• Published 26th Sep 2011
  • 7,343 Views, 295 Comments

The Colour You Bleed - Kegisak



Blueblood is kidnapped, and dumped in an unfriendly neighboring country.

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In Which Pride is Preserved

Chapter 2: In Which Pride is Preserved

The sun rose over Equestria with as little fanfare as ever, perhaps even less. Princess Celestia had other things on her mind – namely, the meeting between the delegates. The guests came in from all over the palace's more luxurious wings to a great antechamber near the center. It was used for various purposes throughout the year – to brief the guards for formal events mostly, but it occasionally was used to host plays and other such events. For charity of course, the princess would always tell the press. For today, however, it had been refurbished with desks and soft cushions, allowing the delegates to focus on center stage where the princess would host. She would refrain from debate, of course. The honour of representing Equestria would belong to her niece and nephew – if the young stallion would ever arrive.

Blueblood's mother paced near Celestia on the stage, fretting like only a mother can.

“Where is that colt?” She asked aloud, “I told him to be down here, didn't I?”

“You most certainly did, dear,” Celestia assured her. “ Many times, in fact. For all his other faults, Blueblood has never been a pony to shirk responsibility.”

“Huh,” Blueblood's mother scoffed, “You don't know him like I do. He'll do his best to dodge out of anything unpleasant, the lazy colt.” Celestia shrugged.

“Not if you use the words 'honour' and 'grace' enough.” She smiled knowingly. “And offering the odd treat doesn't hurt.”

“Nobility shouldn't need to be offered biscuits to do its job!”

“You never seemed to mind,” Celestia teased.

“Auntie!” Blueblood's mother cried, exasperated. “This is serious. How will it look if one of our delegates doesn't attend the meeting? How will it affect the debates?”

“About the same amount it will affect it to know that one of our delegates is a fretting mess of a mare,” the princess said, taking her niece by the shoulders. More delegates had begun to file into the room. Celestia smoothed her niece's hair, and put on the voice of confidence. “You mustn’t worry so much, Amethyst. I'm sure Blueblood is just sleeping in. I hear he had a late night last night.” She smiled sweetly. “Now go and take your seat, dear. Try to look composed for our guests. You'll have to be enough for the both of you, for a while.”

“Alright Auntie,” Amethyst nodded. “Thank you.” She left the stage and climbed the stairway, finding the seat that was marked with her cutie mark. Her son's cutie mark sat next to her, it's seat empty. Celestia turned her attention away from the arriving delegates for a moment, instead addressing the guard who had stood on the edge of her vision while she spoke with her niece.

“Yes? What is it?”

“Your majesty,” the guard whispered, taking a step forward, “I went to wake the prince like you asked... he was missing.”

“Missing?” the princess repeated. Neither her face nor her tone betrayed any sign of shock or surprise. The guard nodded.

“I'm afraid so. We checked with the Aloan princess as well – we'd heard from some of their ponies that he'd spent the night with her, but he wasn't there either. His bodyguard is missing as well. The guards who are still here are searching the palace as we speak.”

“I see,” Celestia said quietly. “Don't let anypony but our guards know about this.”

“Of course, your majesty,” the guard said, bowing again. “Would you like me to alert you when we find the prince?”

“No,” Celestia said, “Send him in if you find him, but wait until the meeting is over to give me your report.”

The guard bowed again, and backed off the stage. Most of the delegates had arrived now, and Celestia was beginning to regret insisting that they meet so early. Still, she couldn't afford to do anything about it now. All she could do for the next few hours was hope that the prince had simply wandered off somewhere.

***

Many miles away, Prince Blueblood awoke. Early morning sun filtered through his eyelids, and the smell of salt tingled in his nose. This confused him a bit, as did the fact that his bed jostled beneath him. He wondered crossly if Princess Golden dreams was dancing on the bed, and if she would kindly stop as it made his head swim – until he opened his eyes. He was not in his bedchambers. He was not in the visiting princess's bedchambers. He was not in anypony's bedchambers, unless that pony was very unfortunate indeed. He seemed to be in the back of a carriage. His head snapped up, and memories flooded back to him. The Aloan ambassador, his soldiers... and Iron. The guard was nowhere to be seen. Nopony was in the carriage with him, in fact. Blueblood wasn't sure whether he should be pleased about that or not. He was about to call out to his captors, when he heard a voice.

“Are you sure it's a good idea to take him this far away from Equestria?” It was Iron. The ambassador answered him.

