• Published 6th Feb 2015
  • 11,497 Views, 1,175 Comments

A Different Perspective - Goldfur

An earth pony and his griffon best friend set out with Twilight Sparkle to study other cultures and how to forge bonds of friendship with them. Things rarely go to plan though, and sometimes comically wrong. Then Chrysalis changes everything.

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Chapter 2: A Pony, A Griffon, And A Changeling Walk Into A Café...

“So why the long face this time?” Free Agent asked Long Path as they ambled home.

“My appointment with Princess Celestia has been postponed. Again.”

The earth pony’s withering tones made the griffon flinch a bit. “Hey, don’t dis Princess Sun-Butt. She throws a mean party!”

“And how many of those parties have you ever actually been invited to?”

“That’s beside the point,” Free evaded. “She puts a lot of effort into those soirees. Where would we be without those diplomatic shindigs luring the cream of Canterlot to one place so I can work the crowd? Gives us a chance to make a great impression, and baby, I make the best!”

“I shudder to think,” Path replied. “How have you managed not to get thrown out of the palace?”

Free grinned as broadly as a beak would let him. “I've been at those parties so often that they think that I belong there. They just never question it.”

“Good grief! Anyway, partying is not the point. You know I’m trying to do research that requires access to the Royal Archives. Going to a party isn't going to achieve that.”

“How would you know? You’d be surprised what it could get you if you tried it for once.”

“Are you trying to tell me that chatting up a pretty mare is going to get me access to some of the princesses’ private collection?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. At least you’d have the company of a cute mare for a change.” As Long Path started scowling and opening his mouth to object, Free forestalled him, saying, “Look – I’m not just yanking your chain. It’s not as if you haven’t already done things that no pony has tried before. Whoever heard of an earth pony studying unicorn magic theory and pegasus weather theory? None! Who figured out how to use earth pony magic to counteract certain unicorn spells? You! Ya gotta keep thinking sideways like that!”

Path looked a bit mollified by that, but still frustrated. “That’s why I’m trying to get access to that material. The usual study materials are… lacking.”

“So what exactly has kept you from hitting up the Princess?”

“A never-ending list of excuses: run out of time, emergency council session, one of her students needs help, one of her students causes a disaster, nobles demanding priority, the return of Tirek, running out of tea…”

Free cocked an inquiring eyebrow at his friend. “Tea?”

“Okay, the latter is a slight exaggeration, but there’s always some excuse.”

“So what you’re saying is that Sunny is busy running the kingdom, and one little over-zealous scholar barely rates a blip on the schedule?”

“A crude but accurate summation.”

“What did I say about thinking sideways?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

Free Agent shook his head pityingly. “So smart and so dumb at the same time. There are two princesses that currently rule Equestria. You’re hitting up the wrong one!”

That startled Path. “Princess Luna?”

“Of course, Luna! Moon-butt not only also has access to the Royal Archives, but her Night Court also has far fewer appointments. Seems most ponies want to either go to bed, or party at that time. Go figure! Twenty bits says you get to see her first time you try.”

“I've learned not to bet my money with you.”

“Coward! Okay, if you don’t get the interview with Luna, I’ll treat you to dinner at the Eyrish Steak House. If you do though, you have to come with me to Celestia’s next party. You can be my ‘plus one’.”

“I’m going to enjoy that free meal,” Long Path said confidently.

Free Agent just looked smug.

# # #

Free looked up from the game he was playing when Path walked in the door. “So how’d it go?”

“I've got just one question,” Path replied.

“Yeah? What?”

“What am I supposed to wear to one of those… shindigs?”

Free pumped a foreleg with clenched claws into the air and crowed, “He shoots; he scores!”

# # #

When the pair arrived home after the ambassadorial party that Free had taken Path to, the griffon was doing a fine job of pouting despite not having the lips to do the expression justice.

Path followed Free inside, still wearing the smart jacket that he had gotten just for the occasion. “Look, how was I to know that the ambassador’s daughter would go gaga over me?”

