Conversations in a Canterlot Café

Frothy Brew is the barista in the Canterlot café owned by himself, his wife, and his daughter. Years of hard work had made the café a successful and modestly popular place to stop and get a drink or a snack. Nothing prepared him though for it to become a hub of interaction with the undisguised changelings that were being seen more often in the streets of Canterlot. Can he put aside his feelings for the species though after witnessing the most horrifying aspect of the invasion years ago?
This story runs concurrently with the latter part of my Change of Life story. While reading that and Prelude To Change is not necessary, they do give valuable background that is glossed over in "Conversations". Cover art and story illustrations are all done by Foxenawolf.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/192085/conversations-in-a-canterlot-caf

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7. Chapter 7: Trouble Brewing

Frothy had been a little surprised to have so easily gotten to see Guiding Hoof despite turning up without an appointment. He had approached Flora with a little trepidation, but the receptionist had reassured him that Doctor Hoof would likely be able to spare him some time, and before long he had been told to go his office.

“Well, this is an unexpected pleasure, Frothy. How are things with you?” Guiding Hoof asked as he got up to shake Frothy’s hoof.

“Very good, Guide. Business is booming – I’m getting new changeling customers every day, and we’ve had to put on more staff to cope. Mixitkl is proving to be a favorite among the customers, both pony and changeling. Best of all, Flapjack seems to be settling in well with us. He never seems to stop smiling.”

“I’m very happy to hear that. I knew for a long time that he really longed to be part of a family again. It was so disappointing to me that so many prospective parents overlooked him in favor of a young foal.”

Frothy grinned. “Heh! Even Peach was happy to have a new younger sibling – she said that he’s past the bratty brother stage.”

Guiding Hoof chuckled. “I wonder how she will feel if Cherry’s new foal turns out to be a colt?”

Frothy laughed and replied, “I’m almost hoping that she gets to find out just for that reason.”

“You both might be surprised. Anyway, I’m sure that you didn’t come here just to chat a little. To what do I really owe this visit?” Guiding Hoof asked.

Frothy’s smile fell. “You’re right, Guide. I’ve been feeling… troubled.”

“How so?”

Frothy chewed his lip for a moment before replying, “I snapped at Mixitkl yesterday; it was a little thing and she didn’t deserve it.” For a moment, he looked as if he was going to say more, but balked.

Guiding Hoof put a foreleg gently around Frothy’s shoulder and said, “My friend, please come with me.”

He led them to the counselling room that Frothy had been shown weeks ago, its soothing atmosphere immediately having a comforting effect on Frothy.

“Now,” Guiding Hoof continued, “I’d like you to make yourself completely comfortable and tell me what led to this incident.”

Frothy got onto the couch as asked, while Guide sat in a chair nearby. For a long moment, Frothy gathered his thoughts before saying, “I’m not sure, but I think my bad feelings about changelings are returning. How permanent was your treatment?”

Guide ignored the question and instead asked one of his own. “So are you saying that you are resenting the new changeling customers, or all of them?”

“All of them. They don’t do anything wrong, or at least nothing that any normal pony wouldn’t do, but I still find myself being irked by them.”

“What about me? Do you feel the same way seeing me?”

“Oh, no!” Frothy protested. “I could never feel that way about you!”

“Are you sure of that? What irritates you about changelings that does not apply to me?”

“You’re my friend! You’ve helped me and my family. You brought Flapjack into our lives. How could I feel that way about you?” Frothy objected.

“Aren’t some of your customers your friends also?” Guide pointed out.

“Well, yes, I suppose so.”

“So they aren’t bothering you?”

“I… that’s different.”

“How so?”

Frothy tried to answer, but could not think of anything that did not sound like utter rubbish. “I don’t know,” he admitted.

“Okay. Let’s explore another direction. What have you been doing to reconcile your feelings about the attack on your customer – Ms Kettle, wasn’t it?”

“What do you mean? Didn’t you take away all the fear and anger about that?”

“I took away most of those feelings and others. However, as I told you, I could not take them all away without affecting your memories of that time.”

“Maybe you should have,” Frothy replied. “I don’t want to go back to the way I was.”

“What have you done to stop that from happening?”

“I don’t understand – what did I need to do?”

