Life, Love, and Death in the House of Path

The House of Path has grown to be an enormous influence in Equestria, Griffonia, and other nations, and has gained many unusual members. But with such a varied membership, comes some unusual circumstances. Free Agent stunned the hives with his deviant mutant nature, but can a normal changeling queen learn to love? When an alicorn's dearest friends die, how does she cope? What are the new generation like? How does a pony needs to learn how to deal with a destiny that he never expected? What lofty goals do they set for themselves?
These are highlights in the lives of the various House Path members, and all the love, fear, and hope that comes with such a family of beings. And maybe a little bit of sex in between.
This series follows after "Quantum Gallop" and is episodic, and the chapters might not be added in sequential order.


5. Crystal’s Wanderings - Part 2: A Daring Discussion

“Permission to use the observation deck, Captain?”

Kerbarok looked over to the visitor and smiled. “Of course, Your Highness.”

Crystal returned the smile. “Just Crystal, please. I might be a Princess of the Crystal Kingdom, but here I’m just Crystal Path travelling with my family’s expedition.”

“Certainly, ma’am, but as an officer of the Equestrian Navy, I must adhere to certain protocols. Nevertheless I am quite familiar with Princess Twilight’s desire for informality, as well as House Path.”

“I see. How long have you been commanding this airship, Captain?”

“Nearly four decades. I was appointed Ship’s Commander upon commissioning of the Skyshark, the first changeling to be openly serving in such a position.”

“You must have been proud of that achievement?”

“I was, but more importantly, my appointment at that time was a demonstration of faith on behalf of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna in their Hive allies. Ironically, my first major action was against Queen Chrysalis in the Battle of Crystal City.” Kerbarok chuckled. “And now I’m carrying another Blue Changeling queen on an expedition.”

Crystal could not help thinking he did not know half of how ironic that was. “I can promise you, Captain, that when I finally get around to rebuilding the Blue Hive, it won’t be anything like Chrysalis’s.”

“We will be looking forward to that. Equestria is the lesser without the Blue Hive. The Chrome Hive is not the same.”

Crystal grinned. “I’m of House Path – do you really think I’m going to be completely traditional either?”

“You have a point, ma’am.”

With a grin on her face, Crystal made her way to the front of the bridge and gazed out the window of the observation deck. They had been under way for about an hour heading south-southwest, and they were already coming up on the Macintosh Hills. The speed of the airship impressed her, and she watched the scenery pass swiftly below them. She was mesmerized by it and never noticed someone approaching.

“Great way to travel, isn’t it?”



Startled, Crystal turned towards the voice. “Daring Do? Oh… umm… yes. It’s my first time in Auntie Twilight’s flagship.”

Daring chuckled. “Me too. Beats the alternative. I’m not getting any younger.”

“How long have you been doing this now?”

“Best part of half a century.”

“Wow! How did you get to be so successful?”

“Hard work, study, and a dollop of good luck. Right place at the right time. The trick is to recognize the opportunity and make the most of it. Then after I started to get a reputation, I wrote my first book. Let me tell you, that was a huge boost to my career. It has let me do more than most archaeologists.”

“Something tells me that you enjoy the adventuring as much as the science,” Crystal said slyly.

Daring snorted with laughter. “You got me there. Most of my colleagues spend months carefully excavating sites, and I thought that would be my career too. That was until I discovered my talent for tracking down clues to ancient sites and rediscovering them. Dangerous work, and some of the artifacts are too.”

“Yet you still go back for more.”

“Of course. And despite you hearing this, you’re coming along with me on another possibly dangerous adventure,” Daring pointed out with a smirk.

“Remember what you said about being in the right place at the right time?” Crystal asked, one eyebrow arched. “Well, sometimes you have to make the effort to be in the right place first.”

Daring nodded. “True. It’s a good start anyway.”

“I convinced my parents that it was the right thing to do.”

