• Published 8th Oct 2012
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Blueblood: Hero of Equestria - Raleigh



Like all heroes, Blueblood will always do the right thing... after he has exhausted every other option.

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Honour and Blood (Part 2)

"Forgive my bluntness," I said, shutting the door behind Captain Blitzkrieg as he skulked into my office in the manner of a puma investigating the cave in which its helpless prey resides. "But what in Tartarus do you think you're playing at?"

Blitzkrieg stopped in the centre of the room, standing upon a small woven rug that I had bought from Dodge Junction in a vain effort to make my room feel less like the medieval dungeon in the castle's basement, and blinked in mock innocence at me as if he had no idea what I was complaining about. Chances are, however, that with this stallion's severe lack of social skills, which were rivalled only by those of Cannon Fodder (who was only beaten by the fact that Blitzkrieg had more friends than you can count on a single hoof) it was likely that he was truly ignorant of just how difficult he had just made the next few months or so for me. That is, unless I took steps to fix it.

"What do you mean?" he said.

The surprisingly large chamber that served as my office had been my home for nearly a year now, or at least I had done my best to make it feel as close to home as possible without filling it full of priceless baroque furniture, antique torture equipment, and the occasional tastefully erotic sculpture masquerading as art. While it lacked the sheer decadent opulence that the relatively few occupied rooms of the Sanguine Palace exuded, it certainly made up for that shortfall by matching the oppressive atmosphere that my distant ancestor and architect of my not-so-humble home Prince Coldblood had so expertly crafted into every gothic arch, fresco, and disturbingly graphic bas-relief with the sort of obsession with grotesque morbidity that exemplified his bloody reign. Nevertheless, the general sense of rotting decay that simply could not be removed no matter how hard the soldier-servants scrubbed and cleaned did help to alleviate just some of the feeling of homesickness that refused to leave me; the inescapable sensation that I had lost something vital to my life forever nagged at the back of my mind.

It certainly didn't help that the partially melted corridor I had led the rather morose-looking Captain Blitzkrieg through to get to my office served as a permanent reminder of the horrors that I had endured through that one night, which, though a year prior then and half a lifetime ago as I write it, featured heavily in my all-too-frequent nightmares. In truth, I don't think I ever really got used to living -'enduring' is a more appropriate word for what one does in the Royal Guard- there, or indeed in any other of the thoroughly miserable places I was stationed over my long career.

As I reached my desk, or rather the planks of wood crudely nailed together and held up by four stacks of bricks combined with a small, half-collapsed chest of drawers that could charitably be called a desk, I stepped behind it and levelled a suitably stern gaze at Blitzkrieg. "With the Wonderbolts just now," I said, keeping my voice measured and level, but still firm. "You're an officer of the Royal Guard, for Faust's sake. You represent your regiment and the Princesses; you can't go around talking to ponies like that."

"Oh, that," he said, shaking his head dismissively. "Can you believe it? Luna's flanks, Commissar, they're sending civilian stunt flyers- no, no, I stand corrected, trainee civilian stunt flyers here, and now you expect me to turn them into proper soldiers? It's bollocks, mate. It's utter, utter bullshit."

He stamped a hoof and snorted in anger, but then apparently remembered exactly with whom he was speaking and calmed himself down before he said something that I might make him regret later. To be completely truthful, for once, I was entirely on his side, but as I have made perfectly clear several times in these writings honesty is not a luxury that one can always afford, especially for a political officer. Sophistry, as much as everypony likes to condemn it, can be an extremely useful tool in the hooves of a capable pony; a little white lie properly employed will diffuse a tense situation with far greater ease than the truth ever could. My job, ultimately, was to make sure the regiment and, by extension the war effort as a whole, continued to run smoothly, which in this case required using a great deal of tact to get both Blitzkrieg and Rainbow Dash working together without descending into foalish insults or worse. That doing so would also increase my chances of survival was merely an added bonus.

"I know it is," I said. Blitzkrieg opened his mouth to say something, but I instantly raised a hoof dramatically to stop the impetuous pegasus from interrupting me. "But an officer of the Royal Guard is expected to behave with a sense of decorum and courtesy towards others."

I saw by the twisted expression on his face that it was best that I did not continue with this line of conversation, and thus rapidly switched the topic with all of the subtlety of, well, Rainbow Dash's entrance not more than half an hour ago. "The Wonderbolts are an organisation with a proud military history; you can't expect them to simply sit this fight out."

