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.



14. Chapter 12: There's No Place Like Home! Part 2

Path looked at Roseclaw with chagrin, and she giggled.

Twilight continued, “I don’t want either Path or Free exerting themselves unnecessarily – you’re both still officially recovering, and another day’s rest is ordered, so stick to packing just your personal stuff. Let the professionals do the hard work.”

“Yes, boss!” Free said with a salute.

She blithely ignored his cheekiness and went on, “I’ll have someone at my castle to supervise the unloading, so all you need do is mark everything for whichever rooms that they need to go to. There’s one for Path and Rose, one for me and Free, and a general storage for now. We can sort out anything more later.”

Free looked at Twilight with a serious look on his face for once. “Are you absolutely sure that you want me moving in with you, Twilight? I mean, it’s what I’d love to do, but you… well you’re kind of new to this and…”

Twilight closed his beak with a spark of her magic and smiled. “I made up my mind two nights ago, Firetail. Did you really think that I would have second thoughts? I love you, you idiot!”

Free abruptly transformed into pony form, wrapped his hooves around Twilight, and drew her into a deep kiss. Twilight’s wings snapped out in surprise, but she quickly enfolded them both in feathers and lost herself in the kiss.

Roseclaw said, “I’m never going to get used to that. Must be convenient being able to shift form like that though.” She looked at Path. “Do you miss me not having lips to kiss you?”

Path carefully considered his reply. “Darling, there’s so much of you to love, I don’t have much to miss. Besides, you still kiss very nicely.”

“Good answer,” she replied as she leaned down to affectionately rub her beak along his cheek.

When both couples were done showing their affection, Twilight got back to business.

“I’ll arrange for dinner in the banquet hall. Pinkie Pie will inevitably want to throw you all a ‘Welcome to Ponyville’ party, so we might as well take advantage of that and make it a dinner party.”

“Sounds fun,” Free said with a grin.

“I’m sure it will be, but for now we have to the serious stuff to prepare for. Let’s get ready and head up to Canterlot Castle. The funeral is going to be held at the military cemetery in about two hours.”

# # #

Free recognized many of the faces at the funeral, including that of Captain Diamondhard. To his surprise, the captain came over to Free when the crystal pony noticed him arrive.

“I was hoping to see you, Mister Agent,” Diamondhard said.

Free was surprised. “That would be a first,” he replied.

“No doubt, but I will be the first to admit that I was wrong about you. I didn’t appreciate having you foist upon me, and I didn’t like your attitude. I didn’t pay attention to your suspicions because of that, and it was unforgivably foolish of me. A pony in my position does not have the luxury of ignoring a problem just because I don’t like the person, and not only were you right, you were instrumental in preventing the invasion of the Crystal Empire. I wish to offer my sincere apologies, and also my gratitude, and that of all under my command.”

Free gave the captain a smile. “Apology accepted, Captain, but if you’re serious about your change of heart, then heed my warning – I still feel we’re overlooking something.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“Sorry, I wish I could, but it’s eluding me. Unlike last time, I don’t have a specific target for my suspicions.”

“If you do, please don’t hesitate to inform me. I will endeavor to cover every possibility. Good day to you, sir.”

Free watched her go join the other crystal ponies who had come for the funeral. That was about as friendly as Diamondhard ever got, and it was with him? Wonders never cease!

Princess Cadance arrived to join Celestia, Luna, and Twilight who performed the commemoration ceremony. Prince Shining Armor could not attend as he had to stay in the Empire while Diamondhard and Cadance attended the funeral. The fallen soldiers were praised for their dedication to duty and mourned for their loss before being interred with full military honors.

Cadance took a moment to pass on her thanks to Free before she had to hasten back to the Crystal Empire. She almost missed him though because he’d had to excuse himself from the funeral. He found the burden of negative emotions was debilitating him, and he wondered how the changelings in attendance were able to bear it. Weren’t they overwhelmed by the sadness of every single one of the ponies in attendance like he was? He was glad when the service was over, and Twilight and the others reunited with him.

“Frothy Brew has invited us back to the family restaurant for luncheon in honor of Sterling Shield. Think you’re up to it?” Twilight asked Free.

“I’ll be okay,” he promised her. “I want to share with him what I knew of Sterling.”

The True Brew Café and Restaurant was closed to the public for the first time in years, but it was still crowded. Sterling Shield had had a lot of friends and comrades, and they remembered him with joy that day.

# # #

The luncheon delayed their return to the apartment, and they found the moving crew impatiently awaiting their arrival. After getting the process started, Free went to the landlord to square away their back rent and let him know that they were moving out today. Twilight accompanied him both for moral support, and to make sure that the landlord did not try any funny business. Perhaps because of that, things went smoothly, and they quickly finished business.

The movers were incredibly efficient, and had the apartment emptied in a very short time. Their belongings were loaded onto a pegasus sky-wagon, and the stuff that they were discarding loaded into a conventional cart to be hauled away to the junk yard by a couple of dour earth ponies.

Despite having lived in that apartment for years, neither Path nor Free was sad to leave it. Having had their horizons expanded so much lately, it was just a small episode in their lives now. Path locked the door to the now-empty apartment and handed the key over to a messenger colt to deliver back to the landlord.