“Showing off your mastery of the griffon tongue was never going to make you inconspicuous, was it?” Free replied.

You taught me it. It was only polite to converse with the ambassador in his native language.”

“Do you have any idea of how those snobby griffons like it when ponies do things like that?”

“I think I do now,” Path admitted. “I couldn't get Roseclaw to leave my side after that.”

“That’s the problem with you!” Free squawked. “You should have found some excuse and cut out with her! That’s what I intended to do, but you had her undivided attention.”

“An earth pony stallion and a griffoness? You have to be kidding!”

“Haven’t you ever heard of hippogriffs? Man, you had her eating out of your hooves!”

“I didn't intend to. I was just interested in learning more about griffon culture.”

Free Agent rolled his eyes heavenwards, holding up his claws in supplication. “Sweet Celestia! The guy doesn't even know when he’s turning on a girl!”

Path shrugged. “Sorry if I trod on your plans, but it isn't as if there weren't other she-griffons or mares there.”

“But this was the ambassador’s daughter! You want to know how badly I want to bang her?”

“Your fault for dragging me to the party,” the stallion replied smugly.

“Arrgh! See if I do you a favor again!” Free Agent stalked off to his room and slammed the door in frustration.

Long Path felt a bit guilty, but only a little. He smiled in recollection of the evening. He’d made some good contacts, learned a lot, and got one up on his friend for a change. All in all, it was a very productive evening.

# # #

“Hey! There’s the changeling Royal Guard squad that Princess Celestia announced last week,” Path said excitedly, pointing them out to Free.

The griffon looked in the direction of Path’s hoof and shrugged. “I dunno, that just seems weird to me. Changelings out in the open like that just doesn't seem natural.”

“By definition, nothing about pony civilization is natural. We design, plan, build, and interact in ways that any non-sapient creature cannot. So if the changelings want to socialize with us out of disguise, then that’s a civilized response.”

“That’s the hippology student talking, so let me respond as an ordinary griffon – it’s still weird.”

Path looked at Free with a smirk on his face. “Look who’s talking! You’re hardly ordinary; you’re a changeling who would rather be a griffon, and a horny one at that.”

“Better to be a horny griffon than one of them. Just look at how the ponies react to them.”

Path had been concentrating on the changelings, but at Free’s prompting, he observed the pony citizens too. Almost every pony swerved to avoid them, or at best refused to look at them, relegating the changelings to less than even the beggars in the streets. The earth pony frowned and said, “That’s not right. The princesses announced long ago that there were several other non-hostile hives, and that their members were considered citizens in good standing of Equestria. Those Guards should be shown respect for their service.”

“Wake up to reality, Path. If you open your eyes and look, you’d see that ponies don’t like anything different. As a griffon, I get snubbed almost every day, and I’m still doing a lot better than that lot. Heck, some ponies don’t even like other types of ponies! The three pony tribes may have been unified centuries ago, but that doesn't mean that it’s always harmonious.”

Long Path silently considered that as he watched them for several minutes. Free Agent was right – the Guards were being polite and professional, but ponies were giving them the cold shoulder. They seemed quite relieved when the squad leader called a break. Most settled into the shade of a tree for a rest, but he noticed that the leader headed off into a nearby café. A few minutes later he emerged with a cup of coffee and re-joined his team.

“I feel like a coffee,” Path announced, heading towards the café.

Free rolled his eyes and followed. “Sure you do. You just want an excuse to check them out more, don’t ya?”

Free Agent was right, but Long Path was not about to acknowledge it. They entered the café and found a young unicorn mare with a light orange coat and curly pink hair behind the counter.

“Welcome to the True Brew Café,” she said with a bright smile.

“Thanks. Could we get two cappuccinos, and we’d like to have them served at one of the outside tables, please,” Path requested.

