The Growing Years

This story is a sequel to A Different Perspective
Both the House of Path and Herd Path enjoy strong growth in the years following their establishment. Like all such things though, they both have their highlights and lowlights. These are vignettes in the lives of the children of Twilight, Path, Free, & Roseclaw, from foals to young adults.
This is a series of stand-alone stories of events that occur after the events of A Different Perspective, which I strongly recommend that you read first.
My collaborator, AlaskaIsCold, has written some of these and I mostly just edited them.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/296939/the-growing-years

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17. The Test

Lucida put her backpack on as she walked out of her classroom, and she waved goodbye to her friends as she left. Soon after she had exited the room, she saw her father looking at her with a smile of anticipation. Falling in beside her, he walked along with her down the path.

“So, do you know why I’m here, Lucida?”

“No, Dad. Well, actually, if I had to take a guess, I would assume that it’s time for one of your big tests? It’s been a while since the last one.” Lucida recalled that the last major test from him had been when she was twelve, and she was fifteen now, and she had passed that test easily.

“Oh, you bet, but this is a test unlike any other. You know how last time it was all paper and pencils?” Path just started to grin wider.

“Yes…?” Lucida stopped and looked at him.

“The Minor Austri Island Chain. You have a week; all your other classes are postponed. Good luck!” Path started to walk off.

Lucida stared uncomprehendingly at her father. “Wait! What… what am I supposed to do with that?!” Lucida yelled, but the earth pony just shrugged and kept walking. Lucida, while not biologically related to Twilight, took after a lot of her herd-mother’s mannerisms. A few feathers started to tweak out of place before she turned and ran to the library. All the while, Path just chuckled to himself.

For all of the next day and most of day two, nobody saw much of the hippogriff because she was in the capital library, researching. Eventually the family did see her at dinner on the second day after receiving the challenge, with a scroll and book fort surrounding her and her dinner plate.

“Path, why do you do this to her? She’s going to start molting at this rate.” Roseclaw looked over at her daughter who was shoveling food into her beak with one claw and turning the pages of a book on the other.

“Because, these little mental stress tests keep her in top shape, and this test actually matters.” Path grinned. “Besides, It’s not like Celestia didn’t do it to Twilight when she was learning.” The earth pony watched Lucida for a while before going back to eating. A few moments later the teen hippogriff’s eyes widened.

“Moms!” Lucida yelled out.

“Yes?” Twilight and Roseclaw echoed.

Lucida pointed at Roseclaw. “Can I go to Equestria for a few days?” She then pointed at Twilight “Can you teleport me to Canterlot? I need to talk to Celestia.”

Path just grinned even wider as the two females nodded. Roseclaw got up and fetched the comm to contact Celestia. She talked on it for a few moments before giving the claw-up sign to Twilight. Fifteen years of practicing had enabled Twilight to greatly stretch her teleportation range, and since she had a large magical signature to lock onto, teleporting something the vast distance was fairly straightforward. With a gradual build-up of power and then a loud pop, the hippogriff was gone.

Free finally piped up, “For the future leader of the House, you’re sure putting a lot of pressure on her early on.”

Path looked at Free. “I have to get her used to it; tough decisions require tough training. She has to learn to think without me, or any of us for that matter.”

# # #

Lucida arrived in a huge pop in Twilight’s old chambers. Since it was morning in Equestria, Celestia was sitting there waiting for her.

“It is always good to see my former student’s daughter. How are you tod-ack!

Celestia was stopped mid-sentence when the hippogriff hugged her tightly, nuzzling into her soft fur slightly. Celestia had always been Lucida’s favorite. Epiphany favored Techbird, Flix and Discord got on together like best buddies, Blue adored Shining, and Destined favored Luna. It was interesting how their talents and abilities mirrored them all somehow.

“Auntie! I need help! Dad gave me a test but the test is so confusing. It’s about the Minor Austri Island Chain. I don’t know what the questions are – I just know it’s about that!” Lucida looked up with her huge eyes.

Celestia realized what was going on in only a few moments, and she smiled. “I shall give you access to the Canterlot geographical archives. It has all that we know about that area.”

Lucida squeed and ran off… the strange sound of both talons and hooves clattering on the floor was amusing to her.

“Oh, Path, you’re going to have her do that, are you? You really believe in throwing her in the deep end,” Celestia murmured as she walked back to the royal chambers with a knowing smile on her face.

Day three and four passed. Celestia saw Lucida every now and then, and she made sure that the hippogriff was actually eating while in her scroll book fort. It was at lunch during the fourth day that Lucida just huffed, climbed out of her book fort, and looked at Celestia at the other side of the table.

“I’ve checked all the major records, but I can find nothing significant dated more recently than 150 years ago, and that was a geological survey of the island. I found a similar report in the Griffonian archives. But it’s like nobody has been there since!” Lucida exclaimed.

Celestia nodded. “That’s probably because nobody has. The Islands were for a short time a topic of a territorial dispute between Equestria and Griffonia, but that died out a long while ago.”

“Can we go there to see what’s changed since then?” Lucida asked.

“Well I can’t. I have things that I need to get done here – you know a princess’ work is never done – but I can give you a locator crystal and send you there. Then after, say, twelve hours, I’ll lock onto the crystal and teleport you back?” Celestia grinned.

“Yes! Let’s do that. Just let me get my things!” She ran off to Twilight’s old room, and once she returned, Celestia passed the crystal to the hippogriff girl, and sent her on her way.

# # #

Day Six…

At nine in the morning, Path was waiting at the entrance to the meeting room. Lucida ran up, trying to catch her breath.

