• Published 26th Sep 2011
  • 7,342 Views, 295 Comments

The Colour You Bleed - Kegisak



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

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In Which Home is Found

Chapter 6: In Which Home is Found

From her tower in Canterlot palace, Princess Celestia could see everything in her kingdom. She could see the ponies taking their lunch breaks in the capital, eating at restaurants and cafes, or just sitting outside and enjoying the spring air. She could see the little villages in the valley, with all their little ponies going about their days. She could see the vast swaths of farmland, ready to be tilled and sowed with seeds for the year's crop. From the other side of the tower she could even see over the tip of the mountains, and look out at the ocean, far in the distance. Despite all that she could see from her tower, one thing that she could not see was her younger sister, Princess Luna.

Celestia sighed, and shook her head. She had had to lower the moon herself, this morning. Luna had not arrived in the tower to bring it down. She wasn't worried by this, of course. She trusted her younger sister completely; she knew that the little princess would never dream of trying to bring about eternal night again. Not when there were so many ponies who reveled beneath her beautiful stars.

This was not the first time Luna had gone missing since she had returned, either. Every so often she would fly away to visit some little village, or see a new country. Sometimes she would even tell Celestia before she left. She had been alone for so long, though, and she had troubles remembering that sometimes, the ponies you care about like to keep tabs on you. Celestia could forgive her for all that, of course, but it could still frustrate her. Particularly now, with all that had happened recently.

The palace's spies had been investigating the Aloan delegates all week. So far, none of them had found any clues as to what had happened to the prince. If anything, the Aloans seemed more confused as to the prince's whereabouts than she was. The only thing that the spies had managed to glean was that the Aloan delegates were insulted Blueblood had not attended the meetings. As far as Celestia could tell, they were either being admirably tight-lipped, or they had had nothing to do with Blueblood's disappearance at all.

Perhaps that was the most distressing prospect, the idea that nopony knew what had happened to Blueblood. It had weighed on Celestia's mind all week, but she hadn't wanted to share it with anypony. One way or another, she knew it would wind up getting back to her niece. Poor Amethyst had been inconsolable all week long. She had put on a brave face for the delegates and the meetings, though; Celestia was so proud of her. The princess sighed sadly, and stepped back inside the small room in her tower. It was a second home to her; a place she could come when she didn't want to be disturbed by anypony. Usually. This week had been a little different than most weeks. There was a knock on the door.

“Come in, Oak,” she said. The door creaked open, and a tired auburn pegasus stepped inside. He wasn't wearing his armour, and his mane was loose. He looked like he hadn't slept in days. He probably hadn't.

“Good afternoon, your majesty,” Oak said, bowing slowly. Celestia tutted, and levitated a pot of tea from nearby the fireplace.

“Have a seat, Oak,” she said. “And have some tea. You look like you could use it.”

Oak took a seat on a plush cushion across for Celestia. For a moment he looked like he was about to decline her offer of tea, but in the end he took the cup she offered happily. He sipped at it gingerly, while Celestia watched.

“How is she, Oak?” Celestia asked suddenly. Oak looked down.

“She's asleep right now,” he said. “Today's meeting really wore her out. She's putting on a strong face for all the other ambassadors and nobles, but... she spends most of her free time fretting, these days. I'm...” Oak shook his head, and said, “I'm worried about her, your majesty.”

“I know you are, Oak,” Celestia agreed. “That's why I trust you to look after her.”

“Thank you, your majesty,” Oak said, bowing slightly. “But... is there anything I can tell her? Do we know anything new about her so – about the prince?” Celestia shook her head.

“The Aloans don't know anything. Or if they do, they aren't letting on.”

“Not to be rude, majesty,” Oak said, “but can't we just... ask them? Interrogate a guard?” Celestia shook her head.

“They all have diplomatic immunity while they're here, so we can't arrest them. Even if we just asked outright, Aloa would take it as an insult. They'd be up in arms over it... and we can't just say the prince has gone missing, otherwise if Aloa did kidnap him they'd run before we had the chance to do anything.”

Oak shook his head weakly. “This politics thing makes my head spin, Majesty.” Celestia smiled.