“Let’s go,” Path said.

“It’s too late to catch the train to Ponyville in time for the welcoming party,” Twilight pointed out. “It’s not too far though for me to teleport us all there if you like?”

“Sounds good to me,” Free said.

“Okay by me,” Path replied.

Roseclaw looked a little uncertain, but opted to go along also.

“Good. Now as none of you have ever teleported before, it can be a little nauseating the first time. I suggest you take a couple of deep breaths and brace yourselves.”

“And you were going to teleport us from the dirigible at Griffonia?” Path pointed out.

“The longer the distance the worse it is. That hop to the ground would have been barely noticeable. Anyway, deep breaths!” She fired up the magic in her horn, formed the spell in her mind, and a moment later, the foursome disappeared from Canterlot…

… and reappeared in front of Twilight’s castle. “Welcome to Ponyville!” Twilight exclaimed. “How are you feeling?”

“A little dizzy, but okay,” Path replied.

“I think I left my stomach back in Canterlot,” Roseclaw said.

“I’m perfectly fine,” Free replied. “Cool castle, Twi!”

“If you think this looks nice, you should see how my friends decorated the interior. They really made it into a home. Come on – let me show you to your rooms and then give you a quick tour before the pegasi arrive with our stuff.”

Needless to say, they were impressed with the castle. Twilight took them into almost every room with one particular exception. “That’s Spike’s room. I don’t go in there unless invited. That’s his little sanctum.”

“Spike’s the young dragon that you mentioned lives with you, isn’t he?” Roseclaw asked as they headed back downstairs. “Where is he?”

“He is, and he’s probably with Pinkie, helping to organize the dinner party in the banquet hall right through here. He-eek!”

Twilight jumped ten feet in the air as the banquet hall doors slammed open and Pinkie Pie leapt out and yelled, “Surprise! Welcome to Ponyville!”

Twilight face-hoofed and muttered, “You’d think I’d be used to this by now after all these years.” She fluttered back down to the floor, trying to ignore the grins of her companions. “Pinkie – you weren’t supposed to surprise me!”

“I know; that’s why it makes it such a great surprise!” Pinkie exclaimed with a huge grin on her face.

Twilight sighed and gestured for the others to enter. “Looks like the party is ready to begin.”

Inside they found the rest of Mane Six, plus a few more guests, including Applejack’s brother, Big Macintosh, Mayor Mare, a stallion named Cheese Sandwich, several other Ponyville friends, and a yellow and red-maned unicorn who had come in from the Crystal City with Cadance.

Spike stepped up to the group and said, “Welcome home, Twilight! These are the new friends that you told me about?”

“Thanks, Spike. Let me introduce you to Long Path and his mate Roseclaw, and this is Free Agent, my very special somepony… or somegriff, I should say. Guys, this is my little brother, Spike.”

Spike regarded Free a little suspiciously before extending his hand to Free. More introductions were made all around and then the party started in earnest.

# # #

The Great and Powerful Trixie finished her command performance to wild applause. Since turning down her ego and turning up the quality of her show, her popularity had grown considerably, and it had been fortunate that she had been available at short notice for the party. Of course the opportunity to dine and converse with royalty and other influential people was a strong incentive also. She took her bows and then left the stage to take a seat at the table. Twilight gestured her over to sit next to her.

“You stumped me with that last trick, Trixie,” Twilight enthused. “How did you manage that?”

Trixie smiled superiorly, and then winked to show she wasn’t being snotty. “A magician never gives away her stage secrets. Besides, it’ll give you something to try to work out for yourself, won’t it?”

Octavia Melody took the stage with her cello, along with a couple of violinists and a violist for their second set of the evening. By request, the mares had been playing more upbeat music than they usually did for formal affairs, and they started playing a tune that they called Kismet.

Some of the guests were oblivious to the great music though. Fluttershy was curled up against Big Macintosh’s flank, content to just enjoy the occasion in the company of her mate. The large stallion had brought along some of Sweet Apple Acres’ best hard cider for the occasion, and he and a few others had gotten into a drinking contest. Rainbow Dash was already snoring under the table, having passed her limit at least two mugs ago. Path knew that he was losing, and only a strong will had kept him upright so far.

“Hey Mac did I ever tell you about this cute thing that Rose does if you lightly ruffle the small feathers on the back of her head?”


“She turns into a cute little kitten! Which is ironic considering she’s half bird, half lion!”


“She curls up around you and makes half crooning and half purring noises.” He tried to pick up his mug to get a refill, but couldn’t figure out which of the two wavering objects was the right one. ‘Never have another drinking contest with a stallion as big as your fiancée,’ Path reminded himself before slumping over into said fiancée’s arms. “Hi, darling,” he slurred.

She grinned, propped him up against her shoulder, and held out her empty mug to the red stallion. “Another?”

“Eeyup,” Big Mac agreed, pouring her another mug full.

After the musicians finished the song, Cheese Sandwich leaped up onto the stage holding an accordion. “Hey ladies, I’ve got a song just for the dessert course. Try to keep up!” He then started singing, “Eat It!” The mares kept up suspiciously well, and as the song neared its climax, Pinkie Pie wheeled in a giant cake on a trolley and left it in front of the stage. As Cheese Sandwich sung the final “Eat it!”, Pinkie Pie burst out of the cake and threw a pie in his face.

