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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17. Chapter 14: Where The Heart Lives

The regularly scheduled train to the Crystal Empire chuffed its way through the northern mountain range. If you were to look carefully, you would notice a despondent purple horned face in a window of one of the carriages. Twilight Sparkle had her hooves on the window sill and her chin propped upon them as she morosely watched the landscape roll by, wondering how things could have gone so wrong.

Mere days ago, everything had seemed to be marvelous – Chrysalis had been defeated, and the team was on a high. However, that was before she had discovered that one of them was a changeling queen – a lying, deceitful love-stealer who had set his hooks into her! And it all began on this very train when he had wormed and wheedled himself into her affections…. wait… that wasn’t quite right.

A puzzled frown crossed her face as memories came back to her. He had been nothing but completely open and honest about his intentions then. Crude, perhaps, but amusing and guileless. Why didn’t she feel that way anymore though?

Her expression hardened again. Because he was Chrysalis’ child! Oh, he pretended that he had been ignorant of that fact, but of course he would lie about it. Anything to gain her confidence and trust… and make her laugh… and make her feel happier than she had felt in years….

No! her mother had been correct – she had no business being a special somepony to a changeling queen. Mom had been so adamant, and she had been right. She had never lost an opportunity to say so either. Twilight had lost count of the number of times that her mother had said, ‘I told you so’, each more infuriatingly more annoying than the last. She had said it once too often though, and Twilight had stormed out of there, even though she had gone to her parents’ place in the first place to try to get help sorting out her feelings. However, that had been a mistake. The strange emptiness inside of her had left her unable to explain her motivations, so fear and anger had dominated those feelings. The shouting and the tears as she had fled her childhood home were so unlike her – she had never done that before. She was an adult now! She was the Princess of Friendship! How could she have been so nasty and vile?

She had turned to her best friends next. Applejack had looked at her as if she had suddenly grown two heads. “After spending so much time and effort convincing me that Free Agent is a good egg, you completely change your mind? Sorry, sugarcube, that don’t sit right with me.”

Rainbow Dash had added, “Sorry, Twilight, gotta side with AJ and Beaky on this one. Weird that he’s Chrysalis’ kid, but that doesn’t make him bad.”

“He Pinkie-Promised me that he’d make you happy!” Pinkie Pie had declared. “He wouldn’t break a Pinkie-Promise! Never!”

Rarity had still thought he was somewhat barbaric, but she had added, “But that's hardly enough to condemn him.”

Fluttershy had offered sympathy, but what she had left unsaid was just as strong a disagreement in her own quiet way.

“What’s wrong with you all?” she had shouted at them, and had left them stunned and confused. Why had she done that to her best friends? Why didn’t they support her when she needed it?

She had known who would listen though, and that’s what had brought her to be on this train right now. Her brother would understand, and so would Cadance. Both of them knew what Blue Changelings were really like.

Twilight watched the scenery pass and wondered why it seemed so much duller than usual.

# # #

Shining Armor was waiting for Twilight at the station as the train pulled in. The strange message that he had gotten had made him concerned for his sister, but he was relieved to see that she looked okay when she stepped out of the carriage, although she did seem kind of down.

“Twily! Good to see you again so soon, sis. I thought that you were going to head back to Griffonia?”

“Hi, big brother. A change of plans ended up revealing some awful truths. Let me tell you the whole story as we walk to the palace.”

Shining Armor decided not to mention the royal coach that he had waiting for them. If it gave her the motivation to talk about her problems, a walk would do quite nicely.

Twilight recounted Dianthia’s request for Free to visit the Green Hive, and their subsequent visit. She described it in detail, leaving out only the critical information that would betray its location. She told him how Free’s past had been revealed, and her realization of his true intentions. As they arrived at a private lounge room in the palace, she asked, “So what do you think? You see what he was trying to do, don’t you?”

Shining Armor hesitated a long moment before replying, carefully considering his words. “I believe that if you truly feel that way about him, then he’s not the special somepony for you. As for the rest – Twily, you know how I felt about him from the first time we met.”

“Then you do understand! At last!” Twilight exclaimed.

“Umm… it’s not what you think. As far as I’m concerned, Free Agent proved himself, and I was wrong to accuse him of everything that I did.”

“What?! Not you too? Has he bamboozled everypony but me?” Twilight groaned in frustration.

“I know it’s not what you wanted to hear, but I think that you’re wrong about him.”

“And I think – like mother, like son. He’s done to you the same thing that Chrysalis did!”

