• Published 10th Jul 2014
  • 2,105 Views, 215 Comments

Sleipnir's Big Adventure - BlackRoseRaven

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

  • ...

Armor Fit For A Prince

Chapter Three: Armor Fit For A Prince

Blueblood scowled and dragged his hooves like a foal as he stormed along the road beside Sleipnir, who was striding at an easy pace with a child-like smile through the streets of Canterlot. The giant earth pony kept looking back and forth with fascination, at the buildings, the ponies, everything else, and Blueblood was really starting to feel quite sick of the stupid idiot.

But as he'd quickly learned, Sleipnir either didn't understand or just laughed at any insults that were thrown his way. It was like he was made of... of... Blueblood didn't even know. The big, friendly lout just refused to be upset by anything, and seemed to think that he was doing him a favor by making him walk down these messy streets looking like a hobo, when he should be riding in a carriage with the Royal Guard at his beck and call, not... following behind them like some kind of marching band!

Blueblood glared angrily over his shoulder, but none of the Royal Guard even spared him a glance. They all knew who was in charge here, after all: not he, the rightful prince, but the big stupid stallion who had seduced his poor, darling Auntie Celestia.

The unicorn swore under his breath, grinding his teeth together slowly: how could this have happened? How had he gone from... from ruler to little more than a squire, a servant, trotting along at his master's side like some kind of mongrel...

Blueblood growled again, and Sleipnir finally turned a curious look towards the stallion, asking after a moment: “Does thy throat ache? Shall we stop for a glass of ale?”

“No!” Blueblood grimaced in disgust, shivering at the thought of ending up in some tawdry saloon with this... this jockish oaf. “Where are we going? We've been wandering for hours... how can you have gotten us so lost while not even leaving the city!”

“Lost? Oh nay, I am not lost at all.” Sleipnir said with surprise, and then he laughed and added kindly: “And it has been but a mere hour's passage, young prince... oh, but that brings to mind a discussion I would like to have with thee.”

“I have no desire to discuss anything with you.” growled Blueblood angrily, glaring up at Sleipnir, but the enormous, friendly earth pony didn't look put off in the slightest.

If anything, he only smiled wider, saying easily: “Then we shan't discuss, but thou shall merely listen. We, together, are wandering out into the world. And while 'tis well and fine that we call thee by name and title here in Canterlot, I do not believe the rest of Equestria may be so hospitable. Mother Nature tells me that there has been unrest recently, and that as with all things, there are those who feel anger and jealousy, which they have focused upon others.

“Therefore, I do not think 'twould be wise to call thee by thy name, if I am to keep thee safe. Instead, I shall call thou simply... Blue. For thou art much more a Blue than thou art a Blood.” Sleipnir teased, nudging the unicorn playfully.

Blueblood stumbled a little, then looked with horror at where Sleipnir had actually physically dared to touch him. He mouthed wordlessly, then spun around, howling at the Royal Guard and making the whole platoon flinch: “Arrest this stallion! Arrest him, he assaulted me! This swine laid a hoof upon your prince, now I demand that you-”

“Assaulted? Assaulted? Then if that was an assault, what will thou think of this fearsome battering?” Sleipnir shouted cheerfully, pouncing on Blueblood before he started to tickle all over the stallion, and the unicorn began to convulse madly under the stallion's grip, shouting and howling and giggling, his expression a mixture of absolute horror and outrage and utter humiliation. “Have at thee!”

“Oh g-g-god get off m-me!” Blueblood squalled, flailing violently in all directions, but Sleipnir was relentless in his attack, continuing to make him squirm and cackle and all-but-cry as they rolled back and forth in the middle of the street.

And finally, it was over, and Blueblood was left gasping, laying on the street and staring blankly towards the sky, his mane a mess and his white coat marred with dirt. He shivered weakly, then glared furiously at Sleipnir as the huge stallion smiled cheerfully and offered him a hoof, saying pleasantly: “Well, thou held up most excellently, Blue.”

Blueblood felt like screaming, but all he really managed to do was whimper as he slapped angrily at Sleipnir's hoof before scrambling up... and nearly tripping over himself like a foal. But a strong hoof caught him before he could fall, and he looked up, features flushed, to see Sleipnir still smiling at him as he righted the prince. “Now, do not be too eager, friend! We have time yet, and a whole city to explore!”

The young prince scowled angrily, then shoved himself away from Sleipnir and hurriedly dusted himself off, muttering: “I am tired of exploring. I thought you wanted to go home.”

“Oh, I do, my friend. But this will take time, and preparation, and the battle by now is long over. So while I could rush about things and be unpleasant to everypony I meet, then leave in a great hurry and huff... I could also be pleasant, and enjoy myself, and take my time.” Sleipnir shrugged and smiled easily up at the sky. “What will be, will be, that is all. I am not fool enough to think this will be any simple task... oh, I know well what I am getting into, and I fear that in my absence, irrevocable and awful things may happen back home, whether the battle was won or lost against our foe. But...

“But I do not allow such fears to rule me. I do not allow sadness to blind me, or frustration to make me miss the comforts of the grass or the whispers of the wind.” Sleipnir looked down at Blueblood benevolently, reaching up to pat his head in a paternal gesture. “I believe that all things happen for a reason, and thus, here too I must be for a reason.”

Blueblood only looked blankly up at Sleipnir, and then he asked disbelievingly: “How can you... that doesn't make any sense! You're an idiot!”