"Yeah, I know that," he said with an undercurrent of sarcasm barely detectable in his voice, and fortunately he appeared to have ignored my earlier comment. "But that was two thousand years ago. They ain't soldiers any more. Even those prissy, upper class toff officers who look down their perfumed noses at me, at us, are tougher than they'll ever be; the ones that survived so far, I mean. I won't let their inexperience and her cockiness cost the lives of any soldier in my company, in my regiment, or in the whole bloody Royal Guard for that matter."

[On a historical note, what Blueblood and Blitzkrieg have said is true - the Wonderbolts were initially founded as an elite military formation of the Royal Guard, akin to the special forces of the modern militaries, and can trace its heritage back to the personal honour guard of the first Captain of the Royal Guard, Commander Hurricane. In the era of peace that followed the Nightmare Heresy and the Reconstruction Era, the Wonderbolts wished to avoid being disbanded and were thus transformed into the stunt flyer group that most ponies are familiar with today. Elements of their martial past are evident in their customs and esprit de corps. Blueblood's description of their involvement in the Changeling Wars should be sufficient for most readers, but as ever I encourage all to conduct their own research.]

I made a vague, shrugging motion with my shoulders and said, "Very well, I understand if you don't think you're up to the task of training them. I'll ask one of the Solar Guard pegasus officers to train them instead."

"Now look here," he said suddenly, his voice switching from his usual loud, aggressive tone to a much quieter, subdued, but somehow far more menacing snarl. There is a property unique to the speech of ponies of Trottingham, the common, inner-city East Trottingham tongue especially, that in contrary to every other accent and dialect of our fair language the quieter the voice the more threatening it becomes. "Ain't no one's a better fighter than me; I will fight harder, faster, and more brutal than anypony out there. So don't think I ain't up to the task, mate, 'cause I am. I'll make them into bucking killers. You just watch me."

"So what's the issue, then?" I said, doing my damnedest to show him that I was not the least bit intimidated, and probably failing. Nevertheless, this was what I wanted; Captain Blitzkrieg was so incapable of controlling his emotional reaction to things that he could be almost pathetically easy to manipulate at times, such that I barely needed to put any effort into thinking carefully about how to nudge him into the correct frame of mind to accept whatever it was that I wanted him to do.

"The issue ain't with me, if that's what you're insinuating. It's with that lot." Blitzkrieg pointed a hoof at the large empty hole in the wall behind me that served as a very primitive window. "I can train them fine, but whether they want to be trained properly is something else entirely. A soldier's got to want to be a soldier for any of the training to sink in, even if that's got to be forced out of them. That blue filly, Rainbow Dash; she's going to be trouble, mate, just you watch. A pegasus fights as part of a squadron, which fights as part of a larger army, in harmony with the other squadrons in the air and with the stallions on the ground. She's not interested in that, I can tell. She's only here because she wants to show off, and I tell you, my stallions won't put up with that in a life-or-death situation."

Again, I agreed with him almost entirely, but once again it seemed that honesty was most certainly not the best policy; that is, not without twisting it a little to become more palatable. As much as I wanted to send Rainbow Dash back to Captain Spitfire with an emphatic 'NO' tattooed onto the mare's pretty forehead or something to that effect, I knew that a deft touch was required to resolve this issue and make everypony, or at least most ponies, if not happy then reasonably content at best. I beckoned Captain Blitzkrieg closer with a hoof, despite the primal part of my hindbrain warning me that doing so was a bad idea, and he crept around the desk to my side.

"This doesn't leave this room," I said, taking on a conspiratorial tone to my voice, "as what I'm about to tell you is top secret." Actually it wasn't, and I didn't particularly care even if he repeated everything that I was about to say verbatim to Rainbow Dash herself; this little piece of acting, however, encouraged Blitzkrieg to think that I trusted him enough to confide supposedly confidential and sensitive information, and thus make him that much more agreeable to what I was proposing if my none-too-subtle digging at his terribly fragile ego was not enough.

