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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5. Chapter 3 - History Rewrites Part 2

“We will see to it that she succeeds,” Citrine answered with Vindictia’s voice, startling the crystal pony. She addressed all the Red Changelings in a commanding voice, “This building must be defended at all costs. Spread out around the building and ensure that no Blue Changeling enters or causes harm!”

The changelings saluted and took off.

Citrine started to follow on hoof, needing no urging from the princess that she hosted. Nevertheless, Vindictia had something more to say.

I sense the power within you. I saw it manifest while we were fighting together.

“What are you talking about?”

The crystal shell that protected you. You’re a latent crystallomancer. I can bring that power to the fore if you allow me.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if it helps me fight, do it!”

Citrine’s body started to glow, and the crystal dust in the air and the shards on the ground started to move towards her. They attached to her coat, building up more and more until she was encased in a thick, living armor. She laughed in delight. “This really rocks! Let’s kill us some Blues!”

# # #

Destined was worried. Like the last time around, Shining Armor seemed to be under considerably more strain than had been reported, and the young alicorn knew what would happen if the shield was overloaded again this time. He could not reinforce the shield directly as that was not how the spell worked. The Avatars of Harmony were doing their best to supply Shining with power, but that was not how that preternatural force was intended to be used, and it was not as effective as it could have been. In spite of the desire to not interfere any more than could possibly be helped, Destined was left with only one choice – he would have to help directly. Fortunately from his place of concealment, he should be unobserved. His horn lit up and he pointed it at Shining, funneling his alicorn power to the unicorn.

The effects were immediate. Shining’s shaky stance firmed up and his expression eased. The trembling of the castle due to the impacts on the shield lessened. Destined was confident that the shield would last this time, at least until his siblings could help Free take out Chrysalis. He did not know how long he could keep this up if they didn’t, but he refused to worry about that right now. The only other thing that nagged at the back of his mind was whether this was going to have any aftereffects on his uncle.

# # #

The fighting with the Blue Changelings was fiercest in the vicinity of the battling queens as the drones followed Chrysalis’ orders to keep all others away from her fight with Free. As the House Path team was stationed where they knew that battle would culminate, of course the fighting was at its most intense there. Citrine was loving it. She was fighting with more power and strength than she had ever known before, reinforced by the power of the changeling princess within her. Instinctively, she used her power to form long and wickedly sharp blades extending from her forehooves, and she tore into the thick of the fighting, mercilessly mowing down her foes.

The princess’s squad were also fighting at their utmost peak. Already empowered by the ambient love, they were being supercharged by the energy of fierce loyalty and devotion to her cause that the crystal pony was radiating. Wounds incurred in their clashes with the Blues were healing almost as fast as they were inflicted. The squad at that moment were wielding power that was only matched by the alicorn princesses and the two mighty queens fighting their decisive battle.

It’s time!” Pif suddenly yelled, pointing towards Path and the others huddled around him.

He was glowing with the power that was being fed into him by Twilight and Roseclaw, and in turn he was channeling to Free. They looked up to see Free hovering there, letting the power build, with Chrysalis watching warily.

Pif let her own power build and she focused on the connection to the hive queen, waiting for the inevitable moment, wondering if it would come this time.

Free vanished.

Chrysalis, behind you!

The mental shout came, and once more the changeling queen automatically started to dodge even as she began throwing up a shield.

Pif latched onto Chrysalis’ mind and mentally hauled with all her might. The shield shattered, leaving the queen vulnerable, but to Pif’s horror, her attack did not physically move her at all, and she was still out of alignment with Free’s pre-planned angle of attack.

Just then, screaming like a banshee, Citrine flashed through the air, surrounded by the telekinetic glow of half a dozen Red Changelings. She had a coffee table in one hoof, and she swung it with all her might, smashing Chrysalis in the side and shoving her back into the path of Free’s unleashed power. The beam ripped through the changeling queen, fatally injuring her, and she plummeted to the ground, her aura of power fading.

“VICTORY!” Free yelled and followed his mother down to the ground, even as Blue drones started falling out of the air as they lost the driving force behind them.

Citrine was lowered back to the ground, and she trotted over to Pif with a huge grin on her face. She held up a leg to give a hoof-bump to the startled disguised changeling. “Hey, we do good work, don’t we?”

