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UNSPOKEN (NSFW) because sex, but not explicit either.

97blackbird

Chapter One
How



Prince Blueblood’s head flew up and his eyes rolled back as he achieved climax. At the same time what would have been a triumphant neigh of conquest was robbed of its strength by a simultaneous shuddering sigh of ecstacy. Then, fully spent and quivering with the aftershocks of his orgasm, he lowered himself back down and laid belly-to-belly on top of me. Without my spectacles or a close-up view of his straining face, I found myself staring up from his bed at the blurry shapes of his bedroom ceiling. I sighed and hooked my pasterns behind his withers while he laid on top of me and puffed hot, heavy, satisfied breaths against my neck.

Absent of the activity that created them, beads of sweat banded together and followed gravity’s direction to blaze wet trails that tickled my neck, thighs, sides, and face. There was little else for me to do now than ponder if I would first die of heat prostration underneath him, or of extreme humiliation when he ordered me out of his bedroom. I licked my lips and swallowed as my eyes watered, further blurring my uncorrected vision.

“How did you get here, Raven Inkwell?” I mentally asked myself. That would not be the last question I wanted answered that evening.

* * *

Prince Blueblood and I first met – quite literally – by accident. That day I was walking down a hall in the Royal Palace to my third interview for a position as one of Princess Celestia’s aides. I was careful to keep on the rubber matting that led to my appointment, but a mirror caught my eye and I stopped to check my appearance one last time. My dark chocolate mane remained in place in the tight hair bun without a stray lock to be seen, and my bangs swept back like parted curtains against my pale coat. On my neck, my starched white collar stood up proudly and contrasted beautifully with my billowy, bright-red, silk ascot. Everything about me looked prim and professional. Everything except for my boorish brown eyes, magnified to cartoonish proportions by my thick, black, horn-rimmed spectacles. Those two features continued to disappoint and ruin my persona of the perfect, professional, high-level aide.

Even though my spectacles were seated perfectly on the bridge of my nose, I re-positioned them anyway, as though I might attain through some minuscule adjustment the miracle setting that made my eyes appear interesting, intelligent, or perhaps something closer to normal. However, that miracle continued to elude me and I frowned at my reflection.

My eyes have always been my weakest feature, both in appearance and in function. In appearance, because they were basic brown in color and completely unremarkable. In function, because my vision tested just above the standard set by optometrists for legal blindness. While wearing my spectacles, I could see as well as the average pony, but without them, I groped about as though I were sightless. Amorphous colors and bright, fuzzy lights passed on no useful information unless I could bring the object up to about a hoof-breadth of my nose. There the blurred shapes would finally coalesce into something recognizable, like a gleaming pair of sharp shears, or a burning candle, or my own lost spectacles glinting in the light. Every moment I spent without those hideous frames and their thick, heavy, glass lenses weighing on my nose made me feel completely blind, no matter what any doctor said.

A clock chimed at the three-quarter hour and snapped me out of my inspection and self-critique. I had wanted to be at my appointment right now, and there I was wasting time in a hallway. I quickly trotted off and went to turn the corner, but rammed into what felt like a solid wood statue. My spectacles flew off my face and my attaché case burst open as I first rebounded back onto my haunch, and then – with my forelegs flailing in vain – I ignominiously toppled over onto my back. The stallion I collided with didn’t simply laugh as I floundered there on the floor, after his initial pompous chuckle, He mocked me.

“What kind of simpleton are you?” He asked harshly as I rolled over onto my belly and started sweeping the area around me, searching desperately for my spectacles. “Are you blind?” He asked as I groped about, crawling inch by inch along the floor.

“Not at all,” I answered, feeling my cheeks flush with heat, “but I need my spectacles to see.”

“Well, I remain unconvinced,” the white stallion arrogantly harrumphed, “you just blindly ran straight into me. If you are here to interview for the palace staff positions, let me save you the trouble. My aunt cannot afford to have any infirmed on her staff. Especially the blind.”

The edges of my vision went red and I felt my face burn purple with indignation. “I’m neither infirmed nor blind,” I retorted through clenched teeth, “I see as well as anypony when I am wearing my spectacles.”
“Here. Prove it.” The stallion said coldly.

I felt something press against my cheek and my hooves went to my face to catch the object suspended there. It was indeed my spectacles and I wasted no time putting them on. Now I could clearly see the white unicorn stallion that I would soon know and loathe as Prince Blueblood.

