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Escape is Overrated

by Georg

“So…” Rarity blinked the sleep from her eyes in order to look up at the clear blue sky, then back at her marefriend. “Do you think this is another one of Discord’s tricks?”

After waking up, Twilight was spending her time examining the hedges surrounding them on all sides, except for the small space they were standing in. “I don’t think so. Everything is too ordinary. I mean these hedges, for example, are just that. Hedges.”

“So who put us here, in this terrible place?” Rarity examined one hoof, which was already stained green with trampled grass. “I have work to attend to. There are at least three different lines of dresses that need final approval, and that’s not to mention the difficulties involved with the new store in Mulesbourgh. Not that I don’t mind the company,” she added quickly, giving her marefriend a thoughtful look.

“I’ve been busy in the palace too, Rarity,” said Twilight, or more correctly, Princess Twilight Sparkle, newest ruler of Equestria, appointments needed for visits blocked out in five-minute intervals on Tuesdays only, please. “I was going to have you over for lunch this afternoon, after the meeting with Catsburgh delegates and the Yaks Stomping Demonstration. I had it all blocked out on my schedule and everything!”

“But something came up.” Rarity heaved a deep sigh and nuzzled Twilight behind one ear. “Something always comes up, darling. Either with your royal duties or my business. I think this is the only time I‘ve seen you this month.”

Twilight paused with her wings half-unfurled, then settled back down on the ground to return the affectionate nuzzle. “I’ve been just terrible at this relationship, haven’t I?”

“Haven’t we,” clarified Rarity, although she made no effort to break away from the embrace.

“I suppose,” murmured Twilight from somewhere in Rarity’s mane, “that we could work our way out of this maze together instead of me just flying out and sending help for you. Besides, whoever put us here probably did something to the top of the maze to prevent that.”

“Oh, certainly,” said Rarity, likewise muffled by a mane. “It will be an intellectual challenge for you and an aesthetic challenge for myself. It should not take long. I seem to remember you had a Follow-The-Left-Wall solution to most mazes that made them fairly trivial. And the Canterlot Hedge Maze is not that large.”

“I’ve been meaning to expand it,” said Twilight, who reluctantly stepped back and took a breath unencumbered by Rarity’s elaborate mane. “The problem is so many school foals get stuck in it during visits, so Celestia simplified it out to make it more of a garden with directional signs.”

“Then let us walk out together, and perhaps we can have time for a cup of tea before our respective responsibilities encumber us again.” Rarity quickly ran a hoof through her mane and crooked out an elbow. “Princess, if you would walk with me, please?”

“Anytime, my lady,” said Twilight with just the hint of a smile.

They strolled side-by-side through several turns, admiring the fine work the Royal Gardeners had done sculpting the leaves and twigs into perfect shapes, until they came to a dead end.

“Strange.” Twilight leaned forward and sniffed the small flowers growing out of the hedge before taking a small bite. “Peppermint,” she murmured through chewing.

“And delicious,” added Rarity after taking a bite of her own and moving to nip up a second flower. “Quite a nice surprise, as opposed to waking up in that clearing with no warning. Although the company is divine,” she added quickly.

“Merely royal,” said Twilight, who had nipped up several flowers and buds. “I never want to go through that. You have no idea how many misguided ponies treated Princess Celestia as some sort of goddess.”

“I know of one.” Rarity finished off the flowers on her side of the hedge wall and eyed one that Twilight had not gotten to quite yet. “You fairly worshipped her, and don’t deny it.”

“Well…” Twilight thought while Rarity took advantage of her distraction to lean forward, but the nose-pressure she placed on the hedge wall caused it to move unexpectedly.

“That was unexpected,” Rarity said rather redundantly, although she continued to push the hedge until it bumped up against another. “Darling, I had no idea you had added this clever feature to your maze.”

“I didn’t.” Twilight nudged the mobile maze portion several times, eventually pushing it back into place once Rarity had passed to the other side. “That’s interesting. It turns the maze into something more like one of those sliding pieces puzzles.”

“And a snack bar, with drinks,” called back Rarity over her shoulder as she trotted off. “Darling, look at this fountain. It smells of carbonation and fruit, like Pinkie Pie made it.”

