Part 12 - High Notes
The new Royal Opera House was a tour de force of monumental Equestrian architecture, one of the most striking features of the Canterlot skyline. It rose over the domes and cupolas of the city, a row of concentric, horseshoe shaped arches with almost perfect acoustics anywhere within its cavernous interior.
Beyond the performance and appreciation of the finest pony music from ancient folk tunes to classical operas and symphonies to jazz and big band combos to rock and roll to the latest in cutting edge magilectronica and wubstep, the grand structure served a secondary purpose as a stage for the Equestrian elite to parade and perform for one another in their own esoteric dramas of social status and ostentation. For many of the creme of Canterlot culture, the show that went on among the marble pillars of the entry hall was the main event, while whatever lavish performance went on on the actual stage inside was merely the pretense for it.
Central to it all, as they were to the very rhythm of life for all of Equestria, were the Princesses, and while the arts of music and song (and the elite's jostling to appear the most cultured) would have flourished without their patronage, their interest and occasional presence truly made the scene come to life.
Celestia dearly loved all forms of music, as every note resonated with the happier refrains of her life's eternal song. She relished each new performance as a parent relished the sound of their children's voices singing anew the tunes they remembered from their own childhood. It was here, more than at court or in the halls and archives of the palace, where she truly felt in touch with the minds and souls of her little ponies.
Luna's interest in the performing arts was much more personal, and in the years since her return from exile she'd become an even more avid patroness than her elder sister. The darkened theater or concert hall were places where ponies had come to understand and appreciate the magic inherent in her night, walking home afterward under her stars and the lights of the cities, their heads filled with the waking dreams they had seen and heard on stage. Her delight in the culture that had arisen and flourished in her absence, and the night life that had developed because of it, were things that she treasured as only an immortal can.
Thus it was with wings flared and genuine smiles of joy and expectation that the co-rulers of Equestria alighted on the special dais reserved for their arrivals on the steps of the opera house and ascended to the entry hall side by side, followed by a quartet of honor guards. As was their custom, the royal sisters chose to go unadorned in anything but their usual raiment of tiara, torque, and horseshoes, their ethereally glimmering manes and tails flowing in the winds of magic that suffused their everlasting being.
Their guards, a pair of snowy white pegasi and a pair of dusky grey, bat winged negasi, were decked out in tuxedoes at Luna's insistence to better suit the occasion. This was a concession on Celestia's part, a compromise wrought years ago to assuage her younger sister's disappointment at their policy of only appearing in their traditional regalia rather than dressing up in the latest finery.
The regent of the sun had long ago come to understand the effect she could have on Equestrian fashion. If for some reason she'd decided to shave off her mane and crop her tail, the floors of salons all across the land would be hock deep in the multicolored tresses of a million mares. She much preferred to let her little ponies exercise their own creativity, and set and follow their own trends, and was happy remain unchanging as the sun, to sit back and watch the pageantry with a bemused twinkle in her eye.
Luna adored change, as the phases of her moon and the movement of her stars attested, and it was with great reluctance that she agreed with Celestia's position on the matter.
That, however, didn't stop her for commenting on what other ponies were wearing in a relentless stream of sotto voce asides to her elder sibling as they moved through the reverently genuflecting crowd. "Will you look at that? Either bustles are coming back into vogue or somepony needs to cut back on the cheesecake. Lets hurry past so the poor dear doesn't have to keep waving that thing in the air all night."
The sun princess rolled her eyes and muttered out of the side of her mouth. "Now Luna... 'If a pony doesn't have anything nice to say...'"
The regent of the moon gave her sister a wicked grin. "'... then they can come and sit next to me.' Stay cool, sis, you know anything I say is for royal ears only. I'd never dream of actually hurting a pony's feelings, whether they deserve it or not..."
Her expression became benevolently regal as she bobbed her horn at the subject of her acerbic observations. "You look fabulous tonight, Duchess Eclair. Like a full moon gracing the night sky."
Celestia rolled her eyes in the other direction with the faintest sigh as Luna gave her a wink. It took most of her considerable self control not to start whooping with laughter when her sister got on a roll.
She felt the night princess' dusky wing brush against the tip of her own. "Speaking of huge royal rears, look! Here comes Blueblood and his trophy wife." She pursed her deep indigo lips. "Although whose head is mounted on whose wall is pretty clear when you look at them."