“I was wondering if you would show up,” Path said with a smile. “Let’s go inside, shall we?”

When the two walked in, she could see two ambassadors on opposite sides of the conference table. Based on how everything was set up, this was an official mediation. She had sat in on a few of them when different nations came to House Path to settle deadlocked disputes.

The Griffonian ambassador looked at her with a smile and a nod, as did the Equestrian ambassador.

Path said, “After considering their options, the ambassadors have decided to have their case deliberated by you. The matter of dispute is this: Does the Minor Austri Island chain belong to the Equestrian or Griffonian Nation? In the past week, you have gathered information about both sides without influence from either. Now you get to hear both of them make their cases. You then have an hour to think it all over. Then you give your ruling – your first official, binding ruling.”

The next two hours were filled with Lucida listening to the two ambassadors give their speeches and the reasoning behind why they thought their nation should have authority over the island chain, and making rebuttals to their counterpart. When they were done, Lucida left to deliberate on it for an hour. When she came back, she was smiling softly.

“I have reached a decision, but first I want to ask you both a question,” Lucida stated. “When was the last time your respective countries visited these isles?” Both of the ambassadors paled slightly. “I thought as much. I have somebody with me who has been there his whole life. Please come in, Chief Scruffy.”

All three of the other participants looked on as a moderately sized Diamond Dog walked in. He was dressed cleanly and simply. He bowed to both of the ambassadors, and they just blinked in surprise before giving a slight bow back. Lucida handed a gem etched with runes to Scruffy. He put it to his throat and started to speak, and the gem glowed as his words were shifted into a language that they could all understand.

“You came here to ask what the fate of my land would be. I am here to tell you that it is not in your power to decide. My people have lived on those islands for many generations. I have heard your words, and why you desire it. Some bird-cats and some ponies came by three generations ago, dug around without permission, and then left, and now you act on their reports. The Canis City State will not be subject to annexation by either the griffons or the ponies. However, despite all of this I have a counter-offer for the both of you.”

The diamond dog sat down and waited for the others to do the same. “Lucida tells me she is to be a mediator between all of us. I can tell you this: I will not give up any part of the Canis Islands. However, I am open to the idea of opening up trade ports. You want the mineral goods we possess, and we want trade goods that both of you can offer. Let us deal.”

Scruffy nodded to Lucida and she took over.

“Based on the evidence as well as your own testimonials, my ruling is this: Neither the Equestrian Nation or the Griffonian Nation has a claim to the Islands because they are already their own sovereign city state. We are instead ruling that trade agreements be opened with the Canis People so that all three parties can get what they need.”

Both the Griffonian and Equestrian ambassador stood up.

“Surely you can’t be suggesting we deal with them?” the griffon ambassador demanded.

“They barely even count as a civilization!” the Equestrian ambassador protested.

Lucida slammed her claws down onto the table, hard enough to cause deep gashes as her feathers and fur poofed out and her wings opened up in a very aggressive posture. She let out a deafening screech to get everyone to go silent.

You will not insult the Canis people!” She said intensely with a glare at the griffon ambassador “You dishonor yourself and your House!” She then turned her glare to the pony ambassador. “Celestia will be displeased that her representative insulted another race.” She looked to them all and then to her dad. “My ruling is final. Go back to your leaders and begin drafting trade agreements!” She slammed the gavel down hard enough to almost break it. All three representatives left the room before Lucida allowed herself to collapse into her chair.

Path rubbed his ear with a hoof and smirked. “You did good, and you passed your test. But next time, please warn me that you’re bringing in a third party; I didn’t think you were going to take it that far.”

Lucida, however, was still slightly shaking in her chair. “I… I wasn’t expecting to start yelling at them. I just… is this what you have to deal with all the time when you are in your talks?”

Path sat down next to her. “Sometimes it’s worse, sometimes it’s easier, but I’m glad you looked at all sides before making a ruling.”

Lucida just smiled a bit, her feathers and fur smoothing out. “Did you know about the diamond dogs, Dad?”

Path smiled knowingly. “You don’t think that absolutely no one ever visited those islands in a century and a half, do you? It’s visited regularly by some crafty merchant sailors who have kept it mostly secret because it was in their best interest to do so. I learned of that when the House was approached for mediation on the matter, and I looked into it closer. The diamond dogs were being cheated, but with the claim pushing everything out into the open, they’ll be treated more fairly from now on. Now – how did you find out that the diamond dogs were on the island?”

Lucida smiled. “While I was in Equestria, I asked Celestia to send me there so I could look at the place myself. I never thought of asking the sailors.”

“Ah, I see. Let’s not tell Mom about that part. I don’t think she would be happy with the idea of you being teleported halfway around the world blindly.” Path pushed Lucida up to her feet. “Come on, let’s go. We need to give Scruffy a proper welcome before he goes back to his people.”

As they walked out of the conference room, Lucida asked, “Dad, what if I hadn’t learned about them, and made the wrong decision? You said that it would be binding.”

Path nodded. “I had confidence that you would learn the truth somehow, but in the event that you didn’t… well, the ruling isn’t final until the meeting is adjourned. I would have offered an advisory before you banged the gavel. I would not let you make a mistake due to lack of relevant information, but I had to give you every opportunity to do everything yourself. I’m very proud of you, Lucy. You’re going to make a fine House leader when I retire.”

Lucida smiled and leaned into her father’s flank. “Thanks, Dad. Do that to me again and I’ll pluck your mane bald!”

Path guffawed and nuzzled her. “Deal!”

   
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