• Published 10th Jul 2014
  • 2,101 Views, 215 Comments

Sleipnir's Big Adventure - BlackRoseRaven



A hero makes an unlikely alliance with a stubborn prince, and they adventure across Equestria together.

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Bye Bye Bluebird

Chapter Two: Bye Bye Bluebird
~BlackRoseRaven

Prince Blueblood stormed through the halls of Canterlot, his handsome features puckered with fury. It had taken him forever to get out of the hospital wing: the nurses had all wanted to poke and prod him and oh, he was perfectly aware that he knew they'd all been putting him through as much torture as they could justify just because he'd been the one to put forwards the idea to cut their budget. But really, if the servants got sick and couldn't afford doctors, that was their own fault! They didn't need this huge nursing staff taking care of these... these babies!

Blueblood huffed as he headed towards Princess Celestia's chambers. Well, he knew just how to get this all straightened out, and how to make that fiend Sleipnir pay for what he'd done. He knew the stallion was just trying to cozy up to Princess Celestia, after all: he acted all nice and kind, but really, he was nothing more than a manipulator.

No pony was going to get between him and Princess Celestia. He, Prince Blueblood, absolutely refused to allow another smidgen of what was rightfully his to be stolen away. First Princess Twilight Sparkle, just because she had... what, made a tremendous mistake and grown a pair of wings? There was no way he was going to sit back and watch another crime be committed, and see another pony thrust into line in front of him for the throne... no, he was going to deal with this right now, before the evening grew any later, before tomorrow came. And then Auntie Celestia could take him back to bed and tuck him in, just like she always loved to do. Besides, she knew that when he didn't get his goodnighties, not even Aunt Luna's sleeping charm could stop him from having nightmares.

He stormed up to the door of Princess Celestia's bedroom, then scowled a bit as he thought he heard... giggling from inside. But he thrust this out of his mind before hammering on it firmly, then he stepped forwards and shoved the door open, beginning: “Auntie, we have to talk about-”

He was greeted by a surprised yelp, and Blueblood stared blankly as Celestia hurriedly yanked the covers of her bed up around herself, her mane frazzled, her features flushed as Sleipnir looked up with a cheerful grin on his face... and that and the blanket in his lap were all he was wearing. Blueblood gaped in horror from the doorway, then he stuttered helplessly: “A-A-Auntie?”

“Get out!” Celestia said hurriedly, blushing deeply in embarrassment. Blueblood only stood for a few moments, mouthing wordlessly and staring at them, and then Celestia flicked her horn and slammed the door on the stallion's face, knocking him staggering back into the hall with a yowl before he collapsed dumbly on his side.

Celestia reached up and rubbed at her messy mane, and then she winced when Sleipnir wrapped a foreleg around her, squeezing her comfortably around the shoulders and saying kindly: “Oh, come now. I am sure the handsome lad has seen worse.”

“Auntie!” Blueblood yelled shrilly from the other side of the door, and there was a loud thump as he likely ran right into the door before howling: “Get away from her, Sleipnir! That is the Princess of Equestria, you have no right to lay a hoof upon her!”

“I have laid more than that upon her.” Sleipnir waggled his eyebrows at Celestia, who looked torn between exasperation and amusement... and then she jumped when one of Sleipnir's hooves caressed her playfully. “And I have just done so again! What is my punishment, Princess?”

Blueblood howled in horror from the hall, and Celestia winced as she realized that he was probably still eavesdropping through the door, the ivory mare hurriedly leaning forwards and shouting: “Prince Blueblood, this... I am very busy right now!”

“Oh god no!” Celestia winced at Blueblood's voice: he was going to attract the entire castle at this rate. “You can't do this! Auntie, he's... he's dirty! What... what about goodnighties? Goodnighties!”

“We are both very dirty now.” Sleipnir said helpfully, and Celestia shoved a hoof into his mane and pushed him away as she leaned forwards, a mix of maternal concern and growing frustration on her features.

“Prince Blueblood, you are not a little colt anymore and I am certain you can handle getting to sleep on your own for one night. Now, I am asking you as your princess and as your aunt to please leave, and we will discuss this tomorrow.” Celestia said loudly, and then she whispered under her breath: “Please, please, please...”

There was a whimpering from outside, and then a childish cry followed by the sound of hooves hurrying away, and Celestia sighed tiredly and slumped backwards, crossing her forelegs and scowling at the door. She glared at Sleipnir when he slid up beside her, but his hooves gently stroked down along her body and found all the right, tender places, and she wasn't able to stay angry at his kind eyes and gentle smile for long.

She slumped against his tattooed chest, and he kissed her forehead and pulled her easily against him... before there was an awkward shuffling from under the blankets, and a moment later a sapphire mare stuck her head out, her own starry mane frazzled and unkempt as she asked awkwardly: “Is he gone?”