Pif was nearly overwhelmed by the energy coming off the crystal pony. She suddenly hugged Citrine tightly. “You’re amazing! I've never encountered a pony like you before! Thank you! You have saved the Crystal Kingdom, and all of Equestria.”

Citrine was for once a little taken aback, and she actually blushed. “Nah, it was all of us. Me 'n the gang here work great together. I’m just glad to get a shot at the bug queen.”

Lucida stepped up and said to Pif, “You know that we could have done something similar if we looped back again.”

Pif smiled at her sister. “Yes, but she was the one to do it now, and she did it well. I think it’s only right that it was a crystal pony that was instrumental in saving the Crystal Kingdom.”

“No argument from me,” Lucida replied as she looked over to where Free was having his last words with his dying mother. “And I think our task is complete. Everything looks to be back on track.”

“I agree…” Pif suddenly lurched. “Whoa!”

“What’s wrong?” Lucida asked with a frown of concern.

“Nothing. Chrysalis just transferred control of the hive-mind to Free. I can feel Dad again, thank Celestia!”

Graxx looked at Pif with suspicion, his horn lighting up. “You were connected to Chrysalis’ hive-mind? What are you? You seem to be like a Blue but different.” He started to advance on Pif.

Lucida suddenly reached out with her talons and grabbed Graxx by the horn. She flipped him over onto his back with a thud. “No threatening my sister!” she said with a snarl.

The other Reds were wary now, and Vindictia spoke up through Citrine, “Please explain yourselves before my squad is forced to act.”

Pif held up her forehooves to show she wasn’t going to make any dangerous moves. “I’m related to them, but I’m not a Blue. Look!” She allowed her unicorn disguise evaporate in magic fire, revealing her chrome chitin.

All the Reds were surprised, even Vindictia. “What are you?” she echoed her lieutenant’s question.

“I’m a Chrome Changeling, but that’s not something that will be revealed to the public for a little while yet, and I will need you to keep it a secret until then. I will tell you this much though – I have far more in common with Free Agent than Chrysalis,” Pif replied as she pointed out her progenitor who was currently kicking and cursing his supposedly dead mother.

Vindictia nodded. “I believe you. Squad, stand down.” She then relinquished control to Citrine. Well, what now?” Citrine asked in her own voice.

Lucida replied, “We’re going to wait for Des to return and then we’ll leave. As for you, I believe you have a promise to fulfill to Vindictia.”

“Yep, but I don’t think we’ll get anywhere until tomorrow after they sort out this mess, so I’m going to have a drink.” She turned and headed for the ruined bar, and the six Red changelings followed dutifully.

With nothing better to do, and still needing to conceal themselves from general sight, the others followed also. They scavenged bottles from the wreckage and were enjoying a second round of drinks (or a fourth in Citrine’s case) before Destined teleported in.

Lucida got up from her chair and walked over to Destined. “What took you so long?” she asked quietly.

“I stayed to watch Uncle Shining ascend,” Destined admitted.

“That would have been worth seeing,” Lucida agreed. “So, how did it go for you?”

“I had to support Shining Armor otherwise the shield might have fallen before Chrysalis was defeated.”

“Supported? You were only supposed to watch out for and prevent interference! What did you do?”

“I supplied him with some of my own power. He was able to carry the load of the shield easily after that.”

Lucida stared at Destined with shock. “You supplied alicorn power into him while he was already being infused with Harmony? You know Mama Twilight and Auntie Luna have always wondered if that was all that caused him to ascend. Do you realize that it might have been your power that pushed him over the line?”

Destined’s eyes widened in realization. “Sweet Celestia! I never thought of that.”

Lucida shuddered. “Too much has happened because of us. Let’s hope that our future has been properly restored. We have to get back now before we have any more effects on time.”

“Agreed.”

Lucida went back over to the others. “Time for us to leave.”

“Aw, I was enjoying the evening,” Pif complained. The changeling had let her control slip after the battle had been won, and she was slightly drunk on both the liquor and the intoxicating emotions that kept pouring out of Citrine. She had one arm around the crystal pony and the other hoof held up her bottle of beer. “I think we can celebrate a bit longer, right Citrine?”

