• Published 12th Oct 2015
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A Pony Displaced: Another Path - NoLongerSober



Legend has it that on the longest day of the thousandth year, the stars will aid in her escape. There once was a stallion who faced Nightmare Moon and was sealed away with her. Now he returns in the modern age, hoping to find a new path.

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Chapter 20

The four ponies sat around a table in the library, nibbling on sandwiches. Daring and Barrier sat on the two-pony couch while Twilight and Pinkie sat on the cushions across from them. Spike was about to sit as well when Barrier turned to him.

“Spike?” Barrier asked as he swallowed a mouthful of hay bacon, lettuce and tomato. “Would you mind a-going to purchase some drinks for us?” He then slid some bits in Spike’s direction.

“Sure thing!” the young drake happily replied before grabbing the bits and running off toward the door.

“So, you gonna continue?” Daring asked as the door slammed shut.

“Yeah, I wanna hear about the crazy shenanigans you and those cadets had on that island!” Pinkie bounced on her cushion

“Very well, I shall continue,” Barrier said with a nod. “I had awoken a few hours later and went to the stream to get a drink. When I saw my reflection, I was met with a horrifying sight.”

“You didn’t look that bad,” Daring cut in while Twilight was taking notes.

“As I was saying,” Barrier responded tersely. “When I saw my reflection in the water, my reaction was not… positive…”

***

“Oh gods dammit!”

All of the cadets bolted upright at the scream, eyes roving wildly to locate the source before they finally settled on the lithe and tight frame of their Captain standing next to the river, just slightly illuminated by the embers of their campfire and what little moonlight could filter through the trees.

“Ow, son of a bitch!” Swiftsword, in her haste to locate the scream, had smashed her horn into a tree branch. “What the hell…” she suddenly became aware of the additional weight tugging her head downward.

“My feathers!” Hat Trick began to shout, causing Swiftsword to jerk around again, cutting the stallion off as the fifteen-foot bone-spear clotheslined him. “All of my—”

“Cadets, at attention!” Barrier yelled out in a distinctly feminine voice, all of the cadets snapping upright and standing stockstill.

“Roll call!” The mare’s voice rang out clearly once more, horn still glowing.

“Swiftsword here!”

“Hat Trick here!”

The first two voices sounded fairly normal.

“Winter Gem here!” The blonde-maned mare sounded…heavier than usual, but still identifiable.

“Irn Frge hrre!” The voice sounded almost gagged. A spitting sound was heard before the voice returned. “Iron Forge here!”

Barrier waited fifteen seconds before opening her mouth and shouting out once more. “Cadet Range, sound off!”

The small clearing remained silent.

“Cadet Range, I said, ‘sound off’!”

Silence remained as Barrier’s voice echoed through the foliage.

“Damn it all…” A ball of light detached itself from Barrier’s horn and floated to the center of the clearing before flaring brightly, illuminating the clearing and revealing the various states of disarray.

Swiftsword’s horn had grown to an obscene length, settling at nearly ten times its normal length. Hat Trick was completely featherless and Iron Forge was a ball of fluff that looked like a blue haystack. Lastly there was Winter Gem, who now appeared to be little more than a mountain of standing muscle. She was a hulking beast taller than Princess Luna, whereas Verdant Range… he was still missing in action.

“Alright, we must’ve wandered through something, probably poison joke.” Barrier fell back onto her flanks, unaware of the miniscule grunt that accompanied the action. “I guess I should have listened to that colt when he brought it up,” Barrier muttered to herself.

“Cadets.” Barrier stood back up. “Swiftsword, I want you to b~” Barrier let loose a high-pitched squeal, bucking wildly several times. “Something’s biting me in the flank! Grab it! Kill it!” Barrier forced herself to stand still as Hat Trick rushed over to examine her flank.

“Found Verdant,” Hat Trick reached a hoof towards Barrier’s flank crack, carefully removing the shrunken stallion.

“Uh, Hat Trick?” Winter Gem interjected, pointing at his tail which was then resting in the embers of their fire and beginning to smolder.

“What’s wrong?” Hat Trick turned around to face Winter Gem, just glimpsing his now-smoking tail.