Although he was still sneering at me, my breath caught at his polished, handsome appearance. Even then, angry and humiliated as I was, I didn’t think that there was any way I could ever consider him ugly. From his golden blonde mane that flowed from the top of his head and cascaded in waves down his slender neck, to his athletic shoulders and chest, to his bright, turquoise-blue eyes that peered down past his perfect nose and sculpted cheekbones; there was no doubt in my mind that he was somehow royal by blood to Princess Celestia and had inherited her finest qualities.
“Well? Can you see now? Do you know who I am?” Prince Blueblood asked icily.

“Yes,” I answered, no longer feeling angry, but ashamed at my inattentive clumsiness and my relative humble appearance and position. “You’re Prince Blueblood, the only officially acknowledged relation of Princess Celestia.”
Prince Blueblood showed no surprise nor satisfaction at my recognizing him. It was as though he presumed that all ponies knew him on sight. “This one time I will overlook your affront. However, since you claim to be able to see as well as anypony, if this happens again, I must conclude that your collision was purposeful.”

His lips pulled back on the left side into a lopsided grin; the first of many cock-eyed smiles he would later give me. “Now, Ms. Train Wreck is it? See about cleaning up your debris.” He tossed his head and strode away with his chin high, leaving me on the floor with my cheeks aflame and my pride in shambles. Somehow, as I re-gathered my things, I also collected the strength to pick myself up and continue to my appointment.

It was a mystery to me how I managed to pass my interview that day. But pass it, I did. Immediately afterward, I passed my next interview: a surprise meeting with Princess Celestia herself! I impressed Princess Celestia so much that she offered me the responsibility of being her personal aide at the end of that interview! I was so elated to have been personally chosen by Celestia herself that I had completely forgotten about my rough encounter with Blueblood. Until my first week on the job.

Running anywhere in the palace was prohibited. So I learned that all staff members lengthened their stride or quickened their pace to briskly walk if they were in a hurry, all the while maintaining their professional demeanor as they did so. I was determined to not just follow their example, but to somehow surpass it.

However, I quickly learned that the omnipresent and impossibly smooth marble flooring was not conducive to brisk walking and long strides. Too sharp of a turn would cause my hooves to fly out from underneath me. Similarly, if I took too long of a stride, I could find myself sprawled out and sliding on my belly. It was exactly that posture that I found myself in when I next met Blueblood.

“Well, look who it is!” Prince Blueblood feigned surprise as I pushed my spectacles back up the bridge of my nose and started sweeping my scattered things together. “I couldn’t place you when I saw you on your hooves walking up the hall, but it is easy for me to recognize you now.” He said with his pompous whiplash-grin.

I didn’t answer, but my cheeks reddened to the same heat and hue that I had worn when we had first met.

“I see that you have learned a new trick: Falling flat on your face for no reason, what, so, ever. Brava.” He clipped ‘whatsoever’ into three distinct words, then he clapped his hooves twice in mock applause. “I had thought when we first met that you had ambitions of being the new personal aide to Princess Celestia.” His arrogant smirk faded into frown of disdain. “But now I see that we have in our employ an official royal fool! Congratulations, Ms. Train Wreck, on becoming the new court jester.” Then he abruptly turned up his nose, and left.

It was only the knowledge that Princess Celestia was depending on me to run her errand that made me sweep up my things and pick myself up from the floor.
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97blackbird

That painful memory made tears spill out of my eyes to join with my sweat and race down my burning cheeks. I grit my teeth and forcefully exhaled through pursed lips at the recollection of his early slights to me. I squeezed my forelegs painfully tight around Blueblood’s barrel and imagined him breathless as I choked the life out of him. All traces of his arrogance gone as he begged me for mercy.

“Ooof… Oh, Raven.” He exhaled in response and embraced me in return, only in far less threatening manner than I had attempted.
I wanted to scream. It was obvious that I wasn’t hurting or threatening him in the slightest. Indeed, He sounded like he thought I was just being overly passionate! My right hoof stretched out as I entertained an angry thought about hitting him. But reason quickly usurped emotion as I knew he was athletic, and had firm muscle tone everywhere. Any violence I attempted was far more likely to hurt me than him. Grudgingly, I replaced my hoof on his withers and once again considered my situation.

When did I stop hating him?