“Twilight, I didn’t trust you when you warned me about the fake Cadance, but this is different. There issomething wrong, but I think it’s with you this time.”

“What? No! Just because I’m the only one to have seen the truth, doesn’t make me crazy.”

“No, it doesn’t,” came another voice from the doorway, “but there is something not right about you.” Cadance stepped into the room and walked over to join them. “Sunshine, sunshine?” she said hopefully.

Twilight did not feel like responding. “This is serious, Cadance,” she said with a scowl.

“So I see. Better tell me all about this situation.”

“Again? Okay, but you’ll see what I mean though.” Twilight recounted her story once more, although slightly distracted by how Cadance’s horn was lit up and apparently scanning her. Perhaps checking her tale for exaggeration? She knew the facts though! Occasionally she embellished a detail at Cadance’s request, but essentially she told her the same story as she had told her brother. When she finished, she asked, “Is that all clear now?”

Cadance nodded. “I believe so.”

“And do you agree with me?” Twilight asked suspiciously.

“I believe that I fully understand the problem,”

“Great! Now what are we going to do about it?”

“I’m going to send you to bed,” Cadance replied matter-of-factly.

“Huh?” The unexpected response threw Twilight for a loop.

“Twilight, there is something very wrong with you at the moment. I could explain it to you, but the very nature of the problem would prevent you from accepting the truth. Right now, the best thing that I can do for you is to get you to hopefully sleep it off.”

“Sleep what off?” Twilight demanded to know.

“The suppression of your positive emotions.” As Twilight started to protest, Cadance held up a hoof. “Stop right there. Twilight – I was your foalsitter for many years, and I know you well. You should know me equally well. Do you trust me?”

“Of course I do!”

“Good.” Cadance’s horn glowed with magic, and the two alicorns were teleported to a bedroom. “Now please do as I ask, and get some sleep.”

Twilight eyed the bed reluctantly. “But I’m not sleepy.”

“Easily fixed.” Cadance cast a quick spell on Twilight, and the young mare started swaying drowsily on her hooves.

“Sleep spell… not fair…” she objected weakly before crumbling to the floor.

Cadance caught Twilight in her telekinetic field, lifted her onto the bed, and tucked a blanket over her. She then kissed her on the cheek and softly said, “Dear sister-in-law, I pray that your foolishness has not caused you permanent harm. Sleep well, and wake to a fuller heart.”

# # #

Long Path gritted his teeth as Roseclaw flew them down to their estate. Proper Place trailed behind them, but Free flew alongside, a grin across his face.

“I thought heights made you nervous?”

“I’m trying to get over that. I have a griffon mate, and an estate that is best approached by air, so I kind of have to.”

“He’s getting better,” Roseclaw said with a smile. “Not so much screaming now.”

“Oh, ha-haa!” Path said sarcastically.

Roseclaw exchanged a grin with Free.

They landed at the front door, and were a little startled to have it open for them. Goldenquill stood in the doorway and bowed slightly. “Welcome home, Lord and Lady Path. It’s good to see you in good health once more, sir.”

“Thanks, ’Quill. It’s great to be back. You can thank my brother, Free Agent, for my return to health. I literally couldn’t have recovered without him.”

Goldenquill held out a foreleg to Free and they shook talons. “Thank you, Master Free Agent. I was deeply concerned.”

“You’re welcome, ’Quill, but I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I couldn’t have fixed him up.”

“Will Princess Sparkle be joining you later?”

Path gave Free a look of dismay, but the griffling took it well.

“Twilight has been… detained in Equestria indefinitely,” Free replied.

“And this is Proper Place. He will be joining our House and will be helping with the administrative duties.”

Goldenquill gave the pegasus changeling a small bow. “Welcome, sir.”

“Could you show Free to his quarters, ’Quill? I trust that they’re ready?” Path asked.

“Everything has been in readiness for days, sir.”

“Great! When you're done with Free, find a guest room for Proper Place. Roseclaw and I are going to freshen up in the meantime. Please arrange a meal for the four of us as soon as possible after that.”

“Very good, milord. Master Agent – if you would care to follow me, I will show you to your rooms.”

“Rooms, plural?” Free queried.

“Certainly, sir. As one of the founders of the House, you rank just below the Lord of the House, and your quarters reflect this.”

“Lead on then!” Free ordered with a broad grin.