My words had the desired effect as Blitzkrieg leaned in closer, close enough for me to smell the distinct aroma that accompanies all soldiers, officers included to some extent, on an extended campaign that consisted of cheap chewing tobacco, cheaper beer, and rank body odour. Next to Cannon Fodder, however, his was the scent of twenty year old single malt Scoltch whisky and fine Hayvana cigar smoke wafting through the rarefied air of the Imperial Club's main common room. [The Imperial Club is one of the oldest, most prestigious, most exclusive, and most ill-behaved gentlecolts’ clubs in Canterlot, of which Prince Blueblood was a member. Their membership criteria are so strict that Blueblood himself was briefly barred from the club when it was felt by the governing committee that his personal fame had become far too 'celebrity' in nature, owing to his mass appeal with the common ponies. His reinstatement as a member came only after he had personally saved the life of the chairman, but judging by entries in this manuscript he would continue to hold a certain degree of resentment for a long time.]

"It's all political," I said. "You're right, the Wonderbolts aren't soldiers anymore, but you can't fault them for wanting a return to their glory days when the first major conflict for nearly two thousand years breaks out. You'll teach them how to fight, we'll send them out on a few little sorties, and then they can go back to Canterlot feeling like heroes and Faust willing we'll never have to see their like again. We don't want to put them through anything too dangerous, just a few patrols into enemy territory; something exciting enough for them to feel like they've contributed to the war effort."

Blitzkrieg tapped his chin thoughtfully, but then shook his head. "No, that'll only encourage them to send more trainees here; more kids for me to look after like I'm some damned foal minder."

Damn. He was more intelligent than he looked, but I suppose one doesn't become the head of a large crime syndicate feared across all of East Trottingham with an IQ hovering around room temperature. I gave myself a few extra seconds of thinking time to sort out my response by opening up a drawer and taking from the jumbled assortment of papers used to conceal its true contents: a bottle of a fairly inoffensive brandy that I had delivered here hidden amongst a shipment of paperclips and saved for this precise purpose.

"That depends on how well you train them," I said, uncorking the bottle with a satisfyingly loud and dramatic 'pop' and then decanting the caramel-coloured liquid into two small tumblers that I had left lying around on my desk. I am certain that if my father could see me serving such a drink, even if it was a rather more inferior distiller than the sort I usually choose for my libation, in these glasses he would have had me beaten again, but it would suffice for now.

There was a brief look of scepticism that flashed across Blitzkrieg's face before he was distracted by the promise of free alcohol, though I thought even this common and relatively inexpensive bottle was wasted on a palate as thoroughly unrefined as his. When I finished decanting, I grasped both tumblers with my aura and levitated one to him, which he accepted with relish.

"Wait." He held his glass with a grubby hoof just inches from his stubble-mottled chin. "Are you saying that if I do a crap job I'll scare her away? Because I'm not sure how I feel about that. I like to take pride in my work."

"Oh, I would never suggest something like that," I said with mock offence. "Not everypony is cut out to be a soldier, Blitzkrieg, and sometimes we need to be brutal in sorting out those who are unsuitable in mind or body. They may be forced to quit."

A smile tugged on the ends of Blitzkrieg's disturbingly thin, almost fleshless lips, and he raised his glass as if in salute to me. "I see what you're saying now."

I masked my grin by holding the glass under my nose, as though to sniff its contents. Where reason fails, bribery often succeeds, thought I, even if it's something as simple a free drink that will have been forgotten about within a few hours. Doing this was too easy, sometimes embarrassingly so which rather took the sport out of it, although the nagging sensation that scratched at the back of my mind from deep within the depths of my subconscious warned me that it was all merely a prelude for everything to come crashing down upon me once more. That, however, was a problem for the future, and as long as I was careful I could always take steps to ensure my survival.

"I'm not going to force you to do this," I said, taking a sip and instantly regretting it as the drink burned my throat. "But frankly, you're the best damn captain of a pegasus company that I have ever worked with, and if you're teaching them to fight then we can all be assured that they're being taught properly. Your fighting techniques and small-unit pegasus tactics will be passed back to Canterlot and used to train more Wonderbolts, so they won't have to keep relying on wasting the time of busy Royal Guard officers like you. You'll only need to do this once, and, who knows, maybe there's a commendation in it for you too. If they meet our approval by the end of it, that is."

Blitzkrieg hummed thoughtfully, and took a sip. If the strong liquor had likewise burned the back of his throat he gave no sign, but as his usual taste in alcohol tended to extend to the same sort of industrial-strength drain cleaner that his fellows amongst the common soldiery have been illicitly brewing where they seem to think I can't find them, I shouldn't have been so surprised.