* * *

Over the next month, I heard a demeaning comment from Blueblood nearly every day. And even more frustrating, I still hadn’t managed to hurry along the ubiquitous polished marble hallways without mishap. The most basic task – walking – had become ridiculously challenging. It made me feel like a foal taking my first stumbling steps. And all too often, he was there to witness when I fell. His greetings to me consisted of mocking verbal barbs and his conversations usually questioned my competence. And always before he left, he would flash that infuriating lop-sided grin.

But I didn’t have time to dwell on that. This day was one of Celestia’s tightly scheduled days. Typically on these packed business days, she chomped large bites of sandwiches, or shoveled salads into her mouth while she walked the halls from one meeting to another. Sometimes, she sipped pureed soups while she listened to a briefing or heard some matter debated. It struck me as shockingly un-princess-like behavior and I was determined to stop it — whatever the cost. So far, I had been able to keep her well ahead of schedule, and if I could keep up the pace, then I would get the glorious satisfaction of watching Celestia sit and enjoy her lunch like a princess should. The joyous anticipation of that event spurred me on.

I entered the Grand Staircase room at the quickest walk I dared, and then, even though I knew I shouldn’t, I burst into a gallop on the huge rug in the Grand Staircase Hall. There was no chance of me slipping on the great rug that lay there I reasoned. The thick, dense, material muffled my quickened hoofsteps and provided superb traction that was rare in the palace of polished marble. It was the myriad of things that I did just a little bit faster that kept Celestia ahead of schedule, I imagined proudly. I could even envision the scene in my head. Princess Celestia would ask me what was next on the agenda. I would then lead her to the veranda where a table would be set and waiting for her. Of course, she would be pleasantly surprised at my efficiency and tell me how wonderful it was to have a moment’s break from her hectic schedule. Then I would—

Right in the middle of my fantasizing, I reached the end of the rug. My front hooves inexplicably locked in place and I was moving far too fast to stop!

“Eeep!” Was all I could manage to say as the floor came rushing up to me. With no way to shield my face, I shut my eyes and winced.

The right side of my head smacked into the cold, hard, unforgiving marble causing a thud that reverberated between my ears. A sharp burning pain around my eye and the crunching sound of broken glass confirmed that at least one of my lenses had broken. My momentum carried me forward. I slid on the right side of my face which bent my neck over sharply as my body tilted straight up. All of my weight rested on my face, head, and neck until friction slowed my progress enough to flip me over onto my back. That brought me to a halt. I laid there, paralyzed with pain, scarcely able to breathe while blood trickled down my cheek and out of my nose. Then I heard the stallions laughing.

“Oh wow! That was priceless!” One of the laughing stallions snorted. “Did you see that four-eyed freak completely eat the floor?”

“That mare that you just tripped and called a ‘four-eyed freak’ is the highly-competent personal aide to Princess Celestia!” A voice sounding like Prince Blueblood answered angrily.

“Alarm! Medic! Guards, secure this room!” A guard stallion suddenly shouted from beside me. I hadn’t heard him approach and I tried to move, but he laid a hoof on me and ordered me to lie still.

The laughing ceased abruptly and the room filled with activity. The guard who called the alarm and one other who wore a medical badge gently — but firmly — immobilized me and called for a gurney. Another guard gave orders to alert the palace physician. A whole squad of guards showed up, seemingly out of nowhere. They paired off and covered every exit. But through the haze of my pain and the medic’s questions as he assessed my injuries, I heard Blueblood continue to berate one of the three formerly laughing stallions that I recognized now as his party-going friends.

“You imbecile!” I heard Blueblood yell angrily. “Yes. It’s true that I mocked her when she would slip, but I never sabotaged her! But you magically folded up the end of that rug and tripped her at a gallop! And you have the gall to laugh at her for that?”

I strained to hear more, but there were too many voices, and none of them dominate enough to follow if they weren't right next to me. Eventually, I felt myself lifted up, placed on a gurney, and sped down the halls to the palace’s medical office. But my confused thoughts were on Blueblood. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. I was certain that he had called me ‘highly competent’. And there was no doubt that he defended me against his friends. It was all such a reversal of what I had come to expect from him that my thoughts mired on the paradox.

However, once I was in the Palace’s medical office being carefully examined by the staff physician, my mind returned to my duties and to the potential I was wasting by being there.

“Ow! Lemme go! I must to get to the princess!” I protested for the umpteenth time through swollen lips. The painkiller they had given me worked wonders. I was no longer paralyzed by pain and I celebrated that fact by struggling to get free.

