Quantum Gallop

Five of the youth of House Path are abruptly whisked away by the enigmatic Doctor Whooves, and they find themselves in a Ponyville that they can scarcely recognize. A tyrant queen rules Equestria, alliances were never forged with Griffonia and the Changeling Hives, and three of the group had never been born! Someone has changed history, and it's up to them to figure out when, how, and who did it, or Equestria will suffer, and the rest of the world along with it.
This is the direct sequel to "The Growing Years" and "A Different Perspective", and I advise reading those stories first.

https://www.fimfiction.net/story/328566/quantum-gallop

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1. Chapter 1 - A Glitch in Time

Her eyes closed.

“How many days has it been? I've lost count. Still those damn ponies continue to dig, to uncover my entire hive. If I had the power, I would destroy them all!”

… … … …

“Why won't they give up?! I can hear their picks, and mallets, breaking through the rocks, most likely taking all the treasures that I rightfully earned...”

… … … …

“They are asleep…. I'm so tired. Why won't they stop digging? Will they find my retreat after all?”

… … … …

“I won't let them win! I won't let them have the satisfaction. I won't rest until I have all their heads on pikes!”

… … … …

“So hungry… No love left to sustain… So very, very tired….”

… … … …

“Left my escape… too late…. Too weak…”

… … … …

“H-help me…”

“Your pain, your hate, your sadness – they are so strong, my dear. You should put it to better use.”

“Who are you?!”

“I am but a moth drawn to your flame, my dear.”

“Get out of my head!”

“As you wish.”

… … …

“Come back… Help me...”

“You want my help, my dear?”

… … … “Yes.”

“Aren’t you the slightest bit curious what the cost will be?”

“If it gets me the heads of those who have crossed me, then no cost is too great.”

“My dear, when we are done, you will have the finest alicorn horn necklace, your daughter and granddaughter will be loyal and at your side, and the one who started it all will be a soulless husk to play with as it suits you.”

“Yes! Make them puppets! Make them suffer! Make them pay!”

“All you need to do is accept my offer.”

“I accept your offer!”

“It hurts!”

“As it would, my dear.”

“My mind – it's splitting apart!!”

“That's just the change happening; the pain will be over soon.”

“AaaaaAAAAARGH!”

“Your pain will be felt ten thousand times over by those who have wronged you.”

“T-too much…. I-I can't....”

… … …

“It's time we woke up; there is work to do!”

Their eyes opened.

# # #

A swirling hole opened in mid-air and several bodies tumbled out onto the floor of a large room filled with devices mostly of arcane nature and unknown purpose. With various groans and expressions of annoyance, the pile started to resolve into separate forms – a large blue earth pony stallion, a female hippogriff, a golden dragoness, a dark blue and red maned alicorn stallion, a female ponyling, and a grey pegasus mare.

Blue Streak looked about him and growled, “Okay, what the hell just happened and where are we?”

“Hi there, Blue Streak! Ready to save the world?”

WHAT?!” Blue yelped. He stared incredulously at the tan earth pony stallion with the hourglass cutie mark who had just walked up to the group.

“Well, not just you, of course, but you were the one to ask. Welcome to my humble workshop. Derpy, my dear, would you get our guests some refreshments?”

“Sure thing, Doctor!” the grey pegasus replied brightly and trotted out of the room.

Pif was looking with great interest at the equipment. She pointed at one and asked, “What does this do?”

“Oh, you don’t want to bother with that old thing. Just a souvenir I picked up in my travels.”

Destined peered closer at what had attracted Pif’s attention, and his eyes glowed briefly. “Quite a souvenir, Doctor. It seems to have a four-dimensional structure.”

The Doctor grinned at the alicorn. “Quite. That’s what makes it so interesting. Also, it’s a lot less likely to destroy a city while it’s in my collection.”

Both Destined and Pif jerked away from the device.

Pif looked at the Doctor incredulously. “Wha…? You can’t be serious?”

However, the stallion turned away as if he had suddenly lost interest. “Now I asked my lovely partner to fetch Blue Streak and Destined Path because they are essential to fixing this little problem that has cropped up, but it seems that you other three are so intertwined with events that you’ve been drawn into it as well.”

“Yeah, what’s up with that, Time Turner?” Lucida asked sternly. “Miss Hooves said something about the timeline changing just before she conjured a hole in space and dumped us here. I want to know what’s going on!”

“Ah, Lady Lucida Path – future head of the House of Path, warrior-scholar and negotiator – you have perhaps your greatest challenge ahead of you.”

“That didn’t explain anything,” Lucida said with a growing frown.

“True, I admit, but I did want to impress upon you the importance of what I’m about to tell you all. Someone is meddling with time, and history as you know it has been changed.”

All five of them stared at the Doctor with looks that varied from stunned to incredulous.

Cinder spoke up first. “Prove it,” she challenged.

