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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33. Chapter 21 - Consequences

The pristine halls and rooms of Canterlot Palace seemed far removed from the bloody plains of the Zebrican battlefield, but it was there that the time war and Nightmare Chrysalis’ horrendous campaign to destroy all life was finally brought to a close. Every person in authority who had been involved was fully updated, the time-team debriefed, and plans put in place to start rebuilding the relationship with the people of Zebrica. Although the zebras were the dominant race there, many others shared the continent, and the giraffe tribes were among the first to seek the aid from the coalition. There was even a representative of the zebras in the form of Zazu, the chief of a small tribe that had rejected the call of the Nightmare. The fighting had ended now, and it was time to deal with the consequences and begin making a better future for all.

 

 

Long Path formally announced the transfer of leadership of House Path to Lucida at the summit. He was respectfully applauded for his service, and Lucida was given many assurances that House Path would play a strong role in the futures of all the interested parties, and would be given as much cooperation as needed.

As the summit finally adjourned, Destined sought out Luna and Celestia. “Mama Luna, Auntie Celestia, may I have a private word with you?”

Celestia nodded. “Come join us in the tea room. You can talk with us there while we have refreshments.”

The ever-alert palace staff had a steaming pot of tea waiting for the princesses, as well as some scones with whipped cream and strawberry jam. Celestia dismissed the servant and closed the door firmly while Luna poured the tea. When they had made themselves comfortable, Luna turned her attention fully to Destined.

“I gather that this must be something that thy mother cannot help you with?”

Destined nodded. “While I’ll want Mom’s support, I need the help of people with a lot longer viewpoint and experience. Only two come to mind.”

Celestia looked concerned. “What could trouble you so much that you need to turn to a couple of ancient alicorns for aid?”

“The fact that I’m going to be an ancient alicorn too one day, and one with extraordinary power. Auntie, my future self hurled us all back in time two and a half millennia with what seemed to be total ease. Can you imagine what I will be able to do with that power someday? I will be able to manipulate probabilities at will to achieve my goals. If I have an enemy, I could make them cease to exist, and no pony would ever know. I’m frightened that I will be seduced by all that power and become as big a threat as the Nightmare ever was!”

Luna moved to lie against Destined’s side and put a wing around him in a reassuring hug. “Dost thou truly think so little of thyself that thou dost think that thou wouldst become such a tyrant? Nay, Des – thou hast ne’er been anything but the most kindly of colts and thou hast grown into a fine young stallion.”

Celestia looked a little more grave. “Destined has a point though, sister. It’s not as if there hasn’t been precedent.”

Luna blushed but replied, “Our circumstances are vastly different, sister. Destined has the benefit of family and friendships that I never had.”

“I think that might be why he has come to us today, Luna. Isn’t that true, Destined?”

The alicorn stallion nodded. “I realized that I’m going to have to take my role as Prince of Equestria a lot more seriously. I want you to teach me how to rule responsibly, and give me the benefit of your centuries of experience. I want to participate in the courts on a more regular basis, but I can’t ask Lucida to be my advisor now because she’ll be too busy with House Path business.”

Celestia smiled. “So – an apprenticeship of sorts? I believe that I can fit that into my schedule.”

“I would love to have thee join me for the Night Court upon occasion,” Luna agreed. She gave her sister a little smirk. “And give thee a little balance to 'Tia’s teachings.”

Celestia gave Luna the royal razz and then winked at Destined. His mood lightened considerably then. The two of them would never do such in front of their subjects, but here they were his mama and auntie – his family. He felt a lot more reassured about his future.

Celestia said, “We will draw up a schedule for you soon. Meanwhile, we have something of equal importance to ask of you.” She exchanged a meaningful glance with her sibling.

Destined gave them a puzzled look. “What’s that?”

Luna gave him a huge grin. “When’s the wedding?!” she asked gleefully.

Destined’s nerves came crashing back. “A-heh! Umm….”