“Aye, I am.” Sleipnir smiled in agreement, as if this was something to be proud of. “But I would much rather be an idiot than many other things in this world, I shall have thee know. Idiots such as I fear few of the things our smarter and better counterparts do: we do not think so deeply, nor worry so much. We simply live as we can, and enjoy what bounty life gives us.”

Blueblood stared in stupefaction up at Sleipnir for a few moments, and then he gave a short, barking laugh before glaring angrily at him, hissing through his teeth: “Don't think I don't know just what you're up to! You're trying to convince me to just... to just roll over and hand over Auntie's throne to you! Well, it's not going to work, do you hear me?”

Sleipnir only cocked his head quizzically, and then he asked curiously: “And what, perchance, is so special about thy aunt's throne? For I have never found such seats very comfortable. Then again, I suppose it does not help such things rarely fit my buttocks.”

Blueblood simply gaped for a second at Sleipnir, and the huge stallion looked back down at him with such childlike honesty that it almost made the unicorn laugh. Almost. “You...”

There was really nothing that he could say, however. So finally, Blueblood shook his head in disgust and strode past the stallion... although after only a few steps, he realized he had no idea where he was actually going, let alone where he actually was. He had never been to this part of Canterlot before, he realized...

And what made it worse was the fact that Sleipnir was only standing there behind him, the prince slowly coming to a halt and looking awkwardly over his shoulder. As much as he wanted to just keep walking...

Blueblood tried to think up some snappy line. Something he could say or do to get the big oaf to follow, since he direly did not want to go tromping through this strange part of the city on his own. But the best he could come up with was: “Are... we going?”

Sleipnir smiled cheerfully at this, then he nodded firmly once before striding over to the stallion and looking benevolently down at him. “Where would thou like to go?”

“Home.” Blueblood said immediately, but Sleipnir only laughed loudly at this, and Blueblood scowled up at the stallion before he turned away and muttered: “Why even bother asking when all you do is mock me, you... idiot.”

“I am not mocking thee!” Sleipnir said gently, smiling down at Blueblood. “Aye, for I know well what it is like to miss thy home... I miss mine own, greatly and deeply.”

He paused, then looked thoughtful as he glanced around the street. “Then again, young Blue... perhaps thy problem is not that thou art away from thy home. 'Tis that thou fails to realize all of this place is thy home, strange as that may sound to thee.”

Blueblood looked moodily at Sleipnir: yes, that sounded very strange indeed to him. Because for one thing, he was quite certain that his home wouldn't be filled with strangers, who were all staring at him and muttering behind their hooves about him. And it wasn't as if he cared what the peasants had to think, but at least the servants had always been respectful enough of his dignified position to keep their damned rumormongering to themselves...

But now Sleipnir was striding towards him, and Blueblood automatically shrank a little out of the way in spite of himself: it wasn't that the stallion was intimidating, it was just that he was so damned big and, well...

He watched with beady eyes as Sleipnir strolled past, looking almost like he was searching for something in particular before his eyes lit up and he gestured down the road, smiling warmly. “There! See, nature has led us well and true.”

Blueblood scowled and looked up, and then he blinked in dumb surprise as Sleipnir hurried off down the street. The Royal Guard all immediately followed after the large stallion in a double line, marching heedlessly past the prince before the unicorn flailed hurriedly, shouting: “You can't abandon me here! I am your prince! I command you-”

Something whacked into Blueblood's side, and he yelped in surprise more than pain, grasping at himself... and then staring in disbelief at the rotten apple on the ground. He rose his head, meaning to glare challengingly, but instead he only managed another shocked look around.

He started to open his mouth, and was cut off by another fruit being flung at him, followed by a jeer of: “Go soak your head!”

There were a few other yells and laughs, and Blueblood squealed before he spun and scurried away, shooting a terrified look over his shoulder at the ponies who were all making rude gestures after him.

He bolted past the soldiers – who were all acting completely ignorant of what had been going on only a few paces behind them, the brutes! – and almost ran into Sleipnir, who caught him easily and studied him with surprise before he asked curiously: “What happened? Did thou have an accident?”

“Accident? Accident!” Blueblood snarled up at Sleipnir, twitching a little before he gestured at himself violently. “How does this look at all like an accident to you?”

“Well, what else should I suspect?” Sleipnir asked with honest curiosity, and Blueblood was dumbfounded by this response before the enormous earth pony gave a cheerful smile and turned back around, heading towards some kind of squat-looking building with a large smokestack sticking up out of the top of it.

Blueblood shot a half-nervous, half-venomous look over one shoulder, and then he turned back around and narrowed his eyes distrustfully at the building they were approaching. Now he could smell... something. It smelled dirty, whatever it was: it had that distinct hint of metal and filth about it that always seemed to accompany any sort of menial labor.

Sleipnir, however, was walking right up to the doors with a smile on his face like he was a foal at a candy store, the earth pony pausing only long enough to turn towards the Royal Guard and wave at them. “Thou may all relax for now, we little need thy accompaniment as soldiers here in the city proper! Nay, be as friends, and fear not for us... besides, young Blue, 'tis time for thou to be fitted for thy first set of armor.”

Blueblood scowled at this, then he rose his head and said arrogantly: “I've worn armor before, thank you very much, and I highly doubt that this... this hobbyist is of sufficient talent or rank to create a prince's fitting raiment!”

