A Different Perspective

Long Path, an earth pony living in Canterlot, and his best friend, a griffon named Free Agent, set out in the company of Twilight Sparkle to visit various places and species to look into what makes them different, and hopefully learn how to get along with them better. Things rarely go to plan though, and along the way, they discover things about themselves, and find love, drama, and laughter. Then Chrysalis changes everything, and the fate of the whole world might be at stake. Their lives will never be the same!
This story is set mostly after the events of Conversations in a Canterlot Cafe and builds on the fanon of the series, especially changelings, so you might want to read those stories first for background material.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/246414/a-different-perspective

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1. Chapter 1: Getting To Know You; Getting To Know All About You

“It’s awfully quiet around here, even for this neighborhood,” the grey earth pony observed as they walked through the unusually empty streets of Canterlot.

“Yeah, everypony's gone to check out the wedding of Princess Cadenza and whatshisname at the castle,” his griffon companion replied.

“What do they expect to do? They can’t expect three quarters of the population of Canterlot to fit into the castle. Besides, that would have to be an invitation-only event.”

The griffon smirked. “You think that’s gonna stop some of them, Path?”

Long Path grimaced and said, “I suppose not. Speaking of which, how come you’re not doing precisely that, Free? Seems like your kind of thing.”

“Nah!” Free Agent replied. “I’ll be gate-crashing the party afterwards! Work the crowd and find a filly or two, maybe a good-looking stallion to make a foursome….”

Long Path rolled his eyes. “As long as you don’t bring them to our place again.”

“Aw, c'mon! I just want you to have a bit of fun too occasionally. Maybe get a cutie mark in loosening up for once.”

The earth pony scowled. While it wasn't unheard of for a pony to have not discovered his or her cutie mark until adulthood, at age 21, Long Path was rather sensitive about his blank flank. “I don't think that's my special talent.”

“You've spent every year we've known each other methodically trying out new things – how would you know if it isn't if you don't give it a try?”

Long Path gave a long-suffering sigh and fixed Free Agent with a stony glare. “Do you really think I’ll find my cutie mark that way?” he asked dryly.

The griffon gave him an impudent grin in return. “Maybe not, but you certainly would have fun finding out for sure!”

The stallion just rolled his eyes. They had been having this kind of argument since they were foals in first grade together, although of course the more adult ‘fun’ subjects did not begin until they hit puberty. Sometimes he thought that Free Agent had gotten his share of those urges too. The griffon was unashamedly and relentlessly horny.

 

 

The subject was mercifully suspended as they reached their home. While they had their major differences, they had been best friends all throughout their school years, and it had seemed a logical and practical idea to be housemates while they attended community college. Free Agent did not seem likely to settle down with a griffoness, and Long Path had no interest in pursuing a special somepony as yet, so the arrangement suited them both.

“I’ll make us some lunch,” Free Agent announced. “Gotta be able to keep my strength up for the party later.”

“Fine by me. I have chores to do anyway.”

While Free Agent headed for the kitchen, Long Path set about washing the bed linen. He was particularly insistent on doing Free’s regularly. He had the magic-powered washing machine humming along with a full load when the griffon announced that lunch was ready.

“What've we got?” Path asked as he sat at the kitchen table.

“There’s tuna, BLT, and plum jam sandwiches.”

“Sounds good.” Long Path picked up a BLT and starting munching on it.

Long ago while Long Path had been delving deeper into his friend’s griffon culture, he had shocked Free Agent by trying out some of his meat sandwiches at school one day. After scraping his beak off the floor, Free had him try other carnivore edibles, much to the shock and revulsion of the other ponies in the school lunchroom. Long Path had merely commented thoughtfully, “Y’know, this doesn't taste half bad. I might have to try some more later.”

The school principal had something to say on that subject though, and Long Path had reserved his later culinary tests for more private occasions. Much to Free Agent’s amusement, the stallion had developed a taste for many meats, as long they were not too fatty.