“I'm not about to start taking advice from you, Iron, not after what you did last night. At any rate, there isn't anywhere secure enough on the mainland. There's a trade city just inside the peninsula, we'll be able to hold him there until this all blows over.”

“Hmph. Funny to hear you talk about security. He's bouncing around back there without any supervision at all.”

“I doubt he'll need it. It's not as if he's going to be able to do much now, thanks to you. I doubt he'll even be awake for a few hours.”

“I don't see why you're so sore about that,” Iron said. His tone had changed – the urgency was gone, and there was an arrogant quality to it. The ambassador harrumphed.

“It was unnecessary. If his aunt ever finds out we were the ones responsible, we'll be skinned alive.”

“I didn't hear you bring that up last night.”

“Like I was going to argue with you when you were swinging that... thing, around! It's not important now. We'll keep him until the conference is over, and send him back. Blame it all on rebels, or something.”

Blueblood crawled away from the wall, until he could no longer hear his kidnapper's voices. This is insane, he thought, they're going to kill me! A little voice in the back of his head told him that that was, silly, they'd never be stupid enough to kill him – his aunt would rain fire down on their heads. Still, that didn't change the fact that he needed to get out of there. He got shakily to his hooves, and inspected the door. He put his hoof against it and pushed experimentally. It was locked.

Well, that's no problem, Blueblood realized after a moment of panic, I'll just open it with my magic! He reared his head, trying to visualize the lock in his mind. Strangely, he couldn't picture it's inner workings. He furrowed his brow and tried again, trying to spread his magic over the lock, but nothing happened. No glow, no movement, not even the instinctive knowledge of an object that comes from handling it magically.

“What's going on?” Blueblood whispered to himself. His brow furrowed deeper. It must have been some sort of anti-magic. He tried again, straining himself, but to no avail. Eventually he sat on the floor, defeated.

What am I going to do? he moaned internally. He was going to be trapped in there until they took him into that city, and locked him up in some dirty old jail cell. He would probably have to share it with some smelly, decrepit old stallion, and they would only feed him slop and water twice a day. Or they would shackle him against the wall in rusty old chains, that would chafe and stain his fur. He would probably waste away to nothing before to long. He'd end up looking like some dirt-poor pony from some backwater farming village, his pristine white fur covered in dirt and slime. How awful!

Despite all that, he smiled to himself smugly. When this was all over, he would tell his auntie what they had done, and then they would get what was coming to them. They would see what happened when you wronged a prince, every single one of them! He leaned back, a bit happier than before, when he caught a snippet of Iron's conversation again.

“...Send a piece of him back.”

Blueblood's eyes bulged. He clasped his hooves over his mouth to keep from crying out, and crept closer to the source of the voices.

“Well... it would certainly complete the illusion,” The ambassador said.

“Exactly,” Iron laughed, “They'll know 'we' mean business. We might even be able to pull some Bits out of the deal.”

“We don't use Bits here, Iron. Anyways, I thought you didn't care about being paid?”

“Oh, I don't – being able to hurt that good-for-nothing brat is more than enough for me,” Iron said. His voice was filled with a cruel sort of glee, like a schoolyard bully. “But if I can pull in some money, well, that's a bonus isn't it?”

Blueblood's heart froze in his chest. Send a piece of him back? Just for a more convincing lie? All traces of his smugness were gone, replaced by a gripping fear. Iron's sadistic grin filled his head, laughing hysterically. Blueblood needed to get out of there, and he needed to get out of there FAST.

He moved back to the door as quickly and quietly as he could, and pushed against it as hard as he could manage. The lock held fast, and the door didn't budge. He strained against it with all his might, even daring to throw himself against it, but for nothing. He kept trying. He began to sweat, and his mane stuck to his face. His breathing was heavy, but he struggled to keep it quiet. He couldn't risk letting Iron or the ambassador know he was awake. Finally, after what seemed like ages of struggling and pushing, he heard a small splintering noise. He stepped back to inspect the door and sure enough, it had begun to break. It was only a tiny crack – the wood near the lock had worn against the metal – but Blueblood's heart leapt. He returned to his work with a renewed vigor, dragging his hooves across the worn wood and straining against the lock. Little by little the worn patch got larger and larger. Soon he could dig his hooves into it, hacking away chips of wood from the door. Splinters dug into his hooves, but he ignored the pain. All he could think about was Iron, imagining the big gray pony bearing down on him, holding him down and grinning like a madpony. Blueblood shuddered, and pushed against the lock again. It wiggled a bit in its mount, and Blueblood grinned. He shoved against it, rocking back and forth and pausing every so often to dig more wood out of the door. The more he pushed on it, the more it rocked. Eventually he started to hear a cracking noise as he pushed against it. He scraped his hoof against the door desperately, and dug a huge chunk of it out. As the piece of door fell, the morning light shone through. Blueblood gave the lock one final push, and with a weak crack it popped out of its mount. Ecstatic, Blueblood threw himself against the door. It swung open easily, and he tumbled out of the carriage – and right into a ditch.