The couple in question pushed their way through the crowd to make a show of bowing with a grand flourish to the Princesses. As Prince Blueblood approached, the impression he gave from across the room of a large, handsome white unicorn stallion with a flowing golden mane was undercut by a general puffiness about his face and physique, the faint yellowing of his coat, the creeping thinness of his locks accompanied by the signs of extensive work by mane stylists to keep up the illusion of his rapidly receding youth. His faded blue eyes were a bit bleary, a bit sunken, his smile a bit more affected and his charm a bit more unctuous as the years and a lifestyle whispered about by Canterlot's gossips began to take their toll.
His wife was half his age and in her prime, a pastel pink earth pony mare with a lavender mane streaked with pearl colored highlights. She was bedecked in a crimson gown with golden stockings, tastefully adorned with a constellation of jewels and gold lamé ribbons. She would have been rather attractive, if her face hadn't given the impression that she could and would spit poison at the slightest provocation. She lowered her cold, calculating eyes and deployed an obsequious smile as she shouldered her husband aside and bent her knee in a curtsey.
Princess Celestia smiled a smile of impartial warmth toward them. "Ah, Prince Blueblood. Princess Tiara. A pleasure to see you this evening."
At the solar regent's use of the word "princess" to address her, the young mare looked as if she'd just taken a mouthful of the most delicious candy in the entire history of confectionery after prying it from the hooves of a tearful foal. The faintest sneer could be detected on the unicorn stallion's face if somepony observant had cared to look.
Princess Luna's expression was much more ambiguous. "Our night is brightened by the sight of such a charming couple."
The two mortal ponies exchanged a glance tinged with self absorbed smugness and bowed a bit deeper to their sovereigns.
The pastel pink earth pony spoke first, cutting her husband off and leaving him glaring at her with barely suppressed loathing. "You honor us, your highnesses."
Blueblood cleared his throat pointedly, working to keep his expression smooth and even. "Your kind words shine upon us like your sun and moon, and brighten the glow of our wedded bliss, your highnesses." Diamond Tiara surreptitiously rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue a little way out in a gagging motion that both royal sisters pretended not to notice.
A thin smile tweaked the corners of Luna's mouth. "Truly it can be said that you two richly deserve one another."
With that, the princesses' gave a parting bob of their long, tapering horns and moved on, leaving the dissolute unicorn and his chilly eyed bride to exchange another preening glance before they turned their attention to carefully watching who might approach the royal guardians of the sun and moon next. Both sisters let out a faint sigh of relief as they walked away.
Luna leaned in to murmer to her sister. "You know, I heard a rumor that a changeling had infiltrated those two's manor house."
Celestia cocked a regal eyebrow, a look of concern putting the slightest furrow on her pristine forehead. "Oh really?"
A tiny smirk tugged at the corner of the moon princess' mouth. "Yes, the poor thing staggered out a week later and threw itself on the mercy of the city guards, claiming that it was on the verge of starving to death. If that were any more a marriage of convenience they would have had to find a chapel with a drive thru window."
The sun princess allowed the tiniest snort to escape, suppressing what could have been a loud guffaw with the same amount of effort it took for her to restrain solar flares on the surface of the sun. A faint wisp of smoke trailed out of one of her delicate nostrils and quickly dissipated, unnoticed by all present but her sister.
The moon princess cast about the ornate chamber for something else to comment on, wondering mischievously if she could get hot plasma to shoot out of her elder sibling's ears at some point in the evening. Her turquoise eyes lit up with genuine happiness as they settled on a familiar group making their way across the ornate, red carpeted foyer.
Luna got her sister's attention with another gentle flick of wingtip to wingtip, gesturing with her horn in their direction. "Oh look, sis! Now there are some ponies you and I are always happy to see." She gave a nod of approval. "And so help me you they are all just working it tonight."
Rarity absolutely lived for times like these, making a grand entrance in a stunning new creation, lighting up the crowd with her very presence. She was the pony that everypony should know, one of the shining stars in high society's firmament, from Canterlot to Manehattan to Mareis and beyond. Tonight she scintillated in a gown of crystalline blue with diamond accents, her stockings a faintly metallic silver, her luxurious mane bound by cascading midnight blue ribbons studded with tiny sapphires. She made her stately way across the crowded room, all genteel smiles and ready charm, making remarkable progress for as often as she stopped to exchange pleasantries or acknowledge a greeting.