“Wait! What? How did she…?” Trixie sputtered.

Twilight grinned. “If you ever figure that out, let me know.”

Free, who had been having a conversation with a white unicorn with two-tone blue hair, took to the stage with his lute, and challenged Cheese and the mares to a little improv, and they spent the next hour bashing out tunes. They might have still been going at it if Applejack and Big Macintosh hadn't had to beg off.

“Work to do, y’know?” Applejack explained. “Still catching up after spending so much time in the Crystal Empire. Anyhoo, glad to see y’all, and I hope you drop by and say howdy before you gallivanting off again.”

Other guests started making their excuses then, and the party drew to a close. Trixie was given a room for the night, and then once everyone else had left, the foursome headed off to bed. Actually Roseclaw carried Path to their room on her back; the stallion was still conscious, but rambling incoherently.

Roseclaw gave Twilight and Free a wink and said, “It was really good cider. I don’t think we’ll be trying out the new bed’s limits tonight.”

When the alicorn and the changeling griffon settled into their spacious bed, Free said, “I like your home, Twi.”

Our home, Free. It may be Princess Sparkle’s castle, but it’s definitely our home. What’s mine is yours.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have much to share in return, Sparkles,” Free replied sadly.

“Oh yes you do, Firetail, and you’re going to give it to me right now,” she replied with a smoldering look on her face.

Free didn’t need another hint, and they made love with renewed passion.

# # #

Path and Free spent the morning sorting out their stuff into the new rooms, and making a pile of some things that they intended to take to Griffonia with them. It would have taken less time if not for Path’s massive hangover. Twilight fetched a remedy from Zecora that got the earth pony functioning again though, and he was pretty much back to normal by lunchtime.

Meanwhile, Twilight took Roseclaw for a tour of her home town, or private little kingdom as she jokingly referred to it. Many of the ponies were a bit taken aback by the large griffoness, but were reassured because she was in the presence of Twilight.

Rainbow Dash ended up doing an aerial tour for Free after they got chatting about flying over breakfast. The colorful pegasus had apparently slept the night under the table, and had only woken that morning when Spike poked her and told her that food was on the table. With the highlights done, it didn’t take long for the competitive mare to challenge Free to another race. The result was as much a foregone conclusion as the one in the Crystal Empire, but Free enjoyed the challenge anyway.

“Hey, Beaky – wanna do a sonic rainboom?” Rainbow asked as they rested on a cloud.

“Oh sure, I’ll just fire myself out of a cannon to get up to speed,” Free replied sarcastically.

Rainbow Dash grinned. “I’d like to see that, but no, I think we can do it my way, if you’re game?”

Free could not resist a challenge. “So how do we do this?”

“Follow me!” Rainbow shot up like a rocket to gain altitude, and Free did his best to keep up with her. After getting to a safe height, she paused and waited for Free to get level with her. “Okay, here’s the deal. We’re going to do a power dive. When you’re up to your best speed, I want you to grab my hind legs and hold on tight. Try not to stab me with those talons though.”

Free held up his front limbs. “No problem!” A swirl of magic fire reduced the talons to mere nubs.

“That’s kinda handy,” Rainbow admitted. “Anyway, once you’ve grabbed me, fold back your wings and streamline your body as best as you can, and leave the rest to me.”

“Gotcha. Let’s do this!”

They dived and accelerated until Free could go no faster. He glanced at Rainbow who was easily matching his speed, and she nodded and moved in front of him. He grabbed her legs just above the ankles, and a moment later she accelerated while he hung on for dear life. The wind pressure was incredible, and Free could barely see with his watering eyes nearly shut. Just when he thought that he could hold on no longer, there was a tremendous shock, a loud boom, and an explosion of color around them. Suddenly their high speed flight was smooth and almost quiet, and Free screamed in delight as the landscape passed by them at an incredible rate. Rainbow kept up the supersonic speed for a few moments longer until she had to slow down once more. Free let go once they dropped down to a speed that he could handle, and the pair circled down to a landing just outside the castle.

“Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-ooooooo!” Free yelled. His feathers were mussed, his eyes were wide as saucers, and he was so full of adrenalin that he could hardly stand still. “That was so awesome! How often do you do that for others?”

“You’re the first. Wasn’t sure that I could pull it off while dragging a passenger, but it worked out because I’m the best!” Rainbow said proudly.

“No argument from me, sister! I’m gonna be talking about this for the rest of my life.”

“So, have you had enough for one day?”

“Are you kidding? I’m Free Agent, and I’m always ready for more!”

Rainbow grinned. “You asked for it. Let’s go!”

That day turned out to be one of Ponyville’s more infamous in terms of the hijinks that the pair got up to. Needless to say, Rainbow had found a kindred spirit, and Equestria would never be the same.

That afternoon, Rarity and Fluttershy invited Roseclaw and Twilight to join them in a session at the Day Spa. Roseclaw did not want to do it unless Path was with her, so they invited him also. It was exactly what the earth pony needed, and despite the girly nattering that went on, he relaxed and let the last of his troubles be soothed away. Between Free, Roseclaw, and the kindness of his friends, he reached mental equilibrium once more, and he would be ready to take up his duties as Lord of the House of Path when they got back to Griffonia. Life was good.

