It had been about an hour since Celestia had left, followed shortly by Professor Cantrip. Not too long afterward Pony Joe and Octavia left Lance's home as they mumbled a vague excuse on their way out. Lance, however, knew the real reason they had left. The very fact that Blueblood was in the room was enough to make anypony nervous. Only a truly deluded pony wouldn't realize this.
"Well that was rude," grumbled Blueblood. "Even though I must admit that house-sitting for a bear sounds important, such common tasks cannot come close to the importance of being in the presence of Royalty such as myself."
"If house-sitting a bear is a common task, then I'm an Alicorn," Lance thought to himself. "Actually," he retorted, "according to your aunt, er, the Princess, your royalty has been indefinitely suspended. Now you have no excuse for being as dense and selfish as you always are."
Blueblood stared at Lance in horror, and for a few awkward seconds that seemed like forever to both ponies, there was silence. Finally, Blueblood's face contorted into one of pure rage, worse than the one he had shown the professor, a face not simply angry but seriously intent upon killing the next pony who did something he found improper. "HOW DARE YOU!" he roared. "HOW DARE YOU SAY SUCH THINGS TO ME!"
He lunged at the Pegasus with his horn, charging wildly. Lance simply stepped aside and allowed him to plunge his horn into the wall. Walking around to the other side of the prince, who lay on the ground stunned, the soldier bent over his new roomie and calmly said, "Do not make to attack me again. You are no longer in charge, and we are by no means equals. Rather, you are to treat me as your superior. And as your superior, I expect you to pay for that hole in the wall." Upon hearing this, Blueblood started to fully grasp how precarious his position really was. He began to sweat a little, and truly felt small and insignificant now that he was a subordinate the the head of the royal guard. "However," Lance continued, "I am not one to abuse such power, unlike you." He said the last two words with particular emphasis to tell Blueblood not-so-subtlety of his vices. Of course, Blueblood was too worried about the new way of life set before him to interpret Lance's inflection.
As he walked to his room, Lance turned to Blueblood one last time and said, "Make yourself comfortable on the couch. the spare bedroom may be yours when you prove yourself to be a guest rather than a nuisance. We're getting up early tomorrow."
Five o' clock in the morning is what Commander Spear considered to be a normal and reasonable time to wake up. In fact, she had let herself sleep in. But what is normal for a soldier of Canterlot is not normal to the average citizen, much less for a pampered, upper crust snob. For Princess Bluebelle, this was only a time that lowlifes like farmers would get up to perform chores only fit for servants. Lucky for her, it was quite impossible to rouse her; she was a very deep sleeper and resisted all manner of shoving and loud noises on the part of her new roomie.
Spear went about her business, taking a shower, making herself some breakfast, and getting ready for the day. Spear looked at her clock; it was getting close to six in the morning. After she glanced again at the comatose figure of the disgraced princess, she sighed and went into the kitchen. Picking up a pot and a wooden spoon she stormed into her living room and started banging them as loud as she could. It was about time the other ponies in her apartment building got up as well, and it would be her first noise violation in a while, so she was safe. Bluebelle woke up with a start, actually flying up into the air with a yelp. She came back to earth with a crash, landing on and subsequently breaking the coffee table.
"What is the meaning of this?" demanded the irate princess as she picked herself up off the ground.
"I should be asking you the same thing. You are the heaviest sleeper I have ever met, and that includes trainees in the Royal Guard after their first day of general combat training. Speaking of the Royal Guard, on your uncle's recommendation I have decided to enroll you in it... my own division." Bluebelle suddenly felt a twinge of resentment for all those civil rights ponies pushing for "mares in the military."
"B-b-but why?" Bluebelle managed to stamper out.
"Because I can, and I am most certainly not going to let you out of my sight. Come on, move out!"
The princess refused to move, so Spear leaned over and, seizing Bluebelle by her unkempt tail, began to drag her away.
