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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32. Chapter 20 - The Last Time War Part 2

 

The Nightmare screamed in rage, and fired upon them with all her might, only to see the beam wither and die before touching any of the six. Shafts of rainbow energy linked them all and converged on Destined. His eyes opened and shone with the power contained within him, and he turned his gaze on the Nightmare. A rainbow stream of Harmony erupted from him and enfolded the Nightmare.

The Aspect of Death and Destruction wailed and screeched as she resisted. The prodigious amount of energy that she had taken from the battle was pitted up against the power of Harmony, and for a terrible moment it seemed that she might be successful, but her reserves were quickly spent and her resistance collapsed. Dark putrescent wisps poured out of Chrysalis’ mouth, nostrils, and eyes as the Nightmare was exorcised from her at last, and they shriveled and evaporated in the cleansing brilliance. To Lucida’s surprise though, the Harmony stream did not stop. As she watched, Chrysalis started rapidly shrinking. No – not shrinking – getting younger. Teenager, then adolescent, then child, and finally nymph before Harmony was done with her. The six Avatars then sank to the ground and collapsed in exhaustion.

 

 

Lucida walked over to Chrysalis and looked at her. The changeling looked up at her with innocent eyes, smiled, and giggled. “Well, it looks like you’re going to get a second chance after all, Chryssy,” Lucida said as she picked up baby Chrysalis. She placed the infant on her back between her wings, and Chrysalis snuggled into the feathers and promptly fell asleep. “Oh, I can see I’m going to have fun trying to explain this one,” Lucida grumbled.

The defeat of the Nightmare and the changeling queen under her control had caused all fighting on behalf of the Black Changelings to cease. With half the opposition gone, the Equestrian forces were able to rapidly turn the tide of the battle, and the zebras were pushed back until it became obvious that the battle was lost and they surrendered.

While his friends had been defeating the Nightmare though, Blue had been staring death in the face. Or more precisely, the biggest mana bomb he had ever seen, quietly counting down the seconds until its detonation.

The Nightmare’s plan was fully revealed now. The battle had been irrelevant except as a means for drawing in as many combatants as possible into the area. The more ponies or griffons that turned up, the more changelings and zebras were brought in to fight them. It had been a matter of constant escalation until they reached a peak. Then the mana bomb would go off and kill everyone, friend and foe alike. It did not matter to the Nightmare because as she told Citrine, she could not be killed. Everyone else would die though, Celestia included, and that would have fed the Avatar of Death all the negative energy that she needed to accomplish her real goal – travelling to the deep Past to destroy the world before it was even born.

The Nightmare might still have the last laugh. Blue could not disarm the bomb, nor stop the countdown. He could not destroy it without releasing the terrible energies inside. He could not pick it up and run with it because the crowded streets and battlefield outside would make travel even at his speeds quite slow. His comm had been destroyed, so he could not call for help. He was stumped, and starting to despair.

Up.

“What do you mean – up?” he responded to the unheard word.

Go up!

Blue looked up to where part of the ceiling had collapsed where the supporting wall had been shattered by his passage through it.

“Oh. I don’t have my wings.”

Create them.

Blue blinked in surprise. “I can do that?” Rather than wait for an answer, he closed his eyes and concentrated. The fires of creation flowed around him, and soon he had a magnificent pair of wings complete with a thruster pack. When he opened his eyes, he gave them a looking-over and nodded in satisfaction. “These will do.” He looked back at the bomb and nearly choked when he saw how low the countdown timer had gotten.

Blue grabbed the bomb with his forelegs and willed the thruster to life. He took off, streaking through the gap in the ceiling. He poured on the power, gaining altitude at a prodigious rate. He looked at the countdown. He was rapidly running out of time. He pushed the power pack to produce every bit of thrust possible despite barely being able to hang onto the bomb under that terrible acceleration. The air was getting thinner, and he realized that he should have created a high-altitude pack too. Instead he drew on the enormous power within him to cope, and still he climbed.

How many miles had he risen? Was it enough? He was starting to lose consciousness. Blearily he tried to read the countdown.

10

A little bit further.

9

Every second was an added safety margin.

8

Surely this was enough?

7

Enough… What… what to do?