“Bloody oath!” she concurred.

“Sorry, but it’s not up for debate. We’re leaving almost immediately. I don’t know about you, but I want to get home again.”

“Spoilsport,” Pif sulked. “Okay, just let me finish this drink.”

“Blue has to power up anyway, so go ahead.” Lucida looked at Blue who nodded and put down his beer. He walked outside, took off his shoes, and started to draw in the power that they would need for the time-jump.

“What is your brother doing?” Vindictia’s curious voice came from Citrine.

Lucida considered her words carefully. “We are going to make an exceptionally long journey that will require a lot of magic. Blue has the ability to soak up incredible amounts of energy, so he serves as our power source.”

“I have never heard of such a spell. At least I will witness it before I pass on to the Great Circle.”

After a few minutes, Blue Streak declared that he was ready, and the others gathered around him. He activated the vortex manipulator and Destined reached out with his mind to link with it and determine their destination. “Ready,” he declared.

“Okay, let’s go. Farewell, everyone,” Lucida said to the Red Changelings and Citrine.

Citrine suddenly tipsily trotted over to the group and raised a leg to hoof-bump Pif. “Bye, shinybug!”

Pif automatically lifted her hoof to respond.

“No, don’t!” Lucida yelled.

What are you doing?!’ Vindictia yelled in Citrine’s mind.

It was too late. Hooves touched just as the time-jump was triggered, and they all plunged into the vortex.

Lucida’s eyes were locked onto Citrine for the entire journey through the vortex. Had they accidentally screwed up history again?

# # #

Long Path accompanied Free Agent, Twilight Sparkle, and Luna to the chambers for the regular meeting with the changeling queens at Canterlot, along with their retinue. Free didn’t even bother taking his natural form anymore. As far as he was concerned, taking serious responsibility for his hive did not require divesting himself of his self-identity as a griffon. They stopped outside the chambers when they saw two alicorns waiting for them – one a pink mare and the other a white stallion.

“BBBFF! Cadance! It’s good to see you again!” Twilight exclaimed, rushing over to give them both a hug.

“Hey, Twily, how are things?” Shining Armor asked as he returned the hug.

“Still wondering where our children have disappeared to.”

“No word about this ‘secret mission’ of theirs?” Cadance asked.

Twilight shook her head. “If it wasn’t for that letter they sent, I would be worried sick right now. Still, none of them are foals anymore, so I’ll just have to trust them.”

“Meanwhile, life and duties go on. Ready for the meeting?”

“Not really. Epiphany was supposed to be demonstrating a new development this time, but that will have to be postponed now. There’s not much more than standard business aside from that.”

“Nopony ever said royal business was exciting,” Shining commented.

Twilight stuck her tongue out at him. “At least you don’t have to attend the meetings.”

Shining grinned. “That’s all you know. Us guys have our own meeting out here while waiting for you.”

Cadance smiled at her husband. “Try not to lose too many bits this time, dear.”

Shining just grinned back at his wife.

“Daddy!” a young voice squealed in delight from behind them.

The group turned around just in time to see a small crimson form dash into their midst and latch onto Path.

“Oho! My little princess!” Path declared as he bent over and picked up the changeling nymph who giggled and lapped up the love he was projecting at her. “How’s my little Fifi doing?” he asked as he rubbed his muzzle into her tummy, making her laugh.

“For the last time, her name is Fidelitas,” came Carpacia’s exasperated voice.

‘Seems more like a Fifi to me,” Free commented.

Carpacia glared at him. “It’s your fault that they call my daughter that. It’s not dignified.”

My daughter prefers her nickname,” Free riposted.

Your hive always does things strangely,” Carpacia complained.

“It didn’t stop you from making us technically in-laws,” Free replied smugly.

By this time, the young Red Changeling princess had climbed onto her sire’s back and was clinging to his neck while nibbling an ear as Path patiently indulged her. Fortunately experience had taught them well, and he had a spell on him to ensure that she did not accidentally start draining him of emotional energy. She got plenty of the freely given type though, and she loved spending time with her dad.

 

 

Shining Armor eyed Carpacia’s contingent and smiled in recognition. “Ready to hoof back those bits you won from me last time, Major Graxx?”