Applejack, on the other hoof, felt like a fish out of water that had just been asked to take hold of the rudder and steer the boat, but she held her head high and kept an even expression. She'd been to her share of hifalutin' shindigs through the years, but she still didn't much care for dressing up fancy and behaving "properly", especially since her definition of "proper" behavior was antithetical to the aloof, judgmental pretension that most of the ponies around her were practicing.
The blonde farm mare took a bit of comfort in the easy, relaxed manner with which Soarin carried himself as he walked along at her side. Thanks to Snips' skillful tailoring he was looking quite dapper in his tailcoat and tie, his normally unruly mane swept back in a smooth wave. He was an old hoof at working crowds from his years as a Wonderbolt, and took it all in stride.
Apple Bloom and Pip followed close on their heels. The spotted stallion's smile flashed like the highlights of a diamond, as he responded gallantly to the appreciative looks he was getting from several of the mares in attendance. The youthful handymare was looking a bit on edge, as she met those same flirtatious glances with a sharp glare that said in no uncertain terms that if any of them tried anything they would get a face full of size five horseshoe.
Twilight Sparkle's expression had been one of happy detachment. She enjoyed going to live performances for the sake of the show itself, particularly when she'd read the script or libretto and could compare the opera or play as staged to the text, but had little interest in the posturing of Canterlot's elite. As far as she was concerned, there were only two ponies in the crowd besides her friends whose opinion mattered to her, and even the elite looked up to them. Her face lit up expectantly as she saw them approach.
Princess Celestia's voice radiated warmth as she greeted them. "Good evening, my faithful ponies. We're so glad that you could join us tonight."
Her regal sister Luna gave a nonchalant wave of her hoof and a casual grin as the group gathered around. "Hey there kids, what's shakin' ?"
Princess Diamond Tiara watched as intently as she could while attempting to appear utterly disinterested, as the co-rulers of Equestria glided through the crowd like a pair of swans to warmly greet the group of newly arrived ponies. Her eyes flared in recognition, blinked in disbelief, and then narrowed venomously as she recognized a pale yellow earth pony mare with bright red tresses among them. The object of her ire was looking annoyingly beautiful in her bronze colored evening gown, with an insultingly handsome young stallion at her side, and seemed unforgivably friendly and relaxed with their royal highnesses as she shamelessly exchanged pleasantries with them.
She sneered with bitter distaste. "What is that... that peasant doing here?"
Blueblood idly flicked an ear at the sound of his wife's voice and muttered under his breath as he scanned the nearby crowd. "That is what we wonder to ourselves every morning when we come downstairs for breakfast."
The pastel pink princess turned and hissed at him. "Better than wondering if you can even afford breakfast, hubby dearest, and don't you ever forget it."
She snapped her tail across his flank, causing him to almost rear up in indignation and then fix her with a sulky glare. She jerked her head toward the tall, elegant forms of Celestia and Luna as they proceeded with the group from Ponyville toward the stairs to the box seats. "Now come on, we've got to keep an eye on them."
The off white unicorn rolled his eyes. "Why, pray tell?"
The earth pony mare's lip pulled back in a snarl that made a cold shiver run down the unicorn stallion's spine. "Because shut up and do what I say, that's why."
With that, she reapplied her genteel mask, gave a toss of her pearl streaked mane, and stalked off through the crowd. Prince Blueblood heaved a heavy sigh and fell into step behind her.
Diamond Tiara had sulked all through the first act, simmered during the interlude, and was positively seething by the close of the second act, completely ignoring the glittering costumed spectacle of gods, dragons, and heroes unfolding on stage. The sweet taste of high society success at obtaining a box seat adjacent to the Princess' royal box had turned to ashes in her mouth as she watched her red headed foalhood rival blithely sitting in the immortal sisters' resplendent company as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
For his part, her husband Blueblood maintained his air of regal hauteur, strained though it was by the spectacle of Celestia and Luna leaning on one another and utterly failing to hold back their uncontrollable giggling, which had begun shortly after the young unicorn mare who was portraying the sun princess in the opera had made her grand entrance, lowering down from above the stage in a resplendent costume of white samite, gold lamé, and colorful gossamer.