# # #

“Hurry up, you two!” Lucida yelled up the stairs. “Des will murder us if we’re late for the ceremony!”

“Stop panicking, Lucy,” Pif’s voice came back. “We’ve got plenty of time yet. Besides, we’re ready.”

Pif appeared at the top of the stairway, with Citrine riding on her back. The changeling had reverted to her old favorite form – a hybrid earth ponyling. She had grown a lot since she had last taken that form, and she had matured into a beautiful mare. Of course she could alter her looks as she saw fit, but if she just let herself go the way she ‘felt’ was right, she always ended up like this. Her body was strong and toned, but her lustrous coat and long mane gave her a sexy look rather than that of a workhorse, and her slit eyes and small fangs added an exotic touch. It suited her to be seen as the daughter of an earth pony, but at the moment her powerful form had a more practical use. Because Citrine was still missing her front hooves, Pif liked to carry her fiancée around. The crystal pony did not like to be seen as helpless, but neither did she knock back the chance to snuggle Pif a lot.

Both mares were adorned in their finest dresses designed by Rarity as bridesmaids for Destined and Silk’s wedding. The fact that neither of the stallions was a bride hadn’t stopped Citrine from insisting on her and Pif taking that role. “It’s the biggest, gayest marriage of the century – they gotta have bridesmaids!” she had declared, and eventually got her way.

Lucida had to admit that they had spent their time well getting ready for the ceremony. “You’re both going to look magnificent when you eventually get married. Have you decided on a date yet?”

Citrine replied, “I told you - not until I can stand on all four hooves again when I say my vows.”

“How are the legs coming along?”

Citrine held up one foreleg. It was considerably longer than it had been, and had grown a fetlock joint plus a few more centimeters. She flexed the new joint as she said, “It’s not as easy regenerating living crystal legs as it is to make armor or weapons, but give me three or four more weeks and I think I’ll be back to normal.”

Pif grinned. “Meanwhile I have an excuse to carry her around with me.”

Citrine leaned down to nuzzle Pif. “Nah, you don’t need an excuse. Now onward, my faithful steed. To the wedding!”

Pif winked at Lucida and trotted out the door.

Hype chuckled as she joined Lucida in the hallway. “I’m glad that Citrine will be joining the family. She’s always good at making me smile.”

Lucida nodded. “I agree, but even more importantly, she’s what Pif needs to keep her from getting reclusive and too absorbed in her work. They’re wildly different, but balance each other out so well.”

“All your siblings have mates or future spouses now. How about you, Lucy? Now that all the crises are out of the way, do you think you’ll find time to find a special someone too?”

Lucida grimaced. “With the transition of power from Dad to me, I think I’m going to be a little too busy to go dating anytime soon. Besides, not too many males are interested in a hippogriff anyway. I’m not a pony, nor am I a full griffon. I’m a little too exotic for most.”

“Not too exotic for me,” Hype replied.

“Maybe, but you’re my sister,” Lucida pointed out.

“From two totally different sets of parents and from different timelines,” Hype rebutted emphatically.

Lucida looked at the changeling curiously. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

Hype started to look nervous. “Umm… yeah. I’ve kind of got a crush on you.”

The hippogriff blinked in surprise. “Really? Ahh… I hate to break it to you, but I like guys.”

“You’ve mostly seen me in my natural form, and occasionally in some disguise whose gender was irrelevant. Back in my old timeline though, I spent most of my days in Ponyville in male pegasus form.” Hype’s body was engulfed in green magic flames before they cleared to reveal a hippogriff with a maroon pelt and light red tail and crested mane. A male hippogriff. “You see, I like girls.”

Lucida stared at Hype, wondering how she had managed to miss what was pretty obvious now. Hype had been spending a lot of time with her, even when it hadn’t been particularly necessary. True, they had gotten along quite well, but she had put that down to Hype’s obsessiveness with order which meshed nicely with her own organisational skills. Lucida had not considered the possibility that the changeling princess just wanted to hang out with her.

