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.



30. Chapter 19 - Future Pastimes

“It’s been a very long time since I have heard someone other than Destined Path call me by that name,” Cinder said, her smile never dimming. “But it’s also a very long time since I’ve seen any of my non-dragon family. Even though I knew this day would come, I feared that History would twist in some manner and rob me of this wonderful visit.”

Lucida started smiling too after recovering from her surprise. “In retrospect, I realize now that you should still have a few centuries in you. It’s good to see you again. So you have taken up the mantle of the Matriarch now?”

“Yes – my mother retired several centuries back. She sleeps with her treasure most of the time nowadays. However, I haven’t come here today in that role. Where is Blue?”

Wisebeak replied, “He’s still recovering from the time-trip. It’s just exhaustion though, so we expect that he’ll sleep it off soon enough.”

“Where is he located?”

Destined replied, “I’ve had him put in a second floor balcony room in the east wing. I anticipated that you would want to visit him there. Would you like someone to point it out to you?”

“Thank you, but no. My memories of this place are undimmed. I will find the room.”

“It must be wonderful to be able to see your mate again after so many years,” Pif said.

Cinder smiled a little sadly. “Yes, I have missed him, but that is not the only reason for my visit. His preparations were incomplete, and I will be taking him for the final training before you must return.”

“What?! Where will you be going, and how long will that take?” Lucida asked.

“Back to the Dragonlands, and two or three weeks at least.”

Lucida looked at Destined. “Did you know this was going to happen?”

Destined nodded. “Of course. My past self will find out about it soon, so he will know it when he goes back to the past, so I remember it now.”

“Then you also know how the final battle went, and how we can defeat the Nightmare?”

“I do, but I won’t tell you more than a few hints.”

“Why not?” Lucida asked with a frown. “Think of all the lives that could be saved in this war!”

The older Destined looked at the hippogriff gravely. “You already know why not, Lucy. Anything that I tell you about the past could just as easily change it. I have had more than ample opportunity to ponder the ramifications of telling you everything, and I see far more harm than good coming of it. For every positive outcome, there’s one or more negative.”

“Waddya mean?” Citrine demanded.

“Let me give you a hypothetical scenario….”

“What’s hyporectal whatever you said?”

Destined sighed. “Hypothetical scenario. To assume or pretend about a situation. Let’s say that you are in the middle of a fight that will win the war, but I tell you that Pif will be killed during that battle unless you go to her rescue. So you go save her, the winning fight does not happen, and so History is changed and the war is lost instead.”

Citrine looked over at Pif and knew in her heart that she could not ignore her beloved’s fate. “I understand.”

Destined turned back to Lucida. “There are any number of situations like that during the battle. Some will call for great sacrifice. Some even now rest on a razor’s edge and might go either way whether I say anything or not. I have learned that trying to change things for the better rarely results in that happening.”

“So you can do nothing for us at all?”

Destined grinned. “Well – I didn’t say that either. Some things happened in the past that I was probably responsible for, so in keeping with the goal of not changing History, I will have to see that those things happen, won’t I?”

Lucida cheered up. “Yes, I suppose that you do.”

“I will say this much right now – this will be no ordinary battle that you will engage in. The Nightmare is not the only higher power at work, and it will take everything that you have to win it. The members of the time-team will be responsible for the fate of the entire world.”

“No pressure,” Lucida said with a wry chuckle. “Okay, what do you suggest that we do?”

“I suggest that you take advantage of these weeks to rest. Do a little light training to keep yourselves at your peak, but otherwise take a vacation. That way, when it comes time to return to the past, you will be able to give 100% to the effort.”

Pif spoke up. “Speaking of returning to the past – It took everything that Blue sucked up from an entire hillside to get us here, and nearly killed Des… young Des… controlling it. How are we going to get back in useful condition?”

Destined winked. “Leave that to me, Pif. Alicorn of Time, remember? I’ve learned a thing or three over the years.”

Lucida said, “Well, if we need to take a holiday, I suppose we might as well get started, and the ancestral home is as good a place as any to have it. One thing has been puzzling me though. I would have assumed that after two and a half thousand years, this place would have changed radically. Where are all the new school buildings and training grounds? Surely there would be lots of other newer buildings?”

“You said it yourself, Lucy – this is our ancestral home. The House Path teaching and training facilities long outgrew what was available here, and there’s a dedicated campus located elsewhere which is quite huge by now. The mansion has been maintained and improved over the years without affecting its traditional appearance. We tore down some of the unnecessary buildings here and replaced them with dwellings. The Path family has grown considerably too, and the vast majority of the people here who are not staff are actually distant relatives of yours or their mates. This is where all Paths call home, no matter where they live.”

“So you live here rather than Ponyville?”

“Ponyville is Mom’s domain. Griffonia is mine.”

“Griffonia has its own dedicated alicorn now?” Silk asked.

“It deserves one. Griffonia eventually became an independent city-state of Equestria like the Crystal Kingdom. The griffons are incredibly proud of being Equestria’s home of House Path, and their warriors take great pride in being the mighty defenders of the world. For the first time in history, the Griffonians are the staunch allies of ponies rather than their traditional enemies. The hereditary leader of House Path is always a hippogriff who represents the unity between ponies and griffons. Their country is still ruled by their king, but I represent the Equestrian royalty here.”

Silk looked impressed. “Wow! I knew things were going well with Equestria-Griffonia relations, but that’s still surprising.”

Destined grinned. “Griffon pride is a powerful thing. They fought war after war with ponies because they never got over their losses to them, but once they became the heroes of a battle that saved the world, that same pride made them want to be seen as Equestria’s strong talons.” Destined then sobered up. “Let’s hope that that battle goes as I remember it.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do to give us a hint?” Lucida asked.

“You must remember that your true enemy is the Nightmare, not Chrysalis, but you already have everything that you need to defeat her. Just remember what you mean to each other, and be true to yourselves.”

