• Published 24th Jun 2013
  • 3,764 Views, 68 Comments

Prince Blueblood vs. the World - Exilo

With Celestia gone, and all of Equestria in disarray, it’s up to Prince Blueblood to set out and find her. In a harrowing journey, he will suffer, he will bleed, but will he find who he is looking for?

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Chapter 3: Prince Blueblood's Shattered Heart

Chapter Three: Prince Blueblood’s Shattered Heart

No one notices when I leave the hospital. I doubt anyone will care my bed is empty, if they even notice. Aunt Luna’s healing spell has dulled the ache in my legs and ribs, so at least I can move. When I reach the castle, I work quickly. I pack light, like they taught me back at the academy: a canteen, matches, a compass, a flask of… liquid courage, some bandages, a small knife, and a few emergency rations, all secure in the saddle bag around my middle. A cloak on my back will hide my identity from any prying eyes. I say goodbye to the guard at the gate, an earth pony stallion by the name of Sergeant Marshall Law. As I nod my head to him, I worry he might ask where I am going, but he barely spares me a glance. He is probably happy I am going, like everypony else.

I am sure I won’t find Aunt Tia. This entire thing: the suave knight setting off to save his kingdom, based on a dream he had… it is like something out of a bad piece of literature, something the peasants would fawn over, no doubt. The truth is, I’m probably going to die. I am going to walk through the Everfree Forest until I collapse, and then some predator is going to eat my corpse, and that will be the end of Prince Blueblood. Not that anypony will care.

I trot back to Marshall and stand before him.

“Prince,” he says, lifting one of his hooves over his brow and touching his helmet. I know it's Marshall, even though he wears the glamour spell that makes all the guards look alike.

I return the salute. “How is Chrystal?” I ask.


“Chrystal Ball, your wife. She is a purple mare, a unicorn. She works as a fortune teller in Canterlot, and occasionally comes to the court to entertain Aunt Luna. How is she doing?”

Marshall stares at me for several uncomfortable moments. Oh, how I regret not galloping away. I actually have to suppress a laugh at the befuddled look spread across Marshall’s dull, earthy features. At last, he says, “We are expecting our first child, actually. The doctors say it will be a colt.”

“He will not have an easy life, being the half-breed of an earth walker and unicorn.”

“I suppose,” Marshall says slowly.

“I have seen how you handle the new recruits: firm, but fair. You do not inspire fear to motivate, but the desire to do great. You’re going to make a great father, and your son will be blessed to have you.”

The sergeant stares at me as if I have six heads. I salute, and he salutes me back, though I can see the utter disdain brewing behind his eyes. What is my desire? That this one interaction will somehow redeem me in his eyes? That he will remember me after I depart? I turn to leave, and this time I gallop as fast as my aching body can take me.

I have few doubts this isn’t a trick, but what if it’s not? Could Luna have taught Aunt Tia the spell to enter dreams? Could Aunt Tia have come to me? That is just silly. She would contact her sister if she could. Or she would contact Princess Sparkle. Or her favorite niece.

Still I walk. I pull the hood over my head as I walk through Canterlot, not wanting to earn the attention of gold digging whores, the Discordians, or anypony else really. I gallop when I can, and when I grow too fatigued or the ache in my chest becomes too insistent, I slow to a trot. After I catch my breath, I gallop once more. Despite a relatively sedentary life, I have stayed in good shape. The strict exercise regime of my youth is habit I could never quite break, and the rhyme of gallop returns to me like an old friend. Before the day has ended, I am in Ponyville, a quaint little earth pony settlement. I would like to rent a room at an inn and gather my strength, but I fear Aunt Luna’s attentive gaze. I do not wish for her to know what I am doing, so I merely eat a quick dinner at a local diner, and drink several cups of coffee before heading out.