“Oh, aye, I believe so. The poor lad, he seems quite attached to thee. Not that I can blame him in the slightest for that.” Sleipnir winked at Celestia, then squeezed her against his chest before he added kindly when the other mare looked up at him almost grumpily: “Oh, do not give me such a look, it makes thou remind me even more of my beloved sister, and that is rather awkward. Besides, I have already promised thee a fair share of kisses, have I not? 'Tis not my fault thy sibling is so gluttonous.”

“This is... I am not. I don't even know what I'm doing here. I don't even know what Luna is doing here.” Celestia said finally, then she glared up at the stallion... but it was ridiculously hard for her to stay angry at him. Especially as he squeezed her close and kissed her neck and oh, it had been a thousand years since anypony had dared touch her like this...

Sleipnir winked, then turned his eyes towards Luna, opening his other foreleg cheerfully, and the mare wiggled her way back beneath the blankets. The stallion yelped a bit as he felt her grind against him on the way up, and then he grinned down at her as she poked out from under the blankets and flopped against his waist, reaching up to cheerfully rub a hoof through her starry mane. “Cheeky and bold, but I certainly expected nothing less of thee.”

Luna looked oddly pleased with herself at this, while Celestia only grumbled, then bit her lip as she looked towards the door, saying finally: “Maybe I should go and say something to him, or at least give him his silly goodnighties. I'm really more like his mother than his aunt, and... I'm all he really has.”

“Because no one else likes him, Celestia. I cannot even pretend to like him.” Luna complained, mashing her head into Sleipnir, and Celestia glowered down at her sister. “Well I do not. He is a... what do the ponies of this day and age say? A dick? But I do not like this comparison. I think that is the best part of a stallion, not the worst.”

Sleipnir only smiled and nodded benevolently as Celestia slowly closed her eyes, looking pained before she asked tiredly: “Can we not discuss this right now? As a matter of fact, can you please go about your duties? The Night Court is waiting, among other things.”

“If you were so uncomfortable with it, Celestia, you would get up and leave yourself.” Luna retorted staunchly, grinding her head into Sleipnir before she added in a mumble: “You certainly were not complaining a mere hour's half hence...”

“Alright, alright! Maybe I will.” Celestia grumbled, and then she sighed when Sleipnir gave her a pleading look that somehow made her actually feel guilty. “I... well, aside from how awkward this is, I should go and see Blueblood, he needs me...”

“Now, 'tis not my place to get between a mother and her child... but perhaps what he truly needs is... to experience the world on his own.” Sleipnir said gently, and Celestia scowled at him... but found herself grudgingly listening, all the same. “Thou will not be able to shield him forever from the world, any more than thou will be able to always be there to protect him. 'Tis noble, and I think 'tis a wonderful quality for a mother, to be so compassionate: but ask thyself, art thou doing more harm than good in the long run?”

“I actually agree with the stallion. And not simply because I like to argue with you.” Luna piped up, and Celestia made a face at this, looking down at her sibling moodily as Luna crawled a bit up Sleipnir's chest. But in spite of the fact she was clinging very pointedly to the stallion, she was surprisingly serious when she said: “It was fine when he was a child, but he is no longer a foal, Celestia. Pull him away from the teat, or you will end up his wife one of these days just to sate his desire to be king, and your own damned need to mother him.”

Celestia glared at her sister, but Sleipnir wrapped a foreleg around either mare and hugged them firmly against his body, saying kindly: “Now come! Thou art sisters, who share in all things, aye? And I do not mean that just as a silly pun, either.”

“Some of us are less good at sharing than others.” Luna said delicately, and then she smiled slightly over at Celestia, who only scowled a little in response.

Then Luna huffed when Sleipnir gently mashed a hoof into her mane and ruffled it up, the stallion saying wryly: “Now come, 'twas cute enough before, but now thou art playing the role of a wicked little harpy. Come, thy sister struggles: do not pretend there is no mercy in thy heart for her. Why, I am sure there is even love in thy heart for thy... uh...”

“He's not really my nephew. He's not really her nephew, either.” Luna said mildly, and then she looked dryly at Celestia when the mare shushed her violently several times. “Tia, I'm sure he knows. And I hope that he's not watching us still, or we have much worse things to worry about than his feelings being hurt.”

Sleipnir turned a thoughtful look towards Celestia, then he asked curiously: “How did he become a prince then? Oh, wait, no, I think I know: 'twas a title of fondness that he took as more than mere affection, is this not so? And so thou hast been humoring him, all these years...”

Celestia opened her mouth... then slowly closed it, looking dumbfounded as Luna said wonderingly after a moment: “I never actually stopped to think that you might be smart.”

“Smart? Smart! How dare thee accuse me of such a thing!” Sleipnir said with mock offense, tickling quickly over Luna with one hoof and making her squirm and laugh before she grinned widely up at him. He winked back at her, then turned a smile towards Celestia, saying in a gentler voice: “If thou truly loves and wants what is best for him, thou must send him out into the world.”

“But... how?” Celestia asked after a moment, and then she sighed a little, saying quietly: “I'm all he has. And he's... I can't take his princedom away from him, any more than I can just... tell him to go out into the world and carve his own path. He's not ready, and he's confused and...”

