicorn stallions to recreate some version of that long-dead relationship ever since. This didn't strike me as particularly healthy, but, well, I couldn't help her with her problem if I wasn't here, could I?

So I looked up at the pony about whom I'd had my first sexual fantasy—a pony who, I daresay, had played a featured role in a fair percentage of such fantasies throughout the length and breadth of Equestria—squared my shoulders, put on a rakish grin, and said, "Really, now, Auntie: I don't see what all the fuss is about."

The stomp of her hoof shook the room, and the Princess Celestia I'd known my entire life—the sweet, wise, gentle, all-knowing and all-loving ruler—vanished without a trace. "You dare?" she bellowed, fire blazing from the corners of her eyes and her wings flaring open more like the bared claws of some predator than anything else. "Chambermaids are not objects for your perverse pleasures, Blueblood! They are ponies with thoughts and feelings, and you will treat them with the respect they deserve!"

About ninety-five percent of me wanted to shriek in terror and fall cowering to the floor. But that wasn't what she wanted, the other five percent of me knew, and it was that five percent that I trusted to arrange matters whenever I found myself in a mare's bedroom. So I rolled my eyes and lied: "Chambermaids are always so melodramatic, wailing and protesting and whatnot. But once you pin them to a bed, I've found, they become nicely tractable."

"You filth!" she roared. A sizzling ball of flame burst from her horn, seized me about the middle, and hauled me roughly into the air; spinning, I came to a halt dangling before her narrow and fiery eyes, her lips pulled back from gritted teeth. "I've warned you again and again, and yet you choose not to listen!"

The breath I pulled in smelled of burning forests, but I refused to let my voice waver. "Shall I tell you what I hear, Auntie?" I couldn't free my forehooves to tap the tip of her nose, so I leaned forward instead, touched my muzzle to hers, and whispered, "Jealousy."

The explosion she gave off then catapulted me backwards, whirling away from her. But a force more solid than any iron or steel quickly grabbed me and slung me in another direction. Light and darkness smeared across my gaze until I collided with something soft and yielding, the white satin pillows and gold-embroidered coverlets I'd noticed earlier now surrounding me.

Which was about all I was able to see before she was upon me, swooping down and striking like a hawk after a mouse. The whole bed shuddered under the impact, but so precise was her control, I only felt a surge of blanket beneath me and the slightest tap of one hoof where it came to rest in the center of my chest. The careful flow of her pastel rainbow mane had come completely undone, the colors sticking up in a shamble from the back of her head, and with her eyes wide and her lips drawn back in a hideous grin, her face resembled a skull more than anything else.

"Pinned to a bed, I think you said?" she asked, and the low, maniacal giggle that followed made goosebumps stand up all over me. Of course, her long, large body settling down along mine was causing other parts of me to stand up as well, a process she appeared to be encouraging by the motion of her hips.

And while fear and desire both warred for my attention, I knew that neither of those was the reaction she wanted. Mustering all the outrage I could, I clenched my own teeth and exclaimed, "You wouldn't!"

She did, however.

How long I lay there breathing afterwards before I managed to locate my eyelids, I have no idea. It then took me some few moments to recall how to operate them properly, but once I did, I saw the ruler of all Equestria sweetly sprawled beside me, her mane flowing as it should, her own eyes closed and one wing draped over my side softer than the finest blanket I'd ever touched. "Two more points," she said then, her voice as warm and smooth as hot fudge. "In your role as Prince Blueblood, you will commit a regular series of small scandals amongst the populace. You will, however, cause nopony harm, nor will you break any of the more serious laws."

Her eyes came open, and for all that I wanted to lose myself in the beauty of them, the hard kernel at their center demonstrated the folly of that idea. "For instance," she went on, "this scenario we just played with you forcing your attention upon unwilling ponies, that would be completely unacceptable. Is that understood?"

I nodded, not quite trusting my brain or throat to form coherent words quite yet.