While Path and Roseclaw made their way to their own quarters, Goldenquill showed Free the way to his. He was blown away when the major domo opened the door to the luxurious apartment. Despite being stripped of the expensive indulgences of Ravenwing, the room still retained the permanent fixtures and furniture suited to a noble, and that was just the lounge. The bedroom was also large and well-appointed, with an en suite bathroom attached. The bed was magnificently huge!

“So these are my new digs?” Free asked.

“If this is all to your satisfaction, then this will be your home while you are in Griffonia. I can arrange an alternative if this is not to your liking?”

“Heck, no! This is pretty sweet. Thanks, ’Quill.”

“My pleasure, sir.”

“Hey, ’Quill, I don’t know if you’ve been told, but I’m a kind of informal guy. Knock off all the ‘sirs’, will ya?”

“And I am a very formal employee with appearances to maintain. I hope you can respect that, sir.”

Free smirked and replied, “If you can put up with me, then I’ll put up with you. Deal?”

“Deal, sir.”

“We’re going to get along fine, dude,” Free declared.

“I will have your luggage forwarded to the room when it gets delivered from your airship. I’ll leave you to settle in and freshen up now.”

“Thanks, ’Quill,” Free replied with a sincere smile.

The smile quickly died when the door closed behind Goldenquill. Free looked about the room and realised how empty it seemed with just himself in it. Empty and lonely. He had shared a crowded cabin with Path and Rose on the journey over. Path had said that he wanted to have his company for a while longer to fully recover from his bout of extreme depression, but Free knew that it was himself that his brother was most concerned about. Without Twilight there to complete the foursome, there was a huge hole left in their herd, and an even bigger one in Free’s heart, but his companions did their best to fill it. The result was not quite the same thing though. As much as he hated to admit it, he was a changeling, and when a changeling fell in love, it was as eternal as an alicorn. Tears welled in his eyes as he murmured, “Please come back to me, Sparkles.”

# # #

After their meal, Path and Roseclaw immediately set about catching up with the backlog of work that had accumulated in their absence. If it had not been for the diligent work of Raza Copperquill, it would have been much worse. They introduced Proper Place to her, and the two immediately hit it off, although that was not too surprising as that was what changelings were adept at doing. She quickly found tasks for him that were better suited to his skill-set, and they dived into the work, leaving Path and Roseclaw to concentrate on the most important stuff. The next highest priority was checking in with Warfist.

The warmaster was normally of serious disposition, but he had a genuine smile of pleasure at seeing Path again. “Welcome back, Lord Path! I’m happy to see that you have recovered well. Is this the Free Agent that I have been hearing so much about?” he asked, looking in Free’s direction.

“It is indeed. Free, this is General Warfist Bloodfeather, Warmaster of House Path. Warfist, please meet Free Agent, noble of the House of Path, and my blood brother.”

“An honor to meet you, sir,” Warfist said, holding out his talons to shake with Free’s.

“I’ve been curious about you, War. Can you sing?” Free asked.

Warfist looked startled. “I’ve been known to sing in a few bars occasionally.”

Free grinned. “Great! You should fit in well.”

Warfist shook his head in bemusement. “I had heard that you were a bit odd. I’ve also heard how you held back the invasion of the Crystal Empire until reinforcements arrived. Actions speak louder than words, and I respect you for that.”

“Thanks. Try keeping that in mind when you have to deal with me in the future.”

“I can already tell that it’s going to be interesting.”

Path said, “So, what have you managed to get going in our absence?”

“I’ve accepted a large number of pupils for the first classes. There are a few new House members for you to approve first though, as all of them will be teachers for those classes. There are a couple of disciplines for which we are still recruiting.”

“Put me down as a music and painting teacher,” Free told him. At the looks of surprise that he got, he responded, “What? I’m artist caste – what did you think I was going to do?”

“I don’t think any of us really thought of you as a teacher,” Path replied.

“It’s either that or sit around getting bored. Until such time that we go out in the field again, I need something to occupy my time. I’ve got a lot of knowledge to pass on from my dad about art. I think he’d like that.”

“Very well. I will ask Raza to fit you into the school’s staff,” Warfist replied.

Path asked, “What about your own specialty? Have you got a class together yet?”

“I have a small class of young griffons and ponies. So far I have been restricting lessons mostly to basic training exercises and team-building tasks. I feel that it’s important for both species to get used to working cooperatively first. I will be getting the older griffons to be my assistants for the training, but I would very much like to get a couple of pony warriors to help balance out the skill sets.”

“We’ll have to introduce you to Proper Place, a pegasus whom we brought back with us. He has a particular fighting style that I’d like you to evaluate. Right now though, he’s starting work as Raza’s assistant.”

