The Prince of Ponyville

by Kavonde

Chapter 2: The Prince Gets Worked

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Cheerilee stared at her alarm clock in confusion. Three in the morning? Why did I set it for three in the bucking morning?

Grumbling, she smacked the off button and set the clock for her usual time. Then she rolled over and tried to find a sleepable position. Her eyes drifted shut. Why did I set the alarm for...

She sat up straight with a jolt. Brushing her unruly mane out of her eyes, she staggered over to the bedroom door and leaned her head out. "Blue!"

The stallion's rumbling snores were her only reply.

"Blue!" she hissed again. When that didn't do anything, she fumbled her way across the dark room and poked him in the flank. "Blue, it's time to wake up!"

He murmured something and rolled over as much as the couch would let him.

"Blue! Your job! Wake up!"

He smacked his lips and snored.

Cheerilee glared down at her house guest, considering her options. After a moment, she went to the kitchen, filled a mug with cold water, and marched grimly back to the sleeping prince. She gave him another moment to wake up on his own–he didn't–and then dumped the contents into his face.

"Agh! Wha?! Gah!" he sputtered, trying to shake the water out of his eyes and ending up sprawled on the ground. He spotted four magenta hooves in front of him, and glared up at their owner. "Why?!"


He blinked. "Oh, horseapples!"

In a flash, Blueblood was in the bathroom, and moments later the rumbling of her water heater told her that the shower was running. Cheerilee sipped what was left of the water in her mug, then dragged herself back into bed. Things to do, she thought as her head hit the pillows, buy Blueblood his own alarm clock.

Blueblood arrived at Sweet Apple Acres an hour later, freshly groomed, stuffed with cereal, and powered by a half-pot of coffee that had tasted just fine once he'd added enough cream. Applejack and Big Mac were waiting for him outside the barn, the former surrounded by buckets and the latter pulling a cart full of tools. He offered the prince a friendly smile, though his sister just looked mildly annoyed.

"Yer late," she told him as he neared.

"I am?" Blueblood looked around. "But the newspaper said that dawn would be at 5:00 AM, and you said to be here an hour before that!"

"It's 4:02."

The prince worked his mouth soundlessly. "But, but it took me two minutes to cross your property!"

"Well, I reckon y'all shoulda considered that when ya woke up today."

Blueblood swallowed a panicked outburst and bowed his head. "Sorry, miss. It won't happen again."

She stared at him... and then, finally, relented with a roll of her eyes. "C'mon. Yer milkin' cattle."

Applejack picked up a few of the buckets and pushed open the barn doors; Blueblood levitated the rest and followed her in. Unlike yesterday, the cattle were all contained in their corrals. The farmer pony set the buckets down next to a large barrel and a stool. "Okay, now pay attention. I'll do the first couple, then you take over."

"Yes, ma'am."

The farmer went to the first of the cattle pens and opened it. "Mornin', Bellinda. Ya ready?"

"Oh, is it that time already, dear? Yah, I suppose I'll go first."

Applejack returned, followed by a large, white cow that looked largely identical to every other cow Blueblood had ever seen. She hunkered down on the stool, placed a bucket in front of her, and then... began stroking the bovine's udders.

Blueblood stared in abject horror as the bucket began to fill with milk. "So, Daisy Bell still stirrin' up sentiments?"

"You know her, dear," the cow replied conversationally. "Such a worrywart, don'cha know. I know you and your brother wouldn't let anything happen to us here."

"Darn tootin'. Ya'll are like family, in a way. An' we Apples look out fer our own."

"Yah... although, dear, you and your brother were gone for that dreadful incident with the skeletons. It was just poor old Granny Smith to protect us, don'cha know. We did get a bit worried."

"Aw, hay, Princess Celestia summoned me an' my friends to the castle, sugarcube. An' Big Mac sure didn't expect to get caught by no dead ponies."

"I know, dear. I'm just explaining the sentiments, eh?"

The pony finally stopped her work, grabbed the filled bucket's handle, and upended it into the barrel. She turned to Blueblood. "D'ya see how I did... "

The prince was still staring at her, his jaw slack.

Applejack covered her eyes with her hat. "Y'all ain't never seen a cow milked before?"

"I... just... I had heard of it, but..."

"Ooh!" giggled Bellinda. "He's blushing, eh! What a cute stallion, Applejack. Why didn't you let him milk me?"

Blueblood was pretty sure his entire coat was turning red.

"Aw, hush, Bellinda. Go get Jessie for me, will ya?"

"Of course, dear. Bye, handsome!"

Applejack threw a hoof over the stunned prince's shoulder and guided him out of the barn. The cool morning air almost steamed when it hit his burning cheeks. The farmer looked at him levelly. "You okay?"