"Good." Relaxation spread across her features again, her head lolling forward so her horn stroked mine. "Secondly, this time immediately post-coital is the only time we will ever address each other as ourselves. From now on, you will be Blueblood every hour of every day of every week of every year, but here—and only here—will we speak freely. Understand this, though." A slight crease formed along her forehead, a slight frown touching her lips. "If you insist on extolling my imaginary virtues or rhapsodizing upon the alleged wonders of being in my presence, these moments will grow shorter and shorter till they vanish from our lives completely."

Another vital piece of information, that. I clamped my teeth against the admiratory sentiments that had been forming for some moments along the back of my tongue and swallowed them down as sharp and pungent as a mouthful of pine needles.

The princess's eyes opened again, and this time, they were sheer, unadulterated beauty to the very core and depth of them. "Still, welcome." She shifted slightly, a hoof coming up to stroke my hair. "I look forward to our working together." Her smile became a bit more mischievous.
"Now, have you recovered enough to ask your first question?"

Another test, that quiet, observant part of my brain whispered, and lying there next to the most powerful being in the entire cosmos, I drew a breath and hoped that my confounded brain was correct. "Yes, as a matter of fact, Your Highness. I'd like to ask about my pay."

She raised her head, her expression completely blank: eyes wide, nostrils flared, mouth a straight, flat slit across her muzzle. "Excuse me?" she asked.

"Well?" I scooted myself closer to her, reached up to make little massaging motions along her shoulders, and deployed the dimples and twinkling eyes that I kept ready for such occasions. "Is not the plowhorse worth his hire? I mean, surely you don't expect me to maintain myself upon gossamer and moonbeams?"

For an instant, I thought my brain had failed me, that I'd gotten everything completely wrong, had misread her and the situation, had let the most precious treasure I would ever know slip from my fumbling hooves mere moments after finding it.

But then she smiled. "Oh, really?" she purred. Her hoof came up again, planted itself in the center of my chest, and pushed me over onto my back. "Perhaps you do need a bit more training..."

She did like the bad boy, after all, and since she appeared to despise the loving accolades heaped upon her by the public at large, well, despite my heart yearning to expound at length upon her perfection, it seemed that my role was to be that of Scoffer in Chief.

Of course, since we spent the next half hour reaching a veritable cornucopia of personal bests, I certainly had nothing to complain about. And judging from her reactions to my devoted attention to detail, neither did the princess.

Our second moment of afterglow proved to be every bit as fleeting as the first, but for a much less satisfying reason. "I've got to get back to work," she said with a sigh. She bent her silken and graceful neck to plant a chaste little kiss upon my snout, and I was still so wrung-out, I couldn't even think unchaste thoughts about it.

For my part, I wanted nothing more out of life than to remain lying there with our arms and legs gently entangled. But I had a part to play; pushing myself as upright as I could manage, I bowed my head. "My Lady, I hereby promise that, for as long as I'm able to do so, I will give you whatever it is you need." Not wanting to get too sincere, I gave a bit of a shrug. "It may not necessarily be what you think you need, but, well, who are we going to trust in such matters? The mare with a thousand years of experience, or the now unemployed theater usher?"

With a roll of her eyes, she managed to make the act of crawling out of bed look like sunlight shimmering across a pond. "On your hooves, mister," she said. "You've appointments to keep as well, you know."

"Have I?" The way I gained the floor would've made an amateur ice-skater look professional. "I hope there'll be a tailor involved." I brushed at the remains of my poor tattered blazer.

At her laugh, my heart skittered around inside me, and I vowed silently that I would make it my job to cause that sound to occur as often as possible from now on. Then she was turning, her horn flaring, my field of vision flashing, and Prince Blueblood's office forming itself around me.