“Oh sweet Celestia’s teats, put it out!” Verdant was completely forgotten as the stallion began to buck wildly.

“Oh, gods dammit!” Barrier groaned again, lunging at Hat Trick and gripping his forehooves. With a grunt and a pivot, she chucked the stallion over her side and face-first into the formerly calm river.

“Right, now where’s Verdant?” Barrier frowned as her eyes carefully scanned the ground. “Try not to move ponies, it wouldn’t do for one of us to step on him. Verdant, if you can hear us I want you to call out as loudly as you can.”

The clearing fell deathly silent as they strained to hear the pea-sized stallion.

Iron Forge was the first to break it. “I think I hear him somewhere in my fur. He’s saying something about Hat Trick’s mother and his intelligence.”

Barrier nodded. “That sounds about right. Alright Verdant, perch yourself on Iron Forge’s…” Barrier scanned the stallion, trying to find something that wasn’t buried in fur. “try to reach the tip of his horn.” Barrier sat down once more.

“Alright, change of plans. Swiftsword, ga… try not to kill anypony with your horn and sit tight. Winter Gem, Hat Trick, gather firewood and get our fire going strong again. Iron Forge, you stay here with Swiftsword. There’s no telling what you’ll get caught in your coat if you try to move around too much.

Barrier noted the small green lump that had poked out from the forest of follicles. “Verdant Range, you’re with me.” The mare held a hoof out and transferred the micro-stallion to her hoof and then to her head. “We’re going to go gather the ingredients to cure poison joke. I just hope we can find the damn honey. Can’t usually find it this time of year…” Barrier’s horn lit up once more before the mare dove into the forest, vaguely aware of the earth-pony working his way down to her muzzle.

***

“So, when did the ‘other’ problems kick in?” Daring once again interrupted, shifting slightly as she leaned against Barrier on the library’s sofa.

“What other problems?” Twilight tilted her head curiously, parchment and quill tilting as well.

“Let’s just say the campfire wasn’t the only source of heat Barrier had to deal with on that trip.” Daring grinned as Barrier groaned and dove back into the story.

***

“There’s the moonbane we’ll need for the cure,” Verdant pointed his miniscule hoof at a deep purple and white flower that seemed to be drawing moonlight to it. “Sir?” Verdant turned around on her muzzle, seeing where his captain’s eyes were focused. “...sir? Sir, stop staring at my rear!”

“Gah!” Barrier bit her tongue to prevent her from shaking her head. “Apologies, Verdant. I don’t know why but my gaze keeps shifting to it. In addition to that my insides feel…” Barrier frowned; no words to describe the feeling really came to mind.

“Oh Zacherle…” Verdant groaned and pressed a hoof to his face. “You’re in heat.”

“And you’re certain of this how exactly?” Barrier’s horn flared, plucking the moonbane from the ground.

“I grew up in a household with ten mares. Believe me, I know when a mare is in heat.” The small stallion squeaked.

“Ten mares? How in the blazes does that work?”

“My father has four mates and he’s sired six fillies. He and I are the only males in the entire household.”

Barrier grimaced. “No wonder you joined the guard. That sounds miserable. I’ve a hard enough time putting up with just my brother… or with Ember when she’s in heat. I can’t imagine what that would be like, having to deal with that many mares, all crazed and hormonal.”

***

The three gathered around Barrier glared at him pointedly and Daring elbowed him roughly.

“Uh, current company withstanding.” Barrier smiled sheepishly before launching back into his tale.

***

“Damn, I was worried this would be the case.” Barrier grimaced at the husk of a beehive resting on the ground at her hooves.

“No honey means no cure.” Verdant commented.

“Indeed. And no cure means training will have to be shuffled around. Perhaps we can contact Princess Luna through our dreams for aid. Until then, I suppose I’ll just have to verbally teach you ponies rather than show you.”

***

Barrier stopped his narrative as Spike waddled back into the library with a sack in his claws.

“The only soda they had left in the store was that kind Moondancer used to drink. Tentacle Grape.”

Barrier simply nodded, gratefully taking the glass bottle from the baby dragon. “Gramercy, Spike.”

The dragon offered a smaller sack of bits.