“Send him to me at your earliest convenience, sir.”

“Will do. How about Blue Streak? I hear you’ve taken him under your wing, so to speak?”

Warfist smiled. “You could say that. I am delighted with the colt. He is the perfect age – not too old to have been oppressed by his former slave status, and not too young to start some serious training. He is a keen learner, and showing huge promise. In fact, I have a test of his abilities scheduled for tomorrow. I would like you to be there to witness it.”

“Tell me the time, and I’ll be there. What’s his specialty going to be, do you know yet?”

“His speed is his specialty. He not only moves fast, but he thinks fast. I’m going to be honing that speed to put it to good use in unarmed combat, my own specialty. Then I plan to work on weapons training when we figure out which works best for him. At this point, I suspect that the short sword will best suit his talent; he has the earth pony strength combined with lightning-fast moves.”

“That sounds good. I hope he’s enjoying the training?”

“I believe he loves it, although some of it might be because it gets him out of the dull chores that he would have been otherwise required to do.”

Path chuckled. “Can’t fault him for that. I’d like to have a chat with him though to see for myself how he’s coming along. Could you send him to have dinner with us tonight?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Excellent. Tomorrow I’ll check out that test for him, and you can introduce me to the rest of the students.”

“I will have them ready for you.”

“Good. Now I’m going to check out the new House members that you have pre-approved. I’m getting very excited about all this – are you?”

“Very much so. After all, that is why I chose to join the House, sir.”

# # #

Blue Streak had been understandably nervous at being inside the castle for the first time, unsure as to how to behave. However, when his hosts proved to be friendly and informal, he had loosened up, and soon he was chatting quite comfortably with them. He was excited about the new direction his life was taking, and even pleased to be going to school. Roseclaw invited him to come back for future dinners to discuss his progress, and he had left for home full of anticipation for the next day.

However, that had been yesterday. Today, the colt was a little more antsy, and he pranced a little on the spot with nervous energy as he waited to find out what Warfist had in mind for him.

“So what exactly have you got lined up for Blue Streak today?” Path asked Warfist.

“A small test and hopefully a lesson,” the griffon replied.

“Why the soldiers?” Path asked, indicating the three regular army griffons waiting nearby.

“They’re part of the test.” The old warrior beckoned to Blue Streak, and the young colt trotted up to them.

“Yes, Master Bloodfeather?”

“Your test today is to defeat in unarmed combat all the warriors on this field now. You must disable or symbolically kill each of them.” Warfist lifted his staff and pointed at each of the soldiers. “These are among the best fighters in the king’s army and are under instructions to not take it easy on you. If you manage to accomplish your tasks, I will deem your progress satisfactory.”

Blue Streak looked the soldiers over and nodded. “No problem, Master.”

A couple of soldiers laughed at the colt’s cocky reply.

“Now I know why we’re here,” one said. “Someone needs to be taken down a peg or two.”

Warfist glared at the soldier. “Shut your beak, fool, and concentrate on your task. Now take your positions around the field.”

The three spread out around the field. Although it was part of the castle grounds and well cared for, it was hardly tame. The grass covering the undulating earth was occasionally interrupted by large boulders or stately ancient trees, plus a pond. Blue Streak took up a position roughly equidistant from the soldiers.

Warfist held up his cane and said, “On my mark, begin.” He dropped the cane, shouting, “Go!”

All three griffons leaped into the air, but one led the charge. Blue Streak did not wait for him though, and took off at high speed, weaving and dodging around boulders and trees. The lead griffon struggled to close in on his quarry, but he had nearly caught up when the colt looked over his shoulder and grinned. Instead of dodging the next boulder, Blue Streak jumped onto it and launched himself up into the air, right into the griffon’s flight path. He bucked, and his hind hooves slammed into the griffon’s belly before he had a chance to react to the colt’s extraordinary move. The soldier squawked as all the wind was knocked out of him, and he doubled over and plunged to the ground. Blue Streak made an easy four-point landing next to him and tapped him on the head.

 

 

“First kill,” Warfist murmured.

Blue Streak wasted no time in taking off again. The remaining two soldiers, having witnessed the fate of the first, became more cautious about their flight path. Nevertheless, they were hot on his trail, and started to cooperate to limit the colt’s maneuvers. Soon they had herded him into a copse of trees, greatly inhibiting his speed.

“Uh-oh. Looks like he’s been outmaneuvered,” Path commented.

Warfist faintly smiled. “Someone has been,” he replied.