"Warsh urt fr deh stehrsh!" Spear managed to say through a mouthful of tail.
"What? Wait! Ah! Oof! Ack!" Bluebelle choked out as she fell down the 'stehrsh'.
Spear released the tail. "I told you to watch out for the stairs."
Bluebelle glared at her. "Well?"
"It may be asking to much of you to expect an apology, but where is my carriage? I cannot be meant to walk there like a lowly peasant. I also assume that we are off to procure something for breakfast - some crepes, perhaps?"
"Nope. If you hadn't slept like a rock I would have gladly shared my breakfast with you an hour ago."
"Hurry up or you'll be late. Trust me, you don't want to get on Sarge's bad side before you even arrive."
After a long walk filled with both complaining AND whining, Commander Lance and Prince Blueblood finally made it to the barracks. Upon arrival, Lance was welcomed, as he always was, with awe and respect on the parts of the new recruits and friendly greetings from the other seasoned veterans. Blueblood was expecting, as he always did, the stony-faced apathy his guards, and most other guards that were trained to be in the castle. Instead he was faced with two different ends of the spectrum. The new guards were, for the most part, shying away and eyeing him with distaste. The others were sucking up and fawning all over him. At least they were, until they were yelled at and taken to various training fields in all parts of the facility. When the room had cleared out, the only ponies left were the prince, Lance, and a dark coated Unicorn.
"Who is this? Some gawker, I presume?" Blueblood snorted pretentiously.
"Nope" Lance said, and smiled happily to himself.
"I'M THE SARGE, AND EITHER I'M GONNA TOUGHEN YOU UP OR I WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE HERE A LIVING HELL!"
The prince flinched only slightly, for the Royal Sisters had yelled at him in private many times before. Rather than shrinking away in fear as Sarge expected, Blueblood retorted, "THERE IS NO NEED TO USE THE ROYAL CANTERLOT VOICE HERE." He paused and added as a supplemental insult, "ALSO, YOU NEED TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH."
Sarge was unperturbed by the prince's words and shouted back rhythmically, "SHUT, YOUR MOUTH!"
Sarge was one of the few unicorns who didn't use magic directly from their horn. Instead, his special talent was shouting, and his shouts carried a certain magical weight to them. Most of the time, he only "yelled" at other ponies, but when he used one of his "shouts," it was as powerful as one of Fluttershy's stares. This particular shout caused Blueblood's mouth to seal itself shut for the second time in twenty four hours.
"Don't you worry, your majesty," Sarge said. "The effects of my shouts are only temporary... usually." He leaned down further until he was whispering directly into Blueblood's ear, "And don't you get ta thinkin' that your aunt is gonna do anythin' 'bout it. She may be in charge of the cosmos but in here I make the rules. Do.You. Understand. Private?"
Unable to form a verbal response, Blueblood only was able to nod in agreement as Sarge took him off to start his training.
Bluebelle had experienced the worst day of her pampered life.
"Not only was Sarge veritably torturing me, but she was demeaning and abusive too. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't do anything right! I hate</u> her! She-she's just so MEAN</u>!" Bluebelle then broke down and started sobbing on Spears' shoulder in the middle of the street.
Spear felt very awkward as ponies began to stare at the bawling princess. She began to break into a trot in an attempt to put some distance between her and Bluebelle, but the princess matched her speed and kept up with Spear. Unable to stand listening to Bluebelle any longer, she galloped home as fast as her legs could carry her, leaving the princess in a cloud of dust. She scurried into her house and quickly locked the door.
"I don't care about duty anymore! I just can't take it; good Solaris I can't take it!" She slumped over to her couch and lay on it facing towards the ceiling. "That Bluebelle! I knew it was going to be a challenge to teach her how to live like a normal pony, but it's not just a challenge. It's impossible! She's simply not cut out to be a soldier. She lacks discipline, strength of mind or body, and any capacity to follow orders. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make her drink."