Sleipnir only shrugged and winked, replying cheerfully: “Perhaps, or perhaps not: I sense great and good things abound in this smithy, mark my words. Nature here is treated with proper respect, and that is always a most excellent sign. Besides, I shall be making thy armor... although I fear I cannot promise it to be so princely quite yet. I fear as of now, all thou hast earned is the armor of a novice.”

“What? A novice! How dare you, you... you swine!” Blueblood shouted, storming after the stallion and shaking his head vehemently. He barely realized that he was following the earth pony right into the detestable little place, continuing haughtily: “I will have you know that I have always excellent in every sporting event I ever bothered to compete in, I have never settled for less than victory!”

“That is too bad, then. Thou hast never had a chance to learn all the wonderful things that failure can teach thee.” Sleipnir said almost absently as he looked back and forth with a smile: the front of the smithy was set up almost like a little shop, but there was an open window into the back, leaving racks of equipment and a few apparatus for the forge in plain sight. “Hello, there! May I come in and see thee at thy craft?”

There was a chuckle, and then a voice replied after a moment: “Well, certainly, sir. By all means, do come in.”

“Thou hast my thanks, sir! Now, come then, young Blue. Let us see this master at his work.” Sleipnir said benevolently, and Blueblood only scowled a little, but followed resentfully all the same when the large stallion strode around the counter and headed into the back area.

Blueblood had no idea what they were looking at: to him, it looked like a stallion just sewing a shirt. But Sleipnir smiled warmly, gesturing at the old coot like he was some kind of savior as he said brightly: “There! What did I tell you, friend? We are in the presence of a truly talented smith!”

“Oh, yes. I can see that, with how hard at work he is.” Blueblood said disdainfully, eying this so-called 'smith.' “Can you just-”

But Sleipnir ignored him completely as he strode up to the table and bowed his head politely, saying kindly: “'Tis a wonderful weave thou art doing: I assume thou art warding the sleeve? Or perchance 'tis just for a soldier's luck?”

The smith chuckled quietly at this, the old, graying stallion looking both surprised and pleased as he nodded slowly. “Just a little personal touch for a young, foolish stallion who wants to go and be an adventurer, that's right. It's not much, perhaps, but... I like to try and wish these colts well as best I can.”

Sleipnir smiled warmly and nodded firmly, but before he could say anything, Blueblood approached and cleared his throat loudly, saying irritably: “Well, if you two are finished, then maybe you could get on with why we're here, Sleipnir. Armor, for me. Prince Blueblood.”

The smith looked unimpressed, only nodding a few times as if he was humoring a mouthy foal, while Sleipnir chuckled before saying easily: “Thou shall have to excuse my young friend. It has been very hard on him, this journey... and to think, we've little more than stepped out the door! But fear not, I am sure he shall warm to thee, as he shall warm to this quest.”

Blueblood scowled... and his expression became even fouler as the old stallion looked at Sleipnir with interest, asking curiously as he put down the needle and shirt: “A quest? And are you...”

“Oh, what foolishness! I have not introduced myself!” The enormous earth pony laughed and stepped forwards, then seized the smith in a one-legged hug that made him wince in surprise. “I am Sleipnir, and we are well-met, master smith! And aye, we are on a journey to see me back home... but as 'tis quite a far ways away, we have need to gather rare and exceptional materials for the journey. The young prince has been sent with me by Princess Celestia to aid in this endeavor, and I am very grateful for his company... but he does require some outfitting, at the very least.”

Sleipnir stepped back from the old stallion, who awkwardly brushed himself off before he nodded a few times and cleared his throat, sitting back and saying finally: “Well, Sir Sleipnir-”

“Nay, nay! Only Sleipnir! I am neither jarl nor dandy, I need no title but mine own name!” Sleipnir replied cheerfully, laughing and shaking his head.

The smith smiled a little as Blueblood only glared daggers at the earth pony. “Sleipnir, then... well, as kind as it is of you to ask my humble smithy to do this, I'm... not entirely certain that I can. It sounds like you want a special order-”

“Oh, aye, I do. And I must make a most rude imposition upon thee as well.” Sleipnir said benevolently, and the smith tilted his head again before the earth pony turned his eyes towards the forge. “Thy equipment is precious to thee, I can see... look at her, so well-maintained and beautiful... but not without the weathering of hard effort upon her face! And oh, that makes her all the more beautiful to me, for if she wert perfect and polished it would mean only that she has never known a true smith's hoof.

“And now, thou knows me not so well, but all the same I must ask a most personal favor: the use of thy forge. For I would like to forge the young prince's armor myself... and I must make repairs, of course, to mine own.”

Sleipnir easily pulled the sack off his back and calmly pulled out his battered breastplate, putting it down on the table, and whatever the smith had been about to say was lost as he stared at this for a few moments.

He swept it up, marveling over what to Blueblood was nothing but an ugly hunk of broken metal. But the smith looked amazed as he slowly studied it, before looking up at Sleipnir and asking wonderingly: “Is this your work?”

Sleipnir smiled warmly and simply nodded, and the smith turned his wondering gaze back to the breastplate, tilting it back and forth as he whispered: “I've never seen such shaping, such detail: it's exquisite. And the weight is... is incredible, but the balance is so fine even with how badly it's been damaged it almost floats on air...”

Blueblood rolled his eyes, then he asked rudely: “So you're admitting that this oaf is a much better smith than you could ever be?”