My mouth goes dry as I take those first steps into the Everfree Forest. I’ve barely ever left Canterlot in my long life. When I was younger, sometimes I went with the boys to Las Pegasus, especially if it was somepony’s birthday and we were out to party. But I’ve never, ever even entertained the thought of going into the Everfree Forest. It is like something out of the horror books of my youth, the picture books Cadance insisted on reading even as I begged her to stop. Although it is dusk, I am almost surprised by the forest’s creeping dark. Shadows stretch forward, intending to snatch me up and pull me into the black abyss of the woods. Housed inside the forest are number of monsters and beasts, all thinking I look absolutely tasty, I am sure.

My reservations are eased with a gulp from my flask. The logical thing to do would be walk slowly, carefully, methodically. Instead, I gallop full speed ahead, afraid any hint of fear on my behalf will snowball into full blown cowardice. Of course, once I am firmly within the limits of the forest, I grit my teeth and continue galloping. I can see any number of horrid shadows dancing just out of reach. Timberwolves, salamanders, dragons. I don’t stop, but I can imagine their claws are just at my heels. If I stop for even a breath, I am sure they will be upon me.

A cave in the forest? There is no shortage of those, and I wonder how Dream Aunt Tia thinks I will find the right one. Eventually, I calm down. I leap into the air and spin, horn extended and magic sparking. I am sure an entire army of timberwolves will be upon me, but there are none. I look left, and right, but I am alone on this beaten path.

Every few steps I look over my shoulder, expecting to see Princess Sparkle or Cadance sitting on a cloud, watching me. It would be Cadance. When we were younger, she would constantly play tricks on me. A thorn on my seat in school, a dribble cup filled with ruby juice, oil right outside my door so the very moment I stepped out, I would go sliding through the hallways. And Aunt Tia always wondered why I hated leaving my room.

Finding the cave isn’t actually of a problem. As I pass one cave in particular, a breath as hot as a solar flare billows out of the yawning mouth. My throat goes dry, and only by gulping half my canteen can I bare to even stand there. After a drink of liquid courage, I’m on my way.

I may not be a labor pony, but I know when something is amiss in the natural world. The heat radiating out of the shadowed abyss before me is absolutely stifling. Not the kind of heat you might get from an underwater hot spring or even a hidden lava flow. The weight of the saddle bag has suddenly tripled, but I do not want to lose it. Not quite yet. It is not easy to focus on illuminating my horn and shining a few feet in front of me. The heat is suffocating, the deeper I go. My magic, the only source of light in the endless darkness, flickers and faints with each pant that escapes my cracked lips.

“What am I doing?” I ask aloud. “Cadance? Cadance, come out. I know this is all just a prank. You and Sparkle stole my memories and put on a show in my dream. Just come out. Or is this an elaborate ploy to force my exile? Princess Luna must remain resolute in her decision, to exile any who search for Aunt Tia, or she will lose whatever authority she possesses. Do you, goddesses, really fear a mere unicorn?”

I hear something behind me, deeper in the cave. I turn, and release a blast of light blue magic at the source. “Show yourself, witch!” I scream.

Despite my upbringing and magnificent command of language, I cannot put into words the raw fear I feel when I hear a low growl before me. Something feral, something deep that echoes off each wall of the narrow tunnel.

It takes a lot of focus, but I stretch the glow of my magic, gradually exposing a long snout and a pair of glowing golden eyes peeking through the darkness of the cave. A wolf? A bear? Some sort of monster crafted by Aunt Tia’s captors to keep her liberators at bay?

All I know for sure is this monster tackles me with the strength of an angry draft horse. After the Gala, a few years back, a crimson stallion slugged me for “insulting his sister” or some such absurdity. I thought that was the worst pain I could feel, but this is double that strength. Whatever light I have at the tip of my horn flickers into oblivion. The weight and force of the monster… Aunt Luna’s spell had set my body on the path to healing, but it is far from enough. I slam against the ground, and feel my ribs shatter. Jagged bones press against my flesh as I instinctively fill my lungs. The exhale is like a belly full of broken glass. All that pain those peasants inflicted on me is suddenly back, and multiplied by ten. The contents of my saddle bag spill across the ground. The noise distracts me.