“You aren't the only one, Oak. But we do what we must.” Oak nodded solemnly.

“Has there been any word on Captain Iron Towers, either?” he asked suddenly. Celestia shook her head, peering at him.

“No,” she said. “We've heard nothing from him. We believe he's been kidnapped along with Blueblood.”

“Has anypony been chosen to take his place yet?”

“No,” Celestia said, “It's hardly the most opportune time. Why do you ask, Oak?”

The pegasus pony straightened up as best he could, and said, “I'd like to request to be promoted to acting captain of the guards, your majesty.”

Celestia peered at him oddly. This sort of behavior was very unlike him – Lieutenant Rowan Oak had never been a pony to take advantage of a situation for his ambition. In fact, he had never been a terribly ambitious pony to begin with. He had even turned down several promotions – he had been appointed as Amethyst's personal guard because of his loyalty and skill more than his position in the guards. He had always seemed perfectly content in his role, until now.

Celestia shook her head. “I can't do that, Oak. If anypony where to be elected acting Captain, it would be the second-in-command. You know that.”

“I know your majesty,” Oak said, “but... please, I ask you just this once. I would step down immediately once this ordeal is over with, go back to being Princess Amethyst's guard.”

“Then why do you want this promotion so badly?” Celestia asked. Oak looked down ashamedly, and fidgeted.

“I...” he said, “I just... I want to do more.” He looked up, gazing earnestly into the princess's eyes. She saw nothing but an overwhelming passion in those eyes, slick with tears. “I want to do more to help. If I were acting captain, I could organize the spies. I could come up with something... some plan to help us find out what's happened to the prince. I just... I feel so useless right now. Ameth-” he shook his head and blinked, saying, “I'm sorry – the princess, this is hurting her so much. She hardly sleeps any more, and when she does... she has nightmares, your majesty. Horrible nightmares. I hear her, sometimes, screaming in her sleep. And I just wish that I could do more for her.” He looked down, shame and pain clear on his face. “I'm worried, Your majesty. I want to stop her hurting.”

Celestia smiled faintly. Out of all the guards, Oak was the one she felt that she could trust the most. That was why she had asked him to be assigned to Amethyst. It seemed sometimes like it was impossible for him to lie – he wore his heart on his sleeve more than anypony she had ever met. She could understand why her niece found him so endearing. She reached out, and put a gentle hoof on his shoulder.

“You can do something for her, Oak. You can be there for her.” Oak looked up, and Celestia smiled at him. “We'll take care of this,” she told him. “You just be there for her. That's all we can do, right now.”

Oak nodded. “Thank you, your majesty,” he said. He finished his tea and stood, moving for the door.

“Thank you, your majesty,” he said again. Celestia nodded, and he left. He trotted carefully down the long, winding staircase that made up most of the tower – despite the tea his head was beginning to nod. Soon enough he made it to the main floor of the palace, and returned to Princess Amethyst's bedchambers. He opened the door just a crack, peering inside – the princess was still fast asleep. He stepped inside, closing the door behind him, and went to take a closer look.

In spite of her slumber, the princess's face was still creased with worry. She stirred occasionally, mumbling something incoherent beneath her her breath. Oak sighed, and sat beside the bed.

“It's going to be alright, Amethyst,” he whispered. “You'll see...”

In her sleep, Amethyst sighed. The worry slowly faded away, and a gentle smiled blessed her face. Oak smiled as well.

I hope... he thought. He blinked, his head dipping a bit. His head was getting a bit fuzzy. He leaned against the bed, resting beside the princess. The bed was amazingly soft, and the silk sheets felt wonderfully cool. He hadn't slept in ages, worrying over the princess. She was asleep now, though, and he could relax. He shifted, nestling his head deeper into the bed. His eyes fell shut and he slowly drifted off to sleep, leaning against the bed there.

***

Blueblood's master lead him outside the auction house. The white stallion had to walk slowly to keep pace with the old unicorn, limping as he did, but the two made it outside soon enough. It was a bright day outside, the sky clear of in spite of the lack of pegasi here. The market lane was much more sparse today; hardly any ponies were about, in fact.