“Could you possibly be more vague?” Citrine grumbled. Then a thought occurred to her, and she turned to Pif and asked quietly, “Have you tried connecting to the hive network yet? Maybe we can get some info that way?”

“The hive’s in Ponyville, but maybe I can from here. I was trying not to be tempted, but I think I’m with you on this.”

Pif shut her eyes to concentrate. To her surprise, she discovered a strong network immediately. It belatedly occurred to her that her long-distance communication protocol might have been vastly improved over the centuries. She immediately made a connection to the local sub-net.

Greetings, Honored Ancestor.

Pif was startled. ‘Who is this?

I am Sphalerite Path, current Queen of the Chrome Hive.

Who names their kid Sphalerite?

‘My mother, apparently,’ came the amused response.

Pif facehoofed and replied, ‘Sorry about that. A pleasure to meet you, Sphalerite. How did you detect me so quickly though?

Prince Destined warned me that you might try to seek knowledge of the past through the hive network. I was watching for you.

Oh. You’re not going to let me search the hive-mind, are you?

Sorry, no, Honored Ancestor.

Will you at least allow me to stay connected to the network?

Of course. The whole Griffonian sub-net is at your disposal – except for the library, naturally. I have arranged for a drone to be at your disposal for the duration of your stay.

Thanks, I guess.

You’re welcome, Honored Ancestor.

For buck’s sake, call me Pif!’ she grumbled before she turned back to Citrine. “Sorry, but the current Queen won’t let me access historical data.” Then she chuckled wryly. “Ungrateful grandkids!”

Just then, a griffon hen with light blue feathers and snow leopard feline half landed in front of Pif and bowed.

“Honored Ancestor, I am Gala Griffon, here at the command of Queen Sphalerite.”

Pif recognized that she was a Chrome Changeling, but was intrigued by the introduction. “No changeling name?”

Gala shook her head. “Like your mother, I was brought up as a griffon. A childless griffon couple adopted me from the Hive.”

“Is that a thing now? Adopting changeling nymphs, I mean.”

“As you might realize, the griffon House system means that there are very few orphans that do not get cared for by members of the greater family. If a griffon couple wants to adopt a child, they rarely have the opportunity to do so. Adopting a changeling benefits both the couple and the hive. I am proud to be the daughter of wonderful griffon parents, and it gives me good insight into the nature of our Hive’s founder, Queen Gossamer.”

“That’s sounds lovely, but doesn’t history teach you that Dad hates being called Gossamer?”

Gala smiled. “Yes, it does, but we use the name to distinguish our hive’s founder from his normal persona as Free Agent, co-founder of House Path, to which I also belong.”

“Ah! I see. At least you’re not likely to ever have to worry about slipping up and calling him Gossamer to his face.”

“That’s true, Honored Anc–”

PIF! My name is Pif, not Honored Ancestor. Even Epiphany would be better!”

“Yes… Pif. I am at your service at any time.”

“I see you tried to connect to the hive-mind, Pif,” Destined said. “Welcome, Gala Griffon.”

Gala bowed to the alicorn. “Greetings, Prince Destined.”

“Formalities done! How are your parents doing?”

“They’re doing very well, Des. They’re contemplating adopting another again.”

“Oh? Your mother is in the nesting mood, I take it?”

Gala chuckled. “Yes, but it’s dad who really wants a son as well as a daughter.”

“Do you think you’re prepared to be a big sister?”

“I sure hope so!”

“You’re obviously well acquainted,” Pif said drolly.

Destined grinned. “Of course. Since my younger self will get to know her soon, I remembered and made it a point to get to meet her long before this so that she would be prepared to be your assistant during your stay.”

“And I was terribly honored when I was told!” Gala said enthusiastically. “I might not be allowed to talk about what happened from the time of the battle with you, but I’d love to find out what it was like in your time before that!”

“I think we can manage that,” Pif said with a begrudging smile.

Lucida said, “Have you been violating causality again? Gala was made Pif's assistant because you remembered that she was made Pif's assistant?”

“Not really,” Destined replied. “Sphalerite was asked to nominate a changeling. I just happened to know who she would choose. Even so, you have far too much faith in strictly linear causality despite your experiences so far.”

“Not true! I’ve seen how it can do a loop like a rollercoaster; it’s a closed loop that makes me shudder.”

“Best not to think about it too much then. If you knew what I know, then you…”

Destined was interrupted by the flash-bang of teleportation, and another alicorn stallion arrived in their midst. This one was pure white of coat, with an ethereal mane of blue streaked with white that reminded the team of a sky filled with scudding clouds. He looked around and grinned.

“I knew this day would happen, but it’s still amazing to see,” he declared.

“Uncle Shining!” Lucida exclaimed, getting up to hug him.

Pif followed her example, saying, “I see you finally figured out how to teleport.”

Shining Amor grinned at Pif and replied, “You may have beaten me to that ability, but I have a lot greater range than you. I just teleported from the Crystal Kingdom.”

“And it only took him eighty-seven years to master it,” Destined added drolly.

Shining mock-glared at Destined. “Hush, you! Don’t mock your elders!”

“So – aside from a family visit, is there any particular reason why you came here today?” Lucida asked.

“Yes, actually. I’m here to help train one of you for the battle that you have ahead of you.” He turned to look at Citrine.

“Me?!” Citrine said with surprise. “I don’t even like you – why would I want to train with you?”

“For starters, I got over our mutual antagonism long ago, and you should too. For seconds, you’ll soon be going into a war that will be a pivotal moment in the history of Equus, and you’re barely a novice-level crystallomancer. I have only two or three weeks to get you up to a much higher level that will let you survive what’s coming.”

Citrine looked stunned for a moment. “That bad, hey? Okay – got my bat?”

A bat materialized as Shining teleported it there. “It’s not the original, but it was made exactly like that one. You’ll be expected to transcend that though.”

Citrine gave the bat a few experimental swings. “Yeah, it feels good. When do I start whupping your arse?”

Shining grinned. “Not anytime soon, but training starts immediately.”