“Certainly, sir” the mare replied as she took his money. She then turned to the door to the rear of the shop and called out, “Dad! Two cappuccinos, please!”

A unicorn stallion with light brown fur and coffee & cream striped mane came out. He nodded at his customers as he headed to the coffee machine. “I don’t believe that I have seen you here before,” he said as he busied himself with the brewing process.

“No, first time,” Path admitted.

“Well I’m Frothy Brew, and this is my daughter, Peach Delight. Welcome to our little family-owned business, and I hope that you enjoy and come again.”

“Thank you. My name is Long Path, and my friend here is Free Agent. We live not too far away.”

Peach said, “It’s our tradition to give first-time customers a free slice of pie or cake to go with their coffee. Could I interest you in something from the display?”

“That’s very generous of you,” Path replied. “I wouldn't mind some apple pie, please.”

“Certainly. Whipped cream or ice cream with it?”

“Ice cream, of course!”

Peach grinned. “Of course. And you, sir?” she asked Free.

“I’d love to have some Peach Delight,” the griffon asked with a sly grin.

Peach’s expression barely changed, although Path noticed a hint of amusement.

“Sorry, sir, but that’s currently off the menu. Perhaps an almond slice? I hear griffons are a little bit nutty. Into them, I mean.”

“Ooh! Zinged! I’ll take what I can get from you, lovely lady,” Free replied unabashed.

Path noticed that Frothy Brew seemed unaffected by his friend’s move on his daughter, and he figured that it was hardly the first time that it had happened, and was pretty much par for the course. However, he had come in here for a reason. “I thought that I saw one of those changeling Guards come out of here earlier. What was that like?” he asked the barista.

Frothy jerked as if he had been struck, spilling some of the coffee that he had just brewed. He scowled and said, “There are some customers that I would rather not see return,” he replied, and then refused to say any more, busying himself with his task.

Path realized that he was not likely to get anything more out of Frothy, so he headed outside, dragging along his friend. They sat at one of the outdoor tables with an umbrella shading them, and Path turned his attention to the changeling squad that was still resting in the park across the street. Soon, Peach came out with the cappuccinos, pie and cake and served them up.

“Would there be anything else, gentlebeings?” she asked.

“Just a date on your next night off. Whenever it is, I’m Free,” the griffon said.

“Sorry, but I’m not. Have a good day!”

Path smirked at Free. “Shot down in flames.”

His friend grinned back. “Don’t count me out yet. She smiled nicely and she gave as good as she got – yeah, that mare likes different experiences.”

Considering Free’s record, Path had to admit that the griffon might be right. He therefore shut up and concentrated on enjoying his drink and food, while observing the changelings. The entire time that he watched, the only ponies that went into the park were a few curious foals, and the occasional parent who hastily herded them back out again. He began paying more attention to the adult ponies and their reactions. Of all the dozens of passers-by, he only counted two that had a blasé attitude towards the Guards. He observed several unicorn mares gather and start gossiping, occasional glancing in the direction of the changelings, which made it quite obvious what their subject of discussion was. Path even noticed a trio of pegasi briefly hover over the park, gesticulating in annoyance in the direction of the Guards. By the time the squad had finished its break and moved on, Path was firmly convinced of one thing – nobody liked the changelings.

“It’s just not right,” Long Path grumped, repeating his earlier sentiments.

“Ponies are bigots,” Free replied simply, unsurprised at his friend’s conclusion.

“All the talk about the magic of Harmony, but that’s all it is – talk.”

“Nah, many actually believe in it, but first you have to get past their preconceptions. You don’t think that everypony likes me at first, do you? Once they get to know me, things get a lot better.”

Considering the number of ponies he’d dated, not to mention banged, Path could hardly argue that point. “Then perhaps something should be done about that. And I’m not just talking about changelings either. We need to be better acquainted with all species.”