“Thou shall have to excuse him, as I said. He has not taken so well to the journey.” Sleipnir said kindly, giving Blueblood a look that was more amused than exasperated.

The smith, however, only shook his head and laughed a little, murmuring: “Well, he's right in any case. I don't think that I could ever make something like... like this. It's a piece of artwork, Sleipnir. I can see why you would want to repair it yourself.

“But all the same, I'm... not certain that I can offer you my forge for very long. I would be honored to let a stallion like you use it while I work on other things, certainly: I have an order of arrows to finish, a few bows to construct, some lighter armor to assemble and polish.” The smith smiled a little, gesturing at his forge. “But my business is still a business...”

Sleipnir only laughed at this, and then he winked at the smith and reached up to squeeze his shoulder. “Friend, thy offer is more generous than I could have hoped! Nay, I had planned to leave Canterlot well-within the week anyway: I shall ask only for the use of thy forge for today, and it should be more than long enough. I shall have to borrow some of thy materials too, of course, but I shall pay thee handsomely for them. 'Tis only fair.”

The smith blinked in surprise, leaning back before he gave a disbelieving laugh, asking after a moment: “Are you sure? Considering the state of your armor, son, I'm not sure you'll be able to even finish repairs to this breastplate, even if you work the entire day...”

But Sleipnir only smiled kindly, patting the smith on the shoulder as Blueblood looked suspiciously at the earth pony. “Well, we shall see, shan't we? But-”

“I am not paying for your repairs, Sleipnir. This is your journey, and you insisted on dragging me along with you. I shall not pay this pony a single cent.” Blueblood interrupted loudly.

The smith frowned a little, but Sleipnir only laughed before he grinned suddenly and reached up to rub firmly at his mane of vines. Blueblood scowled at this as the huge earth pony leaned back, and then he frowned a little as he realized there was something glittering in that tangle of ivy and green...

And then Sleipnir smiled as he pulled something free from his mane, and both smith and prince gaped in shock as he set down a ruby the size of a normal pony's hoof, the enormous earth pony saying cheerfully: “Fear not. I have these in plenty... well, thou shall accept gemstones as payment, will thou not? I am not quite certain of how valuable they are...”

“A gemstone like this? Exceptionally valuable.” whispered the smith, picking it up and looking over it incredulously. “Sir, are you-”

“Sir? Sir again? Bah! I am Sleipnir, not 'Sir.'” The ever-friendly, ever-happy, and now apparently also rich stallion stood up from the table with a laugh, as Blueblood stared at him incredulously... and felt a horrible, churning, burning loathing curdling his stomach as one of his eyes twitched. “But most excellent. I shall see to it thou art amply paid, then.”

The smith smiled, clearly lost for words as he looked up with gratitude at the enormous stallion, and Blueblood groaned and rolled his eyes, then turned angrily away, swearing that one day, he was going to ruin this stupid stallion.

Blueblood sat sulkily in the corner like a child, glaring angrily at Sleipnir. The stallion had spent all day laughing with his brand new friend, the smith that... Blueblood still didn't know the name of. He didn't care, either. He was just a dumb peasant, falling for Sleipnir's trickery. But oh no, Blueblood knew that the stallion was nothing but an evil, greedy monster behind that dumb facade of his. He wasn't going to let himself be manipulated like everypony else was... no, one day he was going to expose that jerk for who he really was. A throne-stealing, selfish, mare-hungry criminal!

He had spent most of the day just sitting here, plotting and scheming and coming up with all kinds of creative ways to ruin the stallion. Sleipnir had tried to get him to help once or twice, but there was no way he was going to raise a hoof to aid the earth pony... especially not with something so far beneath him like pounding away at a piece of metal with a big hammer, or fetching materials. He was no peon, no errand-colt. He was Prince of Equestria!

Blueblood rubbed moodily at his face, sitting back in the chair he'd stolen before he rubbed tiredly at his eyes. Sleipnir had been working away for the last... he'd lost track of time. Partly because in the middle of a particularly-wonderful scheme he'd been concocting, he'd fallen asleep in the chair, then listed until he'd slipped loose and landed on his face. The earth pony had just laughed at him and teased him, proving beyond a doubt he was nothing but a big bully. And then, to show he was also a stupid bully, he'd actually invited Blueblood to try and help again, saying that 'a little work would help him feel better.' As if hard physical labor had ever helped anypony.

But he was so bored and tired and... just miserable. All he wanted was to go home, but he knew that if he complained, Sleipnir would... laugh at him and make a joke of it. And worse, he knew that Auntie Celestia wanted him out here on this dumb mission with this dumb stallion... but he didn't want to be here. And what had that nonsense been about Sleipnir wanting to leave Canterlot already? He'd thought they were staying here for a few days... where were they going now? And what about the platoon of Royal Guard that was supposed to watch them? They had all wandered off! Wasn't that against Auntie's orders?

The prince ground his teeth together... then looked up with a scowl as Sleipnir strolled towards him. The unicorn reared back in distaste, leaning away from the earth pony: he was covered in sweat, and stank like... work. “Has thou had a good rest, my friend? I do hope so, for I now require thy aid. Fear not, 'tis not a great task, but I must fit thee for the armor I have prepared for thee.”

Blueblood scowled at this, then he brushed at himself before sitting up and saying imperiously: “It's your duty to make sure it fits me, not the other way around. Just make it work, Sleipnir, and don't waste my time with these trivialities. If you need my measurements, the royal tailor back at Canterlot has them.”