6

Release the bomb.

5

What now?

4

Turn around.

3

Blue managed to turn, and the thruster started braking him. The mana bomb rapidly shot away from him, escaping the bonds of Equus.

2

“Sorry, Cinder. Not going… to make… it…”

1

. . .

0

The sky lit up as a second sun joined Celestia’s for several seconds. Everyone on the ground looked up in wonder, and moments later they felt a jolt of magic as the shockwave from the explosion reached them. Nothing of great consequence happened though, and everyone was left wondering what had happened as the new sun rapidly died.

Everyone but Cinder who had anticipated this moment. She had seen Blue soar into the sky and knew what it meant. She told the others, and they soberly considered that they had possibly just lost a brother or friend. Not even Cinder could answer that for them.

“Blue’s fate rests on a razor’s edge of probability. What happens is beyond our control,” Cinder said sadly.

Lucida looked up at the great dragoness and had a moment of realization. “You lost him today in your timeline, didn’t you? That’s why you came back with him.”

Cinder nodded. “I had to raise our children without their sire. House Path ensured that they did not lack for parents, but I have never taken another mate.”

“I’m sorry, Cinder.”

“Not your fault that I chose a true hero for my mate, Lucida. He saved Equus so that our children would live to know how great a warrior their sire was. Let us pray that Fate has other plans for Blue this time around.”

The six new Avatars of Harmony had started stirring by this time, and they all got up and gathered with Lucida and Cinder. Watchful was the first to spot the tiny changeling nestled on Lucida’s back.

“Is that Chrysalis?” Watchful asked with a touch of shock.

“Yep. I think Destined’s talent combined with Harmony has reverted her to an innocent infant.”

Watchful’s horn glowed as she probed the child, and she gasped. “She’s unbonded!”

“What do you mean by that?” Lucida asked.

“All changelings are unbonded when they hatch. Normally they bond with the first changeling to give them love, which is usually the Queen. That’s why changelings are always loyal to their hive. Epiphany bonded with her parents who were all present for her hatching and loved her. But Chrysalis seems to have been reset. She will bond with the first person to feed her love.”

“HA!” scoffed Citrine. “She’s going to starve to death then.”

Lucida was about to respond when a squad of griffons descended to join them on the ground. It was the person who led them though who grabbed the hippogriff’s attention.

“Dad! You’re okay!” Lucida hurled herself upon Path as he took his helmet off.

Path smiled and stroked his daughter’s head crest. “I’m so proud of you, Lucy. You and your siblings and friends have achieved a historic victory.”

“It’s Destined and the others who were the Avatars of Harmony that defeated the Nightmare though.”

“A team is only as good as its leader. You have proven yourself beyond a shadow of a doubt.” He turned his head to look at Destined. “And you too, son. You’re shaping up to be a fine Prince of Equestria. Nice crown, by the way. Where did you get it?”

Destined looked up in surprise, not realizing that the artifact was still there. “It came from Harmony, Dad. I… I think it’s a new Element.” He looked around to see that the other five still had the gem-set necklaces. “Make that six Elements. How can that be?”

“Something to be figured out later. Citrine – what happened to you?”

The crystal pony waved the stumps of her forelegs almost nonchalantly. “This? It’s nothing. Saves me the cost of two shoes.”

Path stared in disbelief before he started chuckling. “Never change, Citrine. We’ll see what House Path can do for you later. Anyway, we’ll have time to chat later. I mostly wanted to confirm that Chrysalis has been destroyed so that we can start winding up this battle.”

Lucida grimaced. “Umm… The Nightmare has been banished, and Chrysalis neutralized. She still lives though.” She turned around to show the tiny changeling half buried in her feathers.

The change that came over Path was shocking. His eyes darkened with rage and he reached for the child. “She will not live for much longer!”

Lucida hastily moved away from Path. “No, Dad, this isn’t the same Chrysalis.”

“What do you mean? Have you so quickly forgotten all the pain and suffering that she has put our family through? All the death and destruction she’s responsible for? She has earned the death penalty several times over!”

Lucida frowned. “I hate the things that she did in the past too, but this Chrysalis is now an innocent child. I won’t let her be judged upon the sins of her past, any more than I judged Mama Twilight on the atrocities committed by her alternate timeline self.”

