by SerenityViewer

Chapter 1: Jacqueline


It was eight in the morning.

Rarity closed the blinds and turned back towards Applejack.

“Now see here my dear, there is positively no way I am taking you to that ball in your, shall we say, ‘condition.’ You will do much to please prospective clients if you learn not to offend their ears. I know you understand.”

Only muffled grunts returned to her.

Rarity squinted through the dim room. The usual rows of faceless mannequins and racks of dresses were nowhere to be found, out of sight and out of mind somewhere upstairs. Gone too, were the drawing boards and scattered fabrics. Instead, dead center in the room with an entrenched jawline and irritated scowl, sat Applejack.

Her orange ears twitched, indicating she had at least heard her statement.

“Very well.” Rarity glanced over her shoulder. “Twilight? Are we all set?”

Twilight glanced up from behind the kitchen counter, several books spread out before her, munching on one of Rarity’s homemade floral arrangements.

“Yes. Here is the copy of Proper Grammar and Pronunciation. I had to dig through—”

“Yes, yes, I know. Now Applejack . . .” Rarity said, stepping up to Applejack and running a hoof down her tense, sweaty brow and across her gagged mouth.

Those green eyes flashed back in burning irritation.

Rarity hovered over Applejack’s shoulder, and checked the ropes strapping her victim to an antique rocking chair. The binds still held strong.

“. . . I am going to take this mouthpiece off, but the binds will remain. I hope you are comfortable, we might be here for a very long time.”

Rarity plucked Proper Grammar and Pronunciation from its place on the counter, and turned towards Twilight, rubbing a hoof across her temple in anticipation of the coming headache. “Twilight, my dear, this is going to be ghastly.”

The purple unicorn glanced up from her book. “What was wrong with private lessons again?”

“My dearest Applejack must receive only the highest education. Leave her in the grip of those hopeless lackeys at the local school? Why, I would never dream of it.”

Twilight blinked once, twice, and returned to her tome. “Right.”

Behind her, Applejack coughed for attention, muffled by the soggy silken ball jammed into her mouth.

Rarity levitated a glass of water, drank from it, laid it down on the counter where Proper Grammar and Pronunciation used to be, and turned to Applejack. “Yes, yes. The mouthpiece. I haven’t forgotten.”

Rarity stalked towards the farmer, placing one calculated step in front of the other.

Applejack sat deathly still, her whole body rigid as stone, while her eyes, steady and patient, locked on to Rarity and didn’t let go. Standing before the mare, Rarity saw an eerie calm where she had expected wild rage. That was probably because Applejack was saving whatever she had to say for when Rarity returned to her the right to speak. At least for a few more seconds, the gag withheld a boiling volcano of fury that was ready to explode the moment Rarity set her tongue loose.

Sighing, she did just that. Grasping the little end of the ball with her blue magic, Rarity tugged ever so gently. The folded tablecloth came undone, and out poured a torrential storm of words.

“Jus’ what was ya thinkin’ kidnappin’ me in the middle o’ the night? Rare, ya went too far this time an’—”

Rarity leaned in until her nose drifted to within centimeters of Applejack’s. “Tsk, tsk. ‘Jus,’ ‘ya,’ ‘an.’” She levitated her gaze over to Twilight. “I ask you dear, what sort of words are those? I’ve never heard of such obscenities!”

Applejack threw a furious kick at Rarity, but the motion was stopped by the heavy rope snaked around her legs, preventing her from flexing in any direction.

“When I get outta these binds, so help me I’ll—”

“Dear, you have a problem. I am only trying to help.”

“Ya callin’ me defective or somethin’? There’s no way, no how I’m putting up with yer ‘fancy’ lessons. Why, I’d rather eat an orange!”

“Orange hm? Well then, listen dear, I’ll make you a deal. Say this one sentence correctly, just this one, and I’ll let you go. What’s more, I’ll help you harvest your crops for an entire month. Pigs, mud and all.”