One soldier flew down to go under the branches and attack Blue Streak, only to hesitate in confusion. “Where’s he gone?”

Blue Streak burst out of the branches over the soldier, landing on the griffon’s back, slamming him into the ground. A tap on the head ended his fight.

“Kill number two,” Warfist confirmed.

“Obviously the soldier didn’t realize that earth ponies are very good at climbing,” Path observed.

“A foolish assumption,” Warfist agreed.

Blue Streak was living up to his name and tearing across the field at a pace that the remaining griffon could barely match. As he thundered past the two watchers, he called out, “Hey, Master, I thought you said that these guys are good?”

“A bit arrogant, don’t you think?” Path asked.

“His statement wasn’t aimed at us,” Warfist disagreed.

“Oh?” Path watched and listened a bit more, and realized that the colt was continuing to taunt his remaining opponent while dashing and dodging tirelessly all over the field. The griffon’s attempts to catch Blue Streak got more and more desperate and careless. They got closer to the stone wall that bordered the grounds and the colt abruptly dodged to the right and through the archway leading to the castle courtyard. His pursuer banked sharply to follow, but he had been so focused on the infuriating pony that he had lost awareness of his surroundings, and slammed into the wall. He slumped to the ground just as Blue Streak casually trotted back through the archway. The griffon was obviously incapacitated, but he shrugged and tapped him on the head to confirm the ‘kill’.

“That’s gotta hurt. Three kills, and all without actually needing to engage in formal combat. Very impressive,” Path said as Blue Streak trotted back to the watchers. “He certainly knows how to take advantage of his raw speed.”

“That he does, but I am more interested in his ability to think a situation through clearly. He has a lot of potential for one so young.”

Blue Streak came up to them, barely breathing hard. “Mission accomplished!” He declared with a grin.

Warfist rapped him on the head with his cane.

“Ow! What was that for?” the colt protested.

“Did I not say that you must defeat all the warriors on the field?” asked Warfist.

“And I did!”

“And what are Lord Path and myself?”

Blue Streak stared for a moment before grimacing. “You tricked me.”

“I stated your task clearly. Your enemy will always take advantage of any mistake that you make. Never make an assumption! Always be thinking one step ahead!”

Blue Streak’s grin returned. “Yes, Master!”

“Good. You may go clean up for the evening meal.”

Blue Streak nodded and then raced off towards the castle.

“He seems very happy for being reprimanded?” Path wondered.

Warfist smiled. “The lad loves learning. Today he learned a lesson that won’t be forgotten, and he will be the better warrior for it, and he knows it. I’m very proud of him.”

“So that was the real test?”

“Correct. The rest was just a training exercise that I was fairly sure he could cope with.”

“Then why not four or five opponents to make it more challenging?”

Warfist chuckled. “Because these arrogant fools needed to be humbled a little, and there were only three deserving of the lesson. If they still haven’t learned, then I will invite them to a rematch in claw to hoof combat.”

“I don’t think I can allow that,” Path told him.

The old warrior cocked an eyebrow at him. “Oh? Why not?”

“How would I explain to the king that I allowed his soldiers to be beaten up by a colt?”

Warfist guffawed. “You have a point, Lord Path. We will have to hope that they will realize that they would be better served to learn a little humility.”

# # #

Twilight forced her eyes open despite the lingering lethargy. “Darn sleep spell,” she mumbled and struggled out of bed. She felt the stiffness that only occurred when she overslept, and wondered how long she had been asleep. She noticed a tingle of magic, and smiled in recognition.

“Seems I will be expecting someone soon. Better freshen up, I suppose.”

Twilight managed to wash her face and brush her mane in the en suite bathroom before there was a knock on the bedroom door, followed by Cadance entering after a courteous pause.

“How are you feeling?” Cadance asked.

“Rested. Less stressed. Annoyed at being ambushed.”

“Sorry about that, but it was genuinely the best thing for you then. Let me scan you.” Her horn lit up, and a beam of magic washed over the younger alicorn. Cadance sighed in relief. “Thank goodness! You seem to be recovering.”

“Okay, it’s time for you to explain yourself. Recovering from what? You said something about suppression of my positive emotions?”

“Come along with me, and I’ll explain while you have something to eat. You’re probably hungry right now. You’ve been asleep for nearly thirty hours.”

Twilight needed no reminder that she was feeling famished, but her gurgling stomach did so anyway. “Why so long? Overdo the sleep spell?” she asked as they headed out of the room.

“No – I was wondering if it would be long enough, in fact.”