She was cut off by Sleipnir kissing the base of her horn, the mare closing her eyes and dropping her head into his neck before the stallion said with a smile: “Aye, perhaps this is true. I will admit that 'tis hard for me to understand: my daughter grew up very quickly, but at the same time, I know I am very fortunate, for she has always retained a certain... childishness to her. And I would not have it any other way, for 'tis very hard for any parent to allow their foal to grow up, is it not?”

Celestia gave a small smile as Luna only grumbled into the stallion's stomach, but Sleipnir squeezed them both firmly before he said warmly: “And besides! There is a most rare and perfect opportunity for all of us, does thou not see it?”

The ivory mare frowned a little as Luna glanced up curiously herself, and Sleipnir gave another smile between them before he gestured at himself with both front hooves, saying brightly: “Blueblood requires time out in the world, and I shall require a guide throughout Equestria! Thou requires him to be watched and protected until he is ready to walk the world upon his own hooves! See, 'tis perfect for us all!”

The ivory mare stared wordlessly at Sleipnir, who gave her a big, childlike nod as Luna snorted in amusement, then said thoughtfully: “Well, you know, Tia... that might actually not be a bad idea. We may have just met this stallion, but... well, if he's not trustworthy, we're going to be in trouble anyway, since. You know. And at worst, well, it is only Blueblood...”

“Oh Heaven above.” Celestia muttered, dropping her face in a hoof. It sounded like a completely ludicrous idea to her: let this strange stallion she had just met ferry off Blueblood on some strange quest to find his way back to the world he claimed he was from, a world she didn't entirely believe even existed...

And yet all the same, was she actually considering it? No, that was ridiculous. A wild, spur-of-the-moment fling was one thing, she could cover that up or deny it easily enough – even if Luna would probably take some perverse pleasure in humiliating them both by bragging about it if anyone found out – but... actually trusting this stallion to look after her adopted nephew on some wild, fool's errand across Equestria that they hadn't even fully discussed yet...

Celestia began to open her mouth to flatly deny the stallion... then she looked up and saw those big child-like eyes and that handsome, innocent face, and she felt her resolve rapidly beginning to melt. And he squeezed her close, made her feel warm and happy, made her want to trust him... made it impossible for her to... “Why can't I say no to you?”

“Well, 'tis hard to say no when there is nothing to say no to, of course.” Sleipnir said reasonably, and Celestia frowned at this odd logic before the stallion gave another of his warm smiles. “After all, I speak honestly, and with the best intentions for us all. Thou art wise and compassionate enough to know when to trust, I dare say.”

Celestia shifted almost uncomfortably, and Luna hesitated before bowing her head a little against the stallion and mumbling: “Look, Tia, this stallion is just about the only pony in the world who can actually put up with Blueblood. Who might even like him. And he did talk us into... well. You know. So maybe we should just... trust him on this.”

There was silence for a few moments, and then Celestia sighed and lowered her head before she muttered: “I don't want to talk about this right now. I need... time to think about it, that's all. And we should both go. Or you should at least, Luna.”

“No. You go if you want, I'm staying here.” Luna said huffily, and Celestia sighed tiredly and rolled her eyes, before glowering at Sleipnir as he squeezed her against him and winked.

“Oh come now, there is still plenty of me for both of thee, lovely mares! And 'tis my duty and privilege to ensure thou art both kept well satisfied!” Sleipnir replied cheerfully, grinning from one mare to the other as he playfully pulled them both closer, making the sisters wheeze and flail a bit as they were crushed against the stallion's body by his surprising strength. “But aye, thou art right, Celestia, this is all silly talk that has no place in this bedroom! So off, begone silly talk! Instead, I think it only right that we attend to more important matters, such as breakfast!”

“What? But it's the middle of the night.” Luna said, looking up... and Sleipnir looked thoughtful for a moment, and then he suddenly grinned widely, looking from one mare to the other cheerfully.

“Aye, thou art right... so I suppose instead, we should just have further dessert!”

And with that, Sleipnir suddenly yanked both siblings into a roll with him, and Luna and Celestia were both surprised into laughing as sheets and blankets flew in all directions and the bed groaned under the weight of the two mares and their energetic companion.

In the morning, Blueblood stormed towards the dining room, after a long, sleepless night of horrified imaginings about serving a cheerful, horrible new king of Equestria, while he, the rightful heir, danced around in the garb of a court jester for the terrible, evil fiend's entertainment. He was determined to ensure those dreams did not become a reality, and he thought he had just the way to ensure that Sleipnir finally received the justice he so rightly deserved.

But the prince halted not a step through the archway that led into their private dining chambers, scowling horribly as he found Sleipnir was already there, seated by his beloved aunt. Celestia looked tired but pleased, even as she fidgeted uncomfortably at her seat, while Luna was snoring loudly, face-down in a pile of pancakes.

Had his worst fears already been realized? Luna he didn't care about, but had his Auntie Celestia already been corrupted by this nefarious, evil stallion? Blueblood gave a shiver of horror at this thought before he all but fell over himself as he hurried forwards to the table, almost flinging himself into his spot at the ivory mare's right hoof as he shouted: “Auntie!”