“Frothy, removing all your negative feelings would have destroyed your memories of that time because the emotions are inextricably part of those memories. This would have been just as big a crime as draining you of all your love. You would have felt their loss, even though you would not understand what you had lost, and that would cause you problems, just as it did for Ms Kettle. I had to leave something behind. However, that could easily be coped with by a normal pony. So, what did you do to cope?”

“I… did not do anything in particular, I think.”

Guide’s face creased in concern. “Didn’t you even talk about it with Cherry?”

“No, not really. Should I have?”

Guide sighed. “Forgive me, my friend. I foolishly assumed that you were conversing with your family about the event to reach closure. Your apparent lack of concern lulled me into a false conclusion. Frothy, you witnessed a terrible crime, and that would scar anypony who witnessed it. By the time I treated you, it had festered in your mind for a very long time. By alleviating you of the negative emotions, I gave you the chance to deal with those memories without the mental pressure of those emotions.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me at the time?” Frothy asked with a little exasperation.

“I wasn’t exactly at my best by then,” Guide gently reminded him.

“Oh yeah. Sorry.”

“No, don't be – it's my fault for not fully informing you before the procedure. I don't normally use that treatment though, and forgot to tell you. The good news is that you’re nowhere near as bad as you were back then, and having identified what is bothering you, we can work towards fixing it. First though, I want to check something. You said that I’m not causing you any problems – were you trying to save my feelings?”

Frothy was puzzled. “No, but can’t you…umm… taste that for yourself?”

“You’re a mess of emotions at the moment, but I didn’t really think so. However, the fact that I don’t trigger your negative feelings is a clue towards your problems. Let me try something.” With a flare of white fire, Guide transformed into his natural form and smiled at Frothy. “What about now?”

Frothy shuddered at the sight of the changeling’s fangs. “I still don’t like those long teeth of yours.”

Guide nodded. “I guessed as much.” He changed back to unicorn form. “My initial conclusion is that the sight of changeling fangs triggers your memories of the Blue Changeling feeding on Ms Kettle. The influx of more changelings into your life has been adding pressure to your negative feelings of that incident.”

“What am I going to do about that then? I can’t just start turning away changelings from the café.”

“You start where you should have started weeks back – talk about the incident with your wife, your daughter, with Flapjack, with Mixitkl, with anyone whose life is intertwined with yours and is affected by your feelings. Be honest, and try to listen to what others have to say. Then come back to me for proper counselling sessions. I’m not saying that it will be an immediate cure, but I think we can quickly bring the closure that you need.”

Frothy grimaced with chagrin. “So draining my negative emotions wasn’t a miracle cure after all?”

Guide shook his head. “It was never expected to be. It’s extremely quick and effective, but it’s a means to an end and not an end in itself. That’s what I should have explained to you if I had more of my wits about me after I treated you. I’m truly sorry about that.”

Frothy got up from the couch and went over to Guide. He put a hoof on Guide’s shoulder and said, “You are my friend and my savior; I’ll forgive you if you forgive me for being so foolish as to expect not to have to work at making the treatment effective.”

“You have a deal, Frothy. Now, I think you and I both need to get back to our jobs.”

Frothy chuckled. “My problems might be over after all if I don’t get back soon. If looks could kill….”

Guide laughed. “Yes, indeed. Farewell, my friend.”

* * *

Some weeks and several counselling sessions later, Frothy was on the verge of declaring himself cured. However, there were other problems rearing their heads. The growth in business of the True Brew Café was unexpectedly causing Frothy and his family some trouble. Simply put – they were outgrowing their current premises. One of its charms was the comfortable environment within, but the crowds that were now a daily occurrence were spoiling that atmosphere. Moving to larger premises was not a good option because of Cherry’s blindness, and the special facilities built into her kitchen. The situation was just starting to worry them when the solution presented itself in a bittersweet manner. The neighboring store – a gift shop – had experienced a growing downturn in business which had been directly attributed to the increasing number of changelings frequenting the area. One evening when both shops were closing for business, the owner of the gift shop came over to talk.

“Frothy Brew, have you got a moment, please?” the earth pony mare asked.

“Sure, Small Treasures. What’s up?” Frothy replied.

“It’s all the changelings – my customers don’t like them and have started avoiding the area, and that’s been hurting my business a lot. My shop depends on people stopping to browse, but if they feel uncomfortable, they don’t do that. I’m losing money every day now.”