“If ya’ll thinks that’ll make up for this . . .”

And I’ll put in a word for you at the Canterlot Growers Society next week.”

That froze Applejack. Her next words came slowly and calculated following a paused breath.

“What kind o’ words . . .?”

“The best. I can guarantee Sweet Apple Acres a premium catering position at the next Gala, and more. I have connections, dear. Besides, I’m only doing this for your own good.”

Applejacks head was down, her simmering eyes hidden beneath her hat, but Rarity could still see the glower peeking out from beneath the thick stetson. The difference, however, was the heat had toned down a couple of degrees.

“. . . Fine.”


“I said fine. Deal. Let’s spit on it.”

“And so we come to our first lesson: A lady says we are in agreement.” Rarity raised her head, and looked down on Applejack, waiting.

“. . . We’re in . . . agreement . . .”

“Much better. Twilight, the board?”

Without bothering to glance up from her book, Twilight’s horn illuminated, and from the hallway a squeaky little blackboard rolled out into the center of the room. Applejack eyes glared at the board as if seeing an old nemesis, one she chased out of town long ago. Somehow, Rarity got the impression that school hadn’t been her favorite past time.

In the center of chalkboard, written in precise cursive and underscored twice with baby blue chalk, stood out a famous stanza:

With blackest moss the flower-plots

Were thickly crusted, one and all.

Applejack twitched her nose. “. . . What? That ain’t English.”

Rarity grasped a ruler with her magic and slapped the words written on the board. “Lord Tennyneighson, meet Applejack. Applejack, or Jacqueline, as I shall refer to you now, have the pleasure of meeting Lord Tennyneighson. You will learn to say this work of art, Jacqueline, and you will learn to say it well. Only then will you have a chance at the survival at the ball. Otherwise, the elite shall . . . let us just say that no amount of influence from me will rescue your seat at the Gala. Are you ready?”

Silence. The arms of the grandfather clock, polished to a golden brown that very morning, thundered out one second after the other.

“. . . With thickest moss the flower pots . . .”

Jacqueline sighed. “Was thick‘n crusted, one an’ ya’ll.”

Rarity blinked. Surely Jaqueline could get this far? Clearing her throat, she repeated, “With thickest moss the flower pots . . .”

“. . . That’s just what I said. What crusted must—”

“No, no, no. Can you not you hear my enunciation? The words you are trying to read are these,” she said, highlighting the poem with her ruler. Rarity then pointed to the ‘Home Sweet Home’ mat lying just beside the door. “What you are actually saying is that. Try enunciating this properly, clearly. Say enunciate for me. Go on.”

“A nun she ate.”

Twilight glanced up from her book once more and offered one of her ever-helpful remarks. “It’s not working. Do you want me to get Pinkie?”

“Pinkie?” came the curious voice of Jacqueline.

Rarity swiveled on her hooves and trotted up to the board, happy as a clown. “Nonsense! All we need to do is practice. Now Jacqueline, I can’t have you pronouncing sentences properly when you mix up the words so often. We are going to break this down step by step: I will point to the word, and you will pronounce it. Understood?”

Jacqueline nodded, and squinted her eyes.

“Good.” Rarity moved the ruler to the first word on the board.

“. . .With,” said Jacqueline.

“Excellent! And now . . .”


“Exemplary. The next word is . . .”


The ruler scraped across the smooth surface of the board.




“Were. Thickly. Crusted. One. An’— Is something wrong? Did I say something unproper-like?”

Rarity wiped the crooked grin off her face. “You said ‘an’ instead of . . . never mind that darling! We’ll work on that later. What is this last word?”


Rarity clapped her hooves together. “See Twilight, Jacqueline is more than up to the challenge. We’ll have you out of that stetson of yours and wearing proper attire in no time.”

The farmer muttered something under her breath.

“What was that?”


“Very well. Now, from the top. Read to me the board, Jacqueline.”