“Oh, Blueblood, good morning.” Celestia said calmly, smiling pleasantly despite the stallion's almost-explosive outburst. “It's very nice to see you up so early. I was going to let you sleep in, but since you're awake, perhaps we can have that talk about things over breakfast.”

Sleipnir nodded cheerfully, and Blueblood glared daggers across the table at the witless earth pony, before he growled: “Yes. I think we should have a good talk indeed, Auntie. A good long talk... in private. About this... earth pony.”

“I think it might be better if we all have this talk together, actually, since it concerns you both.” Princess Celestia said gently, choosing to ignore Blueblood's hostility. After all, what she had decided to do was hard enough as it was. The only thing that was keeping her from relenting, from just giving in and hugging Blueblood and spoiling him with whatever he wanted was the fact that... well...

Maybe, just maybe, some part of her couldn't help but look at that pouting, childish face and think about all the times that Blueblood had... well, not disappointed her. Disappointment was such a harsh, unforgiving word, after all. No, but more he had just... he hadn't been quite able to live up to her expectations, maybe that was a better way to put it.

And she was well-aware that there were many ponies who weren't precisely... fond of her nephew. Oh, sure, she believed honestly that with enough love and compassion he would grow into a fine young ruler... it wasn't his fault he was a little... a little damaged. No, ponies all too often forgot that the world hadn't always been so kind to Blueblood...

Although, well. That only went so far towards justifying his behavior, she understood. And if she was really going to trust him one day to be a ruler of any kind... well...

Celestia sighed a little, then smiled faintly. She knew that she had to get this over and done with now, as Blueblood grudgingly sat down at the table and a servant hurried in to start serving him breakfast. If she didn't tell him now, she likely never would... “Prince Blueblood, Sleipnir is going to be leaving the castle shortly...”

Blueblood perked up at this, brightening visibly, and Celestia hesitated for a brief moment before forcing herself to just push forwards and get it over with: “And we've decided that you should go with him.”

The Prince's eyes slowly widened as he paled, his fork clattering to the plate as he gaped. He trembled a little, then whimpered weakly: “A-Auntie?”

“It's alright, it won't be for very long!” Princess Celestia said soothingly, leaning forwards and quickly grasping her nephew's shoulder as she smiled at him as reassuringly as she could. “This... well... this is a very, very important mission, as a matter of fact! You have to be a diplomat and a guide for Sleipnir, and you'll get to travel all over Equestria-”

“Auntie...” whimpered Blueblood, still staring at her, still trembling like a leaf.

“-and Sleipnir has promised to take care of you, and that if things get too difficult, he'll bring you straight home-”

“A-A-Auntie...”

“-and I'm also sending a platoon of my very best Royal Guard with you, to help keep you safe, dear, and of course we can write letters to each other-”

“A-Auntie...”

“-and... oh, I know this is hard, dear, but it's for the best, it really is!” Celestia leaned suddenly forwards, half-hugging Blueblood against her body, while the prince only trembled and stared with glazed eyes across the table at Sleipnir. The white stallion's hoof found his muzzle after a moment, and he began to suckle on it childishly as Sleipnir only smiled at him benevolently... as that damned, monstrous, fiendish, evil interloping mommy-stealer reached out and rubbed his Auntie's back, like... like he was a part of their family now!

“You need to experience the world, away from this castle, and... and I think it's going to make you a better stallion, darling, I really do.” Celestia continued, squeezing Blueblood almost uncomfortably tightly against her breast as she rocked him back and forth soothingly. “And Sleipnir wants to be friends, and... that's very important for all ponies, to have a friend. Why, look at Twilight Sparkle, how much she grew! And I think you're going to grow up too, with Sleipnir.”

Blueblood looked up at his aunt with horror, hoof firmly shoved in his mouth, trembling like a small child... before Sleipnir leaned forwards and said brightly: “Aye, we will have fun together, we will be like... like brothers! Well... almost brothers. 'Twould be awkward after last night if Celestia were my aunt as well, I must say.”

Sleipnir winked at Celestia, who blushed deeply... but before anyone else could speak, Blueblood threw his head back and howled: “Auntie!”

Luna awoke with a snort and almost flopped out of her seat, while Celestia immediately hugged Blueblood fiercely close and began murmuring soothing nothings to him. Sleipnir, meanwhile, only leaned awkwardly back and rubbed the back of his head, looking lamely at Blueblood as the young prince whimpered like a foal and clung to his aunt with one foreleg. “Was it something I said?”

Luna blinked blearily, looking around for a moment before she groaned and shifted a little, dragging herself up and slowly grabbing at a cup of tea. “Stupid... everything. I'm going to bed after this. By all that is holy, Sleipnir, what are you made of?”

Sleipnir only smiled cheerfully and shrugged in response, but then his eyes were drawn to Blueblood as the stallion almost foalishly shoved his face into Celestia's neck, clinging to her and whimpering around the hoof buried in his mouth: “I don't want to go! I don't want to, don't make me go, he's... he's a terrible pony, Auntie! He's trying to turn you against me!”