Spear stared at the ceiling and breathed deeply. She felt a scream trying to escape from her vocal chords, but in an effort to maintain what little composure she had left, Spear suppressed it. She rolled off the couch and onto the floor as she continued to think aloud. "On the other hoof, she did survive her first day of basic training. She didn't give up like I've seen other ponies do. Sure, she broke down in tears like a little girl, but I..." She paused to make sure that no one was around. "I wasn't far from crying after my first day of basic training. Sarge certainly didn't take it easy on me either. What did she say that day? Something like, 'Basic training gets a pony back to her basics. Nopony can hide her true character after galloping all day. The best and worst traits of a pony become clear in a time of crisis.' Sure Bluebelle is despicable in many ways, but nopony is all bad. Maybe I've been too hard on her."
At that moment there was a thud at the door. It seemed that Bluebelle had tried to knock but was so exhausted that she had lost her balance and fell on the front step. Spear hesitated for a second, but then walked over to the door and opened it to the sorry sight of Bluebelle, who looked worse than she did after being showered with cake at the Gala. Her white coat was stained almost completely brown. She had cuts and bruises all over her body from falling to the ground numerous times during her exercises. Her eyes were closed shut; her face was spoiled by streams of tears.Her legs were spread on the ground, muscles twitching from overexertion.
If there really is good in everypony, Spear thought, then nopony deserves to be in this much pain. Spear picked Bluebelle up and used all her strength to throw the princess on her back and carry her inside. Spear carried Bluebelle upstairs to her bed and tucked her in. "It's okay Bluebelle," she told the princess in a soft, almost motherly voice. Then she thought of a song her mother used to sing to her before bed and began to serenade Bluebelle. "Hush now, quiet now; it's time to lay your sleepy head..."
Spear may have imagined it, but she thought she heard Bluebelle singing along with her by the time the lullaby ended.
"...so I sent out my messages to you and Octavia, made a simple dinner, left a note for Blueblood, and then came here right away. I just don't know what to do!"
Lance and Pony Joe were sitting at a table in Pony Joe's shop, or rather Pony Joe was sitting as Lance paced back and forth, going on and on about the situation at hoof. Joe, in an effort to change the topic, asked, "Well, where is Octavia anyway?"
"Oh, she sent a note saying that she was going on a dinner date with somepony and couldn't make it," responded Lance.
"Bet ya ten bits it's with that DJ mare from a few nights ago."
"Well right now I couldn't care less about her relationship status. I have to send some kind of report to Celestia about how he has been progressing, but I have no idea what to say!"
"Has he made any progress?"
"I think so, but not much. And I have no idea how long he can keep it up. He only began to behave after spending a day as the Sarge's pet project."
Pony Joe put a hoof to his friend's shoulder, "If that's what you think, then tell her. You're getting just as worked up as Twilight on the day before a test, and the next day she would always come back with a perfect score. You'll be fine."
Lance looked relived, "Thanks Joe, I'll get right on that. I just have to go back and make sure Blueblood hasn't gotten himself into trouble while I was gone, then I'll talk to Celestia."
Lance trotted back to his apartment and turned on the lights. Blueblood seemed to have gone to bed. After everything that had happened that day, Lance felt the need to reconcile himself with Blueblood, so he entered the guest room planning to wake him up and have a talk before the sun went down. However, upon entering the room, Lance noticed something strange. Blueblood was missing.
Bluebelle wandered through the maze in the palace sculpture garden. It had been shifted only a few days before, and some parts were still new to her. She sat down in the dirt and sighed. Only yesterday she had been on the top of the world. Now she was bruised and, while physically whole, her spirit had been broken. Faintly, in the distance, she saw Prince Artemis raise the moon. As he flew by Solaris' chambers, she heard his softly booming voice shout "GOOD NIGHT BROTHER. I SHALL SEE THEE ON THE MORROW!"