“Hold still!” A blurry white and blue nurse admonished me and held me down against the table as Doctor Lollipop carefully cleaned and examined the cut below my right eye.

“But you don’t understand! I need to be there! I made plans!” If there was still a chance of me seeing Celestia enjoy a proper lunch, I had to get out of there. Now!

“No. You, don’t understand!” Dr. Lollipop’s determined face came into sharp focus. Her soft green eyes and aged powder blue coat a hoof away from me. “Princess Celestia will hang me by my tail if I let you leave here without this cut sutured,” the doctor declared. “Now stop talking, hold still, and let me do my job if you want to get out of here sometime today!”

Despondent, I complied with her demands. I could feel all the hopes and plans I had made for this time draining away.

“I'm looking for Raven Inkwell! Is she here?” I heard Princess Celestia ask loud and clear from somewhere outside the room I was in. She must have been heard by all in the office. Her voice caused my heart to sink a little lower in my chest. Most likely, she hadn’t eaten lunch if she was here already. And I knew that this visit to the medical office wasn’t on her agenda.

“Yes Princess,” the front nurse’s voice squealed nervously. “The guards brought her—

"I want to see her, if it is possible.” Celestia interrupted.

“She’s in with Dr. Lollipop, Princess. Doctor Lolipop is assessing her injuries and will be out when she—

“I want. To see her. NOW. If it is possible.” Celestia interrupted again, her tone brooking no argument.

“She – she’s in Exam Room 2, last door on the left, Princess.”

“Thank you.” I heard Celestia answer and the metallic clinks of royal hoofshoes rapidly approaching.

“Clear the door.” Doctor Lollipop calmly instructed, and everypony in the room moved away from the door and stood at attention, except for Lollipop and the attending nurse.

The next instant the door flew open and Celestia entered. “Raven!?” I heard her gasp. I must have looked dreadful. Right eye blackened and swollen shut, gauze wadded in my nose to stop the bleeding, and a cut on my face that wasn’t yet stitched. I was glad they had removed the neck brace, I looked bad enough already.

“I came as soon as I heard you had been hurt.” Celestia slowly moved around to the head of the exam table where Dr. Lollipop remained steadfast at her station working to suture my cut. Her hoof hovered over my head as she searched for an uninjured place to touch me. She settled for brushing back my dark chocolate-brown bangs and combing down the stray locks that had come out of my tightly wound bun.

“What time is it Princess?” I asked apprehensively. I had already mentally calculated the time I expected it would take Celestia to arrive. I could feel failure creeping up on me. All I needed was confirmation.

“It’s 12:28,” Celestia answered quietly.

Confirmation. I had ruined everything. Tears began spilling out of my eyes.

“Raven? Raven, what’s wrong?” Celestia's grip on me tightened.

“I ruined your lunch!” I wept aloud. I struggled through my explanation while trying to remain motionless for my stitches. “In less than twelve minutes from now you’re going to be in a conference with the heads of the western provinces. I had managed to save almost thirty minutes this morning in order for you to enjoy a proper lunch on the veranda, but I just lost all that time because I fell! Now instead of eating like a princess should, you’ll be reduced again to chomping down another sandwich like a laborer or slurping pea soup slurry like a common office drone!”

I lost all vestiges of control and sobbed. “I ruined your lunch! I’m so sorry, Princess, I tried so hard, but I ruined your lunch!"

Dr. Lollipop moved back, my convulsive sobbing prevented her from continuing any delicate operations. Celestia bent down face-to-face with me. Her amethyst eyes meeting the one of mine that hadn’t swollen shut. “Are you telling me that you have been rushing all over this palace, just so I can have a few moments to eat my lunch sitting down?” She asked in an incredulous whisper.

I nodded once. “I hate to see you eating while you wa- walk or wo- work. You are a Princess! An- an’ if you don’ have time to eat your lunch properly, then I- I must be doing something wrong!” I wailed.

“How often must I forget the lengths to which you young ones will go to please me?” Celestia breathed and put on what looked like a sad smile. “Come here, Raven,” she said, and she gathered me into her arms.

I buried the left side of my face into her neck and cried. “I’m so sorry, Princess! I am so, so, sorry!” I wasn’t sure whether those apologies were for my many uncoordinated faults, or for the fact that she was in the medical office instead of where she was scheduled to be. Or maybe, I was apologizing for blubbering on her shoulder like a yearling. Anyway, I was engaging in the most unprofessional behavior. I would be mortified when I recalled this later. Yet my disappointment was so great that I couldn’t stop crying; neither did I want her to let me go.

