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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27. Chapter 19: We've Only Just Begun Part 2

There was quite a crowd gathered to greet the returning warriors. News of the successful defense of the Crystal City had of course had time to reach Griffonia, and this had excited the griffon population as few things had managed to do in decades. It was a long while before events quieted down enough for Path to attend to important business. He had spent the entire journey in the healing pod, building up strength for a sad task.

Path had requested an audience with the king, although he had not expected such an intimate setting. He slowly walked into the royal study, spotting the griffon monarch sitting in one of the large easy-chairs around the fireplace, sipping wine from a goblet held in his talons while he stared at the flames. He gestured for Path to take the other chair opposite him and poured some wine for him. Path reached out with one hoof that was gloved with a magic prosthesis that glowed blue after a moment, causing the goblet to be firmly held in Path’s grasp. He sipped the wine, finding it to be bold of taste and texture.

“You know,” the king began after a few minutes of introspective silence, “Bloodstreak Glimfeather wanted to blood himself in battle so badly…. He was the fifth of seven children, all of them warriors, but none of the others had his tenacity. He wasn’t likely to be heir; there are four more in line for the crown already. He didn’t want it though. Like a true griffon, he pursued honor for himself and not just for status. His ferocity was without equal. His loyalty was beyond question. To die on the battlefield was the way he wanted to go. Were you able to determine what ultimately ended him?”

Path replied, “He was quite the warrior. Warfist told me that he cleaved over four hundred drones before they finally took him. The Chrome Queen said that he caused waves of fear to roll through the swarm’s mind. As he cleaved soldier after soldier in twain, his war screech was heard over five blocks away. I have been unable to find out the details of the blow that struck him down, however, even as he succumbed, he managed to take out his attacker.”

The king laughed loudly but a little sadly before he settled down. “Four hundred… You can tell he was from good stock. That is why my family is the ruling clan – we take time to anger, but when we do, there are very few things that can stop us. I am glad he has left me with two teenage grandsons and a chick granddaughter.”

Path smiled a bit as he looked at the King. “I have been visiting various leaders to present a House Path brooch in recognition of the sacrifices made by their subjects. However, I imagine that you are not the brooch type, so I came up with something that would have a far more personal meaning for you. It took quite a while to find it.”

The King raised an eyebrow as Path opened up the large bag that he had carried in, and the earth pony placed what looked like a large changeling skull onto the table between them. It was cleaned perfectly so the king could see the fine detail, but what really made his eyes widen was the expertly crafted war ax that was buried halfway into it. Looking along the haft, he saw his royal emblem.

“Is this…?”

Path nodded. “His final kill. As he was struck, he brought his ax down and took out the one that felled him. He struck it so hard that the ax wedged into its skull and we could not remove it without destroying the skull.”

The King nodded. “Thank you, Lord Path. I will see that his children are raised well, and know the glory and honor that their father brought to his House.”

Path stood up and bowed. “Thank you, King Glimfeather.”

As the pony left the study, the king looked at the trophy and could not help but smile proudly.

# # #

Snow Wing said, “Blue Streak is playing kite with Lucida again!”

Path smiled. “That sounds like fun. Where did he get the kite?”

“You don't understand – I didn't say he was playing with a kite, I said he was playing kite with Lucida!”

Path gave her an odd look and then went to the window to see for himself. He spotted Streak with his forelegs safely resting on the wheeled walker that he used to get around while his legs healed. His hind legs though were propelling both him and the walker at high speed along the garden path, and tied around his waist was a cord that led up into the air and attached to a simple harness around Lucida. The hippogriff’s wings were spread, and she was flying behind him… or more accurately, she was being tugged along and her wings were keeping her aloft.

“Snow, does Roseclaw know about this?”

“Well I sent one of the others to….”

A loud screech interrupted her. “Streak is doing what?!

Path sighed and watched out the window. “I don’t want to get involved, but this is too damn funny not to watch.”

Streak was running away from Roseclaw who was chasing after him as fast as she could. All the while, Lucida was giggling and making little controlled banks. This play time was actually teaching her how her wings would react in real flight, but try telling that to an overprotective mother!

# # #

There was a knock on Twilight’s office door. She looked at her desk clock and smiled – she loved punctuality. “Come in!” she called.

Kerbarok entered the office, stepped up to her desk, and saluted. “Reporting as ordered, Your Highness.”