Frothy looked pained as he replied, “That’s terrible, but what can I do about it? The changelings have a right to go where they want, and I like to get their business. I can’t turn them away without hurting myself or going against the will of the Princesses, not that I want to anyway.”

“Believe me, Frothy, if there was a way, I would have demanded that something be done about it. However, I can see the writing on the wall, so I’m not here to harass you about them. Instead, I’d like to let you know that I’m thinking of selling this shop and moving to a new location. I know that you’ve been getting crowded lately, so I was wondering if you would be interested in buying me out?”

Frothy blinked in surprise. “That sounds like a marvelous idea! I’ll have to discuss this with Cherry, of course, but I think that if we can come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement, that would be great.”

“Good. I’ll make arrangements with my agent to discuss a price. I’ll be talking to you again soon. Goodnight, Frothy.”

“Goodnight, Treasures.” Frothy could hardly wait to tell Cherry and their children the news.

* * *

They ended up paying slightly more than they would have otherwise if it had not been for a slight sense of guilt at bringing the changelings into the district, but they nevertheless got a satisfactory deal. Of course the shop had not been suitable for immediate use, so after dealing with the usual bureaucratic details, plans had been drawn up to remodel the shop. The existing fixtures had to be removed, and parts of the walls between the shops were demolished and turned into double doors to connect the two, with the alley way between them turned into an outdoor seating area with sailcloth providing shade and shelter.

Frothy soon ran into another problem though. The first contractors hired to do the various works soon walked off the job, citing the presence of the changelings. Frothy was genuinely shocked that so many ponies were so hostile to the changelings that they would turn down lucrative work. While he had previously strongly disliked them also, it had not stopped him from taking their business. This had resulted in many days delay while alternatives were found.

Frothy had begun opening the shop earlier, not only to cater for the occasional early customer, but he also had started bringing coffee to the new workers to start their day off well. It also gave him an excuse to look over progress while they enjoyed their brews. Ostensibly the workers were a mixture of ponies of all three types, but Frothy knew that four out of five were actually changelings in their regular guises as ordinary citizens of Canterlot. The remainder really were actual ponies, but had no problems working alongside changelings. One of them was even an enthusiastic apprentice, quite happy to learn from a skilled professional irrespective of species.

Having a disguised changeling workforce helped ameliorate the feelings of the other local shopkeepers. It seemed to them that Frothy had hired ordinary ponies despite his obvious tolerance of the changelings, so they had little more to complain about. A couple still complained to the relevant authority about how he was attracting undesirables, but they were firmly turned away. Their objections were easily trumped by the royal degree of equality and tolerance for their kind. With business being so good, and progress going so well, it came as a big surprise to Frothy when Zeena came to him one afternoon to give him serious news.

“Frothy, we have a problem.”

“What problem would that be, Zeena? Seems to me that everything is going fine.”

“We’re not making any progress with our primary aim,” she replied.

Frothy looked about the shop at all his changeling customers, and the occasional pony whom he knew were also changelings in disguise. “I’ve never seen so many changelings in all my life, so how can you say that?”

“Frothy, just because you’re enjoying a great growth in business, doesn’t mean that we’re making any progress with our goal of integrating changelings into pony society. In fact I reckon you have lost a lot of the ordinary pony customers because they don’t want to deal with us. You’ve had to hire changeling workers to do your remodeling too. Where are the ponies? I’ll tell you – not here mingling with us!”

Frothy abruptly realized that he had indeed lost sight of that goal. “Damn! You’re right. I’ve been too wrapped up in the business lately.”

Zeena patted Frothy consolingly. “We’re not blaming you. You’re an ordinary businesspony put into an extraordinary situation, and you’ve been doing what comes normally to you. However, if you’re going to help us, we need you to do more.”

“What exactly do you want me to do though?”

“We’ve called a meeting to discuss that. Can we hold it here tonight after you close up?”

Frothy considered that for a moment before nodding. “That shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll let the others know so that we can work around that.”

“Very good. I’ll see you again tonight then.” Zeena than left. A minute later she returned. “Forgot my coffee,” she sheepishly told him.