The prince rolled down the steep wall of the ditch, grunting painfully as he landed in the bottom. He splashed into a puddle of stagnant water, but he didn't complain – he didn't make a sound. He lay there in the bottom of the ditch, hooves over his mouth and not daring to breathe as the sound of the carriage slowly moved away from him. Only when he could no longer hear the crunch of its wheels on the road did he allow himself to breathe a heavy sigh of relief. He lay in the ditch until his pounding heart finally settled, and in spite of himself he began to laugh. He had escaped!

I'm free! He thought to himself as he clambered up the side of the ditch. Now I just need to get back to the palace, and tell auntie about what Iron did to me, and...

Blueblood looked up and down the road. The only times he had ever left the palace before were for official appearances, holidays and the like, and he had certainly never left Equestria before. The environment was completely alien to him. The land seemed flat in all directions, except for the steep slope to the west. In the distance, Blueblood could see a shining line that bulged and sank along the horizon – the ocean. To the east, Blueblood could just make out the tips of a mountain range.

“Where in the world am I?” the prince cried out. He sat down on the side of the road, looking left and right. He knew he was in Aloa, at least. It may not have been much, but at least it was a start. He closed his eyes and concentrated, trying to remember any of his lessons from his geography tutor. Unfortunately, all that came to mind where the rude drawings he had made of his tutor. He did remember, however, that Aloa was west of Equestria – which meant home was east. Blueblood looked around once more, and sighed. There was nopony around.

“Well,” he said, getting to his hooves, “Mother and Auntie have probably sent out guards to look for me by now... but they aren't going to find me sitting on some dirt road in the middle of nowhere.” He set off east, in search of a town.

***

The sun reached its zenith, shining down on the world below. Without any trees growing in it's sandy soil, The country of Aloa was at the sun's mercy, as was Blueblood. The white stallion limped along the road, whimpering whenever he stepped with his bad hoof. Once the rush of adrenaline had left his system, the splinters in his hoof had begun the sting and ache unbearably. His hoof was burning, and the heat of the midday sun wasn't helping his temperament at all. Finally, he collapsed beside the road, whimpering miserably.

“This is it,” he moaned, “I'm going to die. I'm going to die out here, in the middle of nowhere in some stupid little country. Nopony will ever be able to tell my story. Ponies in the future will learn about Equestria’s princes, but will they ever learn about Prince Blueblood? No. Because Prince Blueblood disappeared one day, and got eaten by buzzards along some Celestia-forsaken road. He sighed, and flopped his head to the side. In the ditch beside the road there was a small bush, and for just a moment Blueblood thought he saw it twitch. His eyes narrowed, and he watched it carefully. Slowly, a tiny head appeared from behind it, staring at him. It was a foal.

“Hello?” Blueblood asked, pushing himself up. The foal ducked behind the bush again, and Blueblood stood up. “Hello?” he asked again, trotting towards the bush. He skidded down the side of the road, coming to a stop a few feet away from the bush. The foal squeaked and ran off.

“Wait!” Blueblood called after the foal. “Come back!” He tried to follow after it, but his hoof made him unable to keep up, so he just watched. The foal scrambled up the other side of the ditch, and darted over a hill on the other side. Blueblood followed slowly, pulling himself out of the ditch and limping up the hill. When he reached the top, he could see that the other side fell away, quickly turning to sand. A river cut through the landscape not far away, and the foal was running to what appeared to be a small house floating near the bank.

Ponies! Blueblood thought happily. He grinned wildly and dashed down the hill – or tried. He lost his footing in the loose sand and fell flat on his face, sliding down in an avalanche of soil and winding up lying on his back at the bottom.

“That seems to be happening a lot today,” He muttered as he righted himself. He shook the sand out of his mane, and looked up. He could see the foal, peeking from behind a round, older-looking unicorn mare. There were a few other foals nearby, as well as a pair of older colts, all staring at the prince. He stared back for a moment, before standing up straight and puffing out his chest.

“Good day,” He said in his most regal tone. The mare approached him, her foal still skirting her legs, and smiled broadly to Blueblood.

