Author's note - This is a piece I wrote for the WTG week 8 set in the universe of my currently one chapter long fanfic The Prince Among Paupers, in which Princess Celestia sends Prince Blueblood to Ponyville for lesons in humility, friendship, and fiscal responsibility. Oh, and he lives with Pinkie Pie. I tried to write this specifically so that you don't have to know anything about it but the premise in order to understand it, though reading the first chapter prior to this would certainly help.
A new day was dawning in Ponyville. The sun inched its way over the towering pines of the Everfree Forest and into a cloudless sky. Countless dewdrops shimmered, almost dancing, as the early morning light shone through them. All around, the world came to life once more. Birds sang with joy for the sun's return, waking sleepy critters and drawing them from their dens and into the brisk morning air. Most ponies would agree the tableau was nothing short of magical.
Prince Blueblood, accustomed to the solitude and quiet of Canterlot Castle, was not most ponies. "Must those accursed birds commence their intolerable chirping so early in the morning?" he muttered to himself after being woken yet again by their songs. "Honestly, with such little sleep it's a small miracle that I can stay so magnificently beautiful." He dragged himself to the bathroom to begin his daily grooming, supposing that he should be thankful that for once the inexhaustible pink nuisance he shared a room with was still asleep.
Without his small army of servants to aid him, the entire process took roughly two hours. Blueblood never once questioned the importance of the ritual; he was prince of Equestria, after all, and he had to look the part. Appearances are everything, he had thought to himself many times. What else separates a civilized pony from a worthless vagabond but a well-manicured hoof?
As he finished his grooming, he cursed the Ponyville spa for its exorbitant prices, vowing to buy it out and tear it to the ground as soon as he had access to the Royal Treasury again. He spent a while considering what he would put in its place before finally settling on a giant statue of himself made of platinum and gold. His thoughts of revenge were interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. Astonishingly, his roommate remained asleep. Blueblood walked downstairs and opened the door to find nopony waiting outside. Curious and confused, he stepped through the doorway and looked around. Still seeing nopony, he was about to make his way back inside when several gallons of water crashed onto him, completely ruining his carefully styled mane and coat. From above came the all too familiar sound of high pitched giggling.
"Wow, BeeBee, I sure got you good! That was totally one of my hardest pranks ever, I had to stay still for two whole hours; I've never done anything like that before! I've always been afraid of staying still, I feel like I'll get lockjaw, but all over my whole body, but then it wouldn't be lockjaw, I guess you'd call that lockbody, huh? Usually I just laugh when I'm afraid of something, but I couldn't even do that this time because then you would've known I wasn't asleep and that would have totally given the game away and that wouldn't have been fun at all, so I had to spend a super, duper, wooper long time just pretending to be asleep and I think-"
"How is this even possible? You'd have to be in two places at once to ring the doorbell and dump the water from the window."
Blueblood found himself silenced by a combination of rage and incomprehension. Deciding that murder was unbecoming of a prince, he trotted off without any particular direction in mind, wanting only to get as far away as possible from the manic pink pony. His aimless walk through Ponyville soon brought him face to face with Celestia's purple pet unicorn in the town square. Loath as he was to admit it, this pony was actually important. He frowned as she began to speak, struggling to remember her name.
"Oh, hello Prince Blueblood. I was just on my way to Sugarcube Corner."
"Yes, yes, giving me my work assignment, are you? Which of your friends am I to work for today? The orange simpleton? Or perhaps the rainbow-maned windbag?" Her name was two words...I think one of them started with "T."
"Well, actually, no. Celestia had an idea, so she shared it with me and I agreed we should try it. Today you'll be spending time with other ponies around Ponyville, to learn what they have to teach about life. It's self directed recreational learning, Celestia told me she was very interested in hearing about your findings."
Blueblood's frown deepened at the mention of Celestia. There would be no ducking out of this most recent disgrace. "Let me get this straight. Today I'll submit myself to some commoner and do whatever he or she says in order to learn a life lesson?" ...P, Q, R, S...S! The second word starts with "S!"
"I suppose you could put it that way, yes."
"So it's basically the same as what I've been doing since I came here, except I won't be getting paid." Adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs, blast it, what were they?
"Well, um...yes. But you do get to choose who you spend the day with."
Blueblood's eyes scanned the center of town, looking over the crowd of dirty, unrefined ponies that had already begun to gather for some early morning shopping. He was not pleased by what he saw. "I'm overwhelmed by the possibilities; I'm afraid I just can't make a decision right now. A nap will certainly focus my mind enough for me to make up my mind." Ah, yes, that's right, the first word was a noun and the second was a verb.
The purple mare was either oblivious to the prince's meaning or very determined to appear so. "Oh, that won't be necessary, I know exactly who you should start your day with."
