Part 2 - Falling Into Place
Sweetie Belle wobbled a bit on her gold painted platform horseshoes as she struggled to keep her balance on the slowly rotating dais that dominated the center of her sister's workroom at the Bijou Boutique, the crown jewel of Canterlot's high fashion scene.
The elaborate headdress and wig she wore was threatening to pull her forward onto her primrose white face, and probably would have succeeded in doing so were it not for the weight of her billowing gown and the sweeping pair of swanlike wings that adorned it. The young unicorn mare wasn't the most coordinated pony in Equestria, and the tightness of the harness that underpinned her costume was making her a little light headed, which wasn't helping.
Rarity gazed at her sister with a critical eye over her horn rimmed glasses, smartly tapping a hoof on the hardwood floor to signal to the shop assistant who was hitched to the windlass downstairs. The turntable came to a sudden stop, causing Sweetie Belle to lurch sideways with a chime-like cry. Her elder sister drew in a sharp breath, expecting her to topple to the floor in a heap of white samite and multicolored gossamer, but with a grimace of effort, the younger mare shifted her weight in the other direction, precariously righting herself.
The unicorn tossed her elegantly curled violet mane and gave her a smile. "Bravo, Sweetie! Well corrected!"
Her younger sibling grinned triumphantly as she wove a bit under the burden of her finery. "The choreographer's been having me rehearse with saddlebags full of sand and dumbbell weights on my horn. She says I gotta get used to big costumes if they're gonna keep giving me these big parts."
Rarity let out a chuckle as she started walking around the platform. "Well, it would hardly do for the Princess to go pitching rump over teakettle in the middle of the stage, now would it?" Not wanting to burst Sweetie Belle's bubble, she bit back a comment about her little sister already being prone to doing so without the expedient of a large costume.
The alabaster unicorn's face became serious as she went back to evaluating her work. "Hmm. The body line isn't quite right. Hold still, darling."
Her horn sparkled with shimmering blue magic, causing the laces on the gown's girdle to tighten. Sweetie let out a melodious squeak as her cheeks bulged out and her soft green eyes went a bit crossed. As Rarity completed a circuit around the platform, she reared back in alarm as she looked into her sister's flushed, pleading face. "Oh dear! I don't think Princess Celestia's supposed to be that color."
Sweetie drew in a huge, gasping breath as the laces on her girdle loosened again. She glared at her sister with a frown creasing her open brow. "Sheesh, Rarity! I need air to sing, ya know! The straps on this harness are tight enough without you cinching up the corset too."
The elegant fashion designer lashed her violet tail. "Well I'm not loosening those straps, sister dearest, no matter how much you complain. I'm worried enough about you falling down at stage level. I'm not going to take any chances with the wire work. It would be dreadful for both our complexions."
She turned and bobbed her horn to one of her assistants, who stood next to a hoof cranked winch. "Speaking of the wire, Bobbin dear, would you be so kind?"
The earth pony set his hooves on the pedals and started turning the winch, lowering a cable down from the rafters. The line terminated in a split, with a pair of metal clips solidly spliced to the ends. These Rarity caught with her magic and attached to a couple of carefully concealed steel rings protruding from the rump and withers of Sweetie Belle's costume.
Her slightly miffed expression softened as she met her sister's gaze. "You ready?"
The younger unicorn nodded, a slight tinge of nervousness on her primrose face. Rarity, in turn, gave a nod to her assistant, who dutifully threw his back into cranking the winch and raising Sweetie Belle into the air.
The elder unicorn tsked and called up to her sister as she signaled for the winch to stop. "Darling, I'm fairly certain that Princess Celestia doesn't do much flying with her eyes closed."
Sweetie's voice came out strained and shaky. "Workin' on gettin' 'em open. Gimme a minute."
Rarity blew a stray curl out of her face. "You used to do things like this all the time with Scootaloo and Apple Bloom when you were a filly."
Her younger sister made a clipped reply as she gently swung back and forth like a pendulum. "What do you think I'm flashing back to right now?"
The alabaster coated mare lashed her tail in annoyance. "Sweetie, I think between the two of us, I have much greater cause to be afraid of heights than you do, and I'm telling you this is nothing. You're only twenty hooves up for Celestia's sake."
Her elegantly coiffed head whipped around as an awestruck voice sounded from the doorway. "Oh wow, Rarity! Sweetie Belle looks amazing! You've really captured the Princess' essence!"
A fond smile spread across the fashion designer's face as she saw a lavender colored unicorn with pink and purple streaks in her slightly disheveled violet mane standing there, a delighted expression on her face belied by the dark bags under her eyes.
Rarity beamed with pride as she walked over to greet her. "Twilight dear, so glad you could come. Coming from you I take that as a considerable compliment to both of us."
Sweetie Belle managed to pry an eye open and gave a small wave. "Hi, Miss... uh, I mean Dr. Twilight."