* * *

The changeling representatives started arriving shortly before the café was due to close. Frothy had Peach direct them to a reserved table near the front of the shop in order to keep them clear of the after-hours cleaning that she and Flapjack would be doing. Sterling had been the first to arrive, and he checked out the area to secure it for the others. Zeena had followed soon after, closely followed by Weighty Words and an unfamiliar earth pony mare.

Frothy had been concerned when he had seen the old librarian. “Weighty – are you sure you want to be so closely associated with this group? You still retain your pony guise, after all, and that might cause you problems.”

She had smiled benignly and replied, “Frothy, I may be retired from my profession, but I’m not retired from society. I’ll continue to do my share of that work. Besides, Zeena asked me so nicely to represent the Green Changelings.”

Frothy sighed. “I’m not going to win any argument with you, am I?”

“Not a chance, dear,” Weighty Words replied as she patted him on the shoulder consolingly. “Now let me introduce my companion.”

They turned to face the earth pony who had been patiently waiting. The mare had purple fur, and a violet mane streaked with bright yellow, as was her tail. A diamond shape on her forehead was matched in color by a blotch on her rump that was partially covered by her cutie mark of a silhouette of a stylized cat. What startled Frothy was a black lump on her back which suddenly moved and opened two yellow eyes. It took him a moment to realize that it was an actual black cat riding on the mare’s back.

 

 

“This is Amethyst Dawn, a librarian like myself, and a good friend,” Weighty said. “Don’t mind Soot back there – he goes everywhere with Amy.”

“Welcome to the True Brew Café, Ms Dawn,” Frothy said. “May I ask what kind of changeling you are?”

Amethyst Dawn smiled and said, “I’m afraid you are under a misapprehension, Mr Brew. I’m not a changeling. Thank you for the welcome though.”

Frothy abruptly realized that he had been blithely talking about Weighty Words’ alter ego in front of this new pony, and he turned to face Weighty and started to apologize.

Weighty Words quickly stopped him. “It’s okay, Frothy. Amy knows what I am. In fact she’s here specifically to represent earth ponies in these discussions. Canterlot being dominated by unicorns, and to a lesser degree by pegasi, earth ponies tend to be treated as second-class citizens sometimes also, so she might have some insights into our problem.”

“I see,” Frothy replied with some relief, glad that they were out of earshot of the remaining customers. He turned back to Amethyst Dawn and said, “Glad to have you with us, Ms Dawn. If you and Weighty would care to join the others at the table over there, I’ll have Peach come over and get you some refreshments.”

The last customer had left and the doors closed to the café before the final two changelings arrived. An Orange Changeling tapped at the door to be let in by Sterling who had been minding the door while awaiting the rest of the group. The changeling looked around the room and at the closed blinds before asking, “Are we completely private?”

Sterling nodded. “Only Frothy Brew’s family will be privy to our meeting, and no one can look in on us.”

“Good; I wouldn’t care for my identity to get out.” With that, the Orange Changeling assumed the form of a green hued pegasus mare with a wild mane of white, blue, and red, and with a cutie mark of a treble clef followed by a semiquaver imposed on the uppermost of five bars. She spotted Frothy and walked up to him.

“Hi, I’m High Note. I guess you’re Frothy Brew?”

“That’s me,” Frothy affirmed as he held out his hoof. He was surprised when she hoof-bumped him instead of shaking it.

“Glad to meetcha!” she declared. “You’ve heard of me, of course?”

“Um, no, not really.”

High Note looked disappointed until another joined the conversation.

“Dad might not have heard of you, but I have!” Peach said excitedly as she came around the counter to join them. “Archer and I saw your concert last week. It was awesome!”

High Note grinned. “Thanks! I had a blast, and I’m glad you did too.”

“So, what am I missing here, Peach?” Frothy asked.

Peach smiled widely and replied, “High Note is a very popular singer, Dad. She’s been playing concerts all over Equestria. I would never have known she was a changeling until Archer told me.”

“How did he know that?” High Note asked suspiciously.

“Archer is a Red Changeling. He didn’t know either until we got close to you, trying to get an autograph.”

High Note nodded. “And when he got close enough, he could tell. Fair enough. Did you get that autograph? I can’t remember everypony I sign for.”

“No, we didn’t.”

“Grab a pen and I’ll give you one before our meeting starts,” High Note replied with a grin and a wink.