“At ease, Captain. I asked you here for a personal interview, not ordered you to an inquest.” Her horn lit up and her magic pulled a chair up to her desk. “Please make yourself comfortable.”

Kerbarok sat down and took off his cap. “I can taste your excitement and anticipation, but I fail to understand why I am the source of it.”

Twilight smiled. “Let me explain then. You should be familiar with how the Avatars of Harmony acted in concert with Prince Shining Armor to maintain the shield about the Crystal City.”

“I am,” Kerbarok replied with a nod.

“You should also realize that I was not part of that group, and it was Sunset Shimmer who acted as the Avatar of Magic in my stead.”

“Apparently so.”

“Good. Sunset Shimmer was proof of my theory that Harmony could be invoked by anypony, as long as they embodied one of the six aspects of Harmony. I personally guided her to form relationships with my other friends in the hope of her being able to take my place if I was not available. Harmony is Equestria’s greatest defense, but its greatest weakness is that it requires six avatars to invoke it. If just one of us was unavailable or, Celestia forbid, killed, then we would not be able to invoke it. My frequent presence here in Griffonia meant that the likelihood of my unavailability was greatly increased, therefore it became my mission to seek out other potential avatars, starting with mine of course. I had an advantage in knowing that Sunset was already very close to being an avatar, and therefore had a very strong potential, and I was proved right. Unfortunately, I do not have such a simple task with the other aspects. I need to seek out candidates and try to guide them in the same manner.”

“And you wish me to help you do this?”

“In a sense. Kerbarok, I believe that you have the potential to be an excellent Avatar of Loyalty.”

The changeling looked startled. “Me? Your Highness, all Red Changelings are very loyal – it’s one of our basic traits.”

“I understand what you say about your kind, but loyalty is a pretty common trait among ponies and griffons also. No, it takes something special to make an Avatar, and it’s not something easily quantifiable, otherwise my task would be a lot simpler. However, my instincts tell me that you have that something extra. The question is: can you embrace true friendship and personify that aspect?”

Kerbarok was stunned. Nothing had prepared him for this, and he was at a loss to answer Twilight. “Can a changeling even be an Avatar?”

“Harmony knows no race. It only requires two things – a commitment to an aspect and friendship. I was such an aspect, but until Princess Celestia pushed me to make some friends, I could not be an Avatar. Still, once I got it through my thick skull that there was more to life than books and study, it didn’t take long. Friendship is Magic, Kerbarok. It knows no race, species or any other artificial distinctions. So the real question isn’t whether a changeling can be an Avatar, but can you find it in yourself to make true friendships with other potential Avatars?”

Kerbarok thought about it and nodded. “You know, I wouldn’t be very loyal if I didn’t try, would I? Tell me how to go about this, and I will do my best to make it happen.”

Twilight’s face lit up with a happy smile. “Excellent. Let’s make a start right now. This might be a bit tricky for someone with military discipline like yourself, so pay close attention.” She held out a hoof to Kerbarok. “Hi! My name is Twilight, and I would love to be your friend…”

# # #

Two weeks was barely enough to cope with the huge influx of applicants to the House of Path. If it wasn’t for the added support of King Glimfeather, they might have had to postpone their wedding plans. However, the Skyshark departed on time, but this time with a load of wedding guests rather than troops of warriors.

The first stop for Twilight and Roseclaw was the Canterlot Carousel where Rarity had told them to come for their fittings. As always, Twilight was greatly impressed by her friend’s creativity, but Roseclaw was absolutely stunned. Twilight enjoyed watching her House-mate’s reactions, and it was an almost dazed she-griff that had to be guided back to the castle afterwards.

Celestia and Luna had set aside time in their schedule later that afternoon for a wedding planning rehearsal, and Roseclaw and Path had already joined them in an otherwise empty throne room. Not unexpectedly, the exceedingly punctual Twilight arrived right at the appointed time. What was an enormous surprise was when Twilight turned up again about ten seconds later. The two Twilights stared at each with expressions of surprise and annoyance for a long moment before the first Twilight spoke up.

“Free? Is that you? What are you doing imitating me?”

Twilight number two sputtered in outrage. “You? You’re imitating me!”

“What? I’m Twilight Sparkle, not you!”

I’m Twilight Sparkle, and you’re making a mockery of this rehearsal!”