Shhh… That’s alright.” She cooed. Her left foreleg curved around my back and pulled me close, while her right cradled my head against her.

“Hold her still.” Dr. Lollipop ordered as she resumed suturing.

I felt Celestia’s answering nod and I resolved to stop crying and hold still. I had inconvenienced my princess enough already.

“Raven, I want you to listen to me.” Celestia said.

“Yes, Princess.” My voice croaked, but my ears raised to attention.

“When I have tightly scheduled days, I consider those my ‘work’ days, and I want to utilize every moment of those days for work. Including my meals. Even if that means I must ‘slurp pea soup slurry’, or ‘chomp down sandwiches like a laborer’.” She gently poked me in the ribs with her hoof and I forced a smile. “I need those days of heavy activity to help me enjoy my lightly scheduled days and vacations. I need to feel like I earned the multiple course gourmet meals and those delicious cakes so I won’t be feeling guilty about any unresolved or unfinished business from the day before.” Celestia nuzzled behind my ear. “Do you understand?”

“Yes, Princess,” I said, my voice still sounding froggy, “you will feel like you aren’t getting enough done on your work days if you have too much idle time, and that stress will carry over to your relaxing days.” I sighed, feeling stupid for not recognizing it sooner. “Work on work days, take it easy on easy days. All things belong in their time. I understand.”

“Yes, I know you do. You are a very intelligent young mare.” Celestia said to me. Then her head raised and she addressed the guard, still standing silent in back of the room. “Report.”

“Raven was observed galloping through the Grand Staircase room, when—

“Raven galloped in the palace?" Celestia interrupted, "did any guard at any time try to stop her or caution her to slow down and walk?”

“No, Princess. Despite the many reports of Raven traversing the halls at a trot or better, no guard ever stopped or cautioned her.”

“And why not?”

“Because we allow your personal aide certain liberties. If you ordered Raven haste on an important matter, there would be no way for all guards in the palace to know. We restrain ourselves in Raven’s case out of respect for you.”

My jaw went slack. I never imagined that the guard would be deliberately ignoring only my infractions. And the fact that they did it because of my elevated station made my blood run cold. Whatever my intentions, it looked like I was violating the rules flagrantly. Not only that, her questions and the guard’s answer had a rhetorical flavor to them. They were spoken for my benefit only.

“Yes,” Celestia nodded. “Your actions are correct, Lieutenant. Proceed.”

“As Raven reached the edge of the rug, a unicorn stallion raised up that edge and tripped her at a gallop.” The lieutenant continued.

Celestia inhaled sharply. “Are you telling me that this was done to her…intentionally?”

“It appears so, Princess.” The lieutenant answered. “The unicorn in question at first admitted to tripping Raven as a prank, but he now denies any involvement.”

“Of course he does!” Celestia spat.

I still couldn’t see anything, but I didn’t need to. Celestia’s anger was ablaze. It was something I didn’t wish to witness. Even if I wasn’t the object of her ire.

“Who was the unicorn?” She demanded. “No. Don’t tell me. Who was the witness? A sole guard?”

“There was one guard who was in position to witness everything, Princess; Lance Corporal Gladius. However, he was not the only witness to the event. Prince Blueblood also witnessed and confirmed everything the Lance Corporal Gladius reported. ”

So it was true. I had imagined nothing. Prince Blueblood actually went on record against his friend and defended me.

There was a pause, an uncomfortable silence that lasted for the time Celestia needed to take two deep breaths. Then she pulled back and examined my injuries. “Is the unicorn who did this to her in custody?” I felt ice run down my spine at hearing the deepened, fuming voice of my beloved princess.

“Yes, Princess.” The lieutenant answered. Another silence passed. The only sound being the pricking of a needle and the drawing of thread as Doctor Lolipop continued to sew my cut shut. “Shall I bring him to you?” The lieutenant inquired.

Celestia pulled me close to her again, holding me tighter this time. “Yes.” I heard her whisper. The sound was predatory, full of hunger and the desire for violence. It made the hair all over me stand on end.

"Aye, Princess!" The lieutenant headed immediately for the door.

“As you were.” She amended quickly. The lieutenant stopped and faced Celestia instantly. “Lieutenant, I order you to keep that — unicorn — out of my sight for at least twenty-four hours. Because if I see him any moment before then, I will immolate that…thing where it stands!”

