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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7. Chapter 7: Never Gonna Give You Up, Never Gonna Let You Down...

It was not for nearly another hour before Twilight Sparkle blearily started opening her eyes and stretching her limbs. She was startled when they encountered resistance and she brought her eyes into focus.

“Eep!” She stared at her bed companions, trying to recall exactly how this came about. A slow blush started as the memories started trickling back, and she began extricating herself from the pile. Sliding off the bed, she hastily made for the door, quietly closing it behind her and dashing off to her own room, praying that nobody saw her.

With one eye half open, Free chuckled to himself, amused at Twilight’s reaction. Then he settled back to snooze until the others woke up.

Roseclaw stirred next. Although a little surprised at realizing where she was, she nevertheless took her time extricating herself from under Path’s right foreleg. She gave him a gentle nuzzle before noticing Free watching her. He gave her a wink, and she grinned back before heading out of the bedroom.

Free gave Path another half an hour to sleep off his drinking binge, figuring that it would give Twilight enough time to make herself presentable. As he went to shake the stallion, he had an evil thought, and he giggled in anticipation.

“Path! Wakey-wakey!” Free said as he gently shook the stallion. “Time to get up.”

“Urk… wha…?” Path forced open one eye to see Free lying next to him, face to face. “What are you doing in my bed?”

“You were wonderful last night, lover,” Free replied as he nuzzled him affectionately, “but people are going to talk if we don’t get up soon.”

“WHAT?!” Path sat up in bed and then clutched his head as it throbbed painfully. “Sweet Celestia! What did I do last night?”

“Nothing that I haven’t waited to happen for a long time,” Free reassured him as he slid off the bed. “Better have a shower before coming to breakfast. You smell of last night’s fun.”

Path stared dumbstruck after the griffon as he left the room.

Free could not wipe the grin off his face. ‘That makes up for you teasing me about the Crystal Empire episode!

# # #

Quiet Words wisely refrained from making any comment that morning, and left for his duties before the others had finished breakfasting.

Free also held his tongue, but he was enjoying the awkwardness of the other two, both of whom thought they had something to hide.

Twilight and Path had plans to visit the local library this morning. This time Free did not object, knowing that they would have to go there eventually, and with both suffering from hangovers, neither was likely to be up for anything more stressful for a while. They soon left in the company of a griffon who was to be their minder and guide for the day. That left Free free to do a little more subtle exploring, although he too had to be accompanied. Roseclaw, of course, had that duty.

“So what are your plans?” she asked.

“My parents came from this country, and I want to see what the common griff does, and how life here differs from in Canterlot where I grew up. We can also fly without having to stay ground-bound because of Path. Without Path and Twi, we can just be two ordinary griffs not attracting attention while we look around.”

“As long as you have your cape on so that your cutie mark doesn’t hit them in the eye.”

“Exactly! Although they must flap around a lot when flying.”

“Yes, which is why most griffs only wear them for more formal occasions.”

“Can’t win ‘em all, I suppose. Let’s go.”

They took wing immediately after exiting the palace, and Free flapped for altitude to get a good overall look at the scenery. He observed the comings and goings of griffons for a while, trying to get an impression of where the most activity was occurring. He had other things on his mind though.

“So, what do you think of being in the House of Path?” he asked Roseclaw.

The griffoness smiled. “I rather like the idea, even if it’s just a fanciful one. We were really hitting it off together last night, all four of us, weren’t we?”

“Yeah. Once you get past Path’s reserved nature, you get a better idea of his true self, and Twilight’s social awkwardness is just too endearing. She may be the Princess of Friendship, and very good at that, but when it comes down to personal interactions, she’s like a teenage schoolfilly discovering colts for the first time.”

“I did get that impression. She’s a good ambassador, but she will never really fit into griffon society. Unlike Long Path though – he would make a good griffon.”

“And a good mate?” Free asked slyly.

Roseclaw hesitated a while before admitting, “Maybe.”

“You’ve been hooked on him since you met him in Canterlot, haven’t you?”

Roseclaw blushed and nodded. “Don’t tell Dad that. I’m the one who persuaded him to let you visit, and I had to do it without admitting that I liked Path.”

“A griffon and a pony – how shocking!” Free said facetiously.