“Okay, now I’m really curious!”

“But not angry like you were before,” Cadance pointed out.

Twilight considered that, and realized that she was right. “So that was part of this problem that you keep mentioning?”

“Yes. With your positive emotions suppressed, it greatly magnified your negative ones – fear and anger especially. However, your balance seems to be coming back.”

“So exactly why was this balance out of whack? Was it to do with the emo-gel?”

“Of course it does,” Cadance said with visible annoyance. “Whatever possessed you to eat it?”

“Iridia said it was harmless, and I thought I’d see what it tasted like.”

“I believe you said that she said that it was physically harmless? Didn’t it occur to you that there might be non-physical effects?”

Twilight looked sheepish. “I seem to have been doing a lot of impulsive things lately, like falling for a changeling queen.”

“Yes, I’ll get back to that soon.” They arrived at a small dining room which had been laid out with a large variety of foods. “Anyway, have something to eat and I’ll explain just how big an idiot you were.”

That stung Twilight, but she had to admit that she had been incredibly foolish, so she meekly sat down at the table. “Ooh, pancakes! Um… is all of this for me?”

“Yes. I think you’ll find that you need a bit more than you think. It’s all better than eating emo-gel, that’s for sure. Did it occur to you that I already know all about the substance? As the Alicorn of Love, I make it my business to know about related things, and a gel that acts as a matrix for emotional energy, especially love, certainly qualifies. Unlike you, however, I arranged some very careful and structured experiments with several volunteers instead of overdosing myself on it.”

“Ab wat wad d’ rethult?” Twilight mumbled through a mouthful of food.

“The obvious first result is that while a pony can’t gain energy from it like a changeling does, apparently the stored love can strongly affect a pony’s emotions. It amplifies all similar emotions that the pony is already experiencing, and basically that covers almost everything. You see, while most ponies think of romantic love when talking about the emotion, that is hardly the only type. There’s love of a parent, love of a sibling, love of a friend, love of a pet, and then there are the more abstract ones such as love of music, art, scenery, and even love of life. The changelings can use all of these for their energy needs, and the emo-gel can contain a complex mixture of any or all of these, plus their preferred flavorings of other positive emotions. And you ate a double dose.”

“Yeah. I can confirm that I loved absolutely everything after that. Embarrassingly so. Though I am surprised that Free didn’t take advantage of me then. I… I’m confused, Cadance. I know he’s a queen and probably the child of Chrysalis and can’t be trusted, so why didn’t he press his advantage?”

“Still not fully recovered, I see. That will become clear soon though. Anyway, the amplification of all your positive emotions comes at a price. When it wears off, your ability to feel those emotions is severely stunted, and so the imbalance tends to amplify the effects of your negative emotions. Therefore you feel fearful, angry… and suspicious. However, you took twice as much as a changeling normally eats, far more than I dared test on volunteers, and I was terrified that you had managed to actually burn out your ability to feel love any more, and it made the imbalance even worse. It’s taken days for you to start feeling positive again, which I confirmed with that scan that I did of you earlier.”

“So that’s why I yelled at my parents… and created my fears and suspicions about Free?”

“Twilight, the imbalance only amplifies what is already there. You must have already felt doubts and fears before then. Why would you doubt someone who so obviously loves you?”

“But he’s Chrysalis’ child! The queen who imprisoned you, bewitched my brother, attacked Canterlot, and hurt Celestia! How can I trust a changeling like that?”

“A changeling who was brought up from infancy as a griffon, who didn’t know he was a changeling until he was much older, let alone who birthed him? A changeling who went out of his way to make you happy?”

“How can I tell that it wasn’t all an act though?” Twilight pleaded, torn between her returning feelings and lingering fears.

Cadance shook her head. “Oh, Twilight, the answer has been in front of you all this time, but you are only now recovered enough to be able to perceive its truth. What was the last thing that he said to you before you parted? The thing that confused you so much?”

“Huh? He said ‘pie fight’. What was that supposed to mean though?”

“I am assuming that he and you have only been involved in one pie fight, so what happened then that would be so significant?”

“Shining Armor was suspicious of Free’s motives, and he and Free had a fight before Celestia brought it to a halt.”

“Yes, and what did I say to my foolish husband?” Cadance prompted.

“Something about not jumping to conclusions and checking with you, the Alicorn of Love.”

“And…?”

Twilight’s eyes grew huge with realization. “That you sensed that there was true affection for me. Oh sweet Celestia! He really is in love with me!”