The orange mare nodded. With crisped moths the shower lots was thick ‘n busted, once and fer all. Gee Rarity, yer lookin’ all sweaty again.”

Rarity let the ruler clang to the floor in a violent suicide. A shame that she couldn’t do the same. “Maybe we do have a problem.” She turned to Twilight. "Darling, we might need Pinkie after all, along with the. . . device."

Jacqueline’s ears shot straight up. "Device? What device?"

Twilight frowned. “The device?”

Rarity made a movement with her eyes.

“Oh yes! That device. Well, okay. I'll send a note.” Twilight withdrew a parchment and scribbled out a furious note. She pointed her horn at the letter, zapped, and out it whisked, vanishing behind a cloud of purple smoke.

Jacqueline, if at all possible, sat up even straighter in her chair. "Woah woah, what is goin’—"

Rarity waved a hood back towards the chalkboard. "Excellent, now Jacqueline, let’s go over this again shall we?"

“For how long,” Twilight snorted. “Rarity, we can’t possibly keep her here forever.”

“For however long it takes, Twilight,” Rarity growled, grinding the unicorn down with her glower. She turned back to Jacqueline.

“For however long it takes.”

It was ten in the morning.

Rubbing away the migraine, Rarity turned her attention towards Twilight and the sautéed mushrooms simmering on the frying pan. One of the mushrooms popped, sending a splash of sauce sizzling across the pan. Twilight had already helped herself to one of the small treats, snipping away at one of the delicacies while she hummed some odd tune or other.

The mushrooms were for Twilight and Twilight alone.

Rarity glanced elsewhere. A proper lunch for her would have to wait; progress lay just over the horizon and Rarity would not have it snatched away by petty hunger and orderves.

Twilight, on the other hand . . .

Rarity tapped the mixing bowl, stirring the creamy thousand-isle sauce into a smooth blend. "Hmm, I do believe I got the sauce just right.” Her magic dabbed one of the mushrooms and lifted it, a soft red streak of dressing dripping down its sides, to her lips. With her free hoof, she stirred the cream. “Don't you agree dear?"

Twilight perked up with an earful grin. "It’s wonderful! I love the creamy texture. And these mushrooms are first-rate. Have ya tried that there salad dressin' yet?”

Twilights words died away, while Rarity’s shriek could have woken the dead. The gentle arches of her hoof mixing the bowl derailed into jagged movements as she nearly broke the spoon in half. Neither heard Jacqueline's muffled guffaw.

Twilight looked up in a mixture of denial and realization that she had to atone for what she had just done. Immediately.

Rarity, poised over the kitchen counter, stopped dead with the mushroom halfway into her mouth, took it out, set it on the plate, and looked on with . . .

Sighing through her nose, she waved to a snickering Jacqueline. "Now try it again."

“Have you tried the salad—”


There was a pause. No one breathed.

“. . . Again, Jacqueline.”

It was noon.

What seemed like hours, days, or centuries later, and Jacqueline was still going at it.

Rarity massaged her poor swollen temple. The words had to be there, she knew it. The problem was that somewhere in the journey from the back of Jacqueline's throat to the tip of her teeth, a cruel murderer twisted and shredded the diction into garbled little pieces. The poem came out broken and stillborn, massacred at the very gates of Jacqueline’s mouth.

Rarity clenched her teeth. Curse that stupid Tennyneighson. Those very words, once beautiful and immortal, now groaned away at what was left of her sanity:

What blasted musk the farmer’s plots
Was quickly harvested, till next Fall

With blackened musket the barber loads
All’s sickly blasted, one and all


“Stop, stop! Please stop! I can’t take it any more! Oh Jacqueline, if you don’t stop this instant, I’ll go and throw myself into the lake. I mean it. Let the hydras have me, just release me from this pain.

Jacqueline blinked. “I thoughts I was doin’ just fine.”

