Five years later, Unicornia City was abuzz with the impending celebration of the nation's five-hundredth anniversary. It was rumored that Prince Blueblood was to finally take a bride, and as a wedding gift, the aging king would abdicate the throne to his ambitious son.
Rarity paid no mind to the silly gossip-mongering of fishwives, having long given up the fillyish fantasies of a storybook wedding. So she was quite surprised when Prince Blueblood himself strolled into her little shop.
"Ah! Such rich textiles for so humble an establishment," the prince crooned, modeling a new cape for himself in the full-length mirror. He spared a moment to appraise Rarity as well in a manner she did not entirely appreciate. "Indeed, true finery may be found in the most unlikely of places."
"I am honored by your regard, Your Majesty," the seamstress said with appropriate humility.
"Guards!" Blueblood called to his entourage. A pair of large armored unicorns entered at his call. The tiny shop suddenly felt very crowded. "Take it all away."
"I don't understand," protested Rarity. "Am I to be put out of business? Please, Your Majesty, this shop is all I have!"
"Nonsense, my lovely," Blueblood admonished. "You shall have all this and more as my wedded bride. Your royal wardrobe will make these look like rags!" he insisted, tossing aside the cape.
Rarity was at a loss for words. By law of the land, the Prince was within his right to take any mare as his bride, be she noble or peasant. Prince Blueblood swept her up beside him and escorted the stunned seamstress outside, where a massive crowd had gathered, packed tightly on the narrow street.
"My good ponies! Behold, for at last we have found a mare whose beauty is a fitting match for our own magnificence. Though she may have been common-born, perhaps you will find her common no longer. I give you the princess... er--"
Blueblood leaned over to the stunned mare's ear. "What was your name again?"
"R-Rarity, my lord."
"I give you the princess, Rarity!"
The joyous cheers and clopping of hooves on cobblestones did nothing to fill the bitter emptiness that Rarity felt in her heart. She was barely aware of being escorted into a carriage and driven to the castle and her new life. All the privilege of the nobility was now hers, but without her true love, it may as well have been the bridle of a serf.
Days turned into weeks as the country's anniversary drew nigh, on the last day of the month. Despite Prince Blueblood's assurances that she would grow to love him, Rarity found solace only in her daily trot through the Whitetail Woods.
The trees were in a glorious riot of Autumn colors now, which perfectly matched Rarity's elegant gown. However despondent, if she was to be a princess, then she had an image to maintain -- and anything less than seasonally appropriate attire just wouldn't do.
As always, Blueblood sent his steward to keep an eye on Rarity, though this she did not entirely mind. The baby dragon Spike was an innocent rascal, cheerful and eager to please. He would scamper about the woods, pointing out curious natural formations or relating amusing anecdotes about his life growing up in the castle.
Then did the odd duo happen upon a small wooden wagon with a red shingle roof, standing alone in a clearing. At their approach, the wagon unfolded into a stage framed with whimsical decorations, accompanied by a brash fanfare.
"Come one, come all! Come and witness the amazing magic of the Great and Powerful Trixie!"
There was a puff of glittering smoke and a blue unicorn mare wearing a star-spangled cape and pointed hat appeared on the stage.
"The Great and Powerful Trixie has come to pay her respects to our lovely new princess," the magician intoned with exaggerated pomp. She waved her hoof and a bouquet of flowers appeared there, which Spike hurriedly retrieved for Rarity.
"My sincerest thanks," Rarity said politely, though thinking the flowers were a bit mismatched. "But if you seek to put on a show, I'm afraid such a... marvelous display is wasted on an audience of but two."
"Oh?" Trixie replied, with arched eyebrow. "You are alone, then? No guards or attendants?"
"Besides young Spike here, no," answered Rarity.
"Then there will be nopony to hear you scream."
At the magician's last word, two more ponies appeared from behind trees on either side of Rarity. One a pegasus and the other a giant earth pony, they converged on her and seized the reluctant princess. Spike immediately leapt to Rarity's aid, but Trixie magically bound him with rope. He fell and hit his head, passing out. That was the last thing Rarity saw before she herself fainted.
Trixie's horn glowed beneath her hat and the wagon folded back up for travel. The pegasus carried Rarity and Spike inside, while the giant pony hitched himself to the wagon with the heavy wooden yoke around his neck.
Unicorn in the driver's seat, the wagon trundled through the woods, none of the brigands speaking a word until at last the trees thinned and they came to the edge of a lake. The wagon rolled out onto a rickety pier that was overgrown with moss and clearly quite forgotten, but no boat was moored there.