Cadance smiled happily. “And there it is. I feel the love back in your heart once more.”

Twilight burst into tears. “How could I have forgotten that? How could I have ignored all the wonderful things he did for me, and the beautiful times we had together. How could I forget true love?!”

“The emo-gel nearly burned the ability to feel that way out of you. Now instead of wallowing in your regrets, what are you going to do about this?”

“I have to find him! I have to tell him I’m sorry, and ask him to forgive me!”

Twilight started to get up from the table, but Cadance gently pushed her down again with her telekinesis. “The next train back to Canterlot leaves in about eighty minutes. Finish your meal first before heading off to the station. I’ve already taken the liberty of reserving a compartment for you in the hope of your recovery. And in the meantime, you can recount all those good times you had with Free. After all, I love a bit of gossip too.”

# # #

The journey to Canterlot never seemed so long, and Twilight teleported from the station to the palace rather than spend one more minute travelling. She was shocked and dismayed to learn from Celestia that Free and his companions had long departed for Griffonia.

“Is there another airship that can take me there?” she asked.

Celestia regretfully shook her head. “All the Royal Airships are on assignment, and I cannot justify pulling them away for personal reasons, even yours. May I suggest that you investigate private means if you are in such a hurry to get back to Griffonia?”

“Right! I’ll do that!” Twilight raced out of the throne room, past a startled Luna.

“What has gotten into Twilight Sparkle, sister?” Luna asked as she walked over to join Celestia.

“Some sense, apparently. She’s desperate to re-join with Free Agent in Griffonia, and is off in search of a means to get there without the Skylark at her disposal.”

“Why did you not offer to teleport her there? You have the range and power to do so.”

Celestia grinned. “I think our young princess needs to put in a bit of effort to earn Free Agent’s forgiveness.”

Luna shook her head in wonder. “Oh, Tia, still playing the teacher?”

“I don’t see you leaping to her aid,” Celestia pointed out.

Luna chuckled. “Nay. I agree that Twilight will better appreciate what she has if she has to earn it.”

# # #

Twilight was having no luck with the local air shipping companies, and the pegasus coaches weren’t willing to take her over the ocean.

“I recommend that you go to Fillydelphia and try your luck there,” one shipping agent suggested. “It’s a busy port, and might have what you’re looking for.”

Twilight considered that to be her best option, and galloped to the train station, only to discover that she had missed the morning train to Fillydelphia. She bought a ticket anyway, and took off out of Canterlot and flew past the obscuring mountain range. With a good line of sight now, she teleported in the direction of the rail line to that city. After failing to see the train where she arrived, she repeated her actions, this time spotting it approaching a small country platform. One last teleport took her to the platform, and minutes later she boarded the train.

It was mid-afternoon before the train pulled into Fillydelphia’s central station, and Twilight wasted no time seeking out various passenger and shipping options. Unfortunately there were no regular passenger services to Griffonia, and while there was some trade between there and Equestria, there were no ships that plied that route currently in port. It was a very frustrated Princess of Friendship who sat down on the dock and looked at the unbroken stretch of water in front of her, with the setting sun warming her back. The day was almost gone with little gain.

Twilight considered her options. ‘Perhaps I’d have more luck in Manehattan? Then again, I could end up wasting my time just like here, and that’s not acceptable. Only one other choice, but I need to rest up first.’ She got up and started heading back to the shore in search of a hotel to spend the night. ‘I’m sorry, Free, but I’ll be there soon, I promise!

# # #

With the organization of the first classes for the new students still being finalized, Free had plenty of time to spare. He used the time to work on his painting, and prepare some materials for his future pupils. It also helped a lot to distract him from thoughts about Twilight. This afternoon, the weather was ideal for landscape work, and without weather pegasi to maintain those conditions, Free was taking advantage of it while he could. His room came with a balcony, and he had set up his easel out there in the morning, and had been working at painting the castle’s grounds all day. His only distraction was when Warfist brought a group of students out to give them training exercises. The odd mixture of griffs and ponies was both amusing and reassuring, giving him hope that Path’s grand plans would work out. Better than his own plans anyway.

He was preoccupied with his paints though when a shadow flickered over his canvas as something obscured the lowering sun behind him. He turned around in time to see Twilight land heavily on the balcony, panting and trembling.

“Twilight!” Free exclaimed, both hoping and dreading what she had to say. “How did you get here?”

“Teleported and glided, then repeated until I got here.”

“All the way across the ocean?” he said incredulously.

