• Published 13th Oct 2011
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To Be a Better Stallion - Autumn Wind



Blueblood works hard to improve in order to regain Rarity's affections.

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Chapter the Fourth - To Look Back at One's Hoofprints

The loud crowing of a rooster awoke Big Macintosh. He stood up from his large bed and stretched, slowly doing away with the sleepiness that ran through his limbs. A smile on his face, he descended the stairs that led to and from the upper floor. The wooden stairway greeted him with a familiar series of creaks. The house was very quiet. Unsurprisingly, he was the first to wake up.

The Apple Family’s home was humble but comfortable, built of rustic wood and perseverance. It was decorated simply, but offered a warm welcome. The stallion nudged a few windows wide open, feeling the crisp morning air slowly flow through the house. He took a deep breath. Oak and apples; he could never tire of that smell.

As usual, he checked on his grandmother. She was sleeping peacefully. Although the elderly mare was in good health for her age, her grandson couldn’t help but be worried. Every morning, he was relieved that nothing had happened during the night.

With that brief moment of worry set aside, Big Macintosh headed to the kitchen to get breakfast ready. A few minutes later, the smell of warm oatmeal and apples wafted through the house, and the sound of hooves against hardwood could be heard resonating.

“Mornin’, big bro,” Applejack called out from the top of the stairs as she left the room she shared with the youngest of the Apple siblings. She took a deep, eager sniff of the delicious scent. “Apple and cinnamon oatmeal. Ain’t nothin’ quite like it.”

“Eeyup. Apple Bloom awake yet?” Big Macintosh asked as he ladled up a generous portion of the warm breakfast for his sister.

“Yep. I tried to get her up, but you know how she is. ‘Five more minutes.’”

“You’re sportin’ some serious bedmane there, sis.”

With a chuckle, Applejack swiped the bowl from his hooves and grabbed a spoon on her way to the table. She sat down at her usual place and gulped down a heaping spoonful.

“Impeccable cookin’ as usual. So, think Blueblood will be coming again today?”

Big Macintosh served himself a generous portion before joining her.

“Hah, ain’t got a clue. He was along with it yesterday, but who knows what’ll happen. I’ve got a little something planned for him if he comes.”

“Huh. And what might that be?”

A smile traced itself on Macintosh’s face.

“You’ll find out soon enough.”

The quick taps of small hooves against hardwood echoed through the house, and a young filly’s voice could be heard.

“Mornin’ big bro! Mornin’ big sis!”

Apple Bloom all but galloped down the stairs, drawing a little ire from Applejack.

“Apple Bloom, what did I tell you about runnin’ and shoutin’ in the morning?”

The filly skidded to a stop, suddenly looking downtrodden.

“You said I should be careful not to wake grandma. I’m sorry for forgetting.”

She was quickly cheered up by a hoof on her shoulder and a smile from her sister.

“It’s okay Apple Bloom, I know how excited you get when you’re going to see your friends. C’mon, breakfast’s waitin’ for you.”

Big Macintosh chuckled as he served a third bowl of oatmeal.

“I know another filly who was the same at your age. Ain’t that right, Applejack?”

As the two sisters shared a giggle, Applejack led her sister back to the table where a steaming bowl of oatmeal awaited the filly. With the three siblings finally gathered at the table, Big Macintosh turned his attention to Apple Bloom.