The Doctor shrugged. “Step out of my workshop and see for yourselves.” As a couple of them started forward, he held up a hoof to halt them. “First, you have to stay for tea. My dear Derpy would be most offended if you left without enjoying the refreshments she has prepared, wouldn’t you, darling?” he asked the pegasus who had suddenly arrived with trays held up on her outstretched wings.

“I made some muffins just for you. I’d hate to have to eat them all myself,” she replied with a touch of disappointment.

The Doctor continued, “And while you’re enjoying muffins and tea, I’ll explain a bit more.”

Each of the Path family members guiltily took a muffin and a mug from their hostess.

The Doctor took one of each also, but he started talking again after just taking a sip of his tea. “Now, as I said, history has been changed. I barely had time to drop out of the time-stream and isolate us from the changes. Then I had to find the nexus of probability that could undo the change, and imagine my curiosity when it pointed at you. Well, Blue Streak and Destined Path in particular, but there are obviously other elements in play that I haven’t determined as yet.” He took a bite out of his muffin, chewed thoughtfully, then swallowed. “Apple-cinnamon – my favorite! Thank you, my love.”

Derpy smiled radiantly. “I know you always like them in a crisis.”

“You know me too well. Anyway, I had you fetch our heroes, and hopefully we’ll sort this out in time for dinner.”

Lucida looked unimpressed. “Sounds like a tall tale to me, especially since we should have already been affected by this fanciful time-change of yours. That hole in space was a neat trick though.”

The Doctor shook his head vehemently. “No, no! It’s not just a hole in space, but in space-time! Derpy went back to before the change had affected you.”

“Cut it a bit close, Doc,” the cross-eyed mare complained.

“Oh? Sorry about that, dear. It was right at the limit of the vortex manipulator.”

“S’okay. I got ’em, and that’s what counts.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek before she trotted out of the room with the empty trays.

The Doctor watched her leave with a happy smile on his face before returning his attention to the group. “Anyway, you need to figure out what happened to change history, and then fix it.”

“Why don’t you do that if you’re so clever?” Cinder asked.

“I have to maintain this stable nexus, or else the changes will become permanent for you. You won’t know what history used to be.”

Destined’s eyes opened wide in realization. “It’s like the map table in Mom’s castle! She told me how it was always still there whenever Starlight Glimmer changed the past.”

The Doctor grinned happily. “Now you’re getting it! That table is an object of such high probability that it exists in the majority of all possible alternate histories.”

“Then you’re familiar with my time theory?” Destined asked.

“Sixteen-dimensional space-time? Every possible permutation of events exists at all possible times, and what we perceive as history is merely the most probable path between them. Someone has changed that probability and thus changed history. The map table is such high-probability that it remains in that new history. What I have done is lock the probability of my workshop at that same level, so it also remains unchanged.”

“But how?” Pif demanded. “What you’re describing seems to be beyond even what Starswirl the Bearded was capable of doing, and he invented the spell that Starlight used to go back in time.”

The Doctor chuckled. “Oh, I remember him – such a prankster. You know he made this time spell that would take you back only a few days to meet your past self for only a few seconds before returning you? Can you imagine the reaction of their past selves trying to convince others of what they had seen, or their future selves trying to say anything meaningful in that short time? The cheeky colt got away with the joke for quite a while before Celestia had the spell put away in the restricted archive.”

Pif boggled at the thought of Starswirl being described as a colt, and the intimation that the Doctor seemed to have known the wizard who had died centuries ago. There was something decidedly odd about this stallion. “You didn’t answer my question – how did you stop your workshop from being affected by history being altered?”

“Your whole world has changed, but you want to talk about that?” the Doctor asked, throwing up his forelegs and waving them incredulously, while deflecting her inconvenient inquiries.

“If you’ve finished your refreshments, I think it’s about time you find out for yourselves what has been changed. All of you, assume nothing, and you, Princess Epiphany, I suggest that you hide your changeling nature.”

Pif eyed him suspiciously but shifted to one of her Ponyville unicorn forms anyway.

The Doctor ushered them to the door and let them out, saying, “Remember – don’t trust anyone or anything until you’re sure they are what they are supposed to be!” He then firmly closed the dark blue door in their faces before they could protest.

They all stood around, a little bewildered for the moment, barely taking in the fact that they were now in the middle of Ponyville after having been in Griffonia a short time ago.

Blue said dazedly, “I’m the fastest pony on Equus, and I still feel that things rushed by me too quickly.”

Cinder nodded in agreement. “Anyone get the feeling that there are things he’s not telling us?”

Lucida shook her head. “No – I feel there’s a huge amount he’s hiding from us.”

“Like the equipment in his workshop,” Pif said. “You know it’s my forte, but I didn’t have a clue what most of that stuff is supposed to do, and the ones that I think I can figure out seem far more advanced than is possible.”

“Whatever he’s hiding, I think we had better start taking him seriously,” Destined stated with finality.

“Why’s that?” Lucida asked.