There was an old cart at the foot of the stairs, a heavy chain anchoring it to a pillar. Blueblood's master limped down the steps, approaching it. Blueblood followed him, staring at the ground and being careful to stay a step behind his master. The old pony dug a key from the folds of his wrappings, and unlocked the chains. He took the chains in his mouth, dragging them into the back of the cart. When he was done, he turned to look at Blueblood.

“Help me in,” he said, beckoning for the white stallion to approach. Blueblood did as he was told, coming closer. The old unicorn put a hoof on his back, and one on the edge of the wagon, pushing himself up carefully. Blueblood stepped in closer, pushing his master up further, who grunted and swung over the edge of the wagon. He settled in, laying down, and peered over to his slave.

“Stand in front of the wagon,” he ordered. Blueblood nodded, and complied.

“Yes master,” he said quietly. He stood between the two wooden bars protruding from the front of the wagon, and set his chest against a third flat bar that connected the two.

“I'm done here for today,” his master said. “Take me home – head north. I'll tell you where and when to turn.”

Blueblood nodded, and started to walk. He strained at first, pushing forward to move the old wagon. Once it had started to move, though, it wasn't so bad. In fact, it wasn't too hard at all after a while. He set off up the street, wagon in tow, until his master called up to him.

“North is the other direction,” he said. Blueblood winced.

“Sorry,” he said, turning the wagon around slowly. Facing the right direction now, he headed off again.

The trip through the city was an easy one. Whichever day this was – Blueblood found he couldn't remember how much time had passed now – it was clearly not one where ponies liked to venture out of their homes. There were hardly any of the wrapped unicorns he had seen the previous day out and about, and those that were out didn't seem too keen on mingling. They kept a wide berth of the wagon, not looking at either of the ponies in it. Blueblood gave them no heed either – they were not his master, he told himself, so he didn't need to worry about what they thought of him. He told himself that every time one of them passed, staring directly forward. He had to fight not to look down, or shy away from them as they passed.

“Turn left here,” the old unicorn in the wagon said. Blueblood looked down the road to the left of him. It was a long, wide and straight road. Blueblood could see an enormous wall at the end of it, broken by a wooden gate almost as tall as the wall itself. The gate was swung wide open, revealing the open country beyond it. Blueblood slowly looked back at his master, who raised an eyebrow at him.

“I don't live in the city,” his master said. “I live by the river. It's a fair walk, so you'd best get started.”

“Of course,” Blueblood said, turning down the long road, “I'm sorry, master. I didn't mean to question you.” His master grunted softly, and Blueblood could hear him shift in the back of the wagon. Blueblood risked another peek backwards, and saw that his master had turned away from him, looking down the other side of the street. It led to the harbor, and Blueblood could see the ocean framed between two of the enormous pillars that surrounded the port city. He turned back, trying to concentrate on the road before him.

It doesn't matter, he told himself, there's nothing down there for me. It doesn't matter one of the ships down there could take me home... He shook his head, and set it firmly ahead.

No! He told himself, they can't take me home! THIS is my home. I'm Red now – not Blueblood. My home is with my master.

He let his neck fall, sighing to himself. His legs were beginning to ache a bit from pulling the cart, but he ignored it. They were almost out of the city now, and Blueblood could see a guard standing by the gate. The guard nodded to them as the passed.

“Have a nice day,” he said. Blueblood didn't answer. He heard his master mumble something to guard, but couldn't make it out – he doubted the guard had understood it either.