“Natch. Why do you think you scored so well with Roseclaw? You were at a stuffy ambassadorial reception with politicians being formal with plastered on smiles. Except for Princess Celestia, I doubt that a single pony was truly friendly toward the griffon delegation. Then you came along, chatted to them in their language, enthusiastically listening to what they said, and generally being genuinely friendly. You probably did more for pony-griffon relationships in one night than those stuffed shirts have done in decades.”

“But I thought that was what diplomatic meetings were all about – getting to know and understand each other better for the good of each of their countries?”

“More like battles fought with words. If you hadn't gone there so naively, you might have noticed that for yourself.”

“I must have stood out like a sore hoof then.”

Free chuckled. “Tartarus, yeah! The nobles noticed for sure, and one of them queried a Guard who looked concerned. He then had a word with the Princess. I didn't hear what she told the Guard, but she smiled and he left looking satisfied.”

Path blanched. “You’re telling me that they realized that I didn't belong there despite coming with you?”

Free’s grin just grew. “Yep! But Sun-butt realized what you were achieving and wisely stayed the Guards’ hooves. You may not have been officially invited, but from that moment, you had the princess’ blessing. In fact, I bet that if you turn up at the next meeting without me, you’d not only be not turned away, but your name would already be on the list.”

“Nope – not taking that bet. No way.” Path was full of wonder at that revelation, but not totally stupid. “It’d be the first time that Princess Celestia has helped me out though.”

“Now if only she could remove the stick that’s up your arse and get you to have some fun. I’ll really be impressed then.”

Path glared at his friend before saying, “Come on – let’s go home. I've got lots to think about.”

# # #

“Did you know that there are just two dozen griffons and nine zebras that make Canterlot their home?” Path asked Free one afternoon some weeks later. They had stopped at the True Brew Café again, a place that had become a favorite of theirs lately. Free was still trying to get a date with Peach, while Path just liked the coffee and the atmosphere. The growing number of changelings who frequented the place were also worth observing, along with the ponies who chose to interact with them.

“Yeah, that sounds about right for the griffons. Some of them are relatives of mine. Not blood rellies, of course. Didn't know about the zebras, although I've dated a couple. We weren't discussing population though. Trying to increase it, maybe,” Free added with a grin.

Path was unfazed but curious. “Are griffons even inter-fertile with zebras without a compatibility spell? And besides, didn't you tell me that changelings like you are not fertile?”

The smug look on Free’s face annoyed the earth pony. “Yeah, I’m infertile, and I wasn't a griffon at the time, but the mare didn't need to know about either of those things.”

Path just shook his head and sighed. His friend was never going to change, which was ironic for a changeling. “Anyway, the point is that almost no species other than ponies live in the capital city of Equestria. Why do you think that is?”

“Are you still going on about that? I answered that ages ago – ponies are mostly bigots.”

“I disagree,” a voice coming from an adjacent table interjected.

Path and Free looked over to see a Green Changeling seated there.

“Pardon me, but you were talking quite loudly, and I couldn't help overhearing,” the changeling said.

“No, it’s okay. I’m interested in your opinions too.” Path waved the changeling over. “Come over and join us.”

The changeling nodded and took a seat across from the two. “My name is Hycithia, and I've been living in Canterlot for three years now, but the past few months I’ve done so undisguised.”

“That must have been quite a shock. Why did you do that?” Path asked.

“Because my queen asked for volunteers to start getting ponies used to the idea of changelings among them, and I thought that I could be good at that.”

“And have you been?”

Hycithia grimaced. “It’s been hard. However, I don’t think that it’s outright bigotry that’s the problem, but a deep-seated xenophobia.”

“Does that make any substantial difference though?”

“From a practical day-to-day point of view, perhaps not, but one is forgivable while the other is not.”

Path was intrigued. “What do you mean by that? How can either attitude be condoned?”