A lot of the peasants probably think I’ve never been hurt before, or have been in a fight. They see me one day at a party or during a night on the town, and they think they know me. They think they know everything about me based on one night of drunken debauchery or an article they skim in the local paper. They’re wrong. They don’t know about my time at the Point. And they sure as hell don’t know what my life was like before Aunt Tia. How could they? I don’t spend all my time bitching about what’s in the past.

I cannot see the monster, and the sounds it makes bounce around the cave, preventing me from discerning its location. My only choice is to wait, and the very second I feel one of its hot, heavy claw slam against my chest, I swing. My hoof collides with something, maybe a jaw, maybe the orbital bone of its face. A painful crack rushes up my arm, but the important thing is the whimpers and snaps from the monster before me. Blindly, I grasp with my magic, and close around something soft and warm. With both hooves over my head, I swing them down, and smash into the monster’s crown. Growls and snarls. Something clamps down on my rear leg. Lightning rushes through me, but now I know where to kick. I beat against whatever is in reach with the three hooves that remain, until the jaws unlock. Crawling backwards, I focus on an illumination spell, and a glow explodes through the cave.

It’s a salamander, and a big one at that. Relatives of dragons, though far more feral and perhaps even more dangerous, salamanders are simple creatures. Akin to large lizards, they desire a constant source of heat above all else. The black of this one’s scales makes it next to impossible to see, even with the light my horn can produce. My leg is bleeding. The salamander’s fangs remain embedded in the flesh, twisting and cutting deeper each time I try to move. No time to worry about how much I am bleeding. The salamander is already stomping and snarling its way back to me, its hot breath steaming over my body.

A reflective flicker catches my eye. The knife I had brought has spilled from my saddle bag, and now lies on the ground just out of reach. I don’t have the magic to both illuminate the cave and grasp the knife with telekinesis, and I’m not sure which is more crucial at this moment. My dilemma is solved when the salamander clamps its jaws upon my legs. Barbed teeth slice through my flesh and pain sprawls through me. With a spark of magic, I just grab the knife and swing it overhead. In the dark of the cave, I can’t see where I stab, but I aim just above the source pain, hoping maybe I can get lucky and knick the salamander’s crown. I’m shocked when the jaws unlock and a low, gurgling growl sounds before me. With both hooves, I find the handle of the knife, and push it forward, deeper into the squishy flesh I had stabbed.

It takes a gulp of liquid courage, but eventually I can focus my magic and create enough light to see. By blind luck, or perhaps divine intervention, I jabbed my knife through the salamander’s eye socket. I’m… utterly terrified it is still alive, but I feel better after carving out its other eye and slitting its throat, and jamming my knife through its nape.

Yet as the adrenaline dies down, an odd sense of remorse settles over my heart. It has been ages since I have killed something, anything, even the bugs that occasionally pass me in the garden. Some nobles find great sport in hunting wild game, but I never found such pleasure. I doubt whoever kidnapped Aunt Tia hired this creature. It is… was, just a poor brute attracted by the warmth. I invaded its home, and it attacked me out of fear, not malice.

It does not matter. Slowly working each of the barbed teeth out of the meat of my leg, I use magic to pinch the open veins and arteries. The bandages, wrapped tight around my thigh, take an ugly crimson stain in mere moments, but it will hold for the time being. After two gulps of liquid courage, I am back on my hooves, and so I head off, deeper into the cave.

As the adrenaline and rush of battle fades, so does my anger, though that’s alright. Hatred isn’t the strongest motivator in all the world. When I think about all the haughty peasants, the gold diggers, the whores throwing themselves at my hooves, my horn glows just a bit. But when I think about Aunt Tia, my horn is a beacon.