“Well, good day to you too, young colt,” She said happily, “You'll have to excuse my family, we don't tend to see many earth ponies around these parts. What's your name?”

“My name is prince Blueblood,” he declared, “And I am no simple earth pony! I am a pure-blooded unicorn!”

“Great,” a young stallion remarked, “He's crazy.” Blueblood scowled a the stallion and swelled his chest, preparing to verbally lash him, but the old mare cut him off.

“Mind your manners, colt!” she snapped. “That's no way to talk about our guest.” She turned back to Blueblood and gently took his head in her hooves. “Anyways, he ain't crazy... poor thing probably knocked his head, and he's confused. Look at all this blood. Come along colt, let's get you cleaned up. You look like you dug your way out of your own grave.”

“What?” Blueblood asked as the mare pulled him along. The foal now trotted alongside the prince, staring intently at him. Blueblood was pulled waist-deep into the river, where he finally saw himself in the water

The mare hadn't been exaggerating when she said he looked like he crawled out of the grave. He was caked in dirt and sand, turning his coat from a pristine white into a pale, smokey gray. Clumps of mud clung to him, and his mane was matted against his forehead. Any other day, any of that would have been enough to send him into fits, but he didn't even notice. All he could do was stare at his face.

His horn was missing.

No wonder the mare had thought he was an earth pony. There was no trace of it, just his straw-blond mane plastered over his face where his horn used to be. A dark line of dried blood ran down the center of his face, dipping down to the left past his eyes. The only hint that there had ever been a horn there. As far as anypony was concerned, he was just another earth pony.

“How... what happened to it?” he said to himself, “Where did my horn go?” More memories from the previous night came back to him. Right before he blacked out, he remembered the most bizarre feeling, and the most incredible light he had ever seen. He remembered the soldiers holding him down against the stone as Iron brandished his axe, laughing like a maniac. Blueblood shut his eyes, and began to shake violently. “Oh...” He whimpered.

A torrent of water falling over his head broke him out of his stupor. He coughed and spluttered, pulling his mane out of his eyes to see the mare magically pulling a large ball of water out of the river.

“Sorry about that,” She said cheerfully, dumping the water over his head again. “But if the water's too cold for you the best thing to do is just dive right in.”

“I'm... what?” Blueblood asked. The mare shook her head, and tutted.

“You must have knocked your head mighty hard,” She said, “But we can still get you cleaned up.” She levitated a cloth from the shore and dunked it in the water, saturating it. She began to scrub Blueblood firmly with it who, long used to having servants help him wash, allowed her to wash him without a fuss. Before too long she had managed to scrub him mostly clean. He looked at his reflection in the water once again. His fur was back to it's proper white colour and his mane no longer stuck to his clean face, but there was still no evidence that he had ever been a unicorn. He walked to the shore and sat down, sighing.

“There now, isn't that much better?” the mare asked him. “My name's Seagrass, by the way.”

“Hm?” Blueblood said offhandedly, “Yes, thank you miss.”

“So where d'you come from, Blueblood?” She pressed. She clearly noticed his depression. Blueblood sighed, and answered.

“Canterlot,” he said, “in Equestria.”

“Canterlot, eh? Can't say I know where that is, I'm afraid,” Seagrass admitted . “I know most everywhere there is to go along the Crate river, but beyond that I don't know much. Still, Equestria. That's a fair ways away from here. What brings a young stallion like yourself this far west?”

“I...” Blueblood began. He wasn't sure whether or not he should tell this old mare the truth. For all he knew, they could try to deliver him back to the ambassador, or try to squeeze anything they could out of Blueblood. There was no telling with these ponies. Finally, he settled on a lie.

“I was visiting someone,” he said, “but my ride home abandoned me, and now I'm completely lost.”

“Lost?” Seagrass said, shaking her head sadly, “Well, that's no good. I'll tell you what. My family and I are making our way upriver now. There's a town called Riverbank about a half a days trip east of here where we'll make port. We can take you about as far as that, and I'm sure you'll be able to find yourself a ride home from there. How's that sound?”

Blueblood thought about it for a moment. He didn't know if he could trust these ponies, but they were traveling away from Iron, which was good. It would certainly beat trying to walk all the way to the next town with no idea where he was going and a bad hoof. All in all, it was the best option. Blueblood nodded.

“That would be good,” he said. He had regained some of his composure, and he managed to at least stand straight and proud – if he couldn't look like a true prince, he could at least act the part, he resolved.

“Well, we'll be ready to head off again in just a few minutes. My husband's just off getting water.”