He looked around idly as they moved away from the city. Port Ponzance appeared to be surrounded by farmland, giant swaths of fertile fields on either side of the road. The path was rolling and hilly, slowly moving upwards as it made its way away from the coast. Fortunately for Blueblood it never got too steep, or difficult to pull the wagon. Soon they had passed the many farms, and moved into more open countryside. The landscape around the road turned into enormous dips and bulges, dotted with patches of thick, lush trees. The road passed by one such patch of trees, and Blueblood got a better look at them – they were unlike anything he had ever seen. Their bark was segmented, like scales, and their leaves were enormous and flat. Blueblood stared up at them as he passed. The leaves didn't cast true shade, not the way he knew it – the just filtered out the light, turning it green as it fell upon him. He looked back, watching the patch of green as it move across his coat, and he found himself meeting the eyes of his master. The old pony had shifted positions again, leaning on the front rim of the cart and resting his chin on his good hoof. He watched Blueblood with an impassive expression, the green light of the leaves darkening his already green coat even more. Blueblood turned his head back to the road sharply, lowering it. He couldn't tell what the old unicorn was thinking when he watched him. He couldn't tell if his expression was irritated, or just blank. It made the white stallion uncomfortable, when he saw it. So he stared forward, trying to make himself as small as possible. He heard a quiet sigh from his master, but ignored it.

They continued along the road for hours. The landscape had flattened out for a while, but it had started to slope downwards again. The patches of trees had become more dense, forming into thick woods, the road beginning to wind down as well. They had long since left any pretense of paving, the smooth stones falling away to dirt at a crossroads an hour or so back, but now it had begun to dwindle even further. Blueblood tugged the cart up one of the hills that made up their gradual descent, and as he came over it he saw a gap in the trees. In the distance he could see a thing line of blue cutting through the landscape – another river, down the middle of the peninsula.

“The River Aloe,” his master commented, seeing it as well. “We'll reach home in a few hours. Turn right up here.”

Blueblood saw the turnoff coming, and nodded. “Yes master,” he said, turning onto the road. The path thinned even more, and there were a pair of ruts in the path. The wagon wheels slipped into it, shaking its contents. Blueblood heard the chain rattle along the bottom, and his master grunt.

“Sorry master,” Blueblood said, looking back at him apologetically. His master raised an eyebrow at him.

“You keep saying that,” he said. Blueblood stared back at him, unsure of what to say.

“You say 'sorry master', and 'yes master', and 'alright master',” the old pony continued. “Why?”

“Because...” Blueblood said slowly, “because you're my master. You bought me, so...”

“You never asked my name,” the old pony interrupted him. “Do you not care what it is?”

“N-no, I...” Blueblood said. He turned away from the old pony, looking down. He wasn't sure what he should say. “I... you're my master, and... I...”

“I have a name,” the old pony said again. “I asked yours. So why didn't you ask mine?”

“I-I didn't want to be rude...” Blueblood mumbled. “It wasn't my place to ask...”

“Speak up, Red,” the old pony demanded. Blueblood winced, and answered again.

“I didn't want you to get mad at me!” he said, “I didn't know if I was allowed to ask!” He looked back through half closed eyes. The old unicorn was staring at him strangely. He couldn't decipher the expression – it was like the old pony was judging him, but there was something missing, if that was it. He remembered – Blueblood remembered, he reminded himself of the distinction – the expressions of the nobleponies who judged each other. There was always some degree of arrogance in those gazes. But there wasn't one here, even though the old pony was regarding a slave. He was just... watching the white pony. Like he was sizing him up. Blueblood stopped walking, captivated by the old pony's gaze.

“Ask me my name, Red,” the old pony said. Blueblood blinked, and lowered his head.

“What... what's your name, master?” he asked slowly.

“White Brook,” the old unicorn said simply.

“Do you... would you like me to call you that, from now on?” Blueblood asked. Brook shrugged vaguely.

“No... call me what you like,” he said. He and Blueblood shared a gaze for a moment, staring back and forth underneath the green light filtering through the leaves. Brook looked away. “Home is still a long ways away,” he said. “You should get moving.”

“Oh!” Blueblood said, turning around again, “right... sorry.” He set off again, pulling the heavy wagon along the old road. The road dwindled even more as he walked, narrowing until the sides of the cart brushed against the foliage. Blueblood's legs were aching, but he pushed on. The bush around them grew thicker and thicker, the enormous leaves stretching out and hiding the sky, casting a green light over everything on the path. Blueblood stumbled once or twice over roots stretching into the path, but he never fell. He pulled on, though the muggy air in the bush made his mane cling to his neck. He blinked the sweat out of his eyes, pressing on. Brook never spoke – Blueblood wasn't certain if he was even paying attention, or if he was just staring off into space. It wasn't his place to wonder, he told himself, but he wondered anyways. He couldn't judge anything from the old pony's expression. He - no, he told himself. Not he. Blueblood – had always been good at judging expressions, and moods. Blueblood had been good at figuring out what ponies were thinking... and how he could use it. It wasn't Blueblood pulling that cart, though. He told himself that, over and over. It wasn't Blueblood. It was Red. It was Red who shook his head, chasing the thoughts of Blueblood's life away. It was Red was starting pulling harder, despite the burning in his legs and the aching in his hooves. Not Blueblood. He told himself that, over and over, until he almost believed it.

