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.



12. Chapter 7 - Royal Activities Part 2


“Are you ready, Des?” she asked.

“Are you going to keep asking silly questions?” he shot back.

“Yep, you’re ready.” She nodded to the Sergeant-at-Arms who saluted and marched to the throne room doors. The Royal Guards stationed on either side of the massive doors drew them open upon his command.

“Day Court is now in session; Prince Destined Path presiding!” the Sergeant-at-Arms bellowed. “The first petitioner shall step forth!”

A golden-coated earth pony stepped inside and made her way up to the dais, giving the young prince a suspicious look. Destined knew that the mare had been expecting to talk to Celestia, but had gotten him instead.

“We’ve both been dealt a bum hand,” he murmured to himself before plastering on his best fake confident smile. “What can I do for you, my little pony?” he asked formally. He cringed inside. It was going to be a long day.

# # #

Destined collapsed over the arm of the throne and heaved a sigh of relief as the Sergeant-at-Arms ordered the throne room doors closed. The last petitioner for the day had been dealt with, but it had been a doozy. In fact, it was probably more complex than Celestia had allowed for when assigning the petitions to him. He thanked the heavens that he’d had Lucida there to sort things out and present solutions for him. The hippogriff had remained cool as a cucumber throughout the entire proceedings, a testament to her training and experience at the negotiating table with House Path. He then spotted something that cheered him up a lot.

“Hey, Lucy, I have proof that you would be better sitting on this throne than me.”

Lucida chuckled. “Come off it, Des – it only seemed that bad because you have never done it before. You’ll get the hang of it.”

“I don’t want to get the hang of it. Besides, I told you I have proof.”

She looked at him curiously. “Okay, I’ll bite. What proof?”

“Look at your flank,” he replied, pointing with his eyes.

Lucida looked, and her eyes bulged in shock. “I’ve got a cutie mark?! I didn’t think hippogriffs could even get cutie marks!”

Sure enough, a pair of crossed scrolls with ribbons now adorned her flanks. Sometime during the proceedings, they had appeared unnoticed, probably as she had unknotted the problem from the last petition.

“I’m twenty-one! Who gets a cutie mark when they’re already an adult?” she questioned disbelievingly. “Why now? I’ve been doing this kind of thing for years!”

“Maybe because for the first time, you haven’t had Dad there as your back-up? This time it was all your own work, sink or swim, and you handled it with ease,” Destined suggested. “Or maybe because you’re only half pony that might have slowed things down? Even Papa Free got one, and he’s a changeling. Nobody fully understands the magic of the cutie mark.”

“Well, I’ve got one now. It’s going to take a bit of getting used to having one.”

“Mom’s gonna want to throw you a cute-ceañera, y’know?”

“What am I supposed to do? Invite foals to it?” For once, Lucida was at a loss. She could handle treaty negotiations with ease, but a celebration of gaining a cutie mark was outside of her sphere of experience.

Destined just grinned at his sister’s discomfort, happy to have turned the tables on her for a change. “I’m exhausted, and I plan to head off to the spa and get a massage to relax. Wanna join me?”

“I think I will. In fact, let’s ask everyone to the spa and I can show this thing off to them all at once and get it over with.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll zip ahead and book the hot tub for a private session for us.”

“What if the tub is already booked?” Lucida asked with a raised eyebrow.

“If Celestia wants me to be Prince for a day, I’m going to make it a royal command instead.”

Lucida looked skeptical. “You wouldn’t!”

“Try me. I’ve gone mad with power!” He chuckled melodramatically.

Lucida rolled her eyes. “Oh, get out of here and see your coltfriend already!”

Destined stopped his silliness as he considered Lucida’s words. “My coltfriend? Yeah, I think I’m beginning to like that idea.” He winked at Lucida before blinking out in a flash and a bang of teleportation.

“It’s about time!” Lucida murmured with relief.