“Aye, Princess!” The lieutenant again saluted and left without a pause.

“Last stitch…” Dr. Lollipop informed the room, “…and I’m done.”

“What do you want, Doctor?” Celestia asked as Lollipop daubed my sutures with some odd-smelling liquid and the nurse finished cleaning up.

“Twenty-eight days at least,” Lollipop answered.

"I only need seven." I objected. "The swelling should be down by then."

"Twenty-eight days," Lollipop repeated and continued like I hadn't spoken, "I have her neck brace off now, but she is going to wear it home and for the next week. Weekly follow-up visits, and another x-ray of her neck before she leaves to go home after I'm done."

Celestia drew a breath, then I felt her nod. “You have them. Now, I want the room.”

Lollipop gently placed a hoof on my shoulder. “I need to see you again before you leave. Be strong.”

I puzzled over the exchange she had with the princess, but with her aside to ‘be strong’, every hair of mine stood up. Yet I needed to answer her, and I felt I couldn’t ask her for an explanation. “Yes, Doctor. Thank you.” I stuck to a standard polite reply. She nodded, then she and the nurse left.

Celestia and I were now alone. “Oh, Raven,” she sighed, and pulled out of our embrace completely to look me in the eye. “What am I going to do with you?”

My good eye darted from side-to-side and my ears lay flat with uncertainty. “What do you mean, Princess?”

Celestia didn’t answer me right away, but she stepped to the right and motioned for me to come off the exam table and face her. “I want you to remember that you represent me.” She said.

I had been working with Celestia long enough to recognize the phrase. The phrase, 'I want you to remember that you represent me', had been spoken only twice by Celestia in my presence. The first was to a foreign ambassador that was being given an unpleasant assignment to a tropical nation. The second time she spoke it was to a high public official suspected of embezzling. He turned pale at hearing it and asked to resign, immediately. His request was granted. As a result, I concluded that it was spoken to somepony who was expected to endure something unpleasant while maintaining their bearing, or a strict charge made to ministers to tell the truth, even if the truth is self-incriminating. And now, I had heard her speak that phrase to me. I swallowed and reluctantly did what she had bidden. “I will represent you faithfully, Princess.” I answered appropriately, but with a tremor creeping into my voice.

“Is galloping, cantering, or trotting, allowed at any time within the Palace walls?” She asked.

I winced and my breathing became erratic. “No, Princess.” I huffed, trying to keep my composure. My nightmare was coming true. I was being disciplined by Princess Celestia!

“Did I ever command you to gallop, canter, or trot, when you perform your duties?”

“No, Princess.” I squeaked out. Tears were falling again. Large shameful tears that ran hot down my cheeks.

"Are your injuries in part because you, my personal aide, a pony who directly represents me, were violating the rules and galloping, right here in my palace?"

"Yes, Princess" I answered, though my throat had constricted so tight I'm not sure how audible I was.

“Have you been representing me faithfully these past few weeks?” Celestia asked in a much gentler tone.

I looked away, but I wanted to run. “No, Pr – Princess.” I forced out while choking back sobs. Every bit of me seemed swollen, unlovely, and painful. And now, I could add ‘useless’ to that list. I broke the rules, repeatedly and flagrantly. By doing so, I misrepresented my Princess. All within the first few weeks of my employment. Dismissal wasn’t too extreme in these circumstances. I had most likely lost my job as her aide. I reasoned that the change in her tone was just an attempt by her to soften the blow.

“Raven Inkwell.”

“Yes, Princess?” I squeaked. I knew what would be said next, but the silence stretched out interminably until I finally felt obligated to look at her. I turned back toward her and looked up, anticipating my world to come crashing down with her next few words.

“I want you to know that you have performed brilliantly in the short amount of time you have been my aide, and you have made me very proud of you,” Celestia said sincerely, and quite unexpectedly.

“Thank you, Princess.” I said without much relief. I could still imagine her unspoken words.

Celestia drew in a deep breath. “However, because of your numerous willful and flagrant violations, I must place you on unpaid administrative leave for twenty-eight days. Effective immediately.”

All blood drained from my face. I swooned and fell back on my haunches. I wasn’t fired, but surely the length of this punishment meant that I had lost my position, and I didn’t want to be at the palace if I was no longer her aide. The constant reminder of the prestigious position I had lost would be too much. “But Princess, please," I cried, "I was only trying to—

“Remember that you represent me!” Celestia reprimanded me sharply.

