• Published 16th Jun 2020
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The Power of Two - Locomotion

A young changeling runs away from home, only to be attacked by timberwolves in the Everfree Forest. Fortunately, Locomotion is on hoof to save her - but little do they know that she has a spy on her tail...

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Bonus Chapter 1: A Changeling of Heart

A clear, moonlit night sky hung over the grand city of Canterlot as Twilight glided towards her final destination. Though the soft glow of lamps lit up the quiet streets below, there were few other ponies to be found; most of the population were sound asleep, and the only sounds to be heard were of distant laughter and music from the local night clubs. Not too far away, the regal towers of Canterlot Castle stood tall and majestic against their mountain backdrop, illuminated by the milky white light of the moon. With one final glance at the saddlebag she was carrying, the lavender alicorn gently descended towards the gardens outside the castle, coming into land just a little way short of the entrance. The two sentries on duty that evening bowed respectfully at her approach, and Twilight gave an equally polite nod in return.

“Good evening, Spearhead,” she said to the one on her left. “Is Princess Celestia still up?”

“Sure is, Twilight,” replied Spearhead. He and many of the other royal guards had known her since she was just a filly; and even now that she had ascended as an alicorn princess, they still saw her more as a personal friend than a member of Equestrian royalty. “She and Princess Luna are awaiting you in the throne room.”

“Ah, good. Thanks, Spearhead.” Twilight trotted briskly into the foyer and began picking her way through the castle's numerous hallways. A hearty sigh escaped her lips as she recalled her years as Princess Celestia's personal student; how awestruck she had been on seeing inside this majestic structure for the first time, and all the long hours she had spent exploring the place when she wasn't studying in her ivory tower or the library. And how ironic, she thought with a smirk, that all those books had distracted her from what she now knew to be one of the most important lessons in life – friendship!

It hadn't mattered too much when she was younger – in her mind, Spike and Celestia were the only friends she really needed – but nowadays, she couldn't imagine how her life would have been if not for Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, Rarity and Fluttershy. The only downside, she felt, was that she wouldn't get to be inside the castle as often as she used to, but it was well worth it for all those adventures with her friends; and the friendship reports they sent so religiously before her ascension provided many more happy memories. And how gratifying that, more than six years on from the last report, in which Rarity described her epiphany regarding Spike and love, the same torch was now being carried, however briefly, by one of only two changelings she knew who had the heart and conscience to embrace the same spirit...but now wasn't the time for nostalgia, she told herself as she looked up and saw the throne room doors ahead; that could wait until after she had delivered her documents.

Bowing graciously, the two guards pulled the doors open for Twilight to enter, whereupon she was greeted by the motherly smile of Princess Celestia herself. “Twilight,” she spoke up kindly, “how lovely to see you here at such short notice. All's well in Ponyville, I trust?”

“Pretty much,” replied Twilight. “Hornette's been settling in really well, and the rest of my council seem to be taking to her pretty well too – all except for Rainbow Dash. Anyway,” she went on, mentally grimacing at Rainbow Dash's belligerent behaviour towards the innocent young changeling, “I thought I'd come and deliver her latest probation report in person.” She reached inside her saddlebag with her magic and, to Celestia's mild surprise, pulled out not one, but two sealed envelopes. “She wanted me to give you this letter as well,” she explained simply.

Celestia arched a curious eyebrow. “From a changeling, eh? That does sound intriguing,” she remarked, carefully tearing open the smaller envelope. Luna, equally inquisitive, leaned in for a better look as her older sister pulled out the letter and read out its heartfelt content;

Dear Princess Celestia,

I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am for your kind forgiveness. Your kind had every right to distrust mine, especially so since our attack on Canterlot, and that you were able to look past all that and allow me to stay here is far too moving to put into words. I only hope that I can repay you somehow.

When I first met Twilight and Locomotion, I feared that I would be spending the rest of my days in a cold, damp dungeon somewhere, confined to a life of misery and self-loathing until my time had come. The last thing I expected was for them to stand up for me, to try and bend the law just so that I could have a second chance. Since then, I have learned a great deal more about friendship than I could ever have imagined; I now know that there is always someone willing to accept you, no matter what species you are or how unspeakable their reputation, and that sometimes, your greatest allies can be found in the least likely of places. But most of all, I have learned that hiding away from my fears won't bring me any closer to those who might be willing to forgive the sins of my kind. I couldn't exactly run from Locomotion, but on reflection, I'm glad I couldn't – otherwise I wouldn't have gained such a kind and loyal friend.

Thank you so much for allowing me to learn those lessons, Your Highness. I am truly indebted to you, your sister and your subjects.

Yours Most Gratefully


P.S.: Locomotion would also like to extend his thanks for your lenience.

The two alicorns could only smile warmly by the time they had finished reading Hornette's meaningful message. Aside from Queen Chrysalis, neither of them had known a changeling personally, but to receive such a sincere letter from one was so touching that neither knew what to say at first. It was Luna who finally broke the silence; “Well, Tia,” she remarked softly, “it seems this Hornette really does have the conscience that Chrysalis never had. A 'changeling of heart', you might say.”

“Indeed,” agreed Celestia. “I'm glad I made the right choice by letting her stay in Ponyville.” Setting the letter and the probation report down for the moment, she turned her attention back to Twilight; “When you return, Twilight, do let her know how much I appreciate her courtesy.”