His Highness was seated at his desk, a bottle of some amber liquid holding pride of place on his blotter pad. One empty tumbler glass stood beside the bottle, and he was sipping from a much-fuller tumbler floating in the shimmer of his magic. His gaze snapped over to meet mine, and he swigged back a double gulping swallow of the stuff before his hornglow took the bottle and poured a good deal more than a splash from it into the empty tumbler. Without a word, he nodded to the tumbler and took another mouthful from his.

I nodded in return, stepped up, took the glass, and emptied half its contents down my gullet. It felt like I was drinking a burning tree branch, and it was just damp enough for me to realize how dry I was inside. As if every drop of fluid within me had recently been evacuated in some way...

Draining the tumbler didn't help in most ways but oddly did help in others, and I turned my slightly shaky attention toward the prince. "Now what?" I asked.

He was pouring himself another glass. "Now I adopt you," he said. "You take the townhouse, the title, the office here, and the yoke, and I try not to think about how I'll never touch her again." He held up a hoof before I'd done more than draw in a breath. "Spare me, all right? This day's been rushing toward me for decades, and I've made as much peace with it as I plan to." He tipped the tumbler back, and his throat quivered and jerked as he sucked it all in.

The glass drifted to the desktop, and something almost peaceful came over his face. "You'll be good for her," he muttered. "Better than I was, I hope. She's—" His head wobbled around on his neck till he was looking in my general direction. "Complicated."

"So I'm beginning to gather." Behind the pleasant and incipient alcohol buzz, that oh so useful part of my brain gave a little twitch, and I blinked at the thought of perhaps giving the old timer and the princess he'd served so well a bit of a going away present. I slammed my tumbler onto the desk and gestured to the door. "Well, then, dear Pater. What say we show this town what two Bluebloods can to do to it when they're in a celebratory mood?"

A smile wriggled across his snout, and he leaped to his hooves.

Our spree would lead, I was certain, to property damage at the very least followed by a joint admonitory session with the princess and the opportunity for the two of them to say good-bye in the only way they knew how. After that, of course, my true work would begin, and I swore as I charged out of that office at the side of my predecessor that I would cure my princess of whatever romantic disorder afflicted her before my decades had played themselves out.

Ah, the strenuous life of an Equestrian prince...
« Prev   7   Next »
#1 · 1
· · >>Haze >>Zaid Val'Roa
Great!

Everyone should read it!

(the author paid me 1000 bits to write this glowing review)
#2 ·
·
>>Haze
wasn't sarcastic, but this time for real.

after the intriguing hook of an opening paragraph, the next several paragraphs of main character's life story nearly lost my attention. Maybe it's just part of the older writing style this is emulating. I feel bad for saying this after finishing it, because now it seems like such a minor nitpick, a small price of admission.

after the um, climax, it did seem like the rest was going too easy. he's figured out what to do, now to explain little details and get to the new status quo. I liked that suspense and fear lingering through the whole story, and now it was just an illusion because there was no more chance of failure? I would've liked to see ex-Blueblood returning used for that, bring back a little of that hidden menacing danger. he seems a little too comfortable and at ease with his new role, now that he's "won," and now there's no challenge remaining. (Maybe this is too much of my personal preference barging in here, sorry.)

Everything else between those two points: I couldn't put it down.
#3 ·
·
Intriguing...
I agree with >>Haze, everyone should read this, it's pretty great.

I loved the headcanon about the Bluebloods, and you did a nice job with the characterization of the latest member of the house as well as its most recent addition.

My only complaint about our main character is how easily he falls into his new role once all is said and done. While it's true he didn't have much of a life to leave behind, it would have been nice to see more of his thoughts as he accepts those rather monumental revelations. (Although, I can understand if his mind was elsewhere at the moment).

This is a solid entry that with a bit of polish could become great.