Blueblood looked back at the river. “There's plenty of water right there,” he pointed out. Seagrass shook her head, and laughed.

“We're too close to the ocean here,” she told him. “This water is brackish. Not good to drink. There's a wellspring nearby here though, so we stop by and fill top up whenever we pass.”

“I see,” Blueblood nodded, “So, you and your family live in this... boat?” He gestured vaguely towards the floating house. Now that he had gotten closer to it it looked less like a true house and more like a raft that just happened to have walls and a roof. Blueblood doubted it even had any rooms.

“That's right,” the old mare nodded. “We travel up and down the river. We're traders, mostly, but we ship as well. The river moves better than most mailponies can on their own, after all.”

“I don't see how that's possible,” Blueblood scoffed. “The pegasi can fly faster than any river can move.”

“Yeah, if there were any pegasi around,” the young stallion from earlier snarked again. His mother glared at him, and explained,

“We don't have many pegasi in Aloa, or earth ponies like yourself... it's mostly unicorns here, really.”

“Really,” Blueblood said. Now that he thought of it, all of the guards that had captured him had been unicorns, as opposed to the mix of races in Equestria's service. Seagrass looked like she was about to say something else, when she suddenly looked over the princes shoulder. Blueblood turned around to see a large, silvery-blue unicorn stallion coming over the hill with two large barrels floating around his head. The colts both ran to the stallion, who Blueblood presumed to be their father, and helped him bring the barrels down the sandy hill.

“Hey, sweetie,” The stallion said gruffly, setting down the barrels and embracing his wife.

“Hello Seastone,” Seagrass said, “How are you feeling?”

“Tired,” the unicorn laughed, “Water never gets any lighter. Good thing I've got these stout colts around to help their old stallion out, eh?” He ruffled the mane of the colt nearest to him, and turned to Blueblood. “Speaking of,” he said, “looks like we've managed to pick up a new one, eh?”

“This is Blueblood,” Seagrass said, introducing the prince to her husband, “We're taking him up to Riverbank.”

“Oh are we now?” Seastone asked, smirking at Blueblood. “Well, it's nice to meet you, Blueblood – bit of a funny name, that.”

“It's a very old, and very respected name,” Blueblood said sharply. Seastone raised his hooves apologetically.

“Alright, well, I don't know many earth ponies – I wouldn't know.” He held out his hoof to Blueblood, who took it carefully. Seastone shook firmly, causing Blueblood to wince in pain as the splinters in his hoof shifted around.

“Oh, dear!” Seagrass cried, taking Blueblood's hoof immediately, “What happened to your hoof?”

“Splinters,” the prince told her. The mare tutted, and began pulling him towards her home.

“Colts, help your father bring in the water,” she called back to her children, “I'm going to see what we can do about this.”

Blueblood wrenched his hoof away from Seagrass, and stood up tall. “I can walk to your home myself, thank you,” He said. His pride had taken enough hits today – he didn't need some old mare treating him like a foal on top of everything. Seagrass frowned at him, but didn't say anything. She simply led the prince inside, letting him limp off the bank and onto the shaky foundations of the raft.

Blueblood had been right about the home – it was made of a single room. There was a large round table in the middle, several hammocks slung up along the corners and a wood-burning stove, but aside from that it was decidedly spartan. The pair of young stallions came in with the water barrels, followed by their father and all the other children. When they were all packed into the same room Blueblood was able to count them easier. Aside from Seagrass and Seastone, there were three colts and two fillies. The two colts who carried in the water were the eldest, and the foal who Blueblood had seen in the bush the youngest. The two fillies were in the middle, both looking about the age to get their cutie marks soon. After he saw that the water was placed properly, Seastone left through a small door in the front of the home, and Blueblood felt the craft lurch into motion moments later.

“What's he doing?” Blueblood asked.

“Who, Seastone?” Seagrass asked. “He's moving us with his magic. It's the easiest way to go upriver. We're fighting the current the whole way up. Downriver is much easier, we can just drift along.” She lifted Blueblood's hoof carefully, and inspected it. “Hmm...” She said, squinting, “You sure got a lot of them in there, didn't you?” She asked. “What were you doing?”

“I'd rather not say,” Blueblood said. Seagrass shrugged.

“Ah, well. Everypony's entitled to their privacy.” Her horn lit up, and one of the splinters loosed itself from Blueblood's hoof.

“YEOUCH!” the prince cried, jerking his hoof back. The older colt stared at him, and Seagrass rolled her eyes.