“Smart ponies! What was it like growing up with the Princess and Prince of the Crystal Kingdom?”

Crystal smiled fondly in memory. “Near perfect. I was never hungry for love anyway. Although they did make a few missteps in raising me. Not that I blame them – they certainly didn’t have a handbook on raising changeling queens.”

“What sort of missteps, may I ask?”

“Well, for example, when Auntie Twilight and Uncle Free first visited after I was adopted, they wondered why I hadn’t grown any despite the fact that I was full of energy and apparently healthy. Twilight asked Mom and Dad what they were feeding me, and Mom said she had been giving me plenty of love to feed on.”

“Huh? What about actual food though?”

Crystal giggled. “You spotted something that eluded my parents all that time. Sure, we eat positive emotions, especially love, for our energy needs, but…” She tapped her carapace a couple of times. “We need physical food to grow our body mass, not to mention vitamins. Without actual food, I would have gotten sick and died. They were mortified, so the first thing that they did was stuff me with enough baby food until I puked on them. They learned moderation very quickly after that.”

“Learning the hard way makes the lesson stick. So you started growing normally after that?”

“Yep. After that silly mistake, they handled me pretty well. They had to be reminded to feed me some sort of meat occasionally too. I gave them an amusing reminder about that once.”

You did? How old were you by then?”

“I was still barely more than a nymph, but I was very active. I got away from my carers on more than one occasion. Apparently I was hungry because they would often find me hunting bugs, but one day I caught a mouse. I had half-eaten it before they got to me though, but somepony had the presence of mind to take a photo. They used it to remind themselves that my diet was different. Uncle Free never had that problem because he was raised by griffons.”

“I’ve hung out with griffons too often to be disturbed by obligate carnivores, but mice are going a bit too far.”

“What do you think the hives fed their nymphs? All sorts of small wild animals and lots of tasty insects are in the diet of every growing drone. Yum-yum!” Crystal licked her fangs exaggeratedly.

Daring Do stuck her tongue out in distaste at the thought. “Yeah, no. Enough about food. I suppose that sort of thing made raising you a lot harder though?”

Crystal shook her head. “Apparently they had a hard time raising my sister, Flurry, and I was actually a little easier for the most part. Different problems occasionally, but this time around they had the experience to improvise.”

“What about school? Did you have a tutor?”

“Oh, heavens no! I was sent to a normal school like any other foal, just as Flurry had been. Just as Mom and Dad had to. They’re strong believers in being able to relate to the common pony. They’re desperately trying to keep the snobs and sycophantic nobles out of the Crystal Kingdom. We don’t envy Auntie Celestia having to put up with them all the time. Auntie Twilight insisted on me making some friends of my age at school, but what else could you expect of the Princess of Friendship? At least I had an advantage that most ponies don’t have.”

“Something to do with being a changeling?”

“Yeah. I could taste my classmates’ real feelings, so I knew which ones actually wanted to get to know me better, and which were just sucking up to me just because of who my parents were. I made some really good friends there. You can bet the suck-ups were insanely jealous when they missed out on being invited to my birthday parties held at the palace.”

“Ha! I bet they were. I know that type all too well. I went to far too many fund-raisers with ponies like that before I got financially independent of them.”

Crystal’s face fell. “I suppose you think I’ve had it easy? I’m the daughter of royalty and I get to indulge my whim to go off adventuring with my powerful family.”

Daring smiled and shook her head. “Nah. Your folks are good people, and there’s nothing wrong with growing up with privilege. It’s what you do with it that makes the difference. House Path is helping me pursue my goals in partnership with me rather than as haughty sponsors expecting a return on their investment, and you’re on a worthy quest of self-discovery. One day, because you’ve been raised right, I expect that you will make as big a difference in the world as your parents and Lord Path.”

Crystal blushed at the compliments. “I hope so. I have a lot to make up for Chrysalis’ sins against the reputation of changelings, and destruction of the Blue Hive.”