Eventually he managed to shut the thoughts out of his mind. It wasn't hard, once he started to focus on the burning in his legs. He pushed on, pulling the cart down the narrow road. The sun swam across the sky as he walked, dipping in the west. Just as the sky took on a hue of orange, the bush started to clear.

“We're close now,” Brook commented idly from the wagon. “Should make it before sundown, easy.” Blueblood nodded, and pushed on. Brook had been right – the bush continued to thin out, and the path widened a bit as well. The green world gradually parted, allowing Blueblood to see the orange sky for the first time in hours. It was a welcomed change of pace, to say the least. Blueblood took the wagon through a turn, and he finally saw their destination.

The woods dropped of just a little ways away. A few trees still dotted the landscape, but for the most part the land in front of them was clear and flat. Blueblood could see it start to drop off and begin to roll again in the distance. His new home was much closer, though. The path lead just a few hundred feet away, to a large wooden house. Blueblood pulled the cart down the path, taking a better look at the house as they approached.

It was two stories high, a fairly simple home. A balcony stretched out from the top floor, casting shade over a porch on the bottom. It looked much newer, compared to the rest of the house. The wood was old, but it looked sturdy. Windows peppered the west side, letting light into the building. Not too far away there was a shed, in much poorer shape that the house. Vines and moss crept up its sides, covering the door. They were probably the only things holding it up; it leaned visibly to one side. Blueblood looked around the open field, taking in more of the scenery, and he noticed a patch of soft, brown earth.

The soft earth stretched out beside the home, a few dozen feet square. As he got closer Blueblood saw that, despite being softer than the other ground, it still looked as though it hadn't been touched in a few months. He blinked. It looked like a very small farm, he realized; one like the ponies outside Port Ponzance had been working, only it hadn't been touched yet.

While the little farm and the house were in good condition, the rest of the field looked much like the shed; unkempt, and overgrown. Weeds of all sort sprouted everywhere, and trees dotted the landscape. Nearby the house an enormous stump was rooted, almost the size of Blueblood himself. Blueblood just looked around as he walked, taking it all in. Despite the clearing, the house may has well have been built in the deep wilderness. As if declaring this, that this place still belonged to the wilderness, an enormous river cut through the landscape not a hundred feet away from the home. Deep, wide and incredibly, unbelievably blue. Blueblood stopped, just staring at it. It was breathtaking. Behind him, Brook chuckled. Blueblood looked back at him, and saw that he too had been staring at the river.

“The River Aloe,” he said. “She cuts right through the whole peninsula.” Blueblood followed his gaze, looking back at the river. The pair stared at it for a few minutes in silence, before Brook cleared his throat loudly.

“Come on, Red. Take the wagon up to the house there. Just around the side will do.”

“R-right,” Blueblood said, tugging the cart to life again. He pulled it around the side of the house, settling tight against the structure. Brook nodded at this, and Blueblood ducked out from under the bars. He stepped away from the wagon gratefully, but Brook caught his attention again.

“Just going to leave me stranded up here?” he asked. Blueblood cringed, and trotted back to the cart.

“Sorry, master,” he said, offering the old unicorn his hoof. Brook took it, leaning against the younger stallion as he sat along the edge of the wagon.

“Careful now,” he said, “give me your shoulder.” Blueblood did as he was beckoned, and Brook slung his bad hoof around the stallion's neck. Planting his other hoof firmly on the wagon, he swung himself over the edge, slowly lowering himself to the ground. “There we go,” he said, three of his hooves on the ground and the fourth, bad hoof still around Blueblood's neck. He looked to the west, peering critically at the rapidly falling sun.