Oh, and I wouldn't oppose to an... Expanded version, should you choose to do so.
#4 · 1
· · >>Posh
The writing here is very solid, but I have some weighty complaints:
-The main character doesn't earn or learn anything. Sure he might have misgivings and worries internally, but when it's time to act he doesn't fail or even stumble. Similarly, he has a very humble background and a low paying job, but his word choice (which extends beyond dialogue since this is in first person) is very advanced. All of that put together makes this into Mary Sue/wish fulfillment.
-The 'scene' they act out is way too brief. I know you're pushing against the 8k word limit, but this is a key point to expand, and I don't mean making it more graphic. They move from banter to bed in what feels like seconds.
-There's the slightest hint that the main character is going to change things up, to give her 'what she needs' versus 'what she wants' which again isn't elaborated on, unfortunately. The problem there is the main character doesn't believability have that social/psychological skill set; he lives to get laid to the point that little else matters, what's he know about relationships and a balanced lifestyle?

Here are some ideas on how to address this:
-Make the main character more nuanced. Show how emotionally in tune he can be with others around him to get his way. Similarly, does he spend his spare time working on how he presents himself, how he speaks, etc?
-Make the main character stumble. Make him pull himself back from the edge. There are plenty of places for this to happen, but I think the key one is during that 'scene' at the end. Yes he figures out what to do, but it doesn't have to be so automatic. She's been doing this so long she obviously has a modicum of tolerance as far as 'breaking in the new guy' goes.
-Make his final intentions clearer. Is he just going to go along with the status quo? If so then I confess this story is a letdown for me, because nothing about the dynamic is changing, save for the players involved. If he is going to change things in some way, like helping her overcome her clearly extreme problems, give him the background, the clout, and the misgivings that would go along with it.

Sorry to prattle on. You've clearly got some writerly skills, author. I hope you walk away from this knowing that. I couldn't and wouldn't have taken the time to deep dive into your character's motivations if that wasn't the case.
#5 ·
· · >>Baal Bunny
Genre: L-lewd headcanon sex-ploration.

Thoughts: I was hooked by the prose style and the unfolding mystery of what was going on. This has masterful writing, and it did a good enough job of making me like New Guy to carry me through once the extent of his sex-capades started coming (sorry) to light. I mean, there's so much surface polish here, it's hard not to get sucked (sorry again, geez) into it. And for what it's worth, I greatly appreciated the author's note; it gave me a safe and comfortable foundation as the story delved into less comfortable territory.

My main nitpick is that the mystery could have been stronger. While it was appropriate for New Guy to put the pieces together when he did, it detracted from the impact somewhat, because from that point on it was just a question of the details of how his new role would work out. There also weren't any hints about who the whole thing ultimately benefited until they showed up, which is weird for a mystery; I would've liked to see clues, especially considering where it ends up.

And speaking of which... I mean, this is kind of ultimately just a masterfully written headcanon assertion that Celestia once was secretly super-kinky for her actual nephew and now just keeps that going with a couple fresh dudes every century, right? Which... I mean, looking past the surface discomfort I get from it... I would honestly much rather see that explored a lot more thoroughly than being hinted at with the "complicated" line and being left at that. Because it's a big headcanon leap, and it has potentially big implications for the world and the character... and New Guy teases us that he can get to the bottom of that, and maybe he actually has a shot at doing so, considering he made it as far as he did.

Hmm. I just talked myself back around from picking at this to saying it makes me want more, didn't I.

Well played, author. Well played.

Tier: Top Contender Strong (sorry... as I went back and ranked some other stories against this one, there were a few Strongs that I couldn't justify putting below it)
#6 · 1
·
So, kind of:

A pony version of "The Rake's Progress," but with a happy ending--yeesh, you're right, >>CoffeeMinion, the double entendre's just write themselves, don't they?

I'll suggest actually putting a second challenge in here, author. Right now, there's a first one and a final one, but we don't get one in the middle. Have Old Blueblood send New Guy and his challenger out into Canterlot with some petty crime they have to commit, and have New Guy fail in a way that shows us the sort of pony he really is. Something like that, anyway.

Mike
#7 · 3
· · >>CoffeeMinion >>Haze
I can't be the only one here who would rather this not become clop. Imo, that would actually cheapen what could be a unique character study of Blueblood Celestia.