“I didn’t even bother bringing them with me, Prince Armor. I’ll need the room for the rest of your bits,” Graxx replied with a tight smile.

“We’ll see about that!” He started urging Path, Graxx, Leatherwing, and Nox to join the rest of the changeling guards who had already arrived. Chairs had already been drawn about a couple of tables and decks of cards awaited them.

Carpacia rolled her eyes at the sight. “Well, it would seem that everyone is early today, and I’m the last to arrive. Shall we proceed?” she asked the Princesses and Free.

They nodded and followed her into the chamber. Two Royal Guards closed the double doors behind them, and then set aside their weapons to take places at the tables.

# # #

The Council of the Queens was in the middle of a rather boring report on the status of the expansion of the Yellow Hive into another city’s public health service when suddenly a wind blew up from nowhere, and papers on the table started flying around the room. The air above the table distorted and crackled, then suddenly opened up with strange light effects before indecorously dumping a number of bodies onto the table. The vortex then disappeared as if it had never existed.

Citrine jumped up. “Whoo! Now that’s what I call a ride!”

Carpacia stood up suddenly and held out a hoof, her eyes wide and already starting to water.

“Pony! Who are you transferring?!” she asked as she indicated the symbol on her chest.

Citrine I need to talk to my mother, please!

Citrine let go of control and her body posture changed.

“Don't you remember your eldest daughter, Mother?” Vindictia asked with fake hurt feelings.

“Vindictia!” Carpacia exclaimed, hardly daring to hope.

The Red Hive network suddenly erupted into activity once they heard the name of their princess, Vindictia.

“How many hours remain, Daughter?” Carpacia asked.

“Rest easy, Mother; we have several days before this body fails. We have plenty of time to get to the hive so I can be properly sent away and the pony can recover,” Vindictia replied.

The Red Queen sent out an urgent message over her hive-network as she stood up. She then took Citrine in her arms and hugged the pony, tears leaking from her eyes.

“Will somepony please tell us what is going on,” Celestia calmly but firmly asked.

“They’ve just returned from their so-called secret mission, I would guess,” Twilight commented. “You have a lot of explaining to do.”

The others were still in the process of disentangling themselves. Lucida managed to get herself free first and looked around to see Luna. “It has to do with a very timely intervention on our part,” she said earnestly.

Luna’s eyes widened in surprised realization. “You, Blue, and three others – dost this mean that the mission was a success?”

“Yes, Auntie, I believe so.”

Luna stood up. “This council is at recess! We have more important matters to discuss.” The Moon Princess noticed that chamber doors were ajar, and the concerned faces of husbands and guards were looking in, wondering what the awful commotion had been. Path was surprised to see the wayward children. “Come in, Prince Armor. Thou too, Path. This concerns you both.”

Pif suddenly recognized one of the changelings. “Graxx! Come in here also, please.”

The Red Changeling’s mouth was agape as memories from years ago were awakened. “Chrome princess?” he asked disbelievingly even as he stepped inside the chamber. Then he got a good look at Citrine as Carpacia finally relinquished her hug. “Princess Vindictia!” he shouted.

“Yes, Graxx, it’s us,” Vindictia replied.

“It’s been over nineteen years since you disappeared!” he protested.

“So that was some kind of time vortex?” Vindictia asked, looking at Lucida for confirmation.

The hippogriff nodded before saying, “We need to close the chamber. What we have to say should not leave this room until everyone is informed, and only what we feel is necessary.”

Luna looked at the guards at the door. “Leatherwing, Nox, attend us. Everypony, speak of naught that you have heard or seen just now.” Luna felt a brief moment of déjà vu. “Close the doors and let no one inside unless it is of the utmost importance.”

The guards closed the doors while everyone sorted themselves out.

Shining Armor stared at Citrine in vague recollection. “Do I know you?”

Citrine took a good look at him and her face lit up with a roguish grin. “Hey! If it isn’t Prince Shinybutt! Where’d you get the wings?”

The alicorn’s memory was jogged and he frowned. “Citrine Quartz! What’s a troublemaker like you doing involved in this?”

“Saving your shiny butt, that’s what,” she replied impudently.

“A likely story. What happened to your gang?”

“My posse ain’t around anymore to keep you on your hooves, so I’ll just have to do it all by myself.”