They had just started on cleaning up after lunch when they heard a great commotion start outside. Curiosity brought them to the window, and both stared in surprise at the sight of the horde of strange creatures that were apparently ramming the magical force shield that had been surrounding their city for the past several days. As they watched, the shield seemed to fluctuate and then shattered, allowing the creatures to pour in. As they grew closer, Long Path dispassionately observed their characteristics. While still roughly pony-shaped, they exhibited more insect-like characteristics, including a chitinous exterior and wings. They also seemed to have voids in their legs. And then there were the long fangs…

Ponies ran screaming as the creatures dived at them. Some crashed down onto the pavement and blocked their path, capturing them and herding them. Royal Guards who had not been tied up at the wedding ceremony poured out into the streets and into the skies, but for every Guard, there were many more of the invaders. Long Path observed that thus far they seemed to be concentrating on the more important parts of the city, but gradually the fighting grew closer to their neighborhood until it reached their street. He was almost shaken out of his normal calm and analytic demeanor though when he observed one changeling start to feed on a pony.

“What in Celestia’s name is it doing?”

“Why are you even watching that?” Free Agent said almost hysterically from behind the stallion’s back, trying to stay out of sight from the creatures.

“Know your enemy,” Long Path replied stoically. “If we’re in danger, we need to know what they can do and how we can defend ourselves.”

“That won’t help us if they capture us before you figure it out!”

Long Path conceded that he had a point, but nevertheless only re-positioned himself so that he was much less visible from the outside. He continued to observe the struggles of both the citizens and the soldiers, the number of the latter visibly declining. Inevitably though, he was spotted, and one of the creatures flew up to the window to attack. That was a mistake on its part though. Unlike the majority of the populace who were unicorns, Long Path was an earth pony, and as soon as it was in range, he put his full earth pony strength behind his hoof punch, killing it instantly.

“Hmm, its carapace is strong but brittle. Might be a weakness,” Long Path mused with a grim look on his face.

How can you be so calm at a time like this?!” Free Agent screamed at him. “Get away from the window before you get us both killed!

Free Agent’s words came too late though as the altercation had been spotted by its companions, and they came diving at the window. Long Path and Free Agent retreated as three of the enemy entered their home. The stallion braced himself to fight, while the griffon flared his wings and unsheathed his claws.

For some unknown reason, the creatures hesitated. They chittered to one another and seemed to come to some decision before they cautiously approached Long Path. Before they attacked though, there was a flash of light outside, and moments later a wall of pink energy passed through the house, sweeping the creatures before it. Two were thrust through the window that they had entered by, although one’s leg was heard to crack loudly against the window sill as it passed. It was the lucky one. The third creature was smashed against an unyielding wall, splattering it with green blood. Naturally it was quite dead. Long Path almost did not notice, because his friend had also been knocked aside by the magic shield, and he had bounced off the same wall and crumpled unconscious to the ground. As Long Path rushed over to his friend, the griffon was briefly engulfed in magic flame, revealing another of those strange creatures, only with different coloring.

The earth pony stared in shock, then murmured, “Just when I thought you couldn't surprise me anymore...”

* * *

When Free Agent regained consciousness, he discovered that he was in his bed. He also realized that he was no longer in griffon form. He hurriedly corrected that, even as he realized that it was far too late.

The flare of magic fire caught the attention of Long Path who had been quietly writing his observations in a book. He put down his quill and looked at Free Agent questioningly.

Free grimaced and said, “Well, balls! I guess you know now. What happens next?”

“Since you’re obviously one of those creatures…”

“Changelings,” Free interrupted. “They’re… we’re… called changelings.”

“Right. Since you’re a changeling, logically I should report you to the Royal Guard and let them deal with you. However, your behavior does not match those invaders, so I’m not inclined to do so. I do have one question though, and I want an honest answer.” He leaned in close to Free Agent and asked with a hint of menace, “Are you really my best friend, or did you copy and replace him?”

Free Agent laughed. “Do you honestly think anyone could replace me without you noticing something was wrong?”

That answer more than satisfied Long Path. With a slight smile he replied, “Then I certainly won’t be turning you in. However, you do know that I’m going to annoy the shit out of you with questions for the rest of your life?”

Free Agent groaned and collapsed back onto his pillow. “Buck! Just kill me now!”

The two shared a laugh that only best friends could.