Roseclaw poked him with a claw. “Hey! That might not be such a big deal in Equestria, but it’s hugely complicated here in Griffonia. If you think our social customs are complicated, just wait until it involves other species!”

“I believe you. My parents were both griffons, but Dad was so far outside of Mom’s status level that they had to elope to Equestria to get married. I can’t imagine what it would take for a non-griffon to do the same.”

“That’s why I like the concept of the House of Path. With enough status, it would not be such a problem.” She sighed. “However, it’s just a pleasant drunken dream. I’ll just enjoy his visit while I can.”

“Don’t give up too easily, Rose. I have an equally difficult goal, but I intend to persist.”

“You’re talking about Twilight Sparkle, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“You certainly aim high.”

“I didn’t intend to aim at all. I like to spread the joy equally and without bias. I’d love to bang you, and I’ve been trying to bang Path for years. But Twi – there’s something special about her; something that’s worth the extra patience and effort.” Free looked at the griffoness earnestly. “And that’s why I say go for it! Just don’t hurt him in trying.”

Roseclaw looked thoughtful for a moment. “What if he gets hurt because he accidentally gets caught up in one of our customs?”

“Life’s a risk, Rose. Things happen sometimes that we don’t intend. I’m only talking about your own actions, and being careless with his feelings.”

“You love him too, don’t you?”

“He’s my brother in all but blood. He’s my soul-mate, his yin to my yang. I would do anything for him, and I would protect him with my life. But I can’t protect his heart, so I am asking you to be sure of what you want and not injure it.”

“I hear you, Free, and I understand. I wish you luck with your own goal.”

“Thanks. Now that that’s cleared up, let’s start checking out the locals. I wanna shake ’em up Free-style!” He turned into a dive towards the ground.

With a smile at his impulsiveness, Roseclaw followed.

# # #

It had taken time and a dose of the local hangover remedy before either Twilight or Path felt up to speed, but before long they were absorbed in their research. Twilight was slowed down because of her lack of familiarity with Griffish script, but Path was quite willing to help. Nevertheless they were making some interesting discoveries that gave clues on how an apex predator species developed a cohesive society which was capable of building cities. They almost had to be dragged away to partake in a late lunch organised by their guide.

They had almost finished and were discussing what they would tackle next when a messenger arrived.

“You have been summoned by King Glimfeather,” the griffon soldier said curtly to Path. “You are to attend him immediately. I will take you to his chamber.”

“What’s going on?” Twilight asked.

“That is for the king to explain.”

“I’m coming with Long Path,” Twilight declared.

The griffon shrugged. “If his Majesty permits, you may join him.”

They walked hastily in the company of the messenger, and were shown into a private chamber where the king was waiting, along with a couple of soldiers standing alert at either side of the room, and another caped griffon standing by the king’s side, a scowl on his face. Also there were Roseclaw and Free, and the griffoness looked upset about something. Glimfeather made no indication that he objected to Twilight’s presence, so she stayed while the messenger bowed and exited the room.

Glimfeather smiled and said, “I hear that the House of Path made quite an impression last night.”

Path’s ears folded back and he gave the king a nervous smile. “Er, yes, your Majesty, although I hasten to add that it was all in good fun. Just a drunken jest at the time. I meant no harm by it.”

“Hmm, I realize that, but it’s a pity that it’s only that, or else we would not be here right now for far more grave matters. Lieutenant Ravenwing here witnessed something that requires addressing.” He looked to the griffon waiting impatiently at his side.

Ravenwing’s feathers were uniformly glossy black, with only his beak and feet showing any colour. His feline half though was snowy white, right down to the tail tuft. The pied griffon stepped forward and said, “I am Ravenwing, Lieutenant in his Majesty’s army, warrior caste and ruling caste, House of Glimfeather. I challenge you, Long Path, to an honor duel.”

“What?!” Why?” Path was flabbergasted by this turn of events.

“You, a mere scholar of low rank, and status only granted as part of your princess’ diplomatic team, have dared to become suitor to Roseclaw, and I will not have a mere pony mocking my own suit. I demand satisfaction in an honor duel!”

“Suitor? What are you talking about? I did no such thing!”

“Ravenwing claims otherwise,” Glimfeather said gravely. “He tells me that you claimed Roseclaw while at the public tavern last night.”

“You mean that drunken talk? You can’t be serious? How does that make me her suitor anyway?”