# # #

As always, Silk had reduced Destined to the consistency of jelly with his expert massage. By now, the masseur knew the alicorn’s body intimately, and understood how best to relieve Destined’s stress. The kiss on the cheek was not a usual part of the treatment though.

“Come on, Des, the next client will be needing this room soon,” Silk said. “The hot tub awaits.”

Destined had blushed at the unexpected kiss, and he made the effort to get up in order to hide it. “Thanks, Silk. I really needed this after today.”

“My job is easy compared to being a prince, eh?”

“It sure seemed like that today, but I know how hard you work.”

“Well, I’m finished for the day, so I get to relax now too.”

“Want to join us?” Destined asked hopefully.

“Sure! Let’s just wash those massage oils off you first.”

Silk accompanied Destined to a shower, and rather unnecessarily helped him wash the oils off the alicorn’s coat. Not that Destined objected in the slightest. They then wandered into the hot tub room where they found Lucida, Blue Streak, Cinder, Epiphany, and Citrine already immersed in the bubbling warm water, conversing casually. The only oddity was Watchful Eyes who was not enjoying the tub with the rest of them, but was seated on a lounge mat to one side near the door. Destined paused to speak to her.

“You know that you can join us in the tub, don’t you, Watchful?”

The changeling unicorn smiled but shook her head. “I can’t act as effectively as your guardian if I am in the tub.”

“We appreciate that you’re dedicated to your duty, but with all of us here together, don’t you think we’ve got this covered?”

“The degree of danger does not mitigate my responsibility.”

Destined sighed. “While that’s true and you’re beholden to your Queen’s orders, you’re attached to House Path for now, and we do things a little differently here.”

“I know, but I must do my duty as I see fit.”

Destined sighed and gave up. “We’ll loosen you up one of these days. You don’t know what you’re missing.” He turned and headed for the tub, and he and Silk climbed in. The others moved over to make some room for them.

Pif grinned at the thestral. “Nice of you to join us, Silk. I hear Des has finally stopped denying the obvious.”

The bat-pony returned the grin unabashed. “Yep, but I was willing to wait for as long as it took to be sure that he felt the same way about me as I do about him.”

Pif snorted in exasperation. “Nobody listens to the emotivore! I could tell ages ago.”

Silk just gave her a knowing smile. “Sometimes it’s the journey and not the destination that makes it worth it. Right, Citrine?” He gave the crystal pony a wink.

Citrine grinned and nuzzled Pif, making her blush. “It’s been a lot of fun,” she agreed.

With all the affection going around, Cinder and Blue didn’t hesitate to cuddle also, leaving Lucida alone and thoughtful.

They had been all been enjoying a quiet soak for several minutes when abruptly the air above the tub split open with a swirl of light and something fell into the middle of the tub with an enormous splash. Moments later, a pony surfaced, spluttering in surprise. They all stared in shock.

“Derpy?” Lucida was the first to identify her. “Oh, no! Don’t tell me it’s happening now?”

The cross-eyed mare grinned apologetically. “Yep. Gotta hurry!”

“Wait!” Blue shouted. “I have to get my stuff!” Luckily he had gotten into the habit of always keeping everything within easy reach, and his equipment was piled on the deck just behind him. He grabbed it just in time as the vortex reopened, drawing them in.

The unorthodox arrival had caught Watchful Eyes by complete surprise, and she hesitated a moment before leaping into action. She dashed over to the tub and leaped up to join the others… just a fraction too late. The changeling splashed into an unoccupied tub as the vortex closed behind the group. She sputtered and stared as the extraordinary phenomenon disappeared. She groaned in frustration.

“My Queen is going to going to demote me to tunnel-maker for this.”

# # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

This chapter took longer to get done than it should have due to my mother's ill health, but she seems to have nearly recovered now, so hopefully it won't be as long before the next chapter is ready, and you'll find out what trouble our team has gotten into this time.

Our heroes are still grasping in the dark for answers, but more clues will be forthcoming.

The illustration is by Foxenawolf - check her out for commissions! Please consider making donations to me via Paypal so that I can afford more!

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