This isn’t an alternate timeline! This creature has not earned forgiveness!” Path blustered, getting redder in the face.

Lucida argued with determination on her face. “This creature is Pif’s grandmother! She tried her best to redeem her and failed. This time we succeeded.”

Just because she’s been reduced to infancy, doesn’t mean that she’s been redeemed! She’s insane and dangerous!” He reached for Chrysalis again.

Lucida turned so that Path could not get at the changeling. “Stop it, Dad! Watchful says that she’s been reset. She’s no more dangerous than the Queens of the other hives.”

I’ll be the judge of that! As the Head of House Path, I order you to give Chrysalis to me!” Path snarled.

Lucida’s blood ran cold, then her brow flattened. When she spoke, her words were like steel. “Lord Long Path, you have allowed your emotions to overrule your judgement and would condemn an innocent to death. You are unfit to rule this House anymore. I invoke the Blueblood clause with my brother and the Avatars of Harmony as my witnesses. I relieve you as Head of House Path. Stand down and threaten this child no more.”

Path stared and gaped for the longest moment, unable to comprehend this turn of events. Then he slowly deflated and sank to the ground. All the anger and hatred drained from him, and tears started to well in his eyes. “What have I become?” he whispered.

Lucida settled down beside him and put a wing around him, disturbing the tiny changeling for a moment before she went back to sleep. “It’s okay, Dad. We all make mistakes, and let’s face it – you’ve been training me to replace you from the time I was a chick. You’re a dreamer, an idealist with big plans, but running a Noble House was never part of those plans. You’ve always been a slightly uncomfortable leader. Now you can pursue your dreams and goals while I look after the House business.”

Path nodded. “You’re right, Lucy. Have I told you how proud I am of you? You’re going to be a much better Lord of House Path than I ever was.”

“You’re still an honored Lord of the House, Dad – just not the boss anymore. We’ve both got a lot of work ahead of us to transition power and responsibility. Meanwhile, we have a bit of a mess here to clean up. Let’s get back to work, hey?”

Path took a deep breath and gave her a small smile. “Yes, boss.”

Lucida chuckled as they got up. “By the way, let your Griffonian warriors know that they were instrumental in our success. Tell them that we couldn’t have gotten to the Nightmare without them. That’s going to have very positive repercussions in the future.”

“Oh? Something tells me there’s more to that. I suppose I’ll hear about it in due course. I’ll talk to you all later.” Path replaced his helmet and reassembled his griffon squad. They took off to take care of mopping up the battlefield and retrieving the wounded.

Destined came over to Lucida and said, “Congratulations, Sis. Or should I say Lord Path?”

Lucida shook her head. “There will only ever be one Lord Path. Dad has earned that much. Lord Lucida Path, will do when being formal, or just Lord Lucida might be better to save confusion. But I’ll kick you in the balls if you start getting stuffy with me.”

Destined cringed. “Right. Lord Lucy it is then.”

Lucida giggled. “Close enough.”

“So – what are we going to do with Chrysalis?”

Lucida looked around at the sleeping changeling. “Well, there’s no way that we can raise her at home. I can’t expect either Dad or Papa Free to completely ignore what she used to be. That’s going to take years. Same deal for the Chrome Hive. She needs to be fostered.”

“Yeah, but where? Put her with a pony family like Papa Free was placed with a griffon family?”

“Actually, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, and I think I know who to place her with.”

# # #

The team made it back to the base camp and joined Celestia in her tent for a debriefing. Queen Carpacia was present too, and her attention was immediately caught by the red changeling in their midst.

“Who is this?” she demanded.

Lucida replied, “This is Watchful Eyes, Your Majesty.”

“Watchful Eyes is a drone. This is a Red Changeling Princess! One that I don’t know, and that’s impossible.”

“This is Watchful, but she’s an Avatar of Harmony now. Her experience seems to have evolved her.”

The Red 'Ling was indeed changed. She was a little taller in stature, and her crest had been replaced by a true mane. Most telling though were her eyes. Gone were the softly glowing red orbs, replaced with the slit eyes of a changeling Queen. Watchful gave Carpacia a nervous smile as the Queen examined her.