At once, I sucked back my tears and stood up on my hooves. “I will represent you faithfully, Princess.” I forced the proper response past the lump in my throat. “I only wanted to serve you to the best of my ability.” I added in my defense. There was really nothing more I could say.

Celestia nodded. “I know you do and l know that you will. I want you to know that after this administrative leave is over, I desire that you resume serving as my personal aide. But from now on, you must understand that the rules apply to everypony, and when those rules are broken, the offenders must pay the price for breaking them. Whether they be visitors, or staff…” Celestia swallowed before continuing, “…or even a princess.”

“I understand, Princess.” I said, allowing a small sigh of relief at hearing that she still wanted me and that I retained my position. But I shivered when she alluded to Princess Luna’s banishment. Celestia valued law and order above all. Even above her own family. If I wanted be her aide, it behooved me to remember that.

She motioned for me to come closer and we embraced. “I look forward to the day that you return.” Celestia said after we parted and she carefully placed my magically repaired spectacles on my nose. “Until then, rest, and heal, and mind your doctor’s orders!” She pointed her hoof at the tip of my nose in playful admonition.

I wiped my cheeks and tried to smile bravely. “I will, Princess.”


Three weeks later, I was on my way to another weekly doctor’s appointment at the palace medical office. The swelling and bruising around my eye, lips, and cheek had completely reduced and my stitches were covered by liquid bandage and cosmetics, but I still felt humiliated coming back to the palace for my appointments. It wasn’t my appearance, but the presence of the guard to my left that shamed me. For the guard was necessary because I was still on administrative leave, and therefore an escort was required to be with me at all times while I was on the palace grounds. I used to enjoy free rein; there was no place in the palace that was off-limits to me. But now I was shamefully tethered to an escort whose job was to take me to my doctor’s appointment and return me to the gate. It made me feel like I was an unwelcome guest.

It was only a small comfort that my unpaid administrative leave was exactly the same length of time as worker’s compensation allowed for my on-the-job injury. Princess Celestia had shown mercy where she could, and I wouldn’t miss a paycheck as a result. But the armored mare walking alongside me was a stark reminder of my earlier failure. A dead albatross around my neck.

“Only one more week,” the armored mare said as we entered the palace, “are you ready to return to all this?”

I glanced over for the first time and took a good look at my escort. Guards all looked alike to me at first. I struggled to make the name connections as their armor covered their marks and manestyles were all similar. This guard had a light pink coat with a maroon mane that her age was beginning to streak with a light purple-grey. I recognized her, Sergeant Radiant Orchid, a veteran of the Palace Guard and an expert in keeping her cool when things got chaotic. She also was a great fount of knowledge about events and ponies in the palace. Despite this, she wasn't much of a gossip. Information would only be shared if she felt it best that you knew. The number of those she confided with were small. I counted myself fortunate that I was on that short list. “Yes, Orchid. More than ready. I think even my dog is ready to have me back at my position here. I am so stir-crazy that yesterday I considered sorting his kibble by shape and color.”

Orchid smiled, “You know—

The sound of door slamming and of two ponies laughing loudly from down the side hall cut off my escort’s thought.

My ears swiveled left. Those voices sounded familiar. “Is that…"

“Blueblood,” Orchid nodded, her voice failed to cover all of the contempt she felt, “and his flavor-of-the-day. Today's flavor is 'swimming and sex'. That stallion has a different mare for every activity and day of the week."

I froze in my tracks and she turned to me. “Do you?” She whispered and motioned toward the door to a small room off the entrance hall.

I nodded and quickly ducked inside and silently pulled the door closed behind me before Blueblood and his current ‘flavor’ came around the corner. I mentally decided to call her 'Flavor' because 'swimming and sex' sounded too distasteful to apply to a pony.

“Bluey darling, why are you taking me to the door instead of…upstairs?” I heard 'Flavor' ask. She sounded young; whether by age or act I couldn't tell.

“I can't, my aunt has asked me to assist her temporary aide,” Blueblood stated. To his credit, he didn't sound the least bit resentful or inconvenienced.

“Oh, did that silly mare with the super-thick glasses wash-out already?” I pressed my ear to the door. I had to hear how Blueblood would respond to that.