After a brief taste of one of the streams pouring down the sculptured stone, Twilight licked her lips. “Apple soda on this one.”

“Lilacs here,” said Rarity from the other side. “And a wonderful Daffodil punch for this one. You simply must try it.”

“Mmmmm,” said Twilight after a long drink. “They don’t make a good Daffodil punch in the castle. They say it’s not sophisticated enough.”

“Pardon me for saying it, but fie on sophistication,” declared Rarity, who took over drinking once Twilight was finished. “Ahh.”

“Who are you and what have you done with my marefriend?” asked Twilight playfully. “Why, the Rarity I know simply lives for the intricacies of society, and would not be caught dead drinking such a low-brow beverage. Scoot over. It’s my turn.”

“As you wish, Your Highness,” said Rarity as she allowed Twilight access to the trickle of soda.

Twilight reacted as if she had been pricked by a pin. She jerked back, then gave Rarity a sideways look.

“Sorry, Darling.” Rarity nosed Twilight on the neck, regardless of the sticky patch she left behind.

“Apology accepted.” Twilight drank for a while, then gave off a stentorian belch, which made Rarity squeal with false outrage.

“The impertinence.” With a bit of focusing, Rarity let off a burp of her own, although noticeably smaller.

“Royal Canterlot Belching,” said Twilight before taking another drink. “Luna taught me. I’m surprised you could not hear her in Ponyville when we were practicing.”

They shared a laugh before strolling through the maze again, although with all the flowers they kept finding and the shifting walls, it seemed more like some sort of garden puzzle buffet, with all the best flowers hidden behind several shifting blocks of hedge that had to be pushed in a particular pattern.

“Twilight, Darling.” Rarity nipped a tiny multiflower rose off one of the hedge walls and talked while chewing, regardless of the cultural faux pas. “When we find out who did this to us, are you going to punish them or reward them?”

“Punish, of course… Hm… That’s a good question.” Twilight nipped off a tiny rose of her own to help the judicial thinking process. “After all, we can’t just have somepony kidnapping royal princesses and local beautiful mares off the street, can we?”

“Perhaps a pardon,” suggested Rarity. “And an invitation to do it again, if asked politely, and placed on the schedule.”

“That would work quite well, I believe. Here, help me push this hedge. I can see light through it.”

It only took a moment to push the reluctant hedge to one side and look at the sunlight streaming through the opening, but Twilight Sparkle hesitated at the threshold between the maze and freedom at the sound of her marefriend’s voice.

“Can our departure wait just a moment, Twilight? This section of wall has a delightful selection of lilies.”

“Oh, you know I can’t resist lilies.” The Princess of Equestria moved over to the assortment of flowers and politely began to nibble her way down several of the more succulent petals. Rarity stood to her side and helped with the flower reduction, sometimes nipping a petal right out from under Twilight’s lips.

And sometimes when there was no petal involved.

“Oh, that was wonderful, Rarity. Thank you for pointing them out.” Twilight gave her marefriend one last kiss, then a flowery burp. “Excuse me.”

“Most certainly, Twilight. Although…” Giving one long look at the opening in the garden maze and the sunlit threshold that divided this place from the rest of the world, Rarity lit up her horn and carefully slid the section of hedge back into place. “I’m really too full to go back to work now. I need a nap first.”

“A nap?” Twilight looked around the fairly empty section of maze. “We could go back to the castle and you can sleep—”

“In your bed, again?” Rarity shook her head. “Whenever we do, ponies chatter like a whole batch of Fluttershy’s chipmunks.” She settled slowly down into the thick grass and curled up. “Right here seems quite comfortable, although it is missing something to make it perfect.”

“I could go get a pillow,” suggested Twilight.

Rarity patted the grass next to her.

“A sleeping mask?” asked Twilight. “It’s too warm for a blanket and-- Oh.”

It took a while for Twilight to get comfortable since she was still not completely practiced with her wings, plus there were other leg and tail options to consider, and two horns, but in good time she managed to settle down on the grass within nosing range of Rarity. “Better?” she whispered.

“Perfect,” said Rarity.