• 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 40

“Doctor, I’m fine!” Barrier argued, but the mare gave his horn a slight tug with her magic, causing the pony to yelp like a filly and fall silent..

“That’s what I thought. Now stand there and be quiet…”

“How bad’s the damage?” Verdant eyed the deep crack that ran the length of Barrier’s horn, wincing in both sympathy and agony as his own burns were tightly bandaged.

Black Harvest released a breathy sigh and released her magical hold on Verdant’s bandages before turning and focusing entirely on Barrier’s horn, her hooves snaking around his head to jerk his horn to eye-level. “It’s bad.” She stated bluntly. “It’s a miracle we can’t see the core with a fracture that deep.” The mare gave Barrier a hard stare and released him. “No magic for the foreseeable future, assuming you even have the capability to muster it. If you try to use magic with a crack that deep, you may lose your horn entirely, that’s assuming it heals properly at all.” The doctor lit her horn and retrieved a clean white bandage from her saddlebags and set about wrapping the unicorn’s horn tightly, regardless of his hisses of pain.

“Captain?” Verdant Range stepped in front of the grey unicorn and saluted, a wince crossing his face as he did so. “What should I do?”

“Just rest for the moment, Private Range.” Barrier sat down and glanced over his shoulder at the smoldering ashes of Sombra. “Faust knows we’ve all earned it. Now all we can do is wait for the others to return, hopefully with the Crystal Heart.”

Verdant nodded before adding with slight hesitation, “And if they don’t?”

“Then I say we give them about sixteen hours before we fully evacuate the Empire.” Cadance strode into the throne room at a brisk pace, Hat Trick, Winter Gem and Spike following close behind.

“Winter Gem, Hat Trick,” Barrier nodded at the pair. “I want you to head to the library and assist Twilight. No doubt she’s doing research and could use the assistance translating. I’ll explain why later, just for now, please don’t question it.”

“Where’s Sombra?” Cadance asked with a slight head tilt.

Barrier only motioned to the pile of smoldering ash behind him.

“Um…can I stay outside of this room? I really don’t like being in the same room as a…” Spike swallowed and glanced at the vaguely pony-shaped pile of ashes from behind Cadance where he’d been hiding. “dead body…”

“Tell you what, let me write a quick status report…” Barrier made to light his horn, only for the Doctor to smack his hoof.

Black Harvest gazed hard at the pony. “No. Magic.”

“Right, right. If you can take a letter for me Spike, you can go with Winter Gem and Hat Trick to the library.” Barrier craned his neck around to dig through his saddlebags only for Spike to pull a quill and parchment from…somewhere.

“Fire away.” The dragon pressed quill to parchment.

“To Princess Celestia,” Barrier paused briefly, “Sombra has been... neutralized. We sustained injuries, but are in no immediate danger. We are currently searching for the Crystal Heart. If we don’t find it in sixteen hours, we will attempt to evacuate the city before it freezes.” Barrier waited again until the dragon had stopped scratching at the paper. “I request that you have medical staff and guards on standby for the train’s arrival and be prepared to send it back as soon as possible. Signed, Magic Barrier.”

Spike etched out the last few words before taking a deep breath and blowing his usual stream of emerald fire on the parchment, sending it away.

“Right, Winter Gem, Hat Trick, take Spike with you and get moving.” Barrier waited until the ponies had departed to turn to Verdant, Black Harvest, and Cadance. “Doctor Harvest, does Private Range have full functionality?”

The mare frowned. “He does, but to flex or shift his back would be very agonizing.”

Barrier ignored the frown entirely. “Will it cause any lasting damage?”

Harvest took a deep breath through her nose. “No, it won’t.”

“Good. Private Range, I want you and Princess Cadance to scour the city. Try to coax ponies out of their homes and bring them here. Tell them Sombra’s dead and bring them to the city-center. If we manage to find the heart, then we’ll need them to power it. If we don’t find it, then we need them to be ready to help us evacuate the injured.”

Verdant Range saluted sharply, before a slight smile crossed his muzzle as Cadance tried to do the same.

“And what am I to do, Captain?” Black Harvest asked as Verdant and Cadance departed.

“I would like you to accompany me to the dungeons, Doctor. I don’t want anypony to be there any longer than they have to.”