Lucida asked, “Uncle Shining, will Auntie Cadance, Mama Twilight, and Mama Luna be joining us too?”

Shining nodded. “They’re all joining us for dinner this evening. Luna is asleep at the moment, so that’s the best time for us to get together again.”

“What about Flurry? And Luna was close to giving birth in our time, and we’re guessing that the foal will also be an alicorn.”

“Flurry won’t be joining us. Too much future knowledge there. And yes, Luna does have an alicorn filly. I don’t think I’m giving away anything significant telling you that, but she won’t be attending for the same reason as Flurry, although she asked us to stream a video of the dinner so that she can see what you’re like.”

“Stream a video? What’s that?” Pif asked.

“Sending moving images with sound, a bit like movies back in your day, but live and in real time.”

“I’d love to see examples of those!”

Shining chuckled. “I bet you would, Pif.” Shining kept the knowledge to himself that she and Techbird would be responsible for developing the basics of that digital technology just from the hints that he had inadvertently given her.

Cinder spoke up. “If you’re going to start talking technology, I’ll take my leave. I have a mate that I wish to check up on.”

“Will we see you later, Cinder?” Silk asked.

“I will be here until Blue is ready to travel to the Dragonlands with me. We will talk more later today.” Cinder then got up and lumbered off in the direction of Blue’s room.

Shining looked over to where Glenn, Watchful, and Forest had been sitting and watching. “You three are awfully quiet. What’s wrong?”

“We didn’t wish to interrupt your family reunion, sir,” Watchful replied.

“Just because you’re not related doesn’t mean that you aren’t family. You’re House Path, and that makes you part of one big family.”

Glenn said, “So, should I call you Uncle Shining too?”

The alicorn laughed. “Only if you want to. Forest is my sister’s godson, so I suppose he could legitimately call me that, but it doesn’t really matter.”

“I’ll call you something, but it won’t be ‘Uncle’,” Citrine said with a smirk.

“That’s the crystal pony that I remember well,” Shining replied with a shake of his head as the others laughed. “However, right now I would like to visit my real nephew – or at least the younger version of him,” he added with a glance at the elder Destined.”

“I think he’ll be ready for a visit by now, as I recall. Let’s all go.” Destined led the way back into the mansion and headed toward the room where his younger self was resting.

They entered a spacious bedroom that was brightly lit and ventilated by the open double doors that led out onto a balcony. A nurse who was in attendance looked up at the older alicorn, nodded, and left the room. They gathered around the bed as the young alicorn sleepily focused on them. His eyes suddenly widened as he recognized the blue alicorn standing at the foot of the bed.

“Whoa! Hello, me.”

The older Destined grinned. “Hello, myself.”

“This is really weird, you know?”

“Yeah, I remember. Still weird the second time around.”

“How are you feeling, love?” Silk asked.

“My horn aches like you wouldn’t believe, and I’m still very tired, but otherwise okay. I could do with a cuddle though.”

Silk was happy to oblige, and added a kiss.

When their attention returned to the group, the younger Destined said, “I’m told that Blue is okay too?”

Pif replied, “He’s sleeping off exhaustion. Cinder should be watching over him at this moment.”

“Cinder? Wow! She must have grown a bit by now.”

“You could say that,” Citrine said with a broad grin.

“Do you think you’ll be up for dinner tonight with the rest of us?” Lucida asked.

“If I rest for a while longer, I think I’ll be fine. I just hope my hornache abates by then.”

The older Destined said, “Considering that you almost burned it out, you’re doing fine and will make a complete recovery. Just don’t forget to not use any magic for a while. The medication will keep the pain under control while it heals.”

“Thanks. Oh, by the way, how far forward in time did we come? I’ve been meaning to ask since I woke up.”

“Two and a half thousand years,” Lucida replied.

“Wow! I lost track while trying to control all that power that Blue was shoving out. I hope it didn’t cause any complications?”

Silk replied with a smile, “The only complication is that I now seem to be in a three-way relationship.”

Young Destined stared at Silk, then at his older self, and then back at Silk. “Oh, come on! You expect me to be jealous of myself?!”

Silk replied, “Well, you know the sexual appetite of us bat-ponies.”

There was laughter all around as Destined blushed – both of them. The elder murmured, “I knew that was coming, and I’m still embarrassed!”

Citrine nudged him in the ribs and said with a smirk, “Nothing we didn’t know already, Des!”

Older Destined just blushed harder.

With the exception of Silk, the group excused themselves with various well-wishes.

The elder Destined said, “I’m going to look in on Blue, but I don’t expect him to be awake for a while. Citrine, you and Shining have training to start. The rest of you are free to do whatever you wish within reason. Yes, I’m looking at you, Pif. Gala, please help everyone get a guest room. I’ll see you all later at dinnertime.”

Gala located the major domo who assigned guest rooms to everyone. With that taken care of, they went various ways to indulge in some relaxing activities. As it was quite a warm day, Forest declared that he was heading for the pool, and Glenn thought that was a great idea. That resulted in all of them heading for the pool.

# # #

The older Destined entered Blue’s room and dismissed the nurse in attendance. The mare gratefully left, having been discomforted by the huge dragoness who currently had her forelegs resting on the balcony and her head propped on them while she gazed at the sleeping stallion.

“No change, I take it?” Destined asked.

“He has moaned and shifted a couple of times, but hasn’t woken up. The nurse seems to think that could happen anytime though. She would not allow me to try waking him.”

“She’s right – he should be allowed to wake up when he’s ready.”

“Do you have a memory of when that is going to happen?”

“Only that it will happen before dinner. You will have a chance to talk with Blue before then.” Destined scanned Blue with his magic and nodded. “As the doctors have said, he’s just exhausted. My younger self actually came out of it worse than Blue.”

“I suppose after waiting two millennia, I can wait a few hours more.”

“At least you got to spend a lot more time with your true love than I did.”

Cinder gave him a keen look. “You’re envious that I will get to spend some private time with Blue, while you can only watch while your younger self spends that time with Silk.”