“Say, Apple Bloom, are you Crusaders still gathering them cutie mark stories? I think I’ve got a pony you three might be interested in meetin’...”

~~~

Blueblood hummed to himself as he happily cantered towards Sweet Apple Acres. Carrying his borrowed work clothes and some hygiene supplies in his saddlebags, Blueblood took great care to avoid the many puddles that littered the pavement.

Big Macintosh had requested that the royal turn up early that day. At first, Prince Blueblood had been rather averse to the idea of rising early. However, yesterday’s encounter at the bakery had proven Macintosh’s advice to be wise and fruitful.

Two familiar voices caught his attention in the distance, and a pair of familiar fillies came rushing by.

“Hurry up, Diamond Tiara! Otherwise we’ll be late and Ms. Manners will shout at us!”

“You hurry up! I’m already going as fast as I can! Whose stupid idea was it to schedule etiquette class on Saturday morning, anyway?”

“Hey look! It’s Prince Blueblood!”

The two fillies ran by him, not pausing their gallop. If their teacher was anything like the matronly mare that had taught him at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, the threat of detention hovering over their heads was likely the driving force behind their hooves.

“Hi, Prince Blueblood!”, their two voices rang in unison.

“Hello, girls! Don’t be late now! Oh no! Wait! Watch ou-”

There was a massive splash as the two schoolgirls ran straight into an enormous puddle. In unison, the two of them whined.

“Aww... no!”

“What do we do now, Diamond Tiara? Miss Manners will go crazy if we show up like this!”

Those poor fillies... It’d be a shame for them to arrive so soaked and dirty to their etiquette classes. What are they going to do now?

When his eyes met his own reflection in a nearby puddle, Prince Blueblood rolled his eyes at his own train of thought.

Right. Unicorn. Experienced in grooming. No problem.

He approached the two fillies, floating a brush and a towel out of his saddlebags.

“Need a helping hoof, girls?”

Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon answered with a shameful nod. Fortunately, neither of them had been wearing a dress or other elaborate clothing, so getting the two of them back to proper appearances would be a cinch. A few seconds and a quick whirl of magic later, their coats and manes were as clean and dry as ever.

With thanks and a pair of grateful smiles, the two fillies vanished in the distance, giggling between themselves at their good luck.

Congratulating himself on a job well done, Prince Blueblood quickened his pace. It would be unseemly of him to be late, after all.

~~~

Well on his way to Sweet Apple Acres, Prince Blueblood had traded his usual relaxed walk for a more eager trot. Of course, he still abhorred the work, and he was monstrously sore in some areas. However, Big Macintosh’s teachings having been as fruitful as his orchard, Blueblood couldn’t help but be curious to find out more.

He was invincible. He had his work clothes to protect him from the dirt, his morale was still heightened from helping the distinguished fillies, and the smell of the blooming trees was invigorating. He would get to the farm, work like an honest pony and become the stallion he should have always been. Nothing could stop him. Nothing at all.

Nothing except the sight that awaited him when he got a clear view of the orchard. Mud. So much mud. Entire acres of mud. Filthy Mud Acres, they should have called the place.

“How preposterous! How ridiculous, how outrageous, how... utterly absurd! Confound all of this mud!”

The bulk of his frustration having been vented, Prince Blueblood let out a discouraged sigh, before resuming the fateful walk to his muddy nightmare.

At the gate to Sweet Apple Acres, he found Big Macintosh waiting for him.

“Hey, Blueblood. Glad you came back. Was wonderin’ if you’d show up.”

Swallowing his nervousness, Prince Blueblood stood firm. He was here to learn, after all. Hopefully, he’d be able to get more good advice that would pay off like yesterday’s.

“I... wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

The embellishment was obvious, but Big Macintosh took it in stride. Turning back towards the farmhouse, he motioned for Blueblood to follow him.

“By the way, there’s a couple ponies here who would like to meet you.”

“Oh? Who might they be?”

A strange buzzing noise could be heard in the distance, and three young voices pulverized the silence into submission.

“CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS WELCOME PARTY! YAY!”

Before Blueblood could even open his mouth to complain about the excessive loudness and shouting, a small wagon drifted to a stop in front of him, spraying his legs with gravel and dirt. Startled, he stumbled back.

Would these fillies be careful? That is not acceptable conduct for children.

They were all approximately the same age, three cheerful schoolfillies. Each of them was clad in a roughly sewn cape of red and gold fabric. The shape of a golden pony rearing up on a blue shield background was proudly displayed, though its meaning was unknown to him.