“The basis of xenophobia is fear. In the days before ponies became civilized, fear was a survival mechanism. The unknown was frequently dangerous and unfamiliar races were especially so. Nowadays though, the need for that fear is far less, but it is part of pony nature. It can be forgiven because there is no thought put into it – they fear because something primitive in their brain screams that they should be afraid. Bigotry is the opposite. Ponies believe something is bad or scary about others, and they keep reinforcing that belief even when they are shown that they are wrong.”

“That’s very insightful. So you believe that the average pony is xenophobic rather than bigoted?”

“Well, there are some that are both, but yes I believe so, and that’s why I will continue to try to improve relationships between ponies and changelings.”

“How confident are you that this can be done?”

“It’s already happening. This café is a prime example. Frothy had a traumatic experience during the changeling invasion, and was heavily biased against us, but he’s worked hard to overcome that. That’s why the True Brew Café is a favorite among changelings.”

“Must be why I like hanging out here,” Free commented.

Path shook his head. “But don’t you see that this is a superficial result?”

Hycithia was startled by that comment, and as she tried to wrap her head around it, a new customer entered the store and ordered a coffee. Frothy greeted her cheerfully and went to work.

“I don’t quite comprehend what you mean,” Hycithia admitted.

“You've made friends with Frothy and his family, and all you changelings like to come here to socialize, but that doesn't affect the big picture much.”

“We can’t do everything at once! We’re trying to bring around the local shopkeepers also.”

“You’re treating the symptoms, but not the disease. It’s no good getting a few ponies on your side when the rest of society shuns you. And that’s true of all races. As an earth pony, I’m the odd pony out in Canterlot, but I didn't let that stop me. I learn what I can about the other kinds of ponies, and the other races too.”

The purple-coated newcomer gathered her coffee and cake, and started looking for a free table. She was just passing by Path and Free’s table when Path pointed at her abruptly.

“Take her for example. She’s supposed to be the Princess of Friendship, and that’s supposed to be an all-encompassing force that transcends all socio-economic, racial, and geographical boundaries, but all but the smallest minority of her friends are from the same town, are all ponies, and are even all the same gender! I’m not mad at the princess – I actually like her and many of the things that she’s done, but I am using her as an example of the strongly asymmetric, non-homogeneous idea of friendship that the vast majority of Equestrian society seems to cling to! There can be no friendship without understanding, and if one group is xenophobic of all the others, then that group will never gain understanding, and thus world-wide friendship can never be achieved.”

Free calmly sipped his coffee and then said, “Huh! First time you meet alicorn Princess Twilight Sparkle, and you yell at her in public. Ballsy move.”

Twilight was just standing there stunned, wondering what in Equestria was going on. The café had become deathly quiet as all the customers and staff stared in shock. Slowly it dawned on Long Path just what he had just done in the heat of the moment, and he started wishing that he had the special talent of shrinking out of sight instead of linguistics.

However, slowly a smile spread on Twilight’s face. “Looks like I’m still on duty after all,” she said as she set her tray down on their table. “Make space for me. It sounds like we have a lot to talk about.”

“So let me sum this up,” Twilight said as she finished up the notes that she had been taking. “Your studies into hippology have led you to research the civilizations of other species and their relationship to ours. Your initial conclusion is that ponies are significantly xenophobic, and this can only be overcome by further studies of the species that interact with ours, in order to demystify them and educate us so as to break down the barriers between us, thus promoting friendship and universal harmony. Correct?”

“Essentially, yes,” Path agreed, somewhat dazed at the pace at which this was proceeding.

“And how have you been approaching this project?”

“Well, lately I have found the reference material for other races at the local library to be inadequate, so I petitioned Princess Luna for access to the Royal Archives.”

Twilight looked startled. “Did you by any chance borrow Airy Words’ book, ‘Griffons: Bird or Mammal?’ from the archive?”

“As a matter of fact, I did,” Path admitted.

“So that’s where it went. I was doing some research into griffons myself, and I was looking for that book. It seems we have had similar goals. Was it useful?”

“Disappointing. The author dwelt far too much on the physical aspects while glossing over social ones.”