“Me?! I turn up promptly on time, and I find you pretending to be me, so who’s making a mockery of this, Free Agent?”

The two Twilights continued to bicker back and forth. Celestia just rolled her eyes and shook her head, but Luna was trying to stifle laughter behind a hoof. Path and Roseclaw just smiled and watched the show – this was one of Free’s better pranks.

 

 

Eventually a stalemate was reached, and both Twilights ended up glaring at each other. Then one of them smiled slyly.

“Try doing this, ‘Twilight’!” With a bamf, she disappeared and reappeared behind her doppelganger. “Changelings can’t teleport, can they?”

The other Twilight grinned and turned around to face her. “You got me, darling. Here’s your prize.” She put a foreleg around Twilight’s neck and pulled her into a kiss.

Startled at first, the alicorn quickly reacted to her double’s true affection, and soon the watchers were treated to the sight of Twilight passionately kissing herself. It wasn’t until the lovers broke apart that Free resumed his normal appearance in a flare of changeling magic.

“Okay,” Free declared with a grin, “I’ve warmed up the audience, so let’s get this show on the road!”

“Just you wait until I get you alone tonight!” Twilight warned him.

“Totally worth it,” he replied unabashed, to the laughter of the others.

# # #

On the morning of the wedding, it was obvious that excitement was in the air as Canterlot welcomed dignitaries from far and wide. Not since the marriage of Princess Cadance and Shining Armor had there been such a big affair, and this time it was a dual wedding of yet another Equestrian princess to a war hero, and also a Griffonian lord and lady. The press was having a field day, and the Royal Guard was working extra hard to keep out the curious and the gate-crashers alike.

Twilight’s comm had seen heavy usage in the fortnight that they had been in Griffonia as she planned and organized the wedding ceremony, but she had been extra busy after the wedding ceremony planning session. Free had wisely stayed out of his fiancée’s way, and he and Path had occupied their time with meeting and greeting guests. Roseclaw acted as Twilight’s right hoof assistant, and she kept a tight rein on the staff. Eventually though, it was time for the pre-ceremony dress rehearsal, and everyone gathered in the throne room. Unlike the planning session, they had all the associated participants there. The Royal Guard of Honor was lined up, and the flower fillies and page colts were shown their positions, as were the Best Mares. Ushers went over their lists one more time to ensure that they would not forget any important dignitary.

Path and Roseclaw waited until the majority of the organization was finalized before he took his place up on the dais with his father by his side as his Best Stallion, and she waited by the doors through which she would later be walking at the actual ceremony. Twilight stood beside her, her nerves finally starting to show. Free had not turned up as yet, but she wasn’t worried… at least not too much. Her brother had been startled to be asked to be Free’s Best Stallion, but he had agreed, and she had faith in his ability to keep Free in check and on time. Sure enough, moments later, the pair entered from a side room where they had been making their final preparations.

Twilight gasped a little as she looked them over. Her brother looked every bit the alicorn prince, with his coat brushed, mane coiffed to perfection, and clad in his immaculate uniform. However, it was Free that made her heart thump harder. He was in his alicorn form and, like Shining Armor, he had his coat brushed until it shone, but his bright red mane and tail had a handsome wildness. He had also chosen a very smartly tailored jacket for the occasion. Whether he realized it or not, since winning his battle with Chrysalis and assuming her hive, he had taken on an extra aura of strength and the unconscious power and grace that made his alicorn guise seem totally credible. It was his roguish smile of total confidence that brought the whole together though, and Twilight was smitten once again.

 

 

Free paused as he passed the brides. “Are you okay, love?”

Twilight shook herself and said, “Ferpectly pine, thanks!” She cringed internally and mentally kicked herself.

Free’s grin grew wider. “Good to hear.”

He and Shining continued down to the dais, drawing looks from all present. Then Twilight noticed something that made her eyes open in shock. Celestia’s gaze was riveted on Free and… no… it couldn’t be!

“Excuse me, Rose. I need to take care of something,” she urgently whispered. She hurried up to the dais, still watching Celestia. So apparently was Luna who was struggling very hard to keep a straight face. Free gave Twilight a knowing wink as she passed and she gave him a ‘stop it’ glare. She stepped up beside Celestia and urgently whispered, “Put your wings down!”

Luna cheekily added, “Sister, is this what they nowadays call a… what was it again? Oh yes, a wing-boner?”