"Alright then," he said with great reluctance. "But I won't treat them any different from my soldiers, so don't think I'll go soft on them just because they're civvies."

"I would never think that you would, Blitzkrieg." I tapped my glass to his with a chiming sound that seemed to cut through the stale, muggy air, and then I took another sip. A suitably sly grin formed on my face in a further effort to enhance in his mind that I trusted him enough to bring him into this secret plan, the one that I had formulated only just now to ensure that my head continues to remain firmly attached to my neck for the foreseeable future. "You can start tomorrow morning, then. Be brutal and don't hold anything back. Turn them into soldiers or send them home in disgrace."

The good Captain returned my grin and nodded his head. "Alright then," he said. "I'll do it, but I don't want them to come crying to me if they can't handle it."

There was a heretic's chance in Elysium of that happening, thought I; it didn't take an expert in the dubious field of equine psychology to see that this Rainbow Dash filly had an ego that would make Princess Luna's over-inflated sense of self-worth seem inadequate by comparison, and my aunt's an alicorn princess too. If anything, any abuse that she would suffer in the course of her 'training', either physical or verbal, from Captain Blitzkrieg would only serve to encourage her, provoking that immature part of a pony's brain that seems over-active in most ponies with an unhealthy obsession in competitive sports that drives her to do better than her 'instructor's' very low expectations. I expected that this would cause me no small amount of misery in the near future, but if it meant getting rid of them forever then it was worth it.

With that apparently settled, and with the tight ball of growing anxiety twisting away in my gut, Blitzkrieg then downed the rest of his drink with admirable enthusiasm. He muttered something by way of excusing himself, which I reciprocated with an equally non-committal reply. Just before he turned to leave he touched a hoof to the peak of his cap in what I took to be an awkward attempt at being polite, which was entirely incongruous with his normal demeanour, and then placed the now-empty tumbler onto a wad of reports that I should have read last week with a muffled 'thud'.

As the Captain of the Pegasus Company crossed the short distance to the door, I sat myself down on the rough, itchy cushion behind my alleged 'desk' and set about flicking through the small piles of papers, forms, reports, and books to give one the impression that I had something extremely important to be getting on with and that I shouldn't be disturbed further. Eventually, I settled on pretending to be very interested in an extremely dry report from Captain Pencil Pusher, our little pet pedant who by some bizarre turn of events had been appointed our quartermaster for reasons known only to Colonel Sunshine Smiles and to Faust herself (and indeed how he rose to become Regimental Sergeant Major in the first place to qualify for that appointment), [Quartermasters in the Royal Guard are traditionally commissioned from the ranks, usually former Regimental Sergeant Majors. According to his military service records, Pencil Pusher only reached the rank of Sergeant before receiving his commission. Blueblood does not appear to realise that it was Pencil Pusher's knack for 'pedantry', as he put it, and a devotion to enforcing Princesses' Regulations bordering on single-mindedness that resulted in his appointment in the first place] complaining about some minor infraction of some irritatingly obscure regulation that had been committed by somepony, or something - I wasn't really reading it, you see.

"Actually," said Captain Blitzkrieg suddenly. I looked up and was disappointed to see that he was still in the room, standing by the door with a hoof on the knob and a somewhat worried expression on his face as if he had done something wrong and was trying to gather up the necessary courage to confess it. In hindsight, I would have sympathised. "I wanted to ask you something."

I put the report back down to be lost amongst the other assorted piles of paper and office paraphernalia, trying to mask my irritation at his continued ineptitude with social cues in somehow missing the universally-accepted indication that all business has been concluded by shuffling sheets of paper around. "What is it?" I asked, hoping that I sounded just busy enough for him to consider leaving but hopefully not annoyed enough that I might offend him. Not that I was overly concerned about his feelings, just what he might do to me if I had accidently caused him some upset.

Blitzkrieg stared at me for a few uncomfortable seconds, as though he was either sizing me up for a coffin, shortened to account for the fact that after he had finished with me I was unlikely to still have my head, or, most likely, simply trying to work out using his rather limited mental capacities what to say to me. "You promise you won't tell anypony?"

"That depends if whatever it is poses a threat or not," I said, idly tapping one of the many quills that I had somehow acquired over the course of my career (probably having stolen them all by accident) against my desk in another measured attempt to convince Blitzkrieg that I was, in fact, busy. It didn't work.

