Chapter 2 - Serf's Up
Blueblood awoke the next morning at dawn, approximately three hours after his uncouth roommate's loss of consciousness had given him the peace and quiet he needed to sleep. That was without a doubt the very worst night I've had to endure in eighteen years. Of all the intolerable-He sniffed. Feelings of fond nostalgia instantly replaced his grumpiness as he caught the unmistakable scent of blueberry muffins wafting through the air.
His curiosity piqued, Blueblood followed the smell downstairs to the bakery's kitchen where, to his shock, he discovered the pink earth pony already awake and hard at work. She did not appear to have any of the trademark symptoms of a hangover or, indeed, any other sign that only seven hours ago she had drank enough liquor to bring down a buffalo. As soon as he entered the room her tail made two quick whipping motions and she whirled to face him.
"Oh, hiya BeeBee! Wow, that sure was fun last night, wasn't it? We should totally do it again sometime! Let's see, I'm available tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the day after that, the day after that…" she gasped, "Ohmygosh! We should have an awesome, totally exclusive Pinkie-and-BeeBee party every. Single. Night!"
Blueblood's eye twitched, but before he could say anything the pink bundle of complexes had him wrapped in a windpipe-crushing hug. He attempted to demand that she unhoof him, but the only sound that escaped his lips was a gurgle whose only effect was spurring the pink pony into squeezing him even harder. When he was finally released from the death grip Blueblood found it prudent to change the subject. "These muffins smell quite…adequate. How long will it take until they're ready for consumption?"
"These muffins will be ready in about a half an hour. They're made with a super-special secret recipe I only bake when I have super-special guests! They take four whole hours to make!"
Blueblood did not need to work out the math to realize that by all the known laws of the universe what the baker pony was saying was entirely impossible. He frowned deeply. As his sleep-deprived mind turned the problem over and over his eyes shifted gradually out of focus.
The baker giggled. "Hey, maybe you could get a job with the post office!"
Shaken by her voice's sudden intrusion, Blueblood's mind and eyes snapped back to normal. "What?"
"Oh, nothing. You just reminded me of our mailmare for a second there."
"How I reminded you of anypony in this rustic chamber pot you ponies call a village is quite beyond my comprehension. Please don't make the mistake of believing I want anything to do with this above ground sewer or anypony in it." Blueblood noticed the pink pony's face, mane, and shoulders sag ever so slightly at his remark, and her coat lost some of its usual luster. The remainder of the time spent waiting for the muffins to finish baking and cooling was spent in the one thing nopony would ever expect to come across in Sugarcube Corner – an awkward silence.
This is intolerable. How much longer must she continue to stare at me like that? I haven't seen a pony look so depressed since Father. Blueblood furrowed his brow. But she's a mere commoner! How could I even entertain the notion that this crude pony is capable of the same depths of feeling as – DING! Blueblood's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a kitchen timer.
Overcome with, and puzzled by, a feeling of relief, he levitated several muffins into a saddlebag that he then proceeded to buckle on. His stomach grumbled, and so he decided to take one more and eat it then and there. As he bit into it his earlier feelings of nostalgia returned tenfold, enveloping him in a warm blanket of serene delight. He turned to leave, and was halfway out the door when he hesitated. "Thank you…and…" he coughed. "I'm sorry," he finally managed to choke out after three earlier attempts failed to produce any sound recognizable as speech, and with that he left.
Pinkie Pie perked up immediately, her pink coloring returning to its usual vividness. "I knew Rarity was wrong! Nopony is all bad. I bet he just needs a purely, positively awesome party to make his bad attitude go topsy turvy. I'll just have to tell Dashie to go easy on the pranks this time." She frowned and tapped a hoof on the ground. "But Twilight said no parties for BeeBee…I know! I'll just have to throw Twilight a "Let Me Throw a Party" party! It can't fail!"
Blueblood seethed at the indignity as he galloped to the horrendously ugly farm where the unpleasant orange rube that had received him in the town square the day before worked. It was not normally in Blueblood's nature to make haste but he was acutely aware of how far being late on his first day would put him from Celestia's good graces. He arrived at the gate at nearly the exact same time as the farmer pony. As Blueblood sat down, panting heavily, the mare looked him over and spoke.