Sleipnir only smiled in amusement, replying kindly: “And that is very well and good for clothing, your princeness. But armor, well, 'tis a different matter. Aye, I have measured thee by eye well enough, but I must ensure there are no uncomfortable edges, no pinching, and most of all that the weight is not too great for thee.”

Blueblood scowled darkly, and then Sleipnir said kindly: “This armor shall be thy symbol of status, young prince. Thou does not want to wear an unhappy status, now does thou?”

The unicorn shifted slowly at this, then lowered his head and mumbled: “I... I suppose not. Fine. But don't take long. And wash your hooves, you're dirty.”

“Aye, with hard work!” Sleipnir said cheerfully, and then Blueblood squeaked in horror as the stallion cheerfully embraced him with one strong foreleg, squeezing him against his sweaty, bare body. “Perhaps it shall rub off on thee, Blue and thou shall learn the glories of a little bit of effort!”

“Get off me!” Blueblood howled in a strangled voice, and Sleipnir laughed as he stepped back. He seemed completely unfettered by the furious glare Blueblood locked on him, the unicorn brushing compulsively at himself and shivering in disgust at the feeling of... of... stallion sweat. How dare he? How dare he! “You... scum! You impudent jackass!”

“I do not know why so many ponies think I am a mule. 'Tis a strange thing, really, I have made it clear I am an earth pony, have I not?” Sleipnir paused, looking down at himself meditatively. “And to speak quite frankly, I believe I am rather larger.”

Blueblood twitched a little, and then Sleipnir said cheerfully: “But enough boasting about my stallion's sword! There will be time to talk of that later: for now, let us attend to thine armor.”

Blueblood shivered a little in disgust, then grumbled under his breath as he followed Sleipnir at a foreleg's length, looking at him distrustfully. Then he frowned when the stallion came to a halt in front of a table and said pleasantly over his shoulder: “Thou must first remove thy vestments. Fear not, friend Ironshoe has most generously provided a better jerkin for thee.”

“I... no.” Blueblood shifted quickly, looking uncomfortably back and forth: he couldn't see the smith anywhere, but he was damned if he was going to take off his clothes in front of Sleipnir.

The earth pony turned around and looked at him quizzically, and Blueblood snapped: “These... this is the clothing of a prince! These are the finest, best garments available and far more suitable for traveling and... anything else than... than some tawdry scraps put together by a half-baked smith! Why, look at you, you're barely any good and you cobbled together... all... this?”

Blueblood leaned to the side and stared blankly at all the armor Sleipnir had made over the space of the last few hours. And on top of that, he had repaired his own breastplate and put together what looked like a few weapons: even with his minimal knowledge of the forge, it seemed like an impossible amount of work to the prince.

Sleipnir shook his head, then chastised gently: “Thou must not be so rude, Blue: not only has he been a generous host, but Ironshoe is most exceptionally talented. 'Tis not his fault he is not so fast nor skilled as I am: in fact, I am most certain I have barely a lick of his talent! All I have accomplished has taken me many, many years to master, more than thou could count, and because nature has always favored me and guided my hoof. Why, I am really only a foal under his mother's guidance!”

Sleipnir laughed at this, and Blueblood scowled horribly before the earth pony said kindly: “Now do not be ashamed of thyself. Thy peculiar clothes shall not fit well with this armor and I must know thy measurements. Take off thy vestments and that silly lacing around thy tummy.”

Blueblood turned beet red, then he automatically hugged himself as he said in a rush: “I don't know what you're talking about and you can't make me do anything!”

For a few moments, Sleipnir only looked at him mildly, and then he leaned forwards and said gently: “Thou hast naught to be ashamed of, Blue. Believe me, soon enough we shall begin chiseling away the excess and making thee... more happy with thy body. And thy body shall thank thee for it, too, thou shall see.”

The unicorn flushed deeply, then shook his head and hugged himself, glaring angrily at the floor as he muttered: “There's... you're... mind your own business!”

“Well, thou art my business. I am supposed to protect thee, am I not?” Sleipnir asked reasonably. “Now come, off with thy clothes! Do not make me do it myself. I warn thee, I have as much experience when it comes to stripping handsome stallions as I do gorgeous mares!”

Blueblood looked a little nauseated at this thought, shivering a bit before he swore under his breath and nodded moodily. He reached up, fumbling at his shirt and purposefully taking his time... but Sleipnir just continued to give him that damned friendly smile, looking at him patiently...

It quickly grew much more frustrating and uncomfortable for Blueblood to take his time than it was annoying for Sleipnir, so the unicorn dropped his head and grumbled as he quickly stripped the rest of his clothing, doing his best to hide his blush and hugging himself self-consciously as he was left in only his girdle.

“And that as well, come now. We must make sure the fit is perfect for thee.” Sleipnir instructed, and Blueblood turned away, shifting uncomfortably back and forth before the earth pony prodded: “Or shall I remove it from thee myself?”

“Ingrate. Worthless... stupid...” Blueblood continued to mumble away as he awkwardly reached up and worked the girdle off his body, head bowed and a scowl on his features. It took him almost a minute to work his way out of the garment, and then he awkwardly hugged it against his flabby stomach, refusing to look Sleipnir in the eye as he muttered: “There. Happy?”