Shining was about to retort when Cadance put a hoof on his shoulder and said, “Let it go, Shining. We have more important things to concern ourselves with right now.”

“Quite right, Cadance,” Twilight said as she turned her attention to her children. “So, are you ready to explain why you have been missing for fifteen days?” she asked with some acerbity.

Lucida looked at Destined. “Fifteen days? How did you miss by that much?”

Destined scratched the back of his neck with some embarrassment. “I forgot that it would take far less energy to move with the flow of time as opposed to going back against it. I had to shunt all the excess energy into spatial movement instead, which is how we ended up in Canterlot instead of the Crystal City, and I still apparently overshot by a fortnight.”

“I thought you couldn’t move us like that?”

“Give me a break! It’s not like I’ve had much practice at manipulating time and space!”

“Children! Calm down and start explaining, please,” came Celestia’s voice with a hint of gentle rebuke.

“Sorry,” Lucida replied. “It’s about time….”

# # #

“So I became an equicidal tyrant?” Twilight said sadly.

“As I said, Mom, I don’t think it was your fault,” Destined replied earnestly. “Chrysalis’s emotion blast distorted your mind.”

“Still, I had rather hoped that I would have been able to resist better. It would seem that would be a false hope.”

Cadance looked miserable. “At least you have an excuse, Twilight. It sickens me to hear what my alternative history self did.”

“Auntie Cadance,” Pif begun, “I think you do have an excuse. You had become too bound up with the Crystal Heart by the time of the Siege of the Crystal Kingdom. Destroying it had a terrible effect on you as well. The first time that it was shattered by Flurry Heart, it was still repairable, and you were still new to the kingdom, but as time passed, you and the Heart became more dependent on each other, so when it broke, so did you.”

“That’s little reassurance, Pif. It means that my state of mind now forever depends on the well-being of the Crystal Heart. Must I now always surround it with guards to ensure its safety? Must I keep away the very citizens who revere it merely to quell my own fears?”

Pif’s face reflected her uncertainty. “I honestly don’t know, Auntie, but I don’t think that’s the answer. Maybe there’s another way that we have yet to think of.”

“I will give it a lot of thought.”

Celestia spoke up. “As terrible as those events were, they have been relegated to what might have been. Of more importance is the one overriding fact that somepony interfered with history for their own dark purposes. Considering the nature of the interference and the consequences, I strongly doubt that it was the result that they desired. That means that the culprit might try again, and right now we are helpless to prevent it. Are you absolutely certain that you could not identify the antagonist in any way?”

Pif shook her head. “I was listening very closely the second time around, but I could not identify the one who sent the warning beyond that it was a changeling linked to Chrysalis’ hive-mind. It was a very strong link, but not a familiar one.”

“I hope that you are not suspecting that it was an infiltrator from one of our hives,” Queen Orlare said with a frown.

Pif shook her head. “No, I think the mental touch would have been different. Besides, I have no reason to believe that any of the five other Equestrian Hives, nor even the Western Hive, would do this.”

“So it seems that we must rely on this Doctor Time Turner to forestall further attacks,” Luna stated. “Who is this pony who has such remarkable knowledge of time?”

Celestia looked as if she was struggling with herself on how to react to her sister’s question. She eventually answered, “Sister, this Doctor is known to me. He has come to Equestria’s aid on several occasions.”

“Then why have I not heard of him?”

“Most of the occasions have been during the last thousand years when you weren’t there to help me.”

Luna blinked in surprise. “Is this Doctor an alicorn in disguise?”

Celestia shook her head. “No, he isn’t an alicorn. He is… unique.”

“And immortal like us, apparently.”

“I cannot answer that, but I do know that he is a friend to Equestria.” Celestia turned to Lucida. “Can you describe what he looks like?”

Lucida gave the best description that she could, but a light brown pony with a medium brown mane was hardly distinctive. Only his hourglass cutie mark was significant.

“So, he’s changed again,” Celestia murmured.

“What’s that, sister?”

“Never mind, Luna. I will tell you more later. Meanwhile, it seems that you have left something untold for the best part of twenty years.”

Luna blushed. “Thou dost refer to Lucida and Blue Streak’s visit to my court before the invasion?”