“Come on Red,” he said.“Let's head inside.” Blueblood nodded, and followed the old pony around and into the house.

The light in the front room was weak, the sun as low in the sky as it was. Blueblood peered around the main room, squinting through the darkness. His eyes eventually started to adjust to the low light, and he found that Brook had gone off somewhere. Blueblood looked around, not wanting to be too far away from his master if the old unicorn needed his help. He soon learned where his master had gone, however, when he saw a glimmer from a nearby room, and the entire house was filled with light. The sudden brightness stung at Blueblood's eyes and he crouched down, covering them in pain. He uncovered them again when he heard the familiar shuffling gait of the the old unicorn approaching. He took one hoof off his eye first, peeking around the other. Brook was standing above him, staring down with one eyebrow raised.

“What are you doing?” he asked simply. Blueblood stood, and answered shyly.

“I, um. The light hurt my eyes,” he said. Brook nodded.

“I should have warned you,” he said, “I just needed to get close enough to the middle of the house to light them all at once.”

“Oh, no,” Blueblood said. “It's not a problem, master.”

“No?” Brook asked, looking back at the white stallion. Blueblood flinched, and took a step back.

“No, I mean... if you want to, next time, but... I won't mind if you don't...” he said, looking away. Brook sighed, and shook his head.

“We'll see,” he said simply. “Welcome home, Red. Have a look around. I'm going to fetch something.”

“Alright,” Blueblood said, as his master limped away. The white stallion stood in the centre of the room, looking around. To his left an old staircase lead up to the second floor, disappearing behind a bend. An old chandelier hung from the ceiling, but it was neither ornate nor particularly safe looking. In all likelihood the only thing that kept it from falling was the fact that there was nothing on it to weigh it down. The rest of the home was little better, with mostly bare wooden walls. There was only a single door in the main room, where Brook had gone through, so Blueblood deiced to climb the stairs instead.

He hadn't thought of it while he had been standing on the main floor, but Blueblood's legs ached. It was his feeble attempt at climbing the stairs that alerted him to this – it was slow going, and a bit painful, but he reached the top soon enough. Like the balcony outside, the second floor looked much newer than the ground floor, though its decorations were no less spartan. Once again it was plain wood walls, the wood was simply more fresh.

Blueblood found himself at the end of a small hallway. There were three doors along the hall – one on either side, and one on the far end. Blueblood crept down the hall slowly, peering at the doors. He took the one on his right first, gently prodding it open and peering inside.

It appeared to be a bedroom. A bed, which he assumed to be Brook's, was pressed into the corner beneath a window. The fading orange light of the sunset poured through it, casting a beam across the room and onto Blueblood. He looked down, noticing once again the colour it cast over his coat. He entered the room slowly, looking to the left and right. The room was spacious, with an old, soft-looking rug in the centre. The walls were lined with bookshelves, full of ancient-looking volumes. Blueblood walked up to one of the bookshelves, reading one at random.

“The Soul of the Hoof,” Blueblood read aloud, “by Silver Tongue.” He tilted his head, and read another. “Gold leaves, and other collected works... The Stallion Who Was Thursday... A Book for all and None... All's Quiet in the Eastern Sky... The Stranger...” He stepped back, shaking his head. Most of these books he had never heard of. He could only guess that they even were books based on the fact that he did recognize a few titles. He had never read any of them, though – he had only the vaguest idea of what they were about; old, dusty books about old stallions sitting around and talking.

He looked at the other bookshelves – they were filled with similar books. Poetry, philosophy, 'classical literature' – Blueblood wondered vaguely if Brook had really read them all. He shook his head again, and backed out of the room. There was nothing else to see in there, and as he backed out he chastised himself.

They're Master's books, he thought to himself, It's not your place to question, or snoop. You're a slave now – don't pry, don't question. He nodded, the thought set firmly in his mind, and turned around.

The door behind him was much more worn, signs of hoof-scratches evident on the brass handle. Blueblood sat for a moment before opening it, wondering if he should go through. Brook had told him – ordered him – to look around, though. He gulped, and pushed the handle down, swinging the door open.