“Oh, oh, Blueblood, no, don't say that!” Celestia soothed, squeezing her nephew close as she looked almost desperately down at him. “No, you can trust him! I know you don't like strangers, honey, and I know that this is all very difficult for you, but... but it's for the best, Blueblood, darling...”

“No, no, no!” Blueblood whined piteously, trembling and clinging fiercely to his aunt's frame. “Don't! I don't want to go!”

“Oh, come now, 'tis going to be alright! Thou has my word, my most solemn promise I shall protect thee on this journey!” Sleipnir said empathetically, leaning forwards and nodding firmly several times as he smiled almost pleadingly at the childish, crying stallion. “And I swear to thee, we shall have a wondrous time together, only wait and see, my young companion! Think of the legends they'll sing of... of Sleipnir, and his partner Blueblood! Aye, the bards will praise us for centuries to come!”

Blueblood only whimpered and turned away, burying his face against Celestia and clinging to her as he cried out: “Make him go away! No, no, I don't want to go with him, p-please Auntie! Please!”

Celestia looked down at Blueblood, and it hurt her heart so badly to see him like this. This fully-grown stallion, acting like a giant foal... and what was she doing, cuddling him, clinging to him like this? And yet some part of her just wanted to cradle him and hug him and kiss away his tears, and do exactly what he wanted, as she bit her lip and looked over at Sleipnir...

Sleipnir, who was smiling encouragingly. Who was looking at Blueblood with honest kindness, and not the disgust or hidden contempt she was used to seeing in the eyes of ponies. Who seemed infinitely generous, and patient, and loving: maybe that was why he had such a powerful, natural draw to him, why she kept trusting him...

“Tia, if you don't do this for Blueblood's sake, then please do it for our own. I know you'll be scared and it'll hurt, but look at him.” Luna said plaintively, gesturing pointedly towards Sleipnir as Blueblood whimpered and tried to curl himself up in his aunt's lap. “Name one other pony who would actually put up with... well... this.

“Shush, Luna.” Celestia said firmly, but all the same, she hated that she knew her sister was right. Sleipnir looked up curiously, but Celestia only shook her head before she sighed softly and gazed silently over at the stallion, as Blueblood wailed like a miserable child.

But for now, she only rocked him: he was just like a foal who had never grown up, she reflected. And maybe that was the real root of this whole... problem that Blueblood had. He had never really grown up. He would throw his weight around and act almost like a bully and be... rude and childish, and then when things went wrong, he would come running back to her and... what did she do?

She scooped him up. She cradled him and kissed away his tears until he was all better, his boo-boos forgotten. She loved him, adored him as the child she'd never had, and yet... she saw the way everypony else looked at them, heard all the nasty things people said behind their backs. And she wondered... was she trying too hard to be a good mother? Was this like all those years ago, when she'd spent so long and hard trying to be a good ruler that at the end of the day, she had... well...

Celestia sighed softly, and... and oh, how it hurt to do this! But all the same, she slowly pried Blueblood off her and sat him calmly down in the seat beside her. The prince looked up at her with big, shocked eyes, whimpering like a child as he curled up and tears streamed down his cheek, sucking on his hoof miserably. He looked like a great chubby toddler in his too-tight fancy clothes, and Celestia smiled faintly after a moment: he had buttoned up his suit wrong, left his girdle exposed, and knotted his tie all wrong. But for the first time, she didn't try and fix those mistakes for him. For the first time, she said quietly: “You have to stop crying now, my darling. I want you to be strong, for Auntie.”

Blueblood's lower lip quaked as he stared up at her, but he was so shocked that he didn't respond. He just sat there, looking at her, and Celestia trembled a bit as she looked back at him before she finally forced herself to say: “It's... it's time for you to find your own way, Blueblood. Sleipnir is going to take care of you... and you're going to be safe, and you'll always have a home to come back to... but you also... it's time for my little colt to learn what it means to be a stallion now.”

Blueblood only suckled on his hoof and stared up at her miserably, the trembles in his body increasing as he shook his head weakly... and then Sleipnir leaned forwards over the table, saying kindly: “Aye, do not fear! Why, within the week thou shall be a whole new pony, mark my words! And we shall have adventures that even the Valkyries would have envied together, you and I, fair young stallion!”

The only response from Blueblood was a snuffling, and even though it pained Celestia to see him like this, she clasped her front hooves together and forced herself to smile. “See? And... and if anything happens, Sleipnir will bring you straight home, don't worry. And you won't be gone long at all, either: all you have to do is accompany him while he...”

She realized she was repeating herself, and the princess sighed before leaning forwards and saying almost pleadingly: “Please, Blueblood, please... please be strong for your aunt, alright? I'll... I'll have you taken back to your room and you can take a few hours to get ready and prepare your things.”

