Isabella was weak. Very weak. She hadn't had somepony to feed on for the last two days, and her reserves were running so low she could hardly feel her body. Her hooves were numb, but that might have just been because she hadn't stopped moving since she had left. She was physically hungry too. Her stomach would growl every few steps and there wasn't much in the ways of food from what she could see. All around her was nothing but hills.
Finally, as she reached the bottom of one such hill, she let her legs bend and she dropped to the ground. Exhausted and in pain, she lay her head down. Would she die here? She had always known she would die alone, but she had expected to die by either an uprising in her minions, their numbers sweeping over her and consuming her. Or in the comfort of her lavish bed, losing her self to age.
That was right! She wouldn't die here. She was the daughter of a queen, and she deserved better than this.
She forced her self up and struggled to the top of the hill. Once there, she fell to the ground again. She could see, just out of her reach, what looked like an orchard. So close to food, but so far away. She couldn't even move. She tried to pick herself up, but her legs only quivered slightly. She lay there in despair as it began to rain. Shivers ran up and down her spine as the rain pounded down on her. Now she was in pain, alone, cold, and on the verge of death.
Just as she was losing consciousness, she could feel a presence nearby. He whimpered in an attempt to catch the pony's attention. She didn't know who it was, and she didn't care, just so long as it wasn't a guard. As the heavy hoof beats approached her, she faded into a semi conscious state. She could feel somepony tug on her tail, dragging her through the mud. She tried to protest. No pony touched her! But once again, her limbs simply quivered. She tried to open her eyes, but she couldn't. She passed out as she felt the constant pulling on her tail, the ground moving under her, and the rain beating on her.
When she regained consciousness, she found herself lying next to a fire and wrapped in a blanket. It felt good. She tried to get closer to the fire, but she still couldn't move. She felt safe, but at the exact same time, vulnerable. Where was she? Why wasn't she dead yet? Then she remembered the heavy hoof falls. Being dragged through the mud. Some pony had found her, and had brought her here. She tried to think some more, but the heavy mists of unconsciousness fell over her mind again.
The sound of heavy hoof steps echoed in the floor. Isabella tried to fall back asleep, but the hooves wouldn't stop moving. She opened her eyes to try and see what infernal pony was making that noise. She needed sleep and she couldn't get it with somepony tromping about.
She opened her eyes again. The fire was low and the cold dampness in her coat made her shiver. She wanted to look around, but to do so, she had to drag her head across the floor. As she did so, her eyes roved around the room as best they could. She appeared to be in some sort of hovel. The fire place dominated the wall she was next to and several pictures coated the wall opposite. She could see peasant ponies. Tons of them, but the four that recurred the most were a big red stallion with a yoke about his neck, an orange mare with a cowboy hat, a yellow filly with a large red bow, and a green, elderly mare.
Next to the door, there sat what Isabella thought was a bed. If you could even call it a bed. The mattress seemed to be made of old hay, and the pillow looked worn and old, stuffed with lumpy cotton. She cringed slightly, but she still saw no sign of the pony that had made so much noise. She dragged her head back to where it had been earlier, and shut her eyes. She was tired again. Just moving her head that small amount had sapped more energy from her than she had expected. She was just fading away when she heard the footsteps again. She wanted to see who this pony was, but too late. She slipped back into the warm embrace of slumber.
After what seemed an eternity in the black void of sleep, Isabella rose to that semi conscious state again. It was odd. Feeling herself, but not truly being there, with her body. She just seemed to float. She still couldn't fathom why she was still alive. She had been just about out of her reserves when she had passed out on the hill top. But now, she was a little more alive than she had been. She could feel a small chain of light connecting something to her. What was this restraint? Why was it here?
She reached out with her consuming powers and followed the trail. It seemed to just stop after a few feet. Where was this coming from? It wasn't like something she had ever felt before. Something that was warm, like a blanket, seemed to come from that small link of light.
She had to know what this was. Isabella forced herself to regain control of her body and slowly opened her eyes. Standing over her, was a colossal, red stallion, with shining green eyes, and dirty blonde hair. A long wheat stalk protruded from his mouth, which was turned up in a small smile. Isabella's heart nearly failed at the sight of him, but she felt he meant her no harm. How could that be? Every other pony she had ever met seemed to have some sort of ill motive toward her. Even at first sight.
She tried to scream, and make herself feel the danger of this situation, but it came out as a quiet rasp.
The red stallion's smile disappeared as her turn and grabbed something. She tried to scoot away from him, but trying to move only made her weaker. When the stallion turned back he had a small bowl on his hoof and he placed it to her lips. She tried once again to pull away, but she could not. She still did not open her mouth, blocking the liquid from entering. She was determined not to drink. It might be a poison.
Finally, the stallion spoke. His voice was deep and carried a heavy southern accent. "Ya can calm down. It's only water. Now drink. Yer in no shape to refuse." he said as she tried to move away again.