* * *

With the real wedding postponed until Canterlot had a chance to clean up after the invasion, and of course the party too, Free Agent did not have an excuse to get away from Long Path, and he spent the rest of the day answering questions about changelings. After getting some basic information on what they were like, Long Path had one question uppermost on his mind.

“How come you were so afraid of them? You could have changed into your natural form and blended in.”

“Ha! Just because I’m a changeling, doesn't mean that I’m one of them. For starters, there are different hives. They were all from the Blue Hive, and they would have known that I wasn't one of them. You saw them hesitate when they attacked us? Well, they had realized that I was a changeling too, but they weren't sure that I wasn't a Blue while I was in my griffon form. They might have thought that you were my victim already.”

“Makes sense, I suppose. How many hives are there then?”

“Six in Equestria. Don’t know about the rest of the world.”

“What hive are you from then?”

Free grinned. “I’m my own hive!”

Path cocked an eyebrow in puzzlement. “What do you mean by that?”

Free shrugged. “Not sure. I was found barely older than a nymph by my parents. No one knows how or why I was apparently abandoned. Not even sure why they took me in. They were an older couple who never had chicks though, so I can only guess they had a delayed yearning to be parents, so they didn't just kill me. So – no idea which I came from. Don’t really care either. After I first instinctively transformed into griffon form, Mom and Dad decided that I should be brought up like one. As far as I’m concerned, I am a griffon.”

“I’m guessing that your parents came to Canterlot only after you learned to change.”

“Yeah. A bit hard to explain a changeling chick otherwise. They wanted me to meet other griffons who lived there, and go to school. That’s when I met you of course.”

Path smirked. “I knew you were an odd one; I just didn't know how odd then.”

“Ha! I was a changeling griffon in a pony city – what was your excuse?”

Long Path did not deign to answer that one. After a thoughtful moment, he asked, “So, why do you think those Blue Changelings attacked Canterlot?”

“I dunno; it doesn't make sense.”

“Why not? It’s not the first time that an invading army has tried to conquer a city or country.”

“Yeah, but why? Changelings only need one thing from ponies – love.”

“I don’t understand,” Path admitted.

“We get our energy from feeding on love. Other positive emotions are good too, but love is a feast.”

“But you eat food just like we do,” Path pointed out.

“Well, of course we need food and water to grow and sustain our bodies, but we get our energy from love. We can go without food for a long time, but we would die without emotional energy.”

“Is that why you have always hung around with me? You’re saying that I love you?”

“Love of a friend, not romantic love. Aside from my parents, you've sustained me ever since we met in first grade.” Free waggled an eyebrow at Path and gave him a lascivious leer. “We can try what it tastes like with the latter type though.”

“Pass,” Path replied calmly. It was hardly the first time that his friend had come onto him, and he sincerely doubted it would be the last. “However, you just said ‘what it tastes like’ – are you saying that it has flavor?”

“Of course! We feed on it, so we can taste it. Every emotion has its own flavor. Positive emotions taste good, negative emotions taste bad.”

“I saw a changeling biting a mare with those long fangs. It didn't look to me like they were feeding on emotions.”

“They weren't drinking their blood, if that’s what you're hinting at. The fangs connect with the pony’s … um … aura, I suppose. That way they can forcefully drain a pony of their love in a very short time. It’s very harsh on the victim though, and something that usually isn't done.”

“You've never done it to me anyway. At least, I don’t think so. It doesn't make you forget, does it?”

“Heh! You’re getting paranoid now. No, it doesn't make you forget, and no I haven’t bitten you. I don’t need to. Changelings can absorb ambient emotion to sustain them. I get more than enough just hanging around you – and my bed companions too, of course.”

Long Path abruptly realized something. “Is that why you never seem to get tired when you’re banging somepony?”

Free’s grin broadened. “You got it, baby! The better the bang, the more energy I get out of it. It’s the ultimate high!”

“Sweet Celestia – it’s no wonder that you’re a sex addict.”

“Don’t knock it til you try it,” Free replied unabashedly.

Path just shook his head. “We've gotten way off subject – why would they attack if they already can get what they want without fighting?”

“Now there’s the 64,000 Bit question. I bet that’s the same question the other changelings living in the city are asking right now.”

“There are more like you?”