I'll get this out of the way: The underlying headcanon about Blueblood being a generational title is fine, but I don't like the way you're handling Blueblood, and I think the story's actually better if you assume that this is not the Blueblood we wind up with in the show, but an earlier incarnation of him. There is zero difference between the character he's portraying in bed with Celestia, and the character we get glimpses of via inner monologue (with the exception that the character probably doesn't rape chambermaids).

The idea that Blueblood could be some sort of dashing sex god has always confused me, since Rarity basically did everything but bend over a kitchen sink for him (because apparently having a faucet in front of your face during sex is convenient? I read that somewhere) and he still managed to blow his chances with her by being a big snoot. If you accept the idea that Blueblood is just a mask worn by a different character that changes every fifty to sixty years, then shouldn't he, you know, behave differently than the character portraying him when the mask is dropped?

But there is zero difference - zero - between Blueblood and New Blueblood (Newblood?). I find that difficult to reconcile.

Now, I did enjoy this story quite a bit, enough to put it high on my slate, but I think distinguishing the two sides to this character (and in the process making him far less of a Gary Stu/wish fulfillment fantasy) should be a major part of whatever rewrites you do.

>>BlazzingInferno pointed out that there's no reason he should be as erudite as he is when he's of such humble birth and station. Maybe you could kill two birds with one stone by having him be a voracious reader. Imagine this guy reading copious horse-literature, and trying to model himself after his heroes in the kinds of books he reads - a suave, sexy, confident rogue who never wants for pleasant female company. And, in the process, he develops a keen wit, a sharp tongue, and the kind of vocabulary to justify him being so well-spoken.

And yet, ironically, he completely fails to seduce a single mare with his "charms" until he, by winging it, manages to bed Celestia. Who takes his virginity. And Oldblood teases him about it before they go off to get drunk or whatever.

Before I wrap up this critique, I want to return to the first point that I made. The most interesting thing here, to me, was Celestia's need to recreate a lost figure from her early life so that she could make pretend that she's fucking him over and over again throughout the centuries. It's even more interesting because Oldblood hints that there's some kind of underlying issue beneath it all, and that maybe Newblood could be "good" for her. In which case, in an... *cough* expanded version of this story, the stuff that would drive it and make it worth reading would be whatever pillow talk they have after they drop their characters, and Newblood learning more about the person he's recreating, and Celestia herself.


Personally, I think you could accomplish that without turning it into straight-up pony porn, but that's just me. I still say you're all weirdos.

8/10.
#8 ·
·
>>Posh
I agree 9001% (that's over 9000) with your suggestions. I don't think an *extended* version would add as much as an extended version would. I.e., use the power of *after* scenes to let New Guy tug at the loose threads on the ugly Christmas sweater of the mystery of how you-know-who became so insistent on recreating you-know-what. I also think the idea of him being a heretofore unsuccessful lech would in some ways be more fun, and would open up some interesting directions that the story could go in.
#9 · 2
· · >>CoffeeMinion
Some things >>Posh said made me look back at the story, and now I'm unsure if I'm reading something correctly.

Multiple times Celestia reacts bitterly to praise: "If you insist on extolling my imaginary virtues or rhapsodizing upon the alleged wonders of being in my presence" and I interpreted this as she's some ancient cynical being (like a chain-smoking hag) who's sick of everyone worshipping her. Fascinating! But now I'm wondering if this is merely the roleplaying she requires specifically from Blueblood for her sexual fantasy, nothing more.

I liked the potential of a Celestia who secretly hates the world, and this hobby is her only escape to let out her true self. So it's a dangerous gambit Blueblood is playing here, flying too close to the sun (it's not a pun it's a metaphor, ok). That's why I wanted more risk and tension out of the ending, but maybe I'm reading way too deep into all this. If the given ending is not a mistake, then it possibly supports that this is merely fantasy fun-times for Celestia, and the only danger here is no more sex & money.