***

“So,” Black Harvest had waited until she and Barrier had begun to descend down the stairwell. “What hast truly happened to the empire? The young lavender mare earlier spoke of one-thousand years passing, and thou described too many events occurring to possibly have happened within a fortnight..”

Barrier, leaning against the wall for support began to reply only for the mare to cut him off.

Black Harvest gave the stallion a no-nonsense stare, despite the fact that he couldn’t see it. “I am not one of your soldiers that you can shrug it off to. What hast really happened?”

Barrier sighed and stopped at the bottom of the stairwell before turning to face the mare. “The Empire disappeared one-thousand or so years ago. You and everybody here, Sombra included, have been gone from Equestria for a very long time.” Barrier turned with a slight huff and stared at the keys dangling from the a hook before snagging them in the crook of a hoof and moving slowly onward.

“That dost not make sense.” Black Harvest followed him through the door and down the narrow stone hallway, a built-in choke point in the case of the prisoners breaking out. “Thou weren’t in the Empire with us, thou would have to be over one-thousand years old, and thou art no alicorn.”

“Circumstances dictated that Princess Luna and I spend one-thousand years sealed in the moon. I returned less than a year ago.” The unicorn jammed the key into the door and almost retched at the stench that emanated from the freely unlocked room; Doctor Harvest wasn’t quite as lucky, gagging just slightly at the stench of decay.

“Faust above, how many dead are here?” Barrier had stopped at only the first cell and saw a dozen ponies in varying states of decay, though his eyes seemed to focus on the body of a mare in the back, half of her face missing and an eye dangling freely from the socket. “Captain Pathway.”

“Tis most likely black putrefaction hast begun for many of these dead ponies.” The Doctor was also staring at the corpse of a mare. “Nurse Merry Sunspot.” The Doctor kneeled down slightly to get a better look. “Glass foreign bodies, multiple lacerations all across her, bruising pattern doesn’t match the lividity on her other side…thrown from a window perhaps? A shame, she was a good mare.”

“Commander Chocolate Day, Ensign Hairy Chin…” The grey stallion let a deep sigh escape him before quickly pacing down the hallway and peering into each cell to quickly check for survivors; it soon became apparent that there was none, he began to head for the door once more. “We should leave before we risk something. I’ll send Iron Forge down here later to burn these bodies as well.”

Doctor Harvest didn’t argue and even waited until they were halfway up the stairwell again to strike up conversation. “When dost thou intend to tell the others of how much time hast passed, Captain?”

“I’ll probably tell them as soon as either the Crystal Heart is found or we evacuate. I’d like to tell them sooner, but I need them all focused on the mission right now.”

Black Harvest raised an eyebrow. “And you don’t think they’re focused on trying to figure out why you won’t explain everything to them?”

“More focused than they’d be if they knew everypony they’ve ever loved or held dear is long dead and they’re not.” Barrier answered bluntly.

“You don’t seem to-” Black Harvest jumped slightly when Barrier raised his voice unexpectedly and craned his head around to face her.

“I get that you’re a doctor and your interest is in everypony’s wellbeing, but don’t try telling me how to handle my soldiers, doctor. Put it in a report to the princesses if you must, but do not try to preach to me.”

The doctor looked like she wanted to argue the point she’d been trying to make but the sound of hooves on stone drew both their attentions to the top of the stairwell where the door had just been slammed open.

“Sir,” Hat Trick was panting heavily, his mane shifting with the weight of each breath. “Tower…heart…stairs…slide…”

“Deep breaths, Hatty,” Barrier took several deep breaths of his own to stem the sudden flow of adrenaline. “Count to ten, then try again.”

Hat Trick did as instructed. “We have the Crystal Heart…huge stairwell, gravity spell…we slid up the stairs and found the heart…everypony’s in the throne room…”

Barrier allowed a smile to break on his muzzle. Twilight works extremely fast… It hadn’t been more than an hour or two since she’d left for the palace library. “Good, good. Now, I want you to head into the city and locate Cadance and Private Range. Direct them and any ponies you come across to the balcony nearest the throne room. The one that looks out into the city.”

Hat Trick saluted sharply before turning off and disappearing around the door with a gallop.

Barrier turned to the mare behind him, smile persisting. “Doctor Harvest, would you accompany me to throne room?”