Glimfeather started to look annoyed, but before he could say anything, Roseclaw stepped forward.

“Your Majesty, Long Path is not fully aware of our customs and their ramifications. I request a ten minute break so that I can explain the situation to him, and he can therefore respond appropriately.”

Ravenwing looked like he was going to object, but the king nodded and said, “I will grant it.”

“Come on, Path,” Roseclaw said, heading for the door.

Path followed, and so did Free and Twilight, closing the door behind them. They then grouped in an alcove across the hall.

“What in Tartarus is going on? How am I suddenly a suitor to you?” Path demanded.

“It was because of last night,” Roseclaw replied glumly. “When you claimed me and kissed me in front of all those witnesses, you were in effect presenting your suit for my claw in marriage, according to our customs. My fault was that I did not reject it in front of those witnesses. By not rejecting your claim, by default I was accepting you as a suitor.”

“Is that all? Why didn’t you just knock me back? It’s not as if I would have minded, under the circumstances.”

“I was a bit drunk too,” she reminded him. “And besides, I liked the idea of you being my suitor.”

Path was a little startled at that admission. “Oh. Um… well I suppose that would be nice, but now I had better withdraw my claim and let your real coltfriend… or whatever you call it here… have you back.”

“He’s not my coltfriend. He presented his suit formally, and I had to accept it.”

“What?!” Twilight exclaimed. “You’re being forced to marry him?”

“No, not that. I only had to accept him as a suitor because he had the rank and status that exceeded mine. I do not have to accept his suit though, and I never will. I don’t like him, and he’s only using me as a means to help increase his own status.”

“Then he sees me just as competition for his goals rather than being a jealous coltfriend?”

“Exactly.”

“Well anyway, as I said, I will have to withdraw my claim so that this stupid honor duel can be forgotten.”

“You can’t.”

“And why not?”

“Because there would be drastic consequences.”

“Go on,” Path urged.

“By withdrawing your claim, you would be admitting that yours was inferior, and you would lose status.”

“Ha! As if I care!” Path scoffed.

“It would also reflect poorly on your mission here, putting it into jeopardy, along with the talks that Twilight has been having with the King’s Council.”

“Oh. That’s not so good,” Path admitted.

“It also means that I would be regarded as making poor decisions about my choice of suitors, and I would lose status also.”

“That’s seems unfair to me.”

“It gets worse. Because Ravenwing is already my suitor, and his status then so much greater than mine while my ability to choose is considered questionable, he has the option of forcing me to marry him.”

“Oh, crap. Forget it then. What if I just reject his challenge?”

“You can’t. He has custom on his side, and he has obviously drawn on his relationship to the king to get support. He’s House of Glimfeather, remember?”

“The king has always seemed pretty reasonable to me; can’t he just tell Ravenwing to pull his head in? I get the impression that he realizes that we were just having a bit of drunken fun last night, and not taking things seriously.”

“He probably would do that for most griffs, but Ravenwing is warrior caste, and as I’ve said, the king has to listen to his warriors. As War Leader, if he doesn’t listen, he may get deposed, and he won’t let Ravenwing stir up trouble among the warriors just over this.”

“Damn! What if I just ask Ravenwing to withdraw his challenge due to a misunderstanding on my part?”

“He won’t. He uses honor duels to frighten off any other prospective suitors. He’s a vicious fighter, and anygriff who has fought with him has come away in bad condition. I have only had two potential suitors duel him since he presented his suit. One was maimed, and the other died.”

“A duel over this is to the death?!” exclaimed Twilight incredulously.

“No, it’s to the bloodletting or maiming, and Ravenwing always chooses the latter. However, he had inflicted so many other grievous injuries before the maiming that the duelist ended up dying anyway. Now no griff dares show interest in me. He has manipulated the circumstances so that I either marry him or no griff at all.”

“So my choices are to either refuse the challenge and basically be a liability to everyone, or accept the challenge and try to beat him?”

“Weren’t you listening? I told you, he’s a vicious fighter. How can you hope to win against him? He can fly and he has talons that will rip you to pieces!”

“Don’t underestimate me, Rose. There’s a reason that ponies have won the wars against the griffons after all.”

“They had unicorns and pegasi on their side though!” Roseclaw objected.