The first was a young white unicorn with a bright smile and emerald green eyes. Her elegant pink and purple mane displayed a certain knowledge of grooming. She slowly disembarked from the wagon, her legs a little wobbly. The abrupt stop had almost sent her tumbling over the stop of the wagon. Of the three, she definitely was the most presentable.

“Scootaloo, think you could try to stop a little softer next time? You almost sent me flying into the mud. Aren’t you supposed to be the pegasus here?”

Blueblood’s attention turned to the second filly. She was an orange pegasus with a violet mane, rough and unkempt, in a rather coltish cut. Had her wings really been making all that noise? Clearly, she would be a very strong flier one day. However, she very much could have benefitted from better grooming. It was unseemly for a girl her age to take so little care of her appearance. She reminded him of the pegasus he had had a run-in with the previous day- brash and overconfident.

“Sorry, Sweetie Belle. Didn’t mean to scare you, just got carried away.”

The third filly giggled.

“Oh, don’t be such a scaredy cat, Sweetie Belle, that was so much fun!”

Her accent was a dead ringer for Big Macintosh’s. This could only be the Apple Bloom that the farmer had mentioned yesterday. For a farmer filly, she looked well-groomed. Her red mane and her yellow coat were brushed with great care and the large pink bow that adorned her head certainly suited her well. In a single leap, she hopped out of the wagon and landed between her friends.

“I am not a scaredy cat! I just don’t want to get hurt!”

Sweetie Belle gave her friend an indignant glare. Blueblood fully empathized. He’d seen her almost tumble out of the cart, and indeed, she could have gotten hurt.

Big Macintosh stepped past the beleaguered Prince Blueblood, giving the fillies an admonishing glance.

“You three should really be careful with that thing, otherwise you might wind up hurtin’ yourselves... or somepony else.”

Okay, at least I guess they’re in good hooves for their misbehavior. Wear a mask, Blueblood. Wear a mask. They’re just fillies; you were a rambunctious colt too.

Prince Blueblood forced his anger back, and did his best to smile in spite of his annoyance.

“So, who might these three mystery damsels be?”

Pridefully, Apple Bloom seized her chance.

“I’m Apple Bloom, this is Sweetie Belle-”

“Hi!”

“-and this is Scootaloo.”

“The one and only!”

“Together we are...” the three fillies shouted in harmony as they assumed dramatic poses. Clearly, this was an act they were familliar with. “The Cutie Mark Crusaders!”

Noting the prince’s apparent confusion, Big Macintosh was quick to explain the fillies’ goal and their predilection for adventuring and for the gathering of Cutie Mark stories. Noticing that the Crusaders were distracted by the approach of a friendly Winona, the farmer seized the moment to whisper some very important words.

“Sweetie Belle’s Rarity’s little sister. Thought you’d like to know.”

Taking a mental note to ensure he would make a good impression on his love interest’s sister, Prince Blueblood couldn’t help but smile at the fillies’ enthusiasm about their quest. Despite their unruliness, there was something somewhat endearing about their antics. He recalled himself, as a young colt, having had great difficulties obtaining his Cutie Mark, due to the very... sheltering nature of his mother.

“Your quest is a very noble one, Cutie Mark Crusaders. I am told that you wish to seek my help? How may this unicorn be of use?”

The foals stood still for a moment, giving him a confused look as his words slowly registered. From what information they had recieved about Prince Blueblood, they had not expected him to be so interested in helping.

“You talk funny,” Scootaloo noted, to Big Macintosh’s great amusement. Blueblood stood surprised for a moment, irritated. Struggling to not drop an unkind word, Blueblood slowly paced through his mind.

Wear a mask, Blueblood. Wear a mask. She’s not used to meeting people of your stature, and your manner of speaking caught her by surprise, it’s all.

“Scootaloo! That’s not a very nice thing to say,” Sweetie Belle noted. “Sorry, Prince Blueblood. Scootaloo can be kind of silly sometimes.”

“It’s...” Prince Blueblood paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. “... quite alright. Now then, if we may return to the subject at hoof...”

With one of her hooves still occupied with petting the family dog, Apple Bloom snapped to attention, finally asking the question that had been tantalizing the Cutie Mark Crusaders since that morning.