Celestia rose a hoof, gesturing quickly at a servant, and Blueblood whimpered weakly... but he was helpless to do anything to resist as he was gently tugged to his hooves and led away. All the same, he looked pleadingly, miserably over his shoulder at the mare as Celestia gazed after him, forcing herself to smile supportively until he was out of sight... and then she trembled before dropping her face in her hooves. “Oh, what have I done...”

“Thou hast made the right choice, the best choice, that thou could. As mother or aunt, and as princess looking to better a young ruler.” Sleipnir soothed, reaching up and reassuringly rubbing along her back. He gazed at her with such compassion, such tenderness in his eyes, smiling at her in a way that told her everything was going to be okay... and just maybe, made her believe that. A strange, almost impossible thing after all the time she had spent always being the protector, the savior, the one to tell everypony else that same thing while often worrying herself that she was only mouthing lies...

She looked down for a moment, then closed her eyes and sighed softly, lowering her head. Sleipnir only continued to gently massage her back, and Luna glanced up after a moment before sighing as well and saying in a grudging voice: “Look. This... this is for the best, Celestia. It might not feel that way right now, it might be hard for you to stomach, but... this is for the best. You're... Sleipnir is right. You're doing the right thing.”

Celestia only mumbled a little under her breath, and then she looked up, rubbing at her cheeks slowly with her front hooves before she said finally: “I just hope that one day he'll forgive me. That... one day, he'll understand.”

Oh, he would never forgive her for this!

Blueblood trembled in fury: it had been two hours, and his face was all puffy from crying, but... he was crying out of anger, now! He wasn't scared or sad or upset, he was just angry, that was all, so angry that... that it was making his face hurt and that was why his eyes were watering!

The stallion stormed back and forth around his enormous, luxurious room, which he had thrown a temper tantrum in and left in a state of complete disarray. However, since it was normally a ramshackle mess between the visits of the maids anyway, the scattered drawers and papers and toys really didn't add a whole lot of new chaos to the jumble.

Roughly an hour ago, Celestia had come to check up on him and found him sulking in his blankets. And she had actually scolded him and told him to clean himself up and... well, that had convinced Blueblood more than anything else that Sleipnir, that evil, manipulative demon, had warped and twisted his loving aunt into some evil queen of nightmares. After all, Auntie Celestia had almost never ever ever scolded him in the past...

So now here he was. Dressed in his best clothes and waiting, with three suitcases stuffed with changes of clothes and every other thing he thought he'd need for the long journey ahead. A journey he already knew was going to be nothing but misery and suffering and torment... but oh, he was going to do his damnedest to make sure that Slepnir suffered right along with him.

The stallion nodded firmly to himself several times, glowering at the scuffed floor and stomping angrily like a child, imagining he was stepping on the stallion's stupid face. And that was just what he was going to do if he got the chance, step on that stupid stallion's stupid face and show him that nothing was ever going to come between him and his Auntie Celestia and his rightful place on the throne.

There was a quiet knock at the door, and the stallion grumbled under his breath before sulkily looking back over his shoulder, cheeks puffed childishly out. And, as expected, there was Celestia... but she was smiling almost sadly as she looked at him, leaning forwards and murmuring: “Now come on. You have to leave, Blueblood, but... that doesn't mean you have to leave angry, do you?”

Blueblood huffed at her, then dropped his gaze to the floor. But Celestia only continued to smile at him before she said quietly: “I'm sorry, Blueblood. I am. But this is... this is best for all of us.”

She strode forwards and silently sat down in front of him, and Blueblood trembled, grinding his teeth together before he suddenly looked up at her, fighting back tears again as he whispered: “I... I don't want to go.”

“I know. Part of me doesn't want you to leave either, but... you have to, Blueblood. But Sleipnir is.. trustworthy, and a good stallion. Or at least he's very honest, and he truly wants to help.” Celestia embraced her nephew tightly, and Blueblood only whimpered a little as he hugged her back, looking miserable but... at least doing his best to rein in his tears this time. “And you'll be back. You'll be back, and maybe then... you'll be ready for some more duties as prince. Would you like that?”

Blueblood glanced up a little, shifting against her before he asked hesitantly: “Do... do you really mean in, Auntie Celestia? You'll let me... could I take care of the court?”

Celestia chuckled quietly at this, then said softly: “Now, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, Blueblood. But... maybe I'll let you deal with some of the audiences with diplomats. And you can join me on panels and... perhaps I'll even let you start acting as ambassador between Equestria and the Crystal Empire. How does that sound?”

Blueblood shifted a little: he didn't actually like the idea of traveling more, but... the thought of actually being allowed to carry out a duty that was currently being handled by that other wicked usurper, Princess Twilight... “Yes, I... I would, Auntie. I... I won't be gone long, will I?”

“Well, Sleipnir tells me that he wants to teach you a few things about adventuring first... I don't think you'll even be going very far from Canterlot right away.” Princess Celestia said carefully, trying to sidestep the fact that this meant Blueblood would probably be gone for even longer.

Blueblood, however, felt immensely relieved by this turn of events: it sounded like they might not even have to go very far from the castle, and he was certain that he could survive a few days in Canterlot. Oh, sure, he might have to pull a few strings to make sure that he was treated in the way that he so properly and truly deserved, but all the same...