Celestia seemed unable to tear her gaze from the self-proclaimed Alicorn of Awesome. “Twilight, I remember that I always shared my cake with you.”

“Free is not a cake!”

“I think I could eat him right up.”

Luna nearly lost it right there, and hastily walked out of sight behind the throne from which came the faint sound of muffled giggling.

Twilight started to blush. “Gah! He’s mine, Celestia!”

“Perhaps I can join your herd too?”

Celestia as her herd-sister? Twilight really had to thrust that idea out of her head. She threw up a wing to block Celestia’s view of Free, and that finally seemed to break the princess’ rapturous stare.

Celestia shook herself, realized where her wings were, and with some effort, folded them back against her sides. “My apologies, Twilight. Free brought back memories from centuries ago, and … well… let us just say they made a lasting impression.”

“I think you may have made a lasting impression on everyone here,” Twilight pointed out.

Celestia looked a little embarrassed, but she took it in her stride. “I am not perfect, Twilight, and perhaps it’s well to remind my subjects occasionally that I am a pony too.”

Twilight nodded. “Let’s get this rehearsal under way before you make any further impressions.” She made her way back to Roseclaw.

Free quietly said as she passed, “Not my fault this time.” His grin never faltered though.

Fortunately the rest of the rehearsal went without any significant hitch, although Twilight suspected that she heard Luna chuckling a couple of times.

# # #

Celestia intoned, “I now pronounce Lord Long Path and Lady Roseclaw…”

Luna followed suit, saying, “And I now pronounce Lord Firetail and Princess Twilight Sparkle…”

Together they completed the pronouncement, “Husband and wife!”

The two couples turned and kissed their spouses, accompanied by the cheers of the audience. When they finally quieted down, Celestia stepped forward once more.

“I further pronounce that these two couples are joined as one as Herd Path. May they be fruitful and prosperous!”

There were further cheers and stamping hooves, at the end of which Twilight and Free stepped forward.

Twilight quietly said to her husband, “Are you truly sure that you want to go ahead with this, Free?”

He smiled reassuringly at her. “I am. No more secrets.”

She returned his smile, and hooked her foreleg around his in solidarity.

When the audience had completely quieted, Free began his speech. “Mares and stallions, hens and cocks, and all the rest of our wonderful guests, many of you have undoubtedly wondered where an alicorn stallion came from to sweep Princess Twilight Sparkle off her hooves. Some of you know, and some of you suspect, but it’s time that everyone knows the truth.” There was a swirl of green magic fire, and the audience gasped as Free Agent the griffon replaced the alicorn. His leg was still hooked about Twilight’s though, and she smiled at him encouragingly.

“My name is Cirrus Ironbeak, son of Thundercloud Ironbeak and Zephyr Silverfeather, although I am probably better known by my preferred name, Free Agent. However, it is obvious to you all now that although I was sired by a griffon, I was born a changeling.” Magic fire swirled again, and the Chrome Queen stood in Free’s place. “I am also the new Queen of the Blue Hive, and daughter of Chrysalis who named me Gossamer.”

This last transformation started a buzz of conversation among the audience, but the calm of the Princesses, not to mention the Royal Guards who had been forewarned of this revelation, served to sufficiently reassure the nervous members.

Free returned to his preferred griffon form and continued his speech. “I have several names and many forms, but I am only one true person. I am Free, and I am your friend.”

Twilight spoke up then. “And I am so very proud to be his wife.” She turned to kiss him once more.

A smattering of applause began, and it slowly built up until virtually everyone had joined in. Free smiled at them and acknowledged the applause with a bow of his head before he turned back to Twilight. “Friendship is truly magic.”

# # #

The whole city made the most out of celebrating the double wedding, although a certain gym owner was kicking himself hard, and the dean of Canterlot University had begun drowning his sorrows. The revelation that a changeling queen had married one of their princesses was a major topic of gossip, which had the unexpected side-effect of several undisguised changeling citizens being approached for dates that day. Whether it was curiosity or ambition that led ponies to do so, it did a lot to improve the social standing of changelings in Canterlot, and that filtered through eventually to the rest of Equestria.

A huge reception was held at the palace, and Herd Path got to meet some new faces and some old familiar ones. Celestia herself introduced one personally.

