A Pony Displaced: Another Path

by NoLongerSober


Chapter 9

“So,” Shining Armor spoke first, carefully eyeing the pony next to him, “You’re the unicorn that’s been staying with Twily.”

“Am I to assume you are Twilight Sparkle’s… sire?”

“What!” Shining coughed and spluttered awkwardly, “No! She’s my little sister! Do I honestly look old enough to be her father to you?”

“Nay…I simply assumed thee wert older based on rank. Unless the standards of the guard have fallen drastically, tho- you, never would have made captain at your apparent age. Howbeit that, I knew of several ponies who sired foals at the age of fourteen. 'Twould not be the most queer thing I've seen.”

Shining Armor’s jaw tightened but did not reply to the thinly-veiled insult, uncertain if it was intentional or not. “Well, what about you? You’re young, and you were a captain.”

Barrier snorted in amusement, glancing briefly at his side and flank. “I was not a captain until I was thirty, and a great deal of that was due to my superiors falling to the accursed Griffins. How old do I look to you, colt?”

Shining’s frowned deeply at being called a colt, but once again didn’t rise to the insult, “I didn’t think you were past thirty until just now, but…” Shining thought for a moment, eyes carefully taking in Barrier’s appearance, “thirty-one, thirty-two?”

“Hah!” Barrier chuckled and shook his head slightly. “Your assumption was close, but not quite. I am thirty-six years of age. You are...twenty-six, I presume?”

“Twenty-nine,” Shining corrected, “but I’ve been captain for four years now.”

“Hm, I suppose youthful appearances worked its way down the generations.” Barrier glanced sideways once more. “Apparently, flanks of high quality have done so as well.” A quick flick of his tail sent Shining Armor yelping slightly and taking several lengthy steps away.

The two walked in awkward silence and would have continued to do so had a pink alicorn not called out.

“Shiny!”

Both unicorns shifted their gaze down an adjacent hallway at the eagerly waving pink alicorn who was quickly making her way to the pair.

“A friend of yours, I presume?”

“Something like that.” Shining grinned. “Magic Barrier, this is Princess Mi Amore Cadenza. Cadance, this is Magic Barrier my uh…” Shining’s brow furrowed in concentration, “Great-uncle times a lot.”

“For the sake of simplicity, I believe uncle will suffice, or simply Barrier.” As Barrier spoke, he carefully circled the pink alicorn who simply gazed at him, head tilted slightly in curiosity.

Finally, Barrier stopped his observation and shrugged. “She appears to be quite…” Barrier pressed a hoof to his chin as he struggled to find the word.

“Beautiful?” Shining offered with a smile,

“To some, perhaps. I would describe her as more...frail in appearance. No offense.”

Shining’s eye twitched in irritation while Cadance simply tittered in amusement.

“I’m Princess Cadance, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Magic Barrier. Luna speaks quite highly of you.”

“The pleasure is mine, Your Highness.” Barrier tilted his head respectfully.

The two unicorns started their trip towards Luna’s chambers with their royal addition.

“So, Barrier,” Cadance started when neither Barrier or Shining talked, “would you mind telling me why you think I look frail?”

“Permission to speak freely?” Barrier asked out of habit. Cadance responded with a simple nod.

“Apologies in advance should I offend.” Barrier took a short breath before launching into his explanation. “You have very little muscle upon your frame. Your legs are thinner than the average mare of my era, as well as both of your fellow princesses. In addition to that, what muscle-tone you do have makes you appear…squishy, rather than firm. You would be considered rather unappealing in my era.”

Cadance simply nodded while Shining appeared to be gritting his teeth. “And tell me, what would a pony from your time find attractive?”

“Thus far, I have only witnessed two mares that would appeal to most stallions of my era. One of them is an earth pony farmer by the name of Applejack who tirelessly tends to her family’s farm and the other is a pegasus by the name of Rainbow Dash, a dedicated athlete. She would have made a fine guard.” Barrier pressed a hoof to his chin in thought, “Princess Luna would probably be the best example though.”