"Nah, it's more of a, uh-" Blitzkrieg tapped his hoof against the barren stone, "personal thing."

I thought for a single, horrible second that he might have been trying to 'come onto me', as the common expression goes, and thus I inched back slightly in my seat to prepare to leap out of the window and onto the conveniently-placed pile of soft hay that I had ordered be positioned there just in case I needed to make a swift escape. In my defence, I was still exhausted and my mind was not quite in the right frame of mind, which was not entirely helped by the idea that Blitzkrieg would at all want to talk to me about feelings of all things. For the most part, I was still under the impression that if he had any at all that he decided long ago that he was far better off without such things.

In hindsight, I should not have really been so surprised; the common soldiery and a few of the younger, junior officers had taken to seeing me as a sort of counsellor, which I was always perplexed by, but nevertheless I always went along with it, safe in the knowledge that all that would be required of me was to sit there and listen and occasionally spout off a suitably profound-sounding platitude until the 'patient' felt happy enough to leave me alone again. It just made me wonder who in Celestia's name I was meant to turn to for help.

[Following the Twilight Sparkle Reforms of the Royal Guard and the expansion of the Commissariat, potential commissars were subjected to a barrage of psychiatric tests to ensure recruits have the mental aptitude and grit needed. As Blueblood has alluded to throughout his writings, the great responsibilities resting on a commissar’s shoulders of maintaining the spiritual and emotional well-being of a regiment in addition to stresses suffered by all senior officers of the Royal Guard often has a severe impact on a commissar’s psyche. However, Blueblood would later refuse to take advantage of the counselling support granted by the Reforms in a misguided attempt to maintain his ‘cover’, as he put it.]

"I think I have some time free." I waved a hoof invitingly at the cushion in front of my desk, and wondered inwardly if this was simply a lead-up to a humiliating prank of some sort. That I could always have him flogged to death later helped to cheer me up a little.

There was a brief moment where it looked like Blitzkrieg was going to give up on the idea and leave right then and there, but to my dismay he tentatively approached the desk once more and sat inelegantly on the cushion. The rough, 'rustic' pillow seemed to almost swallow up the slight pegasus, having been made for the large frames of the earth ponies who live in Dodge Junction.

"You won't tell anypony?" he asked again.

"You can trust me." Those four little words might constitute the most blatant lie that I have ever spoken in my life, aside from 'it wasn't my fault' and 'that's definitely not my foal'. Of course, the fact that I am writing about this conversation right now for the perusal of whomever is curious or bored enough to read the utter drivel that was my life damn well proves that.

"Alright." Blitzkrieg leaned forwards and rested his forehooves on my desk, and started fiddling annoyingly with the military-grade stapler I had left there amidst the other assorted detritus that I had accumulated over the years as part of an obscure and arcane system of organisation known only to myself and Cannon Fodder. "I want to be a proper officer."

A faint, warm gust of wind blustered through the empty window behind me, plucked at my sweat-soaked tunic, and stirred those sheets of paper on the desk that had not been weighed down. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw something blue dart past my window, and then another and another, each leaving a tell-tale streak of clouds in their wake, save for one whose trail was rainbow-hued. The juvenile rock music was back, seemingly emanating from out of nowhere, but at least it was quieter this time. With an irritated growl in my throat I seized the curtain with my magic and tugged it to cover the window; the room became darker and gloomier, with thin bars of light that shone through the moth-eaten rag, illuminating the motes of dust that danced in the air, and lit up Blitzkrieg's face in spots as if he had been burnt.

"Bloody show-offs," muttered Blitzkrieg. "I hope one of them smacks right into the walls."

"I'll have a word with them later," I said. The sounds of faint cheering could be heard from beyond the window, and I realised that perhaps our assessment of our new friends was not immediately shared by the rest of the common soldiery. Maybe this would not be quite so bad as we feared.

"Anyway," I continued. "What makes you think you're not a 'proper officer' already?"

Captain Blitzkrieg looked at me as if I had suddenly grown a second head. "Oh come on, mate, you know exactly what I mean. You know what all the other namby-pamby officers in the Solar Guard say about me: I'm a criminal, a violent thug who knows only how to fight and how to kill. And they ain't wrong on those accounts; violence is the only thing I've ever been good at, you know? But an officer ain't supposed to be like that. Bloody Tartarus, even that kid Red Coat's more of a proper officer than I am, and he's still single-hoofedly putting everypony's foals in the entire facial cleansing industry in Equestria through university."