Carpacia suddenly smiled. “The hive has never known such a thing to happen before, but the truth is in front of me. You are indeed a Princess now, and you will take your place alongside the other Princesses.”

Watchful looked uncertain. “Actually, Your Majesty, with your permission, I would prefer to remain with the team, and with the one that I love.” She shifted into her griffon form, moved alongside Glenn, and nuzzled him. “A Princess for a Prince.”

Carpacia regarded them for a long moment while they waited nervously for her response. Eventually she sighed. “The world is changing too fast for me, but I see that this might be the way of the future. You have my permission.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.”

Celestia stepped forward then. “If that has been sorted out, perhaps we can now proceed to the debriefing?”

“The sooner, the better,” Lucida agreed, only to be interrupted by Twilight and Free arriving in a flash of light.

“Phew! The teleportation beacons make that so much easier!” Twilight exclaimed. “Anyway, the threat to Ponyville and the Chrome Hive is gone, so we thought we would join you. You can expect Shining and Cadance soon too. I talked to them by comm before coming over. They just had to sort something out first…”

She too was interrupted by a new arrival.

“…which apparently went more quickly than anticipated,” Twilight finished.

“Hello, Twily,” Shining Armor said. “Are we in time for the debriefing?”

Celestia said, “We were just about to begin. Lucida, if you would…?”

Lucida gave her oral report with the rest of the time-team adding relevant details. She started with their journey to the far future and ended with her confrontation with her father.

“So, that is Chrysalis asleep on your back?” Celestia asked. The little changeling had not escaped the alicorn’s notice, but she had waited patiently for the explanation for its presence. “Has she slept since being reduced to an infant?”

“Yes, she has. I believe she needs an infusion of love to energize her, but that will also form the bond, so we must be careful to ensure that the ones who give it to her will raise her too.”

“Who’s going to adopt her though?” Shining asked.

Lucida gave him a nervous smile. “Actually, I was hoping you and Cadance would.”

“WHAT?!”

“Chrysalis is a changeling Queen. Despite Papa Free’s experience, she should not be raised in an ordinary pony’s home. She needs someone to teach her to be a responsible person as she grows up again.”

“Have you forgotten what she did to me and Cadance?!”

“That was a different Chrysalis. This is an innocent child who needs love and guidance, not to mention foster parents who can cope with a powerful child who might throw a tantrum. It would be unfair to put that responsibility on an ordinary pony couple.”

“But I…” Shining was interrupted by Cadance putting a hoof on his shoulder.

“Shiny – I’d like to do this.”

The alicorn stallion stared at his wife and saw the sincere determination in her expression. He sighed and said, “This is what you get when you marry the Alicorn of Love. Okay, dear – you win. I’ll let you raise her.”

“No, we will raise her. You have raised one daughter well enough. You will have the benefit of experience the second time around.”

“Yeah, but I haven’t raised a changeling before.”

Free laughed. “I’ll invite you and my parents over for dinner soon. I’m sure that they can give you some pointers.”

“What about the Crystal Heart? Won’t Chrysalis overload on love energy because of it?”

“Have you already forgotten the amulets I made for visiting changelings so that they would not get burned out?” Twilight pointed out. “I can make a special one specifically for Chrysalis to control how much she gets.”

Shining Armor groaned. “It seems I’m out of arguments. We’ll raise her as you wish.”

Lucida gently removed the changeling from her back and placed her into Cadance’s waiting hooves. The Alicorn of Love smiled down at the tiny 'ling and projected some love into her. Chrysalis yawned and opened her eyes, staring deeply in Cadance’s. She gurgled happily, reaching out to the alicorn with her tiny holey hooves.

“It is done,” Carpacia declared. “The bond has been made. You are now and forever Chrysalis’ foster mother.”

“She will be a wonderful princess. Just wait and see,” Cadance declared confidently.

As people gathered around to have a closer look at child Chrysalis and Cadance bonding, a strange groaning and screeching sound grew louder outside of the tent, eventually drawing the attention of everyone within. It abruptly terminated with a thud just as they headed out to find out what was making the noise. The time-team members recognized it immediately.