# # #

Breakfast the next morning was interrupted by a messenger bringing a telegram for Twilight. She smiled when she read it, and then turned to Free.

“Before we return to Canterlot today, I want to make a short visit to friends over in Whitetail Meadows Village, and I’d like you to come with me.”

Free was a little surprised but not unwilling. “Sure, but what’s the occasion?”

“I think I’ve mentioned a Blue Changeling friend of mine who settled down with a unicorn mare after the invasion of Canterlot?”

“Oh, yeah. So that’s where he lives?”

“Yes. I sent a message to him, asking if he’d be willing to meet up with me and you, with the implication that I’d be revealing his identity to you and vice versa. He says he’s okay with this, although he’s yet to refuse a request from me. He still feels obligated because of the big favor that I did for him a few years back. I keep telling him that we’re square, but he doesn’t pay attention. So please don’t abuse the privilege.”

“Hey, I kept my nature secret for years, so I can’t blame him for wanting the same. I’ll be good. When exactly do you want to go?”

“Thanks. Early this morning would be best. It’s a weekday, and he’ll be working, but he says he’ll make time for us today.”

“How about straight after breakfast? We can visit and get back with plenty of time for us both to finish our preparations for heading back to Canterlot.”

“That would be perfect.”

Less than half an hour later, Twilight and Free arrived above Whitetail Meadows Village in the typical flash-bang of teleportation. They spread their wings and started gliding down to the ground and through the town, with Twilight leading the way. They alighted in the main street in front of a florist signposted as ‘Wild Dreams’, and a few passing ponies gave Twilight a cheery greeting.

“The locals seem just as blasé about an Equestrian princess as the ones in Ponyville,” Free observed. “They don’t seem so sure of griffons though,” he added as a pony couple crossed the street to avoid him.

“I’ve been coming here often enough now that I’m a familiar sight, and I’ve always preferred informality. However, I don’t know if most have ever even seen a griffon before, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re a little nervous around you. Come on inside – we don’t want to upset too many ponies.”

Twilight led the way into the flower shop. Free followed and soon spotted a green unicorn mare with a two-tone purple mane, serving a customer. She had an oddly small horn for an adult, and he wondered about that. Twilight waited patiently until the mare finished the transaction and turned her attention to them.

“Twilight! It’s wonderful to see you again!” she exclaimed, coming over to hug the alicorn.

“It’s good to see you too, Lavender.”

“When Cogs told me that you wanted to pay a visit in the middle of a working day, I guessed that you must be squeezing it into a busy schedule.”

“You guessed right. I’ll be heading back to Canterlot this afternoon, and my friends and I have plans for Saturday. We’ll be heading back to Griffonia not long afterwards.”

“You’re certainly getting around a lot more nowadays. A princess’ job is never done, I suppose.”

“You’re certainly right, but it’s gotten a lot more interesting lately,” Twilight said with a glance at Free.

“And who is your friend?” Lavender asked with a smile in Free’s direction.

“More than a friend. Lavender, I’d like you to meet Free Agent, my very special somepony… or somegriff, I should say. Free, this is my very close friend, Lavender Dreams.”

Free took Lavender’s outstretched hoof and shook it carefully. “A pleasure to meet you,” he said with his most charming smile.

“Ah, I’m already seeing what you like in him,” Lavender said with a smile.

Twilight blushed a little. “He has his charms,” she admitted before changing the subject. “So, is Cogs available?”

“You’ll find him in the back yard working on a repair job. He brought it home with him yesterday, knowing that you would be dropping by sometime today, so he wouldn’t have to go out. He’s keeping an eye on the foals too, so mother isn’t here today, which means that you won’t have to be careful with what you want to discuss.”

“Perfect! I didn’t want to have to be rude and ask your mother to give us privacy for a while.”

The shop-door bell rang just then, and a stallion entered the shop. Lavender glanced his way and then said to Twilight, “Go on back – I’ll come when I’m free for a moment.”

Twilight nodded and then beckoned Free. “Follow me.”

She took them through the door at the rear of the counter, which led them into a large living room, but she didn’t stop there. Twilight opened the door that led into the back yard and they exited the house. There they saw a male, grey-coated pegasus with a teal mane and tail working on a piece of machinery that was sitting on a workbench that had been set up there. Right next to it was a playpen containing a very young unicorn foal, and playing in a sandpit nearby was a buttery-yellow pegasus foal.

Twilight said, “If we’d flown in from the other direction, we might have seen this touching family scene.”

The pegasus stallion looked up and smiled in delight. “Twilight! I’m glad that you could make it. It’s been too long since your last visit.”

“Auntie Twi!” the pegasus foal cried as she hurtled into the alicorn’s embrace.

“Hi, Dandy! Have you been a good filly since I saw you last?” Twilight asked.

“Best filly!” Dandelion replied proudly.

“Good! I brought treats for best fillies, and their sisters too.” Twilight telekinetically lifted two lollipops from her saddle bag and passed them to Dandelion. “Pinkie Pie gave me her very best lollipops from Sugarcube Corner to give to you and Fern.”