And it meant that if things did start going badly, well. He was quite certain he'd be able to slip away. But maybe if he just... say, played along for a day or two, while doing everything in his power to make Sleipnir miserable... he was sure by then Auntie Celestia would let him come back to the castle! She might even reward him, for behaving himself and clearly trying his hardest in spite of what an idiot he was sure Sleipnir was going to be...

So after a few moments, the stallion forced himself to nod a few times, mumbling against the mare's chest: “I... I'll do my best then, Auntie. For you.”

“Thank you, nephew. That means a world to me to hear.” Celestia smiled down at him, even if she had plenty of worries and misgivings. After all, she could tell whenever Blueblood was trying to hatch some scheme... but for now... “Why don't we head down to meet Sleipnir now? Are these all your things?”

“Yes, Auntie. I'm...” Blueblood bit his lip, looking back over his room, and then he took a deep breath as he forced himself to step back and straighten. “I'm ready to go.”

He wasn't, not nearly, but he knew that he had to at least pretend until he was out of his Aunt's sight. After all, he wanted to make sure that he impressed her, that he proved to her he was ready for more power... ready to take another step towards what was rightfully his. And, as he kept reassuring himself, he could survive a few nights away from the castle with Sleipnir. Peasants survived their entire lives in their worthless little hovels, after all, so a stallion as noble and pureblooded as he was could certainly survive one or two nights in Canterlot...

He scrubbed at his features nervously, and Celestia gave him another kind smile before she reached up and gently grasped his shoulder. He looked up at her awkwardly, but then let her pull him forwards, stumbling only a little before he strode out into the hall, glaring at the servants that hurried past to get his things. “Be... be gentle with my suitcases!”

Celestia sighed, but didn't reprimand him: it did, however, remind her precisely why they were doing this, and made it a little easier to nudge him forwards when he started to drag his hooves.

Blueblood was far from happy by the time he reached the entrance hall... and more than that, he was anxious and a little frightened, too. The last pony he wanted to be stuck with was Sleipnir... and even if there were at least twenty Royal Guard standing at the ready in their traveling armor, it was little consolation to the prince. He remembered all too clearly what the other soldiers had done when Sleipnir had crashed down and literally destroyed his poor carriage: absolutely nothing.

Sleipnir himself was smiling warmly, and Blueblood began to scowl... then did a double take, staring at the huge stallion for a few moments. Last night he hadn't really been able to see that clearly – thankfully – but now, with the huge stallion's armor missing, he could see a tattoo covered almost half of his chest. It was an image of vines that twisted and laced themselves between a variety of runes and around an image of a tree much like the cutie mark on his flank...

Sleipnir caught Blueblood's gaze, and then he glanced down before smiling and reaching up to pat his bare chest, saying cheerfully: “Fear not, I shall not be out of armor long. One of our first stops shall be a forge, where I shall outfit thee properly, for I see thou art in sore need of proper gear... and mine own armor requires many repairs, as thou may have seen.”

“Well, I could have Prince Blueblood fitted for armor here...” Celestia began, but Sleipnir only laughed at this and shook his head, raising a hoof with a warm smile.

“Nay, nay, do not worry thyself. I would prefer to do this myself... besides, 'twill cement our bond as friends!” Sleipnir said cheerfully, striding forwards and reaching out to wrap a companionable foreleg around Blueblood. The ivory unicorn winced at this, biting his lip and struggling not to spit an insult at the big oaf even as he tried to wiggle Sleipnir's limb off, but the earth pony barely seemed to notice as he continued warmly: “Besides, and I mean no offense... thy armor is not what I believe the young prince deserves if he and I are to travel together.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked a Royal Guard before he could stop himself. But Celestia frowned slightly as well... although Sleipnir's benevolent smile seemed to settle the worst of the agitation his words had caused as he rose his other hoof in a placating gesture.

“Not that thou art not all worthy warriors, of course! And aye, 'tis a wonderful reminder of the brotherhood and camaraderie between all of thee, of that I can see clearly. 'Tis something to wear with pride.” Sleipnir nodded firmly, and the Royal Guard looked further pacified before the enormous earth pony shook Blueblood lightly, saying in a gentler voice: “But 'twould be a disservice to both thy brotherhood and the young prince to doff him in the armor of the Royal Guard. For he is not one of thy proud soldiers, Princess Celestia, but instead he is thine nephew. And I would not dishonor thy warriors by putting a stallion who is not among their fraternity in their uniform. I fear that would only lead to frustrations on all sides.”

Celestia smiled a little after a moment as Blueblood grumbled in sulky agreement, and the Royal Guard looked at each other with surprise... and a bit of pride, she thought. Sleipnir wasn't just a big handsome idiot after all, though... but she was only a little shocked to find out what a talented diplomat he was on top of everything else. He had talked her into quite a few compromising situations last night, after all.