“I do. I have always wondered how you just happened to have some troops conveniently on hoof to send to the Crystal Kingdom when word came from House Path.”

“While I could not speak of the visit for fear of inadvertently interfering with the course of history, I felt that judicious troop movements were low risk. After seeing the results, I stand by my decision.”

Celestia nodded. “I do not question your judgement, Luna. It was your decision to make, and likely a wise one. Still, I wonder if you had ever had to make that decision before, or whether it became a part of the new history.”

“Thou dost believe that it previously never happened?”

Instead of answering her, Celestia turned to Free and said, “Could you please describe the moments that led up to your defeat of Chrysalis at that battle.”

Free looked a little surprised. “It’s not as if I haven’t told it dozens of times before. Path was sending me his energy as well as Twilight’s and Roseclaw’s via our bond, and I was accumulating it for one devastating blow as well as to power the teleport that would take Chrysalis by surprise. Then I made the 'port and started to fire my shot only to belatedly discover that she was already turning and moving out of my aim while trying to put up a shield. That failed, but my shot was still going to miss until a pony unexpectedly smashed into her and put her back in the path of it. Chrysalis was mortally wounded and the battle was won.”

Celestia then looked at Lucida. “As Free Agent just said, he’s told this tale often. How do you recall it?”

Lucida replied, “Up until the teleport, everything was as Papa Free described it. However, Chrysalis never got a warning, and so she was taken totally by surprise. She did not move, and Citrine did not play a part in it at all.”

Path came to the conclusion quickly. “So history is still changed. Should we be concerned?”

“No, Dad,” Destined replied. “While the probability path was altered by interference from various parties, the timeline appears to have resumed a high-probability course that we recognize. While some events unfolded differently, the sum of them has led to the same basic conclusion, I believe. Unless we five find anything to contradict it later, I would say that probably everything is virtually the same as before we left.”

“Ha! How about that?” Free said with a smirk. “I never expected that my kids would ever get to watch me kick Chrysalis’ butt, let alone become part of my victory.”

“You might yet get to do it again,” Pif said.

“What do you mean?”

“While we can’t positively identify who gave the warning, we do know that it was almost certainly a Blue Changeling, and most likely under the orders of its queen, and since we’re dealing with time travel, that was very likely Chrysalis herself trying to change the result of the battle.”

“Isn’t she supposed to be dead though?”

Twilight interjected, “Remember the anomalous results that we got from the autopsy?”

There was silence as everyone digested that uncomfortable fact. It was Carpacia who finally broke it.

“I feel that we have learned as much as possible from this debriefing. If you would excuse me, I have a daughter to return to the Circle.”

Luna nodded and said, “If there are no objections, I declare this meeting closed.”

Carpacia held out a hoof to Citrine. “Come with me. It is time to fulfill your promise.”

“May I come also, Carpacia?” Path asked. “I feel a bond through our daughter.”

Carpacia nodded, and they departed with little Fifi still riding her father’s back.

“So what are we supposed to do now?” Cinder asked nobody in particular.

“I believe we have an appointment with our Doctor,” Lucida said with a smirk.

# # #

“I swear that this is where his workshop was!” Blue declared with annoyance.

“Not arguing with you, Blue,” Lucida replied as they all gazed at the empty lot in the midst of Ponyville.

“So what happens now?” Cinder asked.

Destined pointed at the vortex manipulator still clasped to Blue’s leg. “If we’ve been left with that, I suspect that our adventures in time might not have ended.”

Pif shrugged. “If so, bring it on. We still need to catch the villain after all.”

There was a murmur of agreement before they turned and headed home to Twilight’s castle.

# # #

Citrine looked around in fascination as she was led deeper into the Red Hive. She seemed to be attracting a crowd, although she knew that they were really here for the princess that she carried within her. She had been having quite a conversation with her since they had left Canterlot.

“Once you are sent to the Great Circle, will I still have all of those abilities that we used against the Blue Hive?”

While you still have the abilities, you have to discover the pathways to them yourself. The only reason why I could was because I was able to explore both your conscious and subconscious at the same time. It was a desperate move that paid off. You are a crystallomancer – you just need to unlock the power within yourself, Citrine.

“You know, I think I’m going to miss you. How does the sending process work?”