The filly’s eyes grew wide in delight. “Thank you, Auntie Twi!” She then scampered over to the playpen, gave one to the younger foal, and then started licking hers enthusiastically.

“You always spoil them, Twilight.”

“I get so little chance to do so nowadays, Cogs, and this rushed visit may be the last for a while.”

“Then we better make the most of it.” Cogs turned to look at Free. “So this is the changeling you wanted me to meet?” He cocked his head and frowned in puzzlement. “Why can’t I tell what hive he’s from?”

Free grinned smugly. “I’m my own hive!” he declared as usual.

“What do you mean by that?” Cogs asked.

Twilight interjected, “It’s a long story, but first – introductions. Free, this is Whirring Cogs, Lavender’s husband and father to these two foals. Cogs, this is Free Agent, also known as Cirrus Ironbeak, my coltfriend.”

“Judging by the feelings that I’m tasting right now, maybe a little bit more than a coltfriend?” Cogs asked with a knowing smile. “So, have you decided to copy our lifestyle, Twilight?”

“I hadn’t planned to,” Twilight replied with a blush. “It just kind of happened.”

“It kind of just happened to me too,” Cogs reminded her.

“That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to bring Free here to meet you. If we’re going to be serious about a relationship, I want him to see how it’s worked out for you and Lavender.”

“In that case, let me clean up and start making some lunch for all of us. We’re going to have to cover a lot of stuff in a short time. I hope you’re up to it, Free Agent?”

Free shrugged. “How hard can it be?”

Later as they returned to Ponyville, Free was to remember those words ruefully.

# # #

That evening in Canterlot, Princess Luna was considering wrapping-up Night Court. It had been a quiet night, and her schedule had been light, so although the official hours were not yet done, there was little point in staying in the audience chamber. There was not even Scribe to chat with, as she had yet to return from her visit back to her hive. Her sole companion was a very serious-looking thestral Royal Guard.

It was normal practice to have at least one member of the Royal Guard on duty at the court sessions, and the bat-pony was just one of the number that constituted a squad in the Night Guard. However, this was an unfamiliar face, probably freshly graduated, and taking his job extra seriously because of it. In other words, he was no fun whatsoever.

She was just about to dismiss the Guard and leave, when Free walked into the chamber without announcement, startling the young thestral.

“Hiya, Luna! Got a moment?”

The thestral dashed between Free and Luna, and lowered his spear threateningly. “Who are you? Show some respect for the Princess!”

Free stared at the Guard for a moment before bursting out in laughter, much to the thestral’s consternation. Free crooked a talon in the Guard’s direction. “A newbie, I take it?” he asked the Moon Princess.

Luna grinned. “Verily – most new. Stand down, Guard. Free Agent doth be a good friend of ours.”

The thestral was confused, but did as he was ordered.

Luna turned her attention back to Free. “I do indeed have a moment – several in fact. How can I help you?”

“What are you doing tomorrow night? The guys and I have some fun planned, and we’d love for you to join us.”

“’Tis a Saturday night with no Night Court, so I am open to suggestions.”

“Great! We know how hard it’s been for you to find opportunities to relax and have fun outside of things like Nightmare Night, so this is going to be something totally obligation-free and an excuse to let your mane down. Interested?”

“Indeed. Go on.”

“We have this group idea, but there’s only the four of us, but with you it would be five. Six would be best, but not essential.”

“One more needed? My sister might be interested, but she would likely be asleep.” She pondered for a moment, and then looked at the thestral. “Guard – what is your name?”

The thestral was startled to be addressed, and stammered his response. “P-private L-leatherwing, Your Highness.”

“Private Leatherwing, if you are to be my personal guard, you will need to attend me at all times, correct?”

“Yes, Your Highness!”

“Good. You shall join us. Free Agent, you have your sixth member.”

Free grinned at the dismayed look on the Guard’s face. “Great! If you’re free now, we’re about to start our first rehearsal, and it’ll give you both an opportunity to see what you’ve let yourselves in for.”

“Lead on. Leatherwing, attend us.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” Leatherwing said reluctantly.

# # #

Revelry Restaurant was an unusual venue in that it was a theatre restaurant that had special nights at regular intervals where the diners could become part of the show. If the participants put on a good act, they could have their meals discounted in proportion to the reception that they got from the other diners. Really popular acts could even dine for free, but most came to watch rather than participate.

Tonight though was proving to be somewhat unusual, what with not one but two alicorn princesses among the guests. The staff initially started trying a little too hard to please their royal customers until Twilight and Free spoke to the manager and pretty much ordered him to cut it out and treat them like normal ponies. They made it clear that they were there to relax, and put on an act. The latter surprised the manager even more, but he did as requested, and the party of six enjoyed competent but not ridiculously good service.

When they had finished their meal, Free indicated to the act coordinator that they were almost ready to do their act, and he showed them to the dressing room at the back of the stage to prepare to go on in a few minutes. They had brought along costumes, and they donned them. Free gave them a looking-over and gave them an approving nod.

“Everypony ready? Great! Let’s do it!”

Free handed the stage manager a record with instructions on the track to play, and they headed for the stage. When the spotlight was turned on, Free stepped out onto the stage wearing a feather headdress and buckskin jacket. He took the microphone from the stand and said, “Good evening, Mares and Stallions! Have we got an act for you tonight! In fact, you might say it’s a royal command performance. So – how many of you have enjoyed the services of the Young Mares Canterlot Association? Let the Village Ponies tell you why you should if you haven’t.”