“What, haven't you ever had a splinter before?” she asked. “They hurt. Don't be such a foal, otherwise I'll never get them out.”

“I was not being a foal.” Blueblood look away from her, embarrassed. “You just... caught me off guard, that's all.”

“Well then,” she smiled, “I'm going to pull out your splinters. There – on guard now?” Blueblood nodded. Seagrass's horn lit up again, and she began to pull out the many, many splinters. Blueblood winced each time, but he did manage to keep himself from yelling. After a while, the white stallion became aware of the fact that he was being watched. The older colts and fillies had retired to the corners of the house to play a game, but the youngest colt was sitting across the table from Blueblood, staring at him.

“That's just our Sandy,” Seagrass said, plucking out another splinter, “Don't you mind him. He's never seen an earth pony before.”

“I... don't mind,” Blueblood said. Sandy was an appropriate name for the beige colt. He dipped his head below the table a bit when Blueblood looked at him, so the stallion pretended to look away, watching the foal out of the corner of his eye.

“Does he talk?”

“When he wants to. Not that that comes around much. Mostly, he just likes to watch. He's a clever colt, don't let the quiet fool you. There's a lot going on in that little head of his.”

“Hard to imagine,” Blueblood said. “He's barely moving.”

“He ain't moving,” Seagrass said, tapping her forehead, “But his head is. Just you watch. I bet he'll be nothing but questions later tonight. You know how foals are.”

“No,” Blueblood said, “I never really met any foals.”

Seagrass plucked a splinter, and paused. “How can you have never met a foal before?” she asked. Blueblood shrugged.

“I don't have any siblings. I've seen foals around, but none of them ever talk to me.”

“Well, that don't seem right to me,” she laughed, patting his shoulder. “You seem like a nice enough lad. Maybe a little funny still, but nice enough.” Blueblood raised an eyebrow at this, but Seagrass continued, “You'll probably get your first time tonight, just you wait. You're all done.”

“What?”

“Your hoof. All the splinters are gone.”

“Oh,” Blueblood said, inspecting his hoof, “So they are.” He tried to put his hoof down to test it out, but magic took hold of it before it reached the ground.

“Ah ah ah,” Seagrass said, waggling her hoof at him, “Sorry, you aren't quite done yet.”

“What?” Blueblood asked. “But all the splinters are gone. You said it was done.”

“Well the splinters are gone, yes,” Seagrass said, “But the hoof could get infected. We need to put something on it.”

“Oh, fine,” Blueblood sighed, sitting back down. Seagrass went to a cupboard and returned with a small jar. She scooped out some of the contents and began to massage it into Blueblood's hoof. It felt cold, and it stung a bit, but Blueblood didn't complain. Finally, Seagrass wrapped some bandages around his hoof and put her hooves together.

“There you go,” She said, “All better.”

Blueblood inspected his hoof. “It feels much better,” he said.

“I'm glad,” Seagrass said, smiling at him. She stood up from the table and trotted over to where her children were playing, joining them. Blueblood stayed seated at the table. He stared at the bandaged hoof, turning it over and looking at it from every different angle. He wasn't quite sure why. He knew he should be angry that this had happened to him, but he wasn't. The only thing he felt was tired. He rested his head on the table and looked around the room. Suddenly, he realized that Sandy wasn't sitting across from him anymore. He wasn't playing with his siblings, either. He didn't seem to be anywhere in the room. Narrowing his eyes, Blueblood leaned down, and peeked beneath the table. Sure enough, there was Sandy.

“Hi,” the little colt said quietly.

“What are you doing down there?” Blueblood asked.

“You said you were a prince. Mama and Papa said that you gotta be lower than a prince to talk to them. So I'm under that table, so I'll be lower than you.”

“Well,” Blueblood said, tilting his head, “You don't have to be under the table to be lower than me. You can be lower than me anywhere in the room.” He hadn't expecting such a young colt to understand royalty – though calling it understanding would be a bit of a stretch.

Sandy shuffled out from under the table, and sat beside Blueblood, staring up at him. The prince was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable.

“Are you really a prince?” The colt asked suddenly.

“Of course I am,” Blueblood answered.

“Seaweed doesn't believe you,” he said, “I don't think momma does either.”

“Well, they wouldn't know, would they,” Blueblood said, rolling his eyes, “They don't care about anything outside their lives. I'm the prince of Equestria.”

“Where's that?”

“It's... east of here,” Blueblood said vaguely.

“Where east of here?”

“I don't know. East. It's in the mountains.”