Blueblood strained with the effort of putting on a smile. "Very well then, let us be off." Hmph. Were you any other pony your constant intrusions would not be treated lightly. You're lucky you're Celestia's personal favorite, Tricycle Sprinkle.
Ever since the pair had entered the Everfree Forest, Blueblood grew more displeased with every step. He was wondering for the tenth time what sort of pony would voluntarily live in such an unpleasant place when they finally came upon a clearing with obvious signs of habitation. The sorry state of the hut before his eyes confirmed many of his worst suspicions. A single sniff of the air confirmed the rest of them. He glanced sideways at his mercifully silent companion, hoping desperately for some clue that this was all a joke, but she continued to press on towards the shanty.
She knocked on the door and slowly it swung open. Blueblood was surprised to find a large black and white striped creature standing in the doorway. It took a moment for him to recognize her as a zebra, one of many species whose diplomatic envoys made frequent stops at Canterlot Castle.
"Why hello there, what a nice surprise, please, you two must come inside."
"Thank you, Zecora, but I'm only stopping by to drop off Prince Blueblood here. I was hoping you'd be able to teach him about all the work you do with your potions."
"Happily I will teach my art; very shortly we shall start."
"Okay, sounds great. I'll see you two later." Obviously pleased with herself, the lavender magician teleported away, leaving Blueblood alone with the zebra. Oh, good, I won't have to put up with Twine Spatter all day long. Though I can't say this zebra promises much better company.
He looked around at the interior of the hut disapprovingly. "Where in Equestria did you get such tacky décor?"
The zebra looked stricken. "Not tacky at all, but very grand, full of memories of my homeland."
Blueblood shrugged. "Well I suppose you can decorate however you want, it's not as if this shack could get any uglier anyway. What is it that she said you do? Make potions?"
"Cease your insults to my abode, or I shall send you on the road. Potions are what I do craft, now will you learn or keep acting daft?"
"And what do your potions do, exactly? Act as aphrodisiacs, cure headaches, and the like?"
"They are not trivial wares to be sold by peddler mares. In exchange for modest wealth, they nurse anypony back to health."
"So in addition to these miracle cures of yours do you also read fortunes? Perhaps you have a crystal ball you can teach me to use?" asked Blueblood, rolling his eyes.
The zebra trembled as she spoke her next words. "You who would make a mockery of my work are naught but a close-minded jerk. Though I do not like to shout, I simply must insist GET OUT!"
Ugh, finally, thought Blueblood as he all too gladly stepped out of the hut and the door slammed behind him. So much for learning how to make potions. Though I still have to learn something to report to Celestia. He sighed. At least I won't have to deal with that incessant rhyming all day.
By the time Blueblood reached the Ponyville city limits his round trip through the Everfree Forest had left him more than a little stressed. He removed most of the dirt and leaves that clung to his coat with a quick burst of magic and stormed off along the path to the village proper, cursing the zebra, Celestia, her sycophantic purple student, and everypony and everything in the universe that wasn't he.
Soon, however, from somewhere far out across the fields, came the faint sound of music. Classy music, the kind that he hadn't heard since leaving Canterlot. Hesitating only for a moment, he strayed off the beaten path towards the sound, eager for even the slightest hint of high society.
As the music grew steadily louder a small house came into view. Blueblood wondered briefly why it was so far from the rest of Ponyville, but his thoughts were interrupted by the sight of what he could only assume was its owner a mint-green unicorn absently plucking a lyre with a pair of oddly discolored hooves. Her eyes widened and her mouth grew into a broad smile as she noticed his approach. "It's not often that I get visitors here. Was it the music that brought you?"
"Yes. I must say I never expected to hear such sophisticated music in a such a fetid cesspool of a town."
The musician nodded her head slowly. "I can see why. The other ponies around here, they just don't get it. It's why I moved so far from the center of town."
"Well I don't blame you in the slightest. Very nearly everypony here is entirely insufferable, although you seem to be a rare exception, Miss
"Lyra. And I could say the same of you," she paused for a moment before smiling again. "Say, would you like to learn how to play the lyre?"
Blueblood had always liked music, and the thought of learning such a pleasant skill to report to Celestia was extremely tempting. "But of course, that sounds lovely."
He began testing the strings with his magic and was about to pull one when his teacher suddenly stopped him. "No! You can't play the lyre using magic, the music has to flow directly from your physical body."
Blueblood thought this at least a little silly, but he decided it was not wise to argue the finer points of lyre playing with a pony with a lyre cutie mark. Holding his tongue, he began to play under the careful instruction of the green pony. The prince showed remarkable aptitude for the instrument, and within short hours he was improvising a simple yet delicate melody brimming with a complex blend of both sadness and triumph.