I must have missed a few of the salamander’s teeth in my thigh. I can feel them shifting and grinding jagged against flesh. I cannot describe the pain in my ribs. As long as I feel pain, though, I’m alive, and I’m still moving towards Aunt Tia, closer to the source of the stifling heat. The warmth the liquid courage puts through my system isn’t helping my perspiration, but if I wasn’t slightly drunk, I doubt I would be able to continue on, deeper and deeper into the shadowed tunnel. I no longer bother looking behind me. This is not one of Cadance’s pranks, or some sort of test orchestrated by Princess Sparkle. Nothing of concern is behind me. All that matters is forward, through the heat, and close to my aunt.

My path opens up to a large gallery.

Illumination is provided from means I do not understand, but I am happy to give my horn a rest. Truthfully, in Equestria, a cave with walls that magically glow isn’t actually all that strange, nor is it strange that a large pool of crystal clear water has somehow survived the boiling temperatures inside the cave. If I had all my senses, perhaps I would marvel at the sheer beauty of this gallery. The walls glow with a subtle blue, somehow soothing my pains and making the delicious water in my path all the more inviting. The gallery is absolutely massive, as large as the throne room back at the castle, and just as regal. If I look closely, the walls are not only blue. They shift over an entire spectrum of colors, like the aurora borealis that Aunt Luna is so found of. And the water: crystal clear and glowing a cyan that is so enticing to my tired eyes. It’s rather undignified, but I plunge my head into the pool and take a deep gulp. The water is cool against my face and washes down my throat, easing the stifling ache. I pull my head out to catch my breath, only to throw myself into the water and let it wash over my pains.

That is better. At least now I can think about things other than my parched throat. And my leg doesn’t hurt as much as it did before, though the bandages still have an ugly, crimson hue. Perhaps the water is blessed with magic and will ease my wounds. Or perhaps I am so stretched beyond exhaustion, the cool water is enough. I climb out and sit with my legs and lower body still in the cold embrace. I just need a minute to catch my breath, then it is back to searching for Aunt Tia.

There are hoofsteps behind me. I don’t want to put weight on my leg, so I just scoot on my rump until I’m facing the other way. Some tiny part of me actually hopes to find Aunt Tia standing there, but I expect to find Princess Cadance, laughing at me. Instead I see a stallion… a familiar stallion. A stallion I haven’t seen since I was a colt…

“Dad?” I ask.

It has been at least two decades since I last laid eyes on my father, but I recognize him, and a frightened shiver runs down my spine. Dad was a grand stallion, twice as large as the largest workhorse in all of Canterlot. He was the veteran of a dozen wars, a dozen more conquests, and it showed in every aspect of his being; from the way he carried himself to that stern glare that could get even a princess to shudder in her golden slippers. I always thought he was a giant, for he had a giant’s strength and a giant’s presence. His fur was white, like mine, and his mane was blonde, like mine, though worn so much more handsome than I could ever hope for. My blue eyes are from mom, though. His were green. The eyes that stare at me have that stern cruelty I have so longed to forget.

I stare at my father as he trots towards me. But it cannot be my father. My father is dead. The stallion never looks at me, though. He looks through me, as if I am not even there. In fact, as he draws closer, I am afraid he’ll crush me beneath one of his great hooves. I scamper out of the way like a frightened mouse. “Dad?” I manage to ask. What a stupid thing to say, but what else is there? He trots past me and dips his head, so he can drink from the pool of water. Like a bug I cower behind him, head hung low, tail tucked.

When I am sure his drink is finished, only then do I dare to open my mouth. “Aunt Tia said you were dead,” I say. “She said you died stopping the dragon encroachment.”

“Is that the story she came up with?” my father asks. “I can’t say I blame her. There is no way you could handle the truth. You always were such a weak little thing, something you inherited from your mother, no doubt. It did not come from me.”