Rarity gave her friend a quick hug, planting a kiss on each cheek before she held her at foreleg's length with a raised eyebrow. "If I may be so bold to say, darling, you're looking a bit rough around the edges. I thought your trip to Ponyville last week was supposed to relax you." She plucked a brush off of a nearby table and started to work it through Twilight's mane without a missing a beat.
The lavender unicorn submitted to her friend's ministrations without protest, knowing it wouldn't do her any good to do otherwise. "Oh, it was. Everypony sends their love, by the way."
She let out a wry chuckle. "No, I just got caught up in a little problem and have been burning a few extra candles trying to puzzle out a solution, in addition to my regular research."
Rarity tsked. "Well, I'm hardly one to scold you about that, seeing as I've been pulling more than my share of late nights getting the costumes done for the Royal Opera."
She set the brush aside and led Twilight over to the side of the platform. "And on that note, come take a good look at our rising star here, or rising sun, as it were." She let out a little chuckle at her own joke, then continued. "Since you know Princess Celestia as well as anypony, I wanted to get your studied opinion on my work, and I'm sure Sweetie here wouldn't mind a few tips on carrying off the part."
Twilight smiled up at the sequin and samite impersonation of her mentor, admiring her friend's handiwork. "Well, like I just said, I think she looks marvelous." She called up to the younger mare. "I bet you never thought you'd grow up to be the ruler of Equestria, did you Sweetie? You look wonderful! Very true to life."
Sweetie Belle let out a nervous chuckle, like a glissando of silvery bells, and beamed at the compliment. "Thanks, Twilight. I just hope the Princess herself enjoys my performance."
The scholarly mare's eyes twinkled. "Just relax and do your best. I happen to know that "Ring of the Neighbelung" is one of her Highness' favorite operas."
She leaned forward and raised a hoof to the side of her mouth in a conspiratorial stage whisper. "Although she once told me that she thought Wagoner laid it on more than a little thick with her dialogue and lyrics, so don't take it the wrong way if she starts cracking up during your big solo in act two. She said that's as long as she can usually hold it in. Just remember, it's not you, it's the libretto. I think part of the reason the Princess likes it so much is it gives her a good laugh."
A bit of the tension drained from Sweetie's posture as she let out a giggle. "Well, I did used to think that comedy was my special talent."
She gave the older unicorn a fond smile as she rocked gently back and forth on the cable. "Thanks, Twilight. I was beginning to get a little bit of my old stage fright thinking about performing for an immortal demigoddess, but if she's going to enjoy the show either way then I can stop worrying about that and just concentrate on singing as good as I can."
Rarity gave her sister a wry smile. "As well as you can, Sweetie, which is very well indeed." She followed with a wink. "And if all else fails, just try to visualize everypony in the audience without any clothes on."
Sweetie Belle traced a couple of slow arcs through the air as a puzzled look settled on her open face. "Uh... Rarity, ponies don't normally wear..."
Her sister cut her off abruptly as she clacked her hooves smartly on the floor. "Anyway, lets get you down from there, darling. It's getting on toward lunch time and there's this positively fabulous little sushi place that just opened on Farrier and Main that I've been simply chomping at the bit to take Twilight to."
The lavender mare grinned. "Sounds great."
Sweetie tossed her head with a mock imperious expression on her face, lapsing easily into the Royal Canterlot Voice. "THIS DOTH PLEASETH YOUR PRINCESSETH AS WELL! LOWER ME, BRAVE SIR BOBBIN, SO THAT I MAY PARTAKETHETH OF YONDER FOODETH!"
She punctuated her booming speech by throwing a hoof skyward with a grand flourish. Her heavy soled platform horseshoe came loose and launched into open space, arcing over the young mare's shoulder. Rarity and Twilight's pupils shrank to pinpricks as time seemed to slow down, and they watched the gold painted hoofwear spin as it followed its predestined trajectory toward the head of the earth pony assistant stationed at the winch.
Time returned to normal with a coconut-like klonk sound, as the heavy shoe bounced off of the stallion's skull. A multicolored constellation of stars appeared around his head, accompanied by bells and cuckoo noises as he staggered away from the mechanism with wobbly, stumbling legs and wildly spinning eyes. Sweetie let out a perfectly pitched shriek as the unponyed winch started unwinding, sending her plummeting toward the floor.
Just as suddenly she jerked to a stop, the wings of her costume bobbing up and down as she stopped bouncing and came to rest, her eyes clenched shut and her legs tucked up tightly to her body.
Rarity shook away her shock and heaved a sigh of relief as she saw a shimmer of purple magic around the pedals of the winch, holding it steady.
She turned to the lavender unicorn beside her with a grateful smile. "Excellent catch, Twilight. That was..." She cocked an eyebrow as she noticed that her scholarly friend was staring raptly at her sister. "Um... Twilight?"