Destined snorted. “You read me like a book. So many centuries since his death, and yet my love for him has not dimmed in the least.”

“You will have to let him go, Des. You’ve only hung on this long because you knew that this day would come. Even the Alicorn of Time cannot change what’s to come.”

“You’re wrong. I could.”

“But you won’t.”

Destined sighed. “No, I won’t, but it still hurts.”

“Then take this opportunity to say a proper farewell.”

“I can’t come between Silk and my younger self.”

“You’re right – you can’t. You literally cannot do that because Silk loves you. Not past you; not future you; just you – Destined Path. Make sure he knows that you still love him before he must leave.”

“But I did tell him that we had a full and loving life together!”

Cinder just lifted a brow ridge and looked at him pointedly.

Destined looked away, saying, “Alright, I’ll do it! You’re fine one to talk anyway. You’re here watching Blue every moment until he wakes up.”

“Blue and I never got the chance to say goodbye to each other. I will correct that situation and then get on with my life. His daughter will replace me as Matriarch one day, and my life will be fulfilled. You, though, are immortal, and you cannot spend the rest of that life pining for what you cannot have. It’s well past time that you found another love.”

“Perhaps as you say, I will lay this to rest, and move on at last.”

“Yeah, for buck’s sake, go out and get laid, Des,” came another voice.

Both Destined and Cinder looked toward the bed to see Blue propped up on the pillow.

“What?” Blue asked as he observed their expressions. “Can’t a guy get some sleep without two lovelorn people waking him up? Great new look, by the way, Des. Cinder, love, you’ve grown up a bit. Just how long was I in a coma?”

Destined chuckled. “You’ve only been unconscious for a few hours. On the other hoof, you did manage to arrive twenty-five centuries in the future.”

“Really? You were supposed to take me to some other time, if I recall correctly.”

“You were overwrought with grief, and you wreaked havoc with all the power that you drew from the hill. It took a lot of earth ponies decades to restore the life energy of Blight Hill.”

Blue looked ashamed. “Sorry about that; it was a terrible shock to me. Worst of all, I was truly tempted to take Chrysalis’ offer.”

“It’s okay, Blue; we understand. I only wish that all this was over, but you still have a massive task ahead of you.”

“That’s one reason why I am here,” Cinder said. “Tomorrow we will depart for the Dragonlands to complete your preparations. When you face the Nightmare, you must be ready to match her power.”

“And how am I supposed to do that? I saw what Nightmare Moon did to Destined in one alternate timeline despite the rest of the team being with him. I’ve grown a lot in my power level, but I don’t think I’m near hers yet.”

Destined said, “The Nightmare is the minion of Destruction. Creation has its servant too, but it needs a host just as the Nightmare has Chrysalis. You will be that host when you are ready.”

“Seriously? What’s it called? Daydream? Nightmare Chrysalis at least sounds cool, but I don’t want to be called Daydream Blue.”

Destined and Cinder both laughed. When she could contain her chuckles, Cinder said, “I believe that you have already made its acquaintance in your last session with the Seers.”

Blue suddenly recalled the words that he had heard in his mind just before he departed the crystal cave of the Seers – ‘I am the balance that you seek. I am the antithesis of Destruction. I have many names, but you may call me Creation.’ “Oh… I remember now. The Seers called it… umm… Bii Bolgokh. He said I was ready.”

Cinder nodded. “Then it’s truly time for the final step. You will meet your final destiny soon.”

“Looking forward to it.” Blue slumped back onto his bed as his weariness caught up to him. “But first – a nap.”

Cinder chuckled. “Rest well, beloved. I will watch over you while you sleep.” She then looked at Destined. “And you remember your brother’s advice.”

Destined rolled his eyes. “Yeah! Yeah! I get it.” He headed out of the room, mumbling, “Twenty-five centuries old, and I’m still being nagged!”

# # #

Playing in the pool proved to be a great way of taking everyone’s mind off the recent stresses and the battle which lay ahead. There was a lot of shrieking and splashing while they let off steam. Glenn eventually climbed out of the pool to take up a deck chair shaded by an umbrella. He lay down on the chair and spread his wings to let them dry out properly. Watchful followed suit in the chair next to his. When their wings were dry, they folded them up again. Glenn immediately started preening them, but he soon noticed that Watchful was not doing the same.

“How often have you taken a form with feathers?” he asked her curiously.

“A few times. My typical disguise when I needed one was a unicorn though.”

“And how long did you keep those feathered forms?”

Watchful thought for a moment. “Usually just a few hours at most.”

Glenn nodded as she confirmed what he suspected. “You’ve never learned how to preen your feathers, have you?”

Watchful shook her head. “I never needed to learn.”

Glenn got off his chair and sat beside hers. “That explains why your feathers are a mess. Spread this wing and I’ll show you how.”

Watchful did as she was told, and Glenn set to work, explaining as he proceeded to straighten some quills and pull out the occasional loose feather.

Watchful listened attentively, but became aware of just how appealing this intimate procedure was. The emotions that she tasted coming from Glenn seemed to indicate that it was not unpleasant for him too. When he finished with that wing, he asked whether she wanted him to do the other wing, or was she ready to do it on her own? She thought she had it down pat, but she asked him to do the other wing anyway.



“There!” Glenn said with satisfaction when he finished the second wing. “Now your plumage looks perfect. I think you will get the hang of it quickly enough.”

As Glenn went back to his chair, Watchful said, “You need to finish your preening too. May I… may I practice with you?”

Glenn smiled. “Please do.” He held out a wing and Watchful got into position to preen it properly. She started a little slowly, but with some encouragement from him, she quickly got faster at it. Without a word, they swapped wings when the first was done, and she continued.

Lucida nudged Pif and pointed at the two, and they both giggled.

“Tell me he’s not getting turned on right now,” Lucida said.

“Oh, he’s horny alright. And if she’s consuming those emotions that I’m tasting, we’d better give them a little privacy.