“I see already I shall have to make a few adjustments. By the Aesir, thou must be made of sterner stuff than I had thought to wear such a torturous device around thy middle all day.” Sleipnir whistled a little, then shook his head before he turned towards the table. “Here, this should still fit thee fine, though.”

Blueblood grumbled as some kind of thick cloth shirt was tossed to him, the stallion catching it and then glowering moodily: it made his hooves itch and looked like some kind of cheap weave... “This is going to make me rash. I will not wear it.”

“Oh, do not be so vindictive! 'Twill be fine!” urged Sleipnir, and Blueblood scowled a little before the stallion gestured at him easily, smiling warmly. “Come now. Thou need merely try it.”

Blueblood lowered his head, then he finally sighed tiredly before nodding grumpily. At the least, it would cover him up...

It took a bit of work to wiggle it on, but he managed it: it was bigger than he'd expected, covering almost his entire body, and only a little tight around his middle. He rubbed at his stomach sullenly, imagining how fat this wretched thing made him look: oh, what he'd do for the old days, before... before the chefs had started making all his extra desserts so fatty. It was all their fault he looked like this, and that... stupid Princess Twilight Sparkle for taking away all his duties and fun, so he had nothing to do all day but eat and shop and mope...

Then Blueblood winced as Sleipnir approached with some kind of jangling chain thing: before he could protest, the earth pony had it on his body, and the unicorn squawked as he felt buckles and belts tightening around him, Sleipnir saying cheerfully: “I have decided to focus first on protection, and not mobility. In time, of course, we shall find what suits thee best, but for now I think this is wisest.”

Blueblood wasn't able to reply in anything more coherent than a few garbled swears: he felt like a toy in Sleipnir's hooves as the stallion moved him around with ease, zipping back and forth between the table and the unicorn to begin strapping armor plating over Blueblood's form.

It was thankfully only a few minutes with how fast the earth pony worked, and then Sleipnir stepped back and smiled, studying his craft with a thoughtful eye. “Aye... 'tis not as bad as I thought, after all! Tell me, Blue, where does it feel tightest? And does thou feel the sting of metal anywhere?”

Blueblood shifted slowly, then he looked moodily back and forth before scowling a bit as he turned towards the large, dusty mirror at the other side of the room. He walked over towards this, fidgeting grumpily with every step he took: it wasn't that the armor felt too heavy or uncomfortable on his body, but more the idea of actually wearing it, dressed like some common soldier...

Blueblood scowled as he stepped in front of the mirror, studying himself moodily. There was no pretty gold hue to his equipment: it was more of a bluish tinge, with his cutie mark etched over the breastplate. He leaned forwards, studying this eight-pointed burst moodily before he said distastefully: “This looks so... plain, apart from the fact I am apparently wearing my cutie mark upon my chest. I thought you said you wanted to hide me away, Sleipnir.”

“I doubt they will know who you are from that symbol alone, Blue: besides, 'tis a fitting mark for the adventurer thou art going to become! Thy compass shall help guide the way upon our quest.” Sleipnir said warmly, and Blueblood gave a short laugh at this.

“Excuse me? Did you just compare my cutie mark to... to a toy for colt scouts and wastrels who would prefer to wander the woods instead of take part in civilized society?” Blueblood asked with clear disgust, and Sleipnir looked oddly offended by this remark.

“Wastrels? Come now, there is no waste in nature: oh, speak what you will of your society and civilization, but 'tis in thy high culture where I see great waste most often.” Sleipnir said disapprovingly, and Blueblood scowled up at the earth pony. “Well, 'tis true! And aye, 'tis not as if I have not taken mine own enjoyments in excess as well, but I have never been very wise when it comes to such things.”

“Oh, believe me, I could certainly tell.” Blueblood said acidly, and then he huffed and looked back at the mirror, leaning back and forth before reaching up and flicking his mane back moodily. “Atrocious. No, this will never do. I cannot be seen in this... this... clown suit.”

Sleipnir looked for a moment at Blueblood, and then he said plainly: “If thou desires to better look the part of a clown, young prince, all thou needs do is remove thy armor.”

Blueblood took a moment to understand what Sleipnir was saying, and then he glared angrily at him, twitching a bit before he snapped: “Laugh all you want, you idiot, but you're never going to take my position and I refuse to be made to look like a laughingstock!”

Blueblood spun angrily away from the mirror, then began to grab wildly at his armor, trying uselessly to tug it off as Sleipnir said almost pleadingly: “Oh, come now! 'Twas just a joke, Blue, there is no need-”

“Stop calling me that! I am Prince Blueblood, and you will begin to address me as such! These... these Equestrians will learn respect for me whether they like it or not!” Blueblood almost shouted, but his voice shook as he continued to grab uselessly at himself. But his hooves were starting to tremble and he felt a ridiculous burst of utter powerlessness as he failed to find the opening to his own stupid armor, the stallion almost whimpering a string of swears as he finally tried to just grab one of the big cups over his shoulder and yank it off...

Sleipnir gently caught his hoof, and then he smiled faintly as he stepped in front of the prince, looking down at him with those kind eyes. Blueblood did his best to look back at him with defiance, but he could feel his resolve weakening, could feel himself trembling as the enormous earth pony said gently: “Now there is no need for that, young prince. Calm thyself now, all is well.”

The unicorn tried to lower his head, but it was so hard to turn away from Sleipnir's gaze, as the enormous earth pony reached up and gently squeezed his shoulders. “Now. Listen to me for a moment. I do not care about thy title or thy throne. I have all intent to leave Equestria, as soon as I can. But all things happen for a reason, so I believe there is a reason why destiny has chosen thou as my guide.”