Twilight Sparkle didn't answer, her violet eyes wide as her head bobbed up and down in time with the diminishing oscillations of the wings on Sweetie Belle's costume.
Her brow furrowed, and she looked across the platform at the winch. With a surge of her magic, she cranked it, raising the young unicorn up a few hooves, then let her drop back down a short distance, staring raptly at the motion of the wings once again. Sweetie let out another shriek, kicking her hooves and losing another shoe.
Twilight let out a gasp. "That's it!"
Eyes sparkling in fascination, she started winding the winch back and forth, causing Sweetie to bob up and down in a steady motion. A smile began to creep across the lavender scholar's face, a note of exultation on her voice. "That's IT!"
The young opera singer's cheeks bulged out, and she swallowed hard, muttering with a thick voice. "I... I think I'm gonna barf..."
Rarity rounded on her old friend with her sapphire eyes flashing and stamped a hoof. "Twilight! If you are quite finished playing with my little sister like a yo-yo..."
This snapped the scholarly mare out of her reverie, and she looked up at the younger unicorn with dawning horror and chagrin. "Oh no! Sweetie I'm so sorry."
With that she gently lowered her to the platform. Sweetie Belle tottered on her half shod hooves and collapsed, spiraling to the turntable's surface with a rustle and a thud.
In short order, Rarity had everything sorted out. Sweetie Belle was laid out on a fainting couch with a warm washcloth over her eyes. Bobbin was propped up on some cushions in the break room with a bag of ice atop the swelling bump on his forehead. One of the interns was en route to the sushi restaurant for takeout. The Celestia costume was arranged on its ponikin awaiting triage and repair. Everything was back in its proper place. Now there was only the odd behavior of her guest to account for.
When she returned to the workroom the pale unicorn mare found Twilight scrutinizing the wings, and gently moving them with her telekinesis while a heavily bookmarked tome bound in royal blue hovered nearby.
She gave a guilty start as Rarity cleared her throat behind her. "All right, Twilight Sparkle. Perhaps you'd like to tell me what this is all about? It's happened to me enough times for me to know inspiration striking when I see it."
The lavender unicorn rounded on her with an eager gleam in her eye. "I think I've figured out a way to let ponies fly."
The alabaster colored fashion designer favored her with an arched eyebrow in an otherwise deadpan expression. "Yes. I think I've heard of it. It's called being born a pegasus. Perhaps you've met a few of them?"
Twilight shook her head, her friend's sarcasm sailing past her. "No! I mean earth ponies and unicorns!"
Rarity huffed in growing exasperation. "This is also not news. You cast that spell on me the first time we all went to Cloudsdale."
The lavender unicorn nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! Exactly! But the problem was that it was very hard to cast, and ultimately extremely unreliable!"
The fashion designer rolled her eyes with a pained expression crossing her pale features. "It certainly was, although I suppose one could say that was hardly the spell's fault."
Rarity suddenly found herself pulled cheek to cheek with her studious friend, as Twilight levitated the book over to float before their eyes. "I've been analyzing that spell, taking it apart at its basic principles."
She ran her hoof across the complex sigils and charts that covered the mouldering parchment. "It breaks down into three main components: the physical generation and connection of the wings to the subject, the animation and control of the wings, and an aerodynamic factor that mimics the intrinsic flight magic of pegasus ponies in regards to generating thrust and countering gravity."
Twilight paused, giving Rarity a slightly manic grin. The elegant fashionista could only muster a puzzled shrug in reply. "So?"
The scholarly mare rolled her eyes so hard it made her horn trace a small circle in the air. "So, since these components are discrete, they can be removed from the incantation without compromising the other components, and by removing the hardest component, i.e. the conversion of ambient mystical energy to a physical solid with anatomical interfaces to a living being, the bulk of what makes the spell difficult is removed. The remaining two components are so simple even a unicorn of relatively modest skill could perform them, as they're very closely related to the basic telekinesis that we all can do."
Rarity's brow furrowed pensively as she tried to sort through the wall of jargon that had just been thrown at her. "Sooo... you leave out the part where you create the wings... But, if you leave that part out, what's the point?"
Twilight dragged her friend around to face the Celestia costume, reaching up with a hoof to rustle one of the wings. "The point, my dear Rarity, is why conjure a pair of wings out of gossamer and morning dew, when you can sew a much sturdier pair out of fabric? One that a pony can keep in their closet and put on anytime they wanted to go flying!"
The alabaster unicorn's face went paler, as her sapphire colored eyes grew wide and started to sparkle, the glimmers in the depths of her widening pupils resembling the shine of gold coins. "Sweet Celestia's unbridled overbite! We're going to be rich!"
The Bijou Boutique suddenly echoed with the loud, giddy squeal of two unicorn mares.
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