Free nodded to the stage manager who put the record on, and the amplified music started playing over the stage’s speakers. As the introductory bars played, the others marched onto the stage, starting with Path dressed in a construction worker’s shirt and helmet, followed by Roseclaw in a sailor outfit, then Luna in a leathermare jacket, boots, and bling, Twilight in a cowgirl outfit, and finally Leatherwing in a City Guard’s constable uniform and helmet.

Free started singing, with the others doing back-up vocals:

Young mare, there's no need to feel down.
I said, young mare, pick yourself off the ground.
I said, young mare, 'cause you're in a new town
There's no need to be unhappy.

Young mare, there's a place you can go.
I said, young mare, when you're short on your dough.
You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time.

It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
They have everything for you mares to enjoy,
You can hang out with all the boys...

It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal,
You can do whatever you feel...

By this time, it was obvious that Path, Roseclaw, Luna, and Twilight were really getting into it. Leatherwing was still looking nervous and uncertain, but his voice was steady and strong, perhaps because he was afraid of letting down Princess Luna.

Young mare, are you listening to me?
I said, young mare, what do you want to be?
I said, young mare, you can make real your dreams.
But you got to know this one thing!

No mare does it all by herself.
I said, young mare, put your pride on the shelf,
And just go there, to the Y.M.C.A.
I'm sure they can help you today.

On this chorus, they got up on their hind legs and started forming the letters with their forelimbs.

It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
They have everything for you mares to enjoy,
You can hang out with all the boys...

It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal,
You can do whatever you feel...

Young mare, I was once in your shoes.
I said, I was down and out with the blues.
I felt no mare cared if I were alive.
I felt the whole world was so jive...

That's when someone came up to me,
And said, young mare, take a walk up the street.
There's a place there called the Y.M.C.A.
They can start you back on your way.

It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
It's fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.
They have everything for you mares to enjoy,
You can hang out with all the boys...


Y.M.C.A. by the Village People, with slightly re-written lyrics.



The audience burst into applause, and the singers grinned in appreciation. Even Leatherwing started looking less worried and hesitantly smiled.

Free held up his arms to get the audience’s attention. “Do you want some more?”

There was a roar of agreement.

“I think we’ve got another for you because You Can’t Stop the Music! Hit it!”

“Everypony that you meet, the children in the street
Are swayin' to the rhythm, there's somethin' movin' in them…”

When the song was done, the applause was even louder this time, and the singers were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Free waited for the applause to die down before he said, “I can tell you want more, right?”

There was much hoof-stamping and yells of agreement.

“Yeah, I thought so. Music makes the world go around in the magic of Harmony. That’s what makes this a Magic Night!”

When I'm with my friends then it's magic in the air
Good vibrations always surround us
Play some good music, the moment has left
Happiness and joy's everywhere.

So have a good a time, everypony have some fun
People leave your problems behind you
Come and sing along, join in on my song
Sing about this magical night.

Magic night - magic's in the music
It's a magic night - we all need the music
We can have a good time
And enjoy all the magical vibes of this great -
Magic night - good friends all around you
It's a magic night - magic sure will find you
So let's all try tonight to feel love
Coming from inside each other.

When I'm with my friends, friends with whom I can share
All my ups and downs and betweens with
When I'm with my herd, the moments are clear
So much love is found in the air.

Magic's when I come, together with my friends
People from the world all around us
Sharing good things we all love to share
So much love is found in the air.

Magic night - magic's in the music
It's a magic night - we all need the music
We can have a good time and enjoy all the magical vibes
Of this great magic night - good friends all around you
It's a magic night - magic sure will find you
So let's all try tonight and feel love
Coming from inside each other.

Ahh-ahh, ahh-ahh-ahh - so much magic!
Ahh-ahh, ahh-ahh-ahh - so much magic!
Ahh-ahh, ahh-ahh-ahh - so much magic!

Magic night!

Magic Night by the Village People, with slightly re-written lyrics

Free was getting slightly high on the good feelings flowing from the wildly applauding audience, and while the rest of the group couldn’t taste the emotions like he could, they were still getting almost as buzzed from the reactions of the ponies to their act. It took a long time for the audience to quiet down and Free could talk once more.

“Thanks, everypony! That’s all we’ve got for you tonight, but we’ve had a great time singing for you.”

There was a collective groan of disappointment from the audience.

Free shrugged. “It’s been so much fun that maybe the Village Ponies will make another appearance sometime with some more songs for you.”

There was some enthusiastic hoof-stomping to that idea.

Free grinned. “Thanks again! It really has been a magic night! Goodnight everypony!”

The group marched off the stage and back to the dressing room.

“Verily, I have not had this much enjoyment in a thousand years!” Luna enthused.

“Told you it’d be fun. Gonna keep the outfit?” Free asked as they changed out of their costumes.

Luna looked surprised. “Of course! Didst thou not promise that the Village Ponies would return?”

Free grinned. “Hear that, everypony? We have a return engagement by royal command.”

“Fine by me,” Twilight agreed.