Hype nervously waited for Lucida to say something. He was quite handsome, and Lucida was reminded of Steady Gaze and the relationship that she’d had with him. She also remembered the promise that she had made to him to not ignore someone who might find her desirable. Then she gasped as she remembered something that had been said to her more recently – ‘It’s the changeling genes in me.’ Wisebeak Path’s words rocked her. He was her descendant, and he was at least a small part changeling! Could he have been giving her a hint? She saw Hype’s earnest hopeful looks and realized that here was someone whom she already knew was compatible with her, and she liked a lot. She made up her mind. What the hell – why not?!

 

 

Lucida gave Hype a reassuring smile and said, “Will you be my date for the wedding, Hype?”

Hype burst into happiness at both Lucida’s words and the taste of her feelings as she made her decision. “I would love to, Lucy.”

“Excellent. I’ll expect a stallion like you should know how to show a mare a good time. Especially after the reception….” Lucida let that just hang there as she turned towards the doorway. “Come on – we can’t be late for the wedding!”

Hype hastened to follow, unable to stop grinning happily.

# # #

Silk sought out Twilight Sparkle even as the reception continued to celebrate his union with Destined. He intended that his absence would be brief enough to go virtually unnoticed.

Twilight had only just started to relax after making sure that the wedding had gone off without a hitch. Checklists had been quadruple-checked, and back-ups had been in place for all eventualities. Now that the ceremonies had all been completed without a problem, she thought that she was home free. Now she started fretting again. “Oh no! What’s gone wrong? Was the wine sour? Did someone get the wrong meal?” She gasped. “Did you and Destined have a disagreement?!”

“Princess! Calm down! I just wanted to ask a favor of you.”

Twilight stared at him for a moment, then brought her right hoof to her chest as she breathed in deeply. Then she exhaled as she pushed the hoof away from her body. “Sorry about that. I haven’t been so nervous since my own wedding. Speaking of which, you’re my son-in-law now, so none of this ‘Princess’ business. Just Twilight, or even Mama Twilight will do.”

Silk smiled. “Mama Twilight, I need help to send a message to someone very dear to me, and I believe that you are one of the few who can do that for me.”

Twilight raised a curious eyebrow. “You have me intrigued.”

# # #

A much older Prince Destined sat down on the large pad behind the desk in his office at House Path in Griffonia. He sighed in deep satisfaction. Sending Matriarch Cinder back with Blue Streak as she had all but demanded had been a necessary risk that he had known beforehand would need to be taken. He had been able to converge the timelines so that History had remained virtually unchanged despite the fact that it now showed that Blue had lived to raise his children with Cinder. There were some interesting time ripples to investigate later, but for now he could relax for the first time in ages.

His attention was suddenly caught by something happening above him near the ceiling. A spell was unraveling! He readied his power to deal with whatever it was, but there was only a tiny pop, and a letter fluttered down to land on his desk. Sensing no further magic active upon it, he picked it up telekinetically and looked at the writing upon it. ‘DESTINED PATH’ was all it said. Apparently a letter for him, but from whom? Destined opened the envelope and removed the letter from inside. He gasped as he recognized the hoofwriting, and he started reading it eagerly.

My beloved Destined Path,

Your mother helped me ‘post’ this to you. At the time that I seal the envelope, we have just been married and are celebrating at the reception. Do you know what it was like for me to make that vow to be your husband, and knowwith utter certainty that our union will be strong and last a lifetime? You met your younger self too, but I could see and feel that even thousands of years had not dimmed your love for me. I found that absolutely overwhelming – to be loved so completely and unconditionally that an immortal alicorn would love a mortal pony like me that much and for so long. I vowed that I would always be worthy of that love, and I hope I was.