Twilight sighed. “With a title like that, I’m not too surprised. It’s proving difficult to find good resources for this. The griffon people tend to be very closed-beak when it comes to their society. The ones who live here tend to want to get away from that, and aren't interested in talking about it.”

“Then perhaps we should send a research team to them instead. Spend some time among them and find out what makes them tick,” Path suggested.

“You wouldn't be the first to want to spend time among them, but that’s nowhere near as simple as you may think. Merely getting a hoof in the door is a major achievement.”

Long Path hesitated before saying, “Umm… I might have that hoof there already.”

Twilight blinked in surprise. “You do? How?”

“Well… Free and I were at the griffon ambassador’s function a few weeks back, and I kinda got in good with him and his daughter.”

Twilight gaped for a moment before bursting out into laughter. “Oh! I can’t believe this! Celestia told me all about this earth pony stallion who gate-crashed the function, and practically swept Roseclaw off her paws. You’re that pony! Oh, this is just too rich!”

Once again Long Path found himself furiously wishing for the power to shrink out of sight as several café patrons turned to stare because of Twilight’s outburst.

Free grinned and said, “Yeah, that’s him. I had to practically drag him there, and then he stole my thunder.”

“Celestia didn't mention you – what was your name again?”

Free sighed melodramatically. “Reduced to a mere background figure, alone and forgotten. What has become of me? Free Agent’s the name, so remember –” He gave Twilight a broad wink. “I’m always Free!”

Twilight rolled her eyes before replying, “Why do you have a pony name? At least it sounds like a pony name – I've never heard a griffon name like that.”

“I gave myself this name,” Free said proudly. “I've lived most of my life among ponies, and I chose it to suit me better, and to blend in with the crowd. However, if your highness really wants to know, my parents named me Cirrus. Cirrus Ironbeak at your service, O Purple Princess!”

Hycithia had been mostly quiet until now, but at hearing his name, she tried and failed to stifle a laugh. “Snrk!”

Free eyed the offending changeling and said, “Got a problem with my name?”

She shook her head, struggling not to grin. “Nope. Not at all… Cirrus.”

Free glared at the changeling, and Twilight was happy that Free hadn't noticed her own badly concealed grin. She then tried to get back on subject. “Okay, I can go through diplomatic channels and request that they accept a research team which would include Long Path. That would stand a fair chance of succeeding. However, it will take some time to arrange. Did you have anything else in mind that we can fit in meanwhile?”

Path was thankful that Free had provided a distraction, and they could get back to what was important. “Actually I would like to visit as many cultures as possible. I did say that only universal understanding would bring about harmony, so I don’t intend to leave out any possibilities.”

“You've undertaken quite an immense project. Are you sure that you’re up to it?”

“Well, I think I am, but I’m also thinking that I would need a patron to undertake something this big.”

“I see. Hmmm, your goals seem to coincide with my own to a large degree, so how about me being that patron?”

“That… that would be awesome!” Path blurted out before he collected his wits and responded more coolly, “I mean, it would be a tremendous honor to be considered worthy of your patronage, Princess Twilight.”

“Excellent! I will make arrangements to fund your research, and you will report your findings back to me so that I can continue my own research into friendship. You can come around to the castle tomorrow morning, and I’ll have the necessary legal documents ready for you to peruse and sign.”

“That soon?” Path asked with surprise.

Twilight grinned. “I estimate that it should only take me 2.3 hours to fill out and process all the necessary forms. I’m a very organised pony. Organised is my middle name!”

Free chuckled and said, “And you thought ‘Cirrus’ was a silly name.”

Twilight blushed a little at that, and even Path had to smile.

“Back on subject,” Twilight said to sweep that moment aside, “We still haven’t determined where you will start, unless you wish to wait for the griffons to come back with a response?”