You’ll see.

The group ended up in a huge hall that was nearly totally filled with Red Changelings. There was a dais in the middle to which they made their way and mounted the steps. The murmuring of the gathered drones died down in anticipation. Path stood to one side while Fidelitas stood on his shoulders and watched curiously.

Carpacia turned to Citrine. “I request that you relinquish control to my daughter, Citrine Quartz.”

Citrine nodded and did so. “I am here, mother,” came Vindictia’s voice.

“Are you ready to move on to the Great Circle, Vindictia?”

“In a moment, mother. First, I have to do something.” She turned and walked over to Path, but it was Fidelitas whom she gazed at. She reached up a hoof to stroke her cheek. “I am happy that I got to see you, my sister. May you grow to bring this Hive, and your sire’s House, great honor.” She lowered her eyes to Path and continued. “I have known you for too short a time, but I am honored to meet the sire of my sister. While it has not been the Red Hive’s practice to let a pony help raise one of our princesses, I think that the time is right for a change, and you are the right pony to do so. Treat my sister well.”

“She is part of my family, and I can do no less,” Path replied gravely.

Vindictia nodded in acknowledgement, and then turned back to Carpacia. “I am ready, mother.”

Carpacia took the opportunity to give her one last hug before turning towards their audience. “My eldest daughter, Princess Vindictia, has come back to us! Unfortunately it is not to stay, as she fell in honorable battle and has used the Rite of Transference. This pony fought together with Vindictia with determination and bravery to make sure that Chrysalis’ invasion failed. Now she has returned her essence back to us.” She turned towards the crystal pony. “Beloved daughter, it is time for you to unite with us one last time before joining the Great Circle.”

Carpacia’s horn lit up, immediately followed by those of all the changelings gathered to partake in the ceremony. A red glow started to build around the crystal pony, growing brighter and brighter until she lit up the huge cave. At this point, all present were connected to their princess, and one final word came to them all.

Goodbye.

Carpacia touched the mark on Citrine’s chest, and Vindictia’s consciousness flowed into the hive-mind, leaving her knowledge for future generations, then her spirit dissipated into the ever-present life-energy of the world as she joined the Great Circle.

The glow about Citrine quickly faded, and she was left with an unexpected sense of loss.

Carpacia sighed tremulously before addressing the crystal pony once more. “Thank you for bringing my daughter back to us, Citrine Quartz. Know that from this day forth, you are a friend of the Red Hive and ever welcome to visit.”

Citrine gave the changeling queen a lopsided grin. “You’re welcome. Thanks for fighting to save my home.” She faltered then as she realized something. She snorted with derisive laughter. “My home,” she repeated. “Not really my home anymore. All in my posse died about twenty years ago. No family to go back to, and nothing in common with those left. I’m not sure what to do now.”

Path stepped up to Citrine. “If a home is what you are looking for, the House of Path would welcome you. You’ve shared some bad times with my children, so how about sharing some good times in the future?”

Citrine looked uncertain. “I dunno. This hive looks pretty inviting. These bugs seem to like me for some reason.”

Carpacia smiled indulgently. “It’s the delicious aura of bravery and loyalty that you radiate. You would always have appreciative companions here. Nevertheless, I think it would be best if you lived with a pony family, even an odd one like Lord Path’s.”

Citrine looked at Path, and he raised an eyebrow in silent query. “Pif’s your daughter, right?” she asked.

“Yes, that’s right.”

“She’s cute. I think I might take your offer.”

Path chuckled. “Not quite what I expected, but welcome to House Path.”

Citrine took a deep breath, let it out in a huff, and grinned. “Enough of this seriousness. I’m hungry – wanna go get something to eat?”

# # #

“Well, that was a useless waste of effort.”

“Patience, my dear. While the results were not what we hoped, the method was not at fault. We merely have to choose another event to influence.”

“Hmm… I believe I know the perfect one….”

# # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

My mind also nearly exploded trying to keep track of the time changes! Anyone who understands some real physics knows that a lot is NOT intuitive. This universe's physics might vary, but it's no less complex.

Also damn difficult was writing the rhyming sentences!

The illustrations this chapter were by Baron Engel and Kat Miller a.k.a. Foxenawolf.

   
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