“Twilight, if you have a moment, I’d like you to meet the new queen of Griffonstone.”

Twilight was a little surprised. “The last I heard, they were still rebuilding their country since Pinkie and Rainbow visited there to set things right. They didn’t even have a ruler anymore.”

“You were correct, but they recently reinstituted the monarchy by popular decision. I think you are already familiar with their chosen monarch,” Celestia replied with a hint of a sly smile as she led Twilight over to a group of griffons. One of them had their back to her, but it was fairly obvious that it had to be the new queen judging by her raiment. “Your Majesty, if I may, I would like you to meet Princess Twilight Sparkle.”

The griffon queen turned around and Twilight’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “Gilda!”

Queen Gilda gave Twilight a pleased but slightly embarrassed smile. “Hi, Twilight. Long time, no see.”

“Too long, apparently. Not that I object, but how did you end up Queen of Griffonstone?”

“It seems I started something back when Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash helped put me back on track. I just spread the lesson, and it started to take hold. After a few years of hard work, the kingdom has started getting prosperous again, and they figured I was the one responsible, so they stuck me with the job.”

Twilight giggled. “Believe me, I think I know how you’re feeling right now. If it’s any consolation, it does get better eventually.”

Gilda’s eyes swept around the room, indicating all that had been done for the occasion. “Yeah, I noticed. ’Grats, Twilight; I mean it.”

“Thanks, Gilda. We’re having another party tomorrow at my castle in Ponyville specifically for all our friends. I’d like it if you’d come too.”

A couple of Gilda’s entourage started to object, quoting schedules and obligations, but she shut them down with a glare. “I always have time for friends, so I’ll be there, and we can catch up some more.” She winked. “It’s good to be the queen sometimes.”

The reception proved to be good for making other contacts too, and arrangements were made for some of them to pay official visits to the House in Griffonia. The event was not meant for business though, so Free made sure that everyone was having fun, with the enthusiastic help of Pinkie Pie of course.

Path begged off early from the party due to weariness. He was still far from completely recovered despite the accelerated healing of the changeling pod, and he tired easily. Free could have easily kept on going all night, buoyed by all the positive emotion that he was drinking in. However, later that evening, Twilight whispered in his ear that she wanted some intimate time with her new husband. Free very quickly made his farewells and the couple left for the privacy of their room. Some celebrations were best with just a party of two!

# # #

Nearly a fortnight later, the House of Path prepared for its greatest test – hosting hordes of guests! This was the culmination of the celebrations of the House members for their success at establishing a new order, for their victory on the battlefield, and for the union of the founders. Guests from far and wide were attending, and that was the reason that the event was not held sooner: few had the benefits of high-speed air travel at their convenience. The event was being held on a Friday, and was considered an expansion of the normal Friday night informal dinner. Therefore Path made it a point to explain the primary rule to all the invitees, such as King Argent Glimfeather when he had made formal arrangements for the Equestrian princesses to visit the kingdom for the first time.

“So, after all these years, I will finally get to meet Princess Celestia,” Glimfeather said. “I’ve had to deal with her through agents for so long as things slowly improved, I believed I would die before this day would come. Yet another remarkable achievement by your House, Lord Path.”

“Thank you, sire. I hope that you will join us all at our House to celebrate with us. It will give you more time to talk with Celestia in a more relaxed atmosphere than your court.”

“I find the idea most tempting.”

“Before you accept, I must ask you if you are prepared to accept House Rules for the occasion?”

The griffon king cocked a wary eye at Path. “What rules are these, Lord Path? Despite your rise in status, I am still your monarch.”

Path smiled reassuringly. “There is in fact but one rule for the traditional Friday dinner party, and that is for the duration of the event, there is no rank. All are equal. A former slave may sit with a high lord, or a foal may be treated equally with a king. This is our way, Your Majesty, and you are welcome to join us under that condition.”

Glimfeather snorted in amusement. “I will consider your invitation, Lord Path.”

The day of the event arrived. Some guests had arrived the previous day to take advantage of the unprecedented openness of the Griffonian borders. Many spent time in the local markets before returning to the House of Path, much to the surprise and pleasure of the merchants. Path foresaw a push by them to increase the tourist trade. A little self-interest would go a long way towards thawing relationships between nations.

Celestia and Luna had a tighter schedule, so they only teleported in shortly before the event was due to begin. They were a big hit with the local foals who stood around them, gaping in awe, especially at Celestia.