“How come you don't know where it is?” Sandy asked, tilting his head quizzically. “Shouldn't a prince know where his country is?”

“Well I've never been here before.” Blueblood looked away from the colt. “And I didn't see where I came from. So I just know Equestria is in the mountains east of here. Why are you so curious?”

“I've never seen a prince before. Or an earth pony. What's it like, being an earth pony prince?”

“Well, I can tell you what it's like to be a prince,” Blueblood said, puffing out his chest like a songbird. “You have everypony's utmost respect. They'll do anything for you, and never complain about it to you. There are a few responsibilities, but most of the time you get to do whatever you want. Nopony is allowed to question you, either.” He paused, and his brow furrowed for a moment, but he shook his head and continued.

“I don't know what it's like to be an earth pony, however. I, am a unicorn.”

“Really?” Sandy asked. “Then how come you don't have a horn?” Blueblood's head sank.

“Well... It's a very long story,” Blueblood said, “I don't think that a foal would understand.”

“I'm not a foal!” Sandy objected, “And momma and poppa say I'm smart! I'll understand!”

“It's not about being smart,” Blueblood scoffed, “It's about... jealousy. Somepony was jealous of me. Anyways, I'm not going to talk about it any more than that.”

“Well... okay,” Sandy said. “I'm gonna go play now. Do you wanna play with me?”

“No, thank you,” Blueblood said, “princes do not 'play'.”

“Okay,” Sandy said. He got down from his chair and ran over to his siblings and mother, joining in their game. Blueblood watched him for a little while, then continued to stare at his injured hoof.

***

“Dinner time, dear,” Seagrass called out the front door. A grunt of recognition came from outside, and Seagrass let the door swing shut. She turned her attention to the foals, who were already seated around the table.

“Did you all wash your hooves?” She asked sternly.

“I did!” Sandy piped up. The two fillies nodded as well, but the older colts begrudgingly stood up and washed their front hooves in a bowl of water taken from the barrels.

“And you, Blueblood?” Seagrass asked, “Did you wash your hooves?”

“Of course,” The prince said, turning up his nose, “I do have my manners, miss.”

“I'm sure you do, dear,” Seagrass said. As her husband entered the room and washed up himself, the mare placed a package in the center of the table and unwrapped it. It contained several sticks of a hard, green substance. Seagrass passed them around to her children, who began to suck and chew on them. She gave one to Blueblood, who simply stared at it.

“What... is it?” Blueblood asked.

“It's seaweed,” Seastone answered. His son looked up for a moment, before shaking his head and returning to his meal. Blueblood sniffed it, and gave it an experimental nibble. There was a salty taste, but it was overpowered by a pungent, pickle-like flavour. Blueblood pulled a face, and stuck his tongue out.

“Bleagh!” He said, “That's awful!” Seastone and Seagrass both laughed.

“I take it you've never had seaweed before,” Seastone said, “It's sort of an acquired taste.”

“How in the world would you acquire it?” the prince asked, “I'd think starvation would be preferable.

“If you don't want to eat it, I'll take yours,” Seaweed piped up. Blueblood seriously considered giving it to him for a moment, but his stomach growled fiercely.

“No,” the white stallion said. He took another bite out of the tough plant. It was almost as difficult to actually take a bite out of it as it was to stomach the taste. The plant was dry and extremely stringy, and Blueblood could hardly grip it with just his hooves. He set it on the table, deciding he would just pick it up with his magic. He focused on it, mentally reaching out to it, but nothing happened. He stared at it furiously for a moment, before it dawned on him. He no longer had his horn – and no horn meant no magic.

“Something wrong, Blueblood?” Seagrass asked him. He shook his head.

“Nothing's wrong,” he said firmly. He picked up the piece of seaweed again, chewing on it furiously.

It doesn't matter, he thought to himself weakly, It doesn't matter. You are still the prince of Equestria. You can still be proud of that, at least. It doesn't matter.

The family chattered happily as they ate, though Blueblood stayed quiet. He stood tall and straight, chewing his food silently. Sandy managed to stare at him even more intently than he had before, Somehow. When the meal was finished the family washed their hooves gain, and settled in around the table to chat more.

“We'll pull into Riverbank in about an hour or so,” Seastone said. “A breeze cropped up, I set up the sail so we'll drift right in. How'd you like that seaweed, colt?”

“I've certainly had better meals,” Blueblood said flippantly, “But it was alright, I suppose.”

“Well...” Seastone replied, raising an eyebrow, “I'd imagine most ponies have. But we've been low on food lately. It's been a couple of weeks since we made port. Seaweed'll keep forever – good thing too, since most ponies will go for as long as they can before eating it. So... I don't think I ever heard where you're from, Blueblood?”