“‘Thoughts?’ Fine? Fine!? You call that fine?! Darling, if that is ‘fine’ for you, then I shudder to imagine how the angels screech in agony at your every payer.”

“Well, I got a better idea. Why don’t ya’ll untie me here,” Jacqueline wiggled her bound hooves, “and I’ll—”

Rarity smacked a hoof against her forehead. “There must be another way. There must! There must.”

“I know, like I said—”

“Why, oh why! Why must you be deprived of your rightful nature! You are a divine being gifted by dear Celestia of the unique power of speech. To never understand that beautiful language! No, Rarity, you must soldier on, past all odds! There must be another way.

Twilight, emerging from her little bookworld, poked her head up. “Why not do what Demosponies did?”

“There must! There mus—Wait, what was that?”

“I said why not do what Demosponies did. You know, twelve hundred years ago?”

“Who?” both prisoner and torturer asked.

“Demosponies. Tradition, and this book,” she said, placing a hoof on the wrinkled, yellow page, “holds that Demosponies would practice speech by placing pebbles in his mouth, and forcing the words around them. This taught him how to speak with a clear voice, and with authority. We may not need the ‘authority’ bit, but it would help Applejack—”

“Jacqueline, darling.”

“. . . Right, it would help . . .Jacqueline . . . with enunciating her sentences more efficiently.”

Rarity strolled the length of the room, past the bound farmer, ignoring the panicked look in Jacqueline’s eyes. “Hm, yes, it might just work . . .”

Jacqueline rocked back and forth in her chair. “Ya’ll can’t be serious.”

“Twilight, be a dear and fetch me the jar of baby blue sapphires under the counter. Yes, those.”

“Wait ya’ll. Don’t I get a say in all this?”

“Not if you can’t pronounce ‘you all’ correctly.”

Twilight floated the jar over to Rarity, who plucked a smooth pebble and inched it towards Jacqueline’s tight lips. “I’ll tell you what, say it right, and I’ll stop filling your mouth with stones. Say ‘you all.’”

“Why, ya haven’t even begun—Mpph!”

Rarity’s hoof darted forward and jammed a hornet of baby sapphires down Jacqueline’s throat, just as the farmer opened her mouth. She ignored the icy glare that those venomous green sceptres struck out at her. If she could, Jacqueline would vaporize her with that stare.

Rarity stood up. If she could.

“Now, I want you to recite this poem,” Rarity said, probably for the millionth time that day, soldiering back to the blackboard.

“Againsh?” came the muffled groan, just beyond the realm of recognizability. Yet Rarity was still sharp as a tack, and had picked up what her victim wanted to say.

“Yes, again. Each word, clear as a bell.” She tapped on the board with her chalk. “Begin.”

Jacqueline steamed two vicious puffs of vapor through her nostrils, but tried again. Rarity had to admit, she was a persistent one.

“Wensh bleshick mosh shu shower schlog . . .”

Twilight, once again, thought the situation warranted another of her observations. Rarity ground her teeth. ‘Thought’ was the keyword here.

The purple unicorn flipped open another, thicker tome and whirled through the pages. “Perhaps the poem you chose is too difficult for her.”

Rarity rubbed her ears and leaned forward, straining—fishing, really—for Jacqueline's words.

“Wash shickly schrusted, wonsh ansh ash.”

“What if you chose a simpler one? There’s lots of good ones in this nursery rhyme collection,” Twilight said, thumping the book before her with a hoof.

“Sha flosher shosh schwere schlickly schrusted, wonsh ansh . . .”

“Aha!” cried Twilight. “Take this one, for example. ‘There once was a mare from Peru—’”

Jacqueline’s prose went to war with Twilight’s, and both funneled into Rarity’s ears, one from the left and the other from the right, and fought it out in the sagging plane between her ears. It was the perfect confrontation between calculated beauty, and jagged horror. At some point, Rarity snapped; a mare could only take so much.