“I’m just glad that you sing better than you dance,” Path said with a grin.

Twilight just poked her tongue out at him.

“This is the kind of thing that I wanted to do when I was here with my father,” Roseclaw said. “He didn’t let me have any fun at all though.”

“Lots of things have changed for all of us, darling,” Path said. “Life is bound to be a lot more interesting, and hopefully fun too.”

“Well, the fun isn’t over for tonight yet. Once we settle up the bill, we’re heading off to a nightclub that a friend of mine is D-Jaying.”

“You didn’t mention that before,” Twilight commented.

“I said that I had plans for after dinner, but I didn’t mean that it was just our Village Ponies act. You don’t even have to do anything except enjoy the music and the drinks, and dance ’til you drop.”

“I’ve never been to one, but it sounds good,” Twilight agreed. “Let’s go!”

# # #

“Twilight Eve Sparkle – what is the meaning of this?!”

Twilight blearily lifted her head from… what was she sleeping on? It appeared to be somepony’s flank. She tried to track the source of the familiar voice.

“Well, young lady?”

Abruptly her vision focused on the face of a very annoyed middle-aged mare.

“Hi, Mom. Er… what’s up?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” Velvet replied, waving a newspaper in front of her daughter’s face. “And who are all these ponies?”

“And what are you all doing here in Luna’s bedroom?” came another familiar voice.

Twilight turned her head, making her head swim for a moment before she refocused. “Celestia? Where did you say?” She looked about, slowly taking in her surroundings. Path, Luna, Roseclaw, Free, and herself were all piled up on a thick rug with several thick cushions and blankets. The flank that she had been using as a pillow turned out to be Luna’s, but she realised that hers in turn pillowed Free. Roseclaw and Path were a tangled mess of limbs which looked mightily uncomfortable.

“I… I have no idea,” Twilight confessed.

“Well, you can’t sleep here all day,” Celestia said with amusement in her voice. “Time to wake up!” she added in the Royal Canterlot Voice.

Everybody’s head shot up, accompanied by many groans.

Luna’s head rose also, but her eyes remained closed as she declared, “The nightlife shall last forever!” Then her head crashed back onto the pillow and she started snoring.

Twilight’s head throbbed, reminding her of the pounding music of the nightclub. And the drinks. So many drinks! Everypony wanted to buy the princesses a drink, and how could she refuse? Reluctantly she struggled to her hooves.

Velvet opened the newspaper and practically shoved it in Twilight’s muzzle. “Who is this, and what’s been happening while I’ve been gone?” she demanded.

Twilight focused on the newspaper. It appeared to be a tabloid full of photographs, and her eyes widened in alarm at the plethora of images of her drinking and dancing in the company of an alicorn. Oh, and kissing. Kissing a lot. Twilight groaned as she recognized Free in his Alicorn of Awesome guise. “Oh yeah, that’s my coltfriend, Free,” she said before clapping a hoof over her muzzle.

“Coltfriend? And with an alicorn that nopony has heard of before? Where is this coltfriend of yours now?”

“Present!” Free said, unsteadily holding up his right arm.

Velvet frowned. “Quiet, griffon! We weren’t talking about you.”

“Um, yes, we were actually.” If Free was happy to reveal his secret, that suited Twilight. Honesty always sat better with her, although in this case she could have delayed the confession for a more auspicious moment.

Velvet looked annoyed. “You’re not making sense, Twilight. I get back from our trip on the overnight train to Canterlot, only to find the morning papers full of pictures of you, Luna, and this other alicorn at a nightclub, apparently partying the night away. Whatever happened to the dignity of the Equestrian royalty? Whatever happened to letting your mother know that you have a coltfriend? And I ask again, where is he?”

Twilight rolled her eyes. “Geez, Mom, you’d think I was still a filly. We had a perfectly wonderful night out… I think. It’s kind of hazy near the end there. Princess Luna needed to have a night off, and we showed her a fun time. There was nothing formal about it, so to hay with dignity! And as for letting you know, how could I with you and Dad out of town? And your final question has already been answered, but here’s the confirmation.” She looked at Free. “Honey, would you oblige?”

“Whatever you want, Twi.” With a flare of magic, the griffon was replaced by the alicorn seen in the photographs.

Velvet’s eyes bugged out. “Your coltfriend is a changeling? Are you out of your mind?!”

“What? No ‘welcome to the family’ for me?” Free asked mournfully.

Velvet glared at Free. “A common changeling harvester having designs on my daughter, an Equestrian princess? I see what you’re up to, mister!”

“Actually, Free is technically Griffonian nobility,” Twilight interjected.

“I don’t care if he’s King of the Changelings – my daughter isn’t going to have a changeling coltfriend!”

Anger burned Twilight’s mind clear, and she replied coldly, “No, not a coltfriend – a fiancé.”

“Uh-oh,” Free said, tasting the impending explosion. He looked at Path and Roseclaw and said, “Better run for your lives, guys.”

Before anyone else could say or do anything though, a quiet but firm voice interjected.

“Not in Luna’s bedroom,” Celestia ordered. “My sister obviously needs her sleep, considering that I had to lower the moon for her this morning. We will all adjourn to another room where we will calmly…” Celestia looked pointedly at Velvet. “…discuss this. Free Agent, please return to your normal form. We have more than enough to deal with already without having to add more sightings of a male alicorn in Canterlot Castle.”