There was no room beyond the door. It lead onto the balcony that he had seen from the path. The balcony was wide and nearly clear, save for a chair and small table near the railing. Blueblood trotted out, looking at the view.

It was wonderful – no, wonderful didn't do it justice. It was perfect. The river lay across he landscape like a ribbon, gleaming in the evening sun, turning its waters a sort of purple. Beyond its far bank Blueblood could see the forest start up again, every bit as wild as the path he had dragged the cart along not long ago. He could see the landscape dip and bulge in the far distance, stretching on into the haze of sightlessness. A gentle breeze played against Blueblood, sweeping his mane across his face and tingling his coat. He leaned over the railing, and sighed. It was fantastic. He wondered what it was like for Brook, living here. Did he see this sight every night? Blueblood wondered if it ever got old... Blueblood has always loved looking out over Canterlot in the evening, watching the white city gleam and turn to gold. He shook his head sharply, jumping back from the railing and covering his eyes.

“No,” he said aloud. “No. That isn't my view. It isn't my world. I'm different now. I'm not Blueblood anymore... Canterlot isn't my home. Not my home... not my home.” He looked out from under his hooves, staring sadly at the vista before him. “This is my home now,” he whimpered. “It's... it's better this way. It is.” He told himself that, over and over. It was better to start over. He had been terrible before, an awful pony. How could he ever make up for everything he had done, in his entire life? He couldn't. He had to start over. He had to put his past behind him, forget about all the bad things he had done. He would take his punishment, and start over with it. He had heard something about that once – some old, outdated religion. Reincarnation? Karma, perhaps?

He stood up, and retreated from the balcony. It was too hard for him to look at it – it reminded him too much of Blueblood. He tried to shut Blueblood out of his mind, tried to be Red, and turned to the third and final door.

“Home,” he said definitively, pushing to door open. The latch was old and hard, and the door creaked loudly when it opened. It seemed like nopony had come in here for a long, long time. Years, maybe.

Inside the room was a desk. It was a plain looking writing desk, with an old stool, quill and ink, and a set of parchments. Blueblood trotted into the room, taking a closer look. The parchments were all yellowed and curled up, and the ink in the well was dried. There was a window in front of the desk, but it was coated in thick dust. Looking around, Blueblood saw more writing materials – blank scrolls, journals, spare quills. Brook must have been quite the writer, before. There were more bookshelves, too, but Blueblood didn't bother looking at them. He assumed they would contain much the same content as the bookshelves in Brook's room. Something else caught his attention.

A pair of letters sitting on the desk, sealed with wax. There was no stamp on the wax, just a red blob sealing the letters. For a moment, Blueblood considered opening one of them, but he knew that his Master would be angry if he did. This room was old, and unused – the master probably wouldn't approve him being in there at all, he thought. He turned around, preparing to leave the room.

Then he saw the solider.

There, hiding in the shadows of the room. An Aloan soldier. The armour gave it away – silver, gleaming in the light that streamed through the windows. It was swathed in decadent green and blue wrappings, tied with a golden medallion, depicting a river delta – the symbol of Aloa. Blueblood couldn't see the soldier's face, obscured by shadow. The armour covered the rest of its body, plates along the legs and sides. Even the horn was covered, tucked inside a dangerous-looking blade.

Blueblood started, and fell backwards. The soldier loomed above him, tall and imposing. He shuffled backwards, knocking over scroll stands and quills in his quest to get as far away from the soldier as possible, as fast as possible. The soldier didn't move any closer, just standing and staring.

Why isn't he doing anything? Blueblood screamed in his mind. Why is he just standing there? Isn't he here for me? Isn't he with Iron?

He pressed himself against the back wall, his mind racing. No, no, he isn't here for me, he thought, he can't be! He's here for Blueblood! Not me, not Red, Blueblood! I'm not Blueblood anymore, so they can't hurt me anymore! I'm not! I didn't do all those things that made Iron hate me, I didn't get kidnapped by the Aloans, so he can't be here for me! He isn't here to hurt me, he isn't! I'm not Blueblood! I'm Red, I'm Red, I'm Red, he isn't going to hurt me! Please, please, please auntie, don't let him hurt me!”