Destined raised a hoof to point in the direction of Twilight’s castle. “Where’s the Chrome Hive?”

They all stared at the mountainside close to the castle where the new hive had been built, only to see pristine slopes and no sign at all that there ever had been anything in that location.

“Oh boy,” Blue said with dread chilling his spine.

# # #

With no particular goal in mind, they all nevertheless headed in the direction of the castle. It quickly became apparent to them that more than the disappearing hive had changed in Ponyville. The town had always been lively and pleasant, with ponies greeting friends frequently, streets bustling with ponies going about their business, and the neighborhood bright and cheerful. Now, however, most ponies they encountered did their best to ignore them, hastening about their errands, and those that did look seemed to regard them with suspicion or fear.

“What’s with these ponies?” Lucida complained. “It’s like they’ve never seen a hippogriff before?”

“Maybe they haven’t,” Destined replied. “Have you noticed the double-takes they make when they realize I’m an alicorn? If the hive was never built here, maybe we never visited here like whenever Papa Free used to attend it.”

“Well I don’t like the way they cringe whenever they look at me,” Cinder sulked. “I’m a warrior-scholar of House Path, not one of their uncivilized dragons.”

Pif picked up the pace. “We’d better get to Mom’s castle before somepony freaks out.”

Whether any of the ponies did more than scurry away from the group remained unknown as they arrived at the castle without anything more significant happening. They slowed down as they approached the great doors, perturbed by the sight of the squad of Royal Guards posted outside of them.

“What’s going on?” Lucida wondered. “Momma Twilight never had this many Guards at her castle outside of a big royal event.”

“Yeah,” Blue Streak agreed. “She always reckoned they didn’t fit in with a Princess of Friendship.”

They continued onward anyway until Epiphany suddenly bumped into an invisible wall which flared brightly. Immediately six of the Guards approached her – two pegasi with spears lowered, an earth pony with sword drawn, and three unicorns with horns charged.

“Halt, changeling! Why are you trying to enter the Princess’ castle? Who is this changeling’s keeper?” The unicorn officer who had spoken looked accusingly at Destined before blinking in confusion upon realizing that he was looking at an alicorn.

“She’s with me,” Destined answered, not sure what the Guard meant by keeper, but sensing that it was best to play along.

The unicorn suddenly cast a spell at Destined who automatically threw up a shield against it, but because it was not an offensive spell, it remained unaffected. The Guard looked even more puzzled.

“Not an illusion, so you really are an alicorn. What is your business here?”

“We’re here to speak to Mo… umm… Princess Twilight about a threat to Equestria.”

“Why are you bringing a disguised changeling? And who are these foreigners?” the Guard asked as he pointed to Lucida and Cinder.

“They are members of the House of Path from Griffonia, as am I. This changeling is part of the reason why we are here, but I was unaware of any restrictions regarding them.”

“Since when do the griffons accept ponies and dragons into their nobility? No matter – where are your credentials? If you are an envoy from King Glimfeather, your visit should have been advised to us in advance.”

“We are not from the King’s Court. Our House serves the world, not the King.”

The Guard looked even more skeptical. “I have never heard such nonsense! You are strangers bearing supposedly alarming news bringing an undocumented changeling in disguise. You will see the Princess alright, but as our prisoners. Sky Staff and Thunderbolt – confiscate this changeling. The rest of you will come with me to escort these four to the Queen. You are authorized to use force if any of them try anything suspicious. You – the blue one – relinquish your sword.”

The pegasus, Sky Staff, poked Pif with his spear, and she flinched from the sharp point. “Move it, changeling!” the Guard commanded, prodding her again in the direction he wanted her to go.

Pif looked at the others helplessly. While she had options, none of them would help their cause at this time, and she decided to play along for the moment.

“Don’t worry, Pif, we’ll get you back soon,” Destined tried to reassure her, but the Guard’s amused chuckle made them think it would not be as simple as that.

Blue Streak glowered at the unicorn who had stepped up to him to take his sword. The Guard cringed a little, intimidated by the big and powerfully muscled stallion despite his training and the other Guards backing him up. Blue reluctantly surrendered his sword, wondering what the quivering unicorn would have done if he had seen the warrior pony decked out in his full battle gear. He amused himself with that thought as the group was chivied inside.

It was a strange feeling for the group as they entered the familiar castle hallway. Royal Guards lined the length of it, and they could feel the suspicious stares following them. They passed into the map table room and were relieved to see that it was still there, although the chairs were all absent from around it. They were led off into another room which Twilight normally reserved for royal functions. This had a dais at one end with a fancy throne upon it, and there they finally saw Twilight Sparkle. She was dressed in some kind of gold robe, and had a crown upon her head, one far bigger and more imposing than she had ever worn previously. Her attention was focused on a book held up in her magic, and there were two piles of books beside her throne.

The officer stopped the party just inside the doorway and stamped a hoof before announcing loudly, “Your pardon, Your Majesty, but something has come up that requires your attention.”