“Yes!” Peach exclaimed before diving into her apron pocket for her ever-present notepad and pen.

As High Note signed the notepad, Frothy asked, “So you’re the representative for the Orange Changelings? I suppose it would have been odd for Punchline to be here considering that she’s in Manehatten at the moment.”

“Yep. Queen Polistae herself asked me to be part of your group.”

“Forgive me for saying so, but you seem rather young for the responsibility,” Frothy pointed out.

High Note grinned. “Maybe I’m older than I look. I’m a shape-changer, remember? However, if you’d heard my songs, you’d know why I was her choice.”

Peach said, “Dad, High Note sings songs about social change, love and peace. She’s been working towards changeling acceptance from another direction for a long time.”

“Ah, I see… I think. In any case, I’m glad to have you join us,” Frothy replied.

“Cool, dude. I’m going to chat with the others now. Get to know them a bit before things get heavy.” High Note wandered off in the direction of Zeena and Weighty Words.

“How… unusual,” Frothy murmured before turning his attention elsewhere.

About twelve minutes later, another tap on the door announced the arrival of a Yellow Changeling. Frothy hastened to meet him as Sterling let him inside and locked the door.

“Guide! I’m happy to see you again!” Frothy exclaimed. “You don’t come by often enough.”

Guide chuckled and said, “The foals are always my first priority. Good coffee must take second place.”

“What? Not even time to say hello to a friend? Just kidding! Would you like that coffee now though? I haven’t turned off the espresso maker yet.”

“I’d like that, thanks.”

Frothy turned to the others. “While I’m at it, would any of you also like a drink?”

There was a chorus of replies, and Frothy was kept busy for a while. He was almost ready to take over the drinks when there was a loud rapping at the door.

“Are we expecting anyone else?” Frothy asked.

Zeena replied, “Yeah, a couple more.”

Frothy started going around the counter, and said to Mixitkl, “Could you serve up the drinks while I see who’s at the door.”

“No problem, Frothy,” Mixitkl replied, putting aside her cleaning cloth.

Frothy cautiously unlocked the door and opened it, only to be confronted by the sight of a raptor beak practically in his face. He took a half-step back before identifying that it belonged to a griffin with the body of a white lion and steel-blue feathers adorning his head and wings. He seemed to be watching him with some amusement. A griffin had never previously visited his café, although he had seen them on rare occasions, so he didn’t know what to think about this one that had so unexpectedly turned up on his doorstep.

“I… I’m sorry, but we’re closed for the day,” Frothy managed to stammer out.

“Are you Frothy Brew?” the griffin asked in a harsh voice.

“Yes, I am.”

“Then I’m in the right place,” the griffin said, pushing past the startled pony.

“Wait just a minute! You can’t just barge in here uninvited, “ Frothy objected.

“Who said I wasn’t invited?” the griffin said with a smirk. “Hey, Zeena! Ashamed to tell this coffee-slinger that you invited me along?”

Zeena trotted up to them, obviously embarrassed. “Sorry, Frothy. I completely forgot to warn you that Arlin Steelfeather here was interested in participating in our discussions too.”

Steelfeather poked a claw in Frothy’s chest and said, “If you wanna talk about minorities, bub, you’re looking at one. There’s even fewer griffins makin’ Canterlot their nest than these shape-changers.”

Frothy knocked away the claw irritably and said, “Point made, Steelfeather, but if you want us to listen to you, I suggest that you be a bit more polite about it.”

“And I suggest that you realize that I ain’t no hoofer, so don’t expect me to behave like one.”

“If you’re living in Canterlot, then you know this isn’t a griffin eyrie either,” Frothy shot back.

They glared at each other before Frothy finally said, “However, I am your host for the evening, so I welcome you. Can I offer you a drink?”

“Got somethin’ a bit stronger than coffee?” Steelfeather asked.

“This is a café, not a bar.”

Steelfeather snorted. “Okay, a mug of black coffee then.”

Frothy made up the requested brew and passed it over to the waiting griffin. Steelfeather pulled a flat flask that he had somehow stashed under his wing. Opening the top, he poured some of the contents into the coffee, and then replaced the cap. Noticing Frothy’s stare, he said, “What? Haven’t you ever heard of Eyrish coffee before?”

 

 

“No, but I feel a bit slighted that you feel my coffee needs improving before you even taste it.”

