A Pony Displaced: Another Path

by NoLongerSober

Chapter 6

Barrier could just make out his breath in front of him as he cautiously walked through the lightless streets of the Empire, eyes glancing at the bodies littering the ground. Swallowing heavily, the stallion turned his eyes forward, not noticing how nondescript the majority of the ponies were.

They died because of you… a haunting voice teased him in the back of his mind. You should have seen it coming, seen him coming… the voice continued. “Fie me! I did not know…” Barrier argued with himself out loud, eyes shifting to the empire looming in the distance.

You promised them it was safe… Barrier opened his mouth to speak again before he stumbled forward, tripping over a corpse. Too weak to save them, the voice mocked with a chilling laugh,

“Verdant…” Barrier swallowed once more, meeting the dead, icy-blue eyes of the still body; they were attached to the shattered carcass of a dark-green earth-pony, his brown mane tattered and bloody, limbs bent at random angles and partly buried under rubble.

Barrier grimaced, eyes trailing down to the faded-white muzzle of the former cadet, noting how a thin trickle of dried blood clung to the pony’s jaw. You might as well have killed them yourself…

“Get thy rest, soldier…” Barrier whispered softly as he reached out with his forehoof, gently closing the pony’s eyes. “Thou ear-”

“Thou didst this!” The green stallion’s eyes suddenly shot open, his blue irises replaced with a crimson-red, the whites surrounding them darker than Barrier’s coat.

Barrier, his own eyes widening, leapt backwards just as the green pony’s hoof made to shoot out at him, instead only swinging side-to-side in a sickly fashion. “How could I have known, Verdant…?”

Barrier began to backpedal, nearly tripping over another corpse as Verdant’s form dragged itself upright, bones snapping loosely into place but doing nothing for the stallion’s appearance.

“Thou saidst we would be safe!” the stallion all but roared as he moved forward slowly.

No, no, no… Barrier could feel his breaths quicken as he glanced around, picking out six more familiar ponies, all slowly picking their broken and battered forms off of the ground.

“I will never lay eyes upon my kin again…” the lithe white mare looked to be in better shape than the others, save for the hole in the mare’s barrel, staining her once-pristine coat red. “They’ll be all alone.” She tilted her head forward, the once lustrous blonde mane now framing her eyes.

“I was a-going to be a blacksmith…”

Barrier whipped around, putting the ponies on either side of him as his eyes rested on the dark blue unicorn, noting the long-sword that had been run through his barrel and out his back.

“I was going to start a family,” another corpse spoke, driving Barrier further backwards into what he now identified as a narrow alley. A purple pegasus stallion dragged himself forward, missing his hind legs and wings.

“Thou destroyed my clan.” A light blue unicorn mare stumbled forth, blood still gushing from a large tear in her neck.

“Thou sent my daughter unto her death.”

Barrier’s pupils shrunk and his breath hitched completely in his throat as the last line of dialogue ran itself through his skull. Anypony but her, Faust please… Even as Barrier silently prayed to whatever deity would listen, his eyes fell on the powder-blue pegasus mare, noting the dull shades of her once-vibrant pink mane and tail. Finally, his gaze rested on the puncture wound in her throat, his mind naturally comparing it to the hole in Winter Gem’s chest.

“I did not know, Fleetfeather, thou must believest me…” Barrier began to desperately glance around the alleyway for any kind of escape, even as the ponies continued to taunt him.

That’s right, flee… the dark voice laughed again, It won’t be the first time you’ve left them to die!

“Swiftsword, Winter, Verdant…” Barrier’s gaze traveled across each pony, naming them as he went, “Iron Forge, Hat Trick...Fleet…” The stallion stopped, horn flaring slightly as he caught a door leading into one the buildings that comprised the alley, “I am sorry…I thought you would all be safe…” Barrier turned towards the doors, preparing to lunge through it, hopefully to safety and sanity. With a jerk of his magic, he received a reply from the pony he’d least hoped to hear.

“Thou thoughtest wrong,” the voice of a filly screeched as she lunged from the door, her bloody pink mane trailing wildly behind her.


“Wake! Up!”

Barrier’s eye opened wide, his pupils little more than than pinpricks as they scanned his surroundings wildly. Only after several minutes of hyperventilation did he realize that the pegasus from the previous night was straddling him and, judging by the sudden pain in his jaw, had smacked him. Ears swiveling, Barrier jerked his head around just in time to see Twilight sprint into the main room of the library, her eyes almost immediately falling on the scene before her.

Twilight hadn’t given it much thought last night when she let the pair into the library. Her brain had been on autopilot and hadn’t registered anything more than the additional houseguest. Now however, panicked awake by the shouting and loud smacks, her brain was mostly running…or so she thought. She wasn’t entirely certain how to process Daring Do straddling her uncle. A mare she thought was a fictional character until last night was straddling her uncle.

“Twilight, is everything okay?” a childish voice called from the second floor, followed by Spike poking his head over the edge of the stairs.

“Uh…I think she’s broken?” Daring Do offered.


Barrier rolled the pancake around his plate, appetite nonexistent. The dream had briefly faded into the background while Twilight freaked out and jumped around chanting ‘yes’ repeatedly, but it soon had found it’s way back to the front.

“I’m talking to you, horn-head!”

Barrier was jolted out of his thoughts when the pegasus mare smacked him in the back of the head.

“Apologies, Good Mare Do,” Barrier replied sedately. “What didst thou say?”

“I asked what the hay happened to you this morning that had you thrashing like a madpony.”

“I’d like to know that as well,” Twilight chirped in. “It’s not every morning you wake up and find your uncle sleeping with a fictional character, to say nothing of the shouting.”