“What is it, lieutenant?” Twilight asked without taking her eyes off the book. Her voice was cold and hard, unlike what any of the group had heard before.

“An alicorn claiming to be representatives from the House of Path say that they wish to talk with you about a threat to Equestria.”

Twilight’s head snapped up upon the mention of the House of Path, and she stared at Destined who had retained the lead as nominal head of the mission, although Lucida was the true ranking leader.

“The House of Path died with my herdmates! Who are you to claim to represent it, and why have I never heard of an alicorn stallion before now?”

Lucida was the one to answer however. “The House could not die while I still live, nor for that matter while you still lived because you were one of its founders.”

Twilight looked properly at the hippogriff for the first time, and her eyes widened in surprise. “Lucida Path? What are you doing here? You vowed that you would not come back to Equestria while I still sat on the throne.”

It was becoming clearer to Lucida what changes to history had occurred because Twilight recognized her but not Destined. “I am not the Lucida that you know. Someone has been tampering with time, and history has been changed.”

“What kind of fool do you take me for? The key to travelling through time is Starswirl’s scroll, and that has been safely hidden away for decades.”

“Obviously somepony else knows a method. We are proof of that. You say that your herdmates died? For us, they were our parents who raised us, and we saw them hale and hearty mere hours ago. To answer your question about this alicorn, he is my half-brother, son of Long Path… and Twilight Sparkle.”

“WHAT?! How dare you claim kinship with me and Long Path! I have borne no children, and if I had, it would have been with my husband, not our herd stallion.”

Both Destined and Lucida took a half-step back from the furious Queen Twilight. However, an undaunted voice behind them took up the argument.

“As I heard it, your gestalt with the herd led to your pregnancy with Dad, something that you never regretted… Momma Twilight,” Blue said as he pushed between Destined and Lucida.

Although she had noted the presence of the huge blue-furred earth pony, Twilight had not paid close attention to him yet. She took in his mane pattern and cutie mark before gasping in shocked recognition. “No! You’re dead! I saw you die in the Crystal Kingdom!” She stumbled backwards, tripping on the dais and falling over backwards.

 

Blue Streak said, “I did not die in that battle, Momma. You protected me after I was injured saving Dad, and you all defeated Chrysalis.”

Twilight stumbled to her hooves, staring wildly at the group. “No! This has to be a trick! I don’t know who you really are, but you have to be some sort of agents of the changelings trying to trick me. What are your true intentions? Did you seek to use my memories as a means to get close enough to assassinate me?”

Blue and Lucida were flabbergasted. “That doesn’t make sense…,” Lucida began.

“They were in the presence of a changeling when they arrived,” the unicorn officer interjected.

Twilight latched onto that statement with obsessive determination. “Ha! And now the truth comes out. Well, your plans have failed, and for your crime, I sentence you all to death. Lieutenant – take them away!”

“What?!” Blue exclaimed, but then his expression hardened. “None of us will die today.” Before the lieutenant could react, Blue whirled and lashed out with a devastating kick. The armor saved the Guard from being killed, but he was knocked unconscious as he slammed into the wall.

The other Guards moved in with weapons at the ready, and more started pouring into the room moments later, led by a familiar pegasus.

Twilight screamed, “Captain Dash – execute the prisoners! The blue one first!

“You got it, Your Majesty!” Rainbow Dash yelled as she dived at Blue. She was surprised when he easily dodged her. “Oho! This is gonna be fun!”

The other Guards left Blue to their captain while they concentrated on the rest. However, given the opportunity to recover due to Blue’s quick reaction, they all went into defense mode. The Royal Guards did not know it, but they were up against elite warriors of the House of Path. Even Lucida, who preferred words as her weapons, was more highly trained than the average soldier, and her talons precluded the need for an actual weapon. Cinder was used to making herself look unintimidating so as not to agitate ponies, but now she reared up, spread her wings, and roared in defiance. Destined powered up his horn, ready to defend them all.

Twilight did not leave everything to her Guards though. She lashed out with a blast from her horn, but was blocked by Destined. She sneered at him. “You think that you can stand against a true alicorn? I slaughtered thousands of changelings, and I won’t stop at one of their sympathizers!” She fired again with a stronger bolt, but believing that he was a fake, she still underestimated Destined’s power and the attack failed again.

The alicorn stallion was hard pressed despite his strength because he also had to Guard against attacks by the Royal Guards on himself and his companions, and he had no wish to exert his full power which would have been fatal to most of the occupants of the room. His siblings and Cinder were wreaking havoc on the Guards, but more kept pouring in. They might have had even more trouble if Blue had not been able to keep Rainbow Dash preoccupied. As fast as she was, the dimensions of the room confined her movements, while Blue had no such problems, able to make short but vision-blurring moves. He had quickly recovered his sword from the Guard who had taken it away, and the only thing that had saved the pegasus so far was the fact that Blue did not wish to harm his long-time friend. However, when the opportunity came to take her out without permanently harming her, Blue did not hesitate. Rainbow crashed to the floor, unconscious but relatively intact, and Blue turned his attention to the other Guards.