“You can keep the change,” Barrier smiled and began to launch into the story once more. “Anyways, besides Winter Gem injuring Hat Trick’s pelvis, Swiftsword getting her horn stuck in a wasp nest and Verdant nearly getting eaten a few times, nothing terribly interesting happened until Princess Luna arrived with the cure.”

“Wait,” Twilight interjected with a frown. “You’re just going to skip over everything you taught them during that time?”

“I’d intended to, yes. Unless you want the specifics of me explaining how to hunt and trap animals, as well as how to properly gut and prepare them, or give you a verbal lecture regarding woodcraft and wilderness survival - all of which are better as hooves—on demonstrations, mind you—I think it the best course of action.”

Twilight and Pinkie had turned a little green while Daring and Spike had no visible reaction.

“Anyways, as I was saying…”

***

“Hat Trick, Winter Gem, head back to camp and dig a pit alongside the river and fill it with water. Princess Luna’s chariot is incoming.”

“Sir,” Winter Gem saluted awkwardly before turning and trekking into the foliage with the featherless pegasus.

The chariot hadn’t actually touched down before Princess Luna lept from it, spreading her wings and gliding onto the beach.

“At ease, Captain,” Luna spoke firmly; Barrier dropped the salute though remained at-attention as the princess eyed him carefully. “Thou art a-looking well. We rather enjoy thy new form. We also quite enjoy thy snout decoration.” Luna suddenly closed the distance and got right up in Barrier’s muzzle, smiling slightly at the small saluting stallion on the edge of the Captain’s snout. “At ease, Cadet.” Luna’s horn lit up, levitating a small vial of purplish liquid.

***

“I thought you said you’d drop the olden speak.” Daring reminded the stallion, once again shifting herself, using his side as a pillow while she sprawled out on the sofa.

“I can’t really picture Princess Luna speaking any other way. Even as archaic as my speech used to be, she always seemed to embody that manner of speaking. It’s just Luna.”

Daring hummed her acknowledgement as Barrier continued,

***

“Thank you for bringing this, Princess. It was foolish of me not to come fully prepared. I assumed we would be able to fully sustain ourselves on the island.” Barrier and the Princess still stood on the beach.

“Everypony hath slips now and again.”

Barrier started to smile in relief.

“However,”

The smile then packed up and left immediately.

“This was a major slip. Poison joke is wildly unpredictable and very well could have cost the lives of thee or thy cadets.”

Barrier’s ears shrunk back, though the captain still kept her gaze on the princess.

“We don’t need to impress upon thee how negligent this was. Thy reprimand will be decided upon thy return. Until then, thou art free to continue training thy cadets, but thou art to be far more careful hither forth. Are We understood, Captain?”

“Yes, ma’am!” Barrier saluted sharply, jostling Verdant. “It won’t happen again ma’a-” Barrier’s muzzle scrunched up and she took several short breaths through her nose.

“Captain? Art thou well—”

“Ah-ah-choo!” Barrier’s head snapped forward with a hard sneeze. “My apologies, Princess…” Barrier noted the lunar diarch’s cross-eyed expression. “Your Highness?” She asked as a small lump travelled down Luna’s throat.

“Captain, where is thy cadet? Please tell Us he is upon the sand.”

Barrier’s eyes widened as her eyes quickly began to scan the ground.

“Please tell Us he’s somewhere upon the sand.” Luna, like Barrier, was scanning the ground intently.

“I don’t see him, ma’am.” Barrier’s horn flared and a thin pulse of energy rolled across the sand. “I don’t feel him either, Your Highness…” Barrier’s stomach tightened; if she thought she was in trouble before, then now she was likely screwed.

“We were afraid of this.” Luna turned towards her chariot-pullers with a tight grimace. “Guard, We believe We feel the missing stallion a-pounding from within Our belly. Fetch us a laxative from the ship.”

“Ma’am? Can’t you just throw him up?” Barrier had to fight to keep her mind from racing, trying to discern all of the possible dangers of the stallion being eaten and passed.

“We have not had a gag reflex for nearly five-hundred years, Captain.”

“Why’s that?” Barrier inquired before she realized what she was asking.

“Dost thou wish to remain a mare?”