With that the lights went off, and she turned her gaze to a neighboring tower. She lamented the loss of her personal suite, her wardrobe, her cushions, her cosmetics, and her sweets. What she would give for some truffles, crepes, and some white wine. Putting these things in the back of her mind, she turned back to the maze in front of her. Bluebelle closed her eyes and remembered the day she first conquered this maze and earned her compass cutie mark, the best day of her entire life. She remembered the joy she felt in realizing her purpose and the exhaustion that accompanied the effort.
As she was caught in this memory, a light turned on in Solaris' Chambers. Soon there was the sound of many galloping hooves as an outfit of guards rushed out of the tower. Bluebelle saw the torches of the guards move their way through the castle and into her tower. That's peculiar, she thought to herself. Why would they wish to investigate my private chambers? After a few seconds in her room, most of the lights spiraled back down the stairs. Suddenly, the Prince's room grew bright, and a beams of sunlight radiated out in every direction and began to scan the castle grounds.
"Bluebelle! Bluebelle! Are you out there?"
Bluebelle was taken aback. She recognized the voice as Spear's, her roommate who had tossed her away to spend her day with the military like a delinquent child. However, this Spear didn't sound like she was retrieving a runaway dog; she sounded like she was searching for a lost friend. Bluebelle paused, unsure what to do, and then was caught in Solaris' magical beam of sunlight. She squinted and tried to move out of the way, but the beam followed her as she moved. A shadow flew over Bluebelle's head, and the light turned off. Spear swooped down from the tower and landed next to Bluebelle, covering her with her wing.
After a pregnant pause, Spear spoke up. "Is there something that you wanted to talk about?"
Bluebelle remained silent and began to slowly walk away. Spear followed her to a bench by the statue of Eris, the draconequus who symbolized disharmony and chaos. They sat down and simply gazed into the night sky.
Blueblood was gone. Lance proceeded to tear through his apartment, looking for any trace of the prince. Lance paused, shocked, his brain struggling to deal with Blueblood's absence. With no sign of the prince, Lance went and did what he had to do. He put on his armor and talked to his landlord.
He finally coaxed the elderly mare into telling him which direction he had went. The mare told Lance that she saw Blueblood heading for the castle less than an hour ago. Lance began to gallop down the street and took to the air. Within minutes he arrived at the palace. Day court had ended about half and hour earlier. Celestia would have retired to bed. All he would have had to do was--
Lance turned around. "Yes, Private?"
The younger, more inexperienced guard turned white, even though his coat was already the color of snow. "So-sorry sir. I was instructed not to let anypony pass. Even you."
"As your superior, I order you to let me pass. I have a matter of grave importance to discuss with the Princesses. Gather the rest of your outfit and return here immediately."
"Sir, yes sir!" The youthful pegasus left hastily, and returned within five minutes.
Lance addressed the guards. "Prince Blueblood has gone missing from my care. I intend to report to Princess Celestia immediately and organize a search. Let's move out!"
With that he began to gallop towards the Princess' tower, passing by a startled Luna on the way. Bursting in he bowed and began to speak, "Princess Celestia... and Professor Mesmera... I apologize for intruding but Blueblood has seemingly ran away, and I have reason to believe he is hiding somewhere within the castle grounds."
"Oh Blueblood..." Celestia said to herself, before announcing, "Guards, go to Blueblood's tower, Lance, stay here."
She waited for the guards to leave before saying, "Cantrip, Lance, cover your eyes."
The room grew unbearably bright as Celestia began to radiate sunlight and shine like a spotlight into the garden.
"He always love the maze," the princess said. "If he were to go anywhere, that would be it."
Lance made his way to the window and leaped out calling, "Blueblood! Blueblood! Are you out there?" He spread his wings and circled the maze. Celestia's spotlight stopped, and passing through it, Lance caught sight of the prince. The beam shut off and Lance landed, feeling the most relieved he had felt for a long time. He covered the prince with his wing, not desiring that he should escape again.
"Is there something you wanted to talk about?"