I arched an eyebrow and leaned forwards, folding my hooves onto the desk. This sudden outpouring came as a tremendous shock, I must admit, for I had always acted under the impression that the stallion sitting before me, shuddering like a bowl of jelly and staring at me with wide, feline eyes, had all of the emotional depth of a stagnant puddle after April showers. By a lack of anything more profound or reassuring to say, I did my best to look sympathetic and said:

"So what is a 'proper officer', then?"

A hoof caked in dust jabbed at my chest roughly, and it was all I could do to avoid flinching away from Blitzkrieg's unwashed appendage. "Like you," he said. "Dead posh, basically."

"Oh please," I said, delicately pushing his hoof away from my tunic, not that he could have made the state of the battered, frayed, dust-covered, mud-soaked thing any worse at all. "I don't think I'm really that 'posh'."

A grin formed on Blitzkrieg's face. "'Oh please'," he said, doing a rather bad imitation of the refined Canterlot accent that had been so thoroughly impressed on me practically since birth. "You're so posh you probably cum perfectly-chilled champagne."

I don't know what sort of face I pulled at that frankly bizarre statement, but I imagine it was somewhere between complete and utter uncomprehending shock and 'just about to vomit'. Despite wanting nothing more than to reach over the desk, seize Captain Blitzkrieg by the ears, and then slam his face with the cheeky, insufferable grin plastered over it as though he imagined that grotesquely offensive comment to be the very pinnacle of refined wit repeatedly into the table until the horrid mental image went away, I inwardly told myself that if he truly wished to learn the necessary manners to be considered a gentlecolt then it was probably best he got all of this out of his system now rather than later. The scandal he would cause should he say something like that at the Grand Galloping Gala would be the absolute worst thing to happen there since, well, the last one I had attended.

"If I could do that," I said, after first sucking a breath of air through set teeth to help me compose myself, "then I wouldn't be here now, would I? Besides, I've been relieving myself in the same hole in the ground as a hundred other stallions for a year now, so I don't think I have the right to be called 'posh' anymore."

A quiet but still somehow threatening chuckle rose from Blitzkrieg's throat, and that grin of his only grew wider. "Probably better than using one of those pot things under your bed."

"This isn't the Middle Ages. I have indoor plumbing at home."

"But are you going to teach me or not?" he asked, finally putting the stapler back down on the desk. I inwardly thanked Faust for the conversation being steered, however clumsily, onto safer, saner ground.

I rubbed my hooves together awkwardly as I considered the pony sitting opposite from me carefully. It wouldn't have hurt to try, though it would been a waste of time for everyone involved, thought I. Although one can certainly teach any pony willing to do so the manners and etiquettes as espoused by a veritable legion of writers for whom writing such manuals forms the entire basis for their living (and, in personal experience, often fail to live up to the examples as described in their trite literature), as Auntie 'Tia often explained to me during our treasured times together such things are merely the symptoms of a gentlecolt's natural courtesy towards others. Having proved her point by being an insufferable, uncouth blackguard to one of her most valued servants, Rarity, despite my prior 'training', I feared that Blitzkrieg, being a pony of the lower classes, simply did not have that inner courtesy required to be a gentlecolt. However, I was more concerned about his stiletto blades in the dark than the embarrassment of failure, so I reluctantly nodded.

"Might I ask why?" I said. "I didn't think you'd be interested in that sort of thing."

Blitzkrieg clenched his teeth and stared at me intensely, such that I found myself unwittingly squirming in my seat under the gaze of those amber slits of eyes. A moment, silent save for the muffled, distant sounds of wing-beats and cheers from beyond the window behind me, passed, before he mercifully broke the hush that had descended, as it often tends to do, in this barren chamber and sighed. He slumped back in his seat and looked away from me, massaging the bridge of his nose with a hoof.

"You really won't tell nopony?" he said.

To be fair, at the time I had very little indication that decades later I would sit here safe in my study feverishly scribbling his words down at this ungodly hour in the morning; driven by shame, guilt, some desire to save my soul by making the truth known, or simply being unable to sleep. I nodded my head and thus assured him that everything that he said would be kept confidential, which I shall now repeat for you:

"You don't know what it's like, Blueblood. You're a prince, so I bet you never had to worry about whether or not there's going to be dinner on the table, or been forced to make matchsticks for seven hours a day, or beaten by the guv'nor 'cause I got one of my letters wrong. I grew up in a spike. You know what that is?"