The other unicorn was utterly delighted at his progress. She clapped her hooves together excitedly. "I can't believe I'm saying this already, but I think you're ready to graduate."
Blueblood cocked an eyebrow. "Graduate? Whatever do you mean?"
"Hold on just one second, I'll show you." She dashed into her house for a few moments before reappearing strapped with a pair of visibly loaded saddlebags. Shaking with enthusiasm, she approached Blueblood before pulling out a pair of strange metallic objects from one of her bags.
Blueblood took control of them with his magic before examining them with careful curiosity. The two objects were nearly identical, each roughly the size of a hoof and with five unnaturally thin protrusions. It was clear they were some form of machinery, though Blueblood had never seen their like before. They were hollow, evidently one was supposed to put one's hooves into them to operate them. "What are they?"
The musical mare's voice dripped with giddiness as she answered, "I call them hands. They let you manipulate objects with a finesse that hooves simply don't allow for. They're my own personal design. Do you like them?"
Blueblood didn't answer; he was too busy attempting to work the devices. He slipped his hooves into them, only for them to fall off as soon as he shifted them. "Bah, I can't get these blasted things to function!"
"Well of course, silly, they haven't been attached yet."
The other pony didn't answer; she was too busy reaching into her second saddlebag, from which she pulled a hammer and several rusty nails. For the first time he noticed the discoloration of his host's hooves was the result of countless half-healed scars.
He blinked several times and felt his mouth go dry as an uncomfortable warm feeling made its way down his leg. Curses, that hasn't happened during waking hours in three years. Deciding that he would rather die of embarrassment than of gangrene, Blueblood made a mad dash back to the road, berating himself for being too proud to ask Typhoid Speak how she teleported.
From behind he heard the thumping of frantic hoofbeats growing steadily louder. "Wait, come back! They only hurt the first few dozen times you put them on!" Blueblood kept running, but it soon became clear that he could not outrun his pursuer. The crazed musician was only a few body lengths behind him when Blueblood heard an unfamiliar voice cry out from above in wordless warning.
He looked up just in time to see a heavy-looking crate falling from the sky on a collision course with his face. His mind had barely finished processing this new information when a burst of magic knocked him to the side, away from the deadly projectile. He heard two distinct thuds and rose to his shaking hooves. What in Equestria just happened? Where did that magic come from?
After about a minute of staring at the ground in disbelief, making certain he was in fact still alive, Blueblood looked around and took stock. The crate, which Blueblood could now see was labeled "Feet," was lying on the ground, the green mare lying unconscious beside it. Standing over her was a gray pegasus with blonde hair and loaded saddlebags. The newcomer checked to make sure the green unicorn was still breathing before shrugging and turning to face Blueblood. She had the most peculiar eyes Blueblood had ever seen; they pointed in entirely different directions.
"Okay, let's go back to Ponyville."
What was left of Blueblood's composure shattered. "Now hold on, I demand an explanation for this! Where did you come from? Where in the hay did that crate come from? Why are you here? Who are you?" His mouth began to froth and his eyes darted back and forth.
The pegasus seemed not to notice his distress. "Oh, how silly of me. I'm Ditzy Doo, Ponyville's mailmare. I was delivering that crate to Lyra over there, but I kind of lost control of it. Oh well, looks like it all worked out for the best. You're okay and I delivered the package right to the customer!" She furrowed her brow for several moments as if in deep thought, then rummaged around in her saddlebags. "Muffin?" she asked brightly, pulling one out of her bag and offering it to him.
Blueblood gave the baked treat a cautious sniff, then retched when the scent of apples filled his nostrils. "No. I'm not hungry."
"Suit yourself. Okay, c'mon, let's go."
A protest was forming on Blueblood's lips when he realized that there was nowhere to go but back to Ponyville and he had no choice for the time being but to walk with the presumptuous commoner. With a huff he started off towards the town in a stony silence that the gray mare insisted on breaking with cheerful hummed tunes.
Eventually she stopped her humming. Blueblood was in the process of silently thanking Celestia when she spoke, ruining his mood again. "So what do you do?"
Ugh, I know these hick ponies are all rather dense, but this tops it all, Blueblood thought. "Do? I'm the prince of Equestria! I handle the trifling matters Celestia and Luna don't feel like dealing with. My name is Prince Blueblood, how could you possibly not know that?"
"No, no, no. I mean, what do you do besides that? Take me: I'm a mailmare but what I really love to do is blow bubbles! What's your favorite thing to do?"