“Well, actually, Prince Blueblood, we were kind of wonderin’ how you got your Cutie Mark. We’ve been askin’ lots of ponies, but we’ve never had a chance to ask a noble before. Big Macintosh told us we might learn somethin’ from it.”

The farmer lapsed into a look of surprise. Clearly, he hadn’t expected that his little set up would make itself so apparent. Prince Blueblood simply laughed. Though the little pegasus had gotten rather strongly on his nerves, he couldn’t help but enjoy the attention.

Also, the longer he could stay away from all that mud, the better.

“So, you’re the one who put them up to this, Macintosh? Is this supposed to be a hidden lesson for me?”

“Hah,” the farmer chuckled, “just figured you and them both might learn somethin’ from reflectin’ on a story. It’s like Granny always told me: if you don’t stop to look at your hoofprints now and then, you’ll never know if you’re really goin’ straight.”

“Wise words, Macintosh. Wise words indeed. Now then, perhaps we should move to somewhere more comfortable. I’m afraid this isn’t the shortest of stories...”

~~~

Moments later, five ponies and a dog had gathered back at the living room of the old farmhouse. By now, Applejack was out working the fields. They were soon joined by an elderly mare, whom Big Macintosh was quick to introduce as Granny Smith. She offered a warm smile but few words, and was content with only receiving the same from the prince.

The room fell silent, with only the fireplace’s crackling and the birds chirping melodiously outsided to break the silence.

“Now then, as we were saying. It all started when I was but a young colt...”

~~~

Three blank-flanked foals cheerfully galloped through the woodland preserves of Canterlot Ridge, basking in their stolen freedom. Every now and then, some adventure would tickle their fancy and they would flee from the stuffiness of Canterlot’s high-class life for a few hours.

Their cheerful laughter livened up the quiet forest, and soon, animals were partaking in their joy. The birds chirped along with them, and the occasional rabbit or squirrel poked its head out of a burrow or a hollow tree to say hi.

Leading the pack was the young Prince Blueblood, his long golden mane and tail waving in the wind behind him. For once, he got to exit the house without his mother saddling him with unnecessary amounts of accessories, and he was enjoying the glory of freedom, and his joy was clearly reflected in his sky-blue eyes. His first growth spurt had been rather kind to him, and he galloped in elegant yet powerful bursts.

To his left, a pegasus filly of the deepest violet kept up with him with a peculiar mix of elegance and recklessness, her fluttering wings occasionally carrying her for short bursts of low flight before her legs resumed their course. She was in the process of learning to fly, and enjoying every minute of it. Her unruly red mane, no longer held tight in a constricting braid, blazed behind her. She wanted to reach their destinations before her companions, that much was obvious in her deep green eyes. Much like Blueblood, she was entering adolescent age, and her own growth had been rather kind as well.

Lady Amethyst was, first and foremost, his closest confidante. They had met, two years ago, at a social function held by Blueblood’s mother, and the two had soon become fast friends, perhaps more. Far from being opposed to their relationship, their parents had began not so secretly holding plans of arranged marriage. Amethyst’s family stood to gain the presence of a true descendant of Princess Celestia, and Blueblood’s mother had reasoned that such a marriage would reflect well on her own family.

At the Prince’s right, a second colt stood; a young earth pony by the name of Apricot. Unlike his two companions, he was no noblecolt. Apricot was the son of a gardener who worked for various rich homeowners across Canterlot, one of which was Blueblood’s mother. The duchess simply loathed the young commoner, who she felt would be a terrible influence upon her son, but Blueblood refused to heed her threats. Apricot was a loyal friend, and most of all, entertaining. Used to being told to sit quietly and not bother the aristocrats, he cherished these moments of play, expending amounts of energy that even his companions often had trouble matching, despite their more advanced development. Apricot was a late bloomer, and though he shared the same age as his two friends, he looked much younger.