“That’s the Doctor’s workshop!” exclaimed Destined.

“Indeed it is,” Celestia agreed. “I have not seen it in quite some time.”

“But how did it get here? And why? Haven’t the time wars ended?”

“Why don’t you ask the Doctor?” Celestia suggested with an amused smile.

The door of the workshop opened just then, and a tan earth pony with a brown mane and tail and an hourglass cutie-mark stepped out. He regarded the onlookers and gave them a grin. “Quite the reception committee!”

Lucida stepped forward. “Doctor! Has something else gone wrong?”

The Doctor gave her a slightly puzzled look before realization hit him. “What? Oh, no! Nothing like that. It’s just that for the first time in ages, I haven’t had to hold reality together for you. Freed me up to get a few other things accomplished for a change. Nicely done, by the way.”

Lucida was relieved. “Thanks, Doctor. We couldn’t have done this without you.”

“Tosh! I couldn’t have done it without you. All of you played your part in this victory.”

Lucida grew sad. “Yes, but some of us paid a heavier price than others. We lost Blue Streak today. Pif was badly injured, not to mention Citrine.”

The crystal pony cheerfully waved one of her stumps from where she was lying on Destined’s back.

“Ah! I knew I was forgetting something!” The Doctor turned around and called through the door. “Derpy, love – can you… oh, I see you have already.”

The Doctor stepped aside as Derpy emerged, pushing a strangely familiar pod.

“You find the strangest things at the edge of space,” the Doctor continued. “There was this pony who was half frozen and virtually dead from suffocation. I restarted his heart and put him in this changeling healing pod that I got from out of my collection.”

Lucida and Destined rushed over to peer into the pod, and recognized the face of the pony inside. “It’s Blue! He’s alive!”

The Doctor scratched his head with one hoof, looking a little puzzled but happy. “Yes, he is. Not sure why though. Something inside of him kept him alive long enough for me to rescue him.”

“The Avatar of Creation,” Lucida told him.

“If you say so. I’ve met stranger things.”

Twilight stepped up then. “We’ll take Blue off your hooves, Doctor. Thank you on behalf of my entire family for saving him.”

Twilight levitated the pod away, heading for the hospital tent. Celestia stepped up then.

“It’s good to see you again, Doctor. It’s been a while.”

“Ah, yes, Celestia. What’s it been – fifteen, twenty years?”

“Try seventy-five,” she replied with amusement.

“Oh. Well, you know how time flies by.”

“Indeed I do. Will you ever come by for that banquet that I promised you?”

“Of course! Love to come! Someday soon. I’ll pencil it into my diary. Got to go now though. Lots of things to catch up on. Come on, Derpy. Time waits for no pony.”

The Doctor chivied Derpy inside the workshop, and shortly later the same strange sound that had brought everyone out there started again. The workshop faded out of sight to the astonishment of all but one of the watchers.

“Farewell, Doctor,” Celestia murmured. “See you again in another seventy-five years or so.”

# # #

The gruesome aftermath of the battle was sickening and saddening. So many ponies and griffons would not be returning to their families, nor changelings to their hives. Then there were the wounded and maimed who would never be the same. Equus had seen wars before, and despite the most optimistic outlook, it would probably see them again. At least the treatments had improved over the centuries. Some things were irreparable, although some ponies took it better than others.

Citrine was terrorizing the staff as she zoomed around in the wheelchair that had been provided. They wanted her to rest up, but she insisted that she was fine. The medic was most frustrated.

“You know that once you become normal flesh and blood, those legs of yours will suddenly become gushing wounds. How long do you think that you can maintain your living crystal form?”

“As long as I need to, doc. Since the Harmony thing, this feels completely natural for me.”

“And if it changes while you’re asleep?” he asked pointedly.

“Nah. I’m a crystallomancer. Things change or not change because I will it.”

“What about pain? Has that abated?”

“Still some pain in the stumps, but these socks save me from the worst of knocks. They’ll do until Techbird puts together those prophetic legs for me.”

“Prosthetic,” the medic corrected. He sighed. “I suppose I can’t stop you as you seem quite healthy otherwise.”

“Woohoo! Freedom!” Citrine spun around in her chair and raced out of the room.