“But now, so I see that...” Sleipnir paused, cocking his head curiously as several servants arrived, carrying Blueblood's suitcases. The earth pony studied these intently, and then he smiled after a moment, raising his head and saying cheerfully: “Aye, that is a good idea! We should bring tribute with us, to gift to the lords and ladies of the land!”

“What? No, this isn't tribute! These are my things!” Blueblood snapped, glaring angrily at Sleipnir. “And anyway, they should be giving me tribute! I am the Prince of Equestria!”

“Prince thou may be, but 'tis not as if ponies have no right to their own land, is it, young colt?” Sleipnir replied reasonably, smiling at the stallion pleasantly and completely ignoring the horrible glare Blueblood fixed him with. “And 'tis simply a kindness. And sometimes all that thou needs to visit upon others is a little kindness.”

Blueblood grumbled at this, and Sleipnir sat up, looking thoughtfully at the luggage before he declared cheerfully: “Well, if this is what thou desires to bring with thee, I shan't stop thee. But of course, I cannot show thee any favoritism, either. But perhaps there is hidden wisdom in thy decision: why, carrying all this weight will shortly make thee as mighty a stallion as me!”

Sleipnir flexed one foreleg cheerfully, and Blueblood stared in disbelief before he looked over his shoulder at his suitcases, mouthing wordlessly. Celestia frowned in surprise herself, then asked uneasily: “Well... what about the carriages-”

“Oh, that was a very nice thought, Celestia, but I fear I have already declined their aid. 'Twould not be proper, especially as our early journeys shan't take us very far afield. Nay, leave them to be better used here.” Sleipnir said benevolently, smiling politely before he gestured at the Royal Guard. “And all of thy soldiers, while most welcome company, I shall be sending home as shortly as young Blueblood will allow. I understand they are here to protect him, but I have always made my sacred vow to do the same... and these Royal Guard would be much better here in Canterlot, doing their duty, then following two stallions on a silly adventure that will take them across Equestria!”

Blueblood was less and less liking what he was hearing, and Celestia shifted nervously, biting her cheek before she leaned forwards and said worriedly: “But you said that you'd take them with you... you promised, Sleipnir.”

“Aye, I did. And I always honor a promise.” Sleipnir said kindly, nodding firmly and looking warmly over at Celestia. “But I believe, honestly and truly, that in time the young prince will agree with me. I shan't pressure him at all, you have my word, but... all the same, I shall be very surprised if it does not come to pass, and sooner rather than later.”

Celestia shifted uncomfortably, but then she forced herself to only nod, looking down and not saying anything. Blueblood, meanwhile, only looked incredulous before he shook his head vehemently, spluttering out: “This... this is an indignation!”

“I think it neither a hole nor a country, my young friend.” Sleipnir replied jovially, smiling kindly to the young stallion. “So art thou ready to be off, then?”

“N-No! My... my things, who is going to carry my things? Where are we going, how... how long do you think I'm going to be gone?” Blueblood asked incredulously, shaking his head vehemently as he looked back and forth in disbelief.

But no one was saying anything. Not even his Auntie Celestia was stepping up to his aid now, only reaching out and soothingly rubbing his back. And Sleipnir, that damned Sleipnir, was just smiling at him before he gestured kindly with one hoof and said easily: “Well, if thou cannot carry all thy luggage, then why not take a moment and trim the chaff from the grain? But fear not, young friend! I am sure we will pass through these halls now and again, and most of what we need, we shall find upon the road.”

Blueblood only mouthed wordlessly, and then he gritted his teeth, shaking the rucksack on his back and growling: “It's bad enough I have to carry this-”

“If 'tis too heavy, then thou can always leave it here as well.” Sleipnir shrugged amiably, then he reached up and patted the sack on his own back. “Thou must learn to pack as I do, only what is needed! But then again, I fear that I exaggerate: if I only took what was necessary, then all I would take with me when I left upon the road were a pretty mare's kisses, for nature is always there to help me find the way.”

The young prince gave a short laugh, and then he looked almost pleadingly over his shoulder at Celestia... but the princess only awkwardly lowered her head, then forced a small smile as she leaned forwards, asking quietly: “Would you like to ask Sleipnir if... if perhaps you can have another half hour to finish packing?”

“Auntie...” Blueblood trembled, looking weakly up at his aunt before he laughed faintly and dropped his head, clenching his eyes shut and whispering: “No.”

“Then come, let us be off, young prince... and fear not, once the road is under thy hooves, thou shall feel a thousand times stronger.” Sleipnir invited kindly, stretching out a foreleg towards the young prince.

Blueblood looked over his shoulder at Princess Celestia, but she only forced herself to nod, to not give in, as she prayed quietly that she was making the right choice.

And finally, Blueblood turned miserably towards Sleipnir and strode towards him, and the earth pony gave a warm smile as he wrapped his foreleg around the young prince's shoulders, Blueblood looking up at him with such a mix of dejection and loathing and betrayal as Sleipnir looked down with kindness and compassion and warmth.

Princess Celestia looked at the two, and only hoped that Sleipnir would be true to his word, and was as patient as he seemed... and hoped beyond hope that her little stallion was finally ready to grow up.