"I, uh... I... "

She sighed. "How 'bout ya go help Mac in the zap apple orchard."

Blueblood nodded dimly and turned away.

He found Macintosh a few minutes later. The stallion was clutching a jagged saw blade attached to a long pole, and was using it to saw at the end of a tree branch. He nodded at Blueblood as he approached.

Blueblood waved, still blushing furiously, and stood silently by while his friend worked. After a minute or sawing, the branch came free and tumbled to the ground. Mac put the polesaw down and grinned at his new employee. "Told her that was a bad idea."

"How do you do that?" he whimpered.

"Ya get used to it. They jus' like teasin' us colts. Here, grab a saw."

Blueblood levitated another polesaw out of Macintosh's cart and leaned it against his shoulder. "So... what are we doing?"

"Trimmin' branches. Zap apples don't grow in the same spot twice, so we gotta cut the trees back so they can get fresh growth before bloomin' season."

"How do I tell where to cut?"

"Look fer the little stubs. That means a fruitin' branch. Jus' cut those off."

The prince nodded and set to work. Though using the saw was awkward at first, he gradually fell into a rhythm as he worked his way through the orchard. Above, Celestia's light rose into the sky, and Blueblood found himself smiling at the simple pleasure of doing manual labor in the cool, clear morning light. He hardly noticed when Macintosh approached him. "Lunch time."

Blueblood blinked. The sun was almost directly overhead. How had that happened? He grinned. "That sounds fantastic."

Together, the farmer and the prince walked back to the barn. There, a tiny, shriveled old mare was banging a hoof against a metal triangle and shouting. "Lunch time! Come an' get it!"

She paused when she noticed Blueblood, and regarded him critically. "An' who's this?"

"Blueblood, Granny," Mac offered, hunkering down next to the old picnic table. "He's a friend."

"Blueblood, eh? Sounds like a poncey name if ya ask me. He looks like a ponce, too."

"Hush, Granny. He's alright."

"I'll take your word for it," she said doubtfully. "Okay, young feller, take a seat. You eat corn?"

Blueblood nodded. "Frankly, my lady, I'm hungry enough to eat broccoli."

"We ain't got none of them fancy Canterlot vegetables here, boy."

"Trust me, ma'am, corn is quite satisfactory."

"Talks like a ponce, too," Granny Smith grumbled as she turned away.

Applejack approached a minute later, accompanied by a floating ledger wrapped in a magenta glow. The levitation was provided by a purple-hued unicorn, with whom the farmer was having some sort of serious discussion.

"I jus' don't see how we can make the numbers work, Twi," Applejack told her. "We jus' ain't bringin' in enough bits."

Twilight Sparkle chewed her lip. "Well, maybe I could ask Princess Celestia to... "

The farmer held up a hoof. "Uh-uh. No way, nohow. We don't need charity, Twi. We'll figure somethin' out."

"Applejack, you know Princess Celestia would be happy to... " She paused. "Blueblood?"

He waved. "Miss Sparkle, good to see you."

"What are you doing here?"

Applejack sighed. "He's our new hire."

Twilight's eyes went wide. "But you said you couldn't... "

Applejack shushed her. "So, big bro, how'd he do out there?"

"Jus' fine," Mac answered. "Good worker."

"Glad to hear it," she said, though Blueblood detected a bit of skepticism. "Sorry about the milkin' thing. Guess I thoughtcha'd be more, ah, comfortable aroun' that kinda stuff."

Blueblood felt a blush creeping back into his cheeks. "Well, it was just, you know, a bit sudden... "

Twilight looked between Applejack and the blushing unicorn. After a moment, she cleared her throat. "Actually, Blueblood, I sort of needed to talk to you."

"About what?"

"Princess Celestia wrote me and said that she didn't get to speak to you before you left. She wanted me to ask you what happened, exactly."

Blueblood frowned. "It's sort of a long story, Miss Sparkle."

"You could stop by my library later, if you want. That way Spike can transcribe everything, and you can get back to... um, whatever you do."

"That would be fine, thank you."

Granny Smith returned with a platter full of steamed corn husks. She sets them down in front of the clustered ponies; immediately, hooves and magic were popping the cobs into hungry mouths.

"Well, at least ya eat like a normal feller," she observed, giving Blueblood a slight grin.

It was late afternoon by the time Blueblood and Macintosh were done trimming the zap apple orchard. The prince was sweaty, tired, and smiling with the satisfaction of a job well done. Applejack met him at the gate with a small pouch full of bits, looked him dead in the eye, and told him to be on time tomorrow. He grinned and assured her he would.