The medic sighed in resignation before he moved on to the next patient.

# # #

Blue Streak recovered consciousness six days after the battle. The nursing staff removed him from the pod, cleaned off the goo that covered him, and then transferred him to a normal hospital bed with orders to rest. He promptly fell asleep, but when he woke in the morning, he found that he had visitors. Twilight, Lucida, and Destined sat by his bedside, and so did a familiar young dragoness who had been fetched from the Dragonlands.

“Cinder. Good to see you, dear.”

“It’s good to see you wake, my warrior,” Cinder replied.

“Have you seen… umm… the older you?”

“I have. I thanked her for enabling you to be prepared to face the Nightmare.”

Twilight said, “The Matriarch Cinder is our guest for now until she decides her future.”

“What do you mean, Mama?” Blue asked.

“In the timeline that she came from, you did not survive your jaunt into space. This time you did, which means her timeline is no longer History. She has nowhen to go back to anymore. That future now has a Cinder who did not lose her mate during the battle.”

“For which I am truly grateful,” Cinder added.

“That is sad. We need to do something for her, Mama.”

“We will – just as soon as we figure out what.”

“How did I survive that anyway? I fully expected to die.”

“Oh, come now! Surely it’s obvious?” came a familiar male voice.

Everyone’s attention shifted to the owner of that voice and his companion who had somehow arrived in the ward without being noticed.

“Discord? What are you doing here…?” Twilight began before her voice froze from shock at recognizing the pony with Discord.

A pure white alicorn mare with bright red mane and tail and a quill with inkpot cutie-mark stood there smiling benignly.

Twilight gaped. “F–Faust? But you… I mean…”

Discord rolled his eyes. “For Pete’s sake, you would think you haven’t seen a demi-god before. Hellooo! I’m here too!” he said, tapping himself on the chest with his mismatched paws.

“Why are you here?” Lucida asked.

“To restore the Balance. Blue Streak carries within him the Spirit of Creation which was needed to counter the Avatar of Destruction. However, that need is past, and while Creation is a positive force, the unbalance would still cause problems after a time.”

“So why doesn’t Creation simply leave now that its job is done?”

“Blue Streak trained hard to make himself a compatible host for Creation, and it’s quite comfortable there. We need to persuade it to leave.”

Faust stepped forward and touched a hoof to Blue’s torso. After a moment, she looked up at Discord who nodded and moved to Blue’s other side. After several long moments, a pale bluish glow started to rise from Blue’s body and took on the form of an ethereal pony with no discernible features. As it did so, the kirin features on Blue started to fade. The pearlescent scales that covered his legs retreated to just above his hooves. His draconic features softened, although the prominent canine teeth remained, as did the slit eyes and cloven hooves.

A deep and powerful voice was heard in their heads. ‘Thank you, Blue Streak. Your dedication and sacrifice will not go unrewarded.

Then it dissolved in a series of sparkles.

“Whoa! That felt weird,” Blue exclaimed. What did it mean by reward?”

Discord grinned. “You’ll just have to find out eventually. If you haven’t figured it out in a couple of hundred years, you can ask me again.” He then snapped his claws and disappeared.

The enigmatic Faust still remained. She smiled and finally spoke. “Take care of my little ponies when they leave their home at last.” Then she quietly faded from existence.

“What do you suppose she meant by that?” Lucida asked.

Twilight shrugged. “I’m still getting over just seeing her. How can I comprehend her motivations?”

“I suppose being enigmatic is part of being what she is. Discord is no better, after all,” Destined opined.

“Well, I’m just a warrior, and I’m not going to stress over things like that,” Blue said firmly. “Right now I’d like to know how the others fared.”

Twilight replied, “Destined, Silk, Citrine, Forest, Glenn, and Watchful were able to channel Harmony to defeat the Nightmare. Citrine lost part of both her forelegs after attacking the Nightmare, but she will be fine. It was Pif who came off worst. She nearly was killed and only an infusion of love from Citrine saved her. She spent a lot of time in a changeling healing pod too. She came out of it a day earlier than you, and she will be fine except she’s lost her wings, and she’s quite upset about that.”

“She can’t shape-shift new ones?”