“Not like me. They’re here as emotion harvesters for their hives. They live and work among ponies peacefully, as they have done all of history as far as we know. As I said, we feed on love and other emotions, so we have to live among ponies, griffons, minotaurs, or other sapient species to harvest that love. You go to any town, village, or eyrie in Equestria, and I guarantee that some of the citizens will actually be changelings. They're the ones that taught me what a changeling is and what we do.”

“That’s interesting to know. So, if they get what they need already by normal interaction, what other motivation is left? I can only think of one – power.”

Free nodded. “Sounds about right. A changeling queen would have to be crazy for power to put her hive at risk by exposing our greatest secret. Her name will be mud with the other queens.”

“Now that their existence is known, they might want to parlay with the princesses. I think the non-hostile changelings will find themselves at risk if they don’t clear up the situation.”

Free snorted in amused disdain. “Yeah, sure. As far as the princesses know, the Blue Changelings were an isolated invasion force. What reason would they have to suspect that changelings have been here as long as Canterlot has existed? My guess is they won’t even know what they’re looking for.”

Path thought about that, and had to concede the point. “Okay, but I’m betting that eventually the mere fact that their existence is known will bring about a massive change in that situation sooner or later. Then they’ll have to talk. Hmm… Speaking of talking, was that chittering their speech?”

“Yep.”

“And you understand it despite being raised with by griffons?”

“Yep. I guess I already had it ingrained into me before I got abandoned.”

“Tell me something in changeling speech.”

“Seriously? Okay.” Free Agent chittered a short sentence. “That meant ‘I’m getting bored with all these questions’.”

Long Path mimicked what Free had just said.

Free’s beak dropped open in surprise. “That… that was near perfect. Let’s try that again.” He chittered another phrase. “That meant ‘I’m beginning to feel hungry’.”

Path repeated the phrase.

“Exactly right again. How are you doing that? I know you’re not a changeling.”

Path shrugged. “Seems easy enough to me.”

“Okay, one more test.” Free chittered another phrase with a different inflection, then looked at Long Path who repeated it effortlessly.

“Okay, I accept,” Free replied cheerfully.

“What did that mean?” Path asked with growing suspicion.

“You asked me to come with you to bed tonight,” the griffon replied with a grin.

Long Path just glared at his unrepentant friend for a long time before saying, “Teach me the changeling language.”

Free Agent’s grin slipped as he realized that his little joke had backfired.

* * *

Getting his friend to treat the language lessons seriously was an achievement in itself, but Long Path’s analytic mind quickly went into overdrive, detecting patterns, syntax, and phrasing. Soon he was truly understanding the words and putting together simple phrases. By the next day, he was already constructing sentences. As his vocabulary grew over the next few weeks, they started simple conversations for practice.

Within two months, Long Path was fluent in the changeling language, and they would often converse that way. One evening, the griffon chittered, “What’s that on your flank?”

Long Path turned to look, and found “%&@#” emblazoned there. “Sweet Celestia, I've got my cutie mark!”

“Looks like cussing to me.”

Long Path shook his head as he realized what it really meant. “Nope, that symbolizes my ability to rapidly understand languages. My special talent is linguistics!”

“So, you like it?”

The normally stoic stallion’s face split in a huge grin. “Buck, yeah!”

* * * * * * * * * *

Author's Note:

This story is a little different inasmuch as I was commissioned to write it. Although it is set in the same backdrop as Conversations In A Canterlot Cafe, the main characters and prompts came from AlaskaIsCold. I developed them and fitted them into my fanon. It's the first time that I've done this kind of thing, and I'm enjoying it so far.

This chapter serves mainly to introduce the characters. Things start to get to the main point in the next chapter. This story will occasionally reference changeling fanon established in Canterlot Café and Change of Life. I hope that you may have read those stories, but it shouldn't be vital to have done so to enjoy this one.

Ponies eating meat - Here's a fun fact: real horses can and do eat meat. While it may not be a major part of their diet, it can be of benefit to them. However, they cannot have too much fat because they lack a gall bladder to produce bile to break down fats. Only their liver produces a small amount of bile. So magical talking ponies are certainly not going to have a real problem eating meat, other than being revulsed by the thought.

 
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