“I’ll… be silent…”

***

“Wait, did the cadet survive? What kind of damage did he suffer?” Twilight asked even though her muzzle was scrunched in disgust.

“Verdant survived with no injuries of note, miraculously. Only his pride was damaged. He also needed a very long bath afterwards.”

Daring took her turn and asked her own question. “Does Princess Luna really not have a gag reflex?”

“Impressively enough she does not, at least from what I’ve seen. I’m fairly certain that had we the means, we could have fished him from her stomach. In any case, the training resumed after we were cured and was fairly routine after the mess with the poison joke.” but what we learned right after… Barrier’s body sagged, tension abandoning it as his mind turned towards more morbid thoughts. Mayhaps, I’ll see them again on the other side. They were good kids… but me? I’m not so sure...

“Oi,” Daring elbowed him sharply. “I know that expression. Whatever you’re thinking, stop it.”

I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see. Barrier carefully draped his neck across Daring’s withers. “Yes ma’am.” Barrier then let out a yawn. “Today hath been a long day. I believe shall sleep on the couch for tonight. Do you need a room, Daring?”

“I think I’ll hit up the local inn. I don’t really wanna spend the night on the couch again.” She replied before sliding off of the couch and headed for the door. “Thanks for the meal, Twilight, Spike.” The mare tugged the door open before turning to face Barrier. “Train leaves at eight o’clock tomorrow, Barrier, don’t be late.” The door closed behind her.

“And I need to ready Mrs. Cake a ‘Congrats on Being Pregnant’ party! She’s gonna test herself any second now,” Pinkie happily said before bouncing away, somehow leaving without actually opening the door.

“Spike and I will probably do some reading upstairs,” Twilight spoke up before ushering Spike upstairs. “Goodnight, Barrier. Pleasant dreams.”

“Twilight, why wouldn’t Princess Luna have a gag reflex anymore?” Barrier could only smirk as he settled into the couch. After a few short moments, Barrier drifted off.

***

“Ahoy, Flash!” Barrier called out as the chariot landed on the Wave Breaker’s deck. Barrier soon saw a forlorn look upon his friend’s muzzle. “Flash? What’s wrong? What happened?” Only when Barrier was directly in front of him did Flash finally look at his long-time friend.

“I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I have grave news. Cadet Forge, thou mayest want to brace thineself.”

“Brace myself? Whatever for, good sir… um…Lieutenant?” The blue unicorn inquired worriedly. Flash deeply inhaled before letting out a sad sigh.

“Approximately a week ago, the griffins waged a surprise attack on Equestria, conquering a city and a-slaying the guard… I’m sorry, son… Gallopfrey hath fallen and everypony there is presumed dead. Our scouts last reported that a large portion of the city was set ablaze.” The words rocked the six arrivals to the core and gasps came from the young cadets, tears quickly forming in Forge’s eyes.

“My… mine home… my.. parents… I… I…” the stallion broke down crying as his friends and comrades rushed to his side, holding him and offering him what words of comfort they could. As the four tried to help him, Barrier regained his senses and placed a hoof on Flash’s withers.

“Flash… is…”

“Ember’s below deck,” Flash quickly cut his friend off, “Thou art the only one she wanteth to talk to, she quoth.”

“Cadets, consider yourselves on leave for the next two weeks.” Barrier stroked his chin tiredly with a hoof before turning to the gamboge pegasus. “Keep an eye on them for me, Flash,”

“Sir,” Flash saluted sharply as Barrier shot by him and down into the bowels of the ship.

Almost sliding into the officer’s barracks, a collection of rooms all divided and broken up by thin wooden barriers, allowing for a greater degree of privacy. Barrier’s eyes locked onto the room he had been assigned prior to his months on the island and shoved the door wide with his magic.

“Ember…” the stallion spoke just loud enough to wake the lump on the before his horn flared, lifting the covers and allowing him to crawl under them. “I’m so sorry…”

The pegasus rolled over and snaked her forehooves around him, burying her muzzle in his chest.

All Barrier could do was sit there and hold his best friend while she cried.

Author's Note:

It's pretty much a universal constant that Verdant Range be eaten. Not even negotiable.

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