He told himself that, over and over and over, practically begging himself to believe it, to believe that the soldier wasn't there to hurt him. He was so intent on convincing himself that he wasn't Blueblood, that he hadn't been that awful pony and that the soldier wasn't here to hurt him that he didn't even notice that he had been screaming.

“Red!” Brook shouted, suddenly beside the white pony. Blueblood hadn't heard him coming up the stairs, or even down the hall so impossibly fast. Not that this meant much; even as Brook shouted at him, Blueblood barely heard.

“Red! Red, what is it?” Brook shouted. “What's the matter, Red?” He took a hold of Blueblood's shoulders, shaking him. Blueblood clung to the old stallion, still staring dead at the soldier. Brook followed his gaze, spying the figure in the darkened corner of the room. He set himself between Blueblood and the figure, shouting again.

“Red, calm down,” he shouted, but Blueblood payed him no heed. Brook kept shouting, but Blueblood wouldn't listen. Eventually Brook took hold of him and dragged him out of the room, slamming the door behind him. He stood before the cowering stallion, and slammed his good hoof down, shouting, “RED!”

His voiced bellowed, echoing through the house. Blueblood stopped screaming, and looked up at the green unicorn.

“It's alright, Red,” he said quietly. “It's just armour. Nothing to be afraid of.”

“W-what?” Blueblood asked slowly. His mind was beginning to come back to him, but the image of the soldier in the study was still fresh in his mind. Brook crouched down, looking him in the eyes.

“Armour, Red – it was only armour. It can't hurt you. You're fine.”

“I... I...” Blueblood said, as more and more of his mind came back, “I... armour?”

“That's right,” Brook said. “Just my armour.”

The two sat on the floor for a few minutes, while Blueblood tried to stop shaking. Eventually, he looked up at his master.

“You're a soldier?” he asked softly. Brook sighed, and looked away from him.

“Once,” he said simply. “A long, long time ago. But not any more. I haven't touched that armour... haven't looked at it in years.”

“But the armour... it was so clean.”

“Spell on it,” Brook said. “Repels dust, rust – anything, really. Keeps it clean.” He stood sharply, saying, “That's enough. No more talking about that.” He turned, and trotted back to his bedroom door, opening it.

“Come in here, Red,” he said. Blueblood stood shakily, and walked to the door. The room had changed just a bit since he had last seen it – a blanket had been folded and placed on top of the bed.

“There's nowhere else for you to sleep,” Brook said. “You'll have to sleep in here.” Blueblood blinked, and nodded, stepping inside. He took the blanket off the bed and pulled it to the rug in the centre of the room. He tugged the blanket over top of himself, and curled up on the rug. Brook stared at him from the doorway, and sighed. He stepped in and closed the door behind him. With a flick of his horn he doused the lights – all the lights in the house, probably. The only light left was the final lights of day, slipping away through the window. It was no longer orange or red, having turned blue while Blueblood was in his master's study. Brook limped across the room, settling into his bed with another sigh. Blueblood peered at him from the floor.

“... Master?” he asked quietly. Brook shifted in his bed, looking over at the stallion.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I'm sorry,” Blueblood said.

“For what?”

“For... for being frightened by your armour,” the stallion said, looking down in shame. Brook stared at him. Blueblood couldn't see his expression, silhouetted by the moonlight as he was, but Blueblood imagined it was that same odd expression he always looked at him with.

“You can't help that,” Brook said finally. “There are things we can't control. Don't apologize for them.”

“But... I'm sorry you had to come snap me out of it,” Blueblood persisted. Once again, Brook was silent. He shook his head, and lay back down.

“It's been a long day, Red. You've had it hard. Sleep now. You start working in the morning.”

“Alright, master,” Blueblood said. He lay his head back down, shifting into a more comfortable position – he found it easy on the old, soft rug. Despite the scare not long ago, it was not long after he closed his eyes that he felt the hand of sleep pulling him down. He let it take hold of him, and before too long he drifted down into oblivion.