“Pegasi can fly, and unicorns can strike from a distance, but earth ponies were always the strength of the army,” Path said firmly, turning away to head back to the chamber.

“Twilight, tell him to be sensible and not fight,” Roseclaw pleaded.

“I don’t have that right, Roseclaw. I don’t like it, but it’s his choice to make.” She followed him with a grim look on her face.

Free murmured to Roseclaw, “What did I say earlier about putting him into danger?”

Roseclaw looked forlorn. “I didn’t know Ravenwing was there. No other griff would have cared.”

“The damage is done. Let’s hope that Path knows what he’s doing.”

They all gathered back in the king’s chamber and Path stepped up to the black and white griffon and said, “You are full of shit, Ravenwing, but I accept your challenge.”

“Mind the insults, pony!” Ravenwing said with a scowl.

“What are you going to do? Fight another duel over it? You can kill me only once, if you can even manage that!”

The griffon fumed, but Path noticed that the king seemed to be trying not to smile. It seemed he had taken the right tack in his response. “So, when do we do this?”

“Immediately,” Glimfeather replied. The arena will be informed of your duel, and events suspended.”

“There are more fights going on today?” Free asked curiously.

“The arena is used every day. Yesterday’s tournament was just a major event on the calendar,” Roseclaw answered.

Glimfeather said, “The duel will begin in an hour. You have until then to get there and prepare yourself. You are all dismissed.”

The foursome trooped out, and immediately began to exit the palace to head for the arena.

“Do you need anything to prepare yourself, Path?” Twilight asked.

“I’ve just had lunch a short time ago, so I’m neither hungry nor thirsty. I don’t think that there’s anything else that I can do except prepare myself mentally.”

“Do you know any fighting moves at all?” Roseclaw asked.

“I’m not a warrior, Rose, but I might have a surprise for Ravenwing.”

The rest of the journey was made in stony silence. Because she had not been with the others yesterday, only Twilight was interested in the arena, and that only in an impersonal way. The concept of a venue that was purely intended for fighting disgusted her.

They found themselves expected, and were ushered to a section of private seating that was apparently reserved for the House of Glimfeather. As neither the king nor Ravenwing were constrained by the need to walk, both were there already and waiting for them. They were allowed to seat themselves while a fight in progress continued. It was still well before the appointed time, and Twilight had to try to ignore the combat as best as she could.

“This is so barbaric,” she muttered almost inaudibly.

Roseclaw heard her though and said, “This is disciplined fighting. The duel will be worse though. There are no rules to obey then. Whatever happens, you must not interfere in any manner whatsoever. You would only make things worse for everyone.”

Twilight reluctantly nodded.

The fight eventually concluded, and there was a long pause before the duel drum started pounding to announce the upcoming honor duel. The crowd quieted and Ravenwing flew down into the arena, discarding his status cape which fluttered to the floor. When Long Path also made his way down via steps, the crowd started muttering in surprise and speculation. The announcer flew down to join them, and lifted his magically enhanced megaphone to his beak.

“An honor duel has been declared! Ravenwing, House of Glimfeather, has claimed that his suit for Roseclaw, House of Strikewing, has been mocked by a counter-suit by an earth pony named Long Path. Ravenwing disputes Long Path’s right to be a suitor, and challenges him to an honor duel to the maiming. Long Path – do you withdraw your suit?”

“I do not.”

“Ravenwing, do you withdraw your challenge?”

“I do not!”

“The law does not allow an alternative, therefore the honor duel is formally declared. You will fight until one of you has been judged to be maimed. Take position on opposite sides of the arena, and begin when the duel drum is struck.”

Path turned and trotted to one side, while Ravenwing flew over to the other. When the announcer returned to his umpire’s chair, there was a tense moment before he raised his flag, then dropped it again, the duel drum signalling the start of combat.

Ravenwing wasted no time in starting his attack. He leaped into the air and beat his wings in a charge. Path was not about to wait for him though, and galloped off at a tangent. The griffon adjusted his trajectory and closed the gap, but Path dodged to one side at the last moment. Talons scraped one shoulder, but barely drew blood. Ravenwing wheeled around rapidly for another charge, and Path threw on the brakes, making the griffon overshoot. This time though, Ravenwing landed and immediately bounded back into the air, making a much quicker turnaround. Try as he might, Path could not dodge fast enough, and he screamed in pain as long gouges were left in his back.