Steelfeather chuckled. “Even the best drinks are improved with a drop of Eyrish whisky, boyo.”

Frothy sighed and decided to quit while he was behind. He had far more important things to worry about. He looked about the room, noting that the others were chatting conversationally while enjoying their drinks. Short of adding a pegasus, the group pretty much represented every species. Hopefully this mixed lot could work out some strategies for dealing with their problem. Of course they were still expecting one more, judging by Zeena’s words.

“Hey, Zeena, we’re not expecting that Blue Changeling… what’s his name? Cogs, wasn’t it?”

“No. We invited Cogs, but not unexpectedly, he declined.”

Frothy was about to ask Zeena who else was due, when a small flash and bang filled the store, revealing Twilight Sparkle.

“Your Highness!” Frothy exclaimed. “If I had known you were coming, I would have prepared something appropriate for you, Princess.”

“Thanks, Frothy, but I like to keep things simple outside of formal royal occasions. Besides, I’m the Princess of Friendship, and it’s a lot friendlier to keep things informal, don’t you think? So please just call me Twilight Sparkle while we’re here, okay?”

“If you say so, your Hi… Twilight Sparkle. Everyone else is having a drink before we start, so can I offer you something?”

“Hot tea would be nice, please.”

“Coming right up!”

Twilight was allowed to enjoy her drink before the meeting was called to order. By unspoken consent, Twilight was deemed to be the moderator.

“I’ll start by summing things up,” Twilight said. “Members of the various changeling hives have lived and worked peacefully among ponies for centuries, or millennia actually. After having their existence revealed by Chrysalis’ attempted takeover of Canterlot, many of these changelings still wish to continue living and working among us, and some of those wish to do so undisguised. Unfortunately they have had to deal with the stigma incurred by the actions of the Blue Changelings and, despite royal decrees, they keep suffering from bigotry and discriminatory actions. The Changeling Squad of Royal Guards continues to set an excellent example, but can only do so much. The social experiment that was enacted at this café seems to have achieved little, or in fact had the opposite effect to what was intended. We need to understand why, and propose other courses of action.”

“Pardon me for saying so, Twilight,” Amethyst Dawn interjected, “but while this café is a lovely haven for changelings, it was always doomed to fail as a means of socializing them with ponies.”

“Why is that?” Twilight asked.

“Ponies are social creatures, as are changelings apparently. However, despite the unification of the three tribes centuries ago, like still tends to be attracted to like. In other words, unicorns tend to prefer grouping with other unicorns, pegasi with other pegasi, and changelings with changelings. Canterlot is primarily a unicorn city, with a secondary population of pegasi. Other races like myself are sparsely represented. Why? Because we prefer familiar company. Changelings have taken to this café so much because they can associate comfortably with their own kind, but while this isn’t wrong, it is still the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve. We need to come up with a program that is attractive to ponies and changelings alike, not to mention our griffin friends.”

Frothy said, “That’s not going to be easy. Take it from me – anypony who witnessed a changeling feeding on a victim is not going to quickly forget what they can do, despite assurances. Facts do very little to convince ponies because our emotions affect our thinking. Only after I had mine cleared up was I able to accept changelings completely.”

Guiding Hoof nodded and said, “Both of you are correct. At the orphanage, we deal with the foals’ emotional needs first. It can take a long time before we can introduce new concepts to them, especially one as new as making friends with changelings. It’s harder for them to relate because changelings never have orphans – we always have the hive. It’s a matter of getting them to see how much we are alike that makes the big difference, but that is a lot easier with young minds than it is with adults set in their ways. I think you will find that there are no quick fixes. You may be looking at a process that will take decades to bring about a satisfactory result. That is not to say that smaller short-term goals aren’t achievable.”

“Then I propose that we start by making a list of suggestions for both short and long-term projects,” Twilight said. “Also, while our immediate goal is to work on the population of Canterlot, we should have sub-lists for the variables incurred by the different dynamics of cities, towns, and small villages as we progress. Possible problems should be highlighted and addressed. From there we can….”

Twilight was interrupted by the sound of a window shattering as something came crashing through it, tearing through the blind, and striking Zeena on the side of the neck. Many of the others were showered with shards of glass, and although the changeling carapace was resistant to cuts, the ponies were not so lucky.