"Huh. Ah can't say Ah expected you to be here on time. Maybe you ain't quite so worthless as Ah figured." She raised a filthy hoof and looked at Blueblood expectantly.
Blueblood blinked as he stared at the mud-encrusted hoof in disgust. "What?"
"Ah'm offerin' to shake hooves. It's the polite way for two ponies to greet each other."
"Indeed. Assuming, of course, that the two ponies are equal. In a case such as this, however, it is proper for a lesser pony – that would be you – to kneel down and kiss the hooves of his or her better. Make no mistake, I am your better, no matter what game Celestia is playing."
She squinted and frowned, lowering her hoof. "Yeah, that ain't happenin' sugarcube. C'mon, you've got a lot of work to do." Blueblood grimaced as he walked through the gate.
"Very well, let us get this over with." He quickly scanned the horizon and was perplexed to find that the only building in sight was the peasant's ramshackle barn. "Where are the lord's accommodations?"
"Was the word accommodations too confusing? I shall try to keep this monosyllabic for you, you inbred clodhopper: where does the lord live?"
"What the hay are you talkin' about?"
"The pony that owns this land. Where is he?"
The orange mare was growing visibly frustrated. "Ain't no pony owns this land but me and my family. Who else would?"
Blueblood gaped. Such a subversion of the natural order – is this even possible? He sighed and decided to charitably offer an explanation to the ignorant pony. "A lord is a pony of high birth that owns large estates on which laborer ponies work. That way he can organize things like the planting and selling of crops that require thinking too complex for ponies of inferior mental capacities such as yourself. For this, he receives his fair share of compensation – all the bits earned by the farm. Meanwhile, the worker ponies are generously allowed to live on the lord's lands and given a small portion of the crop yield. Now do you understand, or do you require another explanation, perhaps one with colorful pictures and simpler words?"
The other pony remained silent for a long time. "Ah think Ah got it."
Blueblood looked around once more. "Do you truly grow nothing here but apples?"
"There some sorta problem with that?"
"I hate apples." There was a pause, then both ponies sighed in unison. It was promising to be a long day.
Several hours later, Blueblood's legs ached as he bucked apple trees like a pony possessed. Pain lanced through his body with every kick, yet still he kept working. Must...not...let...farm filly...beat me. He repeated this mantra over and over until the words had nearly lost their meaning. Fortunately, his hard work was paying off; his buckets were considerably more full than the orange mare's, though, troublingly, she seemed far less exhausted.
Eventually, satisfied that he had built up enough of a lead to allow himself a short break, Blueblood collapsed in the shade of an apple tree and removed his saddlebags. He quickly checked to make certain nopony was watching before burying his face in them, devouring his muffins with rather less grace than was usual. As he scraped the bottom of the bag he began to feel a peculiar wet sensation on the tip of his muzzle. Slowly, he pulled his mouth out and found himself staring into a pair of pitiless purple eyes.
Blueblood's own eyes stayed open just long enough to register the creature attached to his nose as reptilian before they clamped shut tighter than the door of a debtor's prison. Frantically, he flailed his head from side to side as he galloped, shrieking, in a tight circle around the tree that he had been resting under mere moments ago. Growing quickly frustrated by his lack of success, he grunted as he heaved his head with all the power he could muster.
Immediately, the unwelcome presence that had attached itself to Blueblood's face flew off into the air. Slightly less than immediately, Blueblood heard a thunk as his horn buried itself in the thick trunk of the tree. He planted his forehooves on the tree and pushed with all his might to absolutely no effect. From behind him came the sound of a throat clearing and a poorly disguised chuckle. It was only then that he realized that the farmer had been watching the entire time. "Well, now what?" he grunted through gritted teeth.
She said nothing, but Blueblood could see her out of the corner of his eye. He did not like the look of her smile nor the implications of the lasso she was readying. With a casual flick, she looped it around his hind legs and fastened it tightly. Blueblood gulped. Suddenly, without warning, the rope jerked taught, and for one terrifying instant he felt he was about to be torn in half. Then, just as abruptly, Blueblood's horn was freed from the tree and the rope went slack once more as his body went sailing through the air, crashing down flankfirst in a particularly muddy part of the orchard.
Blueblood choked back a sob as he inspected the condition of his coat. The muck was far too deeply ingrained for his magic to be of any use in cleaning it off. This would take hours for my servants to fix. Alone it will take...oh, Celestia, why? The rustic mare was no longer even attempting to hide her laughter.