A Guard screamed as Lucida slashed him with her talons before she yelled to the others, “We can’t keep this up all day; we have to get out of here!”

“What about Pif?” Destined grunted as he blocked yet another deadly blast from Twilight.

“We’ll just have to come back and fetch her later,” Lucida decided reluctantly. “Take us away, Destined.”

The alicorn stallion hated the idea of leaving his half-sister behind, but he saw the sense in a retreat. “Cinder – grab Blue!”

The dragoness snaked out her tail at an opportune moment to snare Blue. When he was in warrior mode, it was dangerous to try to interrupt the earth pony, but his mate was safe from the repercussions. She folded a wing about him, their private signal to him to stand down, and drew them closer to the others. A moment later, Destined’s horn flared and they teleported out of the room.

Twilight screeched in frustration. “Find them! Find them and kill them!” she yelled, even as she started tracing their magical trail.

# # #

Epiphany meekly complied with the Guards’ directions as they led her to a fortified compound close to the castle. Upon entering its gates, they made a left turn towards a drab building with few windows. Once inside, they were confronted by a security checkpoint, and the Royal Guard behind the desk looked at Pif suspiciously.

“Another changeling who thinks she can sneak in disguised as a unicorn? Not too bright, are they?”

Sky Staff replied, “This one was a little different. She came with an odd group who claimed to be coming with a warning of a threat to Equestria.”

The Guard snorted. “OK, that’s a new one. Maybe it deluded them somehow. Anyway, not our problem. You know the drill.” He opened the door that led further into the building.

Row upon row of cells confronted Pif as she was herded inside, each of which was occupied by changelings grouped by their hives. She saw Reds, Violets, Greens, Oranges, and Yellows, but not a single Blue. She did not know whether this was a good thing or not, but she strongly suspected that she would not like the reason. What puzzled her though were the small tables with colorful tablecloths that were directly adjacent to each cell, and the balloons and streamers that decorated the entire facility.

“Drop your disguise, changeling. It’s time to put you with your buddies.”

Showing her uniqueness was the last thing that Pif wanted, but she had a feeling that if she tried to deceive them, she would be caught out and punished. Any prison specializing in holding changelings could not be underestimated. With a flare of green fire, she revealed herself.

Thunderbolt gaped and exclaimed, “What the hay is this?”

“I’m from the Chrome Hive,” Pif explained.

“I’ve never heard of a Chrome Hive,” Sky Staff said suspiciously.

“I come from Griffonia,” Pif explained, neglecting to mention that the actual hive should have been just a short distance away but for the meddling with time, nor did she look anything like the Griffonian changelings.

Thunderbolt snorted. “Bad enough that we have the Equestrian hives – now we have the foreigners coming in also. At least that explains why this one thought it could get into the Queen’s castle.”

“So where should we put it?” Sky Staff asked.

Thunderbolt shrugged. “Pick the block with the most empty cells. That should make the party a little livelier.”

Sky Staff chuckled, and Pif wondered what amused the pegasus so much. And what did the other mean by a party? Did it have something to do with all those decorations? It didn’t make sense to her.

Pif was taken into a row containing Red Changelings and locked in a cell. Her captors then walked off, leaving her to consider her fellow inmates. She scanned their faces until she came to one that was more than familiar. “Queen Carpacia?” she gasped.

The Red Queen regarded her curiously. “You have the advantage of me. Chrome Changeling you claim to be, but I have never heard of such a hive from the eastern lands. You strike me as being a mutant, and seeing as none of the other Equestrian Hive Queens have mentioned an offspring like you, I would have to say that you’re a Blue.”

Pif was impressed by Carpacia’s reasoning. “You’re mostly right. I am the daughter of Gossamer, and granddaughter to Chrysalis. Gossamer was the mutant, but it seems her trait breeds true and all her offspring are chrome like me. So yes, I was telling the truth about there being a Chrome Hive, except for one important detail.”

“Besides the fact that you’re the kin to the insane Queen who brought ruination upon all changelings?” Carpacia said coldly.

“Don’t compare me or my mother to Chrysalis! She denounced her and fought against her, as have I. No, the important detail is that we won! Someone has meddled with time and changed history so all this…” Pif waved her hooves to indicate the cells and beyond, “…never happened. Chrysalis’ invasion of the Crystal City was defeated and my mother took over the Blue Hive. She and House Path rebuilt it into a modern and progressive Hive right here in Ponyville. I was conceived after that battle, so if Chrysalis had won and my mother was defeated, I probably would not exist.”

Carpacia regarded Pif with skepticism. “You spin a wild tale, and yet one thing that you said makes me think that you’re telling the truth.”

“What’s that?”