“Of course I will,” Twilight smiled back. “Would it be in order if I stayed the night, though? I promised Moondancer I'd pay her a visit, and tomorrow seems as good a time as any.”

“That's perfectly alright. I'll see to it that a suite is prepared for you. If you'd like to wait in the library for the time being?”

“Thanks.” But just as Twilight was turning to leave the room, she suddenly remembered something; “By the way, Celestia,” she added, “there's something Loco wants to know about Hornette's probation.”

“Oh? And what would that be?”

“While Hornette was writing her letter a couple of days ago, he asked me why you stipulated in your letter that she meet my fellow councillors as a legal requirement; and to be honest, I'm a little puzzled about it myself,” explained Twilight gravely. “I mean, I would have introduced her to them anyway, but it just seems a bit...I don't know, redundant.”

Celestia nodded, her expression becoming more serious. “I understand your feelings, Twilight,” she conceded, “and can appreciate that I might have been...more than a little mysterious about the whole affair. Truth be told, I...” She broke off, checking all around her as if a spy was lurking. Twilight gazed at Luna, perplexed, but the dark blue alicorn mouthed something to her and gave a coy wink. At last, Celestia beckoned both of them closer. “We'd better discuss this somewhere private,” she whispered when they were close enough to hear.

Twilight was still confused, but nodded her consent. With a flash of light from Celestia's horn, the marble columns and stained glass windows of the throne room vanished, and within a split second the three alicorns found themselves in the soft blue and purple surroundings of her private study.

“Good,” said Celestia quietly, “now we're alone.” Just to make sure of that, she magically sealed the keyhole and cast a bubble of silence around them. “What I'm about to tell you, Twilight, is to be kept strictly between the three of us – nopony outside of these four walls must know about this until the time is right. Is that understood?”

Twilight wasn't sure she did understand; but from the grave look on Celestia's face, it had to be of the utmost importance, so she said, “You have my word, Celestia,” and crossed her heart.

“Very well. You remember when I first sent you to Ponyville eight years ago?” Celestia began.

The wave of nostalgia that had washed over Twilight earlier came splashing back, prompting a wistful smile. “How could I forget? It was the turning point in my social life that I never knew I needed. But what's it got to do with Hornette anyway?” she quizzed.

“I'm just coming to that. I knew the day would eventually come when...Nightmare Moon...” Celestia frowned apologetically at her shame-faced sister before continuing, “...would return from her imprisonment, and a few days before you went in for your entry exam at my school, I had a vision – a premonition, if you like – that you would be the key to her defeat and Luna's restoration.”

Twilight's eyes widened. “So...you knew all along...?”

“I knew that you would find the five allies you needed to unleash the Powers of Harmony, but what I didn't know was who they were. It was down to you to find and befriend them, in the nearest settlement to the ruins of our old castle.”

“Then...Discord's reform...Tirek's rampage...you actually saw them coming?”

“Both – and many more events besides.” A small smile crossed Celestia's face as she recalled how Twilight had accidentally created a brief paradox, sending her past self into a frenzy over what she assumed to be an impending disaster. As it turned out, however, the only things she had to worry about were a paper cut, a burnt mane, a bump on the head, a torn spy suit, a temporary blindness in one eye and the embarrassment of having wound herself up over nothing! But this, she reminded herself grimly, was a completely different story... “Only a month ago,” she went on, “I had a similar premonition, that the future of our relations with the Badlands would lie in the hooves of two creatures – one pony, one changeling. I confess I didn't think much of it at first, but when you wrote to me about Hornette three days later, I suddenly realised its significance.”

“You think she might be the changeling you foresaw?” asked Twilight.

“I couldn't swear to it, but the coincidence was too much to ignore,” affirmed Celestia, “and thus I opted to take the risk and let her stay in Ponyville.”

“I had taken the precaution of watching over her in her dreams,” Luna volunteered, “but it only took one night's sleep on her part for me to realise just how troubled she was. I did try to comfort her more than once, but she always shied away from me, even when I chased her nightmares away,” and she looked sheepishly down at her hooves.

Twilight heaved a deep sigh. “I can kind of understand that,” she observed solemnly, thinking back to that eventful Nightmare Night only a few months after Luna's return. “She's probably just not used to you. I never thought I'd see a changeling afraid of ponies, but if I were in her position and found that an alicorn princess had slipped into my dreams...I guess I'd be a little scared too. Speaking of which, Celestia, you said there was a pony in your premonition?”

Celestia nodded, but her expression remained uncertain. “Alas, Twilight, I was unable to identify them – or how they would resolve our stand-off with the changelings, for that matter. We can only wait until the answer comes to light; in the meantime, I advise you to keep this under your mane, and make sure Hornette lives her life to the fullest.”

“I'll do my best,” promised Twilight resolutely. Not that she needed to be reminded, of course; for while Locomotion was doing a good job of it himself, there was still the issue of the elusive stalker that was Electro Diesel. What was his real identity? Why wouldn't he leave Hornette alone? And how was it that no-one could find so much as a scrap of information on him?

Indeed, Celestia seemed to be on the same page at that very moment. “One thing's for sure,” she finished, her eyebrows straightening. “Hornette may have gained some new allies, but she still has her enemies – and not among our own species either. No, the greatest threat comes from her own collective; and I have a chilling suspicion that one of them is in Ponyville at this very moment...”

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