“'Tis of a very personal nature,” Barrier replied heavily, causing Twilight to flinch back slightly and Daring Do to harden her expression; neither mare inquired further.

“Just…don’t do that in the public section next time, okay? That’d be hard to explain to somepony who decided to visit the library. If you two really need alone time, just…use the guest bedroom and give me a heads up.”

Barrier’s and Daring attained their wide-eyes at the same time, though Barrier was the first to speak. “Thou believed we were a-fornicating? Not if I were locked away for another millennium!”

Daring Do reeled as if struck. “Excuse you! You think I’m not good enough or something? It’s the other way around, buddy!”

“Twilight?” Spike gave the mare several light tugs, drawing her attention away from the bickering pair,

“Yes, Spike?”

“What’s fornicate mean?”


“So you mean to tell me that he actually is over a thousand years old?”

Twilight nodded firmly.

Barrier became distinctly aware that there were now two ponies eyeing him hungrily, and not in a good way.

“I have a few questions.” The pegasus grinned an almost predatory smile.

“That will have to wait.” Barrier smiled right back. “The time hath come for me to begin work on Mistress Applejack’s farm.” Barrier hefted himself up from the table, horn flaring to life to fetch quill and parchment. “And before I forget...” He quickly inked a letter, giving it a quick proofread before offering to Spike, “If thou wouldst not mind, Spike?”

Spike happily obliged, blowing a stream of the magical fire, sending the letter to ash.

“What’d you write?” Daring Do asked as she too stood up from the table.

“I wrote a formal request to Princess Celestia requesting permission to keep the memorial.”

Daring’s eye twitched dangerously as Barrier stalked out the door, paying her not so much as a second glance.


“And you say there are no additional effects on your body or mind?”

Faust above, their number is two now, Barrier thought tiredly as he gave a backwards glance at the cloaked pegasus trailing closely behind him.

“None that I am aware of thus far. Wouldst thou cease in thy trailing after me now?” The stallion received no response, his tail flicking irritably at the lack of a reply.

“You should really work on your speech. It’s kind of funny at first, but it gets old quick. It makes me wanna kick cats at this point.”

Barrier’s mind slowed slightly as he tried to process the erratic statement before finally forming a reply, “What in the Tartarus is the matter with thee? Why wouldst thou kick cats? Have they wronged thee in some way?”

The pair left the town proper and transitioned onto the empty dirt path leading to the Sweet Apple Acres.

“You’ve got no idea!” Daring stated with a hearty chuckle and a shake of her head.

Barrier didn’t reply, allowing the pair to walk in silence for all of ten minutes before Daring struck up conversation once again, drawing the stallion’s attention with how somber her tone was this time.

“So, wanna talk about it?”

“About what, Good Mare Do?” Barrier asked, eyebrows raised in askance.

“Don’t play stupid, Barrier. I was next to you. You nearly took my head off with a couple of those swings.”

“I have already stated that this is a personal matter,” Barrier reiterated the statement from earlier that morning.

“Just…look, I know we don’t get along, but if you need to talk…” her words tapered off temporarily before picking up once more, “I’m not like a lot of other ponies. I’ve seen some pretty nasty stuff travelling as much as I do. I can at least promise I won’t freak out, okay?”

Barrier remained silent at first, though he soon found his mouth moving of it’s own volition, “The memorial thou art so insistent on acquiring,” he started, even as his mind told him to stop talking, “On it are the names of two-hundred and forty-seven ponies and one civilian, at my insistence. All, save the civilian, were stationed at the Crystal Empire a-during the time of its disappearance.”

“Wait,” Daring Do cut the stallion off, “the Crystal Empire? The Crystal Empire of the Frozen North?” Her eyes almost sparkled with untold excitement.

“The very one.” Barrier nodded sadly, his expression sucking Daring Do’s excitement right out of her. “Of those ponies, there are several that have long since haunted me.” Barrier became aware of the tears trying to escape and quickly blinked them back, careful to keep his tone neutral. “Five of those ponies were cadets, not a single one over the threshold of twenty.”

The stallion’s tone cracked slightly. “Verdant Range, one of the cadets, specifically questioned the safety of their assignment.” A humorless chuckle escaped Barrier as he continued, “I gave him my word that they would be fine, and that it was just standard training. I assured him and the others.”

Barrier’s voice cracked even further, a muffled half-sob escaping him. “And Fleetfeather…gods, Fleetfeather…” The stallion’s mind flashed back to the dream. “Faust above, I approved her daughter accompanying her to the Empire.”

Wind Whistler’s last words rang in the unicorn’s head once more, “Her daughter, Wind Whistler…my goddaughter. I remember her last words as her father and I saw them off. She was all but shaking with excitement when she asked her mother if she would be permitted to purchase a memento.” Barrier pressed a hoof to his eye and realized at some point that his tears had begun to flow freely. “I sent those ponies to their deaths. Every one of them.”

Daring wanted to reply that it wasn’t his fault and he couldn’t have known, but her gut told her it was a bad idea.

“And almost every night since then, I’ve had a similar dream. I’m in the Crystal Empire once more, corpses scattered all around me. At the top of the pile rest my cadets and my best friend’s wife and daughter. For the entirety of the dream, their voices taunt me and blame me. They lash out…and I deserve every moment of it. I sen-”

Barrier fell silent as a resounding smack echoed through the apple orchard. Eyes wide, he slowly craned his head forward realizing Daring Do had slapped the ever-living tar out of him. Before he could open his mouth in inquiry, Daring threw both of her forehooves around him, causing the stallion to flinch.

He was glad that they were alone, because as she hugged him, the dam decided that was a good time to burst.