"I'm familiar with the concept of workhouses," I said. Not overly familiar, mind you, but I had a general idea of how those abominable places operated.

['Spike' is a colloquial term for a workhouse, which at the turn of the century were places where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment. Life in such places was deliberately intended to be as harsh as possible, both as a means to deter the able-bodied poor and a misguided attempt by the newly ascending middle classes to punish the unemployed for the perceived sin of idleness. It is curious to note that the aristocratic elite of Equestria, including Prince Blueblood, remained firmly opposed to the workhouse system not necessarily for compassionate reasons, but because it severed the paternalistic ties between a noblepony and her vassals.]

"It was in the East End of Trottingham," he continued, "in the slums; Dad got in some debt with the wrong sorts of ponies, so he had no choice but to send us all there. A shitty place it was; I remember seeing rats the size of bloody cats running around and we'd have to fight them for our food. I remember the guv'nors telling us that we were all just a useless drain on society and that we'll never, ever amount to anything, and after a while the other ponies there just sort of accepted it. Not me, though. I fought back. I wanted to prove to all of Equestria that I'm not worthless, and I've been fighting all my life to do just that, but it's got me nowhere! In the cold bunkhouse I had this dream that after I left that wretched place I'd come back, and I'd show them all, show everypony, that they were all wrong. I'd be wearing fancy clothes, I'd have money and wealth and respect and everything else they said I didn't deserve. Except I still don't, because I'm still that bloody-minded thug everypony hates."

After he spoke, I became suddenly aware of the way that my grip around the plank of wood jutting at my chest tightened. Not once did Captain Blitzkrieg look away from me when he spoke, and I must admit that it took quite an effort to return that stare. It was only after silence had descended for more than a few seconds that I realised he had finished his rant and was expecting me to say something.

"Is that where Princess Luna came in?" I asked.

His eyes lit up at the mention of his saviour like that of a foal on Hearth's Warming. Blitzkrieg's warped image of the Princess was not in any way undimmed by her less-than-honourable behaviour prior which predictably resulted in what could only be described as a failure of spectacular proportions, such that I consider it to be a bloody miracle that she walked away with her reputation as some sort of military heart of our great nation intact. Dear Faust, I realise now I probably have enough in these documents to bring down the entire Equestrian diarchy if I wasn't so invested in ensuring that the status quo remained. Ponies, it seems, are very willing to forgive certain sins committed by certain other ponies, especially if they happen to have both wings and a horn.

"When I escaped the workhouse, I fell in with the East Trottingham gangs," said Blitzkrieg, interrupting my idle musings. "I thought I could get the respect I wanted, and for a while I thought I did, until I ended up in jail and the Princess saw me, and... well, you know the story from there. She gave me a second chance when everypony else had given up on me, even my own gang, and I just don't want to let her down now."

I gave an understanding nod of my head, one that I had practiced to appear suitably reassuring to others. "I'll have Cannon Fodder find a place in our schedules," I said. "If anything pops up, I'll let you know."

Blitzkrieg seemed somewhat mollified by that, and with a quiet word of thanks he rose from his cushion and left silently through the door. Now alone, I unceremoniously allowed myself to slouch languidly on the rough pillow in a manner that would have made the more stern of my various nannies and governesses strike me across my flanks with a cane and order me to sit up straight. I felt one of my moods coming on; everything was starting to fall apart at the seams again, and once more all I could do was be patient, wait, observe, and plan the best way to ensure my survival. It was this sense of powerlessness, endemic in just about every level of the military hierarchy, that could drive one to despair if one was not so well-acquainted with the uncomfortable sensation that my fate was increasingly in the hooves of psychotic, self-obsessed imbeciles as I am. There were, however, ways of distracting oneself from the uncomfortable truth.

Despite knowing that it was a very bad idea, especially in this heat and with water strictly rationed, I reached for the still-open bottle of mediocre brandy and set about pouring myself another glass. Damn the consequences, thought I. I could always worry about them later.

Author's Note:

Well, I've finished moving house and settled into the new flat, which meant I finally had enough time to write this chapter. So, apologies for the delay, but hopefully normal service will now resume.

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