“I have a choice in the matter?” The mare only wore her slight frown. “You’ve ordered me around since you got here, what’s changed now?”

Barrier continued to limp up the stairs, beginning the lengthy trek back to the throne room. “The Empire’s safety is all but assured, and history is about to be made.”

***

Nearly an hour after his departure from the dungeons -he found himself having to take frequent breaks to catch his breath, much to the doctor’s annoyance when he shrugged off her assistance- Barrier could hear the dull sounds of ponies whispering to each other from within the palace even with the throne room -and likely the balcony inside of it as well- sealed off, though perhaps more noteworthy was the soft voice of Rarity as Barrier threw his shoulder into the large, crystalline doors.

“Not my finest work, but considering that I had only curtains, a small sewing supply kit, some fine golden thread that I somehow packed and a massive time crunch, I think it looks quite nice.” Rarity stepped away from Cadance, allowing her into view of the ponies that had been watching so she could show off the elegant blue dress, though all of them instead found their attention drawn to the throne-room doors slowly aching as they were opened rather than the new ruler’s appearance.

Iron Forge was the first to get a hoof up in salute, the other cadets following suit, while the element bearers just gave him a mixture of tired smiles, and in the case of Pinkie Pie, one eerily enthusiastic one.

“At ease,” Barrier saluted his ponies briefly before letting his hoof drop back to the ground. “Not that it’s not nice, but what’s the occasion, Princess?”

Cadance smiled and twirled with practiced ease, the deep-blue curtain billowing neatly around her. “Rarity insisted that if I’m to be ruling the Empire, I should look the part as much as I can.”

“And she was right.” Barrier nodded in agreement. “Appearance is important, especially in a situation such as this. I assume this was Princess Celestia’s idea?”

It was Cadance’s turn to nod. “I sent a letter to inform her about the heart being found and she asked me in her reply to run the empire. I accepted since I believe these ponies would be more willing to accept a modern alicorn as a leader with all the changes I intend to implement to get the empire running smoothly. There were some other things, but I’ll bring them up later.”

“Well then, it sounds like your ponies have gathered so we should probably get started. Do you have a speech prepared?”

Cadance swallowed and giggled nervously. “I think I’ll be okay to improvise. Auntie Celestia has sort of been grooming me for a role like this ever since I got this horn.”

“Very well.” Barrier glanced where Sombra’s ashes had been earlier in the day, now swept up into a bucket.

“Captain.” Swiftsword tapped her hoof on the floor to draw the ponies attention. “We wish for answers. We have all discussed much of what has happened and have decided that far too much has happened for it to be within a fortnight. The element bearers, Captain Armor, and Princess Cadance have all refused to answer our questions.”

Barrier hesitated slightly before Cadance’s voice joined Swiftsword’s.

“Barrier…tell them.” The princess laid a hoof comfortingly on Barrier’s withers. “They’ve fought long and hard. They deserve to know the truth. I’ll be telling the rest of the empire about it in my speech, but they deserve to hear it from you.” Cadance dropped her hoof and took the Crystal Heart from it’s resting spot next to the throne and made her way onto the balcony, Shining Armor, Spike and the element bearers joining her, leaving Barrier and privates to share the throne room with Doctor Harvest, who appeared to be more focused on Cadance than them.

“The short explanation is this:” Barrier started without ceremony. “Sombra did something that caused the Empire to vanish for over one-thousand years. As far as I and anypony else knew, you were all dead for three years.” Barrier took a breath and made an effort to meet each of his ponies eyes. “Princess Luna and Princess Celestia had a falling out that caused Princess Luna and I to spend one-thousand years in the moon. I returned with Princess Luna. The Empire, and you ponies, returned several months after us.”

All five of them stared at him like he was insane; it wasn’t until Cadance’s speech began that their expressions began to fail.

“Citizens of the Crystal Empire!” The mare’s voice, amplified by magic, boomed out. “Lendeth me thy ears!” She waited until the dull ponies all turned to face her in silent askance. “I am Princess Mi Amore Cadenza and I am here to bring you much news, both joyous and tragic! King Sombra…” Cadance waited for the shiver to pass through the crowd. “Has been defeated and slain!” Cadance smiled widely at the looks of disbelief that shot across the ponies faces before the bucket containing his ashes levitated itself to the balcony and upturned itself. “This is all that remains! Ashes, scattered to the winds.” The silence was tangible. “Now, for less fortunate news. As Empress Galaxy had no living heirs, by request of Princess Celestia of Equestria, I shall be taking the place as your new ruler.”