I take a step forward. My hoof, shaking, reaches out to touch my father, but he makes contact with me first. One of his hooves swings and smashes across my jaw, sending me tumbling over the ground like a foal struck by a giant. It has been years since I felt that shudder of pain, but it still brings tears to my eyes as the tingle settles over my jaw. I spit blood and lift my head, which is a mistake. I should know better, even after all these years, for such an act of defiance earns another stomp. My father does not move his hoof quickly. He keeps it pinned on my cheek, crushing my head against the ground.

“You weak, pathetic foal,” he says. “Thirty years to mature and you’re still the same pathetic little creature as when I left you. To think, when you were born, I had such high hopes. I held you in my arms and said, ‘This little stallion shall carry my name and do me proud.’ What a fool I was. When you were young, I thought you were just… lacking definition. In the fire of the forge, metal finds its shape, and I hoped I could forge you into a respectable unicorn, deserving of your name. I thought I could sharpen you into a saber that could cut the unicorns their place of reverence among the lesser species, and even the princess whore would bow before your hooves. Oh how wrong I was. No matter how hard I worked to shape you into something I could be proud of, you always remained the little foal, as weak as when I held you in my arms that first day.”

“I-I’m sorry,” I mutter.

“Sorry?” He lifts his hoof, only to slam it down again. “You are sorry? How tired I am of that word. You are always sorry, after all. Sorry for your weakness. Sorry for your stupidity. Sorry for all your failures, as if that might remedy the problems that you have caused. Sorry for making a fool of me in front of my peers. Sorry you can’t finish the twenty mile jog. Or are you sorry for what you did to your mother? She gave her life for you, and this is how you honor her memory?”

The weight of his hoof leaves my cheek. I don’t dare lift my head, and soon enough he grips my horn and drags me to the pool. When I try to look away, he bends my horn in a horrid way, threatening to snap it off my crown unless I stare, eyes open, at my reflection. “Look at you,” he snarls. Now he screams, and what a terrifying noise it is to hear him make. “Look at what you are. When I was your age, I had conquered lands. I had slain dragons. Mares were throwing themselves at me, hoping to give me an heir. You don’t even have the balls to be alone with a whore unless it’s your aunt. You’re not a unicorn; you’re not even an earth pony like your mother. You’re just a waste, a piece of mud that fell out from between her legs.”

“I-I’m sorry.”

“Stop saying that!” he screams. I can no longer hear him. I try to take a sharp breath, only for icy water to flood my nostrils and throat. Crazed, I struggle and fight, trying to find a firm stance to push against, but the ground beneath me is slippery against my hooves. Oxygen slips away from me as bubbles float past my vision. The tears that stream down my face only add to the pool that will drown me.

My father yanks my head up sharply. I gasp for air, but quickly I am thrust forward, my entire head plunged beneath the surface. I scream and beg, hoping somehow the bubbles may carry my apologies to the surface, and I will not enrage my father further. I can hear his shouts and screams through the layer of water. He tells me stories only he and I would know. He lists every failure in my low, pathetic life, and I feel myself drift away.

He yanks me out of the water and throws me to the ground.

“You’re not my son,” he says. “You’re not Celestia’s nephew. You’re not a unicorn. You’re just mud, not even worth the effort it takes to hold you under. Make this cave your tomb. It will be the only good thing you ever do in your entire life.”

“I’m sorry,” I say again. I curl up tight, shaking, waiting for the next kick that is sure to come. There’s always just one more blow. Just when I think it’s over, he’ll hit me again. He’ll see my tears and he’ll hit me, because stallions don’t cry. He’ll hit me because I don’t lift my head, or he’ll hit me when I do, because no matter what, I’m being insolent. He’ll hit me if I say it, but I can’t think of what else say, and I’m terrified of the suffocating quiet.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…”

Author's Note:

Thank the Sun I wrote this fic out fully. I doubt I would have the will to press on otherwise.

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