However, I am gone now. I may live in your heart still, but you cannot go through your life pining for me. I learned that you have not taken a lover since, and that saddens me. Your vows to me have been fulfilled, and it is time for you to move on. Please, my beloved, find yourself another person to love as much as you did me, be they a pony, griffon, changeling, or one of those strange beings that we saw there. Find a stallion, or maybe even a mare this time, and show them how much love you have to give. That is my final request of you, my beloved Des – live every moment of your immortal life in the joy of loving and being loved by someone who will share that life with you.

Yours for eternity,

Silk Touch Path

A tear dripped onto the paper, followed quickly by a couple more. A concerned male voice from the doorway of the office was not enough to take his eyes away from the beautiful words though.

“Are you alright, Son?”

Destined smiled happily through his tears. “It’s okay, Dad – everything is perfect.”

# # #

There was almost some unplanned excitement at the wedding reception. Luna quietly excused herself midway during the evening, along with Path, Roseclaw, and Free. She would have included Twilight, but she seemed to be elsewhere at that moment, and she could not wait. Path had a carriage brought to the entrance of the reception rooms, and they all climbed in and headed for the hospital. The first of the contractions had begun.

Destined and Silk delayed departing on their honeymoon long enough to visit Luna the next morning and see the new foal. They joined several other family members as Luna and Path proudly displayed the filly – an alicorn as predicted – who had a sky-blue coat with darker blue on her legs above the hooves. She had a two-tone blue mane and tail, and some adorable freckles.

 

 

“As a foal, I also had freckles,” Luna informed them. “I did not grow out of them until my later teenage years.”

“My sister has got Dad’s green eyes though,” Destined pointed out.

Luna smiled. “I am most pleased about that. Aside from the strength of his earth pony heritage, not much else would betray his paternity.”

Path smirked. “After the effort put into conceiving her, I would hope that there was something of me in my foal!”

There was a round of laughter, and even the foal burbled happily.

“Have you given her a name as yet?” Hype asked.

“Indeed we have. Her name is Starry,” Luna replied.

Path grinned. “We have the sun and the moon, so I suggested that we stay on theme. Luna first suggested Stellar, but I felt that was too old-fashioned, and we compromised on Starry Path.”

Silk said, “I like the mental image that name gives me.”

Destined nodded in agreement. “Well, our carriage awaits, and I have a new husband to spend some happy times with, so I think we’ll head off now.”

“Before you go, Twilight and I have some news,” Free said. “We would have saved it for later so as not to eclipse Luna and Path’s big day, but with you two going to be away for a fortnight, we thought you ought to know.”

“What’s up, Papa?” Destined asked curiously.

It was Twilight who answered though. “I’m pregnant. Free and I finally managed to conceive. We had been starting to wonder if it was even achievable until Hype joined us and showed that it was definitely possible.”

Hype’s face lit up with joy. “Maybe I’m finally getting my baby brother back!”

“That’s right – the alternate timeline Free and Twilight had a son,” Lucida recalled.

“Yes, an alicorn-changeling colt. His name was Wandering Free.” Hype turned to Twilight and said, “If you have a red-coated male foal, can you name him that? It would mean a lot to me.”

Twilight looked at Free who shrugged. “I’m cool with that,” he replied. “Although he would be named Wandering Path instead.”

“Of course. That would be perfectly fine with me. Thank you! Thank you!” Hype gushed.

Twilight giggled. “Don’t thank us yet; it’s entirely possible that the foal will be totally different.”

Destined said, “Don’t be too sure about that, Mom. From what I understand of convergent timelines, I think that there’s a far greater chance of that happening than you might think.”

“Whatever comes, we’ll be happy.” Twilight then moved over to kiss him on the cheek, and then doing the same to Silk. “You two go have a wonderful honeymoon.”

“Thanks, Mom. We’ll see you all in two weeks. Spoil my new sister extra for me, Mama Luna!”

Luna giggled. “I shall do that for thee, my Son. Many snuggles will abound!”