He made his way into town, keeping an eye out for the few friendly faces he knew. He spotted the Cutie Mark Crusaders no doubt getting themselves into trouble, but they didn't notice him and he didn't particularly feel like becoming a criminal accessory.

He stopped abruptly when he came upon city hall and saw a group of large, familiar-looking stallions packing up their tools. The building itself was covered with fresh paint, and scaffolding rose around the areas that had suffered damage during the attack. A green stallion with a hacksaw on his flank seemed to be acting forecolt; he was watching the other workers with a serious expression. Blueblood gulped and ducked down a side street before anypony saw him.

He waited there awhile as the cluster of contractors passed by, laughing and grumbling to eachother on their ways home. When they were finally out of earshot, Blueblood stepped back into the open and continued on his way.

His route took him through one of the more damaged parts of town. Here, homes had been burned to the ground, windows had been shattered, shops had been ransacked–he was actually pretty certain that the mindless skeletons hadn't done the looting, but he doubted anypony would believe him–and lives had generally been destroyed. The street was empty and silent, save for the creaking of a charred door as it swung gently back and forth in the breeze.

Ahead stood what had once been one of the great hidden jewels of Equestria's haute couture. The Carousel Boutique was little more than a husk, now, with acrid smoke still rising from somewhere inside. The clothing shoppe's fabrics had proven extremely flammable, as had the exotic dyes that had once been used to color them. There was nothing left to salvage here. Even the things that hadn't charred away would be forever stained by the burning chemicals.

Rarity's furious eyes flashed through his memory. "You burned down my boutique!"

He sighed. He hadn't done it personally, of course. And he couldn't have stopped the skeletons if he had wanted to. He hadn't even known the building was hers,; it was just another gaudy, tacky offense against architecture that Azure's army had brought to ruin. It was only later that he'd discovered that he'd helped destroy not just her livelihood but her home.

Regardless of his intentions, he was responsible. For her boutique. For Ponyville. For all the lives that had been lost.

A quiet sob caught his attention. Curious, he stepped forward into the rubble, his nose crinkling at the smell. To his surprise, a white unicorn with an indigo mane sat in the midst of the ruin, staring down at something charred and blackened in her hooves. Blueblood grimaced and backed away silently. No reason to make her day worse.

His heart was heavy by the time he reached the massive, magically-shaped tree that served as Ponyville's library. It was, alone among the town's other abominations, an exquisite piece of architecture. Patient unicorns and earth ponies had spent decades cultivating the structure just so, hollowing it out without doing any harm, and generally doing what they could to create one of the most unique buildings in Equestria. A few blackened branches showed that it hadn't escaped the battle untouched, but it was otherwise healthy and intact. At least his idiocy hadn't destroyed everything.

He knocked on the front door. A minute later, a young, purple-and-green dragon opened it and looked up at him skeptically. "Well, well. Prince Blueblood."

He frowned. "Do I know you?"

"No, but I know you." He huffed. "What do you want?"

Blueblood's frown deepened. "Is Miss Sparkle here? She asked to speak with me."

"Maybe. What's it to you?"

"Spike!" snapped an annoyed voice. "He's here for a reason, just let him in."

"Fine," the dragon groused as he stepped aside.

Blueblood hadn't seen the inside of the library before. He was nearly dazzled by the sheer amount of knowledge stored here, set neatly into bookshelves carved into the very heart of the great tree. He had spent a great deal of time in Canterlot Castle's library as a colt, but while it was undeniably more extensive, it lacked the cozy charm and natural elegance of this place. The prince suddenly wanted nothing more than to find a comfortable chair near a fire and crack open a good book.

Distracted by his thoughts, he didn't notice that Twilight had joined him until she stepped in front of him with an eyebrow raised. "Erm, sorry. Rather a nice library you've got here."

The purple unicorn tilted her head at the surprising compliment. "... Thanks?"

"Yes, well. So, ah, the... interview?"

She kept staring at him as if he were about to sponteanously transform into a giant slug. He tried a disarming grin, but it didn't seem to have much effect. Finally, after a long and uncomfortable silence, she frowned and turned to her assistant. "Spike, take a letter. Princess Celestia wants me to interview the prince about his role in everything."

"You mean, besides burning down Rarity's shop?"

She shot him a look, and he quieted to an indecipherable grumble.

Blueblood sighed and looked longingly towards the door. "Very well, Miss Sparkle. Where shall we begin?"

"How about when you met Zecora?"

By the time the prince was done telling the story of his strange destiny, the sun had dipped below the horizon. He told Twilight everything he could: his conversation with the rhyming zebra, his decision to go on her vision quest, his discovery of Castle Arctus, meeting Azure Throne... As he spoke, he noticed the unicorn give her assistant pointed looks, and he'd scribble something down on a second scroll. By the end, the little dragon's hand was cramped and nearly pulsed with agony, and he'd filled multiple scrolls, as well as the list of notes Twilight had directed him to make.