“I had to get here to see you!” she said as she stepped up and reached out to him.

Free flinched back from her touch though. “Why? Twilight, you hurt me like I have never been hurt before in my life! If you’ve come here because you still fear what I am, or suspect my motives, I don’t want to know about it. In fact, I’d prefer it if you just go away.”

“I made a mistake! I made lots of mistakes! It was the emo-gel that caused them, honestly!”

“Emo-gel can’t make you fear me, or make you suspicious of me. Those had to be there first.”

“I was taken badly by surprise by the revelation that you are not only a queen, but also Chrysalis’ child, and I didn’t find the time to deal with the foolish fears that caused before taking the emo-gel. I’m back to normal now, and I’m so sorry that I said all that. I love you, Free! Can’t you taste it?”

Free desperately wanted to believe her, but he had his own doubts now. “Yes, I can, just as I tasted it before we went to the hive. You told me you loved me then too. You even more adamantly told me that you don’t love me in the hive. How can I know that you won’t change your mind once more? I never want to feel that pain again.”

Twilight’s face was streaming with tears by this time. “I won’t! I wouldn’t have done so then if I hadn’t been so incredibly foolish as to eat that stupid stuff. I swear… no, I Pinkie-Promise that I will never hurt you that way again.” She started rummaging in her saddlebag and pulled out a sheaf of papers. “Look – while I was on the train to Fillydelphia, I wrote this out.” She telekinetically passed it over to the griffon.

Free looked at the neatly lettered first page. It was titled ‘Why Free Agent Should Take Back Twilight Sparkle’ and had an index of chapters starting with ‘My Mistakes’, then ‘The Consequences’, ‘My Recovery’, ‘Why I Love You’, and ‘Why We Belong Together’. A smile grew on his face, and he involuntarily snorted with amusement as he shook his head. “Dammit, Sparkles, you’re so bucking adorkable.” He tossed the papers aside, stepped up to the hopeful alicorn, and threw his arms about her. “I love you so much! Thank you for coming back to me!”

Twilight’s love flowed into him, filling the gaping hole that had been there since leaving the Green Hive. He shifted to unicorn form and they kissed passionately until the need to breathe made them part lips. She then leaned into his embrace, saying, “I promise to love you for the rest of your life.”

Free chuckled and replied, “It seems that changeling queens can live for about three centuries; you’re going to be stuck with me for a long while.”

“Worth it,” she responded before sagging wearily.

“Are you okay, Twi?” Free asked with concern.

“I’m just very tired. I’ve been travelling from Fillydelphia since this morning.”

“How many teleports did you make anyway?”

“I’m not sure. I lost count after a few dozen times.”

“What?! Are you nuts?! You could have run out of power in the middle of the ocean.”

“Yeah, just call me the Alicorn of Exhaustion. I had to get here though, and I wasn’t going to spend one more day making you wait for my apology. My love for you kept me going.”

“Sparkles, you’re my kind of crazy. Right now though, you need sleep, and I have just the place for you to get it.” He was still in unicorn form, so he used his horn to magically lift the alicorn and carry her inside where he put her on the bed. “I hope you like my new bed… our bed, I hope?”

“Yes, definitely our bed. Our nice… cozy….” She never completed her sentence as exhaustion overtook her.

Free drew a blanket over her and then sat down beside the bed to watch her sleep for a while. Tears of happiness welled in his eyes, and he wiped them away while murmuring a prayer of thanks for bringing Twilight back to him. After several long minutes, he got up and fetched his painting materials. With a blank canvas on the easel, he started a sketch for a new painting of his favorite subject.

To this day, the finished portrait of ‘The Sleeping Princess’ hangs in House Path Art Museum as its finest example of putting emotion into art.

 

 

Author's Note:

I got this chapter out as soon as possible because I wanted to deal with all the people who complained how Twilight was acting so out of character, without giving serious thought as to why that was, nor waiting to see what the next chapter brought. (And to think one of the biggest complaints I got in other stories is that I kept wrapping up problems in one chapter!)

Twilight's extraordinary trip over the ocean is meant to achieve one other thing, and that is to emphasize the size of the world. If you were to look at a map of Equestria, you would get the impression that the nation is rather small, and because of the TV show's necessity to move along a story, they tend to make journeys look shorter. My take is that the nation is quite large, and the ocean similarly large, which is why it takes the airship so long to cross it. However, while Twilight's range and power for teleportation has grown considerably since she became an alicorn, it is nowhere near that of Celestia's as yet. She'll get there one day, but not during this story!

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