I like my version better, but I can see now why Posh read this as basically a wish-fulfillment story with the clop scenes edited out.

I was probably completely off. I won't know the author's intention until the end of the competition, but I'm wondering if anyone else read this the same way I did? Just curious.
#10 ·
·
>>Haze
I read this as perhaps suggesting your interpretation. I don't think it's fully fleshed out, but exploring that is part of what I might expect an expanded version could do. Conversely, if this is just how someone unwinds... there's probably a story to be told there, too. I mean, the whole thing doesn't seem particularly healthy, so what causes it to be there, and could it present an opportunity for character growth?

I didn't really read this as wish fulfillment, but then I'm not partial to the genre, so I could be missing the tells. I guess the first moment when the guy was like, "And then I spent the whole thing on hookers and blow pretty baubles and I shagged a bunch" was probably it, wasn't it? :derpytongue2:
#11 ·
· · >>Posh >>Cold in Gardez
(I understand your pause, but I think the disclaimer was unnecessary.)

You have an excellent deconstruction story here, but there are noteworthy issues with the writing. There are also a few places I was slightly confused by the events.

General issues come first, because there are three problems in your writing you desperately need to fix: sentence length, telly exposition, and overuse of rare syntactic elements. I'll start with sentence length because it is one cause of the other two.

You write enormous run-on sentences. You need to learn how not to do this. I think this issue is so important for you to address that I'm giving a metric buckton of advice about it here, and I may end up writing more text for this review than all my previous reviews combined. Long sentences can be fine, but what you're doing here goes way outside reasonable bounds. It is a consistent flaw in your writing, and it is the most glaring one.

Here are two examples of long sentences I selected quickly from random places in the story, so I'm certain there are even worse examples out there:

Through this same door, after all, lay the promise of another thousand bits, the first thousand of which I'd already spent on the blue and white silk blazer I was wearing and a variety of the bejeweled accessories that looked so very pretty when adorning the mares who consented to join me for a delicious bit of a tryst in the lounge I'd set up in a disused janitor's closet down one of the Music Center's back hallways.


Horse Jesus, author. You shouldn't be able to write a sentence unless you have the ability to diagram it, and if you can diagram that you're much better than I. The one above is 78 words, and the one below is 83 words:

I stopped by my dingy flat long enough to change into my usher's uniform and grab a few of the brooches left over from the first thousand this little venture had so far brought my way, and I managed to make two new friends that evening, one a maiden attending her very first opera and the other a matron whom I'd noticed noticing me all season long but whose curvaceous figure and sweet face I'd been wanting to save for a special occasion.


This length doesn't serve any purpose. It makes what you write less enjoyable and more confusing to read. You're squashing a long string of normal sentences together into a single ungainly ultrasentence. For an example of how to fix this, I suggest the following changes below. I'm also editing your words a little because I figure if I'm giving you this much unsolicited advice, I might as well go all in:

I stopped by my flat to change into my usher's uniform and grab a few of the brooches I'd purchased with my first thousand. Then I went to the opera, where I made two new friends. One was a pretty maiden attending her very first show, and the other was a matron who had been watching me all season long. I had reserved her curvaceous figure and sweet face for a special occasion, and this was it.


Your ultrasentences compound the telliness problem of the narrator's exposition (which I will elaborate upon in a few paragraphs). Work on breaking your thoughts into pieces more manageable than this. I challenge you to write your next story using only sentences 25 words long or shorter.

I admit that sometimes, really long sentences can be appropriate. If you want to describe something breathtaking that would make somepony's very thoughts ramble to witness, a long sentence can add flavor. One example where you do this almost-properly is when you introduce the pony who appears near the end of the story. However, that long sentence contains a colon, an emdash, and three semicolons. That is not good.