He kept up with Blueblood’s gallop and Amethyst’s bursts of flight through some impressive leaps of his own, bounding like a gazelle more than running. His short green mane bounced wildly as he hopped, alternately rising to the sky, wildly waving in the wind and coming to crash against his neck. His peach coat was a blur and his large hazel eyes frenetically shifted from point to point, taking in all the marvels of the forest. Although he had often visited Canterlot Ridge, its marvels never ceased to amaze him.

In their stampede, they didn’t hear the rustling of the fallen leaves some distance away, nor the steps of paws and claws that soon followed.

Soon, they broke to a halt when they reached their destination: the Trickle. A rather strong misnomer, the Trickle was a famous spot amongst the more rambunctious foals of the city. There, a small waterfall dove from the summit of Mount Canterlot, splashing into a moderately shallow basin before trickling off through a steam and down the rest of the mountain side. If you asked almost any foal in the city, they would tell you it was an awesome swimming spot that their parents were unaware of. If you asked almost any parent, it was a nostalgic area that they let their foals enjoy much as they had in their youth.

As the three of them were preparing to take the first dive, they were interrupted by the sound of steps in the fallen leaves. A defiant male voice rang out.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here? I spy with my little eye three foals with more money than common sense.”

Blueblood looked up at the stranger, a young gryphon, probably one or two years older than them. His coloration was similar to that of any other gryphon, brown with white feathers, and his claws were just as threatening. Red markings decorated his menacing eyes and the tips of his short fringe. He stood tall, his piercing stare greedily locked on to the small pile of discarded accessories some hooves away from the edge of the water; three satchels of bits, Blueblood’s silver watch, Amethyst’s bejeweled bracelet and her golden earrings.

Immediately standing at attention, Blueblood and Amethyst faced the gryphon, while the less confident Apricot took place behind them, somewhat nervous. Blueblood quickly sized up the situation. The bandit might have been somewhat larger than them, but they had strength in numbers. The gryphon’s claws looked somewhat soft and stubby and one of them was broken. He was far from being an adult. He would have strength over them, but he most likely was a brutish, sloppy fighter. Amethyst herself was quite fast, and if Apricot’s work on the peach tree Blueblood’s mother had in the backyard was anything to judge by, the young colt could buck up with the best of their age. As for Prince Blueblood, his mother had ensured that he had the means to defend himself. He was without rival in his horn fencing classes. That gryphon had no idea what he was getting into.

Amethyst was the first to speak up, taking a step forward and flaring her wings for added impact:

“You think you’re all that with your claws and beak, but you don’t scare us!”

Blueblood soon worked up the courage to join in her jeering, himself taking a step, his horn glinting in the sunlight.

“Go back to your badlands, gryphon! This is no place for the likes of you!”

Somewhat hesitant, Apricot took a clue from his friends’ bravado, soon standing tall and holding himself ready.

“Hah. You foals think you’re so brave, huh?”

Without any warning, the gryphon suddenly lunged forward, aiming his right talon straight at the young unicorn colt. A straight-up attack, somewhat sloppy; they were being taken lightly. Thanks to a reflex forged from two years of intensive horn fencing classes, Prince Blueblood parried the strike with the tip of his horn, knocking away the claws, only to be knocked aside himself by a brutal kick.

“Nice try there, loser!”

Wincing in pain, Blueblood rose back to his hooves, somewhat dazed, taking in the scene. The gryphon had effortlessly knocked Amethyst out of her attempted diving charge, and was now advancing menacingly towards Apricot, a terrible gleam in his eyes.

“What about you? Are you going to pick a fight with me too? Hah! You’re so tiny! You couldn’t hit a tree if I threw you at it!”

“Y- you don’t scare me, you big meanie!”

Slowly moving back as the avian walked towards him, Apricot glanced around with fear in his eyes, looking for an escape path. To his assailant’s right, he noticed Blueblood whispering a few words to Amethyst, before charging back towards the bandit.

Taking off to the left, Amethyst taunted the gryphon, nodding for Apricot to move right.

“Hey! Feathers for brains! I bet you can’t catch me!”