He wouldn't relent, and she knew she had to have something in her stomach or this pony would be burying her corpse. She slowly opened her lips and let the cool water flow into her mouth. It felt so good as it rushed down her throat. She began drinking fasted, trying to get as much water through her mouth as possible.
When the bowl was empty, the stallion lifted it and set it back on a shelf that Isabella hadn't seen before. She still couldn't move, and she was still thirsty. She let out a small whimper and looked at the bowl, trying to communicate what she wanted to the stallion. He looked at her and at the bowl, and nodded. Isabella sighed with relief. He wasn't as stupid as he looked.
After he had filled the bowl three more times, and poured the water into her mouth, Isabella was finally finished. She was just that much farther away from death.
The stallion pushed a few more logs onto the fire before he disappeared from the room. That was the first time that Isabella realized that this hovel had more than one room. A vague thought of what was kept in the other rooms passed though her mind before she fell asleep again.
When she woke again, it looked like it was early morning. She felt a strange hollowness that she couldn't explain until she looked around and listened. There was no one else in the house. That small chain of light that connected her and the red stallion was stretched thin. Where was he? He was the only food she had and she had no idea where he was.
She began to panic and tried to push herself up. She could move now, but physically she was still weak. She had only had some water in the last three days and her belly growled and clenched. She curled up and held her stomach. Her hunger was painful. It felt like she was being eaten from the inside out.
She lay there like that for several minutes, hugging herself and grimacing in pain, not noticing the chain of light getting lax and growing stronger.
When the door opened, she didn't look up. She just whimpered. That seemed to get her what she needed.
The heavy hooves steps approached her quickly and the red stallion stood over her. He seemed to understand what was happening and disappeared into that strange back room again for a moment, before he returned with several small rolls and he set them down in front of her. He hadn't tried to kill him with the water and she didn't see why he would with these, so she began eating ravenously.
The stallion just sat and watched as she ate all the rolls. It wasn't enough. She looked up at him, trying to plead with her eyes. It worked. This was going to be easier than she thought.
He trotted back into the back room and returned with a full loaf of bread, which he set in front of her, and she attacked it. She was half way through the loaf when she stopped and looked up at the stallion. He was just sitting there, staring at her. What was his problem? Did he have nothing better to do than to watch her eat?
She looked at him, her eyes narrowed. "Could you stop that?"
"Stop what?" he asked.
He was infuriatingly dim witted, or he was just messing with her. She refused to believe the latter. He was just a dim witted fool. Simple as that.
"I demand you stop watching me!" she said, her tone harsh.
The stallion arched an eyebrow at her. "Demand, huh? Who are ye, to be makin' demands of a simple pony like ma self?"
Isabella blinked. She hadn't thought about that. Where ever she was, she had no standing here. No minions. No money. Nothing. She pushed herself up and looked him in the face as she held her head high. She was still the child of a queen.
"I am Isabella. I..." she trailed off. What else was she going to say? Even in Canterlot she no longer had any standing. Over night, she had gone from one of the wealthiest and highest ranked ponies in Canterlot, to no one.
The big stallion merely blinked at her, that stupid smile still lingering on his face. She wanted to reach out and slap it off of him but she knew, even if she managed to raise her hoof, the blow she delivered would be weak and would be like the wing beat of a butterfly. She decided it best to simply stare daggers at him.
"Well," said the stallion, as he stood up, "from the way you're introducing yer self, I'd guess ya come from Canterlot. That high falutin' attitude ain't gonna get you very far round here." he said, rather smugly.
"Well, where is here?" she inquired, gritting at her teeth, wanting to slap him again. That smug face just made her blood boil.
"Sweet Apple Acres." replied the stallion.
Isabella ground her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. Why was he so... so... ARG! She stamped her hoof on the floor and glared up at him.
"Are you trying to make me angry, or are you just stupid!?" she yelled at him.
He... he laughed at her! He just sat back down and laughed at her. She couldn't help but blush. She had never been laughed at. Never. She sat in shock as his deep voice bounced off the walls and pounded her eardrums.
Finally, her anger peaked and she launched herself at him. She flailed her hooves at him, beating on his chest. She wasn't doing anything to him, but it felt good to actually release her anger on somepony. He had stopped laughing and was looking down at her.
She had begun to cry as it all sunk in. She had nothing. She was no one. Not now. She had lost everything. Her status, her followers. Everything.
Finally, when she had worn herself out, she slumped down, tears still streaming from her eyes.
"Hey now." said the stallion, as he reached out to put his hoof on her shoulder. She slapped it away and turned her back on him. She just wanted to be alone.
"Leave me." she said, her voice quiet but demanding.
The stallion stood and as he was about to step out of the room, he said "As ya wish."
Isabella sat next to the fire, exhausted, pathetic, and feeling emptier than a she had ever felt in her entire life.
She had pulled the old blanket over herself and curled up as close to the fire as she could without getting burnt. After crying to herself for an hour, she fell asleep again. Once or twice, she would resurface from her sleep, hearing the stallion moving about the room, but she would fall asleep within moments of waking.