“Hail Empress Mi Amore Cadenza!” Somepony in the crowd yelled out, followed shortly by another pony, and before long, the entire crowd. As if in reaction to the ponies apparent joy at their liberation, the Crystal heart began to glow before ripping itself from Cadance’s magic and shooting out of sight before a wave of warmth washed over the empire and the bleak, snow-laden skies vanished from sight, replacing the harsh chill with a comfortable warmth.

“My little ponies, I ask that you hold off on your reverie for I have much more to inform thee of.” Cadance waited for the silence to continue. “Due to Sombra’s dark magics, the Crystal Empire was sealed away for over one-thousand years.” Cadance took a quick breath and followed the statement up before it could really sink fully into the crowd and potentially devolve into a panic or depression. “I know this news is both sad and very frightening, but this new world has much to offer. We are now in an age that is prosperous and peaceful, the wars and threats of your era having long past. I swear to all of you, I shall do everything within my power to help you adjust and to help this Empire shine brighter than ever before!”

Cadance speech finished to a silence before giving way to the steady sound of hooves pounding the ground in applause; neither Barrier nor his cadets were focused on that.

Swiftsword fell onto her flanks as Cadance further verified what Barrier had stated. “Sir, why are thou and the princess telling us this? Please, I beg of thee… say this is a horrible lie.”

Winter Gem let loose a sob before the dam broke and she began to cry, Hat Trick quickly wrapping her up in a hug while Iron Forge moved to comfort Verdant as the green stallion stumbled backwards in shock.

“Ponies,” Barrier couldn’t meet his ponies gaze as his tone fell into the commanding presence once again. “I know I’ve just dropped incredibly difficult news on all of you, but I need you all to focus just a little longer…”

The cadets took far longer than usual, but one by one, straightened up, albeit clearly depressed.

“Right,” Barrier eyed Cadance, Shining Armor, Spike, and the element bearers as they returned from the balcony. “I’m splitting all of you up into teams of two. I need all of you to help kickstart the Empire’s relief efforts. Swiftsword, Rarity,” he waited until the two had stepped out of line. “I want you both to set up a med tent in front of the palace. Winter Gem, Fluttershy, I need both of you to act as medics. Just do what you can. Doctor Harvest, if you could find a way to requisition supplies and join them in treating the civilians, it would be greatly appreciated.” Barrier got a silent nod from the mare. “Verdant Range, Applejack, I need both of you directing anypony that’s injured to the medical tent.” He received a pair of affirmatives and turned to the four remaining ponies. “Iron Forge, Rainbow Dash, I hate to do this, but I need you both on disposal duty. There are…a lot of corpses in the dungeons, as well as scattered around the city. It’s a plague waiting to happen.” Iron Forge nodded resolutely while Rainbow Dash nodded with a slightly green tint to her face. “Hat Trick, Pinkie Pie, do what you two do best: cheer ponies up. Do whatever you can to raise the morale of the ponies in the Empire. Shining Armor, Cadance, Twilight, Spike,” Barrier motioned to the ponies he’d already addressed to go about their jobs; they all did so without argument. “You four, and myself, need to take stock of what supplies the Empire has and we need to coordinate with Princess Celestia about getting whatever we don’t have. We’ve managed to save the Empire, but our work’s far from over.”

“I assume there was a reason for pairing your cadets with the element bearers?” Cadance asked with a knowing smile far too similar to Celestia’s.

“Yeah.” Barrier admitted with a shrug. “They’ve just had a huge shock and found out all of their loved ones are dead and that they’re one-thousand years out of time. They…need somepony that knows what the new Equestria’s like. Somepony who could lend a sympathetic ear.”

“Why not you?” Shining Armor asked. “You’ve been here for quite awhile now.”

“I’m their captain first and foremost. They won’t open up to me about that kinda thing. Not in this situation, anyways. No, they need to be around ponies that they can be ponies around, not soldiers.”

When it became apparent nopony had anything else to add, Barrier tapped a hoof sharply on the ground. “Right, let’s get to it ponies. We’ve got ponies to help.”

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