Blueblood finally managed to drop his gaze, flushing faintly before he shook his head and muttered: “I... I don't care. I want to go home to Auntie Celestia. I am not your lackey or your friend, I... I am a prince. I am above such things.”

Sleipnir chuckled quietly, and then he smiled kindly and reached up to muss up the unicorn's mane, Blueblood squeaking before he glared hatefully at the earth pony. “Now that is nothing but silliness. All of us need friends. Why, even among the gods of Asgard, there was nothing more valuable than a good friend!”

“I am not an idiot, and I will not be taken in by your... your lies and delusions! You are nothing but a stupid pony, a great... a big stupid pony that probably fell out of a balloon or launched himself out of a catapult!” Blueblood snapped, glaring challengingly up at Sleipnir. “I don't believe in silly old myths and foal's tales!”

“But there are no greater sources of knowledge than those things!” Sleipnir argued, and then he smiled warmly before he headed over to the table, Blueblood scowling after him... then frowning a bit more curiously when Sleipnir picked up a helm, saying kindly: “And then I suppose this shan't mean much to thee, friend Blue... but all the same, I think it shall protect thee.”

Blueblood looked moody as Sleipnir approached with the helm, then held it out to him: the unicorn took it and turned it back and forth distastefully, studying the casque: it had a grill that could snap down over his eyes, a slot for his horn, and was tinted blue like the rest of his armor... but it also had a series of runes emblazoned over the dome of the helmet, the stallion asking moodily as he poked this spiral: “Your gods?”

“In a sense.” Sleipnir's eyes twinkled with mischief before he said kindly, tapping along the helm: “I have writ upon this helm the symbols of my most precious family, in the hopes that their strengths shall bless thee. These are not true runes, but derived from the emblems we wear, as ponies. All except for this... here, on top, this is the name of my father.”

“He must be so very proud of you.” Blueblood said disgustedly, looking down at the helm with contempt. “And he's waiting for you in Asgard?”

“Nay, he is not.” Sleipnir smiled, kind and unfettered even as he said softly: “He is dead.”

Blueblood flinched a little at this, looking up uncomfortably at Sleipnir before the earth pony said, his voice level, even warm as he tapped gently along the helm: “And this, 'tis the name of my mother, who died many years ago. This is my brother, executed for a crime he did not commit. These are my sisters, one who crippled herself to let us fight ahead, another whom was left behind to battle the fearsome foe I spoke of. And beside her, the names of those most precious to her, who stayed with her to fight the evil.

“This, here, is the name of my wife, who was banished beside me, and yet I know not where. This is my daughter, who was taken by Helheim, and whom I see too little of. These are my niece and nephew: one was corrupted by our foe, but fear not for her. She is stouthearted, and her family will bring her back in time. I only wish I was there, too, to help her once more see the light.”

Blueblood shifted uncomfortably, looking silently down over these symbols embossed over the helm and not knowing what to say. He bit his lip, then looked up as Sleipnir said kindly: “And it would mean much to me if thou would wear this helm, and perhaps share in our family's strength. For thou art to be my brother on this journey, art thou not? Therefore, I hope to have thou know my family as well as I hope thou shall know me.”

The young prince dropped his head awkwardly, and then he gave a weak smile before slowly raising the helmet and putting it on his head. Sleipnir smiled at him warmly, then reached up and slapped him on the shoulder, Blueblood flinching and tilting to the side slightly from the sheer strength of the stallion as he declared: “Aye, most wonderful! And thus thou and I shall be as kin, shall we not?”

Blueblood only gave a short laugh, and then he shook his head briefly before looking down and mumbling: “I can't help but notice that a lot of them are... well...”

But Sleipnir only cocked his head curiously, and Blueblood cleared his throat awkwardly after a moment before he grimaced and reached up, trying to shift his mane around as he muttered: “This is going to absolutely ruin my hair.”

“Nay, nay. Thou must merely learn to care a little differently for thy mane, as I did when I used to wear a helm. Although I admit 'tis very nice to now have my most gorgeous locks free for all the world to envy.” Sleipnir said cheerfully, gesturing at himself as he shook his head back and forth, and Blueblood couldn't help but give a short laugh.

“Your 'gorgeous locks?' Please. You look like a shrubbery that's outgrown its pot.” Blueblood said distastefully, and Sleipnir huffed at this, grasping his head almost protectively. “Not to mention it's thick enough to keep those gemstones in... I bet you have little animals living in there, too!”

“Nay, my older sister would never permit me to keep animals in my mane. She always said 'twas unhygienic. And considering that whenever I went against her wishes on the matter my head was pooped upon, I cannot help but agree.” Sleipnir said mildly, absently flicking his viny mane backwards.

Blueblood stared for a moment at the stallion, and then he felt a smile quirking at his muzzle. He did his damnedest to repress it, but then Sleipnir looked at him with his childlike seriousness, and after a moment Blueblood found himself laughing.

He managed to choke it down after a few seconds, but the damage was done: Sleipnir was grinning at him, and Blueblood grumbled under his breath before he covered his mouth and turned away, saying grouchily: “You... just get this armor off me, you peasant. Although it doesn't surprise me that even animals find the best use for your head is as a toilet. It certainly explains why you seem so full of-”

Sleipnir cut off the unicorn with a laugh, and Blueblood scowled suspiciously before the enormous earth pony said warmly: “There! See? I knew thou would warm to me in time.”