# # #

A month passed in no time as everyone was busy with the aftermath of the war, complicated by the transition of power in House Path. Twilight, Free, and Path finally found the time to investigate a puzzle, leaving Roseclaw to help Lucida with the running of the House during their absence. They were accompanied by Destined, Silk, and Forest Breeze. Forest’s father, Whirring Cogs, had also joined them as they headed into the Everfree Forest.

Cogs had been more than a little unhappy at hearing how his son had been so intimately involved in a war at his age, but also proud that he was now one of the Avatars of Harmony. That was what brought them to this location this day – to investigate how the six new Avatars were also Element Bearers. The necklaces and crown that had manifested in their victory over the Nightmare had remained in their possession, but while they were proud to wear them, Twilight was concerned about how this had affected the Tree of Harmony.

The Everfree was as wild as ever, but an enchanted path now led through it to the Castle of the Two Sisters which had now been fully restored for historical purposes. Visitors could now safely explore the site without being worried about being ambushed by any of the dangerous creatures that still called the forest home. The castle was not their destination though. The group turned off down steps cut into the cliff face of the chasm just before the castle. When they reached the bottom, it was a short walk to the cavern in which grew the Tree of Harmony.

To Twilight’s relief, the Tree seemed perfectly healthy. In fact, it seemed stronger than ever.

“Has the Tree… fruited?” Path asked.

The Tree of Harmony had six more nodes in addition to the original six with the Elements still contained within. The empty pods were shaped akin to the cutie marks of the new Avatars – Destined’s pocketwatch, Forest’s leaf, Silk’s curled feather, and Citrine’s laughing mask. Two of the Avatars did not have cutie marks though, but the heart-shaped one was presumed to represent Glenn, while Watchful’s loyalty had to be the square knot.

“What do you think this means, Sparkles?” Free asked.

“I think this is further evidence of how our world is growing and coming together. More alicorns to keep the balance, and more Elements to help them do it.”

Free nodded. “Makes as much sense or more as anything else that has been suggested. I’m just happy that we won’t be facing another crisis due to the failing health of the Tree of Harmony.”

“I’m certainly with you on that, Free,” Twilight said with satisfaction.

Path said, “It also means that we can go ahead with our plans to revive our original goal of exploring new cultures and promoting friendship through understanding. We kind of got side-tracked for a couple of decades or so.”

Destined chuckled. “We’re rather glad that you did, Dad.”

“Want to join us on our next expedition, Des?”

“That depends on what Auntie Celestia and Mama Luna have in store for me. I’m quite serious about those lessons. But I’d like to.”

Silk said, “I’ll second that. I got the taste for adventure while we were involved in the time war. If we can find the opportunity, we’ll be sure to come along.”

“Could I go with them, Dad?” Forest asked Cogs.

The pegasus changeling looked uncertain. “That sounds a bit risky, Son. You’re still just a teenager, after all.”

“I’m a veteran of a war and an Avatar of Harmony – I think I can manage,” Forest said defiantly but respectfully.

Cogs sighed. “We’ll talk about it with your mother, okay?”

Forest nodded. “Okay, Dad.”

Path grinned. “It seems like we won’t have a shortage of enthusiastic team members. House Path is back in the exploration business!” he declared happily.

# # #

The damage to the Griffonian compound caused by the surprise attack by the zebras had been repaired, and an extra building and combat arena had been added to the outskirts. The statues of Flix and his companions were moved to a safer location that overlooked the entire new compound, and if they were able to perceive anything in their stone state, they would not lack for a good view. The new building housed the quarters and training gymnasium of the Warmaster, Blue Streak, and his mate. Or mates – they could never decide which. After all, young Cinder and Matriarch Cinder were the same person. Several of the rooms had been built specifically with the Matriarch in mind, catering to her huge form.