Her voice was impeccable, he was forced to admit, as clear as a crystal glass and sweet and rich like a bronze bell, but the royal unicorn stallion had found her stage performance a bit... indecorous. She'd even had the gall to give Princess Celestia a broad wink in the midst of her soaring aria in the second act, which to the shock of almost every pony in the audience had caused both of the regal sisters to burst out in gales of cackling laughter that soon had them rolling on the floor of their box and kicking their hooves in the air. The mares and stallions sharing the box with them merely looked on with amusement, joining in on the laughter like peasants at a barn dance.
It was a tribute to the professionalism of the dove grey earth pony mare who was conducting the orchestra that they had managed to continue playing despite this loud disruption from the royal box, which only seemed to egg the young singer on while the other performers on stage did their best to keep the show rolling. It wasn't long before the cast had all warmed up to the princesses' unrelenting mirth, and soon the audience was being treated to the most broadly comic, undignified performance of Wagoner's grandiose magnum opus that had ever hit the stage.
An uneasy hush had fallen over the theater as the curtain fell for intermission, which was shattered as Celestia and Luna leapt to their hooves and unleashed a clattering wave of stomping accompanied by cheers of "Bravo! Bravissimo!". Having no other option than to follow the lead of their sovereigns, the rest of the audience joined in, filling the echoing hall with a thunderous ovation.
Twilight Sparkle rose and turned to her immortal mentor as the lights went up for intermission. "Princess, I hope the two of you don't mind, but there's a bit of business that Rarity and I, as well as our friends here, would like to discuss with the both of you in private."
Celestia was still chortling, wiping a tear from her eye with a tip of her wing as she replied to her student. "Ah,Twilight Sparkle. Normally I wouldn't want to mix business with pleasure, but I am in such a good mood right now that a little bit of business would hardly spoil it. I would be happy to hear you out."
Luna gave her sister a smirk. "Yes, and perhaps afterward you can 'arise like a heavenly lover at the dawn to kiss the faces of all thy adoring subjects'." This caused her elder sibling to let out a long snort that exploded into another gout of laughter, leaving her propped up against the snickering regent of the moon with her snowy wings tightly held to her sides.
The solar princess gasped with hilarity. "S-stop it, Luna! I c-can't... My royal ribs..."
She composed herself and stood to her full regal height. "All right, we only have a few minutes before the curtain rises again. Please come with us to the royal salon where we can have our little chat."
Her darksome sister nodded in agreement. "I must admit, I'm almost more interested in what you all have to say than what Wagoner's got in store for us in Act Three."
Celestia bit her lip to stifle another giggle as they headed out the curtained archway.
As the group from Harmony Aeronautics fell into step behind the stately princesses, Diamond Tiara pushed back from the polished brass railing of her box, where she'd been listening intently with a craning neck and highly pricked ears. She stumbled over her gown's trailing hem as she hurried to her husband's side. He was just making his way down to the lounge to get a pinch of salt when she caught up to him.
She reached up and clamped her teeth on his ear, dragging him aside behind a velvet curtain before he could protest with much more than a strangled yelp. Her eyes were flashing with urgency as she spoke to him in a desperate whisper. "Blueblood! I need you to cast your invisibility spell on me."
His ears levered back and he blinked in poorly feigned innocence. "Wh-what? What invisibility spell? Ow!"
She gave him a swift kick in the shin and a grimace of frustration. "The invisibility spell you always use to sneak out of the house and go hang out at the Polo Club with your cronies.That invisibility spell."
The sunken eyed stallion sniffed in strained indignation. "We have no idea what you're talking about."
The pink pony princess grabbed him by his lapels and started to shake him. "Make me disappear right now or I will make you disappear piece by piece starting with your crown jewels. Capisce?"
Blueblood let out a bitter sigh as his horn sparked to life. "Those disappeared the moment we signed the pre-nup. Now hold still."
He leaned forward and touched the tip of his horn to the bridge of her snout, which vanished in a wave of glimmering unicorn magic that washed across her, leaving empty space in its wake.
He stepped back with a frown as her disembodied voice sounded in the alcove. "Good boy. You've earned your allowance for the week. Try not to blow it all at the track."
As the muffled sound of her high heeled horseshoes receded down the thickly carpeted hallway, Blueblood rolled his slightly bloodshot eyes and muttered to himself. "If only I knew a spell to make her inaudible as well..."
The characters depicted in this fiction are copyright and trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. This is a work of fan fiction, and the author makes no claim on Hasbro's copyright or trademarks.