Once upon a time, in a far-away land (with a horse-related-punny-name, no doubt), a lovely Queen sat by her window sewing. This was difficult with only hooves, so as she worked, she pricked herself with her needle. Three drops of blood fell on the snow-white linen.
"How happy I would be if I had a little filly with lips as red as blood, fur as white as snow, and a mane as black as ebony," thought the Queen.
She didn't quite get her wish, but her daughter was certainly lovely, with yellow fur and pink mane. The Queen named her Fluttershy and died shortly afterwards.
Fluttershy's stepmother, Queen Trixie, also known as "The Beautiful and Royal Trixie," as she insisted on being called, was cruel and vain. Out of jealousy of the princess's beauty, she forced Fluttershy to dress in rags (she could have dressed her in nothing, of course, but she found rags to be more humiliating) and do endless chores all day.
Now, Trixie had a magic mirror with a kind and intelligent (but brutally honest) slave trapped inside. Every day, she would ask the slave who the fairest in the land was. It was always Trixie, of course. But one day…
"Wake up, you lazy slave!" shouted Trixie. "The Beautiful and Royal Trixie needs you!"
A purple face of an alicorn appeared in the mirror.
"Please don't call me a slave," she said.
"It's what you are, isn't it?" sneered Trixie.
"Maybe so, but I do have a name. It's Twilight Sparkle."
"Too hard to remember. Slave works just fine for the Beautiful and Royal Trixie. Now then, here is my question—Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?"
Twilight gave a sly smile. "Afraid it's somepony else this time, Trixie."
"What?!" cried Trixie. "This simply cannot be! Who dares to be more beautiful than the Beautiful and Royal Trixie?!"
"Take a guess."
"If it's that Rarity girl, I'll—"
"It's not Rarity. You see, Trixie, true beauty cannot be hidden. You might dress her in rags…"
"Fluttershy!" hissed Trixie.
"But," Twilight continued, "she is lovely inside and out. You only have one out of two of those factors."
Trixie ran to the window to see Fluttershy scrubbing the steps. Fluttershy had tied a rag to each of her hooves and was happily washing away. She looked up to see Trixie and gave a cheerful wave with a soapy hoof. Trixie growled and shut the drapes.
"As long as nopony knows," she muttered to herself. "Still, I have to keep a close eye on this little princess…"
Fluttershy took a small break from washing to gather water from a nearby well. A phoenix flew over and landed on the rim of the well.
"Oh, hello Philomena," smiled the princess. "How are you today?"
Philomena cooed in reply.
"That's nice," said Fluttershy. "You tell Owlowliscious to get more sleep, okay?"
Philomena nodded. Fluttershy smiled again and then looked around to make sure nopony was listening.
"Would you like to hear a secret?" she asked. "This is a wishing well. And do you know what my wish is? I wish that some nice pony would come along and take me away from all of this, and that my stepmother, The Beautiful and Royal Trixie would give us her blessing."
Philomena cocked her head. That wasn't likely.
"I know, I know," sighed Fluttershy. "You know, I get the feeling that she dislikes me a bit."
Just then, she heard a voice.
"Doughnuts! Get yer doughnuts!"
"Oh, it's Joe!" cried Fluttershy. She ran over to the castle wall and saw Joe, the doughnut salespony, walking by.
"Good morning, princess!" he called. "Care for a doughnut?"
"I'm afraid I don't have any money," said Fluttershy.
"Aww, princess," smiled Joe, "that's alright. You're still royalty, no matter what. And somepony as beautiful on the inside and out as you deserves the best doughnut I've got! Here!"
He tossed the princess a doughnut. Fluttershy graciously thanked him and he was on his way. But Trixie had been watching from the window. Again, she shut the drapes in anger.
"So," she said to herself, "my stupid slave isn't the only one who thinks that Fluttershy is so pretty, inside and out."
"Hey!" called Twilight. "I can hear you, you know! And I'm not stupid! I'm omnipresent! Do you want to know what my GPA is?"
"No, and the Beautiful and Royal Trixie has some planning to do." With a flourish, Trixie exited the room.
"I could tell her how this was going to turn out," Twilight grinned, "but I don't think I will."
Trixie summoned her huntsman to stand before her a little later.
"My dear Spike," she addressed him, "the Beautiful and Royal Trixie has an errand for you."
"Sure thing, your majesty!" said Spike. "Whatever you want, I'll do it! You want me to tame a wild beast? Done! You want me to discover a new land? Got it! You want me to slay a dragon! I…well, I'll do almost anything."
"Oh, you won't be slaying any dragons," smiled Trixie. "I want the princess's heart in a box, ASAP."
Spike's face paled. "Princess Fluttershy?! But I can't hurt her! I can't put her heart in a box! I don't think I could put anypony's heart in a box! It's wrong! And icky! I faint at the sight of blood! I'm a failure as a huntsman!"
"Her heart or yours," Trixie said calmly.
"Uh, well, when you put it like that…" trembled Spike.
So Spike took Fluttershy out to pick flowers in a small, secluded area.
"Okay," Spike said to himself, "here it goes. We can do this the easy way or the hard way. But I'm not good at stabbing ponies in the back! Or the front! Or the side, even! So that rules out the easy way. Then there's the hard way where I ask her for her heart, we barter for a bit 'till the price goes down, I trade her a chicken or two for her heart…nah, her heart's worth at least five chickens…"
"What's that about chickens?" asked Fluttershy.
Spike fell to his little knees in agony. "Oh, princess," he sobbed, "I can't kill you!"
"Why would you ever want to do that?" Fluttershy giggled, thinking he was joking.
"It's not me," explained Spike, "it's the Queen! She hates you with a passion!"
"I did get that feeling," said Fluttershy, "but I never thought she'd act on it, aside from dressing me in rags, forcing me to act as a servant night and day, and insulting me to my face whenever she has the chance."
"Yeah, we're being ruled by an insane pony," agreed Spike. "Look, you've gotta get out of here!"
"But where can I go?" wondered Fluttershy, starting to get a little nervous.
"Into the woods!" said Spike. "As far away from the Queen as possible! NOW!"
"But-but what about you and my heart?"
"I'll figure something out," said Spike. "Now RUN! She's crazy!"
With a squeak of fear, Fluttershy turned and ran off into the deep, dark woods.