Try to limit your use of emdashes, semicolons, and colons. Those are rare spices, and too much spice ruins a narrative. Colons should ideally appear only before a list, or when introducing a description so exacting it could be called a definition; emdashes for rare cases when you need a break that a comma won't do; and semicolons almost never. The only place semicolons are appropriate is when you have a list of items where the items must include commas, as I just illustrated above. That shouldn't happen often, because most of the time you shouldn't be listing things with commas. I only wrote the above sentence to illustrate how to use them. In practice, I would have written three separate sentences, especially since I want to emphasize each point and each point stands on its own. I can't actually remember the last time I used a semicolon in my writing. They're that bad. Fortunately, I think this issue will disappear if you shorten your sentences. You're mainly using all this crazy punctuation to extend your sentences to insane lengths. :derpytongue2:

As for the telliness I mentioned, you have too much exposition of the speaker's past. There's even some exposition where the speaker takes back the previous exposition, and then replaces it with more exposition. If the events are really important, you should either show them to us, or tell us in small pieces mixed in with the action of the story. If they aren't important, they don't belong in the story. In this case, I have a solution that should help. I mention it in the next section where I talk about four's upbringing.




Now, on to the story.

The foreshadowing with the cutie marks is excellent. Unfortunately, you revealed too much too soon, which ruins the surprise. I did some web searching the moment you mentioned the leaf cutie mark, and then I quickly connected it with the other one which gave away the plot. I advise you to wait much longer before mentioning the compass rose, because that surprise should probably be kept until the second meeting (or just before it). That will also break up some of the exposition, which you also need to do.

It's very difficult to believe that the five of them wouldn't start talking the moment number one left, especially considering four's upbringing. I realize you're aiming for a particular mindset, but I don't think that mindset would lead to total reticence. These are playcolts, not spies. This is a missed opportunity for you as a writer, as well. You could have turned four's telly exposition into actual dialogue, which would improve the story. He could even tell the sob story, while privately thinking about the truth. Also, dialogue would help to develop the characters' motivations, so they're not all faceless. Let's see what's good or bad about each of them! That will give the protagonist a big hint at what he should be doing.

It's hard to believe somepony faced with a royal guard in an establishment where they expect to be watched at all times would seriously consider stealing anything from the establishment, especially when they're this nervous.

I don't buy the change of heart in number four just before he enters for the second time. Immediately before this, he is playing the game all-in as though somepony may be watching him, and now he has second thoughts? What prompted this?

When the protagonist "declined the offer" I misinterpreted it initially as its opposite, and I thought this was part of the game. If you had explicitly had you-know-who say, "Your first offer is to go with Jonquil. He will provide you with another bank draft...", then it would be clearer on what is being declined.

Why did the offer suddenly switch from one hundred thousand bits to two hundred thousand bits? I don't understand why Celestia would give one offer and change it immediately, before the protagonist has said or done anything. All the other switches make sense.

You have a great story here. It will get downvotes on Fimfiction because of your portrayal of you-know-who, but I hope you fix this up and publish it.

I also hope this analysis has been some assistance to you, because it took me three or four bucking hours to complete it. :facehoof:
#12 ·
· · >>Trick_Question
>>Trick_Question
Horse Jesus, author. You shouldn't be able to write a sentence unless you have the ability to diagram it, and if you can diagram that you're much better than I. The one above is 78 words, and the one below is 83 words:


Do you teach English/writing/composition, or are you just a hardcore grammarian? Sentence diagramming is enough of a dying art that I feel the need to ask.
#13 · 2
· · >>Trick_Question
>>Trick_Question

As much as I love short, direct sentences, I have to disagree that long sentences like the ones you mention are necessarily bad. Sentences that are long simply for the sake of being long should be avoided, but that doesn't mean long sentences should be avoided -- they should just be used carefully.
#14 ·
·
>>Posh
I'm mainly using hyperbole.

>>Cold in Gardez
Do you seriously think those two sentences are well-written?