“Apparently it doesn’t work like that. My research shows that even when they take a form that doesn’t have wings, the cells associated with them are still present. They shape-shift, not disappear. Having them ripped out removed the necessary cells. By the way, that’s why changelings can’t duplicate everything – they simply don’t have the necessary cells to shift them into.”

“Poor Pif. I know she didn’t fly much, but she enjoyed it when she did.”

“At least she survived. So many others died during that battle. Others have been crippled for life. War benefits nopony but creatures like the Nightmare.”

# # #

Despite the best efforts of the medical staff and the usage of changeling healing pods, some combatants still succumbed to their injuries long after the fighting had ended.

One such victim knew that his time had come. The elderly griffon managed to make his desires known, and a messenger was sent to another part of the hospital. She found Blue Streak sitting propped up in his bed with several family members at his bedside. He had been ordered to rest, but he was already getting antsy. When the messenger passed on the request though, nothing could keep him in his bed.

Blue Streak hastened to the griffon’s bedside with Cinder, Destined, Lucida, and Twilight in tow. He gasped when he saw the condition of the griffon.

“Master Warfist!” Blue exclaimed. “I did not know that you had been wounded!”

Warfist opened his one remaining good eye and fixed it upon Blue. When he spoke, his voice was weak and croaky. “I’m dying, Blue Streak. Age has caught up to me at last.” He paused to catch his breath. “Did Cinder tell you about the Final Rite?”

Blue blinked in surprise. “Yes, she did. But Master, that was supposed to involve killing all who sought your glory and honor. I haven’t done that.”

“Would not the Nightmare have taken all that *cough*… and more? Were you not *cough, cough*… instrumental in her eventual defeat?” He panted heavily from his effort to speak.

“I suppose you could look at it that way, but I’m also supposed to fight you to the death. I won’t kill you!”

Warfist’s expression showed a hint of amusement despite his weakness. “As I said, I’m *cough, cough*… I’m already dying. It is time to stop delay…*cough, cough, cough*…delaying the inevitable.” He weakly reached up with trembling talons and pulled off the cords to the devices monitoring him which promptly started beeping in warning.

A nurse rushed in saw what had happened, and she attempted to get to Warfist to reattach them. Blue held her back though and looked over to Twilight.

“Mama, please stop them from interfering.”

Twilight bit her lip. It went against her nature to let this happen, but it was not her place to interfere either. Her horn lit up and a force field came up between Blue and Warfist and the rest of the people in the room. The nurse objected strenuously then rushed out to find help.

Warfist coughed again before saying, “Remove the IV’s.”

Blue pulled out the needles in Warfist’s forelegs, and blood oozed out of the entry points.

“Now – drink my heart’s blood.”

Blue dipped his hoof into the blood and licked it off.

Warfist sighed and closed his eye. “You have brought death to me… and drunk my blood. *cough, cough* The ritual… is complete. Hereafter you are Warmaster… General Blue Streak Warfist XVI.” He broke into a fit of coughing that gradually grew weaker. “You have accrued… all the honor of… my bloodline. I am… proud of you… son….”

There was one last sigh as Warfist exhaled his final breath. Then he was still, and the only sound that could be heard over the noise of the medical devices was that of Blue Streak weeping.

# # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

So – how many of you remembered about the Final Rite that was brought up in the last chapter of “The Growing Years”? That’s been a long time coming to fruition, as have so many other threads. Still some more to be tied up in the final chapter.

I've had that child-Chrysalis picture sitting around on my hard drive for a year! Yes, this had been planned from long before I had finished writing The Growing Years, and so many other things going back to A Different Perspective. This has been a heck of lot of work planning out an arc that has spanned three novels (in collaboration with AlaskaIsCold), and I'm not quite done. See you soon with the epilogue!

ART -- let this convince you that I'm not sane. You don't want to know how much money I have spent on it, but can you argue that it wasn't worth it? Kat Miller did some awesome work this time around. I printed a poster of the new Avatars of Harmony just to put it up on the wall of my den. Check out Kat's Fur Affinitypage for how to get a commission of your own done. And if you would like to help my poor bleeding bank account, please consider donating a little something to my Paypal account.

   
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