Free obliged, and everybody followed Celestia out of the room. A magic glow surrounded the door and it closed behind them.

After a couple of minutes, a heaped-up blanket moved, and Leatherwing crawled out from underneath. He looked about frantically before face-hoofing. “The sergeant is going to kill me! But Princess Luna ordered me to stay with her… oh, who am I kidding? I’m doomed.” Leatherwing started to leave, but paused to say, “It was an honor serving you, Your Highness.” He bowed and left, closing the door quietly behind him.

Another two hours passed with nothing happening but the gentle snores of the Lunar Princess. Then one wing stirred and lifted to reveal a white unicorn with a two-tone blue mane. She looked about and grinned. “Whoa! Wake up in a strange room, cuddling up with a princess? Best. Night. Ever!” Vinyl Scratch declared.

# # #

Celestia had drinks served for everyone, and wisely forestalled more outbursts from Velvet by insisting that Twilight and her comrades give an account of their adventures since Twilight had last visited her mother. This gave the mare time to cool down while getting a truer picture of what was happening. Twilight only left out the parts when she and Free had made love, but otherwise told her everything, including the misgivings as well the highlights.

Twilight was glad that she had Free, Path, and Roseclaw there to help tell the tale. She had a pounding headache, and she kept having flashbacks of the previous night as she slowly sobered up. Had she really been the center of a cheering mob as she and Luna danced to the bass beat? And the silly, drunken telekinetic tricks with Free – they seemed hilarious at the time. Roseclaw with dozens of glow-sticks hanging off her, laughing and dancing with Path. Free up on the stage with the DJ, dedicating a tune to her! Then there was the kissing… A goofy smile spread on her face as she recalled that bit. Okay, that was nice. That was very nice.

Although Velvet’s dislike of Free was greatly softened when she heard about his heroism in averting the invasion of the Crystal Kingdom, she remained resolute in her opposition to her daughter being affianced to a changeling. “Twilight, I want you to come home with me and tell your father what you’ve been doing. Perhaps he can talk some sense into you.”

Something snapped inside of Twilight, and her mind turned icy cold. She got up and walked over to Celestia and said, “Please pardon me for what I am about to do.” She then turned around and spread her wings while powering up her horn. Her eyes glowed with the enormous amount of magic that she emanated which threatened to engulf them all. Then she began to speak.

I am Twilight Sparkle, Princess of Equestria, Avatar of the Element of Magic, Alicorn of Friendship, Lady of the Griffonian Noble House of Path, and I will not be talked to like a little foal!” She then turned down the magic aura, folded her wings, and walked over to her quivering mother who probably thought she was going to be turned into a potted plant again. “Mom, I love you, but I decide what to do with my life now, and I decide who I will marry. I love Cirrus Ironbeak a.k.a. Free Agent, and nothing that you or Dad says will change that.” She went to turn away, but paused and added. “And if you can’t live with that, then I won’t invite you to the wedding.”

Velvet was left in shock at the turn of events. Free, however, was awed. He came over to Twilight and took her in his arms. “My hero,” he said with a smile.

“And you’re mine too,” Twilight replied before kissing him thoroughly.

Celestia said, “If everything is cleared up now, I need to attend Day Court. I’m afraid that I’m going to have some rather annoyed ponies to deal with due to this delay.”

“Thank you for your time, Your Highness,” Path said.

“You are welcome, my little pony, but next time you take my sister out for the evening, do try to have her back before dawn.” She gave Path a wink, and she was about to leave when a court messenger hesitantly knocked on the door.

“Beg pardon, Your Highness, but a representative from the Green Hive has just arrived and she has requested an audience with you.”

“Please give her my regards and inform her that I will be there very soon.”

“Yes, Your Highness. She has also requested that if possible, a griffon named Free Agent be summoned to the court.”

“Me?” Free blurted out.

The messenger turned to him and said, “If you are Free Agent, yes sir. She was most insistent.”

Free looked at Celestia who nodded. “How intriguing. Tell our visitor that he will be accompanying me.”

“At once, Your Highness.” The messenger trotted away hastily.

Celestia said, “I suspect that this is going to involve more than just Free Agent, so you might as well all come to the court with me.”

Everyone followed the alicorn of the sun out, and they made their way to the Day Court at a dignified pace. They encountered a crowd of disgruntled ponies who had been waiting for some time for the court to open, but had been prevented from entering the audience chamber by the Royal Guards flanking the doorway. Celestia extended her apologies to them, and begged them for a little more patience as she dealt with one last matter before opening the court to the public. She led the group inside and the Guards closed the door behind them.

Once inside, they found a tall and graceful pegasus mare waiting for them, with Scribe standing beside her. She smiled and gave Celestia a small bow, and then did the same for Twilight.

“Thank you for seeing me at short notice, Your Highness. I am Princess Iridia of the Green Hive, and I have come with a message from my mother, Queen Dianthia. She has asked that the changeling known as Free Agent the griffon attend Her Majesty at her hive at his soonest convenience.”

Free looked at Path and Twilight with shock. “No bucking way!”

# # # # # # # # # #

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