 

 

The griffon flapped high into the air and laughed. “Poor pony! No wings! No claws! Too slow! How did you dare think you were worthy of Roseclaw? You are pathetic!”

Path gritted his teeth and ignored the pain in his back and the blood streaming from his wounds. “You talk a good fight, birdbrain, but I’m not done yet!”

The griffon gave a raptor scream of anger and dived at the earth pony. With too little room or time to dodge, Path resorted to the defensive spell that he had used against Free when he was the Alicorn of Awesomeness. He threw up his forelegs, focused the magic in his hooves, and braced himself. Unfortunately the spell was made to defend against energy attacks and had little effect on Ravenwing’s charge. The griffon slammed into Path’s legs and he felt the snap of bone in one. The pain was blinding, and he collapsed to the floor. Gasping and trying to stave off the agony, Path became aware of Ravenwing gloating again.

“Not mocking me now, are you, pathetic pony? How did you think to fight a griffon warrior? You should have refused the challenge and run away like the useless, weak creature you are.”

Path struggled to his hooves, his left foreleg hanging uselessly. “Are you trying to talk me to death, loudbeak?”

Some griff in the crowd started shouting, “House of Path! House of Path!” Immediately, another voice joined him, then more and more. Soon, half the crowd was chanting in support of the defiant pony.

Ravenwing snarled and swooped down. Path tried to dodge, but talons raked his body once more. Again and again, the griffon turned and strafed the pony with his wicked natural knives.

Ravenwing was just playing with him now, softening him up for the maiming strike, intending to leave him bleeding and helpless, perhaps to die like the other unfortunate challenger. However, the griffon had grown overconfident and careless, believing that Path could do him no harm. It was time for the griffon to learn otherwise.

Path had realized that his one chance of winning this fight was to lull Ravenwing into a false sense of security. He had deliberately not done his best to dodge the last attacks, although the broken leg had been unplanned. Now the griffon was attacking much more slowly, giving Path the opportunity to set up his secret weapon. There was more than one unicorn spell that he had learned to modify for use by earth ponies, and as Ravenwing came at him for another strafing run, Path spun around on his one good foreleg and crouched to buck.

Ravenwing laughed at the sight, knowing full well that he would be well out of range of those hooves as he flew over the pony. However, he did not anticipate those hooves glowing bright green with magic power.

Path bucked, but although all he struck was air, a thunderous boom was heard, and a huge shockwave slammed into the griffon. Ravenwing was knocked aside, feathers flying, struggling to regain control. He dazedly tried to reorient himself and get back into the attack, but Path had made his best speed to place himself in a strategic position to repeat his assault. Again his hooves thundered, and this time Ravenwing was slammed by the shockwave into the arena wall, his head impacting sharply on the stone. The griffon slid down the wall, ending up on his back, barely conscious.

Path hobbled over to the griffon and stood over his twitching opponent. “You demanded that this was to be to the maiming? Very well, so be it.” He reared up and then brought down the full weight of his right hoof on the bone of Ravenwing’s left wing, close to the shoulder joint. The griffon screamed as it broke, and struggled to get up again. Path knocked him back down with a blow to the head. “That wing will heal, but this won’t.” Again he reared up, but this time his hoof was charged again with magic, and it slammed down on the right wing this time. There was a small boom, and the wing was reduced to a bloody pulp. Immediately the duel drum echoed the boom, signalling the end to the duel.

 

 

The crowd roared, screeched and pounded the floor in applause as Path turned away from his defeated foe. Path mused that Ravenwing was apparently somewhat less than popular. He hobbled over to Ravenwing’s discarded cape, picked it up and threw it over his back, grunting in pain as it slapped his wounds. Then he made his way over to where the king was watching intently.

“I claim victory!” Path shouted as strongly as he could before sinking to the floor in exhaustion.

The medics had come into the arena by now, half attending to Ravenwing, while the others headed for Path. Before they got there, both Roseclaw, Free, and Twilight flew down to him.

“You magnificent pony!” Roseclaw exclaimed, cradling his head to nuzzle him. “I accept your suit.”

Twilight’s horn lit up, and she said to the medics, “Let me at him, please. I can use a healing spell to stop the bleeding.”