“You’re huge!” one filly said as she craned her neck upwards to take in the alicorn.

“Will I get wings like yours when I grow up to be your size?” a slightly older earth pony colt asked.

Celestia smiled indulgently and replied, “I can say with absolute certainty that if you grow as big as me, you will have wings too.”

Path smiled at overhearing that. Celestia had spoken the complete truth because only alicorns grew that big, and of course alicorns always had wings. Perhaps the colt would one day ascend, and give him the wings he desired, but meanwhile he could dream.

The party had not been going long when King Glimfeather entered the ballroom completely unannounced and without fanfare. Conversation started to rapidly die off as he walked further into the room as those present recognized the newcomer. He approached one of the older students – a griffon hen – and asked, “Is this supposed to be a celebration or a funeral?”

The hen bowed and nervously replied, “A celebration, Your Majesty.”

Glimfeather shook his head. “It seems you have forgotten the House Rules then. What is your name?”

“Ilsa Fairweather, sire.”

“My name is Argent, Ilsa, and I am pleased to meet you. I left my crown back at the palace, and I am here to party. Will you join me?” he asked with a disarming smile.

“I’d be honored, si… Argent.”

“Excellent!” Argent turned to the rest of the crowd who had been watching the encounter. “Well? What are you waiting for? I’m just another guest here to socialize! Are you not all my peers today in the House of Path?”

There was a roar of approval, and the party resumed. Path nodded in satisfaction before returning his attention to another of his guests. It was only about ten minutes later though that there was another more unexpected interruption.

There was a flash of light, a puff of smoke, and a loud pop. Out of the smoke stepped two people – one was a butter yellow pegasus, and the other was anything but!

“Fluttershy! I thought that you weren’t going to be able to make it?” Path exclaimed.

Fluttershy looked around her a bit apprehensively before replying, “Um… well… I couldn’t leave my animals alone again for so long, but when I explained that to Discord, he insisted that we come.”

Path looked the draconequus whom he had recognized despite never meeting him before. No one else fitted his description! “Welcome, Discord, although I don’t quite recall inviting you…?”

Discord merely grinned and replied, “I’m here as Fluttershy’s +1, aren’t I, dear?”

Fluttershy timidly nodded in agreement.

“Then you should be aware of the House Rules?”

“No rank? Since when did a silly little thing like that ever bother me anyway?”

“More to the point, Discord, the rule means that everyone is treated equally well. I’m sure that you can have fun that isn’t at someone else’s expense.”

“You wound me, Long Path. And here I am such an admirer of your achievements, yet you think so little of me.”

“So you know what we did at the Crystal City. I would like to know what you were doing while we were battling to save it?”

Discord looked surprised. “Do you expect me, the Lord of Chaos, to step in and end the wonderful chaos of that glorious mêlée? It was much more interesting to see what you would do about it.” He leaned in and spoke in a faux conspiratorially tone, “Besides, if I had, your House would never have earned its victory, Shinybutt would be wingless, and this shindig would never have happened, and then what would Fluttershy and I do with our evening?”

As much as it irked him, Path realized the folly of relying on a nearly omnipotent being to solve all their problems, especially one as unpredictable as Discord. “Then I suppose I should thank you for not stepping in?”

“You’re welcome,” Discord said with genuine sincerity. “However, if I hadn’t had confidence in you, I might have had to become involved. If Chrysalis had won, the whole world would eventually have fallen to her, and that would have made for such a massive buzzkill. Heh! Buzzkill – get it? No?” He sighed in disappointment. “Anyway, for saving me from that, I’ll grant you a boon. Just name it!”

“I don’t need a boon from you, Discord. I didn’t do it just for you.”

“You don’t know what you’re knocking back. Think about it! Perhaps you’d like to be a griffon to match your charming mate who’s currently glaring daggers at me?” He snapped his fingers, and Path was transformed into a green-feathered and grey-furred griffon cock.

“I said no,” Path said, slightly bemused by having a beak to form the words.

“Perhaps an alicorn? All your magic back, plus a bonus?”

Another click of the fingers, and a grey alicorn matching Celestia in size, with an ethereal green mane, replaced the griffon.

Path felt an enormous rush of power, and for a long moment, he was nearly overwhelmed by it. With a great effort of will, he said, “I’m not ready for this, Discord.”