The violet filly flew straight by her foe, slapping him behind the head with her wing as she sped by. He took a wild swipe at her but missed entirely due to her speed and his own clumsiness. Standing up at last, Blueblood scraped his hoof against the ground and charged at him, aiming his horn straight for the gryphon’s ribs.

“Hah! Obvious distraction, and even more obvious charge! You foals are useless!”

The bandit stood up on his hindlegs, lifting his claws high, ready to bring them down on the unicorn foal, expecting to counter the ridiculous attack. Expecting.

Shouting over the thunder of his hooves, Blueblood called out to his friend.

“Apricot! Buck him!”

“What? Oh! Okay! Heeee-yah!”

Startled, the gryphon didn’t know how to react and nearly toppled over when a pair of hooves struck him right in the rear. It became obvious that Apricot had slipped out of his mind. He could barely keep from tumbling forwards, but soon managed to catch himself, still on his hind legs.

“Hah! Can’t knock me down so easily!”

He had spoken too soon, forgetting Blueblood’s charge in his surprise. The unicorn foal dove into his legs at the last second, knocking him off balance and flipping him onto his stomach. He landed with a thundering crash.

“Pony Pile!”

The filly, seeing the scene develop, noticed the perfect opportunity and threw herself on the gryphon’s back, pinning his wings. Blueblood and Apricot saw the occasion, both tossing themselves at him. The combined weight of three young ponies was too much for the thief, and he could do no more than thrash about, trying to free himself.

Over his indignant shouts, the foals began discussing, pondering their curious situation. They couldn’t just get off him, he’d attack again.

“Okay, everypony. Get ready. On my signal, Amethyst, grab the jewelry, and we’ll all run back to town. Ready?”

“Ready.”

“Ready.”

“Go!”

The foals dashed off in a conjoined effort, the sheer force of their taking off knocking the wind out of the gryphon. He tried to run after them, but his larger bulk and his body suited more for flight than ground made him unable to catch up with them. He could only pitifully watch his prey vanish in the distance and grumble at the precious objects he had come so close to swiping for himself.

~~~

“Hahaha! Did you two see the look on his face when Blueblood knocked him off his paws? That was hilarious!” Amethyst was laying on her back, struggling for breath through waves of laughter.

“I can’t believe I managed to buck him like that! It’s all thanks to you guys!”

“That was fantastic, you two! That kick he gave me... really hurt though. I hope it didn’t leave a mark on my...”

Blueblood couldn’t help but squeal cheerfully when he realised that their adventure had indeed left a mark on his flank. However, far from a bruise, it was an entirely different kind of mark; a Cutie Mark.

~~~

“... and on that day, I finally knew who I was meant to be. You see, this mark is the sigil of the Blueblood Family. I have been told that my father bore it, as did his father before him, and his father before him, and so on, ever since my great great great... well you get the point… great grandfather first earned his Cutie Mark. The compass stands for leading others in the right direction, leading the way through example.”

“What a terrific story! That was really something else! I especially liked the part where you and your friends beat the gryphon all like ‘Whoosh!’ and ‘Bang!’ and ‘Pow!’. I met a gryphon once, she was pretty much like the one you described. Well except she was a girl and she has purple feathers, but then red, purple, what’s the difference really? Oh, and...”

Blueblood could only stare, dumbstruck, at the new pony that had suddenly appeared in his perception. Lost in his recounting, he had missed the entrance of two new ponies in the room. The first one was Applejack, the farmer mare whom he clearly remembered, but the other one was unknown to him. She was of a shocking pink color, bearing an unruly frizzled mane of gigantic proportions, and an absurd tail to match it. The prince stuttered for a moment, attempting to comprehend what was happening, as the mare oozed words and onomatopoeias from every point of her existence.

“Pinkie Pie, I think you’re weirdin’ out our guest here.”

Applejack prodded her friend in the ribs with her elbow to reinforce her hinting.