Lucida grinned and called out, “Hey! You two! Get a room!”

Watchful and Glenn looked up in surprise, and then both blushed.

Lucida said, “Seriously – you two have been mooning over each other for a while now. Go do something about it! At the least you’ll find out if you’re compatible or not.”

Pif added, “Take it from someone who had to have her snout rubbed in it – take up the opportunity for love whenever you get it.”

Watchful and Glenn looked at each other and shyly smiled.

“Do you really want to?” Glenn asked hesitantly.

“I really do,” she replied.

Glenn got up and offered his outstretched talons. “Come with me then, my beautiful hen.”

She took his talons in her own and they began to walk off together.

When they were out of earshot, Pif asked, “So what do you think, Lucy – next Princess Consort of Griffonstone?”

Lucida pondered that for a moment. “They’ve been together for a few months now, and I think they have a strong chance to have a good relationship. They might have trouble convincing the citizens of Griffonstone to accept a changeling on the throne by him though.”

“That’s why they will have House Path supporting them if they need it.”

Gagging noises came from behind them. They looked around to see Forest pretending to vomit. “Oh, barf! Can we stop all this lovey-dovey talk and have some fun?”

Lucida and Pif looked at each other and rolled their eyes. The changeling then picked up the unicorn in her magic, and dumped him in the pool. “Teenagers!” she snorted.

# # #

Two ponies stood on the old training grounds of House Path. The alicorn paced around the crystal pony and she turned her head to watch him.

“If you want to live,” Shining began, “if you want Pif to live, you need to get stronger and smarter. A normal regimen won’t work on you. No – we are going to go a completely different route.”

Citrine knew how to summon her crystal armor; she did so instinctively when she felt there was a threat. It took just a few moments before her fur matted down and formed crystalline patterns on her skin. “What are you planning?” she asked suspiciously.

“Simple... if you survive me, you are strong enough to go back to face Nightmare Chrysalis. If you fail, I’ll go in your place. Either way, the Nightmare can’t be allowed to win.”

“You wouldn’t do that – it would mess up time!”

“I’m not the Alicorn of Time; I’m the Alicorn of Justice and Protection, and the Nightmare will not escape me!” His horn charged up and then all hell broke loose.

Shining’s first attacks were just slow enough and off-target enough for Citrine to dodge and realize that he was being deadly serious. After that, he held nothing back. With a scream of rage, Citrine leaped to the attack, only to be forced back by blast after blast from his horn. Whenever she did manage to get past that, his shield made a mockery of her attacks, and she was forced back again. The punishment was relentless, but Citrine refused to be found wanting. Eventually though, the crystal pony was almost exhausted. There were blast craters and gouges in the ground all around their battle area, but the white alicorn had yet to break a sweat.

Stop running!” Shining bellowed. “Stop evading! You won’t receive any mercy from me, any more than you will get it from the Nightmare!

Citrine stood her ground, but Shining kept blasting at her. The crystal pony kept getting knocked back, chunks of her armor getting blown off only to reform. She finally went on the offensive and charged him using her bat to deflect the blasts. She leaped into the air and swung the bat down for an overhead smash, only to be bucked square in the chest. She collapsed a few feet away and Shining walked over to her, shaking his head.

“Is that all you’ve go–”

Shining was cut off as several crystal spikes formed out of the many chunks of blown-off armor. Three short ones were poking against his belly and one large one was within a whisker of his throat. Citrine grinned smugly.

Shining gulped. “Looks like there might be something deep down after all.” Gingerly side-stepping the wickedly pointed crystal spikes, he picked up Citrine in his magic and started trotting towards the mansion. “Time for warriors to have dinner. We resume training again tomorrow after breakfast. I won’t take it so easy on you next time.”

Citrine’s smile fell.

# # #

Citrine and Shining both showered before heading for the dining room, but they were not the last to arrive. That distinction was earned by Glenn and Watchful who seemed to be sharing secret smiles. Even Blue and young Destined were already present.

With several minutes to go before the food was to be served, the flash-bang of teleportation announced the arrival of an alicorn. With a huge smile on her face, Luna approached the time-team members and started hugging them.

“Lucida! You have no idea how much I have been looking forward to this moment. You’re looking wonderful. Pif! It’s so good to see you again!”

“It’s always wonderful to see you, Mama Luna,” Lucida replied. “Have you finally given up on the thees and thous?”

Luna laughed. “I’m not so slow a learner as that; I adjusted my speech back in your era.”

“You’ve grown a lot,” Pif observed. The Alicorn of the Night now rivaled Celestia in stature.

“I am still the little sister though. 'Tia continues to grow too.”

The younger Destined was next. He nuzzled Luna like a colt does his mother. “I’m so happy to see you again, Mama. It’s been months for me, but I suppose it will have been the same for you back in my proper time.”

Luna stroked Destined’s cheek fondly. “True – I missed you back then, but at least I got to watch you grow up to be the magnificent stallion that I knew you would someday be.”

“You’re making both of me blush, Mama Luna,” the elder Destined complained.

There was general laughter as Blue took Destined’s place.

“Sorry that I got us into this mess, Mama Luna.” Despite being an adult warrior, Blue Streak was no less the young child in the alicorn’s embrace.

“Do not regret what has been done, Blue. Fate had its plans for you, and it has given us this wonderful opportunity to see you once more.”

The rest of the team had hung back, but Luna gestured to Silk and Citrine to come for a hug also. “I know that you both had committed to marriage before you traveled to this time, so it should be no surprise that I consider you to be close family too.”

They both hugged Luna back, and Citrine asked with a grin, “So you know if Pif and I get ‘busy’ and how much?”

Luna grinned at the cheeky mare. “Indeed I do, but I think you already can guess. Like Destined, I will not be giving away knowledge of your futures.”

“Especially since telling you them might alter events,” older Destined reminded them before he was interrupted by another teleportation arrival.