Daring held up a hoof with a frown. “Whoa there! No one is responsible for what Chrysalis did except Chrysalis. It’s a fine goal to rebuild the Blue Hive, but it isn’t an obligation. There’s no onus on you just because she was the one who laid your egg.”

Crystal sometimes wished she did not know the truth about her origin, but Daring was otherwise right. Knowing it and feeling it were two different things however. “I’ll keep that in mind. I want to stand proud among the other Queens one day and show what I have accomplished.” She snorted lightly. “One day. First I have to find out what I do best.”

“Well, if it turns out that you’re a good adventurer slash archaeologist like me, I’ll take you under my wing,” the pegasus said with a wink.

“Thanks, Daring. I’ll hold you to that. Hey, have you ever had a changeling on your team before?”

“I’ve dealt with them, but never had one actually on my team… to my knowledge anyway. I know some drones still live among ponies incognito.”

“So Uncle Free and I are officially your first then. I like that.”

“Your uncle is so much a griffon that he almost doesn’t count. You, however, don’t seem to mind being yourself, aside from when I first met you in unicorn guise.”

“Crystal Blue is my alter ego for when I want to be incognito. I might like to be just one of the common ponies, but as royalty, I sometimes don’t have the luxury of travelling without a huge amount of fuss made. I wanted to depart the Crystal Kingdom quietly, and I didn’t want everypony making a big deal of my presence in Ponyville. I was on a personal journey, and that wasn’t something to be shared with the general populace. Other than that though, I’m not ashamed of what I am. Mom and Dad loved me for what and who I am, and I think it would be a slight against them if I wasn’t proud of that too.”

“See? That’s the right attitude. None of that obligation to make up for others kind of stuff. I think I can tell that you’re going to do alright, Crystal.”

“Thank you. I really hope so.”

They were quiet for a long moment, watching the scenery slide by. Then Daring Do resumed the conversation.

“So you had a happy childhood. Any other problems being a changeling foster child?”

“Of course not – I was the perfect little princess,” Crystal said with a completely straight face.

Daring stared at her until they both broke out into laughter. “Okay, tell me the juicy bits,” the pegasus demanded.

“Well, there was this one time….”

# # #

Crystal and Thumper shared a two-person stateroom. Like on the train, it was compact and efficiently arranged, and they had to be careful not to make too much noise as they had sex that evening. For Crystal, it was not easy.

“You seem to be extra energetic tonight. You’ve worn me out,” Thumper complained with a smirk.

Crystal grinned back at him. “I had an extra good day. Daring Do and I had quite a long chat.”

“I know. I came to find you at one stage, but left you to your girl-talk when I realized how engrossed you were in your conversation.”

“Thanks, Thumper. I really enjoyed chatting with her.”

“So what did Daring Do want?”

“She came to feel me out, of course. Once we got past that point though, we just chatted like any two normal people would.”

“There’s nothing normal about either of you. Did it bother you that she was checking you out?”

Crystal shook her head. “Not at all. Not only did I know, but I knew that she knew that I knew. She’s a smart pony who has survived many dangerous adventures by not taking things for granted. I expected her to test me in some way actually.”

“You’re a House Path warrior-scholar – didn’t she think you could take care of yourself?”

“I don’t think that’s what concerned her.”

“What? Was it because you’re a changeling?” Thumper asked indignantly.

“Yes, and I totally support her concerns.”

“Huh? What the hay?”

“She told me herself that she’s never worked with a changeling before, and I’m a novice in the field. Under those circumstances, I’d check me out too. It was nothing personal. Believe me, I could tell.”

“Oh. I suppose that makes sense.”

“I’m glad that you worry for me, partner, but I’m not a delicate flower.”

“I noticed that while doing some plowing,” Thumper replied with a leer.

Crystal smirked. “So, you’ve got your second wind, stud? Let me show you what you can do with that pole.”

# # # # # # # # #

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