“Canterlot,” he replied, “The capital of Equestria.”

“Ah,” Seastone said, nodding, “I hear a bit about it from other traders, but I've never been myself. I hear it's a nice city.”

“It's nice enough,” Blueblood said, “But I spend most of my time in the Palace. Much nicer than any city.”

“Really? So, you're a servant? A guard?”

“Hardly,” Blueblood scoffed, “I am nobility.”

“He's a prince!” Sandy piped up, “That's what he said when he came, that he was prince of Equestria!”

“Pff, he was loony when he showed up,” Seaweed snorted. His father cuffed him on the ear.

“Seaweed, none of that. We should be good hosts to our guest.”

“Right, right,” The young stallion scowled, “Sorry, 'your highness'.”

“That's quite alright,” Blueblood said gracefully, “It would hardly be fair of me to hold commoners to the same standards of class as nobility, after all.”

“Well...” Seastone said quietly. He exchanged a look with his wife, then stood up. “I'm going to go and make sure we don't drift past the town. It was... interesting chatting with you, Blueblood.” He trotted out the door, shutting it tight behind him. The room fell into silence, and Seagrass coughed.

“So, um, Blueblood,” she said carefully, “When we met you mentioned you were here visiting someone. Was it a matter of state?”

“Sort of,” Blueblood said, his head dipping slightly. “It's rather complicated. I'd rather not talk about it.”

“I understand,” the mare said. Once again, the room became silent. One by one the colts and fillies drifted away from the table to their corners to play, until it was just Seagrass and Blueblood sitting. Seagrass looked around awkwardly, and asked, “I hope you don't mind if I leave you here?”

“Not at all,” Blueblood said. Seagrass nodded, and left the table gratefully.

Blueblood sat alone by himself for the short remainder of the trip. He tried his best to look proud and important, despite the fact that he was doing little more than staring into space. He had felt better for a while, but once again he was beginning to feel tired.

I'll have to find an inn when we arrive, he thought, It's been a... taxing day, after all. Slowly, he felt the raft begin to slow down, and eventually stop. The door opened up, and Seastone poked his head in.

“We're in Riverbank now,” he said. The family piled out onto the front deck of the raft, Blueblood included. Night had fallen, and most of the town seemed to be asleep. The river cut right through the center, with cobblestone banks on either side.

“There's no dock?” Blueblood asked.

“There are some deeper in the city,” Seastone said, “but I figured you'd want to get off as soon as you could.

“Well, that's very thoughtful of you,” Blueblood said. He smiled at the family earnestly, and he felt the tiredness slip away a little. “You should consider ferrying passengers more often. You certainly aren't the worst company I've had lately.”

“I... don't think that's going to happen,” Seastone said.

“Well, there's probably good money in it,” Blueblood offered, “You could probably afford to upgrade your home a little bit too, make it more comfortable.

“Thank you for the advice,” Seastone said, patience clearly waning from his voice, “Now please, if you're ready to go?”

“Well, I suppose so,” Blueblood said. “But, how am I supposed to get to shore? Do you have a plank, or something?” He looked around for something that would get him to the shore, until he felt magic grip his body.

“I'll give you a lift to the bank,” Seastone said shortly, “unless you'd prefer to swim.”

“I think I'd prefer the lift,” Blueblood answered. “You ponies really do know how to be hospitable, don't you?”

“Well, we do try dear,” Seagrass said sweetly.

“If only we had better guests,” Seaweed snorted. Blueblood glowered at him.

“And goodbye to you too, you rude little colt,” he said. “I hope your parents manage to teach you some manners one day.”

“You're one to talk.” The colt stuck his tongue out. Blueblood huffed impudently, and looked to the colt's father.

“No, I'm with the colt on this one,” Seastone said flatly. “If somepony invites you into their home, you should at least be courteous enough not to insult them. I'd think 'nobility' would know that. Now, kindly get off my boat.”

Blueblood drifted over the edge of the boat, and the magic let go, plunging him into the river. He broke the surface, spluttering and flicking his mane out of his eyes. He swam to the shore and scrambled out of the freezing water, coughing and spluttering.

“How dare you!” He shouted at the retreating raft, “How DARE you!? What did I ever do to you, huh!?” He scowled at the ship, and shivered angrily. “Rotten peasants,” he harrumphed, turning around. Out of the blackness, a piece of seaweed came whizzing and struck him in the back of the head.