“I know! A changeling queen to match your besty! Choose your own looks!”

Once again, Path was transformed. Immediately he became aware of something totally unknown to him before, and it tasted so good! ‘So this is what positive emotions taste like. No wonder Free gorges at parties.’ His vision was different too, but he wasn’t about to figure that out right now. “I don’t need to be a changeling to share in Free’s feelings for me.”

 

 

“Oh, come on! Surely you can have a little fun? I know! How about a chakat? Good for both pitching andcatching.” He raised his hand to snap his fingers.

“A what?” Path asked.

Discord paused and thought. “Oh, right. Wrong universe. Skip that.”

Before the draconequus could suggest something else, Path interjected, “Just put me back in my right body. I have a better idea.”

Discord grinned. “Oho! I’ve managed to tempt you at last.” He snapped his fingers, and Path was restored to his earth pony self. “So, what’s it to be?”

Path heaved a sigh of relief. “You know, Discord, any normal pony would have jumped at your offer to become anything they wanted, right? But that’s so predictable and boring! You’d really prefer something wildly unexpected, am I correct?”

Discord’s smile grew larger. “Now you’re getting it.”

“So you want to know my crazy request? The boon that you have promised to give me?”

“Oh, this is going to be good! Yes! A thousand times yes!”

“I want you to teach Chaos Theory at the Ponyville satellite campus.”

Discord’s face went blank. “Wait… what…?”

Path grinned. “You said you wouldn’t refuse.” He turned to the spectators and said, “Let’s give a warm welcome to the latest addition to our teaching staff, Professor Discord!”

There was a great round of applause, although most of it was because of the way Path had outmaneuvered the chaos lord rather than for Discord’s new status.

Discord stared at Path, and a slow grin crossed his face. “Oh, you are a fun one. Just be careful what you wish for!”

“Just keep behaving yourself,” a stern voice said behind him, making Discord jump in surprise.

“Ah, my dear Tia, you know I’ve been a reformed draconequus for years now.”

“And with due diligence, I’m sure you’ll remain that way,” she replied confidently before she walked away.

Discord poked his tongue out at her before saying to his gently smiling pegasus companion, “Come on, Fluttershy. Let’s find where there’s some real fun to be had.” He led her away, and Path finally relaxed.

Free walked up to join Path. “That was awesome, mate. I couldn’t have done better.”

“Thanks. I have to admit though that I have never been more tempted in all my life.”

“I can imagine. I never wanted you so badly either when you were transformed.”

Path was startled. It had been a long while since Free had made any moves on him, and he was no longer used to it. “So, you liked big, handsome, alicorn Path?”

“Don’t be silly – it’s like you don’t even know me! I wanted that studly griffon cock!” Free said with a cheeky wink.

Path was blown out of the water with that double entendre, and quit while he was behind. “Let’s get back to our guests, Free.” He walked away, but he could still sense the griffon’s grin.

Path spent some time just mixing and chatting with as many guests as possible. He was very pleased to see Argent and Celestia talking to each other, but he hoped that they weren’t talking politics. Discreetly moving closer to them, he soon realized that Celestia had been reminiscing about some beautiful scenery that she had seen in Griffonia many decades ago, and Argent was trying to arrange a quiet retreat there. Reassured, Path wandered off to see how their other guests were faring.

There were far too many people attending that evening to have a formal sit-down meal. Instead, a buffet was provided with an enormous array of choices to suit all the species present. However, the meat dishes were carefully kept separated from the rest, with a sign posted asking the diners to be respectful of the herbivorous guests. It seemed to be working well, and everyone was well fed. Path was quietly indulging in some cold cuts when Goldenquill approached him.

“Milord, could you please come to the front door. There are two newcomers who are asking for you.”

Path was puzzled. “Why didn’t you just invite them in, ’Quill?”

“I think you had better see for yourself, sir.”

The butler normally dealt with such things quickly and efficiently. Asking Path to look into it made him very curious as to what it could be. He put his plate aside and said, “Okay, let’s go see these mysterious visitors.”

Goldenquill preceded him, and opened the huge front door for Path. Only then did he see who had come at this time of the evening. His eyes opened wide, and he gasped in shock. On the porch were two deer – a buck and a doe. The buck looked serious and a bit unhappy, but the doe merely looked wary. She was the one to speak first.

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