Sterling bolted for the door, wrenched it open, and rushed outside in an effort to catch the culprit. Meanwhile, the others took stock of their injuries. Despite blood trickling from her cuts, Peach was bent over Zeena, checking her out. She turned to look at Frothy.

“Dad, Zeena has a bad gash. She needs medical help quickly.”

Twilight ignored cuts of her own as she went over to where Zeena lay groaning on the floor. “Step back, please. I have a healing spell that can help her.”

Twilight’s horn began to glow, a lavender field of magic that reached out to flow around Zeena’s neck. The changeling stiffened as the magic began to take effect, but then she relaxed with a sigh of relief from the pain. Twilight continued her spell for a long moment more before letting the magic abate.

“There! That will do until you get to see a doctor for a thorough check-up. How are you feeling?” Twilight asked the changeling.

“Very sore, but otherwise okay,” Zeena replied as she shakily got to her hooves with Peach’s assistance. Then she noticed Twilight’s condition and gasped. “Princess Twilight! You’re bleeding so much!”

“Huh? I am?” Twilight looked around to see a long cut on her side that was dripping blood profusely. “Yipe! I had better fix that quickly.” Once again her horn glowed and the cut pulled itself together, stemming the flow. “Okay, anyone else need help?”

Several others had lesser cuts that Twilight sealed in a similar manner. She was finishing with the last when Sterling returned, a thunderous expression on his face.

“I regret to report that the perpetrator of this act of assault on your royal personage has eluded detection, Your Highness,” Sterling said formally.

“On me?” Twilight replied. “How could anypony know that I was here? I teleported in, remember?”

“With all due respect, Princess Sparkle, that is irrelevant. Somepony deliberately threw some object through the window. As the café is still fully lit, that implies that ponies and/or changelings are inside, thus obviating the possibility of injury to some or all. That is an assault charge right there. Ignorance of the fact that one of the occupants is a Princess does not lessen the severity of the crime. I will be organizing a full investigation into this crime, and if the criminal is found, they will be brought up on charges of aggravated assault on a Princess, and several more counts for every person in this room. That is the law, Your Highness.”

The ultra-formal statement made Twilight realize that she was stepping on the Royal Guard’s duty and he was well within his rights and obligations. Without some good reason to do so otherwise, she could not contradict him. “Very well. What did you see out there?”

“Nothing. No pony could be seen in the immediate vicinity. I flew up to look for any clues, but came up empty,” Sterling Shield reported.

Frothy looked startled. “No pony at all? Even at this late hour, there are always still several ponies heading home or in the area for some reason. To have no pony whatsoever is very strange.”

“I don’t like the implications of that,” Twilight said. “That would indicate that more than one pony was complicit in the act, and possibly warned others to keep away. We may have an even bigger problem than we first thought.”

“One that involves large blocks of masonry,” Flapjack said, his right forehoof resting on the object that had hurtled through the window.

Frothy immediately recognized it as being part of the materials being used to renovate the adjacent shopfront. It seemed that their assailant had a large choice of missiles at hoof, and little reluctance to use them. He looked a bit closer and noticed something. “Is that writing on it?”

“Yeah,” Flapjack confirmed. “It says the same thing on all its sides: ‘NO MORE CHANGELINGS!’. At least there’s no ambiguity as to the motivation.”

Guiding Hoof said, “My fellow committee members, I think we will need to revise our agenda. I believe we are facing a far bigger problem than mere bigotry. If this continues to escalate, Canterlot may be facing its first race riots.”

Frothy shuddered at that thought, wondering how this new development would affect his customers, his business and, most of all, his family. There was no turning back now; he had made his choice and sided with the changelings. For better or for worse, his course was set. Time would tell if this motley assortment of beings could help turn about the situation.

However, Frothy did not have to face it without support. Cherry, guided by Peach, came over to embrace her husband in reassurance, and Peach joined in. Then Flapjack joined the group hug. The latter especially made Frothy feel better. If his foster son felt the need to add his support, it showed how much he was truly becoming part of the family. Together they could face whatever came their way.

* * * * * * * * *

Author's Note:

Apparently I was too subtle about Frothy's personal problems seemingly being over in the previous chapter. The comment about the fangs at the end of the chapter was supposed to be a hint. Ah well.

   
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