In her sleep, she saw nothing. It was an empty abyss, until she began to move. When she did so, that small chain of light, bigger now than it had been before, would appear and lead her through the darkness. Each time she found find herself face to face with the stallion. That stupid smile never leaving his face. Each time she would reach out to push him away, but her hoof would simply glide through him, as if he weren't there. Then she would wake, again only for a few moments, before falling into the same dream again, hoping to find a different ending. But it always ended the same way. That fool, staring down at her with that grin still there.
When she woke up finally, it was morning again. Next to her there was a small bowl of water as well as what smelled like soup. She pushed herself up into a sitting position and stretched. She was rather sore from sleeping on the floor. She looked at the horrible bed, and realized she longed to rest on it.
No! Not on that awful thing. On a real bed. Her bed. The one she had owned in Canterlot. But she would never be able to return to that bed. She drank the water and picked up the bowl of was seemed to be soup. It smelled strongly of garlic, but shone violet. She drank a little bit, expecting the worst. Her eyes widened in surprise. It was better than anything she had tasted. She lifted the bowl to her lips and drank again. She smiled to her self as she looked down into the empty bowl. She had never really wanted more when she didn't need it, but this soup, what ever if was called, was better than anything she had ever experienced.
She set the bowl down and pushed herself up. It was strange. To be able to walk again.
She moved to the far wall and took a closer look at the photographs. The red stallion that had been holding her here was in several of the photos. One depicted the main four ponies that appeared in the other pictures and was labeled "The Apple Family".
"So. Ye can finally move." said a deep voice behind her.
She spun to see the stallion standing in the door way. He was surprisingly quiet for such a large fellow.
"Yes. I have the strength to move myself." she said, raising her nose in the air slightly.
"Good. Come with me." he said, walking past her, into the back room.
She scoffed, but when he didn't come back out of the room, her curiosity got the best of her. She walked into the back room. The walls were lined with shelves, each of which was burdened with several jars, pots, and and various other containers, and in the center of the room, there sat a circular trough of water, which had a large bed of coals underneath it. The confused look on her face gave her away.
"It's a bath. Ah hear ya Canterlot ponies take one every mornin and night." he said, chuckling.
She frowned at him, but then looked at her self. Her normally beautiful white coat was a light brown, and her midnight blue mane was almost gray. She really did need a bath.
He reached out to help her, but she pushed his hoof away from her.
"I can do it myself." she said. He was such a pushy pony. Always trying to be helpful. It was annoying.
"As ya wish." he said as she stepped into the bath.
She sighed as the warm water enveloped her. She began to relax. Even if the large stallion was sitting there, watching her. She didn't care. She could at least take some pleasure in this.
After a moment or two she said "Would you kindly leave? A woman needs privacy when she bathes."
She heard him give a snort of amusement as he left. Once she was certain he had left, she opened one of her eyes. Yes, he had left. She looked about and found a small wash cloth and some soap, which she rubbed vigorously into her coat, mane, and tail.
She was in the tub for about an hour before she finally got out. A large towel hung nearby, which she took and rubbed her self down with. She finally finished drying herself and looked about for a mirror. She found a small one hiding on one of shelves. She looked into it and gasped.
Yes she was clean, but her mane was a terrible mess. She looked around in desperation for a brush. Something that she could pull through her hair, but there was nothing. She was still looking about when she heard the door open. She turned around in horror to see the stallion standing there, gaping at her. There was a sudden jolt from the small chain of light that connected them, but she didn't care about that.
She tried to cover her hair, but there was too much of it. "Don't look at me!" she yelled.
"But... why?" he asked, seemingly in shock.
"I'm hideous! My hair looks horrible!" she bellowed at him, her vanity overwhelming her. She continued to try to hide her hair.
She stopped and stared at him. "What did you say?"
"Yer beautiful." he repeated. She looked into his eyes. There was no lie there.
She had never, in her entire life, been called beautiful. Not truly, anyways. She continued to stare at him for a time, before she shook herself and trotted past him back into the main room.
He was a fool. Yes, she was beautiful. She knew that. But a small voice in the back of her head said to her "Then why are you making such a big deal about it? Why not just tell him he is a fool?"
She brushed the thought aside. Why didn't she tell him he was a fool? Because she needed him. He was merely a tool. She was not fully healed, but when she was, she would leave to find another ponies to feed off of. She didn't need to be the direct target of a pony's love.
She sat down with a "harrumph" in front of the fire. She heard the stallion turn about and enter the other room. He must be taking care of her bath water. Good. He needed to know his place.
She began to think to herself again. When would she have the strength to leave? How weak was she really? She had to refill her reserves of 'love', and this foolishly flattering stallion would be the perfect one to feed from. There was something strange about this pony's affection though. It wasn't like the love she took from other ponies. This was warmer, and seemed to wrap around her, like a blanket.
She smiled to her self as she closed her eyes. This, could be interesting.