“Oh! Sorry,” Pinkie giggled. “I get so excited when I meet new ponies, and even more so when I hear stories like this one.” She paused for a moment, blinking twice, before a realisation struck her. “Oh! A new pony! Of course! This calls for a party!”

Noting Blueblood suddenly looked like a rabbit staring at the lantern of a speeding carriage, Applejack reeled her friend in.

“Pinkie, I really don’t think that’s a good idea right now. Plus, you promised me you’d help with getting the barn cleaned up.”

“Oh! You’re right! I’d never break a promise to you... or to anyone else, really! Okie dokie lokie, let’s go!”

Silently thanking Celestia that she wouldn’t have to deal with Pinkie in yet another party craze, Applejack led Pinkie Pie outside, where they disappeared into the large barn.

Blueblood didn’t know how to react but stare, mouth agape. Despite the unusual happenings, everyone else was unfazed.

“What... was all this madness about?”

Big Macintosh chuckled, rising from the sofa he had been occupying.

“That’s Pinkie Pie, one of Applejack’s friends. Don’t try to understand. Trust me, it’s better that way.”

There was an awkward, confused pause.

“What a strange pony.”

“That was such an awesome story! You guys really defeated a gryphon? Wow!”

Scootaloo now looked at the prince admiringly, in sheer contrast to the indifferent attitude she had given him earlier. The other two fillies were quick to agree.

“Of course! A pony leadin’ Cutie Mark! Maybe we could get one?”

Applebloom was ready to dash for the door, but Sweetie Belle was hesitant.

“Well... how would we get one like that? I mean, fighting a bandit would be dangerous. Where would we even find a bandit in the first place?”

Blueblood gave them a charitable, if somewhat forced smile. It would reflect badly on him if any of them were to be injured in some reckless attempt at getting their Cutie Marks like he’d gotten his.

“Now, now, girls, don’t you go rushing into anything reckless. We only had to fight him off because there was no other option for us, and I would definitely have gotten my Cutie Mark one way or another.”

Big Macintosh was quick to agree.

“Apple Bloom, don’t I catch you doin’ anything dangerous like that. I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out plenty of other ways to find that Cutie Mark, if it’s what yours turns out to be.”

Apple Bloom gave her brother a disappointed yet resigned look.

“Aw... fine. C’mon, crusaders! We’ve got some crusading to do!”

With a united shout, the fillies ran off, prompting a gentle and amused smile from the elderly pony.

“CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS PONY LEADERS, YAY!”

Prince Blueblood rolled his eyes, his annoyance being somewhat of a source of amusement to Big Macintosh, who couldn’t suppress a smirk.

“Always so loud, aren they?”

“Eeyup. Just means they liked your story, though. Thanks for humorin’ the foals; lotsa ponies just try to ignore ‘em.”

“Ignore those three? That sounds like a pretty difficult task, now that you mention it.”

“You’re a witty one, Blueblood, y’know that? C’mon, we’ve got some work to do.”

“Right.”

Okay, Blueblood, you can do this. You went through the same yesterday, and you turned out fine, if somewhat sore. Today shouldn’t be any wor- right. Mud.

The horrific memories came back. The spring showers. The storm. The mud. So much mud. They’d have to work in the mud. It wasn’t something the boots and poncho could protect him against. He felt his legs shaking under him.

“So... What shall we be working on today? Ploughing another field? Planting some manner of vegetable?”

“Actually, I was thinking we’d go and help my sister and her friend with puttin’ some order back in the barn.”

The prince blinked twice, as his mind gradually wrapped itself around the news. When he caught on, Prince Blueblood burst into cheerful laughter, leaving his host baffled.

“By the sky and the sun! By the moon and the stars! There is justice in this world after all!”

~~~

To Be Continued

~~~

Coming up next in To Be a Better Stallion

“What exactly does it mean to you, leadin’ ponies?”

~Big Macintosh

Prince Blueblood stared blankly at the young pink mare, locked in a state of shocked incomprehension.

“But... you... I... what? Oh... you thought... Huh?”

Dear Lady Amethyst...

~Prince Blueblood

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