“What makes you think that Chrysalis won the battle?”

“Huh? But why would Equestria turn against the changelings otherwise? From my history studies, I know that our kind was making great strides towards integration with pony society at that time.”

“Because before Chrysalis was eventually killed, she caused so much harm that Queen Twilight Sparkle sought revenge on all changelings.”

Pif gasped in shock. “That… that doesn’t sound like Mom at all!”

“Mom?” Carpacia asked with a quizzical tilt to her head. “I thought you said your mother was Gossamer?”

“I come from a herd family. Momma Twilight was one of my herd mothers, as was Momma Roseclaw. Long Path was my sire, and Gossamer was my birth mother, but her normal form was Free Agent, a male griffon who was more of a second dad to me.”

Carpacia was startled. “Free Agent was Chrysalis’ daughter? I heard about how mightily he fought against Chrysalis before he was killed. His body was so obliterated that none of my surviving ’lings ever knew.”

“Although Queen Dianthia and a few others knew before the battle, Free Agent revealed his true nature to everyone only after the victory at the Crystal City.”

“Remarkable. So you belong to the House of Path; did Lady Lucida send you then?”

“You know of Lucy? No, she was with me when we were snatched away before the time changes could affect us.”

“This talk of changes to history still seems unreal to me, and yet you are an obvious contradiction to what I know as fact.”

Pif nodded in agreement. “I know – it all seems unreal to me too. It’s only just happened, and I haven’t adjusted to it yet. I especially can’t understand how Momma Twilight could turn so much against changelings. We were one of her dearest projects as Princess of Friendship! Can you tell me exactly what happened to change her?”

Carpacia smirked. “Well, my appointment list seems to be empty, and the party won’t start for a little while, so I suppose I can squeeze you into my busy day. Where should I start?”

“It sounds like whatever happened to change history occurred during the siege of the Crystal City, so I suggest you begin there.”

“That makes sense as that’s when everything went sour for us. No one knows all the details because Twilight Sparkle hasn’t sought fit to tell us, but apparently all her herdmates were killed. Free Agent was the last to go up against Chrysalis, but although he fought magnificently, she had an advantage over him that he could not overcome, and eventually he was slain also. Chrysalis’ strategy of overcoming the might of the alicorns by swamping them with sheer numbers worked excellently, and she was able to take the time to build up a huge amount of power to blast the shield several times. The strain on Shining Armor caused him to suffer a ruptured aneurysm, and he collapsed along with his shield. The prince suffered brain damage, leaving him mostly unresponsive to anyone. This, combined with the deaths of her foster son and many of her friends after doing so much killing that was against her pacific nature, finally caused Twilight Sparkle to snap.”

“Blue Streak died too?” Pif murmured. “Mom had always been paranoid about his safety.”

“Twilight Sparkle perhaps cared too much,” Carpacia continued. “She was unable to cope with the mental trauma, and she went insane with rage. It was known for a long while that she was the Avatar of the Element of Magic because magic is her special talent, and one day she was likely to exceed both Luna and Celestia in sheer power. Well, the events of that battle brought forth that well of power, and she unleashed it on her enemies. Chrysalis died in the first blast, then hundreds of ’lings died in the torrential blasts of magic fire that she unleashed into the skies. Every being in their paths died, including the red Changelings who fought on her side, and any griffon warrior who was unlucky enough to be in the way. Twilight did not care. She fired bolts of magic until the skies were empty. Only two of my ’lings who were on the ground survived to tell me about these events.”

 

 

“What’s with calling her Queen Twilight though, and taking revenge on all changelings?”

“I meant it when I said that she snapped. Twilight Sparkle went insane that day. She blamed Celestia and Luna for not being strong enough to turn away the enemy, and usurped their power. Don’t ask me how she did it – I just know that the only things that they can do now is manage the heavenly bodies that are their birthright. Although they are effectively prisoners in Canterlot, they maintain the day and night out of a sense of duty towards Equus. Twilight took the title of Queen of Equestria, and started the program of incarceration or elimination of all changelings. In her mind, we had all become the enemy. Such are the thoughts of the insane.”

“What about Princess Cadance? Surely she could have helped Twilight?”

Carpacia laughed without humor. “No, she made it worse. Cadance suffered the deaths of her subjects after the shield fell, but she was totally lost in grief when she realized that Shining Armor was a living vegetable. She used her power to try to heal him, but failed. She wanted to use the Crystal Heart to try again, but ironically it was destroyed in the battle. Now she obsessively tries to repair it to heal her lost love, and we are instrumental in those efforts.”

“That makes some sense. I remember learning how the five Hive Queens had combined power with Cadance to repair the cracked Heart. And years earlier, Flurry Heart actually shattered it, but the combination of a powerful restoration spell and a Crystalling ceremony was able to put it back together again.”

“That won’t work now. The Crystal Heart was not merely cracked or even just shattered; it is beyond repair, which makes our situation hopeless.”