Daring Do is also a fine mare as well…

“Pray tell, what would We be an example of?”

All three ponies turned to face the Princess of the Night, who had somehow made her way behind them.

“Princess Luna.” Barrier bowed respectfully, rather than his usual nod. “I was simply explaining to Princess Cadenza,” the stallion rose at a wave from Luna’s hooves, “what stallions from mine…” Barrier stopped to correct himself, “our era, would find attractive in a mare.”

“Ah,” Luna nodded in understanding. “A stallion’s tastes were very different in our time, if mares these days are any indicator. No offense, young Cadance.”

Shining Armor glanced carefully between the two. He’d only seen the Princess of the Night a few times since her return, but now that he was looking carefully, he could see the appeal. Cadance was gorgeous, but so was Luna, in her own way. While one wouldn’t notice at a quick glance, Luna clearly had the build of a warrior, a thin wall of muscle was hidden just enough to give her a lithe and agile appearance yet still prominent enough to mark her as a warrior.

“I was informed you wished to speak with me, Princess?” Barrier inquired, sitting down on his flanks, posture straight, eyes facing forward.

“Ah, yes. Adjusting to this new era has been very…stressful for Us. We are certain it has been for thee as well.” The princess received a nod of affirmation. “We decided on a method that would help both of us to relieve stress.”

“Princess?” Barrier tilted his head curiously.

“We require a swiving.”

Shining tilted his head curiously while Cadance blushed and suddenly looked far more interested in the conversation.

“Psst,” Shining nudged Cadance slightly, “What’s a swiving?”

Barrier, like Cadance, was blushing, eyes-wide. “Surely you jest, Your Highness? Whilst I would most certainly enjoy such a thing, it is simply that…I…” Barrier could feel the gears in his head grinding to a halt.

“I jest not. Comest, Captain Barrier, there is much to discuss before we follow through. We shall bid thee farewell for now, Captain Armor, young Cadance.” Luna took the limp form of the charcoal unicorn in her magic and trotted off the down the hall, the non-responsive pony floating behind her. “Let us spend some time together before the main event…”

“I don’t get it…” Shining stated as the two disappeared around a corner. “What in the hay is a swiving?”

“It means that’s he’s gonna learn what Luna’s like inside,” Cadance spoke with obvious intonation, inwardly cheering when the white unicorn flared into a blush.

***

“Um, Your Highness?” Barrier questioned as his faculties were finally restored, only moments after Luna had deposited him on a plush, navy-blue cushion. “Are you certain on the subject of…swiving?” As he waited for an answer he dragged his eyes across the room, noting how dark everything seemed, despite the room being fairly well-lit…without any visible lights.

“We shall see, Barrier.” Luna smiled slyly, breaking the stallion from his thoughts, “Before that, however, We believe it would beeth most beneficial to seek friendship in one who hath gone through experiences similar to Us.”

Luna’s horn flared to life, a steaming pot of water and a pair of cups winking into existence. “Like Us, thou also were sealed away for over one-thousand years, and we are both a-trying to adjust to how much has changed in our homelands…as well as coping with the friends and loved ones we have lost.”

Luna and Barrier both lifted their tea-cups, taking a short drink. How convenient, to have fully prepared tea on-call.

“There are many things that surprised Us upon our return,” Luna began again, “Would you believe that the Griffins are now our most loyal allies? According to my sister, we have been at peace with them for almost as long as we have been gone.”

Barrier’s teacup vibrated slightly in his magic, causing the stallion to set it on the table. “After what happened to Gallopfrey, after all those helpless foals were eaten alive by those soulless beasts?” His voice took on a hard edge.

“We have met some modern Griffins,” Luna continued. “They are far more civil than those of the past. It seems Our…foray...as Nightmare Moon made them aware of the fact that we could either freeze or burn their country to a crisp, if we were so inclined.”

“You would have exterminated countless civilians by a-doing something like that. It would've never happened.”