Rarity placed an ear near Jacqueline's mouth, and listened to the muddy slur. “I can't understand a word, not a word! Twilight, hand me more sapphires.”

It was one in the afternoon.

Rarity scraped the bottom of the now-empty bowl of baby blue sapphires. All had perished in Jacqueline's mouth—some swallowed, some ground, others spat out, none reusable for work. Whether or not their sacrifice was in vain was the ultimate question. Rarity would like to think that Jacqueline's enunciation had improved . . . somewhat.

She coughed. She’d like to think that.

Rarity paced over to the wall opposite to where her victim sat and watched in silence as Jacqueline wolfed out another muffled, half-chewed excuse for a poem. She leaned against the wall, twirling Proper Grammar and Pronunciation absentmindedly in the air. In retrospect, perhaps she had placed a little too much faith in Twilight’s antics. A change in approach was in order. After all, when one made an imprecise cut, one worked around the ripped seam, not confront it.

And Jacqueline was proving to be a very difficult stitch with a very original solution.

Rarity ceased her twirling of the book. It came crashing down to the floor, and the loud smack tore Jacqueline's eyes towards the unicorn.

Rarity shifted and started for the kitchen, tossing a coy remark over her shoulder. “I’m hungry, dear Jacqueline. What shall I have for lunch?”

Twilight glanced up from her book, and Jacqueline for her part, her mouth still stuffed full of stones, only reacted with her eyes. Rarity could almost swear she saw a glint of suspicion in them, the same glint Opalescence got when she at last realized that the red dot she had chased all afternoon had been controlled by none other than Rarity herself.

Rarity reached the sink and looked at the top cupboards. Her magic glided past the counters, ticking off jar after jar, package after package. “Pickled cucumbers . . . Ice harbor lettuce . . .” Jacqueline’s eyes couldn't help but follow.

At last, Rarity came to the fruit bowl.

“Hm. An apple?” Rarity’s magic grasped the red orb and hovered it above the other fruits. She peeked over her shoulder. Sure enough, those emerald eyes shone brighter than the stars at her suggestion.

The magic faded, and the apple fell with a clump back into the bowl.

“. . . or an orange

Someone turned off the stars.

“Oranges it is.”

Twilight, for the first time since that morning, shuttered the thick tome shut. “Rarity, what are you doing?” There was just the barest breath of concern in her voice.

Rarity ignored her.

“Now Jacqueline, I’m going to peel this orange. If you cannot pronounce that poem correctly, I’m going to continue peeling it. Do you know what will happen after I finish peeling it? If you manage to pronounce it correctly, you won’t find out. Ready? Let us not tarry.”

Rarit noticed, out of the corner of her eye, Twilight making a silent ‘o’ with her mouth. The sharp unicorn had grasped her intention. Unfortunately for Jacqueline, she still lagged far behind the finish line.

“Fohget ish,” came the reply, rolled around the stones in Applejack’s mouth. “Ish quish.”

Rarity levitated a knife. “What was that?”

“I saysih I quish.”

The knife came to rest on the outer, hardened layer of the orange. “‘Quish’. No, I don’t think that’s a word.” The blade made the smallest of incisions into the thick peel; it was something of a warning.

“You might as well do as she says,” Twilight said to Jacqueline, perking up from behind her counter, her book re-opened now to a certain degree more. “Otherwise, she’s going to force feed you that orange.”

Jacqueline froze. “Yoush wouldinsh . . .”

Rarity eyes glinted, colder, sharper and more terrible than the hard steel of the blade. “Oh but I would.”

Jacqueline’s eyes stabbed back to the chalkboard, her chair shaking and quivering.

“Wish scchakish mosh she shower floths.”

Rarity began humming a tune. Don’t be afraid . . . Hmm-hmmm . . . Oh don’t . . . A carved portion of the orange peel came falling to the floor, about an inch wide, almost as wide as the look of horror in Jacqueline’s eyes.