“What is our situation then? Why bother to incarcerate us?”

“Because Cadance is so lost in her grief that she no longer has a grasp on reality. She continues to try to repair the Heart, and Queen Twilight helps her because it gives her some measure of revenge against the changelings that destroyed her world, or so she thinks anyway.”

“So what happens now?”

Carpacia smirked. “We party.”

Pif blinked uncomprehendingly for a several long moments. “What? That’s the third time a party has been mentioned. What in Tartarus do you mean?”

“You’ll see. It’ll start soon.” Carpacia walked over to her cot and lay down upon it, apparently losing interest in the conversation.

Pif mulled over what she had learned. She now knew when history was changed, and she knew what the consequences of that change were – now all she had to find out was how it was changed. It seemed that even with the benefit of a couple of eye witnesses and subsequent events, Carpacia was unaware of the cause, so she was unlikely to learn more about that. She still had to understand what Cadance was doing to the changelings though, and especially what the hay this party was supposed to be!

# # #

Destined, Blue, Cinder, and Lucida popped back into reality at the foot of a bridge over a ravine that led to the ruins of a castle surrounded by a dense forest from which strange sounds emanated. They were all still hyped up with adrenaline from the fight they had just escaped, and they just stood there for a long moment to calm down and reorient themselves.

Cinder took her wing away from around Blue and as she furled it up, she said, “Shards! That meeting went to Tartarus quickly. Has Twilight gone completely insane?”

Lucida nodded gravely. “I believe that’s exactly what has happened. The Twilight Sparkle who raised and taught us would have been fascinated by our tale of time changes, and she most certainly would not have ordered anyone’s death.”

“The same might be said of Rainbow Dash,” Blue said. “She has always been headstrong, but she would not have so readily carried out orders to execute us. Did anyone else besides me see her eyes?”

“We were kind of preoccupied,” Lucida commented.

Destined shook his head. “I didn’t see her eyes, but I did have a sense of an enhancement spell on her. If I was to make an educated guess, I think her innate loyalty to Twilight has been boosted to obsessive levels; she will do anything that Queen Twilight tells her to do.”

Lucida nodded. “More evidence that Twilight has gone totally nuts; she’s always hated the idea of imposing spells on people without their knowledge and consent. Something about an experience with a ‘Want it, Need it’ spell I once heard about in a lesson, I believe.”

Blue growled. “Well, we now know for sure that history has been changed, and we know that it had something to do with the battle at the Crystal City. Now we have to figure out exactly what and how to fix it. First we have to rescue Pif though.”

“Yeah,” Cinder agreed. “So where did they take her?” She looked around and added, “For that matter, where are we?”

Destined replied, “I took us somewhere that I was familiar with and not too far away but wasn’t likely to have too many ponies to deal with. Welcome to the Castle of the Two Sisters.” He waved a hoof at the ruins.

“Bit of a dump,” Cinder opined.

Lucida sighed sadly. “It is in this version of history, it seems. In the proper timeline, Twilight and others have been working to restore it, and the last time that I visited here, it was looking very nice, and some maintenance staff had actually moved in on a permanent basis. Nobody would want to live here now though.”

“Ah wouldn’t rightly say that, sugah,” came a voice from behind the group.

While the four had been preoccupied with looking at the castle, a large number of people had quietly emerged from concealment with weapons trained upon them. Blue cursed himself for his carelessness even as the others gasped in surprise, not only for the ambush, but who those ambushers were. Several changelings of various colors stood alongside ponies, and at their head was the one who had spoken.

“Applejack?” Lucida said with surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, it seems you know me, but I don’t rightly know you, missy. Who are you and your companions?” While the question was asked pleasantly enough, there was a strong hint of threat behind the inquiry, and the weapons aimed at them never wavered.

Lucida knew some of what they were up against this time, and it was going to be hard to convince this hostile group of their intentions. However, this time she had one advantage – the apple farmer herself. “I am Lucida Path, and these are Destined Path, Blue Streak, and Cinder. In another time, you knew us all, but history has been changed, and we’re trying to find a way to fix it.”

The cream-colored earth pony standing next to Applejack with a crossbow aimed at Destined spoke up. “This one’s an alicorn – where did he come from? We have no reason to trust any alicorn nowadays.”

“Ah reckon that’s a pretty good question, Bon Bon,” Applejack agreed, looking pointedly at the alicorn.

Destined took a step forward. “I am the son of Long Path… and Twilight Sparkle.”

That statement caused quite a stir among the group, and several looked ready to attack right then. Applejack held up a hoof to restrain them.

“Y’all don’t look like ya wanna commit suicide, so why’d you claim kinship with the Queen?”

“Because if history had not been warped, she would be a friend to changelings and not a queen.”

“Not being convinced here,” Applejack stated coldly.