"That's all very... interesting," Twilight said as she used her magic to roll the scrolls shut and seal them. "I didn't realize you went through so much."

Blueblood shrugged. "I didn't, really. Not compared to the ponies who suffered for my mistakes."

She looked at him speculatively. "... You really mean that, don't you?"

"Of course I do."

"Sorry, I just meant... well, from what Rarity and Shining Armor told me about you... "

His eyes narrowed at that name. "You know Shining Armor, do you?"

"Well, yeah, he's my brother."

He frowned. "You know, I never put that together. I knew he had a sister, but I assumed she'd be, well, more like him."

Twilight quirked an eyebrow. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Er, well..." Blueblood gave the door another desperate glance. "I really should be going. Work tomorrow, dark and early."

"Okay, then," she said, passing the scrolls over Spike. To Blueblood's immense surprise, rather than addressing the scrolls and mailing them off, the little dragon simply inhaled a deep breath and then belched a stream of green fire over them, burning them swiftly to ash.

"W-what are you doing?!" the prince demanded. "I just spent hours telling you what happened!"

Spike put his claws on his hips and stared at him. Twilight just laughed. "Spike can send messages directly to Princess Celestia like that. It's one of his weird dragon powers."

He looked offended. "Hey, whaddya mean 'weird?'"

"Oh, I... see," Blueblood said reluctantly. "That actually seems rather useful. Might I utilize his services sometime?"

"Hello, I'm right here."

Twilight ignored him. "I guess that'd be okay. Just stop by if you want to send a letter, I'll make sure Princess Celestia gets it."

Spike crossed his arms. "Oh, great, now I'm a mailpony."

"My thanks, Miss Sparkle." Struck by a sudden compulsion towards courtesy, Blueblood offered her a polite bow. When he looked up, he caught her staring at him with an unreadable expression. Well, that's an improvement from disdain and hostility. "Good night, miss, sir dragon."

"Whatever," Spike grumbled. Twilight just offered him a small nod.

The moon was high in the sky as Blueblood plodded home. Well, not to home, he knew. Cheerilee's tiny cottage with its too-small couch was hardly his permanent residence. But the list of places he felt truly welcomed–however grudgingly–was a rather short one, and so it was close enough for his purposes.

He reflected over the story he'd told Twilight Sparkle. It seemed strange that the events were less than a month in the past. In fact, it had been only thirteen days ago that Cadance had asked Blueblood to leave Canterlot. Ten days since he arrived at Ponyville, metaphorical hat in hoof, begging one of his few friends in this world for a place to sleep.

And yet, for all that he missed the regal beauty of Canterlot, the company of his beloved aunt, and the ease of his life of luxury... somehow, Ponyville was already beginning to seem like where he belonged. He had a job, here. He had ponies who liked and cared about him. He was, for the first time, building his own life instead of leeching off others. (Except for Cheerilee, he supposed, but he had already vowed to repay her kindness however he could.) Sure, he hadn't escaped his past. The mistakes he had made haunted him whenever he saw the damage the town had undergone, or whenever he thought about the anger and pain in a certain white unicorn's eyes. But at some point, without realizing it, he had begun to believe that he could truly change his life around. Here, perhaps, he would finally figure out who he was meant to be.

A heavy, blunt object smashed into the back of his head.

Stars spun through his vision as a group of stallions, their features indistinct in the dark, crowded around him. The club descended again, striking him on the side of the jaw; blood immediately began to fill his mouth. He felt something hard and jagged pressed against his tongue and spat it out. A tooth. He stared at it in shock.

And then hooves and other, more painful things began striking him from every angle, accompanied by snarled curses and grunts of effort. Terrified, disoriented, Blueblood could do nothing but curl himself into a ball and whimper. Auntie Celestia, please, don't let me die like this...

Somepony called his name. Abruptly, the mob disappeared, galloping into the night. Blueblood couldn't even raise his head to stare after them. He just lay there, sobbing, hurting more than he ever had in his life.

Hooves shook him roughly. He looked up to see two green eyes staring at him in concern. "Cheerilee... ?"

Dizziness swept over him, and he felt himself drifting away. His head rolled back, and he felt warm, sticky wetness spreading around him. Distantly, he heard Cheerilee screaming for help. The edges of his vision began to darken.

The last thing he saw was a broken alarm clock lying on the cobblestones a few feet away.

Next Chapter: The Prince Gets Patched Up Estimated time remaining: 7 Hours, 45 Minutes
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