Path shook his head. “No, I’d rather not depend on something like that, but I think it’s fairly obvious where to start. This all began with my observations on how the changelings were being snubbed by ponies despite the assurance of the princesses that they were to be considered citizens in good standing. I’d like to delve more deeply into that.”

Twilight nodded thoughtfully before replying, “While that’s a valid part of your research, you do realize that some of that is already going on right here, right now?”

“Yes, but I’m thinking of looking into a more specific instance which may have the additional benefit of furthering my research into other species.”

“Oh? What would that be?”

“I’m talking about the Crystal City. I believe that despite the five hives being given the freedom of Equestria, changelings are still forbidden from visiting there. It’s understandable that considering their personal experiences with Queen Chrysalis, both Princess Cadance and Prince Shining Armor would have strong reservations about allowing any contact with them, but on the other hoof, this is exactly the kind of attitude that needs to be addressed. Changelings are being unfairly barred, and the crystal ponies are being denied learning about changelings first hoof. This directly contradicts understanding, and precludes friendship.”

“Careful, you’re getting preachy again,” Free said pointedly.

However, Twilight was actually stirred by his enthusiasm. “You’re right, but aren't you overlooking one important thing?”

“Do you mean the Crystal Heart, and its ability to spread love all over the world? No, I haven’t overlooked that, and in fact I would love to put some hypotheses to the test. I haven’t been able to afford to dream of doing this before, but now with royal patronage, I could do it. I propose that a single changeling be given permission to travel to the Crystal City so that we can test the effects of the Crystal Heart upon him. We can test variables such as distance and intensity, and what sort of effects that concentrated love has on the changeling. Will it affect the Heart? Will it affect the citizens? We would do this under exacting scientific conditions, starting at the fringe of the Heart’s influence and gradually working our way closer to the centre. Cadance could stand by the Heart taking note of any undesirable influence upon it, and calling off the experiment if necessary. As I understand it though, the Heart gathers the love of the crystal ponies, concentrates it, and then broadcasts it, so I don’t foresee any real problems. We can work out an exact testing regimen before going there.”

“That sounds like a very well-thought out idea, and I’m sure that I can persuade my brother and sister-in-law to grant their permission. Who did you have in mind for the changeling subject?”

Free raised a talon and said, “Yo!”

Twilight stared at the griffon beside her. “You’re a changeling?”

Free wrapped a wing around Twilight’s neck, pulled the startled alicorn into a hug, and said seductively, “I can be anything you want me to be, babe.”

Twilight’s wings pomfed out and she began blushing furiously before Long Path brought a rolled-up menu smartly down on Free’s beak.

“No hitting on our patron!” Path admonished.

“I just wanted to show her our appreciation, and a good time!” Free protested. “Speaking of which, would Friday night be good for you, babe?”

Twilight’s blush deepened before her horn glowed and Free Agent disappeared with a bang. A softer bang was immediately heard just outside the café, followed by the squawk of the griffon changeling as he fell about six feet to the ground. A moment later, he stuck his head in the door and said, “Would Saturday night be better for you then?”

Twilight stared in disbelief, and then giggled. “Very persistent, isn't he?”

“You have no idea!” Path said with a roll of his eyes.

“Yes… well, before we completely lose track of the subject, you mentioned there being an additional benefit to visiting the Crystal Empire?”

“Oh, it’s their library. I hear that it has books published long before the city disappeared. I’m thinking that there might be a lot of useful material to glean from them that isn't available here in Canterlot.”

“That’s a wonderful idea! I’d love an excuse to visit that library again. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to join you for this part of your research.”

Path looked nonplussed. “You mean you want to travel with him?” he asked, pointing out the griffon.

Free gave Twilight his most dashing grin and waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Twilight sighed and said, “We all must make sacrifices occasionally, Mister Path.”

# # # # # # # # # #

Author's Note:

Next time - the Crystal Empire!

Patience griffon lovers -- the Griffon Kingdom comes next after that.

Art by Foxenawolf. Made possible by a generous donation from a fan!