Path felt a warmth spread across his body, and the sting and pain from the gouges eased dramatically. Looking around, he saw the weeping wounds magically close up, staunching the flow of his lifeblood. Then he yelped as his broken leg was brought into alignment and fused together.

“There, that takes care of the worst of it,” Twilight declared. “Keep off that leg for a few days to give it a chance to completely fuse and regain its full strength. Also, you’ve lost a lot of blood, and I can’t do anything about that, so take it really easy for a few weeks.”

One of the medics spoke up. “Princess Sparkle, we have a medicine that promotes blood replacement. He should be up a lot sooner than that.”

Remembering Zecora’s amazing medicines, Twilight realized that they probably had something similar in their repertoire. Considering their penchant for fighting, it should hardly be surprising that they had developed treatments for blood loss. It was a pity that combat should be the stimulus for innovation though.

With Path fully treated, they brought out a wheelchair for him, and Twilight levitated him into it.

Glimfeather stood up and announced in his booming voice, “Long Path of Equestria, you have won honorably this day. I congratulate you, Thunderhooves. You will attend my court first thing tomorrow morning.” The king then flew out of the arena, along with his retinue.

Free started pushing the wheelchair to follow suit. He had purposely not said anything up until this time so that the others would not hear how choked up with emotion that he was just then. However, he did manage to say, “These griffs are going to remember this day forever.”

“They’d better!” Path responded with a tired smile. “I’ve no intention of doing this ever again!”

“How did you do it?” Twilight asked.

“A simple unicorn percussive spell adapted for use by earth ponies utilizing the magic focused in my hooves. It relies on touching nothing but the air, but sends a shockwave that is very powerful, as you saw for yourself.”

“Exactly like thunder. The king nicknamed you well. That’s a remarkable achievement, and I’m extremely impressed. You will have to show me exactly how you do it so that I can document it.”

“Of course. While we’re at it, remind me to perfect a defensive spell against kinetic attacks. One broken leg is enough, thank you!”

Twilight giggled. “I’ll do that.”

Path then turned to face Roseclaw. “I was a bit dizzy back then, but did I hear you correctly when you said that you accepted my suit?”

“You did,” she said with a huge smile.

“Then that means we’re….?”

“Betrothed,” she finished for him.

“Do I get any say in this?”

“As you haven’t had a chance to recant your suit, no.”

“Isn’t this moving a bit too fast though?”

Roseclaw shook her head. “I know what I want in a mate, and what I want is you. Don’t worry – this is only a betrothal. We have as much time as it takes for us to get to know each other better, and when you’re ready, then we can get married.”

Path considered this calmly until he realized that his emotions were already sealing the deal. “That seems like a good plan to me.”

Behind him, Free silently pumped his fisted talons, and screamed in his head, ‘YES!

# # #

Long Path had eaten a big dinner – with a huge steak of course. “Red meat will help blood recovery,” he claimed, but while that was true, no one doubted that it was a victory meal. He retired early to recuperate from his ordeal.

He woke up to find Roseclaw spooned up to him behind his back. Craning his neck around, he saw her open her eyes, apparently woken by his movement. “Couldn’t find your bed last night?” he asked.

 

 

“I think I found the right one,” Roseclaw replied.

“We’re not married yet.”

“We’re betrothed. Close enough.”

“What will others think though?”

“Who cares? Yesterday you established your right by combat. You have nothing more to prove.”

“Except perhaps to the king? I have to see him this morning.”

“No, nothing, my warrior,” she reassured him.

“Um, okay, if you say so. I think I’d better get up now though.” He tried to do so, but slumped down very quickly. “I seem to be weak as a kitten.”

“It’s the healing spells – they take a lot of energy from you. Once you get some breakfast into you, you’ll start to feel stronger. Stay right there and I’ll bring it to you.”

She scrambled off the bed and headed out of the bedroom.

Life’s never going to be the same,’ Path mused while he waited.

He managed to prop himself up in bed before Roseclaw returned with a tray loaded with breakfast including loads of bacon and eggs, and a huge mug of coffee. She waited patiently while he finished it all off before saying, “Get into the wheel chair, and I’ll take you to the bathroom to freshen up. I think a shower might be a bit too much for you yet, but at least you can look presentable for the king.”

Yep, life’s going to be very different now,’ Path concluded.