“Apparently, Our sister was quite fed up with the conflict when all was said and done with Our banishment.”

“And what, pray tell, happened to the foal-eating monster that ordered the conquest and occupation of Gallopfrey?” Barrier asked, taking another sip of tea in an effort to calm his suddenly-riled nerves.

“The King was apparently not informed of the atrocities that Brigadier LeGrande had committed. Very few were the foal-devouring monsters that Grimhilde was. According to Our sister, most of their army was composed of starving workers, facing a dire famine.” Luna snorted in irritation of her own. “We wonder how many lives we could’ve saved had Our sister consented to such a threat earlier in the conflict.”

“You would have both been declared tyrants. Ponies, along with the rest of the world, might have even come to fear you.” No creature would take such a threat to the world as a whole lightly. “Or mayhaps, they would expect conquest of other lands or something along those lines…”

“Those were Our sister’s reasons as well. In any case,” the lunar diarch refocused, “Brigadier LeGrande was tried for her war crimes and executed by her own people. The city of Gallopfrey was reclaimed. ‘Tis known as Trottingham in these modern days. According to my sister, it was to help distance it from the tragedy that befell its former inhabitants.” Luna allowed the conversation to lapse into a brief silence before opening her mouth once more, “May I inquire to what Ponyville is like? Our sister toldeth Us you were staying with her student?”

“Aye,” Barrier confirmed, grateful for the change in subject. “Twilight Sparkle. She is a good young mare… not very social, but I know she will grow out of it. I plan on seeking new residence upon my return, however. It does not feel right to lay about her home while contributing very little.”

“Will you stay in Ponyville perhaps, or move elsewhere?”

“Elsewhere.” Barrier said with little hesitation. “Canterlot perhaps…I suppose having a house built is also within the realm of possibility.”

She would be the ideal pony to aid you with what haunts your soul. Barrier’s mind chimed in.

“I am not fully certain yet. Methinks I shall travel and see how Equestria hath changed.” The stallion shrugged noncommittally. “That aside, there is something I wish to ask you. I had not considered it before because I was accustomed to these, but upon recent events…” The stallion thought back to the nightmare and his physical reaction to the false events of his dream. Not uncommon, but there were rarely ponies around him in the past that he had to worry about unintentionally harming, “Methinks you can aid me with my problem.”

“Thou art referring to thy nightmare, yes?”

Barrier nodded, but otherwise stayed silent.

“I’m afraid I cannot solve this problem for thee, captain. "Tis something thou wilt have to comest to terms with thyself. The most I can do is prevent the nightmares.”

Barrier nodded once more, having expected the answer. “I will take what little is available to make my visions of the past stop haunting me. I wish I knew how to come to terms with this. I know in my mind that there is nothing for it and anguishing over it serves no purpose, and yet still the problem persists.”

“I wish I had an answer for thee, Barrier,” Luna said with complete honestly, “The most I can say is that without fail, the cadets nor sergeant Fleetfeather would not blame nor hold thee responsible for what happened. If anything, I would think they would be flattered that thou art so concerned over it, even after all these years.”

Luna gave the words a moment to sink in, “And with that aside…Our sister and I both believe the Crystal Empire will return one day. Should that cometh to pass, I hope to have you by Our side. The guard is not what it used to be.”

Barrier snorted slightly. They weren’t bad, he supposed, but the guard had certainly grown more lax in the perceived peace. There is no such thing as true peace, Barrier’s mind stated cynically.

“I suppose we should be happy they can afford to be so carefree. That reminds me,” Barrier clopped a hoof to the ground, “Princess Cadance? Is she Princess Celestia’s daughter or…?”

“Nay. 'Tis some complicated events involving a witch. We had to fay wakefulness when We were being informed.” Luna trailed off with a slight chuckle, voice dropping slightly, eyes suddenly going half-lidded. “Now then, captain. Would you like to accept our offer of…companionship?”

Barrier swallowed.