“What? What are you talking about? You... idiot peasant.” Blueblood frowned, looking moodily at Sleipnir as the big stallion stepped up beside him and started to easily remove his armor. “I thought I made it clear that all I care about is that you are gone, and I am safely back with Auntie, in my rightful place, which is in my rightful throne.”

“Thou may say that all thou pleases, but it does little to change what I know to be true.” Sleipnir said cheerfully, nodding once: Blueblood meant to argue, but then he flinched a little as an armor plate caught his side. “A pinch? Fear not, I shall work out all the kinks. Where was it tightest?”

“I... don't know.” Blueblood said after a moment, shifting uncomfortably: the whole sensation of being in armor had just felt so weird to him that he wasn't sure what to say.

All the same, Sleipnir smiled, slowing his pace a little and checking each piece of armor as he removed it now. “Well, fear not, my young friend. We shall certainly come to know whatever is bothersome with it as thou wears it more, and 'tis not as if I cannot make any adjustments on the road. 'Tis just nice to have such a well-kept forge available here and now.”

Blueblood grimaced a little, shifting back and forth: the thought of wearing this armor so often bothered him. But more than that, the thought of wearing the armor while it wasn't properly fitted... well, it would be better to deal with that now instead of later, right? “Well... uh... I suppose if I must, I can put it back on and... tell you where it's uncomfortable. Although this whole thing is uncomfortable. Wearing this wretched peasant's gear. I expected far better.”

Sleipnir looked up, and for a moment, Blueblood wondered if he'd finally managed to tick the stallion off... and then Sleipnir smiled at him. And no, that wasn't relief that Blueblood felt, and if it was relief, it was relief that the giant stallion wasn't going to hit him, because he had no doubt that since Sleipnir had little respect for his authority as prince, he'd have little problem with daring to lay hoof upon his noble body. “Fear not, my friend, 'tis not a great worry. Thou art most of the way out of thy armor, and I already see where amends can be made. We shall find the rest later.”

“I... good.” Blueblood mumbled, and then he turned awkwardly away as Sleipnir removed the last of his equipment. The prince was left in just the too-big shirt, shifting a little before he asked moodily: “I don't suppose I can put my clothes back on now, can I?”

“Oh, I would really rather thou did not. They are so stuffy and formal. Look at thou, thou looks much more pleasant this way.” Sleipnir said easily, gesturing towards him, and Blueblood scowled a little even as he shifted lamely from hoof to hoof. “But, if thou must, then go ahead. I will finish here and then tell Ironshoe that we are leaving.”

Blueblood nodded, feeling relieved... but only for a moment before another worry struck him, the prince asking awkwardly: “For where?”

Sleipnir looked up thoughtfully from examining the armor, and then he smiled over his shoulder and said finally: “We shall spend tonight in Canterlot. Then, tomorrow, we shall leave... but we shan't go very far. Tomorrow, instead, we are going to spend time getting to know each other, and training thee, outside of this city. There is an inn just past the mountains, is there not?”

“I... yes...” Blueblood said testily, grimacing a little: the 'inn,' as Sleipnir called it, would certainly suit the earth pony's tastes: simple, wood, and not at all fitting for a prince like himself. Blueblood only knew it because every winter, they held a small tournament there, and Auntie Celestia always dragged him along to watch all the skiing and skating and other silly little games...

Even in winter it was only ever crowded because Princess Celestia liked to watch the peasants and their little competitions, and the public all came to gawk at their matriarch... and of course, to try and get in his favor, too, since he was prince. He didn't want to imagine what it was going to be like now, in late summer: they probably wouldn't even have that disgusting excuse for wine they served them every year.

That made his stomach twist, and Blueblood grimaced a little as he rubbed at his belly, asking moodily: “Is it time to eat yet? I haven't had a thing since breakfast.”

Not that he was really very hungry: the lingering smells of this place and Sleipnir both did a good job of keeping his appetite at bay, and he was still tired from spending all day sitting in that uncomfortable little chair. He just craved something, like chocolate or a cake or some other baked delicacy, heaped with sugar and icing...

“Ten minutes here, and then we shall say our goodbyes and find our dinner. Will thou check if any of thy soldiers are outside? They are quite well-trained... it seems one at all times has been keeping watch on this place, trading off every hour with another.” Sleipnir said absently, and Blueblood scowled at what was obviously some bald-faced lie made up to just make the earth pony seem psychic or something else ridiculous.

“I don't see why I should bother if you already know everything.” Blueblood said haughtily, and Sleipnir smiled amusedly over his shoulder before he turned his eyes back to the armor on the table.

No, he didn't know everything... but the mirror was at the right angle to let him see from the forge into the front of the building, and out through the dusty but wide windows. Sleipnir imagined that the mirror served two purposes: obviously so that customers could see themselves in their equipment, but also so that Ironshoe could see if anyone entered his shop while he was working.

He didn't bother to explain that, though, or to chastise Blueblood: there would be no point right now. No, what his new little friend needed wasn't anger and reprimands, but a little bit of kindness and compassion. Lecturing could be saved for later, when the colt was ready to listen to him. For now, he would rather concentrate on gaining the young prince's trust, and learning more about him.

After all, nature had taught him that the worst barbs and brambles concealed the most rare and magnificent blossoms.