# # #

Path arrived at the king’s court well in time, along with Roseclaw, Twilight, and Free. One of the royal guard informed them that they would be the first order of business, and they were placed near the throne to await the king’s arrival. They did not have to wait too long before Glimfeather made an appearance, but to the group’s surprise, he was accompanied by Ravenwing whose wings were heavily bandaged. The king settled on his throne, and Ravenwing stood to his left.

The group bowed to the king, Path doing his best from the confines of the wheelchair.

“Long Path step… er… roll forward,” Glimfeather commanded.

As Path did so, Ravenwing looked ready to burst from fury. “Your Majesty! The pony dares wear my cape! Make him give it back to me!”

For the first time, the group saw the king truly angry, and he rounded on the pied griffon. “Shut your beak, fool! You have lost your rank, and your status. Would you lose your honor also? You do my House a grave disservice. Get out!”

A pair of royal guards hustled the foolish griffon out of the throne room, and they were to never to see him again.

Glimfeather turned back to Path, once more with a smile on his face. “Thunderhooves, you have won the right to take Ravenwing’s cape as your prize, but I cannot allow you to wear it. It proclaims that the wearer belongs to the House of Glimfeather, and you do not.”

“I understand, your Majesty.” Path started taking it off, but Roseclaw stepped in to assist him.

“Besides,” the king continued, “you can’t wear two capes at the same time. I had this commissioned for you.”

He made a gesture, and a servant stepped forth with a folded cape on a tray. Roseclaw took it from him and let it unfold to show both Path and the rest of the group. It was tri-colored, with broad swathes of purple, green, and red. A heraldic style shield was in its middle, split into four sectors. In each corner was a silhouette stitched in silver thread – two griffons and two ponies. Various other symbols adorned the cape in gold thread.

“Because you are possibly unfamiliar with some of the aspects, I will explain,” Glimfeather continued once more. “An honor duel is winner-takes-all. What was once Ravenwing’s is now yours. You defeated a warrior, and that makes you one of the warrior caste also, represented by the bright red cloth. He was also of the ruling caste, and he forfeited that too. That is represented by the royal purple. And of course the green is that of the scholar caste. You have acquired his rank also, and are entitled to command as a lieutenant in the Royal Griffonian army.”

“Your Majesty – I… I did not expect this,” Path said, bewildered by his sudden promotion.

“Obviously, but your avowed purpose for coming here was to learn more about our ways and customs. You took a rather drastic means to educate yourself, but now you get to reap the rewards. However, I am not finished yet.”

“Oh. My apologies, your Majesty.”

“Two nights ago, you proclaimed the House of Path, and claimed Roseclaw, Princess Sparkle, and Free Agent as yours. Today I am making that official. As of this day, the House of Path is added to the roster of Noble Houses of Griffonia, and you four are its founding members. The shield on your cape is your new House’s standard. Let it signify the new bonds formed between Equestria and Griffonia. May you bring much honor to us all!”

The assembled soldiers in the court gave a rousing cheer, and Path felt overwhelmed by emotion. Then he felt pained as Roseclaw hugged him fervently, Free shook his hoof enthusiastically, and even Twilight patted him on the back before remembering the barely healed wounds.

“Thank you, your Majesty,” Path said as soon as he could extricate himself from Roseclaw.

“My pleasure, Lord Long Path. Now, I think it’s best that you attend to your new House and its members. I have other business to attend that may not be as enjoyable, but won’t be kept waiting.”

The group bowed once more and made their way out of the throne room.

Once outside, Roseclaw said, “You know, you now have enough rank and status to order me to marry you, and I couldn’t say no.”

Path grinned. “Impatient, are we? Not going to happen, dear.”

Roseclaw didn’t care – he had called her ‘dear’.

# # #

The door of the pub burst open from a telekinetic shove, and Free bounded inside.

“Announcing his Lordship, Long Path, and the members of the House of Path!” he bellowed.

Lots of startled patrons turned their eyes to the door just as Path was pushed inside gleefully by Roseclaw, with a grinning Twilight providing magical special effects.

Path held up his forelegs to command quiet, and then addressed them all. “I said that I would return, and I have kept my word. Today we celebrate! Now who’s thirsty?”

There was a roar from the crowd, and the group was herded inside. The bar staff smiled widely. Tonight was going to be a good night!

# # # # # # # # #

 
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