“Whersh shickly shru-crushthed onsh ansh allsh.”

Another piece fell to the floor. “La-di-da . . . Why . . . Why are you so afraid . . .”


And another. “You are reciting it backwards, dear. Start from the top.” The knife returned to the top of the orange, half of it naked by now. “Oh open . . . open your heart . . . to me.”

It was nearing two in the afternoon.

Rarity squirmed on top of Jacqueline, clawing her grip past Jacqueline’s strong hooves, and inched the orange closer to the farmer’s clenched teeth. The chair lay broken and splintered nearby, along with the unwoven cords that had failed to restrain Jacqueline’s panic. Rarity’s leg nearly slipped on one of the countless blue sapphire stones that lay scattered across the floor.

Rarity grunted, a drop of sweat slipping off her brow and splashing against Jacqueline's cheek below.
Her prisoner was not going down without a fight—Jacqueline bit, kicked, sneered, and wiggled her snout away from the orange in a most unladylike fashion. But the unicorn was not giving up now, not when she was so close.

The orange crawled closer to Jacqueline’s grimace. “Open your mouth! This is for. Your. Own. Good.”

Jacqueline’s green eyes spat back venom. “Never.”

Twilight, in the meantime, found it a better use of her time to run circles around Rarity, blabbering on about something. “Girls! Girls!”

The orange fruit crawled to a stop in mid-air as Rarity eased her grip. Jacqueline also relaxed her brutish strength. The pair, a flushed unicorn and a panting mare, stared breathlessly at Twilight.

The momentary cease-fire honored, Twilight opened her mouth. “Girls, I know that tensions are high, but these are the moments when we must remember the value of Friendship,” she said, winking at that last word. “I am certain that we can resolve this issue if we act as good friends. Don’t you remember what happened the last time we all argued?”

Two sets of empty eyes stared back at her. “No.”

“. . . Really? Discord? Chocolate rain? Anything?”

Rarity sat up, letting Jacqueline prop herself up on her elbows. She glanced down, “Isn’t that when you regurgitated an apple?”

“Uh-huh. And you was datin’ that rock?”

“Why, yes. Yes I was.”


“Of course.”

Jacqueline coughed. “So, uh, we should get this show on the road, or . . .”

“Oh yes, yes of course.” Rarity slipped atop Jacqueline once more. “Now, I had my hoof here and you were digging your leg into my thigh.”

“Like this?”

“Yes, but more, shall we say, ‘rough.’ Where should I put my other hoof?”

“Right there is jus’ dandy. Oh and that there orange was about three inches from my snout.”

“Or course, I haven’t forgotten. Well . . . should I begin or shall . . .”

“Ladies first.”

Rarity made one final, minute adjustment to her mane. Jacqueline reached up and helped her tuck the curl of her mane over her ear, just the way Rarity liked it.

“Right, thank you dear.”

A moment later, Rarity flew back into the attack, howling like a witch. “Now open that mouth of yours or so help me—”

“Wait!” Twilight shrieked, peeling Rarity off of Jacqueline with her magic and planting herself between the pair.

Rarity huffed in irritation. “What is this time dear?”

Jacqueline nodded. “Can’t ya see we’re busy killing each other?”

“Nevermind that! Neither of you are accomplishing anything.” She jabbed an accusing hoof towards Rarity, “Your techniques are medieval and getting Applejack nowhere.”

“It’s Jacqueline—”

“Whatever!” Twilight rounded towards the farmer. “And you! You, you . . . well, there’s nothing really wrong with you. But regardless,” she said, grappling them both by the neck and swinging them in for a tight hug, “I’ve come up with a plan that will solve both of your problems. Rarity, you will manage to successfully introduce your friend into high society. And Applejack, your manners will impress everyone at the Gala.”

“Ya mean we don’t have to go an’ murder each other after all?”

“But Twilight my dear—will it really work?”

“Yes.” She winked at them both. “I guarantee it.”

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