Twilight Sparkle stood there, her mane and tail waving in the ethereal breeze just like Luna’s, the reds and purples shimmering like the sky after the sun had just set, and her stature only a little smaller than the Moon Goddess. Tears welled in her eyes as she looked at all of them, but her gaze settled on Blue Streak.

Blue looked uncertain, but he approached Twilight anyway. “Mama… Mom… I’m sorry that I had to defy you….”

He was cut off as Twilight stepped forward to embrace him fiercely. “No, Blue, you were right to do so, and I was an overprotective fool. I’ll understand that soon after you get back, but I have waited two millennia to give you that reassurance now to take back with you for the deciding battle. History balances on a knife’s edge, and you must go back with the confidence that you have taken the right path so that this bright future of ours comes to pass. I love you, my first son – never forget that.”

“I love you too, Mom.”

Pif, Lucida, and Destined took that as their cue to join in the hug. They might have continued that for ages if the House servants had not started wheeling in the food for dinner. The meal was enjoyed by all, but nobody left the table for hours. This was a family reunion like no other, and no one wanted the moment to end.

# # #

Pif was frustrated. As wonderful as the conversation had been at dinner the previous evening, it had pointedly avoided virtually everything about the future that she was so desperately curious to know. The tantalizing glimpses that she’d had so far had only whetted her appetite for more, and she was determined to find out more. Gala was an attentive helper, but was equally capable at frustrating her attempts to learn the forbidden knowledge. Fortunately, she had an ace up her metaphorical sleeve.

Using the privacy of the bathroom, Pif took advantage of the talent that had always eluded all changelings before – her ability to teleport. Her range was laughable compared to even the most basic unicorn practitioners, but it would let her get away from her watchdog.

Pif teleported to the limit of her ability, appearing on a hilltop to the west of the mansion, staggering from the effort. She took a deep breath and let it out with a satisfied sigh. “Free at last,” she murmured.

“Going somewhere, sis?” came a voice behind her.

Pif whirled around to see the older Destined lounging on a boulder, watching her with an amused smile.

“Wha–? How did you know…?”

Destined chuckled. “You didn’t think I’d forget that you can teleport, did you? I have a teleportation detection grid spell surrounding the House. I knew exactly where you were the instant that you left. I also know that you’re pretty much limited to one teleport a day unless you get a massive love energy infusion to power up again, so you aren’t about to get any further that way today.”

“Buck! I didn’t even hear you teleport behind me though!”

Destined disappeared with barely a flicker of light and the tiniest pop, rematerializing next to her just as quietly. “After a couple of thousand years, I’ve refined the ability a lot. I’m actually better at it than even Celestia now. After all, space-time is kind of my thing.”

“Show-off!” Pif pouted.

“Sorry to be a spoilsport, Pif, but there’s really a good reason for not getting hold of anachronistic knowledge.”

Pif waved away his explanation. “I know! I know! No need to lecture me.”

“You’re not going to give up trying though, are you?”

Pif smirked at him. “Did you ever doubt it, Des?”

Destined laughed. “I’d think some other changeling replaced my sister if you didn’t. Anyway, want a lift back to the mansion?”

Pif sighed. “Might as well, I suppose. Get some training in and plot my next escape.”

“That’s the spirit!” With barely a noticeable disturbance, the two disappeared from the hilltop.

# # #

Lucida listened sympathetically to Pif’s recounting of her attempt to leave House Path. She was hardly surprised that her sister had attempted to evade her minders, but Pif’s unending thirst for knowledge had to be curbed this time. On the other claw, she had been dying of curiosity too. Ever since she had seen the glittering tops of some magnificent towers of the city, she had been aching to see what her hometown looked like now after thousands of years of progress.

The capital city of Griffonia was constructed within a massive extinct caldera, and the biggest building in it during Lucida’s time was the palace in the center, but even that did not reach even halfway to the level of the rim. These buildings towered far above the rim though, and considering that griffons did not build with magic, that accomplishment left her nearly breathless with excitement. She had to see them for herself.

Sneaking away was not going to be easy though. While she could not teleport, and she would be spotted in a moment if she tried to fly there, the team’s recent time-travel adventures had improved her skills at discreet surveillance and avoiding detection. After the morning’s training session, she took the opportunity to ostensibly go freshen up, but instead began the task of leaving the House grounds without being spotted. The building was simple enough – the mansion had changed so little despite the years that she knew virtually every nook and cranny. She had practiced hide and seek in it as a chick, and she had not grown up so much as to forget those times. The grounds were trickier as there were several open areas, but there were ways of traversing them unobtrusively too. A route that took her through the arboretum also avoided aerial surveillance, and soon she reached the limits of the formal gardens.

Natural forest bounded the grounds of House Path, and Lucida slipped into it, weaving her way through the undergrowth, hoping that she did not meet any of the deer folk who considered this their territory even though it was shared with the House. While it was great for concealment, progress was terribly slow, and she would take hours to get anywhere. Lucida judged that it was time to take to the air. Finding a gap in the canopy, she took off and rose up until she just cleared the treetops. She flew low to avoid being seen against the sky, and she headed swiftly towards the steep outer slopes of the caldera, congratulating herself on a plan well executed.

“Lovely day for flying, don’t you think?” came a voice from above Lucida.

Startled, the hippogriff rolled and looked up, but spotted nothing at first. Then feathers and fur started to change hue and a formerly sky-blue hippogriff became visible as Wisebeak assumed darker colors while matching her pace about twenty meters above her. “How…?” she sputtered. “How did you find me?”

Wisebeak chuckled as he dropped down to her level. “House Path and the Chrome Hive still practice the reconnaissance techniques pioneered by you among others, plus a few tricks learned since then. It was inevitable that you would try to use them and satisfy your curiosity. We worked out your most likely route and kept up surveillance. Sure enough, here you are.”

Lucida groaned. “Foiled by myself!”

Wisebeak grinned. “Essentially, yes. Now I can’t allow you to visit the city, but may I suggest a nearby café where we could have a pleasant chat?”

“I suppose I might as well. Lead on, Lord Path,” she said with a trace of sulkiness.