Trixie disembarked, returning to shore with Spike now magically held aloft, trailing behind. She dropped him in the dirt, where he groaned but did not wake, then another flare of magic activated a new transformation in the wagon. Aerodynamic fins unfolded from underneath and the top opened, allowing a large balloon to inflate that was painted with a greater-than-life-size depiction of Trixie herself.
"Ready the wagon for take off, my unenlightened underlings," the unicorn instructed, "While the Great and Powerful Trixie prepares the bait."
"Is she going to keep talking like that all the time?" queried the pegasus, who busied herself checking the hot air balloon's rigging. With her nimble movements and multi-hued mane and tail, Rainbow Dash's name was certainly appropriate.
The giant earth pony, a red stallion with a perpetually sheepish expression named Big Macintosh, was tying up the wheels to keep them from spinning. "Eyup," he answered helpfully.
"Do not speak about the Great and Powerful Trixie as though she cannot hear you," Trixie snapped. "If you want to get paid, all you have to do is keep quiet and follow instructions."
Trixie had now drawn a midnight-blue-and-silver tabard from a pocket in her magician's cloak. She tore off a corner and stuffed it into the baby dragon's clawed hand.
"What are you doing there, Oh Great and Powerful Trixie?" Rainbow Dash tried to keep her tone from betraying the roll of her eyes.
"I am doing the real work of this little caper, you fine feathered fool! This scrap is from the uniform of an army officer of Pegasopolis."
"Who's 'Pegasopolis'?" asked Big Macintosh.
"The country on the other side of the mountains," answered Dash. "My homeland."
"And more importantly, the sworn enemy of Unicornia!" Trixie sneered. She kicked a bit of dirt on the baby dragon, to make the scene of a delirious struggle and narrow escape more convincing, of course. "Once the royal guards come looking for the princess and find her battered ward here, they'll easily deduce that agents of Pegasopolis have abducted her. Finding her corpse on the other side of the border will drive Prince Blueblood to swear death and vengeance upon the pegasi."
"You never said anythin' about killin' anypony," Macintosh drawled sullenly.
"The Great and Powerful Trixie hired you to help start a war! It's a prestigious line of work with a long and glorious tradition."
"I dun think it's right, killin' an innocent filly," he persisted.
Trixie gaped at the big red stallion. "Is Trixie going mad or did the word 'think' escape your lips?" She closed on the giant pony, jabbing a hoof into his broad chest. "You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic landmass!"
"I'm with Big Mac," Rainbow Dash interjected.
"Oh! The has-been has spoken!" Trixie now rounded on Dash. "The Great and Powerful Trixie can understand why you might feel some kinship with this wannabe princess, but what happens to her is not truly your concern. Trixie will kill her, if need be."
The unicorn leveled her horn menacingly at the pegasus.
"And remember this. Never forget this! When Trixie found you, you were washed up and molting like a chick! A stunt flier that could barely fly. Ha! And yooouu," she continued, returning her glare to Macintosh. "Friendless. Brainless. Helpless! Hopeless! Do you want Trixie to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Dirtville?"
Macintosh was cowed into silence and Trixie stomped away. Not for the first time, Dash pitied the gentle giant. She hovered over to him, laying a sympathetic hoof on his shoulder.
"Don't take it personally, Big Mac. That Trixie is just full of hot air. Get it? Hot air?" she snickered, pointing up at the balloon.
The big stallion chewed on that thought, as well as the sprig of wheat in his mouth. "Seems like her manners are barely there."
Dash snorted, suppressing a guffaw that surely would have attracted the unicorn's wrath again. "Trixie thinks she's the only one with an agile mind" she prompted once more.
"Joke's on her; we're three of a kind," Mac responded.
"You're sure quick on the draw, Big Mac. Why do you let her talk down to you like that?"
"Trixie's right about one thang, ya know. Nopony'll take me seriously, 'cause I talk a bit slow."
"Say! When this job is done and we get paid, whaddya say you and me strike out on our own, huh?" Dash suggested. "Maybe we can do some real, honest performing? I can think of plenty of impressive things a big strong pony like you could do."
"That's enough flirting, you two!" Trixie shouted from the 'prow' of the wagon-turned-airship. "We're casting off!"
Rainbow Dash and Big Macintosh separated, each blushing and pointedly not looking at each other. Mac worked the bellows while Dash took hold of the rudder.
Trixie was leaning over the still-unconscious Rarity, not impressed by Prince Blueblood's supposedly beautiful bride. At least with the funds raised profiteering from the coming war, she'd be able to afford more professional mercenaries. Trixie allowed herself some comfort with that thought as her little airship rose smoothly into the twilight sky.