Lucida motioned Destined back and stepped up as closely as she dared to the earth pony. “Applejack Apple, former Bearer of an Element of Harmony, Avatar of the Aspect of Honesty, I call upon you to heed my words and know that they are true. We four and my sister Epiphany were taken out of the time stream before a change in history could affect us. We believe that something happened around the time of the attack on the Crystal City by Chrysalis that changed events leading to what drove Twilight Sparkle insane. In our proper time, she and her herdmates in the House of Path went on to build relationships between Equestria, Griffonia, and the Hives. We are the children of Herd Path, and we are here to set things right.” Lucida let those words hang there while Applejack regarded her intently.

There was a very long and tense silence before Applejack nodded. “Ah believe ya. Stand down, everypony,” she ordered.

The changelings and ponies lowered their weapons, some more reluctantly than others, but it was obvious that Applejack was very much in charge.

“So, children of Herd Path, hey?” she said with an eyebrow quirked as she looked at Cinder.

“My mate,” Blue explained.

“Fair enough. How about some better introductions now that we ain’t gonna have ta lock ya away?”

“I’m the daughter of Long Path and Roseclaw,” Lucida explained. “You should know of me because I was born before the battle at the Crystal City.”

“Come to think of it, your name does ring a bell. It’s been a long time though since I heard it mentioned.”

“Dad conceived three foals soon after that battle. Destined was Mama Twilight’s son, my brother Flix was Mama Roseclaw’s chick, and Epiphany was Free Agent’s daughter.”

Applejack was startled. “Free Agent? But he’s a…”

“Changeling queen,” Lucida interjected. “She went into breeding mode and Long Path consented to sire a child with her. Pif is our sister, and she was with us when Queen Twilight’s Guards identified her as a changeling and took her away. We need to rescue her before we try to fix history.”

“Well, y’all got your work cut out for ya. Ain’t nobuggy ever come back outta their changeling facility.”

“If anyone can, she will. Anyway, your turn now. How come you’re in league with changelings when Queen Twilight seems determined to capture or kill them all?”

The hippogriff grunted as Applejack clapped her on the back and grinned proudly. “Welcome to the Resistance! We’re dedicated to bringin’ down the usurper queen and freein’ the innocent.”

Lucida snorted in amusement. “As I recall the past, you were the last of the Mane Six to warm up to the changelings, and yet here you are apparently leading a group of them.”

Applejack smirked. “Yep, Ah’m aware of the irony, but Ah ain’t got time for repressin’ them just for what they are. And that’s not the only thing Twilight Sparkle has changed for the worse. Equestria suffers daily under her reign.”

“So what are you doing about it?”

“Twilight knew the location of only two of the hives – the Red and the Green. She raided those and captured their Queens, but some of the changelings managed to escape. By that time, Twi and Ah had parted company because Ah could not stand what she had become. Ah discovered some Red Changelings hiding in mah barn, and from there Ah started collectin’ more refugees. Ah couldn’t hide them all on the farm, so Ah brought them here to the old castle. It looks bad, but we’ve fixed up the insides, and the Everfree protects and hides it. Ah’ve been recruiting ponies to find and help any other buggies they find. Bon Bon here was mah first, and she’s mah right hoof mare.”

“So Queen Twilight doesn’t suspect this at all? How do you support all of these people?”

“We have our sympathizers in town who help.”

“Do you suppose they can help us get Pif?”

“If you’re thinkin’ of breaking into the changeling facility, forget it. We haven’t figured out how to do that yet.”

“Maybe we won’t have to. Pif is pretty resourceful. We just need to be on hoof nearby when she makes her move.”

“Hmm… Well, Ah reckon we can smuggle ya’ll back into town if ya can’t get back the way you came. How did ya’ll get here without us noticin’, anyway?”

“Destined teleported us here.”

“Are ya sure Twi can’t follow ya?”

Destined spoke up. “I obscured our mana path. Mom… er… Queen Twilight should not be able to trace us.”

“Good. Ah gather ya can’t just teleport back? Too conspicuous, Ah reckon. Your flashy arrival drew us here.”

“Exactly right,” Destined agreed.

“Well, Ah reckon Ah have the answer for ya, and a chance to show ya’ll some hospitality at the same time. Looks like our daily provisions have arrived.” Applejack motioned towards the bridge that was on the approach to the castle.

A butter-yellow pegasus with a pink mane was drawing a cart covered with a tarpaulin over the bridge. She approached the group and came to a stop as she stared at the four newcomers. “Oh! Oh dear! Strangers have seen me.” She shrunk down, trying to hide behind her mane.

“Don’t ya worry none, Fluttershy. They’re friends too.”

“Oh? That’s nice,” she replied as she cautiously got back to her hooves. “You can’t be too careful. If Twilight ever found out that I’ve been bringing you food, she would lock me away, and then who would feed my animals?”

“You’ve been a lifesaver, Fluttershy. We appreciate everythin’ ya do for us.”

Fluttershy smiled shyly. “I try, but I couldn’t do it all by myself.”

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