Wisebeak veered to the right, and they headed toward a roadway that wound its way down the steep outer slopes of the caldera. An old way-stop had grown into an inn for travelers before they hit the city, and they both alighted outside of a coffee shop. Lucida looked around and appreciated why it was so popular. The scenery from this vantage point was magnificent, and even the portion of the population that could fly would appreciate the view while they dined. The buildings looked amazingly different though, undoubtedly a product of advancements in technology, but Lucida was disappointed when Wisebeak chose outdoor seating, so she did not get even a glimpse inside. At least she could appreciate the vista.

“This place has a lot of rustic charm, which is one reason why I like it,” Wisebeak said, “but I suppose to you it’s still a lot different from what you’re used to, so I won’t let you go inside.”

“Would you really stop me if I got up right now and walked inside?”

“Physically – no? But I will guilt-trip you like crazy.”

Lucida sighed. “You have the advantage of knowing me too well. I’ll behave.”

Wisebeak chuckled. “It’s not the end of the world. Anyway, there’s still plenty that we can chat about, but first – refreshments. Hello, Viana.”

The griffoness that Wisebeak addressed smiled and said, “Welcome, Lord Path. It’s been a while since your last visit. And who is this lovely hippogriff with you? I’ve never seen her before. A relative of yours, I take it?”

“A distant one, yes. First time we’ve met though, so I’m showing Lucy some of the sights.”

“How nice! I hope you’re enjoying your visit, Lucy.”

Lucida smiled at the cheerful waitress. “It’s been nearly perfect so far.”

“Can I take your orders now?”

They both decided on coffee and cake, and as Viana left to fill their orders, Lucida turned back to Wisebeak and asked, “Why did you use my nickname?”

“Lucida Path is a rather famous name. Most griffons and the other citizens of Griffonia know of the first hippogriff Lord of House Path. It would be considered disrespectful to take that name.”

“Ah, yes, I see what you mean.”

“Besides, Lucy suits you, and I’m family and claim the right to use it.”

Distant family, as you said. So what did you want to talk about?”

Wisebeak grew serious. “It’s inevitable that you will take back with you hints of what the future holds. We could never hope to contain that knowledge short of locking you away in rooms from the moment that you arrived until you left again. We’re trusting you not to abuse the freedom that we have given you. And no, this and Pif’s attempt aren’t going to be held against you because you would not be you if you hadn’t tried. However, we will also persist in limiting what you learn.”

“I understand, even if I don’t like it,” Lucida replied.

Wisebeak smiled again. “Good, because now I am going to talk about some things that I feel you should know. As leader of the time-team, you need to prepare yourself and the team members for what is to come, and there are a few things that you must understand in order to prevail.”

“I’m listening.”

“First – know your enemy.”

“That’s easy – Chrysalis and the Nightmare.”

“No. Nightmare Chrysalis is the proper answer. The changeling queen started as the willing host for the Avatar of Destruction, just as Princess Luna once accepted its siren call. As the Nightmare’s power grows, its host’s needs and desires are gradually subsumed until the two are completely one and controlled by the Nightmare.”

“That explains the last History change that we corrected,” Lucida said thoughtfully. “We could see no great advantage for Chrysalis that time. In fact we never even learned if she took in pony refugees like the other hives did. Knowing her though, she most likely did not, resulting in the death of herself and the entire Blue Hive.”

“Exactly. The Nightmare only cares about death and destruction. It plays along with the host’s wishes until it can take control. Chrysalis’ memories and desires are still there, but warped to suit the Nightmare. That is what you face, not a changeling Queen wanting to conquer the world; you are fighting for its very existence.”

“Then it’s essential that we target the Nightmare as soon as possible. Last time she was beaten by Mama Twilight and her friends with the power of the Elements of Harmony. The Elements were returned to the Tree of Harmony, but the six remain Avatars of the Aspects of Harmony and don’t need the Elements anymore. Mama has even arranged other possible Avatars, and Sunset Shimmer proved that it could be done, so we should ensure that they are involved. However, the invasion of the Crystal City by Chrysalis showed that Harmony is not really a weapon, so it’s going to be tricky.”

Wisebeak nodded. “Truer than you realize. The Nightmare won’t be caught so easily by surprise this time. Letting the Avatars near her is the last thing that she will allow. That’s why it will be up to your team to bring her down.”

“But how? If it’s going to take Harmony to defeat the Nightmare, how can we defeat her? I thought that Blue was supposed to take care of her, otherwise why all the training and changes that he’s undertaken?”

“Blue himself will tell you that he is to serve as host for the Nightmare’s counterpart – a servant of Creation. But Creation and Destruction are opposite sides of the same coin. They can only balance each other in the end. The answer lies elsewhere, and it lies within your team.”

“And now you’re beginning to get cryptic,” Lucida complained.

“Destined already told you that you have what you need – you only have to understand what Harmony is and how to create it. Remember your lessons, Lucida – the power behind Harmony is the Magic of Friendship. As the team’s leader, you have to ensure that the elements are in place. It won’t be easy.”

Lucida nodded soberly just as Viana turned up with their coffee and cake.

“Will that be all?” the griffoness asked.

“Yes, thanks,” Wisebeak replied. “Although you could assure me that you’ll come to next Friday’s dinner. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you and your husband there.”

“We didn’t want to abuse your hospitality, sir.”

“Nonsense! You’re a good friend of the House. I expect to see you then.”

“Thank you, Lord Path. We’ll be there.”

Wisebeak nodded in satisfaction as Viana left to serve other customers. He took a sip of his coffee and sighed in satisfaction.

“Still doing the Informal Fridays?” Lucida asked.

“An unbroken tradition since the time of its inception,” Wisebeak agreed.

“But you’re inviting the common griff too? Not that I object, but doesn’t it get a bit overwhelming?”

“Absolutely everyone is welcome. Every newcomer is a new friend.”

“And Friendship is Magic, right?”

