• 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 25

Daring Do stretched her wings out as she stepped out of the final cavern, seeing the orange sky. “I am so ready to get back to Canterlot. This cold weather isn’t really comfortable with feathers.”

Barrier didn’t reply, instead tightening his gaze on the direction of the former Crystal Empire.

“Oi.” Daring tapped the unicorn on the shoulder, following his gaze to the frozen wasteland. “You okay?” She knew what had once been in that direction, but the unicorn had been surprisingly comfortable when passing through the former empire.

“Yeah,” Barrier finally replied, slowly tugging his gaze towards his companion and rolling the injured shoulder. “Just…thinking is all.”

“Well, think on the way back to camp, I’m cold.” Daring didn’t look at the unicorn as she spoke, instead beginning the long trek back to camp, knowing he would follow suit. “So, what do you think I should look for first after this? The Wand of Magic Star, or the long-lost sword of the Falchion Clan?”

Barrier raised an eyebrow as his eyes drifted from Daring’s flanks to the back of her head. “I thought you went after dangerous artifacts? The sword of the Falchion Clan hardly qualifies.”

“I usually only deal with dangerous stuff when the princess has a specific request. Besides, the Falchion Clan was one of the most well-known noble-houses of the pre-Nightmare Moon era. Their sword was used in countless historical battles. Plus I have bills to pay and rare magical junk doesn’t come by often enough to make a living.”

“Fair enough,” Barrier conceded as his horn lit up in response to the snow that seemed to be picking up and working itself into a flurry. It was almost always snowing, but only on occasion did it become a full-blown blizzard. “At any rate, you won’t find the sword. It was lost in the Crystal Empire, along with the clan’s heir.”

The pegasus turned around and began walking backwards, eyes meeting with Barrier’s. “You sound pretty certain of that.”

“Swiftsword—heir of the Falchion Clan—was a cadet under my command.” Barrier’s met eyes with the pegasus rather than drifting downwards as was habit when discussing his former students.

“Ah,” Daring smiled apologetically. “Sorry, didn’t know.”

“‘Tis fine.” Barrier shrugged. “It still hurts to think about, but I can’t imagine any of them would be pleased if I kept dwelling on it.”

“What about the son of the Falchion Clan; Mars, I think his name was. I know there’s a bunch of trashy romance novels with him.”

Barrier shrugged, barely remembering the few times Swiftsword had talked about her younger brother.

Daring continued to walk backwards, eyes not leaving Barrier’s, the pair locked in a silent staring contest even as they spoke. “Well, I know that he never had any children. The Falchions died out after all.”

“I wouldn’t know. I didn’t really encourage sharing such things amongst the group whilst we were training.” Barrier’s horn died out, the bubble he’d surrounded them with vanishing and allowing the snow in.

Daring yelped, her gaze breaking away from the unicorn in favor of shaking the newly-placed snow off of her back.

“I did find out some other interesting things about those crazy kids though.” Barrier’s horn flared again, this time a thin dome covering their tent and tugging the flap open to permit the pair inside.

“Things such as?” Daring made her way into the tent before collapsing tiredly on the pile of blankets, shivering slightly as the small heating crystal fell from between the feathers of her wing where it’d been tucked.

“I’m not really certain what I can tell you. I was never actually given guidelines about what is and isn’t classified anymore.”

“Quit teasing me,” Daring huffed as she buried herself beneath the blankets, a wing unfurling to allow Barrier easy entry.

“Very well.” Barrier’s horn died out, the tent opening closing with the loss of magic. “I suppose Winter Gem would be the best place to start. She considered her father and cousin’s—her cousin being Sergeant Braeburn, a member of my team—suggestions of leaving the guard and becoming farmers as idiotic. I remember overhearing the argument. She was certain it would lead her family into financial ruin.” The unicorn wiggled his way beneath the covers, his own heating crystal separating from his body with a brief flare of magic.

Daring Do draped her wing over the unicorn’s withers, the two shifting closer together in favor of shared body-heat.

“Then there was Swiftsword. She insisted on replacing her pillow with a pillowcase of cobblestone. ‘Twas about as effective as it sounds. At least she tried to stick with it for about two weeks,” Barrier chuckled, resting his head on his forehooves. “I never knew very much about Hat Trick. He was an orphan, but I recall hearing that his parents owned a game-store of sorts before they passed away.” Barrier’s tone fell slightly, his expression becoming a bittersweet smile.

“Iron Forge was the pony I knew the most about, mostly on account of meeting his mother and reuniting the pair. Even after he disappeared with the empire, his mother and I remained close friends. I don’t remember why, but Flash Sentry woke me up one morning and told me I had to discipline Iron Forge. Come to find out he’d attempted to set the water in the castle courtyard’s fountain aflame… and succeeded. To this day, I’m still not sure how he did it.” Barrier’s lips parted to let a small chuckle escape. “They were all one of a kind. I was far more attached than I should have been, especially in such a short time.”

“Wasn’t there a fifth cadet?” The pegasus asked with a yawn. “Verdant Range, right?”

Barrier hummed his affirmation and briefly remained silent, taking a moment to organize his thoughts. “I actually met Verdant years before any of the other cadets, though I didn’t know it at the time. I was twenty-seven at the time, heading home on leave when a flower cart came barreling down the street. This little green blur I thought was a filly was sprinting behind it, yelling to get out of the way.” Barrier let a happy laugh escape him, starkly contrasting the former chuckles. “I wasn’t in armor at the time and ended up with a broken leg. Naturally the ‘filly’ ran off before anypony could say anything.” Barrier let the words settle before continuing, “Years later, I found out who I thought was a little filly was actually Verdant Range. He was thirteen at the time and had just started working as an apprentice. When he found out it was me he hit, he apologized for over an hour. Didn’t stop me from giving him latrine duty for a week though.”