"Well, shoot, that's the funniest thing Ah've seen all week."
Blueblood stared at her for a long while before swallowing a set of words he thought unwise. Turning slowly away, he made his way to an isolated patch of the farm where he could suffer through the rest of the day in peace.
After what seemed like an eternity of mindless drudgery, Blueblood judged by the angle of the sun that it was five o'clock, the time that he had been informed signified the end of a workday. He picked up the filled apple buckets and trudged back to the entry gate of Sweet Apple Acres. There waiting for him with an almost imperceptible smile upon her face was the orange earth pony.
"Ah've been thinkin' about what you said."
"What I said?"
"Y'know, about lords ownin' the land an' all that stuff. Ah think you're right."
"Indeed? Well, it seems your education is not such a lost cause aft-"
"Ah'm payin' you with a portion of the harvest, just like you wanted!" she gestured to a small bucket filled with apples. Slowly, her composure was slipping and her grin was becoming more and more obvious.
Blueblood blinked. "But...But that's not how the system works! You can't just-" The mare was not listening to his impassioned explanation; she was already walking back towards the barn, humming a tune with greatly exaggerated volume. Comprehension rolled over him.
"And I suppose you think this is all some big joke?" he shouted after her.
She turned to face him, stunned into near silence. "Um...well...uh, yeah, kinda, Ah-"
"Oh no, that's quite alright. You don't have to explain yourself. Laugh! Laugh at the disgraced prince, kicked out of his own castle! Laugh at his misery, laugh at his shame! Giggle as he bends to your every command! Snicker as he tries to cope with leaving behind everything he knows!"
"Ah was just kiddin', don't get your saddle in a bunch. Ah got some bits ready for you in the barn."
Blueblood, however, was far too furious to listen to anything she had to say. "No, no, this will be fine," he said, indicating the bucket of apples. "I'm certain the Element of Honesty has given me what she believes to be a fair wage for a full day's work. Playing a prank on a pony for a cheap laugh at his expense - why, she'd never do such a thing." He noted a growing redness in the mare's cheeks with satisfaction. "I don't need your wretched charity." Mustering all the dignity he could manage, Blueblood picked up the apples and strode off back to town with his head held high.
Bean Counter was enjoying another pleasantly uneventful day at the Bank of Equestria when a disheveled, filthy unicorn stallion burst through the double doors into the lobby, magically dragging a bucket of apples behind him. He looked like he belonged more in a homeless shelter than a bank, but she put on an agreeable smile all the same. "Can I help you," she struggled with the last word, "sir?"
"I need you to cash this," he said, pulling a small slip of paper from his saddlebags. "Quickly now, I don't have all day."
She frowned as she inspected the check he had hoofed her. "I'm sorry, sir, but I can't accept this."
"Due to many instances of fraudulent payments and pranks involving this bank account, it is against the policy of the Ponyville branch of the Bank of Equestria to accept checks signed by this pony," she said in a carefully controlled monotone.
"Are you saying-"
"I am saying that you cannot cash a check from Princess Celestia." Her flat tone had cracked and her voice rose with every syllable; by the last word she was nearly shouting. She paused, then spoke calmly once again. "Besides, this check says it's for Prince Blueblood's sixth birthday. Why in Equestria would you have it? Did you really think we'd fall for this forgery?"
"I am Prince Blueblood! I've kept that check with me for seventeen years as a reminder of...well, that's not important. My funds have run perilously low, and I require, nay, I demand that you give me my money immediately!"
Bean Counter looked again at the stallion in front of her. His coat was so dirty she could only guess its original color, and, half-hidden under an unkempt mess of a mane, his eyes had a wild, almost crazed look in them. She sighed and barked out a single word. "Security!"
For the second time in one day, Blueblood found himself hurled to the ground. He was not fond of the sensation. Shortly after him came the bucket of apples, which shattered upon impact. He was relieved to see that the check had been tucked away with the apples and gingerly returned it to his bag. He had been reluctant to use it in the first place, and if it couldn't get him the bits he needed he was glad he could at least keep it with him.