Wisebeak smiled at her and his eyes briefly glowed as they showed the power contained within him. “Indeed, and I have a lot of friends.”

# # #

After breakfast, Blue Streak had been released by the medical staff who declared that he was fully recovered. That was extraordinary for a normal pony, but hardly unusual for Blue. The staff had helped him put together some supplies and equipment to take with him when he departed with Cinder to further his preparations. They were ready to leave around midday, but stayed for lunch so that they could all have one last meal as a family. Then Blue climbed into the set of magitek wings that they had supplied him and took off with Cinder as the rest waved farewell.

Destined was allowed to take part in activities for the first time. After inadvertently trying to use his injured horn a couple of times and paying the price for the attempts, he was given a magic-suppressor ring to put on his horn. He hated the dead feeling it invoked, but at least it spared him the migraines that resulted when he tried to push magic through the burned mana channels. He had to wait for them to heal first. However, physically he was otherwise fit, and it was an excellent opportunity for him to practice his non-magical techniques.

While Destined was a warrior-scholar of House Path, he tended toward the scholarly side of things far more. The upcoming battle meant that he needed more preparation to be ready to fight for his and his teammates’ lives, and he joined in sparring sessions with the others, along with some of the House Path fight instructors.

While Lucida did not shirk her training, she did spend extra time observing her team-mates… no, her friends and family… and thought more upon Wisebeak’s words. The time that they had spent together with the dragon clan, and the adventures that they had together had grown a bond between them all, but did they really have that essential spark? Blue was slated to play another role, it seemed, but that left eight of them still. Six were needed, but who might make a suitable avatar? Was she destined to be one? She did not know, but she was determined that they would all have the opportunity to find out.

As essential as their training was, recreation was just as important. Whether it was more swimming, a competitive game, or even a party one night, they did it all as a group. While Pif and Citrine, and Destined and Silk were already couples, she watched the growing rapport between Watchful and Glenn with greater satisfaction. If two non-pony members could forge a relationship between them, that increased the likelihood of them being compatible with Harmony. After all, since when was Harmony confined to ponies?


Pif tried two more times to sneak out to the city, but was brought back promptly. She concluded that they had some means of tracking her that was unknown back in her time, and she finally gave up. The whole team was frustrated though when Friday came around and they were told that they could not join in on the informal gathering.

“I’m truly sorry,” Wisebeak said with genuine regret, “but there will be too many people here that would give away far too much anachronistic knowledge. I’m afraid that I’m going to have to ask you to remain confined to your rooms. The staff will bring your meals up for you.”

Although Wisebeak and future Destined had managed to counter every attempt to learn forbidden knowledge so far, they apparently failed to account for one thing. At Forest’s request, everyone gathered in his room except Destined and Silk who seemed quite preoccupied with each other in their room.

“So what’s the surprise, Forest?” Pif asked.

The young unicorn grinned. “I planted a recording crystal in the big dining hall.”

“So? Without a unicorn there to use it, that won’t help much.”

Forest just grinned wider. “Are you sure about that, Pif?” His horn lit up, and a sphere of multi-colored light formed between them. Then it suddenly expanded to surround them and the light resolved into three-dimensional images of crystal clarity. The six of them seemed to be in the midst of a growing crowd of ponies, griffons, and other species both familiar and unknown.

“Whoa!” Citrine exclaimed. “This is so cool!”

“How did you do this?” Lucida asked.

“A sympathy spell coupled with my talent,” Forest explained. “I don’t need to be in contact with the crystal to use it, and instead of recording, it’s transmitting the images to me so that I can project the illusion around us. The crystal is part of a centerpiece on a table, so no one is likely to interfere with it, and as long as you keep close to me and stand where the table is, the people are not going to walk through you.”

“But we can’t see our lower halves in the meantime,” Citrine observed, pointing at the tablecloth that surrounded them. “White is so not my color!” she added in a faux snobby voice.

Pif grinned. “And because Des is not here, his older self doesn’t know that Forest is doing this. Score!”

Although she should have supported Wisebeak’s ban, Lucida decided to go along with it. While they could not hear anything nor converse with the dinner-goers, this was finally scratching her curiosity itch. It was a bit voyeuristic of them, but she enjoyed herself until Forest tired and had to drop the illusion. The experience did raise some questions that she could not dare ask though. Some of the visitors were so different that she had to wonder where they came from. What would happen in the future that would make them part of her world?

# # #

After sixteen days, Destined’s horn was judged to be fully healed. Blue had not yet returned though, so the rest of the team continued their training for a few more days. In spite of the fact that no amount of time spent in the future would matter once they traveled back, there was a growing feeling of restlessness. They knew that their presence at the big battle was crucial, and the tension was growing the longer they stayed away. Finally they approached the older Destined.

Lucida said, “I think that you know what we’re here for, Des.”

The alicorn nodded. “Nevertheless I’m going to ask you to wait until Blue is ready also.”

“Can you send him back separately?”

“That isn’t a problem.”

“Then we want to go. We’re as ready as we’ll ever be.”

The older Destined nodded. “History remains unchanged from my memory then. You’re already packed and ready to leave, so gather around.”

As the team members gathered in front of the alicorn, Pif asked, “Have you got a vortex manipulator like the one that the Doctor gave to Blue?”

Elder Destined smiled indulgently. “I don’t need those toys anymore, sis.” He snapped open his wings and his eyes glowed with power. Space-time ripped open at his command, and the team tumbled in.

In far less subjective time than it had taken to reach the future, the time-team tumbled out into reality again. They scrambled onto their hooves and feet, quickly assessing their situation. Two things were immediately obvious – one was that they were not in Griffonia anymore. The other was that they had landed in the midst of a battle, and were all about to be killed.

# # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

No more mucking around - this is it. Everything that the Nightmare/Chrysalis has done has led to this moment. Now all our heroes have to do is survive it, and as Future Destined said, his History is not yet set in stone. Probabilities shift unmercifully, and the time-team struggle to bend them in their favor. But can they really defeat one of this universe's primal powers?

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