Daring let loose a laugh of her own before the tent lapsed into a comfortable silence, broken only by the sound of the two occasionally shifting.

“So,” Barrier finally broke it. “What do you plan on doing when we get back to Canterlot?”

“Not sure,” Daring confessed. “I’ve got a couple of leads I can follow up on if the princess doesn’t have another job for me, but I’ll probably take a bit of a vacation. All work and no play, y’know?”

The unicorn thought back to all of his accumulated leave and chuckled. “Not quite. I had close to six months of leave saved up before the Nightmare Moon incident.”

“Yeesh,” Daring flinched slightly. “You really need some R&R.”

Barrier only looked at her questioningly.

“R&R?” Daring reiterated. “Rest and relaxation?”

“Ah,” Understanding dawned on the unicorn. “I’ve been doing that almost constantly since my return. I don’t think it’s quite for me. A nap and a good book are all I can really see myself needing.”

“Really?” Daring asked skeptically. “Nothing else?”

“Well, my… I believe the term is marefriend is long gone, and even one-thousand years ago, we didn’t really have that much free time.” Barrier’s voice fell slightly towards the end.

“Well, I guess you’d know what you’d like best. Still, you should check out Canterlot a bit more. I know you’ve seen it in the daytime, but you should really see the night-life. Check out some of the restaurants, see a movie, hit a club, something like that. You’ve got all the free time in the world, why not use it?”

“Mm, perhaps,” Barrier yawned, “If you accompany me.”

“Heh,” The yawn proved contagious, Daring following suit. “It’s a date…”

Silence quickly took the reins once more as both ponies drifted to sleep, Barrier’s dreams once more gripping him.

***

“Barrier,”

The unicorn’s eyes opened tiredly as his lover sat down on the bed and gazed down at him, amber irides meeting Barrier’s own icy-blues.

“How art thou fairing?” Her hoof trailed lightly along the unicorn’s heavily bandaged sides, wincing when Barrier did.

“I’ve been worse.” Barrier smiled weakly, forcing back another flinch as her hoof reached his shoulder.

“No, thou hast not.” Ember’s eyes twinkled with amusement as she carefully laid down on her side, draping the unicorn’s hoof over her shoulders. “Thou shan’t try to lie to me, Barrier. I can tell thou feelest wretched. This is about those cadets and the empire, isn’t it?”

“Aye,” Barrier confessed. “That and Emerald Hills a-having a strong right hook.”

“She wath angry.” Ember backed up further into the charcoal ponies embrace. “You can’t blame thyself for her loss though. No pony could’ve seen that a-coming. Nopony could see Sombra falling as far as he did.”

Barrier didn’t reply, instead flaring his horn to tug Ember even closer, wrapping his hooves around her and hugging her like a teddy bear.

“Barrier…” Ember hesitated, taking a breath before continuing, “I’ve been thinking a lot lately—about us I mean. I know we can’t let ponies know about us while we’re in the guard, but in three years my contract will be up, and I was wondering about whether or not I should sign up for another four years. I don’t think I’m a-going to. If I weren’t in the guard, we could be in an open relationship. We could have a family.” Ember couldn’t keep the hope out of her voice.

“Ember… if we have foals… could we name them after my cadets?”

The pegasus mare smiled warmly. “Well, I was thinking of maybe naming one after my parents, but sure. What was the name of that unicorn colt in thy squad? Fireball?”

“Nay,” Barrier’s voice dropped as he buried himself in Ember’s mane. “We’ll talk about it in the morn.” The stallion took a deep breath, smiling at the mare’s scent.

“Very well, Barrier.” Ember squirmed slightly in the stallion’s embrace, rubbing her back against his chest in an attempt to get more comfortable. “I love thee, Barrier.”

“I love thee too…” the stallion’s voice drooped as he nuzzled her mane, but he kept speaking. “Why doth thy mane smell like strawberries…?”

***

The stallion’s eyes fluttered several times in rapid succession before he realized the fiery orange had been replace with black-and-grey.

“Mornin’,” Daring let loose a wide yawn. “Barrier.” Daring craned her head around to stare flatly at the unicorn. “Did you drool in my mane?”

“Aye, I believe I did.” Barrier separated from the pegasus, snaking his way out of the blankets and into the cold air of the tent. “We’re nearly even now. I need only to drool on you once more.”

The pegasus rolled her eyes as she too separated herself from the warm pile of blankets.

“I suppose it’s time to pack. The train will be here today to return us to Canterlot before noon. I-” Barrier fell silent as a wave of pure magic washed over the pair, both of them bolting from the tent and staring off in the distance.

Horn alight with magic, the unicorn turned to his companion. “Thou felt that, correct?”

“How could I not? What was that?” Daring’s wings had flared out slightly, becoming partially erect as another, lighter pulse of magic ran over the pair.

“That was pure magic,” Barrier replied almost shakily, intentionally neglecting that it was a feeling he’d felt once before.

“Well, you’re the horn-head, should we investigate?”

“No…” Barrier swallowed and turned towards the train-platform a short distance away, a distant gaze in his eyes. “No, we need to get to Canterlot as soon as possible. Princess Celestia must be informed immediately.”

“Informed of what? Don’t leave me in the dark here!” Daring didn’t bother to hide the irritation in her voice.

“She needs to know that the Crystal Empire…may be returning…”

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