I agree with you, and I mentioned exactly that in my review. I never said sentences were bad solely for being long.
#15 · 1
·
The curious nature of the Blueblood line.

The story here serves the sole purpose of exposing a highly unorthodox--if imaginative--nature of Celestia and her "nephews". There is little to no discussion of why this is, little exploration of a very complex and novel relationship, no discussion of other qualities to be expected of an Equestrian prince (ability to perform administrative duties, e.g.), etc. There is much more this idea can touch upon than has been presented.

Furthermore, as mentioned by others, there is no conflict to be overcome. The perspective character is presented with choices, but answers them out of his essential nature rather than in spite of it; he faces no risk and sacrifices nothing.

TAILS (sum of 20 points)
Technical (Correctness) : 4
Abstract (Clarity) : 3
Impact (Consequence) : 5
Language (Congruence) : 3
Structure (Composition) : 5
Gestalt (Considered) : Appreciable
#16 · 2
·
I'm biased since I like Sunhorse, but this has her feeling really weird-creepy to me. Like, strip away the varnish and it's 'Sunhorse has an incest kink born of unaddressed personal issues/trauma, and has spent 10 centuries indulging it', and the next question to me is 'What could possibly happen that in 10 centuries nopony at all has helped her move forward?'

I mean the obvious answer is somehow her rutting OG Blueblood, or failing to do so, had something to do with Luna being banished and so she's been recreating the situation as a sort of punishment-hatesex, except afterwards she's clearly shown as happy.

Really, I think, that's what would bring this together for me - if somehow this weren't her romping out of sexual desire, but some kind of twisted, perverse penance, where it feels good and she hates herself for it.
#17 ·
· · >>Posh
Sordid, but moderately compelling. Some really awkward phrasing, there was.

The AN turned me off; if you're following the rules, you don't need to tell us, and if you're not sure if you're following the rules, you still don't need to tell us; talk to Roger.

I think the compass-rose cutie mark was tipping your hand rather too hard.
#18 · 1
· · >>Syeekoh
>>Not_A_Hat Two things about this story that occurred to me after reading it, and your review reminded me of one of them.

1. "Compass rose" appears in multiple stories this round, if I'm not mistaken.

2. With the way Blueblood is characterized here, this could seamlessly be inserted into the same canon as horizon's "Prince Blueblood and the Mysterious Case of the Bonky-Noggin" from back in October.
#19 · 3
·
>>Posh
horizon's Blueblood fetish is not entirely unknown.
#20 · 2
·
Thanks, folks, for the 4th place:

And congrats to our winners!

"Noblesse Oblige" as presented here is about two-thirds of the first chapter of a three chapter piece that I've been thinking about for a couple months. I didn't have time during the writing weekend to finish the middle section, so I abandoned it and jumped straight to the final section so I'd at least have a semi-complete story to show y'all. I've been working on the middle section while the contest's been going on, and I'm hoping it'll address at least some of the concerns folks brought up.

The occasional humdinger sentence is meant to reveal young Blueblood's character--and I didn't realize till after the writing deadline had passed that we only hear his real name, Polaris, in the middle section that I'd removed. I've added some lines to his backstory to make it clear that extravagant language use is very important to his idea of what makes a true gentlecolt. And the middle section has one of his paramours saying that he's the only pony she knows who talks with semi-colons...

Anyway, I've been down with stomach flu the past two days, but I'm hoping to get chapter one, "What 'Nephew' Really Means," posted by next week. Then it'll be chapter two, "What 'Prince' Really Means," which starts with Celestia shouting at him for the way he treated Rarity at the Grand Galloping Gala, goes on to explore how Celestia's Blueblood obsession is indeed connected to her guilt over Luna's banishment and how Luna's return is somehow messing her up even more, and concludes with Our Blueblood realizing that he's got to find Luna a consort in order to get Celestia back on the path to healing. And the third chapter, "What 'Blueblood' Really Means," will be all about him trying and failing to find a consort for the new princess Twilight.

Mike