“No. Raven was deliberately tripped by a former friend of mine while she was performing her duties. She suffered some cuts and bruises as a result and is currently convalescing. Apparently, she is a rare type, and it is proving to be a challenge finding one pony to fill in for her.” Simple statement of the facts. No embellishments and nothing demeaning. My jaw dropped open. This couldn't be Blueblood.

“Raven? Is that actually the name for that blind klutz?” My mane caught fire. If Blueblood hadn't surprised me, I might have jumped out right then to confront 'Flavor' about her negative characterization of me.

“Yes, her name is Raven: Raven Inkwell. And she isn’t blind. She has an eye for details that is second to none. And as for her apparent clumsiness, many of the new staff ponies need about a month before they learn how to walk on these polished floors without the occasional slip.” My jaw dropped open again. I guess 'Flavor's' comment had made me clench my teeth.

“Oh, my. You certainly seem to know a lot about her.” That smacked of jealousy! A smile curled the corners of my mouth.

“My aunt says that she has a memory like an iron box. She also says that some of her personal aides over the years have ‘hit the ground running’ as the phrase goes. Others hit the ground at a sprint. But Raven,” — he smiled his whiplash smile and chuckled – “She says that Raven, hit the ground, jumped into the air, grew wings, and flew!” I felt my eyes go wet. It was difficult for me to accept compliments. And here I had heard the highest praise I could have ever desired. Thankfully, I heard it from Blueblood first. If Celestia ever said that to me, I'd be a tear-stained mess for the rest of the day.

“If I didn’t know you any better, I’d say that you were falling for that homely half-wit.” I couldn't get angry at her insult; the jealousy was strong with this one, and I shamelessly enjoyed every moment.

“There is no need to be jealous and insulting, not everypony can be as mentally gifted as Raven.” I jerked my head back in shock. I got a compliment from Blueblood? I pressed my ear back to the door.

“Are you calling me ‘stupid’?” I grinned. I knew what I would say.

“Those are your words, dear, but I concur with your assessment.” I did a double-take. Those were my thoughts given Blueblood's voice. I bit my lip to make sure I wasn't inadvertently replying

“You bastard! I’m smart. Why, I bet that I’m just as smart as she is!” The act dropped entirely; 'Flavor' didn't sound young at all to me anymore. Angry and jilted moved to the fore.

“Very well, dear. I’ll agree with you and apologize, if you can tell me why it is impossible for me to be a ‘bastard’.” I felt my head shake. It was obvious how this was going to end for 'Flavor'. She was the only one who didn't see it.

"You aren’t going to use your royal title as a reason, are you?” Now she was stalling, trying to think and grasping for hints. I imagined this for her as the mental equivalent of a pony trying to swim while wearing brick boots.

“Truthfully, that is part of it, but not the whole answer. I’ll give you a hint. What is the definition of the word ‘bastard’?” Now I could hear Blueblood again: Smug and overconfident. He was never fooled by her act, and he knew how ignorant she truly was. The long pause that followed laid everything bare. I imagined her a fish out of water, jaw working up and down but no sound emerging, while wide, unblinking, empty eyes stared straight ahead.

“But you don’t know its definition, do you?" Blueblood broke the silence, "you only know that the word is an insult. It would appear that I don’t have to apologize.” I began to pity the poor mare on the other side of the door. Breakup's are painful enough, there's no need to add spite.

“Why, you…you…” I closed my eyes. I could already hear Blueblood's unspoken comment.

“Careful, if you don’t come up with an accurate insult, you’ll just provide more proof of your deficiencies.” I exhaled. It matched what I expected.

“Ah! You…you…you barking bastard!” And with that, I heard her turn and march away.

I bent down and peaked through the keyhole, a bit surprised that the cliche trick worked. Blueblood stood perfectly centered in the hole. His grin didn’t fade as he watched her leave, revealing the sum of his interest in her. Then he shook his head and turned around, prompting me to quickly pull my head back.

After hearing his hoofsteps fade I paced around in a circle contemplating what had just transpired until the door opened and my escort peeked in. “Raven? He’s gone.”

I thanked Orchid and immediately headed for the medical office. So quick was I that my stunned escort had to take a few steps at a canter to catch up. “Well, that was…” she paused for a moment to acquire the word she wanted, "…illuminating!” She said in surprise and fascination. Then she looked over at me for confirmation.

I marched on to my appointment without a word. Memory alone took me through the halls, as my brows were knit together in thought and my eyes saw only what I had just seen.
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