Blue had been worried at first that the two Cinders would not get along. After all – there was an enormous difference in age and experience besides physical needs. To his surprise, the exact opposite occurred. Sometimes it seemed to him that they were one person in two bodies, hence the confusion of using the singular or plural of the term. They thought and behaved so alike that there had to be some sort of telepathy between them, although they never admitted to such. In the end, Blue had just decided to go with the flow and treat them equally in all things. Physical intimacy was a little… kinky though.

In addition to the housing were new facilities for training pupils in fighting and defensive skills. Only the most talented made it to the advanced class, and the students called it the Proving Grounds. Blue had begun the search for a personal student who one day might succeed him, just as he had succeeded Lord General Warfist. In life, the old griffon had refused the title of Lord, although he had fairly won it in his honor duel with Lord Razorbeak. Blue made sure that his students knew exactly what heights he expected them to aim for, and what standards he would compare them to. Only the best of the best got his personal attention.

Today, seven such students stood attentively, waiting to hear what was in store for them. They were a mixture of various ponies, griffons, and one zebra warrior from Zazu’s tribe. Blue gave them his trademark glare, stolen directly from Warfist’s superior version. Nopony could match a griffon for fierce expressions! “You will be doing special high-intensity training today of a sort that you have not experienced so far. My mate, Cinder, has agreed to test your ability to deal with a dragon opponent.” Blue looked to his side where young Cinder waited for him, and he nodded to pass on the lead to her.

She said, “Everyone go out to the training arena. I will meet you there and we will begin combat immediately. Move it!”

The students hastily jogged outside, with Cinder following behind. They abruptly came to a halt as they encountered Matriarch Cinder seated in the middle of the arena. She grinned toothily at them.

“Well, we did say high-intensity training,” she rumbled. Last one to take me on gets special encouragement from my mate.”

The students gaped in disbelief before a yell from Blue got them motivated.

Encouragement for all if you aren’t fighting in two seconds!

They hastily sprang into action. They would rather fight a huge dragon than deal with the Warmaster’s ‘encouragement’.

It was a spectacularly one-sided fight. Seven-to-one odds were irrelevant to the enormous dragon whose hide was impervious to most weapons – physical or magical – and whose strength could lift buildings. There was never any doubt who would win the battle, but that was not the point of the fight. Blue watched his students keenly to see what tactics they would employ, techniques that they would use, how they cooperated with each other, and how fast that they could think on their hooves. He assessed their strengths and weaknesses, and the spirit with which they fought. He was molding the warriors of tomorrow, and he was damned if he was going to produce anything less than the finest that House Path had ever seen. He and his mate together. Mates. Whatever!

# # #

At the very edge of the Crystal Kingdom where the Crystal Heart’s influence finally waned and the snow covered the ground, a winged form quietly drifted down from the sky and alighted on the new grass. As the kingdom grew in power and its population increased to feed the Heart, the border had constantly expanded further out, and seed had taken root in the recently unfrozen ground. The silver-shod hooves did little harm to the new growth as their owner stared pensively into the eternal storm that surrounded the kingdom.

Princess Crystal Path was still there half an hour later when a white alicorn stallion alighted next to her.

“Are you alright, Cryssy?” Prince Shining Armor asked.

Without turning her slit green eyes from the storm, she replied, “I am fine, Father.”

The former changeling queen had grown up again, but the influence of her adopted parents had resulted in a much different person than of two decades previously. Her royal barding and crown might have lent her some regal looks, but it was her bearing that was radically different. She still had the holey limbs and crooked horn that was the mark of a queen changeling, but it was her personality that shaped the rest of her that made the biggest difference. Her chitin was shaped by an elegant build, and her face was much softer. To put it bluntly, she was quite beautiful, both in body and spirit. Shining Armor and Cadance had done their job as foster parents very well. A change in name was one of the things that they had done immediately upon taking on their responsibility, partly because this was a new person growing up under their care, but also because they wanted to disassociate the child from the former insane adult.

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