Leaving the apples where they lay, he walked off glumly. I should have just taken the money when that bumpkin offered it. Hmph. I suppose I really have forgotten the value of a bit. Blueblood looked up to find that his wandering had taken him to the Ponyville Spa. He glanced into the window and was shocked by the shabbiness of his reflection. Slowly, he lowered his gaze. For ten minutes he sat there just staring at the ground until the sound of two pairs of hoofbeats caught his attention.
Away in the distance, two earth pony fillies were rapidly approaching. What caught Blueblood's attention, however, was their cutie marks: an expensive-looking tiara and a finely crafted spoon. Ah, the local aristocracy! Not the equals of Canterlot ponies of course, but surely even here there is class to be found amongst the nobility. More importantly, gentleponies in an insignificant little burgh like this will be desperate for more influence at court. With a lightening heart he addressed them as they passed. "Well hello, girls. I am Prince Blueblood. And you are?"
The pink one spoke first. "Prince Blueblood lives in Canterlot and is, like, totally handsome. He definitely does not look like you." The gray filly at her side poked her gently with her hoof. "What, Silver Spoon?"
"Remember what your parents said? Princess Celestia sent Prince Blueblood here and it's our job to be on our best behavior if we meet him," she said in a hushed voice.
"Okay, fine, but he still doesn't look like Blueblood," the pink one hissed back.
"Ahem," Blueblood cleared his throat and both fillies jumped slightly. "Due to regrettable circumstances beyond my control, I have become unspeakably dirty today. Rest assured that under all this disgusting grime I am indeed Prince Blueblood."
Once again, the pink filly spoke first. "Well he definitely talks like the prince would." The two young ponies exchanged a look, then bowed down deeply. "I'm Diamond Tiara and this is Silver Spoon. We're members of, like, the only respectable families in this whole town."
"But if you're so dirty why don't you just go in the spa and get cleaned off?" asked the one named Silver Spoon "It's, like, right there in front of you."
Blueblood grimaced. "Unfortunately, the princess has cut off my access to the Royal Treasury and I am unable to afford a spa treatment at the moment."
"Oh no, that's just, like, sooo unfair," said Diamond Tiara. "I know! We'll pay for it!"
"Yeah," chimed in Silver Spoon, "Our families have, like, tons of money and we'd be honored to help you."
"Oh, how wonderful! I won't forget this generosity." What marvelously polite little fillies, Blueblood mused as he entered the establishment, eager to finally wash off the mud that had been caked onto his coat for hours.
Some time later, once again looking as fabulous as ever, Blueblood stepped out of the spa and into the cool evening air. He felt like a new stallion, ready to take on all of Equestria by himself. All his rediscovered confidence had made him giddy and he practically pranced through the streets of Ponyville as he made his way back to Sugarcube Corner. He was in such a good mood that he was even willing to tolerate his pink roommate's antics for a night.
It was a good thing, too, for as soon as he sprang through the door she was on him, peppering him with a multitude of questions without giving him time to answer any of them. "Wowzers, you're back, you're back, you're back! That took such a long time, I was starting to get worried you'd never come back, but then I thought, 'stop being such a silly willy worry-wart, Pinkie, of course BeeBee is coming back,' and you totally did! How was working on AJ's farm? Ooh, ooh, did you meet her little sister Apple Bloom? Or her brother Big Macintosh? How many apples did you buck, huh, huh? I bet you bucked a whole bunch, you're big and strong, almost as big as Big Macintosh, and that's saying something, I mean, the guy has big in his name, so obviously he's..."
Blueblood let it all wash over him, losing himself in the stream of words when, abruptly, the pink mare stiffened. "Oh, wow, I've forgotten to introduce you to Gummy, haven't I?"
"I suppose you have, yes."
"Well, he's kinda shy but he just loves meeting new ponies!" She gave her mane a shake. "Come on out, Gummy! It's time for you to meet a new friend!"
A small green alligator popped out of her mane and blinked, whereupon Blueblood's eyes rolled to the back of his skull as he fainted.
Pinkie sighed softly as she looked at Blueblood's unconscious body. "I guess BeeBee needs to get used to the idea of having an alligator in the house. I know! I'll put Gummy in his bed tonight so when he wakes up safe and sound he'll know there's nothing to be afraid of!" Satisfied with her foolproof plan, she left Sugarcube Corner and hopped off to ask Twilight where to send Blueblood the next morning.