Nopony had ever asked him that before. Caught off guard by the novelty of the question, he considered it carefully. Gazing downwards, he began to speak, slowly, hesitantly. "I like watching the sunset from the highest point of Canterlot Castle, then letting the night settle in around me until I drift off to sleep. When I was a foal I used to spend every night dreaming of a peaceful, quiet place I could call my own. When I started spending my evenings in the top of that tower, my whole life just
clicked. I went to that spot every single night for years, never missing a night until a few weeks ago."
"But you can't do that here in Ponyville."
"I am well aware of that," Blueblood snapped, more harshly than he had intended.
They continued walking in silence until once more the pegasus spoke. "Hey, what time is it?"
Blueblood glanced at the sun. "About three o'clock I would guess."
"What?! Oh, horseapples, this is bad." She stiffened and turned to Blueblood. "Your cutie mark is a compass; you're good at navigation, right?"
Her voice carried more than a hint of desperation as she cut him off. "Great! Look, I've really got to get my deliveries done soon; I have to pick up my daughter from school at five. I'm not so good at the navigation aspect of my job; can you help me find the houses I'm supposed to deliver to? Together we can get all my letters delivered in half the time. Ooh, I know, in return I'll teach you how to blow bubbles!"
"No. I have far more important things to-"
"Please! My daughter, she-"
"Just have her father pick her up."
The mare's ears drooped. "She
she doesn't have a father. Not anymore."
Blueblood stopped in his tracks. Thoughts of his own father raced though his head and suddenly a wave of guilt washed over him. He cast his eyes downward and struggled to speak. "I'm sorry," he finally managed, "Yes, I'll help you."
Immediately, the mailmare perked up again. "Oh, wonderful! Here," she said reaching into one of her bags and pulling out a rolled up piece of paper, "take this map of Ponyville and use it to help me find where I have to deliver to."
Blueblood unrolled the paper to find a crude sketch of what might have been Ponyville drawn in what he suspected was crayon. Everything on the map was an indistinct blob except for Sugarcube Corner, which was circled several times and had the word "Muffins!" printed next to it in bold letters. Blueblood sighed. She was lucky he had been in Ponyville long enough to memorize most of the town's layout. For father, he thought as he set aside the map and read the first envelope's address.
Hours later the unlikely pair sat on a hilltop just outside of town, watching the sun descend across the sky. The gray pegasus was beginning her lesson on proper bubble blowing technique. "Okay, so first you need to take the wand," she gestured to a small stick attached to a ridiculous piece of headgear in such a way that it dangled right in front of her face, "and dip it in the solution, like this." She dropped her head down, putting the stick into a bucket of soapy water, allowing a thin film to spread over a circular portion of the stick. "Visualize the bubble you want to create. Become one with the wand. Double take three times one, two, three. Then, slowly, gently, blow into the wand and bring your bubble to life. Think of it like a living thing." She blew, and out of the wand blossomed an extraordinarily large bubble that hung before them for a moment before floating off through the evening air.
Blueblood felt quite foalish following the eccentric mailmare's instructions, but with nopony around to see him he supposed there was no harm in humoring her. He had insisted, however, on using magic to hold his stick rather than her headgear. Despite his best efforts, however, the titanic bubble he had attempted popped before it could be fully formed.
"That's okay, we'll just have to start smaller. There's nothing wrong with blowing small bubbles until you get the hang of it."
The two ponies practiced until the sky around them was a veritable sea of bubbles. Finally out of the soapy solution, they turned back to the sun, which had just begun to dip below the horizon. The light rays streaming out of it caught on each and every bubble, reflecting off of them and filling the air with countless beautiful golden orbs.
"Wow," whispered Ditzy.
Blueblood nodded. "This isn't Canterlot, but it's
For what seemed like an eternity, not another word was spoken as the sun disappeared and the moon slowly and gracefully rose to take its place.
Princess Celestia was napping lightly in her study when the unmistakable aura of dragon magic woke her from her sleep. She picked the scroll up off the floor, smiling in anticipation as she broke the seal on Twilight Sparkle's latest letter.
Dear Princess Celestia,
I am very pleased to report that your intuition was correct letting Blueblood make his own way through Ponyville was exactly what he needed to begin forging connections with other ponies. Like you asked, I followed him throughout the day and, though it didn't always go smoothly, I am confident that Blueblood has formed the beginnings of a true friendship with Ponyville's mailmare.
Your most faithful student,
P.S. Do you know of a spell that cures incontinence? I'm sure Blueblood would be very grateful for any help you could give on the matter.
The princess sighed with content, happy in the knowledge that after eighteen years of guardianship she had finally taught Blueblood something worthwhile. She reread the letter and decided a brief visit with her sister was in order. Celestia trotted off down the hallway until she reached the entrance to Luna's room. "Luna?" she called out softly after knocking on the door.
"What was the spell you used to cure your little problem twelve hundred years ago?"